Posts tagged ‘anxiety’

February 13, 2013

New Improved Closed Eye Oscillation Thought Stopping Technique

by Dave P.

Closed Eye Oscillation Thought Stopping (CEOTS) has shown to be effective for many people, but it’s not that easy to use for some. A few people who participated in the study said it made them dizzy.

This morning, I woke up early and was unable to fall back to sleep. With my eyes closed, I moved them back and forth, but to no avail. The worries kept coming back into my my consciousness and I was unable to fall back to sleep.

So I decided to try some new techniques. First I imagined an eraser clearing my thoughts. Then a squeegee. The squeegee seemed to work better than the eraser, but it wasn’t working well enough to help me sleep. Then I imagined windshield wipers oscillating back and forth while I followed them with my eyes, and voilà! I was asleep in just a few seconds!

WindshieldWiperStart of by observing the sound of your breathing, and observe the sensation of cool air flowing in through your nostrils and warm air flowing back out. Any time a thought enters your consciousness, imagine windshield wipers slowly flapping back and forth, and follow them with your eyes. For thoughts high in emotion, imagine the windshield wipers oscillating at a faster rate. When the thought is completely gone and you experience calm, return your focus to your breath. Repeat whenever a thought enters your consciousness.

You can try various techniques to see what works for you. Try the windshield wiper visualization technique and see how that works. There are few things more frustrating than not being able to sleep. I hope this helps some of you out there.

February 7, 2013

Sleep for dummies

by Dave P.

I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a wink
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink
I wonder, should I get up and fix myself a drink?
No no no
~ The Beatles (lyrics by John Lennon)

“I’m so stupid, I can’t even sleep! What’s wrong with me?!!” Those are some thoughts that used to go through my head when I’d lay awake at night, unable to sleep. I’d sometimes get so mad at myself, I’d punch myself in the head. I often wished I could cry myself to sleep, but wasn’t able to. It was pure hell.

Insomnia is a horrible condition. It leads people to drink, do drugs, and give up on life. Michael Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and required medically induced sleep. It eventually killed him. The great American blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield had the same problem. It destroyed his career. He turned to heroin for relief, which eventually killed him.

Unhappiness and discontentment often cause insomnia. When you don’t have something worthwhile in your life to look forward to, it affects your sleep. When you have strong meaning in life, you tend to sleep like a baby.

Everyone suffers from an occasional sleepless night, but when the problem becomes chronic, you begin spiraling downward — out of control. Every task becomes arduous. You can’t think clearly. You feel lousy. Your speech becomes slurred. You can’t remember anything. You don’t feel like talking to anyone. You become irritable. You can’t pay attention. All you can think about is going home and going to bed, but then when you’re in bed, you can’t sleep, and you think about all the things that are going wrong in your life. You dread the coming day.

People who suffer from insomnia often spend a lot of time reading books about insomnia. While proper sleep hygiene is important, spending an inordinate amount of time reading about insomnia isn’t going to help and can actually make your problem worse.

When people are unhappy, they often do things that reinforce their unhappiness, like reading about depression, insomnia, or other problems. They do so because they can relate to the material. We experience temporary pleasure when we connect with something. Even a good cry provides us with pleasure by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain.

The problem with spending too much time learning about your problems is it strengthens the negative thinking part of the brain. What is needed is the opposite — the exercise of the positive thinking part of the brain! But that’s a bit difficult when you feel crappy due to lack of sleep. But there is hope.

First of all, take a step back at your life and ask yourself where you want to be in five or ten years. What are your goals and aspirations? Don’t factor in your insomnia because we’re going to solve that problem. What do you want out of life? Friends? Family? A career? A nice home? Hobbies? Don’t say, “a lot of money.” While it takes money to acquire some of the things we want in life, it in itself will not make you happy. And be realistic. Setting a goal to learn how to fly will only lead to disappointment or worse if you actually try to fly!

Goals provide us with meaning in life. Now, what would it take to achieve those goals? Set a course. Again, ignore your insomnia for now. What will it take? Training? Additional education? Just hard work? Map out your path. Remember to keep it positive. At this point, it may seem futile because it’s hard to do anything when you can’t sleep, but that is simply an obstacle that can be overcome.

Next, we’ll address sleep hygiene.

Wind down before going to bed. Write down anything that’s bothering you or problems that you need to address the next day. That will cut down on the ruminations and worry.

Meditate before going into your bedroom. Meditation actually gets you into a pre-sleep state with increased alpha brain waves.

Keep your bedroom cool. Your body releases tryptophan and increases serotonin levels as it cools, which cause drowsiness. A hot shower before bed will raise your body temperature, and you’ll feel tired when it cools down. Exercise also raises your body temperature, so don’t engage in any strenuous activities before bed. Sex may be the exception.

