New Year’s Resolutions.

Happy New Year !

As we approach the new year we often reflect on what sort of year we have had and if we need to make any changes in the new year.We may decide to  discard or change things which did not serve us well or  caused us harm. We often decide to make New Year’s Resolutions with intention to  make lasting beneficial changes in our lives which will serve us better in the up coming new year. We want to get rid of the old habits and activity that is not working for us and start a new beginning, with renewed hope and enthusiasm . Unfortunately the New Year’s Resolutions do not have a very good track record of  actually accomplishing the new changes successfully.

According to the Wikipedia :-

“Recent research shows that while 52% of participants in a resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals. A separate study in 2007 by Richard Wisemen from the University of Bristol showed that 78% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, and those who succeed have 5 traits in common. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying “lose weight”), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends”

More from the Wikipedia :-

For the year 2012, the top 5 resolutions, as identified by a SlideShare survey are:-

  • Be financially-savvy
  • Read at least one book per month
  • Eat properly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Keep a journal of awesome moments

Other popular new year’s resolution include :- lose weight,exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, quit smoking and stop biting nails.

Now that you have heard the bad news are you going to give up on the resolutions? No, don’t do that; THERE IS HOPE.  A Tibetan monk was asked once how he managed to cross a difficult path over the Himalayas on foot during the Chinese occupation. He said ” One step at a time.”  To be successful we have to do the same.

First we have to choose the right time to begin our journey for the new change. When is the right time ? It is not necessarily at new year when the pressure is on to make a resolution because everyone else is making them. The right time is more likely to be when we either have a “peak experience” or ” negative experience”. The ” peak experience” was first described by a psychologist Abraham Maslow as ” moments of pure , positive happiness when all doubts, all fears, all inhibitions, all tensions, all weaknesses, are left behind and  self-consciousness is lost.” These experiences are more common than we think, we don’t always recognize them when we have them. The “negative experience ”  may range from nagging sense of discomfort and boredom – the feeling that there must be something more – to the feeling that St. John of the Cross described as ” the dark night of the soul.” Although negative experience maybe opposite of the positive peak experiences described by Maslow , it can have the same effect – both experiences propels us through the entry point of our journey to new beginning.

Second, we have to persevere: – the wise teachers warn against the first flush of enthusiasm because the journey is often beset with difficulties. Here is advise from I Ching: “persevere, again and again”; from Trungpa Rinpoche ” If you must begin then go all the way, because if you begin and quit, the unfinished business you have left behind begins to haunt you all the time.”

Happy New Year . May your New Year Resolutions be successful. May you be Happy.

Chop Wood Carry  Water

By Rick Fields, with Peggy Taylor, Rex Weyler, and Rick Ingrasci

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How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 6 – face your fear, get regular exercise, eat right to stay calm, nourish yourself,simplify your life, turn off worry & cope on the spot.

It is easy to say “face your fears” but difficulty to do. One of my patient was fearful of flying and his family lived in the eastern Canada. He could not get himself  on an aeroplane to go and see them even  for special occasions like Xmas, his mothers birthday, christening of his nephew etc. He would feel sad, beat himself  over  his inability and call himself a coward. He never shared his fear with anyone until one day he come to see me for vague symptoms. It was during my conversation with him he shared his secret with me. Happily after his brave effort of facing his fear he was able to fly over and see his family. He now sees them regularly.

With the help of his psychologist the above patient  used Systematic (or Imagery) Desensitization method to mentally face his fear of flying. This is commonly used method to overcome phobias when real life exposure is not practical. Exposure Therapy is a real life desensitization to a phobia.

