MANAGING STRESS IN OUR LIVES

Sunday
Jul022017

ALMOST NOTHING OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES CAN HELP IN A LASTING WAY

I was listening to a TED talk by Anne Lamott [from June, 2017] and she mentioned that "there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in a lasting way."  Ms. Lamott believes that "it's an inside job." We are responsible for helping ourselves in lasting ways. This idea is complemented by her other message that "others need to find their own way" and it would be good if we stopped helping others so much. Ms. Lamott noted that "help" can be defined as "the sunny side of control." So, helping others can be a way to control them.  I have repeatedly blogged about the importance of not feeling or acting responsible for others as others need to be responsible for themselves and it is really impossible to be responsible for others.

Anne Lamott emphasizes the importance of our being responsible for ourselves and not "controlling" others by helping them.  I want to focus on this because people who have had repeated stressful experiences often do take responsibility for others as a way of trying to prevent things from getting worse.  This way of coping seemed to work when they were younger and had to deal with people who were not being responsible and not protecting them and things did get worse. However, now they don't need to worry about things getting worse related to past experiences and yet it is very hard to stop this type of worry. I have blogged before about the fact that the amygdala part of our brain responds to emergencies in nanoseconds [billionths of a second] and keeps us stressed about the past before we are even aware that a memory has been triggered.  If we can calmly tell ourselves that we don't need to be stressed about a memory while recalling the memory, our brain can start not reacting to the memory.  Often, this is also difficult to do.  This situation is one reason I have started to prescribe propranolol to help separate stress from past memories. if people who have been traumatized can stop feeling stressed by past memories, they can then focus on themselves and realize that it is a good truth that "almost nothing outside ourselves can help in a lasting way." It is up to us to help ourselves in lasting ways and we are up to the task. Really. 

What do you think?

Wednesday
Jun282017

THE IMPORTANCE OF HELPING OUR CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry [AACAP] has a new initiative called "Break the Cycle" to fund new research; increase the number of child psychiatrists; and help mentally ill children to get the treatment they need. The May/June 2017 issue of the  AACAP News contains statistics including that: 50% of all mental illness cases are diagnosed by age 14; 79% of children ages 6-17 with mental illness do not receive treatment; more than 50% of children age 14+ with mental illness drop out of school [a very high rate]; and 13% of 8-15 year olds have severe enough mental illness that they have trouble with day to day living. Importantly, on average it takes 8-10 years for treatment to start after symptoms begin and sadly, more than 4600 children die from suicide. Of these deaths, it is estimated that 80% [3680 children] could be saved.

What can we do to help our children? Well, we can be open about our own needs and things that we have done to help ourselves.  Also, we can then encourage children to feel that they deserve to get help and do not need to feel embarrassed.  It is important to share your experiences with parents as they need to be ok about their children getting help.  You don't need to know if children have mental illnesses as encouraging people seeking help and not being ashamed is vey important to share with everyone.  Regarding the risk of suicide, if people, including children, talk about suicidal feelings, they are much less likely to act on these thoughts. So, if you are worried about someone, even a child, ask them if they have been thinking about hurting or killing themselves.  You can also ask if they have felt that life is not worth living.  A yes to any of these justifies talking to the child's parent[s] or to a significant other, best if the person who has said yes to one of these is with you when you tell someone else. I will do the same thing with my patient's as I let them all know that I am strict about confidentiality except when it involves their safety.

Just like with anyone we are with, listening to a child without our own reactions, then sharing our own experiences with fears, anxieties, sadness and any support we have received, can help that child to choose to seek and accept help for themselves. 

   

 

 

Wednesday
Jun212017

IF IT IS EXHAUSTING IT MUST BE WRONG!

It has become clear in my work with people that when they are interacting with others and feel exhausted or drained that something is wrong in how they are interacting. This may seem obvious but fairly often people tell me that they are exhausted by being with certain people. Now it may be only certain people but often I have seen where people are exhausted interacting with some people and then tend to not interact with others. It also seems obvious that people at times need more help and that this can be exhausting. So, does that mean that helping people is wrong, or is there something wrong with helping in a way that leads to feeling exhausted?

I have seen repeatedly that when people feel responsible for others or take on responsibility for others, they frequently end up feeling exhausted.  It is hard to stop "helping" others as they still seem to need help and to not be able to manage for themselves. Frequently my patients tell me that if they stop "helping" others, in other words stop taking responsibility for them, they will get angry.  Also, if my patients have pressing needs of their own, the people they are "helping" will often still get angry as if my patient's needs do not count as much.

No wonder it is exhausting. It seems like it is never ending. Why is that? Well, it seems that once a pattern is established where one person is "helping" [taking on responsibility for] another person, that person depends on it and feels that they are entitled to the help. So, if it stops for any reason [including any obvious need for help of the person helping] the person who has been helped is upset, often angry, and frequently will feel and act self-righteously.  This is often confusing and painful to the person who has been helping as they thought that the person being helped would be more than happy to help them if they needed help. Not so as the person being helped still feels the same needs to be helped and they are not easily put aside to then return the favor and help the person who had always helped them. It frequently does not occur to them that the person helping them would ever actually need help.