You can meditate while in bed to help you fall asleep. Simply observe the sensation of air flowing through your nostrils — the cool air entering and warm air exiting. Listen to the sounds of the night. Feel the comfort of your bed. Just observe.

If you live in a noisy area, some earplugs can help. A sleep mask can provide you with a dark environment — even during the day.

But what do you do when your brain won’t shut down when you’re trying to fall asleep? After all… it’s dark and quiet — the perfect time to think about things without any disruption! We seem to get some kind of satisfaction from rehashing our problems, but it also generates anxiety. There is also the worry about not being able to sleep, which, of course, prevents you from sleeping.

Many people resort to sleeping pills or alcohol to help them fall asleep, which often do help you sleep, but they affect the quality of sleep. You’ll spend less time in deep sleep and not feel refreshed when you awaken. Personally, sleeping pills always made me feel worse than if I didn’t sleep at all. I’d feel dizzy and spaced out the next day.

If you’re not really worried about anything but your mind just won’t shut down, often simply observing your breath can help. But if your thoughts are high in emotional content, extra strength thought-stopping techniques are needed!

I’ve written about this before, but it works well for those who have tried it. Get into a comfortable position and simply close your eyes and slowly and gently move them back and forth. You can combine this technique with mindfulness practice. Observe your breath, but when a thought enters your consciousness, move your eyes back and forth to erase it. Then return to your mindfulness practice. If you’re feeling anxious, move your eyes back and forth until you have calmed down. Then go back to your mindfulness practice.

If you’ve suffer from severe, chronic insomnia, you might benefit from SSRIs such as paroxetine (generic Paxil). They cause drowsiness and reduce anxiety. Ask your doctor if it might help.

Once you get your insomnia under control, you’re free to pursue your goals and reach your potential.

February 7, 2013

Exposure therapy: Experience life

by Dave P.

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play
~ Steve Forbert

There’s only so much progress you can make by reading or listening to advice. You can develop an understanding of your issues, and you can accept them. You can recognize that it wasn’t your fault if you were abused or bullied. But you’re not going to overcome your problems unless you get out there in the world and experience life.

An obvious application is that of public speaking anxiety. You can develop your skills and self-efficacy that you can deliver a speech competently. You can deliver your speech to your dog, your family, or friends. But until you get out in front of an audience, you won’t be exposed to the elements that cause public speaking anxiety, and those are people!

People, for the most part, are harmless. The chance that anyone in the audience is going to cause you any physical harm is minuscule. Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, though. Having the right attitude is essential to avoid a negative reaction, and that deals with not worrying what people think about you. People might not like your physical appearance  your voice, or your style. No matter who you are, there are going to be critics. If you like yourself and you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what others think.

The DISH Method applies to all aspects of life. DISH stands for: Develop your skills, Incorporate your personality, Stop the negative thinking, and Have fun!

To be able to enjoy yourself in social situations requires social skills. You need to be able to carry on a conversation, have something interesting to say, and be able to say it. Some people claim that don’t know what to talk about, which is why they hated socializing. The world is a fascinating place. There is a lot going on out there. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn about it, whether it has to do with people, places, or things. Develop a passion for learning and understanding. Learn how to convey your interests to others. If you have a passion for what you’re saying, so will others. If you are trying to impress others with your knowledge, though, you’re not going to win friends or influence anyone.

Incorporate your personality into everything you do. Your individuality is what makes you interesting. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Live authentically. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re wasting time by not living up to your potential.

Stop the negative thinking. People with low self-esteem too often discount the positive and focus on the negative. They think people are just being nice if they get a complement, and they believe that their successes are anomalies. Failure is their natural state of being. They learn that they are helpless — that no matter how much effort they exert, they’re destined to fail. Because of that, they often do fail.

You are the star of your life. Until you accept that, you have very little chance of being happy. Sure, we want others like us;  our relationships generate happiness and allow us to manage stress. But the main thing is that you like yourself, and you can only do that by being the kind of person you would admire and respect. It involves dignity, self-respect, self-assertiveness, and self-growth. It’s about setting goals — both short and long term, and working towards their attainment. Goals lead us forward in life. Never stop learning.

Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” I repeat that quote fairly often because it’s too easy to forget and get bogged down in the muck and mire of life. We have the ability to experience pleasure in almost any activity — even work! One of the keys is living mindfully. Even the act of washing the dishes can be an enjoyable experience when performed completely in the present. Observe the sensation of the water running over your hands. Observe the sounds and smells. If you become efficient at the task, you can achieve a state of flow, which generates even more pleasure.