Regular exercise is another great way to reduce anxiety  and enhance sense of well-being. It has so many other benefits and yet this mode of healing is severely under utilized. It is easier to take a vitamin pill or baby aspirin then to do exercise. However the benefits of the exercise is way more than taking supplements or pills. I know it can be difficulty to find time in our busy live to do it on regular basis. I can find so many excuses not do it myself and sometimes these excuses have won out  and I ended up not doing the regular exercise; but the consequences are always the same, my feeling of well-being disappears, I get less done, my concentration is not as good, I don,t sleep well, and I feel sense of tension in my body; so I have to be careful and watch out  that my efforts to do exercise doesn’t get undermined by my excuses.

There are many types of exercises, I like the ones where you don’t need or need very little special equipment or facilities. That’s why I like running, walking , cycling or swimming. I like walking the best because you can do this all year round , in any weather, doesn’t require any special equipment, it cost nothing and doesn’t cause any injuries. The walk has to be brisk , steady for at least thirty minutes, and the heart rate should go up depending on your fitness level, age and medical conditions. Of course what ever form of exercise you choose it should be fun and brings you joy otherwise you are unlikely to continue it for any length of time. You may want to do different exercises on different days; you may want to rotate cycling , walking, running and swimming on different days of the week. What ever works for you is the best. That way you are likely to do it on regular basis and will bring you happiness, joy , sense of well being and reduced anxiety.

Eating right to stay calm is also important. Common offender for making anxiety worse is caffeine; I love the smell of good coffee and it is so easily available very where that I tend to drink it without even thinking about it until I start to get palpitations. Luckily it doesn’t affect my sleep even if I have it just before going to bed. There are a lot of people who are very sensitive and even one cup a day can induce anxiety or a panic attack. It increases neurotransmitters norepinephrine in the brain which stimulates the sympathetic nervous system in the same way as stress does by releasing adrenaline, which leaves one feeling alert and awake. However , too much caffeine can leave you chronically tense and aroused with a tendency to be anxiety and palpitation prone. It also robs you of Vitamin B1 which is supposed to be good for coping with stress.How much is too much caffeine depends on how each person metabolizes it, some can only tolerate very little others can consume more. Overall it better to reduce the caffeine intake as much as possible.

Low Blood Sugar  or hypoglycemia can precipitate anxiety. It is more likely to occurs when the diet has high proportion of simple carbohydrates; they raise the blood sugar soon after eating ; the body respond by secreting insulin from the panaceas; the insulin plummet the sugar down again causing hypoglycemia, usually about three hours after eating meal with high simple carbohydrate. hypoglycemia may cause symptoms similar to anxiety – light headedness, nervousness, trembling , feeling of unsteadiness or weakness, irritability and palpitation. If one is prone to anxiety the hypoglycemia will just make it worse. hypoglycemia can also occur with acute or chronic stress. The dietary hypoglycemia can be eliminated by increasing the proportion of protein in the diet, eliminate simple carbohydrate , replace them with complex carbohydrate.

Herbs are commonly used to treat anxiety, but they should be regarded as less potent medication. They can interact with other medication, so always check with your doctor before taking them. Commonly used herbs for anxiety are:- Kava ( in some people can cause liver damage), Valerian, passion-flower  and Gotu Kola.

It is important to self nourish ourselves. It should be regarded as a necessity and not as a luxury. In order to function well in the day we must have enough sleep, recreation and rest time. Taking the time to self nourish give you sense of well-being, energy , stamina, presence of mind and calmer, more serene outlook which is important to reduce anxiety. It is especially important with increasing use of  technology in our lives, where we have to respond to phone calls , emails,  faxes and catch up with paper work. On top of all that you have to talk to your clients in calm , professional manner and when you get home your relationship with your loved ones fall short of expectation. It seems one is always racing in the day time to catch up, which for some can be very anxiety provoking. So take downtime for rest, recreation and relationship; get past the workaholism; be willing to do less, exercise;  get good night sleep regularly; pace yourself and take mini breaks; nurture yourself on a daily basis. I made some of these changes in my life few months ago and find I am more productive and happier. However , obligations have a tendency to encroach on the nurturing time ; but we have to remind ourselves we can’t help others without looking after ourselves.

