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August 20 2018

10:30

Ep 23: All About Mania: 2 Truths and a Lie Edition



Mania has an odd place in our society. For people who have not experienced it, it’s seen has as exciting, productive, and desirable. For those of us who have been consumed by it, we are either thankful it isn’t depression or devastated by its impact.

For most, mania is a dangerous symptom of mental illness and not something to be taken lightly. In this episode, Gabe & Michelle each share three stories about mania with two being the truth and one being a lie.

Can you tell fact from fiction? Listen now.

 

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“When I’m manic, I like to follow no rules.”
– Michelle Hammer

 

Highlights From ‘Mania’ Episode

[0:00] Gabe and Michelle play two truths and a lie, mania edition.

[2:30] Michelle tells a story titled, “Manic No Pants Elephant.”

[5:00] Gabe tells a story titled, “Manic Drop In, Drop Out, Drop In . . .”

[7:30] Michelle tells a story titled, “Manic Invincibility.”

[9:15] Gabe tells a story titled, “Manic Property Management.”

[11:30] Michelle tells a story Gabe titled, “Michelle’s Lie.”

[14:20] Gabe tells a story titled, “Gabe’s the worst homeless man of all time.”

[16:50] Guessing begins and the truth is revealed.

 

Meet Your Bipolar and Schizophrenic Hosts

GABE HOWARD was formally diagnosed with bipolar and anxiety disorders after being committed to a psychiatric hospital in 2003. Now in recovery, Gabe is a prominent mental health activist and host of the award-winning Psych Central Show podcast. He is also an award-winning writer and speaker, traveling nationally to share the humorous, yet educational, story of his bipolar life. To work with Gabe, visit gabehoward.com.

 

MICHELLE HAMMER was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 22, but incorrectly diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 18. Michelle is an award-winning mental health advocate who has been featured in press all over the world. In May 2015, Michelle founded the company Schizophrenic.NYC, a mental health clothing line, with the mission of reducing stigma by starting conversations about mental health. She is a firm believer that confidence can get you anywhere. To work with Michelle, visit Schizophrenic.NYC.

August 19 2018

20:45

How to Make a Soul Mate Relationship

It’s a sweet idea, isn’t it? — The idea that there is someone out there who is a perfect match; who understands you completely, totally accepts you for who you are, is emotionally stable and sexually exciting, and with whom communication is so easy and natural that you never have conflict. Yeah. It’s a sweet idea.

It’s also an idea that causes unrealistic expectations and disappointment in love. Believing it sends people on a search that is bound to fail. Even when people find someone they believe to be the mate of their soul, they are more often than not disappointed once they truly get to know them.

Think about it: If there is only one someone out there who is your perfect match, the chance of finding him or her (or of that person finding you) is almost impossible. There are billions of people in the world. Who’s to say that your soul mate doesn’t live in another city or country? Maybe the perfect person for you is 20 years older or 8 years younger or not the gender you think you need or speaks a language you don’t understand. The two of you will be unhappily searching for each other in all the wrong places.

Even if, by chance, you do somehow find someone who seems absolutely right on an almost cellular level, it’s likely that your certainty that you’ve found your soul mate will fade once the fizz of initial romantic love meets the demands of daily reality. Love that lasts is love that mellows and accommodates all the little irritations and imperfections of the partner.

So give it up. The notion of a “soul mate” is the stuff of romantic movies and romance novels. A search for that one in a billion guy or gal is a fantasy that is likely to prevent you from finding and keeping love that is true.

But all is not lost. Yes, there is such a thing as love that lasts. There is such a thing as love that is deeply satisfying and mutually sustaining; where each person cherishes, appreciates and supports the other; where each person helps the other grow; where each helps the other become the soul mate they want and need.

How do you find it?   By working at it . Yes, working. Like most things, success in finding and sustaining love requires the willingness to put in the effort to make it so. It involves honest self-evaluation and the willingness to change. It involves compassionate understanding and support for the beloved.

One caveat: All bets are off if abuse is in the equation. No matter how charming someone may be, they are not the material for soul-mating if they are verbally, emotionally, physically, and/or sexually abusive. If you have come to care for an abuser, get out as quickly and as safely as you can. Yes, some abusive people are capable of making fundamental changes. But take distance until you see strong evidence that the person has done it.

Nurturing a Soul Mate Relationship

It’s unlikely that you will find a soul mate but you can make one and be one. Once you and someone else click; once you both decide that a relationship is really, really promising, you can make each other into a mate for your soul.

  1. Look in the mirror. Making a soul mate relationship first requires that you each be the kind of person that someone else wants to meet soul to soul. Are you each trustworthy, kind, and considerate? Are you willing to sometimes put your partner’s needs before your own?  
  2. Do you each have a reasonable list of non-negotiables?  It’s highly unlikely you will find someone who matches your every want. Everyone has issues and limitations. Can you each let go of some of the attributes you thought were essential when you consider the whole person?
  3. Do you share fundamental values? I’m not talking about what religion or which political party you belong to. Values are even deeper than those practices. Do you, for example, share values like honesty, trustworthiness, the importance of community, and/or financial stability, etc.?
  4. Do you share a definition of what it means to be sexually and emotionally faithful?  Soul mates are clear about the boundaries for their relationship and commit to being true to them – no matter what. When temptations happen (and they often do), they don’t act of them. They talk to each other about what was amiss that made the temptation so tempting.
  5. Do you both communicate what you want and need in a loving way? Or do you expect that someone who loves you will just somehow know what you are thinking?  Good soul mates are not necessarily good mind readers. But they are good responders.
  6. Are you both committed to dealing constructively with conflict? Conflict, and there is always conflict in even the most loving relationships, requires being in charge of your emotions and being willing to work things through. Do you know how to express your point of view without blaming or shaming?  Do you know how to compromise or take turns? If it’s “your way or the highway”, people who could be your soul mate will quickly look for an exit.
  7. Have you each learned from past failed relationships? It’s too easy to lay the blame entirely on another person when a relationship ends badly. Except when a partner is abusive, both people have a part in a breakup. Even then, the abused person needs to examine what practical and emotional factors kept them in too long. Until you each face your part and figure out what to do differently, the chances are that you will repeat whatever it was that doomed prior relationships.

Having a relationship of mutual trust and love is possible for everyone. When both people are committed to being a worthy soul and are equally committed to the task of nurturing the other’s soul-matedness, they can have a truly special connection.

15:45

​Increasing Your Child’s Attention Span & Ability to Focus

Author imageBack in 2015, a survey conducted by Microsoft showed that people in this digital age have a shrinking attention span. In fact, sources like Time magazine claim we have the attention span of a goldfish . What a horrible thought!  But it turns out that assertion may be just a fish story. The statistics on which this statement was based were too vague to be trusted. Our reputation for being more attentive than goldfish appears to be, for the moment, safe.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the end of it. We may not have a goldfish attention span, but there’s no denying our focus has been compromised thanks to the constant stimulation offered by modern technology.

As I would review past interactions with my kids, I realized that I hardly ever saw them look up from their phones to simply savor a moment of quiet. And for myself, I was just as bad.

The average American spends five hours a day on their mobile devices, according to a 2017 study reported in Techcrunch.com. It has been found that teens spend even more time online, many showing signs of an addiction to the internet.

If I want to help my kids to improve, increase their attention span, and their ability to focus, I have to push them to pay attention more than a handful of seconds. This starts with the example my wife and I set.

