Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Display your Affirmations on Washer Necklaces!

I have had an epiphany. I am so excited to share it with you, I can't stand it. I just hope you like the idea as much as I do.

I used to work in an office 40 hours a week and would struggle with my anxiety every day in my cubicle. I didn't want everyone in the office to know about my personal health so I would post pictures of random things that no one else would know the meaning of but me. For example, I used to have a picture of a footprint in the sand. This was to remind me whenever I saw it of the affirmation "I can take as small a step forward as I choose. There is no need to push myself." Everytime I glanced at the picture I would think of that. I had a sticker of an upper case "R" on my computer monitor. This was to remind me of the positive affirmation "I respect and believe in myself more than other people's opinions."


This worked great while I worked in the office. Then as a work at home mom, I would post the affirmations around my bedroom and bathroom. However I found it embarrasing if any guests came over if they saw it.


So this idea is a way to carry those thoughts with you all the time- at home, at work, and on the go. Simply wear them as a necklace!

I have created these really cool hand stamped customized washer necklaces that are really popular in the crafting community. It started out as putting my child's name on one and making some as Christmas gifts with family names and birthdates. Then I started to think about other things I could stamp into them and I thought of phrases that could help with anxiety such as:


"BE STILL"
"CALM"
"BELIEVE"
"AT PEACE"
"SERENITY"


just to name a few. But really, ANYTHING can be stamped into these necklaces. Initials, numbers, phrases.  These can be worn underneath clothing for privacy, or they can be as stand-outish  as you want with additional charms and beads. I only have one picture on here to give you an idea of what I am talking about, but there are so many other styles that I can do as well.


So here's the thing. I decided I would share these with anyone that is interested. I have set up an etsy shop 



and will be posting these necklaces for sale in the very, very, very near future. I will probably only post a few to see what kind of interest there is. So if there is something you hold dear to you that helps you find hope, encouragement, or valuable affirmations, let me know and I can make it for you. All the details will be in the shop but I wanted to let you know it was coming so you could swirl the idea around in your head. 


I hope everyone has a Happy New Year! Are you thinking of resolutions that you want to do for 2010? I know I have. I am a believer in them. Do they work for you or stress you out?


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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Grinching Christmas

I don't know why I am suprised, but the last few days for me have been filled with anxiety. I never even thought seriously about preparing for the family get togethers. So wouldn't you know it Christmas Eve morning when I am supposed to go to a family Who-ville Christmas Breakfast, I am in pure panic mode in my closet. "What if I am sick and can't eat anything and I ruin the breakfast? I know its so important to my sister and I didn't want to be a downer..." and on my thoughts raced.


I tried to login to the website but my computer's battery was dead. So I decided to nip it in the bud instead of letting it draw out all day long. I simply called my sister up and told her that I was having a lot of anxiety and we would still come, but I may not be able to eat much since I wasn't feeling good. Worst case scenario, I could put it all in a doggy bag and eat it later.


There- it was out in the open, she knew, and I didn't have to try to be perfect anymore. And then the wave of anxiety quieted. That was the worst of it. I still had more ripples here and there, but no more panic attacks. Christmas morning and this morning I found myself uneasy, but nothing overly serious.


I am always a mess during the holidays. I get so wrapped up in how they need to be perfectly memorialized events that the thought of me ruining them with my anxiety always creeps in. I am my own Christmas Grinch. For some reason I feel that if I am sick, it will ruin it for everybody. When in reality, if I was really sick, it would really ruin the holidays for me, and most likely just me.


So I will say it again, being open and honest about your panic and anxiety with those around you always seems to be better for me than trying to hide it and pretending like everything is just fine.


How was the Christmas holiday for everyone else?


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Monday, December 21, 2009

Featured in SELF Magazine January 2010 edition

Browsing through Costco today for some last minute Christmas gifts I saw the new SELF magazine edition for January and hurried to flip through the pages to see if my article was there. Sure enough, on page 120 a little paragraph about anxiety and my experience with sleeping. I was so stoked!


Don't want to buy the magazine but want to check it out? Click here to see it online. They took a lot of information that I gave them and tried to summarize it all up in a few sentences so I feel as though its like seeing a movie without reading the book first. You get an idea of the plot but there are so many details missing. But its still pretty cool!


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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Keeping the Focus on Others


I have been trying to write out a long post about my service efforts for this month, but I can't help but not like the way it comes out. It's like the scripture in the Bible about saying your prayers in your closet, as opposed to the street corner where everyone can see you. If you say them in private you do it because its between you and Heavenly Father. If you brag about it, saying them loudly where everyone can hear how righteous you are, than you are doing it for everyone else's approval and that is your reward.
Matthew 6: 5-6
 5 ¶ And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the ahypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
  6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy acloset, and when thou hast bshut thy door, cpray to thy Father which is in dsecret; and thy Father which eseeth in secret shall freward thee openly.
The idea of doing service this month is to take the focus off of yourself and think about others. Therefore, I don't want to sit and list the things I have been doing to get kudos or nice comments, because then it all goes back on me and my focus is lost.


So I will just say this. I am holding my end up on the monthly challenge by being more thoughtful for those around me and by helping a friend in need. Its been harder than I thought it would be, but I guess that's how all good behaviors are.


I hope you are finding the joy that comes with serving others. If you would like to share whether you participated in this month's challenge I would love to know, even if its just to say you did it.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Holidays From Our Family to Yours!

I knew this month would be super busy with getting everything ready for Christmas, and I am so not even close to being done! However, I just finished this baby yesterday so I can get them out in the mail, and wanted to share it with you.


















I hope you all have a great holiday season filled with the peace that we all strive so hard to obtain.


I still haven't figured out what service idea I am going to do this month. Anyone else done theirs? By the way in case anyone looked, I am not featured in the December issue of SELF, so I am almost positive it will be in the January issue.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monthly Challenge: December 2009- The Helper's High

For the month of December I tried to come up with a reasonable challenge that wouldn't be too overwhelming with all of the holiday get togethers and celebrations taking up so much of our time. So I came up with the idea of having this month's challenge revolve around service. When you are feeling down, sad, or lonely, having a pity party for yourself, the BEST thing you can do is to forget about yourself, and focus on others. So much of our time is focused on analyzing ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings, our minds and bodies, that its a good exercise to turn our attention purposely elsewhere. This article entitled How Volunteerism Can Make You Healthier and Happier by R. Murali Krishna, M.D. really says it so much better than I can:

I recently received a letter from a man who told me of the impact I'd had on him when he attended one of the many seminars I offer throughout the country on the mind-body-spirit connection.
This man is now approaching mid-life, but when he was younger his mother suffered from manic depression. His mother's illness was so severe it eventually drove her to shoot and kill his father. This man who wrote me spent many years grappling with this family tragedy.
It haunts him still.
Eventually, however, he decided to cope with his own pain by serving others. After attending one of my seminars, he volunteered his services to a local hospice organization, a place where the terminally ill can die with dignity and peace.
Most of us are fortunate enough to avoid terrible tragedies. But each of us experiences pain, sadness and loneliness. One of the best ways to overcome these feelings is to connect with others through service.
It's one of the fundamental ways I suggest people can achieve balanced lives, whether through volunteering in the community or through finding a quieter connection with someone.
We must serve others to feel like human beings. Serving others provides a spiritual connection. Mother Theresa told us that God comes to us through suffering human beings. We can't all be Mother Theresa's. But we each possess inner strengths and talents given to us so we can share them to others.
A wave of volunteerism has swept America in recent years, with calls from prominent names like Colin Powell and Jimmy Carter. George Bush exhorted us to become one of the "thousand points of light" delivering comfort to those in need.
Such service certainly has altruistic rewards. It makes us less self-centered. It increases our empathy. It expands our life experiences beyond the narrow realm of what we encounter at work or on television. We gain a healthier perspective on life.

The Helper's High
Service and volunteerism may also have an impact beyond simply making us feel better about ourselves. Recent research suggests serving others can have a physical impact on your health. It's been called "the helper's high," and it may even have a positive effect on the immune system. Information in this area is still emerging, but a few studies stand out:

A 1988 study by the University of Michigan showed that life expectancy increases for people who volunteer (a 250 percent increase for men in the study).
Another study conducted over a ten-year period found a two-and-a-half-fold decrease in overall mortality for those who attended volunteer philanthropic group activities regularly when compared with those who did not volunteer.
The Duke Heart Center Patient Support Program at Duke University in North Carolina suggests that former cardiac patients who have volunteered to help newly-diagnosed patients may improve their own mood and alter their psychoneuroimmunological function (a technical term for the connection between the mind, the nervous system and the immune system).
A study of Japanese elderly found that, regardless of gender, those who provide assistance to others rated their health more favorably than older adults who were less involved in their communities.
More studies at Yale, Johns Hopkins, University of California, National Institute of Mental Health and Ohio State University support similar findings.
Why? Scientists theorize the good feelings that come from volunteering may release chemicals called neuropeptides that bolster the immune system and provide a sense of well-being.
Human biology seems to be designed in such a way that it drives us to satisfy our sensations. We want to own things. We want to taste savory food, to smell lovely fragrances, to hear beautiful music or to sleep on the softest sheets. We want to feel secure and comfortable.
There's nothing wrong with aspiring to fulfill these needs. After all, we are hardwired for desires and aspirations.

The Missing Link


Nevertheless, most people feel deep down that something is missing from their lives if they only focus on their own needs. Within each human being, I believe we possess a deep need to make a difference in the lives of others. Often, stress or the layers of obligations that can accumulate in our lives have buried this innate awareness. Serving others can stimulate this inner core once again, bringing it to life.
The social connection provided through serving others also makes us aware of fundamental truths, first among them: We are each born with a guaranteed return ticket. When you wrestle with this fact, you'll also begin to understand you are surrounded by fellow travelers – each with an ending no different from your own. Once you glimpse this certainty, you might allow yourself to ask, "What will be my ending? What can I contribute to aid other human beings as we travel through this life?"
Life is like a training ground. We learn the lessons we choose to engage in. Volunteering and serving others teach us the highest lessons with the noblest results. We learn that our lives have meaning. We raise ourselves to a purpose beyond our own immediate needs.
How to do it?
Make it a part of your daily life. Don't forego the other parts of your life – your family, your job, or your leisure time. And don't overload yourself with burdensome volunteer commitments. You won't be connecting with anyone, and you won't be reaping the physical and psychological benefits either. Objectively measure your time and your commitments.
At the same time, don't wait until the end of the year to simply write a check. Do something that has meaning for you.
The smallest actions can make a difference, accumulated over time. Each day, when I interact with someone, I try to offer a word of comfort or encouragement. I try to connect with people in the present moment. I try to create optimism. In this small way, I am not matching the enormous accomplishments of Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Theresa. But I am making a difference. I am serving others.
Simply being involved with your neighborhood association or in the philanthropic endeavors of your religious congregation can function in the same way. And these are easy ways to involve your family, too.
There is something essentially right about this balanced addition to our lives. You'll find making the time to serve others will provide you with more energy, instead of taking it away. And as medical research is beginning to suggest, you're likely to live a longer and happier life as a result.



