mental health

20 Ways To Get Yourself Out Of That Rut

stuck-in-a-rutAll of us get “stuck in a rut” at some point. What we do to get out is the important thing. Here are some suggestions.They’re not researched, or written in stone, or anything like that. They’re just guidelines, from me to you.

1. Change the way you normally workout.
2. When you drive home after work or school, try a different way.
3. Clean out your desk drawers, or your glove box in the car.
4. Wash your car yourself instead of taking it to the car wash.
5. Change up your food choices when you go grocery shopping.
6. Make a list of things you’d like to get done this week (just the act of making the list is uplifting itself).
7. Rearrange your work area.
8. Sleep on the other side of the bed.
9. Change the status picture on your Facebook page.
10. Make deadlines for things you want to get done (No. 6 part two).
11. Do at least one thing on the list right now.
12. Call a friend or relation whom you haven’t spoken to in a while.
13. Buy a different brand of shampoo.
14. Surf the internet, with the intention of finding new websites to explore.
15. Read a book you might not have even considered picking up in the past.
16. Ask the grocery clerk how his day is going.
17. Try a new bedspread for your bed, maybe something in shocking pink. 😉
18. Write yourself a letter about where you want to be in the next six months.
19. Go to that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try.
20. Change around the furniture in your apartment or house.

 

Ten Reasons You Should Be Glad You’re Type B — Part II

Type As get all the attention. We love reading about Type A characteristics, we admire Type A people, and we really don’t know a whole lot about Type B people.

There is no supreme personality trait. But when it comes to type A and type B, it is simply more acceptable to cop to being an A: a hard-charging go-getter who gets stuff done. The implication being that type Bs lack drive, ambition and ability, which is not the case. The B type personality is laid-back, but it is also patient, creative, collaborative, and even wise.

So, without further adieu, here are 10 ways the lesser known personality type may be the best one after all.

1. You might be healthier. Type Bs are slow to anger and experience less chronic stress, which is associated with better outcomes for just about every health complaint, from asthma to depression to Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

2. Everyone wants you on their project.  Type B’s are creative thinkers, with a big-picture worldview, who are diligent and happy to share credit.

3. You’re a better friend. Type B personalities are often more poised in social situations: They are less competitive, more patient, more collaborative and happier to enjoy the moment — all infectious and pleasant behaviors to be around.

4. You take the long view.  Bs are big picture thinkers. What they lack in detail-orientation, they make up for in a coherent view of the road ahead.

5. You do well with risk and failure.  Type Bs are typically calm in the face of failure. Success is better, but a setback won’t send them reeling in quite the same way as it would a type A.

6. You see the good in people.  One indication of a type B personality is the ability to see those around you for more than their usefulness to your purposes or a potential threat to your ascendency.

7. Creativity flows from you. Rather than the perception of laid-back people as not very smart, many type Bs lack urgency because their minds are elsewhere: creating interesting new products, solving complex problems and taking in the broader context.

8. You know how to enjoy the moment.  The upside of being less hard-charging is that type Bs can enjoy each step on the path toward their goals.

9. You’re generally more satisfied with life.  B types are more likely to feel satisfied with their lot in life, which isn’t just a happy way to be, it’s a healthy way too.

10.  You put new people at ease. Your easy-going, outwardly-oriented ways don’t just put friends and colleagues at ease — they help you with new acquaintances and strangers as well, who can sense your generosity of spirit.

 

How Do You Respond To Stress? Part One

saving-cry-for-help-ecard-someecardsYou’ve heard talk of Type A and Type B personalities. The first part of this two-part blog series on stress is about the Type A personality.

Here are 25 things you might not know (or might!) about this complicated personality:

1. They don’t procrastinate. They hate the idea of wasting time so they do things the moment they come to mind. Why wait and do it later when you can just do it now?

2. They always have a task list — a never-ending one. If there is another day to be lived, then there is another set of tasks to be accomplished.

3. They have several alarms set throughout the day so they always stay on top of things. They wish they could remember it all in order to save time, but this is the best next thing.

4. They have trouble understanding the stupidity of others. They don’t believe themselves to necessarily be exceptionally gifted or genius. So why is it that they are competent when almost everyone else seems like an idiot?

5. They don’t understand the concept of not being capable of doing something. To them, if something can physically be done, then why would they not be capable of doing it? If they need to learn something, they will.

6. They understand that laziness is a choice. Most people talk about laziness as if it was some sort of disease. Type A’s look at such people as idiots. Laziness isn’t more of a disease than is ignorance.

7. They often become passionate. If they are going to do something, then they are going to do something they believe to be meaningful. If it’s meaningful to them, then it deserves their fullest attention; passion is inevitable.