Here are some goals we set as a couple to be better examples for our kids:

  • Get the kids involved in something engaging. Summertime is a great opportunity to get out and explore the city. We aim to try a local museum and the zoo, go swimming at the local community pool, take picnics in our neighborhood park. There are a number of sites like MacaroniKid.com that have helped us find local places, events and activities perfect for family fun. If you’re more of a home-body, having picnics or campouts in the backyard, baking or cooking together, or family board game tournaments are just a few ideas to get the whole family involved in something fun.
  • Start reading as a family. Did you know the library has reading lists by age or grade, as well as by categories? Some branches even hold summer reading competitions. Our whole family has joined and begun to experience losing ourselves in a good book each month. It has gotten our kids away from their screens while growing their brains, vocabularies and imaginations. As legendary imagineer Walt Disney once said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”
  • Make sure we’re giving them brain food. We took a good hard look at our family diet. Sometimes junk food is just easier and my reasons for turning to fast food and Lunchables are perfectly justifiable. But our kids’ focus won’t benefit from excess sugar, fat and salt. In fact, it only makes them more sluggish! We make simple changes like replacing milkshakes with green smoothies, and finding other ways to make healthier substitutions in our meal prepping. We involve our kids in the process by shopping together for wholesome ingredients. Healthy food is brain food!
  • Establish screen-free times throughout the day. We set aside time during the day where phones, tablets, computers and other screens are off-limits. It’s important for our minds to take a break from the constant stimulation we are bombarded on a daily basis. Meal times have proven to be a great option as it has given our family meaningful time to engage. So is the hour or so before bedtime, which gives the brain a period where it can switch off to help with sleep.

Follow these steps and you are sure to see improvements in your children’s attention spans. You may even find yourself being able to focus for longer lengths of time too!

Resources:

B. (2018, March 19). All About Butter and Other Fat Substitutes. Retrieved from https://boschmixers.com/baking-with-bosch-all-about-butter-and-other-fat-substitutes/

McSpadden, K. (2015, May 14). Science: You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish. Retrieved from http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/

Perez, S. (2017, March 03). U.S. consumers now spend 5 hours per day on mobile devices. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/03/u-s-consumers-now-spend-5-hours-per-day-on-mobile-devices/

Taking Breaks Found to Improve Attention. (2015, October 06). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention/23329.html

TEEN INTERNET ADDICTION INFOGRAPHIC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.liahonaacademy.com/teen-internet-addiction-infographic-info.html

​How Technology Affects The Way Our Brain Works. (2018, May 28). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/​how-technology-affects-the-way-our-brain-works/

10:30

The Generosity of Listening

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus

When we hear the word “generosity,” we may think about donating money and helping the needy. While these can be expressions of a generous heart, there is a more fundamental and soulful way that we can extend generosity in our everyday lives. And it doesn’t cost us any money.

A deep human longing is to be seen, heard, and understood. The epidemic of loneliness and depression in our society can be traced in part to how we often don’t hear each other. Perhaps we’re driven by a fear of survival in a highly competitive society. By the end of the day, we may be exhausted and seek solace in the TV or computer.

We may have grown so accustomed to not being heard, and being criticized and shamed when we’ve tried, that we’ve learned to hold a lot inside. Our feelings and longings go into hiding and atrophy when we’ve given up on them. We shut down our vulnerability, or worse, we turn against it in an attempt to erase all vestiges of being a vulnerable human being. Sadly, when we don’t turn toward each other for support, reassurance, and encouragement, we isolate ourselves. We succumb to the emptiness that derives from removing ourselves from the fabric of life.

We’re wired with a need for human connection. When that need goes unmet, we may give up and seek secondary gratifications, such as for power, fame, or money, which don’t really fill our emptiness or satisfy our deepest yearnings. Or we turn to various addictions to distract us from our painfully unmet longing.

Consequently, we may then lose sensitivity not only to ourselves, but also to the plight of others. This is a sad state of affairs, especially when those in leadership positions promote policies that increase divisiveness and dissociation from our humanity.

Begin with Generosity Toward Yourself

Being generous toward others begins by developing a generous presence toward ourselves. Rather than judge and criticize ourselves, we can cultivate a “caring, feeling presence” toward our feelings, as described by Focusing teachers Dr. Edwin McMahon and Dr. Peter Campbell. We’re then well positioned to extend attention toward others’ experience.

Meaningful relationships are nourished by the generosity of attending to others. How deeply do you listen to people when they are sharing something important to them — hearing not just the words, but also the feelings beneath their words and stories? How attuned are you to their felt experience? Do you notice your attention wandering or preoccupied with any of the following:

  • Preparing your response?
  • Finding things to criticize?
  • Turning the conversation toward your own thoughts or feelings?
  • Struggling to find something to say to make them feel better or feeling badly that you don’t know how to respond?

It’s natural for our attention to wander, but the generous art of listening means sustaining our full attention toward our partner or friend as they’re sharing something personal or difficult. This is not about fixing their problem or telling them what to do. It’s simply about extending your caring, feeling presence toward someone who is struggling. It’s about listening with the ear of the heart, as St. Benedict put it.

What could be more generous and healing than opening our ears and heart to how another is experiencing life right now? Listening is the doorway to the connections we seek. It is the salve that soothes our disconnectedness and eases our isolation.

Listening can open a door to being heard. When a person feels heard, they feel cared about. They feel less alone. They feel more connected. By creating a climate where others experience your generous attention, they are likely to appreciate you, feel drawn toward you, and come to care about you. If you want to be heard, begin by listening. It’s a powerful practice to give to others what we’d like to receive from them.

August 18 2018

20:40

Vacationing with OCD

August is a popular time for many of us to take vacations. That’s what summer is all about, right? Many of us look forward to this summer vacation time all year. But what if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)? How does going on vacation, planning a vacation, or even thinking about a vacation, affect you and those around you?

When my son Dan’s OCD was severe, he could barely move, let alone go on a vacation. But when his obsessive-compulsive disorder improved to a moderate level, he planned a trip to Canada with a friend for his winter break. He was excited about going, and from all accounts had a great time exploring and trying out exciting new activities such as dog sledding. He wasn’t able to leave his OCD behind completely on this trip, but still managed to enjoy himself most of the time.

I, on the other hand, was worried the whole time he was gone. I was concerned about the stress of him traveling (he flew), the change in environment and routine, the absence of therapy (and his therapist), and the inevitable trials and tribulations that come along with vacations. Also, what if he needed help while away? Would he tell us? Where would he turn? Who would he call?

Indeed, the very nature of vacations is often conducive to stress for all of us, not just those with OCD. But if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, dealing with changes in daily routines as well as sleep routines, might be particularly difficult. Perhaps you’re staying with friends or family when you are used to being alone. Or perhaps you are alone in a hotel room, when you are usually surrounded by people at home. Your food choices might be different. And if you suffer from contamination OCD, you are faced with many challenges on vacation. Public toilets in particular seem to be a trigger for a lot of people with OCD.

Still, Dan’s vacation turned out to be more stressful for me than it was for him because he was able to do what I could not: embrace the uncertainty that comes with a vacation — that same uncertainty that comes with all of life.  Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder who are able and willing to go on vacation are indeed facing that uncertainty head-on. Will their OCD improve while they’re away? Maybe. Sometimes getting away from old, familiar triggers into a totally new environment will quiet OCD. Or will their OCD spike due to new triggers, or because of any of the other reasons mentioned above? Maybe. It’s certainly possible.

Of course, there is no way of knowing until you go. In my opinion, if those with OCD aren’t allowing their disorder to prevent them from actually taking their vacation, the trip, whatever the outcome, should be considered a success.

That’s the thing. We can’t let OCD call the shots. We need to continue to live our lives as fully as possible. So whether your summer involves vacations from OCD or with OCD, I hope your experiences are positive ones that create some great memories.

15:45

The Practice of Self-Compassion and Reducing Stress

There is more abundant and accessible stress reduction available to us if we direct our attention away from the “big ticket” relaxation events (the cruises, spas, and anniversary indulgences) and become curious about quieter, subtler forms of relaxation. Of course, we think of the big ticket items because we tend to aggregate all of the stresses in our lives and then look for a comparably sized stress reliever.

