Meditation: Day 10

I started meditating 10 days ago.  I mean, I really started meditating. Over the years, I did relaxation breathing at the end of the occasional yoga class, or visualizations in a group before going on stage for theater, just to calm my nerves, but I had never really done full-fledged meditation.  I teach about it in my psychology classes, but the main point I make is that meditation is not just innate.  You must be taught.  Self-taught is fine, but the process is not just sitting in silence as many would believe. It is a process that entails gaining some control over thoughts, feelings, and being present.

Mindfulness training, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, as is offered on apps like Headspace, have been proven effective in reducing symptoms for conditions such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain (Headspace, 2017).  Being aware is always the first step in being able to change a behavior. For me, the idea of having the ability to stay calm in stressful moments was motivation enough to begin a program. Staying in the moment and taking those fleeting thoughts that may interject themselves when I am meditating and pushing myself back to my focal point such as my breathing has been helpful. I feel calmer. I feel more in control of my emotions and thoughts.

I have gone from 10 minutes for the first 8 days, to 15 minutes. I will continue on this journey and log back in to update you on my progression.

Headspace.com (2017). Our approach. Retrieved June 21, 2017, from https://www.headspace.com/sciencehttps

Advertisements
Posted in meditation, mindfulness, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Therapy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asthma or Panic Attack?

Asthmatics know that feeling. It is hard to breathe, tightness in their chest, and an overall fear of dying all rolled into this physical and mental experience that no one should ever feel. For some asthmatics, anxiety can be a real trigger. And asthma can be a real trigger for anxiety. Which comes first may be the only way to reduce the other, but what if you aren’t even sure what you are experiencing is your asthma or a panic attack?

Panic attacks, although in that moment feel horrific, are harmless. They don’t stop you from breathing. They cannot stop your heart. They won’t make you pass out. They are overreactions to, for the most part, an irrational thought or belief. To say a panic disorder is treatable is accurate. You can even treat a panic disorder without pharmaceuticals. The same cannot be said about asthma, though.

Asthma is a is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus. This can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath (Mayo Clinic, 2017). Asthma can be caused by an allergy for some sufferers. Asthma can also be triggered by exercise. Extremes in temperature is another big component for some asthmatics.  Treatment for asthma is usually medications to help reduce inflammation and constriction. There are inhalers, oral medications, and even injections used to prevent attacks and some to help during one.

If a person experiences both an asthma attack and a panic attack it can sometimes blend together where the symptoms are difficult to read. If you feel tightness in your chest, the immediate thought for an asthmatic is they are about to have an attack. Sometimes though it may not be asthma causing your tightness but anxiety. How can you tell the difference?  Some of the asthma medications can even make an anxious person more anxious. So what do you do?

The first thing with many issues people are inflicted with is mindfulness. Being aware of how you feel, knowing what triggers you may have come across and be able to discern between a real asthma issue and potentially anxiety. If you need your inhaler, you can use it, but if it is panic, that feeling may not go away. Anxiety disorders are more common in asthmatics and have a considerable influence on asthma management because they influence symptom perception (Petermann, 2000).  The treatment beyond medical help comes down to prevention. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy will help relieve the panic aspect and anxiety symptoms along with meditation. Both meditation and CBT can also help reduce asthma by teaching patients how to stay calm and relax. Inflammation is reduced when a person is calmer. Meditation is shown to be an almost cure for many with a panic disorder. If a person feels in control, they are more likely able to forgo emergency medical treatment and experience a better quality of life.

Having a system in place for your asthma such as a home nebulizer when your asthma is indeed out of control is one way to feel more secure if an attack occurs.  Knowing the difference and prevention are the easiest way to feel more in control.  Calmly breathing to see if the symptoms subside is also key in potentially stopping one condition or the other. Self-awareness, calmness, and preparation, all ensure an asthmatic is safe and their panic or anxiety is reduced.

References:

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Asthma. Retrieved June 7, 2017 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/basics/definition/con-20026992

Petermann, C.T. (2000). Reviewing athma and anxiety.  Respiratory Medicine, Vol. 94, Issue 5, May 2000, Pgs 409-415.

Posted in asthma and anxiety | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Importance of Being Resilient.

What is resilience? Why do we need to be resilient?  To be resilient means to be able to weather ups and downs, to be able to adapt to new situations, and to be emotionally, physically, and mentally adaptable. The field of human development has found that older adults who are resilient, are better able to deal with the changes aging brings at each stage (Lavretsky, 2014).

Erik Erikson explains about the psycho-social stages of development and the importance of being able to progress from stage to stage through one’s life (Dunn & Craig, 2012). Starting at a young age, parents’ can help support their child’s independence. The flexibility that is lacking in some people can impede on their ability to accept challenges. Resilient behavior can be taught. Encouraging people to go outside their comfort zone is one tip for building a more resilient life. Of course starting in childhood is always best because it becomes a life-long habit, but realizing you are not easily adaptable does not mean you cannot start accepting certain changes or experiences that may be considered complicated.