8. …But not always for too long. Unfortunately, because they are so passionate, and because true success takes patience, any sort of early failure easily discourages them. They are likely to pack up and change careers in a heartbeat.

9. They can be very emotional. Type A’s seem to be more strongly rooted in reality than most people. They seem to understand the world around them better, and because of this, they are more influenced by the outside world. Worse yet is that they are just as likely to be found lost in their thoughts — a very dangerous combination.

10. They’re prone to stressing. Put simply, they worry a lot. They do their best to see into the future and can’t shake the fact that things can always go wrong. Plus, being as passionate as they are makes them dread that ever possible and looming, crappy outcome.

11. Although they know they should take more time to relax, they don’t always find it appealing — and when they do, they simply can’t find the time. For them, they feel most at home working and doing their thing. It’s difficult for them to understand that getting away and slowing down is in their best interest.

12. They love sleeping, but have trouble stopping their thoughts from racing. It’s not easy to fall asleep when your mind just keeps on running through thoughts and images. Stopping them is no easy task.

13. They can muster superior focus. When things need to be done — for Type A’s, things always need to be done — they are able to focus intently and block out the rest of reality. They call it getting into their “zone.”

14. They’re perfectionists. It’s not that they are trying to be perfect, but blemishes, mistakes and inconsistencies frustrate them. They find them ugly and appalling, not being able to allow them to pass their inspection. If they could, they would – but they simply can’t.

15. Doing things efficiently is their first priority. As little time spent getting as much quality work done as humanly possible? If you just got a hard-on, then you’re a Type A personality.

16. They make plans, lots of plans. If you want to achieve something, then Type A’s only find it logical that you should know how to get there. So they make plans. Unfortunately, making plans isn’t always efficient. Once they realize this, they revert to focusing less on planning and putting even more emphasis on efficiency.

17. They center their life on their careers. Their careers are their passion, their purpose in life. Once they figure out what that is, there isn’t much else that interests them.

18. More often than not, they feel that they are too busy to be in a relationship. This is sad, but true. Type A personalities often end up alone because they don’t allow themselves to date. They feel that they don’t have the time, so they don’t bother with trying to make a relationship work.

19. They have a tendency to cut others off in conversation — not to be rude, but to be right. I mean, what’s the point of letting them yammer on with some nonsense when you can just tell them the way it really is, and then you can both move on with your lives, right?

20. They love the spotlight. Some may call them attention-whores.

21. Always having a plan for the worst-case scenario is a necessity. What’s the worst possible thing that you can possibly imagine happening to you? You losing your job? Your pet Pooky getting run over by a car? Cancer? Armageddon? Yup, they have a plan for that.

22. They walk fast and with a purpose, doing all they can to avoid lines of any sort. To them, walking is getting from point A to point B in order to do what needs to be done at point B as soon as possible so that they can move on to point C. If you’re out for a leisurely walk, then find a park.

23. They are punctual and expect others to be the same. Other peoples’ time is worth respecting. The sooner you’re in, the sooner you’re out. That’s what she said.

24. Doing things with a purpose is the only way they know how to live. If there is not purpose behind action, then Type A personalities don’t see a reason for doing it in the first place. They understand that actions are only worth the goal they are trying to achieve.

25. They love solving problems and believe there is always a solution. They believe the world to work in a logical manner – minus the illogical creatures that live in it – and therefore, believe that there must always be a solution for every problem. For the very few that may not have a solution, they should be forgotten.

Source: Paul Hudson, Elite Daily

Have a wonderful day. If you think of it, and if you pray, include me throughout the day. I had kind of a shock earlier this morning, and it’s making for a tough day. Thank you so much.

Ciao.

 

Performance Anxiety Redux

wpid-20150526_080944.jpgAll right. This is not an apology, this is an explanation. There’s a reason I have been so flaky lately with my posts . . . well, this whole entire month, specifically.

Last year, when I tried to crochet Christmas presents, I didn’t start working until like October or even November, and of course didn’t get finished in time. I have a large family. So this year I began in January. So far I have two granny square blankets crocheted. I just have to put them together. I’m working on my third (pictured above) which looks like snowflakes! I have 30 out of 88 squares done.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about performance anxiety, and the causes and helps for it. The three main causes of PA are:

  • Mild social anxiety.
  • Inexperience in public.
  • Strong distaste for failure

As with most anxiety problems, it’s hard to know the exact cause, but performance anxiety is also self-sustaining, because it creates a mindset that focuses only on mistakes and seeing others as judging you. One small mistake, even if no one notices, or one person in the audience that looks unhappy and all of your fears are reinforced, causing more performance anxiety to happen later. No matter the effects of anxiety, there is no denying that anxiety itself can create more anxiety. The more you are worried about your performance, the more your performance suffers.

