MANAGING STRESS IN OUR LIVES

Tuesday
Sep252018

IS IT BETTER TO SHARE THAN TO KEEP?

One of my patients said the above as he was reflecting on how much he has benefited from attending alcoholics anonymous meetings. He felt that he had recieved a lot from others attending the meetings and had also gained a lot by sharing his story with others. I then said that I believed that it was not possible to worry about the past if you are sharing your life with others. My patient said that this seemed right to him and yet I wasn't sure about it. So, why would sharing our lives with others make worrying about the past impossible?

Maybe it is because if you are sharing with others you are listening to them without your own reactions and this allows you to feel connected to them and you are more likely to share with them as they listen to you. It could also be that listening is like sharing as you are sharing the othe person's life experience as you listen. So, maybe if we feel connected to others it is harder for us to worry about the past. If that it so, does it mean that we worry about the past because we feel isolated from each other and the worrying is our effort to feel connected to others? Yet worrying does not seem to actually connect us to others.

What do you think?

Tuesday
Sep252018

I'M AGAINST FASCISM/ I'M IN FAVOR OF ENCOURAGING AND SUPPORTING EVERY HUMAN

I would hope that all of us [humans] would be against fascism. So what is fascism? It seems like it is a way to justify controlling others [supposedly] for their own good. That, of course, is impossible as I believe that taking control from people is never for their own good. Fascism purports to promote the nation but it really seems to support sa favored race over the rest of the population. This often means that a few people under the leadership of a dictator will exert control over the rest of the people in their country purportedly for the good of those people. To maintain this type of control over others, the leaders need to completely suppress any form of opposition. They become bullies to sustain their power.

So what is attractive about fascism? Well, there is a promise to take care of those who support the fascist leaders as these leaders act like they know what is best for the people in their country. People are freed from having to make decisions and are often forbidden from acting independently in any manner. The problem with this seems to be that people need to make decisions for themselves and be responsible for themselves. They have difficulty functioning as humans if they don't. This might be why Fascist governments don't last as the people revolt. 

What evidence is their that we need to make decisions for ourselves and be responsible for ourselves? Is it really better to encourage and suport others versus telling them what to do?

What do you think?

 

Sunday
Jun102018

SUICIDE AND THE IMPACT ON THOSE LEFT BEHIND

Suicide continues to increase in the United States. I have no doubt that this is directly related to increased stress in the lives of those who have died by suicide. I also believe that a major factor in their decision to harm themselves was feeling alone and isolated. So, they felt disconnected from others and yet afterwards a lot of people are left distraught as they grieve for the who is tragically gone. So, how come they didn't feel this? 

Well, sadly, people often withhold their caring and affection for a variety of reasons: it is too painful to care for someone who is talking about hurting themselves; not wanting to enable or unwittingly encourage negative behaviors [make the person more suicidal]; cope with their sadness about the person's hopelessness by giving advice over and over which only serves to make the person feel more isolated and lonely.

What can we do to help those who we love and who are suicidal or at risk to become suicidal so they are more likely to feel our caring about them? 

  • We can listen! Listening is an effective way to demonstrate caring for someone...especially if we are able to listen without having our own reactions. When we listen without reacting we are being present with that person and they can feel that. Their own feelings and thoughts will be clearer and if we need to say anything to them our brains will provide this for us [really!].
  • We can tell them that we are worried about their safety and remove any lethal means of suicide that are available to the person.
  • We can encourage them to talk with someone about how they are feeling and even suggest specific people that the person can call, as this is one way to help a person who is feeling depressed and it is estimated that 90% of people who attempt suicide are depressed.
  • We can call 911 if we feel that the person is still at risk to attempt suicide and tell the 911 dispatcher that we have a mental health emergency and give details of what is happening. 
  • We could also offer to take them to the emergency department of a hospital so that they can be evaluated and have a chance to talk about how they are feeling. 