Reduce stress and anxiety by simplifying your life. Down size your living situation, let go of the things you don’t need , do what you want for living, reduce your commute , reduce exposure to TV, live close to nature, tame the telephone, delegate menial chores and learn to say no.

Reduce anxiety by turning of the worry by exercise; by talking to someone; by doing twenty minutes of deep relaxation; listen to evocative music; experience something immediately pleasurable; use visual distraction; express your creativity; find alternative positive obsession; repeat a positive affirmation in a quite place etc

Have plan to cope with anxiety on the spot before it happens, by distractions, affirmations, abdominal breathing , by accepting your anxiety and knowing that  you will get through this episode as well etc.

If you suffer from anxiety and decided to make even some of the changes suggested in these series of posts; and  practice them on daily basis then I am sure you will be able to cope with anxiety much more effectively and maybe even reduce the amount of medication currently required to control your anxiety.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano

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Happy Xmas and New Year – time for reflection

I was going to post my last post on anxiety, but decided to take a break from it; I am sure you dear readers are getting bored with anxiety too; well it soon will be over. Lets make these holidays time of joy, reflection , renewing our bonding with loved ones and others, honouring our ancestors, our teachers , our parents and be grateful for what we have; grateful for what we don’t have, be grateful for our life, grateful  for the this day and grateful for this moment because that is the only real thing ; it is possible the rest is all an illusion. Here are two videos for reflection on things we want and things we don’t want in this world. Have a wonderful holidays, may you be happy, healthy, able to love , able to be loved, without fear, at peace and live with ease.

How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 5 -Think Realistically.

Our mood and feelings about a particular situation are largely determined by what we think. If for example you are stuck in a traffic you can either say to ourself I am going to be stuck here all evening and start worrying about how you will never get all the things you need to get done before tomorrow or you can accept that you are going to be stuck there for a while and take this time to relax before you have to tackle the tasks you planned for the evening. It is the same situation but depending on how you viewed the situation the mood to do the tasks when you get home will be totally different. On the one you could arrive home all anxious and stressed out or you may come home relaxed and ready to tackle the jobs you had lined up for yourself.

Here we are going to look at how our distorted thinking can spark anxiety in us and learn how to  recognize the distorted thinking and replace it with more realistic thinking. Anxiety prone people are quite often engaged in fearful self talk. When they face any perceived difficulty they immediately start thinking “what if  such and such happens?”; what if I panic, then people will laugh at me or what if I am awkward and embarrass myself, that would be horrible etc. Just noticing when you fall into “what if” thinking pattern is the first step towards gaining control over it. But the real benefit come when you start countering the negative – what if thinking – with more positive thoughts which are supportive and reinforce your ability to cope;  such statements as “so what “- “these are just thoughts” or ” this is just a scare talk”.

Type of distorted Patterns of Thoughts which provoke anxiety:

Catastrophizing thinking is when one imagines that some disaster is imminent, and this is based on very little convincing evidence; for example, if cough goes on for more the two weeks then I have a lung cancer, or if I am tired it must mean I have a cancer, or on an exam paper one question was left unanswered means I am going to fail badly or pain with urination means I have sexual transmitted disease etc. Here the bad stuff is over estimated and the your coping ability is under estimated. What are the odds that if you are tired it means you have a cancer. There are lot more other plausible reasons why you maybe tired, not sleeping well, not eating healthy, viral illness, diabetes, hypothyroidism etc. To correct this kind of thinking you have to first identify the distorted thinking, then ask what is the possibility of it being true, almost certainly it going to be very low, then replace it with more realistic thoughts.

Filtering is when you focus on the negative features of the situation and ignoring all the positive ones; for example you do a presentation on the latest product your company has developed and you get a feed back what was good about the presentation and how you can improve it by making minor changes. You just focus on the negatives and decide the presentation wasn’t any good. To counter this kind of thinking one has to stop this pattern of thinking, which is usually habitual and focus instead on the solution to the problem. Stop seeing the glass half empty but focus on the glass being half full.