So here it is- this month's challenge:


This month, do at least one act of service for someone else. It can be anything you want. From doing something extra nice or extra special for a member of your family, to donating your time at a soup kitchen or food bank or homeless shelter. Whatever you want to do. The idea is to forget about yourself and help others.

I want to hear what you have decided to do and what happened. How it made you feel, how it helped others, etc. Maybe we can get a cool collection of stories. I haven't decided what I am going to do yet, but I will keep you posted. I created a new post on the discussion forum, or if you would like you can leave a comment with your experience under this post.

Need Some Ideas for Inspiration?

Here are 30 to get you started:

  1. Surprise your parent(s) or neighbors and offer to babysit a sibling, relative or friend.
  2. Cheer up a sick friend with a visit or phone call.
  3. Rescue a pet from an animal shelter. 
  4. Can't keep a pet? Volunteer at an animal shelter. Help clean up, play with the animals, or do whatever's needed to make the shelter a nicer "temporary" home for the animals.
  5. Become a foster parent. Some shelters have temporary foster care programs. You take care of a pet until they can find a permanent home for it.
  6. Ring the bell for Salvation Army during the holidays.
  7. Christmas boxes for needy children/families
  8. Clean someone's car (inside and out)
  9. Clean someone's home
  10. Cook meals for needy/elderly
  11. Do someone's laundry
  12. Donate blood
  13. Donate clothes/toys/house hold items
  14. Celebrate a birthday by asking friends to donate items for causes instead of gifts.
  15. Give Christmas trees to needy at Christmas time or decorate a Christmas tree at a nursing home, hospital, school or homeless shelter.
  16. Help out at shelters/hospitals/nursing homes
  17. Make hygiene kits, or first aid kits (for shelters)
  18. Litter cleanup (roads/parks)
  19. Make stuffed toys/dolls for children
  20. Read to elderly
  21. Service Scavenger Hunt
  22. Singing at hospitals/nursing homes
  23. Story telling to children
  24. Teach reading to the illiterate
  25. Wash windows (members/church/other buildings/homes)
  26. Yard cleanup (grass/weeds/leaves/snow/etc)
  27. Clean an elderly neighbor's driveway and sidewalk after a snowfall.
  28. Serve as a coach for a youth sports team.
  29. Serve as an usher at a sporting event.
  30. Adopt a pothole and raise funds to repair it.

These ideas as well as many others can be found here and here.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Relaxation Technique 4: Envisioning a Peaceful Scene




Some of you may remember Adam Sandler going to his "happy place' in the movie Happy Gilmore. Here's the script:
Chubbs: You must clear your mind
of everything else and stay focused.
                   
Happy Gilmore: How can I do that?
                   
Chubbs: Think of a place
that's really perfect.
                  
Your own happy place.
                   
Go there and all your anger
will disappear.
Although portrayed with humor, the idea is still a concrete one and works with more than just anger. It can help you with your anxious thoughts as well. 

A peaceful scene could be envisioning yourself on a quiet beach, a stream in the mountains, laying in a meadow of wild flowers, sitting next to a cozy fire wrapped in a blanket on a cold winter day, or wherever you consider to be a peaceful place. As long as you can see everything in detail and completely absorb yourself in the setting, any place real or fantasy will do.

Edmund J. Bourne says, "Allowing yourself to be absorbed in a peaceful scene will deepen your state of relaxation, giving you actual physiological results. Your muscular tension lessens, your heart rate slows down, your breathing deepens, your capillaries open up and warm your hands and feet, and so on."

It helps to write out your peaceful scene on paper. Using all of your senses- sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste, describe the scene in full detail.


You can also record your voice describing what you have written so that you can conjour it up without effort.


Here is an example of a peaceful scene described by Edmund J. Bourne from The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook:



The Beach Scene
"You're walking along a beautiful, deserted beach. You are barefoot and can feel the firm white sand beneath your feet as you walk along the margin of the sea. You can hear the sound of the surf as the waves ebb and flow. The sound is hypnotic, relaxing you more and more. The water is a beautiful turquoise blue flecked with whitecaps far out where the waves are cresting. Near the horizon you can see a small sailboat gliding smoothly along. The sound of the waves breaking on the shore lulls you deeper and deeper into relaxation.You draw in the fresh, salty smell of the air with each breath. Your skin glows with the warmth of the sun.You can feel a gentle breeze against your cheek and ruffling in your hair. Taking in the whole scene you feel very calm and at ease."
Sigh. That seems so nice. 

Once you have your own ideal peaceful scene imagined out, return to it whenever you finish any relaxation technique such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation for example. Over time this will enforce the image and it will solidify in your mind, making it easier to call upon on the spur of the moment and help to drive away anxious thoughts.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And the Winners Are...

I use a random contest winner generator at Buzz My Blog in order to pick winners for the giveaways at random. The three winners of the November's Relaxation Giveaway- new owners of the iphone app MiHeart, are:




Blue Morpho

Jes

Scott



Thanks to everyone who participated. I can't wait to hold another one soon. I hope to feature these winners in a future post, but I wanted to get the announcement out for anyone desperately waiting lol :)

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving. If its a hard holiday for you like it is for me, remember to prepare ahead of time with a gameplan.



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Monday, November 23, 2009

4 Great Reasons to Track Your Meditation Efforts in a Log or Journal


I like the idea of being held accountable for whether or not I do my weekly yoga since that was a goal I made for myself during this monthly challenge. A lot of you have said that taking walks in the mornings have really helped you.

The fact is, if I don't have to report to anyone, or keep track of my progress, than the likelihood of me sticking with it will plummet. I tend to like lists. So I thought about how we reward our kids with charts and when they do a chore they get to put a sticker on it and thought, why not?