Certain religious and cultural beliefs discuss how important it is to “go with the flow.” How do you rewire yourself if you are normally one who inherently goes against the grain or fights change?  Much like being physically inflexible, you have the ability to stretch and gain flexibility.  A person can allow certain experiences to happen and accept them or they can fight them. Self-awareness is the start to building personal resilience. Knowing what makes you uncomfortable and allowing yourself to be uncomfortable is the beginning. Eventually, you start seeing things come and go and realize it is okay. For example, hitting the age of 50, some people go through a midlife crisis. 50 can be seen in many different ways. It could mean financial security if you had a career for the past 30 years. It could mean stability in your relationships. It could mean seeing your children growing up. It doesn’t have to be just about the changes that naturally occur; such as wrinkles, gray hair, weight gain, being less noticed in society. You choose to view your life from the perspective you follow. Being resilient is accepting what is given to you and moving on.

Cited work:

Dunn, W., & Craig, G. (2012). Understanding human development, ed. 3. Pearson Publishing: New York.

Lavrestky, H. (2014). Resilience and aging: From conceptual understandings to opportunities for enhancement. The Gerontologist Vol.55, no.4.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When is a lot too much?

The moment you realize that our society went from being all about living the American Dream (owning a home, yearly vacations, beach rentals, retirement fund, summer camp for your kids) to needing to be a billionaire. The extravagance that was mocked during the 1980’s as “over the top” and tacky, has now become the aspirations of so many people. When will it be okay to drive a $20,000 car, live in a tiny, older home that consistently needs work, or the yearly family vacations add up to a weekend camping trip? What will the goals be of our babies being born today? Will they need aspire for even more? Why does it matter if a person graduated Harvard or if they finished at some tiny in-state college? Will this list of “better” people continue to grow? I understand the concept of “survival of the fittest.” I know some people will rise above others’ in terms of money, success, love, health, intellect, etc.  But will that dream for betterment ever exist for those who do not have? Just how many more celebrities do we need? How many more tech firms that reach the billion mark exist? Is a socialist society the only answer to this broadening gap of wealth?  When will we just be satisfied? When we everyone get what they need (food, jobs, vacations, stable home, affordable heating/energy source)? What has to happen to make things more equal and comfortable for all? Is this an idealistic perspective that will never be achievable?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mood Nutrients: Can Food and Nutrients Influence Mood?

Think about your cravings? Do you crave sugar?  Do you find you are down or sad when you crave sugar?  Keeping a mood journal is the first step to understanding what impacts your mood each day. Stress leads to sleeping less, which leads to reaching for caffeine and sugar for a fix, which is followed by a crash and need for another fix (Nelson & Zeratsky, 2009).

Simple lifestyle changes can dramatically change how you feel about life.  Life is difficult, but how you choose to respond to it can make it easier. Stress, foods we eat, sleep or lack of sleep, are just a few items that alter mood.

When working with someone who is depressed, the first thing to look at is their diet. Do they consume foods with a high sugar content? Are they addicted to carbs or salty foods? Besides a mood journal, add in a food journal to see any correlation between your mood and what you ate. It is not surprising that there is a strong connection between food and mood.

Omega 3’s have shown good results with altering your mood. Researchers have noted that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) may help protect against depression with the reason being that omega-3s appear to affect neurotransmitter pathways in the brain (Magee, 2013). Increasing omega 3’s, limiting sugar, and managing stress.  Is that all? Exercise, sleep, healthy food choices, and positive affirmations all work together in making life easier and people happier.

Magee, E. (2013). How food affects your mood: Can your diet help put you in a good mood or a bad mood? Retrieved April 2, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/how-food-affects-your-moods

Nelson, J. & Zeratsky, K. (2009). The food and mood connection. Retrieved, April 2, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-mood/my00716

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free? Many are Highly Processed

Have you looked at the ingredients of many of the gluten-free products available today? While the biggest rage is becoming gluten-free, ask yourself this question. Why are you gluten-free? Are you sensitive to gluten? Has a holistic practitioner recommended that you eat gluten-free, or at the worst, do you have Celiacs Disease?

If you are choosing to eat healthier, processed versus whole foods has been recommended a lot longer than the “GF” bandwagon. The problem is many of the GF products have too many ingredients. When is eating healthier and being GF equal? The bigger issue could be the high carb intake and thus the over-processed ingredients of many of the GF products. Consider reducing your carb intake before taking the drastic measure of buying the crackers, breads, flours, baked goods (cookies, muffins, donuts). Carbs convert to sugar. The carbohydrates that create the highest amount of sugar very quickly are called high glycemic and are sugar and carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, potato, and rice (Walters, 2008).

Walters, S. (2008). Cut down on sugar and carbohydrates to improve health. Retrieved March 31, 2013, from http://www.naturalnews.com/023343_sugar_food_carbohydrates.html

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment