Despite advances in neuroscience during the past several decades, sleep continues to remain mostly a mystery. We know we need it as much as water, food and air. We can go weeks without eating food, but what would happen if you went weeks without sleep? Maybe you have. Various degrees of insomnia, and official sleep disorders, are serious conditions. But, what about periodic anxieties that are significant enough to disrupt our sleep. Missing one night of sleep can disrupt our normal biorhythms enough to disrupt the next night’s, and the next!
Anxiety, for the most part, originates in the mind. The body sensations and feelings we have surrounding anxiety occur because of the psychosomatic nature of our mind-body system. In other words, when we think about situations, even if subconsciously, that appear to be in some way a threat or potential danger, hormones and chemicals are secreted from glands which then give rise to the physiological experiences of tension, tightness, constriction.
These are useful in fight or flight situations, which we believe, at a subconscious level, exist — even if they don’t. The perceived threat or danger is mostly psychological and consists of “what if” statements and pictures in the mind, that are at best unpleasant, and at most, lifestyle threatening. Most all, anxiety is about a future that is, factually, unknown. Anxiety is based on a lot of conjecture.
If you’re too anxious to sleep, there are things you can do to help set up an environment, both internal and external, more conducive to sleep. Consider these tips: Continue reading Sleeping With Anxiety: 5 Tips to Stop Sharing a Bed With Your Worries
“Why doesn’t the church know what to do with depression?” That’s the question I’ve been asking myself since the moment I experienced my depressive episode. The perspectives about mental disorders vary greatly throughout the church.
This isn’t to paint the church with broad strokes, but generally, depression is a topic Christians tend to avoid in the community. Misconceptions about mental illness are pervasive throughout all aspects of our culture. Nonetheless, some of the “church-y” misconceptions about clinical depression come from a genuine desire to understand them through the scriptures. There are things, however, that well-meaning Christians tend to get wrong.
To sort out the conflicting rhetoric and misconceptions, here are a few things you should know: Continue reading 5 Things You Should Know About Depression and Christianity
I’ve always dreaded holidays like the 4th of July — and this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m lacking American pride. Occasions that aren’t family-centric like Christmas or Thanksgiving generally come along with an obligation to have plans with a group of friends or significant other. As a result, we feel the need to have something special planned (because you know everyone’s going to be asking you what you’re doing for the 4th) and make what we do look epic on social media (because getting a lot of “likes” means that we’re doing something right).
It’s a lot of pressure. Hello, anxiety!
FOMO, or, fear of missing out, goes hand-in-hand with the uneasiness that can arise from the holidays or the onslaught of summer fun in general. FOMO is so real that it was recently added to the Oxford Dictionaries, and defined as, “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.”
There’s SO much pressure to attend events and socialize on the 4th of July…and every other weekend throughout the summer season. Naturally, this can be rough on anyone’s mental health, but the FOMO dynamic is taken to another level when mental illness comes into play, when sufferers may already feel on edge about social situations. In this case, summertime events can definitely be a trigger. It’s hard enough for someone with social anxiety or depression to face interacting with others. Add on the resentment and guilt that comes with the fear of missing out, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous, and combustible combination.
Here are a few pointers (tested by yours truly) to keep your FOMO at bay. Continue reading Summertime, and the FOMO’s Not Easy
Most days, I work from home, alone. I also often travel alone. Solitude is a central part of my everyday existence. Yet I am not lonely.
Working alone doesn’t meant I don’t collaborate. I schedule virtual and in-person meetings with team members and clients.
Traveling alone is less of a sentence to isolation and more of an opportunity to connect with strangers and welcome unexpected encounters into my journey. It also offers more freedom and flexibility than traveling with others.
There’s much written about our culture of distraction, but there’s too little discussion of the value of time spent truly alone. We largely fear it and cling to the pings and prods from our personal devices to keep us in constant company.
Don’t get me wrong. Connection still matters. It is an important indicator of health and happiness. Studies indicate that social isolation is more dangerous to your health than obesity, increasing your risk of premature death by more than 14%.
But quality alone time does not indicate loneliness. Celebrating solitude doesn’t condemn connection. Continue reading Alone Time: Why It Matters and How to Claim It
It sounds weird to think we need to pay attention to our mental health while on vacation. After all, there’s plenty of evidence showing vacations improve our mental health.
But when you go on vacation, you leave behind the comfort of a familiar environment, the support of a therapist, and the consistency of a routine. A vacation can actually trigger mental illness symptom flare ups, whether you’re traveling alone or with friends or family.