Attitude is everything in life. If you go into a situation so afraid to fail that you’re anxious, you are not living up to your potential. But if you recognize that you are the star of your life and that you’re not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations, you can’t help but win. But as the old saying goes: “you cannot win if you do not play.”

February 6, 2013

You are the star of your life

by Dave P.

Take it as it comes, specialize in having fun.
~ Jim Morrison

No matter what happened in the past, you can’t change it. There are no “do overs” in life. But we can learn from our mistakes and use them to help us grow. People who don’t get to experience mistakes often develop a fear of failure. We don’t need to be perfect. Our imperfections are what make us human.

Put your mistakes behind you. You are the star of your life. If you were writing a script for today, you wouldn’t decide to spend it ruminating and worrying. That would make for a boring movie!

Ruminating can become a bad habit if you do it too often. The parts of your brain that you use most develops strong neurological connections. The more you do something, the stronger the connections become. That’s what you want if you’re trying to learn how to play the piano, but it can take a serious toll on your state of mind if it involves maladaptive thinking.

Research psychologist Martin Seligman found that people who ruminate a lot are prone to depression. Ruminators often suffer from low self-esteem, which is why they seek the approval of others. When they don’t get it, they obsess, worry, and ruminate, which results in the loss of respect from others and the diminishment of self-respect.

When you find yourself ruminating, try this. Simply close your eyes and move them back and forth fairly rapidly — about twice the speed of a clock pendulum. Don’t try to block the rumination, but instead, try to ruminate while oscillating your eyes. You’ll find it to be extremely difficult to think about anything since the process of moving your eyes back and forth requires a fair amount of concentration; there’s not much processing capability left over to process other thoughts. Any time the maladaptive thought enters your consciousness, simply close your eyes and move them back and forth.

I did a study on this technique, which I call Rapid Eye Oscillation Technique, or REOT, and the people who tried it reported it to be effective. I use it all the time to help me fall asleep and to stop ruminations that would otherwise disrupt my day. Nothing else has ever worked for me.

You can be the star of your life if you stop worrying so much about what others think about you. While we all want to be liked and respected, if your sense of self-worth depends on the approval of others, it will have the opposite effect; people will like and respect you less.

Be yourself. Be authentic. If you don’t like yourself, work on self-improvement. Develop your conversational skills. Make an effort to learn new things every day. Show gratitude for your relationships and the good things in life. Work on being a positive person. Try to make the world a better place. Take it as it comes. Specialize in having fun.

February 3, 2013

Path to the present: Find meaning in life

by Dave P.

Do you suffer from existential nausea? What you may need is some Existential Alka-Seltzer — a pill the size of an automobile hubcap that, when dissolved in water, takes away the queasy feeling induced by too much awareness of life. You may also find it helpful after eating Mexican food.
~ Adapted from Woody Allen’s The Condemned

How much time do you waste ruminating about your past or worrying about your future? Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming?

People are happiest when they’re absorbed in what they’re doing, but events from the past can interrupt or prevent a state of ‘flow.’ You may have been abused as a child, which damaged your self-esteem. You may have been bullied at school or work, which damaged your sense of confidence. You may have a learning disability, which affected your self-efficacy. Any of those things can give you social anxiety, which affects your ability to form close relationships.

One of the keys to living in the present is finding meaning in life. Meaning can come from a variety of sources, but most comes from a desire to improve the world in some way, whether it’s helping people overcome their problems, teaching, political activism, environmental causes, or even self-improvement.

When you have strong meaning in life, the small, negative things don’t bother you. You don’t spend a lot of time ruminating or worrying because you’re content in the present working towards a goal. Meaning pulls you toward a specific destination. When we’re not living in the present, we need to be pushed. We need to be pushed out of bed, pushed to clean up the house, pushed to go to work, pushed to do most everything. When you have a strong pull towards something positive, you have strong, natural motivation.

Pull is sometimes negative. When you’re in pain, you seek out pain relief, so you might be pulled towards alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuous sex, cutting, or other sources of pain relief. Those types of activities might relieve the pain for a little while, but afterwards, they leave you feeling even worse. They’re like the Sirens’s song, luring you in with a promise of ecstasy, but then leaving you shipwrecked on the rocky cost of life.

January 10, 2012

Allow Yourself to be Human

by Dave P.

Most of us want to avoid pain, but suffering is a part of life. In Buddhism, the First Noble Truth states that in life, there is suffering. There is no getting around it. We all experience setbacks, get our feelings hurt, lose loved ones, and sometimes fail at attempted endeavors. If we fight the resulting emotions, we suffer even more. It’s okay to suffer once in a while. It’s part of being human and can provide opportunities for growth.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) often have severe fear of rejection, which becomes the culprit in anxiety proliferation. We all are rejected at one time or another and it hurts. It hurts even more if we try to block out the pain and pretend it doesn’t bother us.