Some strategies which can help in overcoming performance anxiety are:

  • Pre- and Post- Presentation Positive Writing Exercises – Since anxiety is a problem with negative thinking, one way to combat anxiety is to force yourself to think positively. An example of this type of exercise includes writing out 10 or 20 genuinely positive thoughts about how you performed or will perform. It’s not perfect, but it will stop you from focusing only on the negative.
  • Positive Support – You also need support from others. It’s easy to think about the negatives when you mess up – or when you have the possibility of messing up. But if you can find people in your life that are always supportive, you won’t care as much about any mistakes because others in your life will make things easier. Positive support is very helpful for this type of anxiety.
  • Happy Distractions – Much of performance anxiety is not what happens at the time of the event, but what occurs before and after it. This is when the mind can wander into negative thoughts. Keeping yourself mentally active and busy prevents the mind from focusing on the negatives, especially if you can focus on more positive activities like going outdoors and spending fun time with friends.
  • Practicing Under Pressure – It is often hard to practice under pressure, because practice itself rarely has that much pressure. But if you can get used to being under pressure situations, then when you actually face some type of pressure it won’t cause as much anxiety. For example, if you are giving a speech, do it in front of smaller crowds and work your way up to the bigger ones. If you are playing sports, practice playing where people challenge you with noise and energy – just like you would experience in a big game. This will help you get used to some of the components of pressure situations, even if it doesn’t resemble it completely.

 

Fino a domani, I miei amici! Mwah!

 

“All The World’s A Stage . . . “

anxiety-memeI just had to post this anxiety meme, and like larger than life, because as soon as I saw it I laughed so hard I almost choked on my coffee. It’s so totally true. Every time I’m ever with my therapist and we’re talking about something that makes me anxious, or we try to do something on the fear ladder and I get anxious, she immedately goes for the “Okay. start your breathing. Try to take yourself down to at least a three.” Right. I must’ve been breathing wrong before!  If that worked all the time, psychiatrists would be completely out of business.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. I would be a court reporter right now if it weren’t for perforance anxiety.  And, I absolutely loved that job, even more than teaching, and teaching was pretty darn cool. See, the skill of stenography came pretty easily to me because I also knew the skill of braille from when I was a teacher for visually challenged K-12 students in Columbus, GA. Braille is a combination of keys on a machine that amount to much like chords, piano chords is what it made me think of. Court reporting shorthand is similar, so I was able to adapt quickly.

When I graduated, I worked on a temporary license until I could pass the state exam. Only . . . that day never came. Although I did very well in school and often surprised both teachers and students with my speed and accuracy, when it came time to take the test, I felt lost. We were given three five minute timed tests and one hour each test to transcribe them afterwards: 225 wpm for testimony, 200 wpm jury charge, and 175 wpm hard literary. I froze. I just froze.

It didn’t matter how much prep time I had given myself before I walked through those doors. It didn’t matter what I told myself about others who had gone before me and passed.  The first two times I made it through all three timed tests and tried to transcribe all three parts. The second time I managed to transcribe two parts. The third time, although I took all three tests as per usual, I was too disgusted with myself to even read through what I had taken down. Mind you, each time I entered the test in Lansing, it cost fifty dollars; not exactly something to sneeze at.  After the third time I resigned myself to performance anxiety and gave up. I gave up a chance at a career I know I would absolutely love for the rest of my life.

Any time I walked in those doors in Lansing, Michigan, even before the actual test began, my heart would start beating faster, I’d start sweating, I’d get this horrible, unshakable feeling that every other person in the room is staring at me, my hands would shake, and I’d have trouble catching my breath. I talked to psychiatrists and therapists about possible hypnotherapy for this so that maybe I could take the test and pass it, but so far no one has been able to help me.

I’m so sorry this has gone on so long. There are causes and solutions for performance anxiety. I’ll write about those next time.

Until then, be well and be happy!

good performance
Fino a domani, I miei amici!

Self-harm

cuttingSelf-harming, or cutting, serves many purposes. If you talk to eight different cutters, you will most likely get eight different reasons why they cut. It is as much individual as is the individual who engages in the practice.

Take me, for example. I used to cut on a regular basis. In fact, I attended the S.A.F.E. Program (Self Abuse Finally Ends) in Chicago several years ago to help me stop. I cut for several reasons. I hated myself, felt numb, invisible, was angry, felt soooo much pain and cutting relieved it, was intensely sad, and intensely anxious. I did not yet know any other coping skills, and cutting filled all those holes for me. Oddly, I usually didn’t feel any pain when I was in the actual act of cutting. I felt pain as it healed. Either way, the point was relief, which was greatly achieved with the act of harming myself.