Polarized Thinking is when things are either black or white ,good or bad, you are perfect or you are a failure – there is no middle ground. You have to stop making black or white judgement, think in term of percentages if you like;  65% good and 45 % bad.

Overgeneralization is an exaggeration. Counter it by quantifying it instead of using words like huge, awful, massive  or minuscule; for example instead of saying massive debt , you could say I owe $24000.

Mind Reading is when you assume what the other person is thinking without actually checking it out with them; you might think your friend didn’t smile at you because he or she is mad with you when in actual fact your friend is having a bad abdominal cramps from eating something that didn’t agree with him or her. You have to counter it by checking it out with the party involve or regarded your assumption as a hypothesis until further confirmation or refutation is available.

Magnifying is another form of exaggeration, where degree or intensity of the problem is overinflated; like minor criticism become scathing criticism, minor obstacles become overwhelming barriers etc. However , your ability to cope with the problem is minimized.This pattern creates a feeling of doom and pessimism which give rise to anxiety. You can counter this kind of thinking by convincing yourself or saying to yourself that ” I can cope” and “I can survive this”

Personalization thinking is when you frequently compare yourself with others, trying to determine who is smarter, more competent, better looking  and so on. You view your own worth as dependent on how you measure up to others. Then you become anxious worrying whether you can actually do measure up to others. You have to catch yourself comparing yourself to others and remind yourself that everyone has strong and weak points. By matching your weak points to someones strong points would be very demoralizing and anxiety provoking.

“Shoulds” are when you have rules about how you and other people should act. If other people don’t follow the rules it angers you and if you don’t follow the rule then you feel guilty; ” I should be a perfect friend, parent and spouse ” , “I should act nice and never display anger”  etc. The personal code of conduct is so demanding that it is impossible to live up to it.  When the you fall short of this demanding conduct it is anxiety provoking. Counter this kind of thinking by avoiding words like should, ought, have to or must. Try to use words like prefer. So you prefer to be a perfect friend , parent or spouse etc.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano

Related articles:-

Gift Giving and Receiving

Christmas can be the best of times or the worst of times. I see lots of patients very happy at christmas time others sad and stressed out. Christmas could be a great time to renew connections , strengthen bonds with friends and the loved ones. It can be a very joyous and spiritual experience. When I was growing in England even though I didn’t understand the significance of christmas, it is was a time which left profound memories from my childhood. Very body seemed happy and helpful; the houses decorated , special food in the shops, snow on the ground , snow ball fights with children and adults, festive music every where; but most of all – my family and friends would get together ,cook, joke, laugh, eat, tell stories, drink chai and watch festive or inspiring movies. It was for me the best of times.

Things have changed since my childhood, people now feel the Xmas holidays have become more materialistic and there is less meaningful connection with others all around. The patients who are stressed and sad usually have no close friends or family , or if they do they can’t afford the gifts people expect at Xmas, resulting in financial hardship. Giving gifts is old and ancient tradition in most cultures. It has been subject of interest to psychologist , anthropologists, economists, marketers  and some philosophers.

A great twentieth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in his book , Thus Spoke Zarathustra,  ” a gift giving virtue is the highest virtue”. There are various interpretations of this statement but I like the one which takes gift as meaning –  ideas, experiences, riches of the soul and all the other sorts of giving; including material things, a smile, act of kindness, love etc….anything of value  that is bestowed upon the world , thus making it a better place.However, before we can give we have to accumulate these riches over time  and then…..” they (riches) flow out of your well as the gift of your love”. So if one can’t afford material things then give love , a story, a smile, act of kindness, a loving touch which will enrich someones life and maybe even inspire  them spiritually; spiritual gift would last them a lifetime or even longer when all the material things are long broken, disintegrated and gone. It is these kinds of gifts I received in my childhood that left me with fond memories, I have no recollection of the toys I was given.

