“Troubled by questions all my life, like a madman, I have been knocking at the door. It opened! I had been knocking from the inside.” -Rumi
I've Been Thinking...
This week, I interviewed Dr. Mehmet Oz about his mother’s recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As his friend, it ached me to learn that he and his family are now confronted with this mind-blowing disease. Long after the interview was over, though, I found myself thinking even more about something Dr. Oz had said to me about himself. I found myself thinking about how he said he felt shame and guilt that he had missed the warning signs of his mother’s health.
Summer is amongst us and in full bloom. It usually signifies a happy season for most of us. As children Summer meant no school, longer daylight hours and more time to just enjoy youth. As an adult, it usually means vacations, barbeques, and delicious seasonal foods. I remember as a child looking forward to the last day of school because it meant that boating with my family on the Long Island Sound was coming-up.
Unfortunately, sometimes the warmer seasons don’t bring joy to everyone. There have been many studies that suggest that suicide increases in warm weather. Annie Hauser, writing in Weather.com, talked with Professor Grady Dixon in 2014 and writes,
“ Spring is when severely depressed people can be motivated enough to take action and do something. In most people, depression creates overwhelming feelings of listlessness and disinterest, so the idea of putting together a plan to commit suicide is too difficult during the winter, when depression symptoms may be worse in some people, he (Dixon) said. "Another hypothesis: [Patients] know how they're affected by seasonal winter depression. They anticipate they'll feel better when spring and summer roll around," Dixon said. "When they don't, that's a catalyst for suicide." One of the oldest theories holds that people who are depressed and withdrawn during the winter don't bounce back in spring, as other people do.”
I used to spend hours and even days ruminating about different things – a conflict with someone important to me, a work situation, finances, time pressures. I would obsessively worry or try to figure out the “right” thing to do or how to get the outcome I wanted. Of course, I would end up drained, anxious and confused, but this didn’t deter me from this addiction. It was in my blood, absorbed from my mother and grandmother.
In some wounded part of me, I believed that ruminating, obsessing, and worrying would somehow give me control over the outcome of things. I was afraid not to obsess – not to try to control others and outcomes.
But ruminating, obsessing and worrying created very low-frequency feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression…
PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL BEING
This is what is important. It means, you combine, Feeling good with Effective Functioning. This basically includes, feeling good, happy and satisfied with life.You need to feel capable and we'll supported. There are only subtle differences in all these factors. They are basically almost the same, or we can even say, on a similar vibrational frequency.
This per se is supposed to be associated with, more money, higher performance, helping others, generally all behaviors that you can identify with success. Psychological well being means, feeling happy and doing well.
Imagine for a moment a man walking through his office when his boss passes by and gives him a blank look. Suddenly the thought pops into the man’s mind that his boss is criticizing him or doesn’t like him.
Now, as he starts to fear this idea, a negative picture is produced by his imagination. His mind focuses its attention on this disturbing image. And the more he attends to this dark dream, the further into its labyrinth he descends, strengthening its presence and power to further frighten him. A heartbeat later, he has no doubt: the boss has it in for him!
This thought grows in authority for him, tormenting him for the rest of the day and causing him to snap at his family when he gets home. And all of this suffering is born of what? The conjunction of a passing glance and a moment of misdirected attention!
Here’s the amazing thing about this illustration, and what we want to learn from it: this whole drama has been played out inside of the man – storyline, stage, cast, and leading characters. But he doesn’t see how this painful state is self-created; instead he believes it has been thrust upon him by someone else – his heartless boss! So, what else can he do – being in the dark as he is to his true condition – but try to rid himself of his stressed feelings?
Many people chance themselves upon panic attacks due to these feelings, as being constantly inwardly drawn and tuned in without adequate outside support, leads to a condition we could name as a panic disorder.
People who could be categorized into this, are the ones who are coping with challenging situations, nervous disorders, fear based problems and a general state of uneasiness.
Most people are trying in their own variant ways, to deal with these emotions:
These are the practices followed to cope with the emotional anxiety challenges. Most of these methods are incorrect.They will only make the emotions go away temporarily. On the other hand may even lead to enhanced anxiety, and may have a negative effect in the long run.
Modern medicine has triumphed on many fronts in conquering diseases and extending life, but its greatest advance is almost totally unsung. Health and longevity have made it possible to see the body as our greatest ally. After centuries of inevitable sickness and early death for the vast majority of people, the human body is poised to become our greatest ally on a new front: consciousness.
If you can step outside the accepted image of your body as a machine, you will discover that it is actually not a separate physical object but united with your mind as one consciousness—call it the bodymind. This step alone rids you of many damaging attitudes. As a thing separate from ourselves, the body is an obsessive source of worry over sickness, aging, and death. Equally obsessive is whether someone’s body is beautiful enough, strong enough, appealing enough to the opposite sex.