Self-compassion is a powerful tool for reducing stress before it becomes “cruise-sized” because it can be applied liberally and frequently, and even preemptively before built up stress takes on epic proportions. And similar to the way that eating small meals throughout the day is more effective for staying energized and full than eating two or three large meals, self-compassion is a more effective long-term way of achieving your stress management and wellness goals.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is the act of having empathy for oneself. Empathy is showing care, concern, and nonjudgmental acceptance of feelings as they arise without declaring them “right” or “wrong”. Self-compassion is often tricky in families or cultures that emphasize self-discipline and “no excuses” mentalities because in extreme, these perspectives often view self-compassion as an undesirable quality synonymous with being lazy, self-pitying, or weak.  

The truth is that self-compassion has nothing to do with a pity party or weakness, and everything to do with acknowledging the reality of how we are feeling so that we can cope with it more effectively and constructively. Pretending that we aren’t feeling sad or stressed so that we don’t appear “weak” is like pretending not to have a flat tire. You can push through temporarily in some cases, but the longer you go without acknowledging it the more likely you are to have a bigger challenge. Acknowledgement and acceptance of unwanted feelings — which are mental acts — are often unfairly translated in our culture to the physical activity of moping. But they are not at all necessarily connected. Sure, wallowing in bad feelings often comes before the stagnation of moping, but not necessarily.

Think about the example of paying your taxes. For most of us, we’re unhappy about it and very clear that we’re unhappy about it, but we still do it. Another example is new parents who are facing dirty diapers in the middle of the night. New parents are well aware that they are sleep deprived and miserable when they have to get up in the middle of the night and change a dirty diaper for the umpteenth time. And they still do it without pause. We’re actually pretty good at accepting “negative” feelings and continuing to do what we need to do anyway. We just don’t remember that we’re good at it if the IRS isn’t breathing down our necks.

How do you use Self-Compassion to reduce stress?

At the end of the day, we can’t fool ourselves about how we’re feeling any more than a runner with a blister on the bottom of his foot. And if a runner with a blister on the bottom of his foot wants to finish the race, he needs to stop, examine it, put some ointment on, and find a bandage or cushion. That’s self-compassion … acknowledging what’s going on and addressing what you need accordingly. Otherwise, the runner will just be in more pain and even less able to run further on down the road … more stressful, not less. The same is true of any individual facing emotional or mental stress or pain. Taking care of our needs requires us to acknowledge what those needs are, and that means being willing to have self-compassion and accept our feelings so that we can reach out, find, and utilize the tools we need.  

Once we accept and acknowledge our feelings, we can get a much more effective handle on addressing them. Otherwise, we’re running blind, so to speak, and highly likely to hit a wall. Self-compassion is a nonjudgmental curiosity about and warm acceptance of how we are doing, with the intention of supporting ourselves accordingly through those feelings, just as we would someone else. It enables us to reduce our stress by more effectively identifying and therefore addressing our needs.

10:30

Psychology Around the Net: August 18, 2018

Screentime not making kids moody, crazy and lazy

Happy Saturday!

This week’s Psychology Around the Net covers tech companies using persuasive design to get kids racking up more screen time, a new startup designed to help people find mental health care more quickly and affordably, how dating apps have the potential to be both helpful and hurtful, and more.

Tech Companies Use ‘Persuasive Design’ to Get Us Hooked. Psychologists Say It’s Unethical: A new technique known as persuasive technology or persuasive design looks at how computers can change the way we thing and act, and big tech companies are employing mental health experts to use it — especially on kids.

Autism and DDT: What 1 Million Pregnancies Can—and Can’t—Reveal: An analysis has found that women who are exposed to the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) are more likely to give birth to children who develop autism. The study’s authors stress that their findings don’t prove DDT causes autism, but it is the first association using a direct measure of exposure to the pesticide.

How to Use Dating Apps Without Hurting Your Mental Health: While research shows many people believe dating apps and websites are great ways to meet people, they also have a way of hurting your self-esteem, setting you up for rejection, and overall overwhelming you. Experts weigh in on how you can get the benefits of dating apps while avoiding any blows to your mental health.

5 Tips to Wake Up from a Sleep Paralysis Episode [INFOGRAPHIC]: Sleep paralysis is a nightmare (I don’t even know if I’m using that figuratively or literally, but it doesn’t matter — it’s that horrible). Learn more about what causes sleep paralysis — also known as “Old Hag Syndrome” — and how you can can snap yourself out of an episode. (Trust me, if you’ve ever experienced sleep paralysis, you want this information.)

How Retail Mental Health Could Be Medicine’s Next Frontier: Dr. Tamir Aldad has developed Mindful Urgent Care, an award-winning startup staffed by a variety of mental health professionals and designed to help people find access to mental health care faster and more affordably.

Typical Kid Behavior Or a Mental Health Problem? It Can Be Hard to Decide: Mood swings, changes in behavior, personality traits you didn’t recognize before — for teens, these can be mental illness warning signs or, frankly, just some stuff they’re going through as they work out the teen years. Mental health professionals advise that the first steps parents can taking in recognizing what might be mental illness and not just a mood swing are to be familiar with the child’s normal habits and patters, pay attention when the child starts moving away from them, and making sure the child has a comfortable environment in which to talk to them.

August 17 2018

20:40

Getting Stuck in the Emotional Funnel

Have you ever found yourself caught in a downward spiral of negative thoughts? It’s as if your mind is like a funnel with thoughts racing towards the bottom only to get stuck in the neck. The more you try to think your way out of the funnel the more distressed you become because there appears to be no way out.

Negative thoughts can be overwhelming, and if we are not careful, they create pathways in our mind from which we draw . Unfortunately, thoughts rarely occur without emotions. When we add emotions to our negative thoughts, we try to think our way towards a solution yet as we spiral downward, a solution seems out of reach . So much so, that we start to panic.

It may look something like this. (Figure 1) Picture a funnel, wide at the top, narrowing at the bottom. Consider the thought, “I feel grumpy today.” Now, put this thought into your funnel. This thought is worrisome but not distressing. However, what would happen if more worrisome thoughts followed? “I’m usually not grumpy. Maybe I’m a grumpy person. Oh…I wish this feeling would go away…”  

We ask ourselves, “Why can’t I solve this problem? I don’t like the way this is making me feel. I wish this dreadful feeling would go away!” That’s just it! How do you wish away a feeling? It’s impossible. Emotions are like waves on the ocean. They come and go freely…unless…we take the time to notice what is happening versus why it is happening.

We do this by incorporating what Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) calls, our “observing-self.” The observing-self comes from the practice of Mindfulness and grounds us in the present moment as we are experiencing anxiety caused by uncertainty. The observing-self allows us to experience life through our senses. As we notice what is happening within us, we slow down our thought process by exploring our experience versus trying to analyze it. When we explore our emotions, we are open to our experience in a new way.

How to incorporate the observing self:

  1. Observe: Observe when anxious thoughts are present. Noticing thoughts is like watching a balloon as it moves along the sky. We are just watching.
  2. Breathe: Take a deep breath and then exhale slowly. Repeat this for one minute. Notice how your chest rises and falls as it takes in and releases air. Regulating the breath helps slow down the thought process.
  3. Pay attention: Pay attention to what is happening in your body. Discomfort occurs because we are experiencing more than just our thoughts. Make room for any emotions, body sensations and urges that accompany these thoughts.

Can the observing-self really make a difference? Let’s return to our funnel metaphor incorporating the observing-self in the example below. (Figure 2)  

I feel grumpy today.” I am noticing I am having the thought that I am grumpy. I feel discomfort in my stomach. Breathe in and out…again. This feeling is making me want to run away or do something else to avoid feeling it. Ok, I am going to just pay attention to this sensation and see what happens when I allow it to be there. Breath in and out slowly…Stay with the feeling…Observe it. Notice what is does. Hmm…interesting.”

As we allow ourselves to observe the possibilities of this discomfort, we avoid getting stuck in the funnel. We observe the experience by not adding to or taking away from it, thus, slowing down our thought process. We are still in the funnel as thoughts, emotions and body sensations occur, however, the way we address them leaves room for our mind to have some clarity amidst the uncertainty we are experiencing.

The next time you are experiencing discomfort, take notice of what is happening. Validate your situation and observe the experience with openness and curiosity. As you practice incorporating your observing-self, you will learn how to work through anxious moments more effectively and you will be able to spend your time doing the things you love to do with the people you love to be with.  It will take some practice but soon you will begin to experience a better, stronger, more confident you.

16:00

Breaking the Cycle of Ouch: Why It’s OK to Not Feel OK

Fixing. Solving. Smoothing over. We often reach for the metaphorical superglue when we feel bad or out of sorts. We seek to plaster the cracks of ourselves so the negative emotions don’t leak out, keeping a self-imposed equilibrium of what life “should” be like. But it is OK to be frightened, sad, stressed, anxious or feel grief because it’s OK for it not to be OK.

The amount of effort it takes to hold the self imposed equilibrium tells us something — something important if we choose to listen. What it’s pointing out is we are fighting a battle we may not win. We are effectively fighting our own pain which often results in further pain. It’s a cycle of ouch.

As well as denying ourselves the opportunity to develop healthy ways to cope with adversity. We are giving power to the emotional energy and building it into an insurmountable beast.

The Cycle of Ouch

The actions of fixing, solving or smoothing over suggest to our subconscious that what we are feeling is wrong. Its an inadvertent judgment saying it’s not OK to be in pain. We try to turn the tap off to our emotions by diverting attention or ignoring it, which triggers yet further pain, continuing the cycle of ouch.

If we give ourselves permission to experience the emotion, open ourselves up to the vulnerability of pain we can find security. It is scary to even consider it. But being in the present with it, simply saying, “Hey, I feel you and I’m not fighting today,” takes away some of the energy of the emotion.

This is a neutral position of working with the emotion rather than against. Neither holding it in or pushing it down into our bodies and hoping it will just go away. Or expressing it to its fullest so it bubbles over and becomes a bit messy. Neutral is a softer way to experience emotions.

Rather than fighting life, we go with it. We find more inner peace as we embrace our experience just as it is. This won’t be easy to start with as this approach is a skill you practice and develop over time, but once you have it, it’s an approach that you will get plenty of use from.

Five Skills to Develop to Break the Cycle of Ouch

  1. Say hey to it – Give the emotion recognition: “I see, hear and feel you and I’m OK with that.”
  2. Name it – Identify the emotion you are experiencing. The more honest you can be with what you are feeling, the gentler you can ultimately be with yourself. “I feel you ‘anger,’ I feel you in the pit of my stomach, I’m not going to fight you today, its OK that I feel you and it hurts.”
  3. Hang out – Just sitting with the emotion and even giving it space in your mind and body brings the potential for calm with no effort on your part. The emotion’s energy sometimes runs out when you allow it space; it kind of gives up as it’s not causing the desired drama.
  4. Focused breathing – Just noticing your breath, not making an effort to breathe deeply, just noticing where you are breathing from and maybe even counting the length of breath in… and out… will help the mind and body cope with what it is experiencing. Our minds can’t multitask so focusing on the breath rather than the emotion will automatically break the cycle of ouch.
  5. Trust yourself – Remembering that you are the best person for the job and your willingness to feel uncomfortable is a true sign of strength. Trusting in the knowledge that this will last for as long as it lasts but it won’t be forever, is powerful. This isn’t easy, but fighting or ignoring it isn’t easy either and takes more effort.

Once the emotion has lessened, when you feel able you can choose to reflect on your experience and recognize your thoughts that triggered the emotion, you can do so, but you don’t have to do anything with these thoughts — again it is just acknowledging them because it is OK.

Having simple, but effective techniques we can call upon when we experience negative emotions takes the power and energy from what is a scary experience. You can start to break your own cycle of ouch by just by remembering it is OK, for it not to be OK.

12:52
Top of the Heap: Reading in pairs with Ayo Wahlberg by Hannah Gibson
10:30

Best of Our Blogs: August 17, 2018

Worry, fear and even anxiety have been circling in and out of my life for so long, it became a part of me. I thought everyone walked around with worst case scenarios replaying in their head.

The greatest things that helped me, which you’ll also read in our top posts this week are spending more moments in focused presence and calm so my days are not just constant pop-ups of anxiety-provoking news or upsetting updates.

Living without urgency is one way to send the message that everything is okay. But I’ve also learned to be kind to myself. This means that instead of avoiding negative emotions or berating myself for having them, I approach feelings of worry with curiosity, patience and love.

This is the theme of this week, which is to find ways to work with the struggles you have. Whether it’s watching a movie to give you a new perspective, try out a new communication strategy or meditate to help you stop overthinking, these posts will help you work with the obstacles and challenges that come with the life you have.

6 Surprising Predictors of Relationship Compatibility
(Change Your Mind, Change Your Life) – Why are you attracted to certain people and not others? It may have less to do with what you want, and more to do with your biology.

Narcissistic Abuse and the Movies that Counteract and Contradict It
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – If you’re in need of inspiring and healing movies that can give you a view into a life you could be living, add this to your must-watch list.

Childhood Trauma: How We Learn to Lie, Hide, and Be Inauthentic
(Psychology of Self) – This post reveals the things that change us from honest children to inauthentic adults.

4 Common Communication Mistakes
(Anger Management) – You think it’s helping, but you’re actually hurting the situation if you’re doing these four things.

5 Scientifically Backed Strategies That Will Help You Stop Overthinking Everything
(Success in the Workplace) – If you can’t stop worrying and analyzing a situation, try this to break the cycle of rumination and overthinking.

August 16 2018

20:40

The Portals into Self-Compassion

I grew up in a Quaker family where I was taught to serve others and consequently became a therapist which has brought great meaning into my life. However, until recently, I was never as good to myself as I was to others.

As a result, I often felt depleted and even “burned out.” Fortunately, I listened to the wisdom of my teenage son and began to treat myself with the same compassion I had for others. I was gratified to discover that my efforts filled me with an abundance of happiness and inner peace I could pass onto others.

I have been on a mission ever since to spread the wonders of self-compassion far and wide though the use of the following portals. I have witnessed and experienced the healing and transformative power of these portals in my work with clients and my own quest to be more self-compassionate.  

Be Your Own Best Friend

If you “beat up” on yourself in a harsh, judgmental manner, begin talking to yourself inside your head or out loud in a caring and helpful manner, just like you are your own best friend. For instance, when you are going through a hard time, you could say to yourself, “Hang in there, I am behind you all the way!”

Develop Beliefs that Work for You

You may hold onto beliefs that cause you unhappiness, stress, etc. One of the keys to self-compassion is to identify your beliefs that are not working and replace them with ones that are more functional, like you are shedding an old skin. In fact, one of the key components of my work with clients is to encourage them to “try on” new beliefs to see how well they work.

Know that You Are Inherently Worthwhile

You may mistakenly believe that you are not worthy because you fail to live up to your own expectations, the bad treatment you have received from others or the mistakes you have made.  However, worth is not something we need to earn. We are all inherently worthy and knowing this fills us with a lightness of spirit that spreads through our entire being.

Do Not Project Your Needs onto Others

We often make the mistake of projecting our needs onto others and feel hurt or even angry when these people do not provide us what we are looking for. However, it is impossible for anyone to know us well enough to consistently meet our needs. We alone know best what we need and are generally much better able to give it to ourselves than anyone else.

Give Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Peace of Mind

People often believe that they need their unhappiness and stress to motivate them to make changes in themselves and their lives. However, this is not the case. These negative emotional states deplete our energy and diminish our quality of life.

We can strive to choose happiness and peace of mind, regardless of the challenges we face. Doing so will fill us with the positive energy we need to overcome these challenges and achieve our goals.

Take Great Care of Yourself

One of the most self-compassionate things we can do is to take great care of our physical, emotional and social needs. In fact, each day presents us with countless choices about how to spend our time and focus our energies. When we respond to these opportunities in ways that bring us meaning, pleasure, comfort and good health, we feel satisfied with our lives. When we ignore our needs, we feel frustrated and even depressed.

Tune into Your “Authentic Self”

We all have an inner realm we can access by transcending our thoughts and feelings that enables us to experience greater peace and hear our inner voice amidst the noise in our heads and the world around us. This is a permanent part of us that does not change as we experience life’s challenges or develop different outward identities. In a nutshell, it is who we are at our most basic level.

Eliminate Negative Reactions

It is very freeing to train ourselves to respond to difficult situations in a calm and balanced manner rather than with frustration, anger, etc. The key to this challenge is to recognize the visceral, physiological sensations we experience just before we have a negative emotional response and to tell ourselves in no uncertain terms that we have the choice not to act on these sensations.  

Appreciate What Your Already Have

A major key to happiness is to appreciate all the good things in our lives. Whether we are marveling at the unconditional love our dogs give us or enjoying a beautiful sunset, our ability to bask in life’s pleasures significantly improves the quality of our precious time on this earth. In fact, one of the most important decisions I have ever made is to totally appreciate every positive aspect of my life.

Enjoy the Present Moment

There are a variety of portals into the moment that are always accessible.  One is to switch our focus from our thoughts to what we are experiencing through our senses which opens us up to an entirely different world.  We can also “lose ourselves” in activities that fully capture our attention. Finally, we can view the moments of our lives as opportunities to be savored rather than stepping stones to getting to some other place.

Pass Your Compassion onto Others

One of the best things about achieving self-compassion it that it fills us with care and goodwill that we can pass onto to others. We are also compelled to do our part to eliminate suffering and help build a better world!

Many people believe it is selfish to be self-compassionate. However, there is nothing selfish about treating yourself with kindness and taking great care of yourself. In fact, your spirit and serenity will attract others to you and inspire them to let their own light shine.

I invite you to “try out” these portals into self-compassion to discover which ones work best for you — it will be your gift to yourself.  I hope they change your life as they have mine!

15:45

Unsure About Treating Your Bipolar Disorder, or Seeking Treatment Again?

You’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Or you suspect you have it. Sometimes, you feel a persistent, relentless kind of darkness. You feel like you can’t breathe. Or you feel numb. Hollow. You have zero desire to do anything. The smallest tasks feel burdensome.

And other times, you feel on top of the world. You feel like you can stay awake for hours. And hours. And you do. You feel like you can work for hours. And hours, too. You feel extremely restless or irritable. You feel impulsive, and do things you normally wouldn’t. You have racing thoughts that feel like bumper cars, colliding into each other. You also talk rapidly, talking over everyone else.

But you’re not sure if you want to seek treatment. Or maybe you’re sure you don’t. Maybe you’ve already worked with a doctor or two. And they were terrible. Maybe they even made you feel worse.

Maybe you worry that medication will quell your creativity, or cause other difficult side effects. You’ve heard that other people struggle with everything from shaking to dizziness, and that just sounds awful to you. Understandably.

Maybe you feel shame about having a mental illness. Maybe you feel weak and insecure and inadequate. And you prefer not to think about it. You prefer to handle it on your own.

Maybe you don’t think anything will work anyway, so why try?

At 25 years old, Gabe Howard was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. He was deeply depressed, experiencing delusions and had a suicide plan. He’d been struggling for years, but others assumed it was a behavioral issue.

Today, with treatment, including medication and therapy, he’s recovered. Today, he continues to take medication and attend therapy. Today, he’s a writer, speaker, and co-host of The Psych Central Show podcast and A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and A Podcast.

Howard wants readers who are iffy about treatment to know that bipolar disorder is a medical illness that requires working with a doctor and taking medication. He cautioned against believing that exercise and natural remedies—“the latest ‘magical treatment of the day’ is cannabis oil”—work alone, no matter what you read on people’s blogs or in social media posts.

“People believe they work alone because of the cyclical nature of bipolar disorder. Doing literally absolutely nothing will result in improvement eventually because that’s the nature of the disease.”

Doctors and medications aren’t perfect, Howard said. He struggled with various frustrating side effects, but with the help of his doctor, these side effects have either been eliminated or greatly reduced.

Karla Dougherty, a prolific writer and author of Less Than Crazy: Living Fully With Bipolar II, used to worry that medication messed with her creativity and writing. But she’s actually accomplished more while taking medication than she has without it.

“The freedom from fear, anxiety, and sadness is worth more than any side effects of a drug you are taking,” Dougherty said. “And there are so many different classes of drugs to take now that working with your psychiatrist, you can find something that will work for you.”

Howard stressed the importance of being an active participant in your treatment: Work with your medical team, and ask good questions. Bring up your concerns. Speak up when you don’t understand something. Speak up when side effects have become too much. Be honest with your practitioners.

If you haven’t found the right treatment team, keep searching. Therese Borchard, a writer and senior editor at HealthCentral.com, went through half a dozen doctors. Some even made her worse. At one point, she was seeing a psychiatrist, who was supposedly the best psychiatrist in Annapolis. As she writes in her powerful book Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, he had her taking 16 pills a day.

Borchard finally found excellent, life-saving treatment at Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center in Baltimore, Maryland. She still sees the same psychiatrist today.

“The right care and treatment is always going to improve your quality of life. It’s worth shopping around and being persistent to get quality care,” Borchard said.

“[S]eeking treatment for bipolar disorder gave my husband back his wife and gave my kids a more normal childhood and made me feel like I could participate in life for the first time in a long time,” said Tosha Maaks, a mom to four teenage boys and a frequent contributor to Psych Central. “It was nice not to hate myself, not be angry all the time, think the world thought poorly of me, or never finish anything I started.”

“[G]etting treatment was the best thing I could have ever done for myself and my family,” Maaks said. “Looking back, I wish I would have figured out how to be well a lot sooner.”

Maaks underscored that treatment for bipolar disorder is a comprehensive plan that’s unique to each individual and takes time to develop. In addition to medication and therapy, it includes support systems, self-care strategies and a healthy routine, she said. She also recommended peer support “either in support groups or in the form of a CRSS (certified recovery support specialist) or mentor” (along with your psychiatrist and therapist).

Bipolar disorder is a complex, difficult illness. Getting treatment doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong, because it takes hard work, and because you’re facing your challenges head-on.

And getting treatment doesn’t get in your way. Getting treatment helps you achieve your goals. It helps you harness your creativity. It helps you get clear and live according to your values. It helps you be present and available to your loved ones. Getting treatment helps you create fulfillment and meaning.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re struggling with a condition that’s known as a mental illness. The fact is that when we’re sick — with whatever — we deserve to get the help we so need. We deserve to stop needlessly suffering. We deserve to feel better. And you do, too.

13:48
The Reproductive and Carceral Politics of Ambiguity by Natali Valdez
10:30

Podcast: Using Nature to Improve Mental Health



We often hear about the healing qualities of nature. We’re told that connecting with nature is important, especially in this age where many people are tech connected during all waking hours. Sebastian Slovin believes this. In fact, he believes it so strongly that he became a developmental coach, now working with people to help them develop a stronger connection to nature, improve their well-being, and generally improve their lives. Listen in as he shares his story of why he chose this direction in life. He also speaks on how nature is important to mental health and why it’s so important for us.

Subscribe to Our Show! The Psych Central Show Podcast iTunes The Psych Central Show Podast on Spotify Google Play The Psych Central Show And Remember to Review Us!

Nature & Mental Health Show Highlights:

“[My father] was just like this heroic figure in a lot of ways and he [took his life] at a point when I didn’t see any flaws in him… It was like losing my hero.” ~ Sebastian Slovin

[1:59]   What happened to cause Sebastian to become more attuned to nature?

[5:15]   How does nature combine with mental health?

[9:44]   Why nature is so important to mental health.

[12:06] What is the proper balance between nature and tech?

[16:41] Nature and spiritualism.

 

 

About Our Guest

Sebastian Slovin grew up in the beach community of La Jolla, California, and spent much of his childhood in and around the ocean. As a young adult, he had the opportunity to travel extensively and experience many of the world’s great surf spots as a professional bodyboarder. Sebastian holds a BA in Environmental Policy from San Diego State University and an MA in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego. He is the author of The Adventures of Enu and Ashes in the Ocean. Sebastian is also co-founder of Nature Unplugged, which focuses on cultivating healthy relationships with technology and reconnecting to nature.

 

About The Psych Central Show Hosts

Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. In addition to hosting The Psych Central Show, Gabe is an associate editor for PsychCentral.com. He also runs an online Facebook community, The Positive Depression/Bipolar Happy Place, and invites you to join. To work with Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

 

 

Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. In addition to co-hosting The Psych Central Show, Vincent is the author of several award-winning novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. Visit his websites at www.vincentmwales.com and www.dynamistress.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 15 2018

20:45

Have You Run Out of Spoons? It’s Time to Replenish Your Energy Reserves

A few days ago, a friend indicated on her Facebook page that she had “run out of spoons” and asked for support and energy to be sent her way. I had heard the term but didn’t know what it meant, so I turned to Google and typed in those words and what came up was the explanation that came from a conversation between two friends, one of whom had Lupus.

Christine Miserandino was sitting at a table with her college roommate who asked her what it was like to have a disease that for many people would be considered invisible since overt symptoms may be elusive to the casual observer.

Christine pondered for an ever so brief moment and began gathering up spoons from their table and those around them. As she lay them out in front of her, she explained that at the beginning of any day, she would be given a dozen spoons. Each act, such as getting out of bed, showering, cooking, dressing, driving, going to work… would cost her a spoon.

Since they were limited, she needed to use them judiciously, not knowing what unplanned need could present itself. Some days there just weren’t enough of these utensils to go around and she needed to strategize.

I nodded knowingly as I read this, since as a therapist, I have clients who have all manner of physical and psychological conditions that call for them to count spoons. I started sharing the story with them and they nodded along with me.

Last week, I spoke at a meeting at a rehab for people who had experienced Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) “The top three causes are: car accident, firearms and falls.  Firearm injuries are often fatal: 9 out of 10 people die from their injuries.  Young adults and the elderly are the age groups at highest risk for TBI. Along with a traumatic brain injury, persons are also susceptible to spinal cord injuries which is another type of traumatic injury that can result out of vehicle crashes, firearms and falls. Prevention of TBI is the best approach since there is no cure.”

Most of the attendees at the meeting had experienced strokes. I was astounded at the resilience they exhibited. One was a yoga teacher who had partial paralysis on her left side and needed to move that arm with the functional right arm. She has returned to teaching part time from her wheelchair.

On my way over, I decided to incorporate the spoon theory into the presentation. It occurred to me to stop and pick up some plastic spoons to give to them as palpable reminders of the concept. There happened to be a convenience story around the corner, so I walked in and perused the aisles until I found bags of…. forks. Disappointed initially, I decided to add that concept to the mix, since sometimes, to paraphrase Alanis Morissette’s song “ Ironic” —  “It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.”

When the time came to use the analogy to explain what it might be like for them and their caregivers, I opened the bag and the forks went flying wildly. I scooped them up to the sound of their laughter. They agreed that at times in their own lives, they did run out of spoons, sometimes spoons were replaced with forks; the unexpected situations that might arise and at other times, even they were beyond their control and needed to be gathered together and being able to laugh at the absurdity of it all, made all the difference. I added the reminder that sometimes we just need to ‘fork it.’

A few days later, I was visiting a dear friend who is living with cancer. She has been resilient, doing what she can for herself and asking for assistance when needed. There are times when she suddenly runs out of spoons and wonders where she will find them when the proverbial utensil drawer is empty. That’s when resources present themselves. Before I left home, I took a spoon and fork, tied a red ribbon around them and wrote out a card that reminded her that there is always extra, just in case.

As a caregiver for family and friends over the years, and a professional caregiver for nearly four decades as a therapist, I too have a supply of spoons at my disposal each day that I expend by simply doing my job, let alone meeting personal needs and performing ADLs. I have told myself that I don’t have the luxury of running out of spoons, since I often feel that it is my role to be the one to dispense them and that I have an infinite supply. That belief has proved to be erroneous since in the past few years, I have experienced various health crises that could be attributed to being inattentive to my own spoon supply.

Ways to add spoons to your drawer:

  • Time with family and friends who sustain your energy and don’t drain it
  • Immersion in nature
  • Photography
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Healthy food
  • Walking
  • Working out at the gym
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Engaging in hobbies
  • Gardening
  • Support group attendance
  • Massage
  • Hugs
  • Dancing
  • Napping
  • Listening to music
  • Singing
  • Drumming
  • Creative activities
  • Taking a bath
  • Playing games
  • Time with animals
  • Writing music
  • Adult coloring books
  • Going somewhere new
  • Movies
  • Reminding yourself of your accomplishments
  • Scrapbooking
  • Making a Vision Board
  • Having a good cry
  • Throwing a brief temper tantrum
  • Having a good laugh

Download a free copy of “ The Spoon Theory ” by Christine Miserandino in PDF format

Visit The Spoon Theory’s Facebook page

15:45

Tolerating the Uncertainty of Life: Can We Learn to Coexist with Ambiguity?

If you take a moment to reflect, you will notice that almost 99% of the things that “bother” you are either in the past or the imagined future. Virtually none of them are in the here and now.

That’s because that which is in the here and now is available to us to interact with, encounter, know, and influence. We usually have a great sense of control about things — even problems — as long as we feel we can see and wrestle with them. Things in the past or the future aren’t available to us to wrestle with in a concrete way … they are ambiguous, and therefore we are left either making plans A, B, and C, or rehashing versions D, E, and F of woulda, shoulda, coulda.

We despise ambiguity because it renders us helpless to act, and acting is where we are comfortable. We are largely accustomed to taking in data, churning it around, and then focusing our efforts on doing something . Ambiguity makes it hard for us to do anything. And we hate that. We are action-oriented critters who find the feeling of helplessness highly unpleasant at best and severely distressing at worst. Being able to act gives us the illusion of control that makes us feel safe.

Consequently, ambiguity makes us feel unsafe and unable to do anything about it. Often, this feeling is so uncomfortable that we act out in other ways that are largely irrelevant but nonetheless give us the sense that at least we are doing something , as unrelated to The Problem as it may be.

This is the essence of the classic scene in which a rejected lover sits on the couch eating a half-gallon of ice cream. The character can’t do anything about making the object of their affection return the feeling, but he/she surely can locate a spoon, open the freezer, remove the goods, settle on the couch, and effectively eat loads of premium Rocky Road. It’s some kind of mission accomplished, if the other one is inaccessible. Many of our unhealthy behaviors are just that — stand-ins for other things that we can’t quite get our arms around, for whatever reason.

Recognizing our discomfort with ambiguity and learning to tolerate the uncertainty of life is a choice, a practice to be cultivated on a daily basis by those who seek to decrease their engagement in unhealthy stand-in behaviors (such as eating ice cream when you don’t understand why someone doesn’t like you, or smoking cigarettes when you’re waiting for medical test results because you’re “stressed”) and cope directly with the reality of how much we dislike the grey area.

If you’d like to start cultivating a greater tolerance for uncertainty so that you can decrease your unhealthy avoidant behaviors, one way is to practice on “little” uncertainties.

For example, we’re used to having our phone with us 24/7 and constantly “checking” all kinds of things, keeping up on a million little pieces of information. A lot of these pieces of flotsam and jetsam aren’t really very important to definitively know and yet we’re more or less addicted to knowing them anyway. You might start by going off the grid briefly. When you meet a friend, let them know you’re leaving your phone in the car so that you can practice tolerating little nonthreatening pieces of ambiguity such as, is your friend late? Did they get held up in traffic? What happened with that work thing that you don’t really need to know about this very minute?  

Like anything else, we can’t get better at tolerating uncertainly and ambiguity unless we practice it, and modern technology creates the illusion that we never have to do so, which makes us all the more unprepared for the moments when we have no choice. Technology has increasingly facilitated our avoidance of uncertainty, but by no means has actually changed it. We can help ourselves tremendously by choosing to practice coping with what is an inevitable part of life regardless of how much we dislike it.

10:30

​An Honest Look at Behavioral Modification Programs for Troubled Teenagers

I have an adopted son. When we were approved, my wife and I were over the moon. This little boy, whom we had already fallen in love with, was going to be under our care and in our family for good. We couldn’t think of anything more perfect.

It was only a couple of months in when we started to really grow concerned. He was angry, threw constant tantrums that would last for hours and could become violent. While his actions were manageable when he was little, we worried about what would happen as he got bigger. After recognizing that he wasn’t making progress as he got older and spent more time with us, we were unsure of what to do for him.

His pediatrician was the first to diagnose him with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) . ODD is common in children who are adopted , especially at a young age. ODD displays as a resistance to authority that can become a lifelong struggle.

Now he is in his teens and for the most part has overcome many of the behavioral issues that are associated with the disorder. This is thanks to an early diagnosis and regular therapeutic intervention. But I have always wondered what my wife and I would have done if the interventions we took part in early had not worked, or if we had not done them at all.

Behavioral Issues in Teenagers

Teenagers are predisposed towards risky behaviors . As part of their development, it takes time for the brain to begin creating those mushy centers of self-control and risk assessment that we, as adults, take for granted. Have you ever looked at a teen and wondered what in the world they were thinking?

When a teenager is facing abnormal behaviors, that impact can be much worse. ODD, ADD/ADHD , personality disorders, mental illness, depression, substance abuse, mood disorders and other factors can all be contributing to risky or even violent actions on the part of a teen.

Unfortunately, the inner workings of these illnesses in teens is poorly understood by many. How do you go about treating it when you don’t always know what the entire source of the behavior may be?

Behavioral Modification for Troubled Teens

Behavioral modification is sometimes a controversial subject. Developed based on the principles of B.F. Skinner, it uses a system of either reward of punishment to begin encouraging certain actions or decisions on the part of the participant.

For example, your teen may be truant at school and so is placed in a summer program to make up the grade. That would be a punishment for wrong behavior. However, they might also be placed in a daily group where they work with their peers to make up those grades, which comes with a reward each day for finishing work.

The principle behind most behavioral modification programs is to use the latter, or a reward system, to encourage proper behavior from the teen. Positive reinforcement is always preferred because studies have shown that it is both more effective and has a positive impact on the child’s self esteem.

In-Patient Settings for Behavioral Modification

Many parents with teens who are facing particularly severe behavioral issues are turning to in-patient programs for assistance. These include residential treatment programs and even therapeutic boarding schools.

There are drawbacks to these programs. For one, they require the child to be admitted for an extended period of time, something that many families are resistant to. They have also gotten a bad reputation due to unrelated wilderness and military programs that have existed in the past.

On the plus side, these programs, which are monitored and accredited by the proper national and state agencies, are 24/7. They have staff always on hand to help the teen to manage their conditions, including fully licensed therapeutic staff for intensive behavioral modification through private and group therapy.

While these programs can be done outpatient, having a stable environment for the teenager to address concerns can be beneficial. They simply have more room to work on their problems in an in-patient program.

Regardless of whether a residential treatment center is chosen, there is plenty of evidence to support the use of positive reinforcement for healing.

Resources

August 14 2018

20:40

The Three Types of Burnout — And How to Bounce Back from Each

If you want to understand just how bad burnout can get, consider the story of Melissa Sinclair, an employee at Time Out New York.

Melissa rose to internet fame in recent weeks after Time Out New York inadvertently posted an employment listing on the job-search site Indeed that detailed her current unmanageable workload.

The post explains, “Currently, we have an agreed budget of $2,200 per issue for a freelance Photo Editor, 10 hours work at $22 p/h, which would normally be completely fine, however the issue is that Melissa physically cannot find good enough candidates to fill these freelance positions, and at the current rate of magazine production, she needs multiples people available to work on multiple cities, simultaneously. Because she can’t find people for these freelance positions, she’s been forced to do all of this work herself and is currently completely swamped and overwhelmed.”

Unfortunately, a lot of people reading the posting can probably relate. Fifty percent of Americans say they are constantly drained by work — a figure that’s nearly tripled since 1972, according to the 2016 General Social Survey, an annual sociological survey conducted each year by the research organization NORC at the University of Chicago. The costs of burnout are huge. Left unchecked, chronic stress contributes to depression, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders.

If you’ve personally experienced burnout, you know first-hand how difficult it can be to recover. Sometimes no amount of time off (even if you take it) seems to help. That’s because we tend to over-simplify the problem and its cures. In my work as a coach for women and entrepreneurs, I’ve found that burnout isn’t just about being too busy; it’s about being demoralized for one of several reasons.

The three types of burnout

As a 2014 paper published in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PLOS One explains, there are three different subtypes of burnout — each with its own causes and coping strategies. The study was based on survey responses from 429 employees at the University of Zaragoza in Spain.

First, there’s overload burnout. This is the kind of burnout that most of us are familiar with. With overload burnout, people work harder and ever-more frantically in search of success. Roughly 15% of employees in the survey fell into this category. They were willing to risk their health and personal life in pursuit of their ambition, and tended to cope with their stress by venting to others.

The second kind of burnout involves being under-challenged. People in this category feel underappreciated and bored, and grow frustrated because their jobs lack learning opportunities and room for professional growth. Roughly 9% of employees in the survey felt this way. Because under-challenged people find no passion or enjoyment in their work, they cope by distancing themselves from their job. This indifference leads to cynicism, avoidance of responsibility, and overall disengagement with their work.

The final type of burnout, neglect, is the result of feeling helpless at work. The 21% of employees who fell into this category agreed with statements like, “When things at work don’t turn out as well as they should, I stop trying.” If you’re in this category, you may think of yourself as incompetent or feel like you’re unable to keep up with the demands of your job. Maybe you’ve tried to get ahead at work, faced barriers, and simply given up. Closely related to imposter syndrome, this condition tends to be characterized by passivity and lack of motivation.

Finding a fix

Because people don’t burn out in the exact same way, or for the exact same reasons, it’s important to identify the type of burnout that you or your employees may be facing. This makes it easier to find targeted solutions that can help.

There’s plenty of guidance already out there on how to address overload burnout, including taking breaks during the workday and taking up hobbies to pursue during off-hours. (While it can be tempting to veg out with Netflix after work, experts suggest this doesn’t wind up feeling energizing or restorative.) In addition, talk to your manager or another higher-up in your organization about how to take some work off your plate. It doesn’t benefit you or the company if your responsibilities are overwhelming and unsustainable.

If you’re under-challenged, the first problem you need to solve for is finding things to feel invested in. When you’re demoralized, it can be hard to care about much of anything, and finding your passion in life can seem daunting. Lower the stakes by simply exploring your curiosities. Making time for self-reflection can shine a light on new interests you want to explore.

Next, set a goal for yourself to learn a new skill in the next 30 days to kickstart your motivation. Making strides towards a goal, no matter how small, builds confidence and creates a flywheel of momentum that can lift you out of a funk.

In addition, you might try job-crafting to turn the job you have into the one you want. Job-crafting involves redesigning your role and responsibilities so that you can find more meaning in your everyday tasks and make better use of your strengths. If you’re a marketing assistant at a nonprofit who enjoys writing, for example, you might ask if you could start a blog that shares updates about the people who benefit from the organization’s mission. In this way, you’ll feel more invested in your work—while helping your employer, too.