Receiving a gift is an art too. We need to acknowledge the act of gift giving. The point of gift giving only comes about after the gift giver has acquired and perfected the gift over time and is ready to be given freely without any expectation or reciprocity . The gift is ready to be bestowed on someone and through them the gift will help the world to be a better place. We need to show the gift giver that we value and honour him/her for making the gift possible and bestowing it on us by accepting it whole heartedly and joyfully; by showing gratitude; by regarding the gift value as priceless, no matter what the gift maybe.

May our minds broaden over the holidays so be may have the best of times.

Quotes without comment:-

” It was by Your gift that I desired what You give

and no more, by Your gift that those who suckled

me willed to give me what You had given them:

for it was by the love implanted in them by You

that they give so willingly that milk which by

Your gift flowed in the breasts. It was a good for

them that I received good from them, though  I

received it not from them but only through them:

since all good things are from You, O God.”

Augustine, Confessions, 1, 6

“The greatest gift God of his largeness made at the

creation, and the most conformed to his own

excellence, and which he most prizeth,

was the will’s liberty, wherewith creatures intelligent,

both all and alone, were and are endowed.”

Dante, Paradiso,V 19

Resources:

Nietzsche and the origin of virtue

By Lester H. Hunt

Great Treasury of Western Thought

Edited by  Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren.

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How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 4 -Relaxing the Mind.

Relaxing the mind:

Our mind is constantly active from the time we wake up to when we fall asleep. If we are anxious the thoughts in the mind may accelerate to the point where our mind is racing. Unsettled mind can conjure up all sorts of anxiety provoking scenes resulting in more anxiety. Here we are going to look at the strategies that will calm the mind; these include visualization, meditation and calming music or nature sounds. Like the relaxation techniques for the body, to get most benefit one must do them regularly everyday.There are many techniques of meditations and the best way to learn them is from a teacher. However, just to whet your appetite I have posted some videos below which will show you the basic technique so that you can get started.

Visualization:

Meditation:

Music can have a profound effect on the mood , it seems to touch something deep within us. It has the potential to move you to a place beyond anxiety and worries. It can uplift your mood; so collect music that transport you to these different levels of being. I hesitate to provide a list here because everyone has their own favourites.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano

How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 3 Relaxing the Body

Finally we come to what everyone has been waiting for, the strategies for coping with anxiety. The non medication strategies include ; relaxing the body, relaxing the mind, thinking realistically,facing your fears,getting regular exercise, eating right to be calm, nourishing yourself, simplifying you life, turning off your worry and learning how to cope on the spot. There is a role for medication but only in severe cases of anxiety where it is causing severe disruption in the functioning of  persons daily activity. The mild to moderate anxiety can be controlled without drugs.

Please note these strategies has to be practiced regularly to get the full benefit, doing them occasionally will not be sufficient; you have to make these practices part of your life. I know because I have been meditating since I was 13 years old and every time I neglected to do it regularly my life become disorderly, resulting in absolute chaos, and several times in dire consequences. I have finally learned not to neglect this precious gift that my father introduced to me so long ago. Regard these practices as precious gifts and practice them daily. It is more important to be consistent daily rather than to spend longer time but doing them only occasionally. There is more benefit to be had doing it daily for shorter time, of course if you can spend longer then so much the better.

Today we will look at how to relax the body. Anxiety causes physical sensation in our body such as shortness of breath, muscle tension, hyperventilation and palpitations. When we have these sensations in our body it tends to reinforce anxiety producing thought, setting up a vicious cycle. We want to break this cycle by relaxing the body. In a relaxed body there is no room for anxious mind.