Leonardo di Caprio has it. Often, he feels the urge to walk through doorways multiple times. So does Daniel Radcliffe. It used to take him as long as five minutes or more to turn off a light. Then there’s Charlize Theron who claimed that she would lose sleep thinking about other people’s disorganized cabinets. And of course, there’s Howie Mandel who refuses to shake hands with people he meets. This is what obsessive-compulsive disorder — known simply as OCD — looks like for different people.
“You have OCD!,” exclaimed my friend back in college. She was a Psychology major and we were talking about something I don’t even remember. I told her that the first thing I did when I got home from school was wash my hands. I told her that I did this, too, after I’ve read the papers. “What’s wrong with washing your hands?” I replied, “Don’t you know how dirty public transportation is? And how can you not wash your hands after touching a newspaper? Your fingers turn black from the ink!” I didn’t believe her ‘diagnosis’ of my apparent disorder and I could honestly say I didn’t suffer from OCD — until much later.
There are no recent statistics on OCD sufferers but according to a 1997 National Center for Biotechnology Information report, 2% of the global population suffered from it at that time. In the U.S., it affects about 1% of Americans. A Psychology Today article explains that OCD manifests in different ways, among them washing, cleaning, repeating, and orderliness.
BeyondOCD.org states, “Although it has been established that OCD has a neurobiological basis, research has been unable to point to any definitive cause or causes of OCD.”
For me, though, I know when things happen out of my control, OCD rears its ugly head. I become a scrubaholic. I want everything to be clean and I get upset when someone messes up my sparkling clean stainless-steel sink and clutter-free kitchen countertop.
Anyone who has gone through depression—whether their own or someone they know or care about—would know it is such a dark place in which to find yourself to be. Many people suffer from emotional “dips” from time to time and others go through temporary episodes like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or post-partum depression but there are those who have been suffering from it for most of their lives. But whatever is the case, not only is the experience the very description of internal hell, its social stigma as a “mental illness” makes it even worse for those going through it. Being classified as mentally ill is terribly isolating as you are made to think that you are not “normal” and that the only way to sanity-land is by way of medication. My experience tells me different.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, making it the leading cause of disability worldwide. Time magazine reports that revenue for antidepressants globally is projected to grow to nearly $17 billion by 2020. Briefly, I was part of that 300 million depressed population but I am happy to say that I’ve stopped contributing to that growing anti-depressant revenue.
Twenty years ago, I went through major changes in my life. My marriage fell apart, which took me away from my only child. Needless to say, it was one of the most tumultuous times in my life. Sometime after, a new relationship led me to an entirely different destination than I had originally planned, to a country whose language I didn’t speak.
I’ve written here before about my conversations with Dr. Gabor Maté, and his life-changing book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a comprehensive exploration of what addiction is, its causes and consequences, and much more. As well as being a bestselling author, Dr. Maté is a renowned speaker, highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics, including addiction, stress, and childhood development.
I was curious about family members who are dealing with a loved one’s addiction. What can they do for those who are caught in the grips of active addiction? It mattered to me because when people are that deep in addiction, they’ve lost themselves—they’re gone in a way. I know I was. I know there was nothing my family could have done no matter how much they wanted to help me.
Gabor didn’t agree with me. According to him, “You don’t know that. What you do know is what they tried didn’t work, but you don’t know that there’s nothing they could have done. In one sense, you are 100 percent right: There’s nothing they can directly do to change your mind. There’s nothing they can directly do to change your mental status. There’s no way that they can talk to you, advise you, control you, beg you, accuse you. That does not mean there’s nothing they could have done.
Separate self syndrome
Most of us have blind spots -- situations in our life that we can’t see clearly or, consciously or unconsciously, choose to avoid. Whether we realize it or not, on some level, we even fight to keep our avoidance alive. We justify our excuses and buy into our rationalizations of why we should or should not do something.
Wow! Am I ever intrigued with a recent article in the New York Times entitled, Why Following Your Passions Is Good for You (and How to Get Started). This features a 2015 study published in The Annals of Behavioral Medicine which found that pursuing your passion both lowers stress and contributes to greater happiness overall. My dears, this is RIGHT up my alley!
In the article, Laura Vanderkam, a productivity expert and author of Off the Clock: Feel less busy while getting more done, advocates finding time for yourself as a means to greater happiness overall. “Life just feels better when you have things in your hours that you want to do,’ Ms. Vanderkam said. ‘There’s moments where time almost has no meaning because we’re so happy about what we’re doing. The more time you can spend in that zone, the better life feels...
Maybe you can carve out a few hours of really fun, cool stuff per week. That will make the other 165 hours that are in a week feel a lot more doable,’ she explained.”
All of us have goals, no matter how modest or majestic they may be.
Some of us have specific, written goals that are broken down into action items that we can check off as we accomplish each step, while others may have more general goals that are longer term and less formalized.
Unfortunately, regardless of the types of goals you’re trying to achieve, any people-pleasing or perfectionist tendencies you may have can keep you from realizing them.
In fact, for those of us struggling with perfectionism, just deciding which goals to pursue can be a challenge.
It’s not that those of us struggling with perfectionism can’t see a multitude of options and possibilities. We can.