So I did a little research into logging meditation efforts. I found alot of exercise logs that help you track your weight lifting routine, workouts, or diet but an all out exercise regiment is not what I am focusing on right now. We'll save that for another month.

I specifically want to focus on when I do my yoga to make sure I am doing it once a week. I found a log that you can print out here that will allow you to track how often you do flexibility training as well as track any other kind of exercise you may be working on.

I also came across the idea of keeping a meditation journal. I realize that I am not an expert or doctor and so a lot of what I share on this blog is articles or information that I have found from real experts or doctors.

"Mindfulness is about knowing where we are (being in the moment) and also about maintaining an awareness of where we have been (reflection) and where we are going (having goals). A meditation journal can help us with all of those areas of awareness, helping us to have a more unified awareness of ourselves." -wildmind

Here are 5 great reasons to track your meditation efforts in a log or journal:

Reason #1: It  Helps You ”Keep It Real"

Keeping a meditation journal helps us have a more definite sense of what is actually going on. The act of recording when you do your meditation techniques ensures that you are conscientious of what you are actually doing versus what you think you are doing. You'll know exactly how often you take this time out for yourself. You will be able to know if you are not doing it enough, or if you need to try a different kind of meditation technique.

Reason # 2:  Journals Give You The Big Picture

Logs and journals don’t have to be just for recording when you take the time out to meditate. A good log can also contain notes about miscellaneous items like the amount of sleep you got the night before, your energy levels before and after, what your mood was like, the amount of time it lasted, etc. You can track when your anxiety is really high and how your meditation is effecting it. Do you always have less anxiety after meditating? Is it better when you meditate in the morning or right before bed? Being aware of the effect your meditation has on your anxiety can help you make lifestyle adjustments that can improve your progress and help you lead a healthier, more satisfied, life.
 "When we sit down after meditation and take a few minutes to journal what we’ve been experiencing, it makes it pretty obvious how effective we’ve really been. If we examine our experience, honestly and with a desire to learn, then we become much more aware of what our meditation practice actually is. We can become more aware of our weaknesses and our strengths, and have a much more penetrating understanding of what we need to be working on." -wildmind

Reason #3: Logs Keep You Motivated

One of the great things about journals or logs is that when you’re feeling a little less motivated than usual, you can page back through your past efforts and learn about yourself and see the progress you’ve made over time.

Perhaps when you first started you struggled with different breathing techniques or yoga poses, or struggled just to find the time. If you are tracking your mental thoughts before and/or after, maybe at the beginning you were really having a hard time everyday with feelings of doubt, low self esteem, or just anxious thoughts, and now its only every once in awhile that you have a bad day. Perhaps now you have a regular schedule, even daily. Sometimes this is all it takes to get you fired up about trying again.
 
Reason # 4: Helps Us to Set Goals

"Our journaling can help us to set goals. It’s not that we try to pin down our experience before it happens – that’s rarely if ever going to work and it’s more likely to result in frustration than in any progress in our meditation practice. Instead what we’re trying to do in setting goals is to develop a stronger sense of where we want to go in our meditation practice. Through looking back at our past experience we can see what we need to work on. Perhaps it’s forgiveness or patience that we need to develop. Perhaps it’s more persistence. Or more calmness.

Perhaps we’ll discover that we are lazier than we thought, or perhaps that we try too hard, or perhaps even that we fluctuate in our efforts. We may discover that there are particular distractions that are much more common that we had recalled.

Whatever changes we want to make, having clear goals will help us attain them." -wildmind

If you want to do a meditation journal a simple spiral notebook will do. You can have a journal online if that's your thing, or even take the time to decorate a journal to make it more personal and special.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway! It ends TODAY!!!!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Being Held Accountable

I just wanted to report that I did my yoga today so I have accomplished my goal of doing it once a week so far. It helps to know that I am being held accountable to my goals by sharing with all of you. And the yoga felt so good but I know I am going to be sore tomorrow.


Has anyone else made any goals for incorporating relaxation techniques into their life? Anyone else trying to do yoga? If so how often?



If you don't want to share online, share it with someone because it helps to not do it alone.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Having An Anxiety Disorder Does Not Mean You’re Crazy

I'm always excited to hear and learn from members of our community. Today I am blog swapping with a fellow anxiety blogger named Paul from Anxietyguru.net and I am thrilled to feature a really great post from him. Enjoy.
 