Experience and accept the pain. Embrace your sadness. Cry if you feel like it. Crying actually is a built in survival mechanism that kills pain by stimulating the release of endorphins in the brain. Let the pain run its course and then get on with your life.

Tags:
April 30, 2011

Loving kindness meditation

by Dave P.

Meditation can be a great stress reliever and create a feeling of well-being that may be otherwise lacking in your life. I’ve heard some people who practice meditation regularly describe the state of mind they experience during meditation sessions as being “better than sex.” Both sex and meditation stimulate the release of endorphins in the brain, which generates a feeling of well-being. Drugs such as heroin and morphine do the same thing, which is why they’re so addictive. While drug addiction is extremely unhealthy and can destroy your life, an addiction to meditation is very healthy.

There are several types of meditation. A good one to start with is loving-kindness meditation. Here are a couple of good videos on loving kindness or ‘metta’ meditation.

April 25, 2011

How child abuse and neglect damage the brain

by Dave P.

For 7 -year-old Zachary Risotti, feeling safe and cared about is a new experience.

At 2, Zachary was taken to the emergency room because of a suspicious cigarette burn under his left eye. Six months later, he was back in the hospital with a burn on his right forearm. Suspecting abuse, the state Department of Social Services removed him from his home, but he bounced around three foster homes before he was finally adopted in July 2000.

By then, Zachary already bore psychological scars of child abuse. At 3, he had the communication skills typical of a toddler half his age. He avoided eye contact, fidgeted constantly and expressed his frustration by sitting in a corner and crying.

But intensive mental health and support services as well as a loving family have given Zachary a second lease on life. ”Today he’s happy, very sociable and doing well in school,” said his adoptive mother, Kathryn Risotti of Marlborough.

Until recently, mental health clinicians could only speculate on the ways that abuse and neglect damage a child’s developing brain. But a series of ground-breaking studies in neuroscience conducted over the last decade are allowing researchers to pinpoint the actual changes in children’s brains caused by traumatic experience.

These new neurobiological findings show that trauma – physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect – dramatically affects both the structure and chemistry of the developing brain, thus causing the behavioral and learning problems that plague about three-quarters of the children mired in the child welfare system. But the good news is that these brain changes aren’t necessarily permanent. In fact, timely interventions – as in the case of Zachary – can help rewire the brain and put psychological development back on track. As Department of Social Services Commissioner Harry Spence put it: ”Neuroscience has helped to clarify our mission. We must do more than just protect children after the brain damage has been done. We must also provide loving environments because they are fundamental to healing on a physiological level.”

Read more

April 22, 2011

Meditation May Help the Brain ‘Turn Down the Volume’ on Distractions

by Dave P.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 21, 2011) — The positive effects of mindfulness meditation on pain and working memory may result from an improved ability to regulate a crucial brain wave called the alpha rhythm. This rhythm is thought to “turn down the volume” on distracting information, which suggests that a key value of meditation may be helping the brain deal with an often-overstimulating world.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report that modulation of the alpha rhythm in response to attention-directing cues was faster and significantly more enhanced among study participants who completed an eight-week mindfulness meditation program than in a control group. The report will appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin and has been released online.

“Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall,” says Catherine Kerr, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH and the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School, co-lead author of the report. “Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts.”

Read more…

April 20, 2011

Brain Development & Addiction – Talk by Gabor Mate

by Dave P.

A recurring theme in [the books by Gabor Mate] is the impact of a person’s childhood on their mental and physical health through neurological and psychological mechanisms; which he connects with the need for social change. In the book In the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, he proposes new approaches to treating addiction (e.g. safe injection sites) based on an understanding of the biological and socio-economic roots of addiction. He describes the significant role of “early adversity” i.e. stress, mistreatment and particularly childhood abuse; in increasing susceptibility to addiction. This happens through the impairment of neurobiological development, impairing the brain circuitry involved in addiction, motivation and incentive. He argues the “war on drugs” actually punishes people for having been abused and entrenches addiction more deeply as studies show that stress is the biggest driver of addictive relapse and behavior. He says a system that marginalizes, ostracizes and institutionalizes people in facilities with no care and easy access to drugs, only worsens the problem. He also argues the environmental causes of addiction point to the need to improve child welfare policies (e.g. U.S. welfare laws that force many single women to find low-paying jobs far away from home and their children) and the need for better support for families overall, as most children in North America are now away from their parents from an early age due to economic conditions. As well as the need to change policies that disadvantage certain minority groups, causing them more stress and therefore increased risks for addictions.

Read more…