But all too often, us perfectionists find ourselves frozen in place at the outset as we attempt to choose the ultimate, ideal goal that will bring us the greatest benefit for the time and energy we invest.
And, perfectionism doesn’t just make it hard to get started. It can also make it extremely difficult to move forward and implement the steps necessary to achieve our goals.
If any of this feels familiar, I highly recommend you start by choosing a goal based on what matters most to you and not what you think you “should” be doing. It’s all too easy to set a goal based on the criticism of others or what you see others trying to achieve, but you’ll have a much harder time following through on the steps necessary to achieve your goal if the goal itself doesn’t resonate deeply with you.
Allowing ourselves to wallow in the past or the future is the favorite game of the human mind. This constant yo yo situation is a source of a new level of stress, beyond the existing stress level in your life. There are many ways our mind strategizes in order to manage the stress in our lives, yet at most times stress continues to nag at us.
This is like a warning to take charge of our lives and begin to focus on our lives in a more specific way. The important thing is for us to realize that it is imperative to live in the present moment.
This is only possible if we accept our present condition, understand it, realize its impact on our state of mind and our health, and also our power to be able to change this.
A new wave of medical interest surrounds the potential value of psychedelic drugs, spurred by a through, sensible review of a once-taboo subject by Michael Pollen in his first-person account, How to Change Your Mind. For hallucinogens to resurface was a “come out, come out, wherever you are” proposition. LSD, magic mushrooms, and mescaline had their day in the Sixties and came out of it badly tarnished. Leaving aside various anti-drug laws largely prompted by fear, a medical researcher who looked into psychedelics would face censure, perhaps career-ending censure. At the very least such research wasn’t taken very seriously.
The general view of psychedelics has been that they are potentially unsafe and medically useless. What has changed this conventional wisdom is deeper knowledge of the brain. In particular, the area of the brain that seems to cause the mind-altering effect of LSD and company is the so-called Default Mode Network (DMN), a collection of regions in the higher brain that organizes and regulates a wide range of brain activity. The DMN filters out the flood of information that bombards the brain every day, selecting and controlling our response to the world.
Researchers estimate that we think about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day – and that about 80% of those thoughts are negative. That is a crazy amount of negative self-talk!
We spend so much time telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, or thin enough.
We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve the things we want.
Or that the things we want to have or experience will never happen, and even if they do, they will be disappointing.
Our negative self-talk affects us in a very powerful way.
If we think something is possible, we’re more likely to make the effort to achieve it. If we think it’s impossible, we won’t even bother trying.
If we think we are a good person who deserves to live a life we love, we will create that life. But, if we think we are undeserving or not capable enough, we will sabotage our own efforts without even realizing it.
Studies show that your thoughts also have a physical impact on your body. Take polygraph tests (commonly referred to as lie detector tests), for example.
They demonstrate how your thoughts directly influence your blood pressure, muscle tension, temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, even how much your hands sweat. Those are some pretty significant physical reactions to our thoughts!
Stress is unique to every individual. What could be stressing one person, could be completely non-stressful for someone else. This would also mean the strategies one uses as stress relievers for one person would not work with another. We need to understand the individual psyche of an individual to provide him with the correct guidelines as help.
THE BEST GOAL
Since stress comes to us in various types, the ways of handling it would also vary accordingly. We need to have a clear distinction in our minds of the types of stress we are handling and find strategies to deal with it accordingly.
EUSTRESS OR POSITIVE STRESS
This type of stress actually leads to excitement and exhilaration in our lives. Life would be very dull if stress did not exist. So it is actually an essential ingredient in our lives.
In this case, the body remains in a constant ' fight or flight' response mode. The body is constantly triggered to get away from the situation. This needs to be dealt with since it affects the body in serious ways. It leads to diseases like diabetes, B.P. heart disease and many more. We need to see first what are the symptoms of stress and then see how they can be avoided and dealt with.
Speaking truly—to yourself and to others—does mean being authentic.
What's in your heart to say?
It's been said that the most powerful tool for physical health is a fork (or spoon), since the choices you make with it determine the good or bad things you put into your body.
In the same way, perhaps the most powerful tool for your mental health—and certainly for the health of your relationships—is your tongue. Thousands of times each day, it (or your fingers on a keyboard: same thing) offers the good word or the bad one out into your world.
"Should I be in a good mood" is a question we all need to consciously ask ourselves. It may sound like a very strange question, but it is a question that will give us an insight into the fact that we ourselves are responsible for our own stress levels. If we have learned to consciously facilitate ourselves in creating a healthy positive attitude, stress will stay miles away from us.
Attitude is so much a product of our own process of thought. If we know how to channelize our thinking in the right direction, we are truly winners in our battle against stress.
RESILIENCE TOWARDS STRESS
Over the years as I have been researching on why we stress and how we can overcome this, I have also been personally noticing, how my clients from various walks of life have responded to the nuances, that stress has caused in their lives. I could see, why they were in the spot that they were in, and that led me to understand how they could shed their experience in order to rid themselves of that particular stressful stage and emerge on a level of freedom from within.