If your problem is neglect, your main task should be finding ways to regain a sense of agency over your role. Try creating a to-don’t list. What can you get off your plate by outsourcing, delegating, or delaying? Look for obligations you need to say “no” to all together. If you find yourself answering to a workaholic boss, learn to set better boundaries.

Most importantly, focus on what you can control. Structure is more important during times of stress, so create a morning routine you can stick to. Outside of office hours, be vigilant about self-care. When you feel helpless about changing tides at work, some semblance of predictability is essential.

The upshot

Recovering from burnout takes time. If you feel hopeless, try taking the perspective of a good mentor. What advice would you give to another burned-out person in your shoes? Whatever you do, don’t ignore the signs of stress. Your well-being is too important.

© 2017 Melody Wilding // originally published on Quartz.

15:45

People with Bipolar Disorder Share How They Started Treatment—and Why They Stick with It

Bipolar disorder is highly treatable, and yet so many people don’t seek treatment. Or if they do seek help, they later stop taking their meds or stop attending their therapy sessions. Or both. And then their bipolar blows up. Their mania spikes. Their depression sinks even deeper.

Sticking to treatment is not easy. Medication has side effects. Therapy takes work. The illness itself can be stubborn, exhausting, confusing.

It can all feel so frustrating.

We wanted to know what led some individuals to stick to their initial treatment — and why they’ve stayed dedicated ever since. Of course, life is not linear, and the people we interviewed haven’t had linear journeys either. Because bipolar disorder is complex. Their stories will no doubt inspire you, and remind you that you are not alone, and you can get better — even if your journey’s been jagged, too, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now.

How I Started Treatment

Therese Borchard, a writer and senior editor at HealthCentral.com, initially sought treatment for what she thought was depression, because she wanted to be emotionally available to her son. Her first few doctors treated her for depression, which only exacerbated her bipolar symptoms. She was finally correctly diagnosed at Johns Hopkins after her husband insisted she try a teaching hospital.

Borchard continued with her treatment because she was “completely desperate and in so much pain. I never ever wanted to return to that place again so I followed doctor’s orders even when I didn’t want to.” For instance, she wasn’t happy about taking lithium and having regular blood tests. Her husband also was a huge support, and reminded her “what the consequences of stopping could be.”

Elaina J. Martin, author of There Comes a Light: A Memoir of Mental Illness, was diagnosed with bipolar I after a suicide attempt. She moved from California to Oklahoma City to live with her parents so she could focus on her treatment. Which she kept up with because she wanted “to get off that rollercoaster.”

When Tosha Maaks’s husband mentioned that sometimes it feels like she’s two different people when she’s happy, and when she’s “in a mood,” she realized she needed help. “When I was ‘in a mood,’ I could slam doors off hinges or break plates against the wall just to hear them break.”

Maaks, a mom of four teenage boys, and frequent contributor to Psych Central, never liked the person she was when she wasn’t well. “The depression and mania never felt good for me, and knowing that I could somehow live a better life in treatment was enough for me to want to have a better life.”

She also initially stuck with treatment because she didn’t want to lose her family. However, it was tough for her to remember to take her medication daily (she also has ADHD), which meant she often skipped it. “Many times, I would claim they were not effective, and it wasn’t that the meds were not effective as my compliance with the meds was not effective.”

Then Maaks started working with a new doctor, and her husband became her reminder system. “He can ask me, ‘Have you taken your meds today?’ and I can’t get mad because he has earned that right as my support system.”

Karla Dougherty, author of Less Than Crazy: Living Fully With Bipolar II, went to therapy at first for her depression and anxiety. It took 40 years for her to get the right diagnosis. When she finally got it, she was relieved to have a name for her illness. “… I could get help, and peace.”

Writer and speaker Gabe Howard had no clue he was sick. A woman he was casually dating took him to the ER because she sensed something was wrong, and when she asked him if he’d been having suicidal thoughts, he said yes. Howard was positive the doctor “would laugh us out of the building,” because he clearly wasn’t ill. After he was moved to the psych ward, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Howard kept up with treatment because he believed his diagnosis. When he started researching and reading stories written by people with bipolar disorder, he saw himself in many of them.

He also read about and saw what happened to people who’d quit their treatment — everything from foolish behavior (“They felt like they were amazing, but they were just saying nonsense confidently. It was bizarre and sad”) to divorce (“The marriages with children where the hardest”) to death. “The worst thing I ever saw was the suicide of someone who was in a group I moderated. I went to the funeral and it was just so sad. They had been refusing meds for months.”

“Even when I didn’t like the treatment, moving forward was still better than what I heard happened to people who decided to play doctor,” Howard said.

Why I Stay Dedicated Today

Borchard, author of Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, remains dedicated to her treatment because it’s a life-saver. Three years ago, she tried to go off her medication. “[I]t was a disaster. I was almost hospitalized again. I was suicidal for several months and the pain was so acute…. Even when I don’t think the medications are all that effective, I remind myself that they are certainly doing something because without them I had trouble functioning.”

Martin, who pens Being Beautifully Bipolar, remains dedicated because she believes in what bipolar disorder is: a chronic illness. Dougherty does, too: “I don’t think about it. I just take my medication and treat it as any other chronic condition.”

Another thing that keeps Martin dedicated is the cemetery. “When I see [cemeteries], I realize how close I was to being in a hole somewhere, which leads me to remember how much it would hurt people that I love.”

It took Maaks over a decade “to stick to treatment in the correct way and fully the way I should have, even though I tried to claim I was doing all I could.” She didn’t start learning about bipolar disorder until four years ago. “When I really started to figure out what was going on with me, then I started to really have better success with my recovery.”

The number one thing that keeps Maaks so diligent about her treatment today is her loved ones: “I know that I have to take care of myself because the people in my life — my husband, my kids, my in-laws, and my friends—are in my life because they get to choose to be in my life.” She doesn’t want to wake up one day and her loved ones have made a different choice.

“It’s much easier to be motivated today because my life is so incredible,” said Howard, who co-hosts The Psych Central Show podcast and A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and A Podcast. “I have a wife, house, dog, friends, and a giant TV. I have a career I love. I don’t want to lose all of that. I saw what my life was like before treatment and I see what it is now. It would be crazy to stop my medication and risk going backward.”  

What About Challenges?

One of the biggest challenges for Borchard in maintaining her treatment is her desire to be normal. “I want to ‘be like everyone else.’” “But when you think about it, there really is no normal. It’s a setting on the dryer. I don’t like having to check in with my doctor so regularly, but she has saved my life and keeps me on the right track. When I stopped seeing her, and thought I knew the answers, I landed in chaos.”

Borchard navigates the challenges one step at a time. On the really hard days, she takes it 15 minutes at a time. “Breaking down everything—whether it be work, or a bad day with depression—makes it manageable.”

For Dougherty sometimes it feels like her medication subdues her creativity, and sometimes she misses her hypomania. This is when she talks to her husband, friends and psychiatrist, who help her stay the course. She also reminds herself that in reality she’s accomplished more on her medications than without them.

At first, Howard missed the mania, too. “[B]ut then I realized being happy daily beat alternating between depressed, moderate, and excitable.”

He’s also wanted to quit his meds before because of side effects, such as sexual side effects, feeling flat, blurred vision, dizziness and chronic fatigue. “Thankfully, I was able to work all of these out and have as few symptoms as possible.”

Howard encouraged readers to “Keep moving forward, keep working with your doctors, and continue to have hope.”

Hope really is vital. “[T]he most important thing to getting better is to have hope,” Borchard said. “Never ever lose hope. As long as you have hope, your life will get better.”

Bipolar disorder is a big illness that takes time to resolve, Howard said. “So don’t beat yourself up if you are still fighting. Please don’t give up. It’s OK to lose a battle; please don’t lose the war.”

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