Taking the steps outlined above can help us to maintain a feeling of connection to the person who we are worried about. This can help us to feel that we are with them, as we are encouraging and supporting them. This way of supporting others can help the person we are worried about to feel connected to us and cared for even if we have to call 911.  

If the person that we are worried about [and likely love] dies by suicide, we are less likely to feel as overwhelmed and less likely to have a prolonged recovery period. I did not call this a prolonged period of grief because I believe that grief gets blamed for stressful emotional states that are not part of grief. These emotional states can actually delay the opportunity to grieve for the lost loved one and for us to realize that we they are part of us and we can then give ourselves permission to participate in our own lives again. 

 

Tuesday
Apr102018

OVERTHINKING: CHANGING A RIGHT ANSWER TO A WRONG ANSWER?

I wonder if most of us have had the experience of changing an answer on a test and finding out that we changed a right answer to a wrong anwer.  It is actually hard for some people to stop doing this as they feel that they have the correct answer after thinking about the question for a period of time.  So, why would anyone reject their first answer [first impression?] and instead change it?

Maybe this is influenced by our brain's being organized so that it will provide us with a response to something when we need it. It appears that information is stored in a way that what we need to know is there but not how we got to that place. There is no paper trail of the process of our learning something. Presumably this is because it is efficient to store just the answers and not all the steps it took to get there. Also, when we need an answer [or information] our brain will give it to us if we actually need it.  So, if we are quizing our brain [ourselves obviously] to recall something to reassure ourselves that we actually know it, our brain will not provide it [because we actually don't need it?].

So what does all this have to do with changing right answers to wrong answers? Well, what so many of my patients have made clear is that if they are feeling stressed, their brains will automatically focus on trying to figure out what is causing our stress and if we cope with stress by over thinking then that will take over and we will doubt that our initial answer is correct. When we have had traumatic experiences in the past, second guessing ourseslves and overthinking are very common ways that we learn to cope as these help us to believe that by doing this we are being careful, not making sudden decisions, and we are considering other's opinions. All of this reasurres us that we are keeping things from getting out of control, and thus we believe that we are changing wrong to right answers. Since overthinking and second guessing are ways that we cope with past stresses, it really is not actually about changing wrong to right answers, but it is about continuing to use coping mechansms that we no longer need as they are left over from past stresses. What do you think?

Sunday
Feb182018

IT IS TIME TO ACT  

It is time for us [Americans] to take action to keep our children safe [and thus reduce the rate that our children die]. An opinion piece in the February 18, 2028 New York Times by David Leonhardt reports that the United States is now "the most dangerous of affluent nations for a child to be born into."  This reflects that in the United States we mourn the death of our children from guns but then do nothing to protect our children from future gunfire. The United States now has the highest number of children [up to age 19] dying per one million children [6,500] compared to other affluent countries with Canada having 5,200 children dying and Britain has 4,600 dying. The average of the 20 high income [affluent] countries is 3,800 children dying. So, why are we the worst?  Well, besides the number of children dying from guns, the other two areas that kill our children are vehicle crashes and infant mortality.  If we compare the deaths of our children to the average number for high income countries, this represents 21,000 excessive deaths per year. 

What are some things that we can do to save more of our children's lives?  We can make background checks universal, make waiting periods longer and tighten access to semiautomatic weapons. It would also help if we had far fewer guns , recognized that we don't require guns to support our self-esteem and believe that our precious children have the right to not die from guns.  In addition, to save more of our children's lives we can also enforce speed limits, seat belt use and no texting while driving [or talking on cell phones ]and ensure access to health care for everyone, especially our children.

So, are the lives of 21,000 children each year worth the hassle of background checks, a waiting period before you get a gun, it being more difficult to buy an assault rifle, having to follow safe driving behaviors and having to pay for everyone to have access to health care?

If you believe that our children's lives are worth this, then insist that your congressperson and senator take action now and don't let up on them until they do or until you have replaced them.