Hi I’m Paul Dooley from Anxietyguru.net and today I’ll be talking to you about a subject that plagues many anxiety sufferers; the fear of going crazy. Not surprisingly this is one of the most common complaints from people living with anxiety and it’s a thought that never really seems to go away altogether.  And due to Aimee’s generosity I’ll be able to share with you what I think is a very important insight into this very common fear.
First and foremost I’d like to reiterate that the fear of going crazy really is one of the most common symptoms of anxiety disorder.  The reason I’d like to highlight this fact is because I hope it helps to put things into perspective for you. In other words, you’re not the one off weirdo that has developed an unheard of reaction to chronic anxiety, quite the contrary. Although you may sometimes have the sense that you are losing your grip on reality and that you are literally on the verge of a mental breakdown things are not as bad as they seem. The truth of the matter is that anxiety disorder(s) can cause a deep seeded fear that sooner or later you're simply going to go mad. However despite this overwhelming fear of possible insanity, the fact that you fear it and are aware of insanity as a state of being is precisely why you are not crazy.
Crazy means a lot things to a lot of people, however for the sake of clarity let's say that for our purposes crazy means a mixture of insanity and psychosis . Let's look at insanity first and how it is normally defined. In the United States insanity is no longer a medical term and in fact is mainly used in legal definitions. You have heard people say that someone is "legally insane" generally meaning that they cannot comprehend the meaning of "right" and "wrong". They simply don't understand what it means to do something horrible, like killing another human being for example.
Under this definition of crazy or insane would you qualify as such a person? If you have an anxiety disorder the answer is no. You have your mental faculties in order and know exactly what right and wrong mean. You know the social norms of society and you follow them. In other words, you don't walk around with your underwear on your head because you know that society views this as unacceptable behavior. The second and highest level of so called crazy is a mental state of delusion and abstraction known as psychosis.
In the past "insanity" was associated with conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. These conditions fall under the psychotic types of mental illness. These conditions are debilitating brain disorders that can seriously hinder ones life. When someone is psychotic they may hear voices or have hallucinations. In addition they might have a serious paranoia and a feeling that everyone is out to get them.
When someone is deemed psychotic they exhibit disorganized thinking and strange behaviors of various kind. Their very perception of reality is not what you would call normal. It is seriously distorted and disconnected from normal definitions of reality. Moreover one of the most critical aspects of psychosis that does not affect anxiety sufferers is a lack of insight.
Having a lack of insight is just another way of saying that you don't know that you are behaving or acting strangely. As an anxiety sufferer you spend a lot of time thinking you're crazy or on the verge of crazy but if this were true than you wouldn't know it. You simply would not be aware of the fact that your thoughts and behavior were strange or "crazy".
When you have anxiety you are certainly filled with dread and worry. You experience psychosomatic sensations that make you feel terrible and frequent physical symptoms of all kinds. But the bottom line is that your level of mental fitness is not the same as someone that is psychotic or crazy - it's much better. You have the ability to make sound decisions, you don't hear or see things that aren't there, and you know the difference between real and unreal. Even if you experience feelings of unreality or dream like states you are still aware of them as such.
Unfortunately if you were to ask someone tagged as crazy if they were actually crazy, they would probably say something like "crazy, who me?". They just wouldn't know that they were in mental distress the same way that you would be able to know. As you can see you just don't fit the profile of an insane or psychotic person. So the conclusion must be that you are not crazy. When you have anxiety disorder will you have tricks of vision? Yes. Will you have strange sensations and worry all the time? Yes. But despite this your condition is a completely different tier of mental ailment. You have an anxiety disorder and you will not graduate to a greater and more terrible mental state. You're an excessive worrier racked with tremendous amounts of stress, but you are not crazy by any stretch of the imagination.

Paul Dooley
Anxietyguru.net

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My Redeeming Moment on Facebook

As I am sure you are aware from previous posts, alot of my anxiety deals with feelings of rejection. I worry about people rejecting me and so I try to avoid it. I think the times in my life where someone has rejected me really scarred me and left deep wounds which later manifested as panic attacks and severe anxiety.

However, I had a really great experience with Facebook yesterday. Here's a little story about when I was just a girl. I have always been a bit boy crazy and when I was in elementary school, I had a huge mega crush on this one particular boy. Only problem, he wanted nothing to do with me. He was in love with this little girl that all the boys were in love with. She was French and had recently moved into the area. This boy even paid another boy to "ask me out" (at that age it was just a title of boyfriend/girlfriend but you didn't actually do anything) just so I would leave him alone. Oh the drama of 9 year olds. It's not like I was a stalker or anything. I don't remember even telling him that I liked him, but I must have been staring at him or something to give him the creeps. Also, being the youngest of 9 I was a bit neglected as a child so I never matched, always wore 10 year old hand-me-downs and my hair was probably a bit unkempt as well. Anyway, eventually the boy moved away and I went on to have other crushes and life moved on.


Yesterday I got a friend request on Facebook from this boy-now-man. I have no idea how he found me. I don't use my maiden name, and we have no mutual friends on facebook. It took me awhile to even figure out who he was. Here is the best part. He left me this message with the friend request:


"Am i wrong, or did we go to elementary school together? lol god, you look great:).".

What?!? Is this for real? It was such a good feeling of finally being accepted by someone who rejected me for so long. It felt like one of those wounds finally healed and disappeared.


The thing about Facebook or any social networking website is that its a place to say "This is who I am" and you have control over what pictures are listed and any other information you want to share. So of course me being the way I am, I am very picky to post only the best pictures and most of those pictures I have photoshopped (I do photography on the side) and let me tell you, photoshop can do wonders. I would never post a picture of the way I am right this minute- no shower, no makeup, in my pajamas. Everyone tries to show their best face on Facebook. It's your way of saying "I have arrived."

His comment really made me feel good about myself. What felt even better? I wasn't asking for it. I didn't look him up. He found me. My sister once told me the best revenge is not giving that person another thought. And I really hadn't in this scenario.

Although it felt really nice, the reality of life is that not everyone that rejects you will someday think you are great. And unfortunately there are a lot of people from my past that rejected me that I can't help but think about. I have dreams almost every night about being rejected over and over again by these people, never feeling good enough. And I will never heal if I continue to wait for that acceptance day that will never come.

I need to learn how to heal without their acceptance. To love myself even if others don't. To feel that I am good enough just the way that I am. And that is the hardest battle I struggle with everyday.

Has anyone else had similar experiences with Facebook or any other social networking site?



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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Relaxation Technique 3: Yoga

I have written about yoga enough in the past that I will simply leave a couple of links for you to brush up on if you haven't already read them. It as an important relaxation technique, so I think its worth mentioning again.


The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga For Workaholics
Another Testimonial of the Awesomeness of Yoga



I have tried to do yoga on a regular basis in the past but have found it hard to stick to it. So I have decided to try a realistic goal for me to do it once a week. Then if I can get that down, perhaps I will add another day.