There are other ways of self-harm besides cutting, some  much more extreme and dangerous. I used to get more of a rush and release from burning myself than cutting—but, after years of self-abuse and scars up and down my arms and legs, I finally had enough.

  • Other types of self-harm include:
    –Branding, burning self with a hot object
    –Friction burn – rubbing a pencil eraser on your skin
    Picking at skin or re-opening wounds (dermatillomania) – an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one’s own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused which relieves stress or is gratifying.

    • Many compulsive skin picking causes are emotional or mental. Emotional trauma can lead to feelings of helplessness When a child is being traumatized and bullied, he or she loses the feeling of being in control of their environment

–Hitting (with hammer or other object)
–Bone breaking
–Punching
–Head-banging (more often seen with autism or severe mental retardation)
–Multiple piercing or tattooing – may also be a type of self-injury, especially if pain or stress relief is a factor
–Drinking harmful chemicals

Well, sorry for such a serious and, um, kind of depressing topic of conversation so early in the day. But it’s very real, you know? It happens more and more. Some people think that anorexia nervosa and bulimia are types of self injury but this is a falsehood. Anorexia and bulimia are stubborn, dangerous disorders and illnesses. They couldn’t be further from self injury.

Anyway, a small announcement. I’m chucking the plan for the rest of the month. That carefully detailed plan where I was going to write a certain topic for each day until the end of May? Yeah, that. 😉 You’ll just have to wait and see, and be surprised.

Love, me. Mmmwah!

Ciao, Bella.

The Lake Wobegon Effect

Keillor“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” — which is the immortal question asked by the narcissistic Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Several psychological studies have shown that in real life most people have a touch of the Evil Queen’s vanity. Including a huge range of measures, from good looks and popularity to driving ability and memory capacity, the typical person believes they are superior to most others.

Our misplaced confidence is thought to explain a number of common human weaknesses, including what seem to be irrational health behaviors such as smoking (“It gives other people cancer, but I’ll be okay,”) and lateness—just think how many projects end up late and over budget.

Self-enhancement bias, as it’s known more formally, was nicknamed  The Lake Wobegon Effect after the fictional town invented by talented storyteller Garrison Keillor in which “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” 

All I have to say is, they just never talked to me, did they? Because I do not feel this way at all. Not even close.

Have a spectacular evening, my Bellas!

Ciao.

Follow The Leader

l-Follow-the-leaderMost of us remember the game “Follow The Leader,” which involves a child being the leader of a line of other children. The children are supposed to copy everything the leader does. Those who fail to do so are out of the line, until one is left standing behind the leader, who then  becomes the new leader.

It’s similar to the game Simon Says,  which requires a group of at least three children, preferably more. The leader gives directions to the other participants, trying to catch them out. If they follow the directions starting with “Simon says touch your toes,” for instance, they are still in play. But if the leader says, simply, (ha ha) “Touch your toes,” and they are caught out touching their toes, they are out of play.

In sheep behavior, when one sheep moves, the rest will follow, even if it is not a good idea. The following instinct of sheep is so strong that it caused the death of 400 sheep in 2006 in eastern Turkey. The sheep plunged to their death after one of the sheep tried to cross a 15-meter deep ravine, and the rest of the flock followed.

Even from birth, lambs are taught to follow the older members of the flock. Ewes encourage their lambs to follow. The dominant members of the flock usually lead, followed by the submissive ones. If there is a ram in the flock, he usually leads.

As for people, and in terms of crowd behavior, we are more apt to follow “leaders” who stay at the edge of the crowd rather than the center of the action. In one instance, a research team asked groups of eight students to walk around continuously in a specified area and stay together as a group without speaking or gesturing to one another.

One person in one of the groups was asked to move towards a target, while remaining a member of the group, without letting the others know that he was leading them to a target. In another group, the students were told to follow “the leader,” but not told who the leader was.

In the second group, it was found that those leaders who remained on the edge of the group were able to move their group towards a target much more quickly than the leaders that chose to remain in the center.

Interesting! Any thoughts?

Have a wonderful rest of the day.

 

Ciao Bella.

The Bystander Effect

bystander effectAccording to Wikipedia, the bystander effect, a.k.a. bystander apathy, “is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders.”

The first case that caused research into this “effect” took place in 1964. At that time, 28-yr-old Kitty Genovese was raped and stabbed to death in front of her apartment.

The attack lasted over 30 minutes and was witnessed by several dozen people (at least, it was reported, but later found to be not quite accurate–only about a dozen people actually witnessed the crime.) who failed to report the incident. Some didn’t know an actual crime was happening, claiming they thought it was a “lover’s quarrel,” while others knew a crime was happening but didn’t report it because they assumed someone else already called the police. My only question is, how do you confuse someone being raped and stabbed with a “lover’s quarrel?” Right?