Here are some strategies you can use to stay mentally healthy on your next trip:
Take Care of Your Body
Exercise helps stave off mental illness symptoms. But it can be hard to make time for it while you’re on vacation.
If going to the gym is part of your normal routine, you can drop in to your hotel gym. Or if you belong to a chain gym, there are likely facilities all over the country you may be able to access for no extra fee.
The point isn’t to miss out on all the fun because you have to hit the gym, though. You can incorporate fitness into your vacation in more subtle ways, like by taking long walks through a new city or along the beach. The key is to stay moving. Continue reading How to Care for Your Mental Health on Vacation
Good mental health is both a state of mind and a lifestyle. Part of it is developing a rational, positive mindset about oneself and the world. Having sources of pleasure and a manageable level of stress facilitates good mental health as well.
Additionally, it’s important to have a lifestyle that helps maintain this state of mind. This goes beyond fulfillment in work and relationships. It’s about regularly engaging in activities that provide a sense of peace or catharsis, including being in nature, meditating, or working with a therapist.
By practicing good mental health, people become more resilient and able to cope when their lives are riddled with stress and misfortune.
“Practicing good mental health habits before you feel distressed is like putting money in the bank for the bad times,” said Jude Miller Burke, Ph.D., a business psychologist and author of The Adversity Advantage. “When a bad time then comes, you are more prepared.”
If you feel like you’re missing a positive mindset or healthy lifestyle, try out some of the tips we gathered by asking therapists how to practice good mental health. Continue reading Good Mental Health: 12 Therapist-Approved Tips
Mental health can be a journey. Journeying while struggling with mental health challenges, however, can be almost impossible.
In 2015 I traveled to Puno, Peru, to work on a research project as a part of my graduate degree in international public health. Before enrolling in the degree program, I had spent the better part of the previous two years traveling and living abroad in some capacity and was excited to have the opportunity to travel as a part of my career.
As my departure date to Peru creeped closer, I started seeing a therapist at the university health center to talk about concerns I had about traveling. I had experienced acute depression that year for the first time and was nervous it would creep back in while I was in a low-resource setting abroad. My in-person therapist told me many students feel this way before completing fieldwork abroad and I would be fine to push through.
I didn’t want my fears around my mental health to stop me from traveling. I wanted to be “strong.” So off I flew to Puno. Continue reading Traveling with Depression: How I Should Have Prepared
“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” – Dalai Lama
I once worked with a client named Patrick who came to therapy feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what he had recently been experiencing. As a young professional he was trying to balance all the facets of his life. He was dating and trying to maintain a healthy social life. Patrick was also struggling with caring for his aging mother who had several medical and emotional issues to sort through.
As many therapists will tell you, caring for others is one of the greatest experiences we can have as humans. There is research that caring for others and demonstrating compassion outwardly, such as volunteering, may help us feel better within ourselves both physically and mentally.
Nonetheless, we also know caring for others can sometimes be a daunting and even thankless experience. Many of us who find ourselves caring for others often lose our balance. We even begin to view our self-care as being selfish. We may say to ourselves, “I can’t take this time off. What will happen when I’m gone?” Continue reading How Caregivers Can Avoid Burnout and Stay Mentally Healthy
Many of us wear our lack of sleep as a badge of honor. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013 sleep deprivation was responsible for 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths. The numbers may be slightly underreported; the real number could be closer to 6,000 fatalities.
Many of us look at sleep as a barrier to success, fun and self-fulfillment, even though sleep deprivation is physiologically and psychologically dangerous. Lack of sleep has been cited as cause in disasters such as the Chernobyl meltdown, the space shuttle Challenger explosion and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. It’s time to face up to the risks associated with our culture of sleep deprivation. Continue reading How Sleep Deprivation Hurts Your Mental Health
2016 was not the best year for most people I know, myself included. One of the few good things that’s happened this year is that — after years of convincing myself not to — I finally made a commitment to see a therapist.
After some discussions with my therapist, I decided to avoid making concrete New Years resolutions I can’t keep. No, I’m not going to cut cheese from my diet. I’m most likely not going to make full use of that gym membership I’ve been eyeing.
And that’s OK. Struggling for perfection is stifling and utterly exhausting.
Instead I decided to focus on mental health resolutions I can actually keep. I’m hoping they will make 2017 a happier and less stressful year. Continue reading In 2017 I Am Making My New Year’s Resolutions About Mental Health