Don't forget to enter in the relaxation giveaway!


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Monday, November 16, 2009

November's Relaxation Giveaway!


I am so excited to be able to offer a giveaway with this month's challenge of learning to relax. There are multiple ways to enter, all easy. The giveaway ends on Friday so hurry hurry before you forget. There will be THREE WINNERS!!!

WHAT YOU COULD WIN:

Bradon Harwood is sponsoring a free application for your iPhone or iPod, for three lucky winners:

MiHeart (My Heart): For relaxation, meditation, exercise, and sleep.
MiHeart was developed using ancient Buddhist principles and the latest medical studies. When you lay next to someone you love, your heart literally begins to sync with theirs. Eventually, two hearts are beating as one. MiHeart mimics this phenomenon by producing realistic heartbeat sound and vibrations at a rate of 50, 60, or 75 BPM. Taking advantage of this wonder of the human body, slow heart rates can be utilized to coax the body into a state of deep relaxation.
50 BPM imitates a heart in sleep or deep meditation. Lay your iPhone on your chest, and allow the rhythmic, natural heartbeat to relax away your worries. Or, place the device under your pillow and feel yourself lull to sleep! For those who meditate, this app is a great tool for assisting you in reaching a meditative state. Use headphones for the full effect!
60 BPM is a more normal, yet still relaxed heartbeat. Great for unwinding after (or during) work!
75 BPM was designed with exercising in mind. This mode has a faster rhythm and higher frequencies of sound. Perfect for keeping your heart rate under control at the gym, 75 BPM is also a good starting rhythm to help your heart transition down to 50 BPM.
New mothers will find this app excellent at calming down infants and helping them lull to sleep. Create a relaxing environment for your newborn baby by mimicking your own heartbeat.
Features:
-Beautifully designed heart with a pulsating animation
-Many frequencies and wavelengths were tested for the heartbeat sound. Through trials and experimentation, we found the optimal range for relaxation, realism, and effectiveness
- Rhythmic vibration completes the relaxing heartbeat effect
-On/Off switches for the vibration and sounds. Customize your heart! (Note: some find using just the vibration or turning the sound volume down to be an optimal setting for sleep).
-Speed settings: 50, 60, and 75 BPM. Some people tend to find 50 BPM to be the most relaxing, but try them out for yourself! 75 BPM is great for exercising. The faster speed and higher sound frequency are optimized for keeping your heart rate at a reasonable level while experiencing a cardio workout.
-Quick-loading, simplistic, and easy to use.
-Proven and effective sleep enhancer. Much more simplistic and cost effective than "noise makers" like sleepstream.

*Please Note: The vibration only functions on iPhone models.

Thanks Bradon!

HOW TO ENTER:

  1. Add any Reality of Anxiety button picture from my sidebar to your blog or website (email me to let me know if you do this) Don't know how to do this? Click here for a tutorial.
  2. Post a comment anywhere on the discussion forum. This can be a new topic or a reply to an already started topic in any area of the forum. Only one entry will count no matter how many posts you leave.
  3. Leave a  comment at the end of this post telling us what the biggest help has been to help you relax.(only one entry will count no matter how many comments you leave.)

ALL ENTRIES MUST BE RECEIVED BY:

11:59:59 PM (MST) on Monday, November 23, 2009.

SELECTION OF WINNERS:

THREE Grand Prize winners will be selected from all eligible entries. To be eligible to win, comments must be relevant, appropriate, and substantive relative to the blog topic at hand. The winner will be notified by email and also featured on the blog.

ELIGIBILITY:

Giveaway open to anyone, anywhere.

If you have any questions feel free to email me.




Thursday, November 12, 2009

SPOILER ALERT! Giveaway coming really soon!

A Special Heads Up: Monday morning I will be announcing another giveaway. And this time there will be THREE WINNERS! It's only going to last for one week, so be sure to check back so you can enter to win! There will be more than one way to enter, and they are SuPeR easy.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Relaxation Technique 2: Calming Music

First off, I want to apologize for the lack of posts lately. First my internet went down and I had to replace my modem and router and I went through a few days of serious internet withdrawals. Now my husband has been sick with strep throat and possibly the swine flu-ahh! Tonight is the first time I feel like I have some time to relax and actually think. So my relaxation hasn't been where I have wanted it to be so far this month, thats for sure. I have made the deep breathing techniques one of the first things I do when I start to panic so I am glad that I have already been able to incorporate that into my normal routine.


Awhile back I used to have a player on the site that had some music that I found to help me to relax. Music has a way of lifting depressed moods and touching souls.


Edmund J. Bourne says, "Whether you use music while driving, as a background while at work, or in the foreground when you want to take time out to relax, it is one of the most powerful and time-honored methods for letting go of anxiety or worry. If you use the music to assuage anxiety, be sure to select pieces that are genuinely relaxing rather than stimulating or emotionally evocative" (bold and italics added)


I grew up playing the piano and used to teach lessons. I have always found that playing the piano and listening to piano music really helps me to get lost from my daily worries and really feel at peace.

A couple of my favorite piano musicians are John Schmidt and Jim Brickman. I feel a little vulnerable sharing this with you for some reason. I think its just because its so special to me, and its a part of me, a part of my heart, and I don't want people to think its stupid. But I'll take the risk because I think the following is worth it.

While this song isn't Jon Schmidt's most relaxing one, it is the most AMAZING peice I have ever heard. He is so talented and I have been trying to learn this song for years, but its sooo hard. He actually uses his entire arm for several of the notes near the end. Its titled, All of Me. You can check out a live performance here:





Here is another one of my favorites by him:



Just listening to these to put on here is putting me in such a happy mood, I love it.

And now for a really relaxing one, this is by Jim Brickman. The song is called Lake Erie Rainfall and it has a special place in my heart because I grew up literally down the street from Lake Erie and that lake truly is home to me. Being away from it now for 9 years really makes me homesick when I listen to the song, but its also a very peaceful song. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.



And finally, the first Jim Brickman song that I ever heard is still one of my all time favorites. Its just a beautiful song.



The following are some songs that aren't necessarily relaxing like Enya or Yanni relaxing, but they are cool songs that I used to listen to to help me feel better about my anxiety:

Natasha Bedingfield- Wild Horses:


Frou Frou- Let Go


Daniel Bedingfield- Gotta Get Through This (acoustic):


And finally, Jem- It's Just a Ride:


I like to listen to music in the car, when getting ready for the day, and when cooking dinner. Most of what I listen to is on the more mellow side specifically because it helps me to relax more. Thanks for listening! What kind of music do you listen to, to unwind and relax? I've also started a topic about this on the forum if you would rather leave your suggestions there.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

I am going to be in SELF Magazine!

In January's Edition of Self Magazine, they are having an article on how you may think that you have insomnia, but it may actually be something else. I don't know how much of it will be contributing to anxiety, but I have been talking with editors from the magazine and they want to put my story in! They may or may not mention the blog, but I am super excited, and super nervous too! When I told my sister she said she was jealous of my 15 min. of fame and I said, "Oh yeah, I'll be famous for having a mental illness, real glamorous!" lol

In the past I have posted about my experiences with insomnia and anxiety if you are interested in the topic.

I am thinking it will be in newsstands at the beginning of December, but I don't know for sure. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think!


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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Relaxation Technique 1: Abdominal Breathing


One of the easiest and very effective things you can do to get into a deep state of relaxation quickly is to take deep breaths.
 
What is abdominal breathing?
Abdominal breathing is a way to breathe from your stomach area (abdomen) to fill your entire lungs with air. Your lungs are like balloons that should fill up and empty all the way. Your body gets the most benefit when you use your entire lungs. Many people who are under stress breathe in short and shallow breath from the chest. This is not the best way to breathe because it only uses the upper parts of the lung. Breathing from your chest can increase muscle tension. -www.seattlechildrens.org

How to Breathe From Your Abdomen and Not Your Chest:
Place your hand on your abdomen. Breathe in deeply from your nose, slowly pulling in as much air as you can. Keeping your hand on your abdomen, slowly release the air through your mouth. Make sure you release the air from your abdomen area. You should feel your hand depress slightly as this happens. -ehow.com

The Calming Breath Exercise:
One of the easiest things to do when you start feeling anxious is to focus on your breathing. Most people with anxiety tend to breathe in short quick breaths. If your like me, in a horror movie when you get scared you might hold your breath altogether. In movies you see when people start hyperventilating (or taking quick short breaths) they have them breathe out of a brown paper bag. That actually works because it forces you to take deeper breaths because of the lack of oxygen.


So here is a really simple exercise that can help you out tremendously.


  1. At least once a day either when you are anxious or just when you have a time that you can sit and focus, breathing from your abdomen inhale through your nose slowly to a count of 5.
  2. Then HOLD YOUR BREATH for a count of 5.
  3. Release the breath slowly from your nose or mouth, counting to 5 again (or counting backwards from 5 to 1, whichever you prefer). Make sure to exhale fully.
  4. Take two breaths in your normal rythm and then repeat steps 1-3 for 3-5 minutes, or until you reach a 0 on your anxiety scale.

Another tip that you can do while you exhale is to say a phrase or a positive affirmation in your head that is meaningful to you. Something like “this too shall pass” or “I can do this” or “I can take as small a step forward as I choose”; whatever works for you. When you do these actions it forces your body to react in the opposite way you would if you were scared or frightened which in turn can make your anxiety symptoms calm down. It’s also a nice trick you can do no matter where you are, subtly, without having to make a scene. Once you get really good at it, you can do it right in front of someone as they are talking to you and they won’t even notice. I have done this in restaurants, church, in meetings at work, everywhere.


Some other breathing exercises include:

  • Watch your breath. This is called mindfulness. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Focus your attention on your breathing, and do not try to change it. Watch it go in and out. If it changes, keep being aware of it, almost like you are watching someone else. This is a way to relax and balance your body and mind. This method can also work to decrease pain. --www.seattlechildrens.org
  • Focus on breathing out. Keep watching your breath, and do not try to change it. Think only of breathing out. When you push more air out, you will automatically take more air in. Breathe deeply and feel yourself relax. --www.seattlechildrens.org
Warning:
There are not too many down sides to abdominal breathing exercises. Just be careful not to overdo it. If you do too much at once, you could pull a muscle that isn't used to being worked very hard or, at the very least, make yourself feel a little lightheaded. Take your time standing up from the prone position. -ehow.com

Time Frame:

Abdominal breathing exercises only take a few minutes every day. Spending 10 minutes a day or every other day can make you healthier. Use these relaxing breathing techniques before you go to bed or first thing in the morning. You'll feel relaxed and rejuvenated. -ehow.com



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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monthly Challenge: November 2009- Relax!


Thanks to everyone who participated in last month's challenge of learning more about our brains and anxiety. I learned so much and it brought me a sense of empowerment and understanding that is !


For this month's challenge, I want to focus on learning more about how to relax. While taking a hot bath or watching TV can be relaxing, in order to really have a noticeable effect on our anxiety we need a regular daily practice of some form of relaxation that will decrease all of the things that get raised when we are in the fight or flight mode (heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, muscle tension, etc.)



"If you have an especially stressful life, your sympathetic nervous system may always be poised to react to a crisis, putting you in a state of constant tension. In this mode, you tend to react to small stresses the same way you would react to real emergencies. The energy that accumulates in the body to meet this "emergency" must be discharged in order to bring your body back into balance. Repeated episodes of the fight or flight reaction deplete your energy reserves and, if they continue, cause a downward spiral that can lead to emotional burnout and eventually complete exhaustion." -www.healthy.net


This month I want to learn and share with you any relaxation techniques that help me with my anxiety. I'll be posting about things like abdominal breathing, visualization, calming music and sounds, etc. Anything that will help someone achieve deep relaxation. The challenge is for you to make the time to try them out and/or have your own journey to find relaxation techniques that work for you- and incorporate these techniques in some form or another into your daily life. Then post what you have learned on the discussion forum so we can all try it out! 

"Regular practice of deep relaxation for 20 to 30 minutes on a daily basis can produce, over time, a generalization of relaxation to the rest of your life. That is, after several weeks of practicing deep relaxation once per day, you will tend to feel more relaxed all the time." -Edmund J. Bourne
Some other benefits of deep relaxation include:
  • reduction of general anxiety
  • preventing stress from accumulating
  • increased energy level and productivity
  • improved concentration and memory
  • reduction of insomnia and fatigue
  • increased self confidence
and more. So who is with me? Who is ready to take this on and make it a priority in your life? Couldn't we all use a little more down time?



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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 6: The Cortex

The thinking part of the brain is a thick covering called the Cortex. It deals with social information: thinking about thinking and emotions, as well as thinking about what others are thinking and feeling.The following parts of the cortex are good to know about in relation to anxiety:
  • The anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG), the filter and amplifier of information
  • The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), the place where working memory is held
  • The prefrontal cortex (PFC), the CEO where all information is ultimately received, analyzed, and responded to

The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus (ACG)



This area of the cortex organizes information. It gathers data from the limbic system and the hippocampus and puts it into a contex that your Prefrontal cortex can understand and analyze. 


"When the ACG does not have a good balance of neurotransmitters, it can get stuck on negative feelings and be unable to shift them forward, thereby making it less efficient at sending analysis back onto the amygdala. If your ACG gets stuck, qualities you may see and feel are worry and rumination on negative thoughts, oppositional behavior, or inflexibility about trying new options or responses to situations." -The Ten Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques

 

The Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC)


This area commands the process called working memory, or short term storage. It holds pieces of information just long enough to complete tasks of everyday mental functioning. When this part of the cortex is working properly, people have good impulse control, making decisions based on information. 


When the neurotransmitters in the OFC are in balance, you feel optimistic and hopeful. This is important so that you can control your fears with optimistic, problem solving activity.



The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)


This part of the brain is where all of the information from your body and other parts of your brain is ultimately received and responsive decisions are made based on that information. It creates solutions to problems. When the neurotransmitters in this area are out of balance, the thinking is impaired.


The most interesting part of this section of the book that I found is the following:


"Anxiety management techniques aim to control your anxious symptoms primarily through the left brain, using words, analysis, and decision making to control the rest of your brain and your body.Psychotherapy methods that activate other parts of the brain are certainly available, and neccesarily so, because difficult problems such as resolving long-standing trauma, changing the impact of childhood experiences, or altering dark moods such as despair, require different work than just anxiety management techniques. If your anxiety stems from a history of trauma, than you will likely need psychotherapy to to release the impact of that trauma. Your anxiety may be hard to diminish or it may repeatedly return if deeper therapeutic work is not done." -The Ten Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques

I hope you have all been learning as much as I have with this monthly challenge. Keep sharing on the forum! The November challenge will be announced on Sunday, along with a new discussion thread. I am really excited for it!


Related Posts:

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This post is information paraphrased from The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques which is my monthly challenge book.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Anxiety and Our Brains- Part 5: The Basal Ganglia


"A ganglia is a concentrated group of neurons. The basal ganglia (BG) are several ganglia that work together to induce motivation, create energy to meet goals, and even coordinate physical movement with the emotion. The basal ganglia are located under the cortex (covering) of the brain, where you do your thinking, and cover the limbic area. One part of the BG, called nucleus accumbens, is specialized to interpret pleasure when it receives the messenger dopamine. When you do something that stimulates dopamine and it flows through to this part, you feel good. This makes you want to repeat whatever you were doing that made you feel good. For this reason, the BG strongly affect motivation and energy.



A person with a good supply of dopamine in the BG will feel motivated and full of energy or high drive, but if the GABA is not working effectively, then the energy can get too high and result in tension. Additionally, even for no real reason but just out-of-the-blue because GABA" (a neurotransmitter responsible for slowing down activity in the brain so that you can stop brain cells from firing off messages) "is not working as it should, over excited activity in the neurons of the BG can trigger panic attacks. In the case of BG energy, some is good, a lot can give you drive but make you tense, and too much can flip over into panic." -The 10 Best- Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg.




"Increased basal ganglia activity is often a finding we have seen with anxiety disorders. When there is increased activity on the left side it is often associated with anxiety and irritability (expressed anxiety) and when there is increased activity on the right side there is often anxiety, social withdrawal and conflict avoidance. Increased activity in the temporal lobes has also been associated with anxiety. When there is also increased cingulate activity a person may have trouble with repetitive thoughts about his or her anxiety." -Amen Clinics


Picture is a brain scan of a 28 year old woman with chronic anxiety, conflict avoidance. Note the increased right basal ganglia activity.(the middle part of the picture where it is red). 

Pretty soon it will be time for our November Challenge! Stay tuned to find out what it will be!



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