Remember the movie “The Accused,” with Jodie Foster? I think she might have won an Academy Award for her role as a women who was raped by a bunch of men on a pool table in front of several witnesses who did nothing.  Some even clapped and cheered. The actual incident took place in New Bedford, MA in 1983.

There are more incidents of The Bystander Effect, probably many more than are reported, but I will not cite them all here. I can tell you about something that happened to me and my mother years ago in front of our own house. My brother Greg has a penchant for Packards. One day he was over, visiting, and he couldn’t get it to start. He told my mom and I that if we gave him a push start, he was sure he’d be able to start it. So (foolishly) we started pushing, and got sort of running, not thinking we should let go of the car once it started.

We both fell in the street, my mom flat on her face. She could’ve broken her nose, but thankfully didn’t. Of course there was a lot of blood, and my brother and I helped her stop the blood while she sat on the porch. She didn’t want to go to the ER. My point is, we fell right in front of my “across-the-street” neighbor’s house. They had their screen door on, so I’m sure they heard and saw everything that happened. There was also the neighbor kitty corner from us. Not one person bothered to see if we were all right, even as my mother sat on the porch bleeding. No one checked in on her later to make sure she was okay.

Are these bad neighbors and friends? Not at all. They most likely didn’t want to get involved or assumed someone else would help. Neighbors aren’t like they used to be, after all. It’s not an easy world to live in any more. And if we could ask Kitty Genovese, she might reply, “Was it ever?”

Hope you enjoyed this late late blog post. I’m really very sorry. It’s not my intention for them to be late. I get caught up in things and forget, which is not to say you are not just as important! Please stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog post, which will most certainly NOT be late. 😉

Ciao Bella.

 

Birth Order

birth orderLast year, on one of his visits home from San Francisco, my brother Paul brought a t-shirt he’d bought which bore the saying “Mom loves me best.” He wore it to an outdoor picnic at which most of the family was in attendance; it was very funny and caused quite a lot of discussion. Even more funny, he left it with me when he went back! 😛

Paul is the second to youngest of seven siblings. I’m the youngest. My sister Carol is the oldest, then there’s Greg, Steve, Jerry, Jimmy, Paul, and me.

My sister said she prayed and prayed for another little sister and when I came it was like a miracle. We’re 13 years apart, and so I was like a little doll for her, and she loved to dress me up. I sure never suffered from lying in the crib too long, with five brothers, a sister, a mom, and a dad all eager to hold or cuddle me.

Carol did get that part of being the eldest where the parents made all their “mistakes” on her, and learned on her, and on each child to come really, so that by the time Paul and I came around they had this parenting thing down pat. Carol also still has a huge sense of responsibility, borne out of being the oldest child. She felt more was expected of her.

I thought my brother Greg would have that as well, being the oldest boy, but he has a very laid-back personality, and is never in a hurry. A story is told of Greg when he was quite little and the lady was waiting outside to take the boys to school. Everyone else is ready, and Greg is looking out the window, one shoe off, and one shoe on, marveling “Hey look! That lady is here!” He couldn’t understand why his mom was so excited. Ha ha ha

Every one of my sibs seemed so much older to me. The closest in age was, of course, Paul, and he was still five years older. So even when they tried to play with me, it felt odd, like I was playing with much older boys. When I was in grade school, they were in high school, after all. When I was in high school, they were in college, and beyond. I played by myself a lot, and with invisible friends, until I made friends in the neighborhood. After that I was rarely home before the streetlights came on.

Anyway, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the theory that birth order affects your personality. Ultimately environmental conditions, such as socioeconomic conditions, shape who we are and what we become.

(N.B.: We’re skipping neuroplasticity. Sorry for any grief this has caused.)

Have a wonderful evening!

Ciao Bella.

Positive Psychology

comic-positive-psychologyTo prepare for this blog post, I read Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness in two days. It was a pretty major feat for me, since I’m usually a slow reader, especially when it comes to nonfiction material. This book, minus the index pages, notes, and acknowledgements, came to 260 pp. But I was excited about it, especially since my sister had recently begun therapy again with someone who used only positive psychology techniques. She had recommended this book to Carol, and when I tried to get two copies at B&N, they only had one, so I read it as fast as I could.