So what are you supposed to do.  Well, it is good to become more aware of the tendency to feel responsible for others and not let yourself fall into this trap.  Being aware of the stress involved can help, however, the stress of stopping this is a factor as well.  If you are feeling or acting responsible for others you are likely someone who does not like to see other people struggling.  You might have a tendency to jump in to help.  Well, you may need to redefine help for yourself.  Help is not doing for others or protecting them from feelings or stress. Helping is being encouraging and supportive as you are able to see their strengths and coping abilities and can be encouraging and supportive of them using these.  Believing in others and their ability to manage is very helpful and supportive. Doing things for them can undermine their self-confidence as they can interpret your help as meaning that you don't believe that they can manage. However, not doing things for others can seem cold and uncaring.  

To see a depiction of the importance of believing in others you could watch a short film entitled "The Butterfly Circus." 

Sunday
Jun112017

WHY IS IT SO HARD TO SAY "NO"?

I have previously blogged about the importance of not feeling responsible for others and not taking responsibility for others as this inevitably leads to stress and anxiety.  Why does it? Well, it is actually not possible to be responsible for others as they are separate human beings.  I know, as a parent or even as an innocent bystander, you can feel responsible for the welfare of children.  Yet even then, is it really being responsible for them or is it offering more literal support until they can do more for themselves while still encouraging them to make decisions for themselves so they can actually choose to go along with your support? Plus, it is likely that anyone you are taking responsibility for [or even just feeling responsible for] will at some point be resentful as you will not do a good job being responsible for them [how could you really] and it will start to feel to them like you do not have faith in their ability to take responsibility for themselves.

So why do we take on responsibility for others? Well, for the people who come to me for help, it is to prevent things from getting worse or simply to keep bad things from happening. These seem like good reasons. However, even if in the past [often years ago] things would get worse, that was not true now, but it seems like it is still true.  This seeming like there is still a risk that things will get worse is partly due to the fact that your past memories of things getting worsse tell you that the risk is real and the person that you are taking responsiblity for are acting like they will not do well if you stop acting responsbile for them.  So, what is one to do?

One can choose to recognize that they really don't have to worry about things getting worse as that is a thing of the past that does not apply any more.  They can also recognize that the person they feel or act responsible for can manage on their own, even if they don't act like it.  Hopefully, they will also recognize that they must not think they can wait for that person to start acting like they can manage.  This is not likely to happen.  

Well, this is where the idea that "no" is a term of endearment comes in as actually saying no and not taking on responsibility for others is an indication that you care about that person and believe that they can manage on their own.  Therefore, no becomes a term of endearment.. This does seem harsh though.  So my pateints have helpled me to come up with modifications of this.  These include: "I love you and I think you can manage."  It should be noted that it is worded think you can manage because even if you know they are capable of managing you do not know if they will choose to manage.  Other modifications of no include "I love parts of you and I think you can manage." Also, [Click] which is the sound of you hanging up the phone instead of repeating over and over that you are going to hang up.  So, click is a sound of endearment. Get it? Of course, you will have to keep saying no to help increae the likelihood that the persons you are believing in will start believing in themselves. It is definitely worth it. Seeing the strength in others when they are doubting themselves is a gift to them...so keep giving it. If you can let go of your feeling or acting responsible for others you will feel a lot less stressed.

Thursday
May112017

CAN WE COMMUNICATE BY EMITTING ELECTROMAGNETIC WAVES?

I have wondered for awhile if it is possible to communicate with other living things through electromagnetic waves that are emitted by our brains.  This could explain how caring about someone can be felt by that person or how prayer works or how empathy works or how intuition works, etc.  Of course it is not clear that our brains emit electromagnetic waves that can influence anything, although our brains are influenced by external electromagnetic waves being applied during transcranial magnetic stimulation [TMS]  

There are theories and research findings suggesting that electromagnetic waves in our brains are generated by the firing of neurons being synchronized to give us the experience of seeing things as unified so that we see faces instead of millions of parts of faces, etc. This gets into theories of how we are conscious and see things in unified patterns not as masses of separate pieces of information from millions of neurons firing.

Susan Pockett [The Nature of Consciousness] and Johnjoe McFadden [(2002). "The Conscious Electromagnetic Information [CEMI] Field Theory, The Hard Problem Made Easy?"Journal of Consciousness Studies.9(8)45-60.] have proposed that electromagnetic fields [EM Field Theory] are activated when neurons are activated and that this causes there to be a representation of the information in the neuron.  McFadden also believes that the firing of neurons is synchronized to allow digital information to form a conscious electromagnetic information [CEMI] field in the brain that represents our experiencing consciousness.

So, we are still trying to understand through research into specific brain functions what consciousness is and the role of electromagnetic waves and how any of this is related to the ability to be empathic or intuitive or communicate by feeling love for another or by sending them a prayer.  What is clear to me is that living things have an ability to communicate with other living things other than through vocalizations or gestures. It seems that these other forms of communication are powerful and are important to our feeling connected to one another.  And, this connectedness is fundamental to who we are as living creatures and to what is important in our lives.

Therefore, keep sending those positive [electromagnetic] waves to the others in our wonderful universe and be open to receiving them from others.  This is another reason to avoid being stressed as stress seems to interfere with the sending of these positive somethings and receiving them as well. I have to stop now as I am sounding less scientifically grounded.

 

 

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