I have a few criticisms, mostly that it’s so non-measurable. Positive psychology believes in emphasizing a person’s signature strengths, rather than focusing on weaknesses, and I can get behind that for sure. There are 24 signature strengths, but if you take the test, which you can, at the Authentic Happiness website, you’ll find 250 separate questions. It takes some time, but be as honest as you can. When you are all done, it will spit back your strengths to you. For instance, mine are: appreciation of beauty and excellence, kindness and generosity, creativity, ingenuity, and originality, humor and playfulness, and forgiveness and mercy. My top strength is appreciation of beauty, so I’m supposed to use that as much as I can, but all of them really.

“Authentic happiness comes from identifying and cultivating your most fundamental strengths and using them every day in work, love, play, and parenting.” — Martin Seligman

What I really didn’t like was the chapter on love. It was all about romantic love. Now, honestly, I’m not against romantic love, truly, I’m all for that, you know? But there are other kinds of love that deserve mentioning. What about familial love? What about mother daughter love? Or Father son love? What about friendship?

And Seligman seems to believe the bedrock of all this is some sort of faith. Sorry, but faith and I parted ways a while ago. I’ve been Roman Catholic, then Protestant by way of Presbyterian and lastly Southern Baptist. I haven’t been to any church at all in years. I don’t even think I remember how to pray. If I have any faith at all, it’s in nature, that the sun will rise every morning and set every night.

According to Seligman, we can’t blame our past for the fact that we are on welfare, or that we have become unemployed, alcoholic, or whatever. If we were abused, or our parents divorced, it’s history. What we make of our lives today is on us. 

In the end, I think we could all do with a little more positivity in our lives. I’ve been to too many therapists where the first question out of their mouths was, “What can you tell me about your childhood?” AAAUUUGGHH!

Have a great and productive day!

Ciao Bella.

The Crack Heard Around The World

computer brain“There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
― Jim Morrison

Maybe it began while you were sleeping, in those pre-dawn REM hours. You thought you heard a noise, sat up for a second, but there wasn’t another sound right afterwards, so you turned over and went back to sleep. Before you knew it you were in an earthquake. The books were falling off the shelves, the bed was clattering off the floor, and you were holding on for dear life.

First it wasn’t there, and then it was: cognitivism. Cognitivism tries to understand the mind in terms of the information it processes and the ways it stores this information. It rejects psychoanalysis, which is mostly about myth, and behaviorism, which is mostly about — well, behavior.

Really, cognitive theory looks at people like great big computers, with our minds being the hardware and our brains being the software. I guess that’s why I hate it so much. It seems….impersonal. It’s supposed to be this wonderful thing, really progressive, so helpful, right? But the fact is, it doesn’t work with everyone. Studies have shown it works best with people who felt their situations were uncontrollable from the start (like, say they were grieving or something–one can’t very well control death). But with people whose situations are controllable, that they could maybe change or do something about, cognitive work actually made them more depressed afterwards.

I’m just saying, if it works for you, that’s great. If it doesn’t, by all means feel free to search something else out. This is not 1984.

Have a great evening!

Ciao Bella.

A-Z Blog Challenge Reflections

reflectionIn retrospect, this month-long challenge was good for me. I can still say that, even after the whining, complaining, staying up at night thinking about topics, taking forever to write, obsessing, worrying, and stressing so much that I made myself ill. I loved every haphazard minute of it. You bet I did.

But it all starts out the same way. It’s like “Oh, a challenge! Shiny, Shiny!” And then after a few days it dawns on me that this is a daily ritual and I made a commitment and all those other big scary words most adults should never have to hear in their lifetimes. See, I’m not good at commitment. I like to make a big splash in the pool, then grab my towel and walk away.  I’m a good starter, so I need other people around me who like to finish. You know?

But I found that there were a few deeply disturbed individuals following my blog posts whom I simply did not want to let down. 😉 The more they stayed with me, the more it made me want to complete the challenge. I learned that I indeed had the stamina within me to complete things. I had completed NaNoWriMo twice before. But it seemed much harder to show up for a blog post every day of the week except Sundays. It says to your readers: You matter to me. I care about you, and I’m here. 

And of course I learned even more about anxiety, which never hurts. 😀

This is a bonus post for the month. My schedule, as you know, is normally M, W, F, and Sun. But the Powers That Be, this was important to them. And helpful for us as well, I think.

Have a fantastic day!

Ciao, Bella.

Welcome and Psychoanalysis

TransferenceWelcome to Mental Health Awareness Month 2015! I have o lot planned for this month, and the focus is, if you haven’t already figured it out, on mental health, not mental illness. Here’s how the month will look, from blog post to blog post:

Welcome and Pschoanalysis

The Cognitive Shift

Positive Psychology

Birth Order

Neuroplasticity

The Bystander Effect

Follow The Leader

The Lake Wobegon Effect

Ericsson’s 10,000-Hour Rule

Consciousness

Rosenhan’s Insane Places

The Principles Of Cognitive Therapy One & Two

Three & Four

Five & Six

Seven & Eight

Nine & Ten

This should prove to be a very interesting and entertaining month, if I do say so myself. I welcome all comments and questions, honestly. Anything I don’t know I’m always willing to look up or find out for you. I’m awfully good about that.

Which brings us to our first topic, fascinating as it is, psychoanalysis. I did an incredibly short stint (he was retiring) at real psychoanalysis with the most gently sweet older gentleman I’d ever met. And, though I didn’t lie down on a couch, I knew I was part of something very old and respected. Now, when I watch episodes of “Mad Men,” when I see Don’s wife enter therapy and it’s during the late 50’s, early 60’s, and seemed automatically psychoanalytical, couch and everything, it just makes me smile. Such a parody, you know?

Sigmund Freud founded psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries as a way to understand behavior. Freud, most of us know, believed the personality is made of three parts: the id, ego, and superego. The id looks only for pleasure and wants immediate gratification. The ego is pulled back and forth by the id and superego, which causes something like personality conflicts. The superego sort of punishes the ego with guilt when the ego gets overwhelmed by the id’s demands, becomes neurotic, and  gives in to them.

As a side note, Freud has been accused of distorting evidence to support his theories. Things that make you go hmmm. 🙂

Have a great day!

Ciao, Bella.

Zany

Z (1)I don’t like the word zany as it applies to mentally ill or anxious people. It’s the same as saying “crazy,” and it’s placing a stigma on a population that has enough to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I’m not even sure I like “mentally ill.”

Sure, I have three separate anxiety problems, and bipolar disorder, but does that make me mentally ill? Does someone with diabetes say that she is physically ill? Of course not. She has a problem with her sugar, and she’s hopefully taking care of it.

We all of us exhibit crazy behaviors now and then. None of us are immune. Shouting at someone who cuts us off in traffic is not exactly normal. Talking to the driver in front of you (come on, I know you’ve done it, so have I) when you know s/he can’t hear you, is pretty crazy behavior. Once, when I still had borderline personality disorder (I have since aged out of it, thank God) I laid down in front of my niece’s car because we were in the middle of an argument, she was trying to leave, and I didn’t want her to. I’m still that way, needing to resolve things, but I don’t lie down in front of peoples’ cars any longer. lol That’s crazy.

Today, let’s remember to use the words “zany” and “crazy” judiciously, when talking about events and things, rather than people. It will go a long way toward reducing stigma in the world at large.

Well, everyone, that’s the end of the alphabet. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with you, and hope you have the same. Stay tuned for Mental Health Month in May, where anything can happen and we aren’t constrained by the letters of the alphabet!

Ciao, Bella.

Yesterday

Y (1)Although we’ve talked a lot about living in the present moment, the fact is most people with anxiety either live in the future or, more likely, in the past. The future living sounds more like a lot of “What-ifs,” and can get very scary very quickly.

Living in yesterday sounds like this: I know I hurt my friend’s feelings when I said that that particular way. She seemed funny after that. It couldn’t have been just because she was dealing with her own issues. I know it was my fault.

Or: I looked so stupid buying groceries yesterday. I’m sure everyone could tell my hands were shaking when I was trying to get the correct change. I didn’t even say thank you or good bye because I was afraid I might break out in tears, for crying out loud. What’s wrong with me? I’m such a spaz and an idiot!

Yet again: Why did I tell my mom I would pick up her meds at the store for her? It’s been really hard for me to leave the house at all lately. Twice I tried yesterday. I got all the way to the parking lot of the store, the first time, but I couldn’t get out of the car. The second time I only made it into my car in the garage, but I couldn’t back out. I am such a loser!

These are all examples of distorted thoughts brought on by panic and anxiety. They can easily be changed by different, more rational, compassionate thinking.

Once the thinking is changed, staying in the moment is so important.

Have a terrific day! I’m going to lunch with my friend Molly!

Ciao, Bella.Paper Fortune Teller

Xanthophobia

X (1)Today is brought to you by the letter “X.” Your first instinct, when you hear about today’s subject matter, might be to laugh, but I urge you not to. It’s a very serious matter, and I think, if we suffered with it, we would not be laughing, not one bit.

Xanthophobia is an intense, irrational fear of the color yellow. It is very real to the person or persons impacted by this phobia. Taken to its extreme, the xanthophobic person may even feel an overwhelming fear of the very word yellow. Xanthophobia comes from the Greek word “Xanthous”, meaning yellow and “phobos” which means fear.

Just like all fears and phobias, xanthophobia is created by unconscious thoughts as protection. At some point in the person’s past, something probably happened bringing together the color or word yellow and emotional trauma, like PTSD. This might have been a real life scare, but this condition can also be triggered by movies, TV, or seeing someone else experience trauma. The person attaches negative feelings to any situation where the color or word yellow is present, and therefore xanthophobia is born.

I really understand this. I have a thing about escalators (I’m sure there’s a name for that particular phobia). I will avoid them whenever possible. When it’s not possible, it takes me about a half hour to make myself step on. But think about it. They’re actually dangerous. People have been hurt on them before. They’re not very safe. Some people walk up them instead of holding still, so they’re inconsistent. I like things to be the same, all the time. But that’s just me, and we all know I’m a little crazy. lol

Have a great evening. Next month is Mental Health Month, and I’m already planning some of my blog posts!

Ciao, Bella.parents-rights-cartoonphobia

Worrying

W (1)“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.” –Charles Schulz

Charles Schulz is great. My dad was a cop, and he had a cop friend who was friend who was friends with Schulz, so for Halloween, instead of passing out candy, my older brother and I would pass out old comic books with the covers torn off. Of course, we always sat around and read them first. It was a sheer blast. I related to both Charlie Brown (with all his worrying) and Linus (with his security blanket–I had one until I was like six lol).

Despite what my mom says about worry being like a rocking chair and therefore useless, I’m a worrier. From the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep I’m worried about something. And truthfully, if I don’t have something real to worry about, I imagine a “what if” scenario, because I guess I’m just a worry junkie. Now that’s just sick, right? Because who would want to be worrying all the time? Because let’s face it. Too much worry leads to anxiety, and nobody likes anxiety, not even me.

Worry works like this. Imagine you’re walking along a cliff. Your mind might think, “I might fall.” That’s helpful, because it keeps you careful, a thought like that. But, if you’re hiking along the same cliff and your anxiety is high, instead of thinking “I might fall,” you might think “I will fall.” We experience the thought as reality, almost inevitability.

There are ways to reduce worry thoughts, like letting go of control, and staying in the present moment.
So sorry again that this is so late. You only have to put up with me a few more days!
Ciao, Bella.
98worrying99problems

Venting

V (1)When I saw my therapist Wednesday he gave me a homework assignment. He even wrote it down, because otherwise, it would have gone right out of my head.

“Challenge absolute thoughts (All or Nothing thinking). Find 15 cliches that relate to adapting to uncomfortable situations. Practice squared breathing exercise three times per week.”

I’m not saying the assignment is stupid. It’s very worthwhile, actually. It’s just that I have so  much going on right now. Does he not realize that? The A-Z challenge goes until next Thursday (I think), I’m crocheting one very large granny square per day for a blanket I’m trying to complete, and I just had the piano tuned so I could learn “Joy” and “Thanksgiving,” two George Winston songs, for my mom’s 88th birthday in October–it’s been at least 20 years since I played the piano, so it will take a lot of work. That’s not nothing. And let’s not forget Lucy, who needs to go out and potty what seems like every 15 minutes. We don’t have a fenced in backyard, so I need to literally take her out on a leash.

There. I just vented. I don’t do it often on my blog, because what I try to do here is help other people, and it doesn’t help you to know about my troubles. But once in a while, venting helps, because people can relate. It’s certainly better to talk about negative emotions, properly, than leave them bottled up inside. If we vent to someone who genuinely cares about us, it can make us feel better. Sometimes we may need a second ear to make sure we heard what we think we heard right. Venting instead of directly confronting the source of our frustrations is a much safer bet.

I hope you have a grand day, and don’t  be too shocked this is so early! ha ha

Ciao Bella.vent

Understanding

understandingDear Loved One,
It’s me, your (wife, daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend). I know it’s been really hard lately, watching my meltdowns. I don’t think I could be in your position, witnessing panic attack after panic attack, and an overall highly anxious state. It must be utter hell.

Now imagine what it’s like to live through it. It’s worse than hell. It’s like being promised heaven, having it dangled in front of you like a carrot, and then snatched away at the last minute. You know how when your foot falls asleep and it feels like pins and needles when it wakes up? Having anxiety feels like your whole body is on pins and needles all the time.

I love you so much, but it doesn’t help me when you say “It’s going to be okay,” or “It’s fine.” Those are like empty words and they make things worse instead of better. When I’m in a dark place, I want you to climb in there with me, put your arms around me and say, “Here I am. I’m in the darkness with you..”

When you don’t know what to do, don’t improvise or make something up. Tell me, “I don’t know what to do. What can I do?” That helps more than you know.

Just be here. Just love me. Just sit next to me and be my reality. You know and I know it’s not always this bad. We’ll weather this storm.

The Anxious Oneheartunderstanding

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