Some of the techniques for relaxing the body include progressive muscle relaxation,passive muscle relaxation, abdominal breathing and yoga. I have posted low some videos demonstrating these techniques. I am afraid you will have to sign up for a class to learn yoga.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Passive Muscle Relaxation

Abdominal Breathing Relaxation

Next time we will look at how to relax the mind.  Have a great weekend and my you be happy and at peace.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano

How to cope with anxiety without drugs- part 2 Causes of anxiety

In part one we looked at the different type of anxiety disorders. In this post lets look at the causes of anxiety. The causes will not necessarily help us cure the anxiety ; the cures are independent of whether we know how the anxiety disorder developed. So we can still heal without knowing what caused our anxiety disorder. Usually there are multiple causes operating at different levels that give rise to the anxiety condition; that is why it is rarely possible to cure someone by  eliminating just one causal factor. Some of the causes that causes anxiety maybe hereditary, biological, family background and upbringing, conditioning, recent life changes, our self talk, our personal belief system, our ability to express feeling, our current environmental stressors etc. But in addition the duration or the length of time the anxiety causing factor was present also contribute to final outcome of the anxiety disorder.

Long term predisposing factors are conditions that sets one up from birth or childhood to develop anxiety difficulties later on; such as heredity, dysfunctional parenting, or early trauma or abuse ; for example parental neglect, rejection, over criticism, over punishment, over cautiousness, alcoholism, or physical and/or sexual abuse.

Recent circumstantial causes include situations where there is a heightened level of stress over the past few months such as significant loss, significant life change e.g. major move, starting a new job, illness or recreational drug use – especially cocaine, amphetamines, or marijuana.

Maintaining causes are those factors that are currently in ones behaviour, attitude and lifestyle that keeps anxiety going once it has developed. These include muscle tension, fearful self talk-“what if” thinking, mistaken beliefs about self, others, or life; continued avoidance of fear or fearful situation; lack of movement and exercise; caffeine, sugar, and junk food consumption; lack of self nurturing skills; excessively complicated lifestyle and environment; indulging in habit of worry; and low self-confidence and self worth,  feeling one is a “victim” rather than empowered to ” take charge” of anxiety.

Lastly there are neurobiological causes which include deficiencies and imbalances of neurotransmitters;excessive reactivity of certain brain structures such as amygdala and locus ceruleus; insufficient inhibition of excessive reactivity by the higher brain centres such as the frontal or temporal cortex.

Treating anxiety without drugs is most helpful by modifying the ” maintaining causes” above, they are those factors that keeps the anxiety going once it has been established. The  anxiety  from other causes are indirectly helped once the maintaining causes are eliminated. It is hard to do anything for hereditary factors but one can learn to change ones behaviour to anxiety. The childhood trauma and abuse needs treatment usually from a qualified therapist.

In the next post we will look at some specific techniques for coping with the anxiety and the role for medication.

Resources:-

Coping with Anxiety

By Edmund Bourne  &  Lorna Garano

How to cope with anxiety without drugs:- part 1 Different types of Anxiety Disorders.

Someone recently asked to write about over coming anxiety without drugs. It is a large topic so I will deal with it by posting series of posting, for those who are not interested in anxiety I will try add something interesting on “pages”; so you can get to these posting by pressing the page button on the side bar.

Anxiety can be devastatingly disabling condition.It consumes so much energy, thus keeping us from cultivating qualities that would make us genuinely happy. It affect our family and our work. It is huge cost to the person, family and work. It is very common, up-to 25% of general population in the USA have serious anxiety disorder sometime in their life, I suspect the figures are similar in Canada.

We need to know little bit about different types of anxiety disorder before can talk about specifics about the treatment. Different anxiety type will require different approach to the treatment. There are seven major anxiety disorder, I have posted the video below which explains different types but only mention five of them, they omit agoraphobia and specific phobia; but do explain panic disorder, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder.

Agoraphobia is a fear of having a panic attack in situations that are perceived to be far from safety  or from which escape might be difficult, such driving on a freeway or waiting in a grocery line.

Specific phobia is a strong fear and avoidance of one particular object or situation ; such as spiders, thunderstorms, elevators  or flying.

Here is the video that explains the rest:

Resources:

Coping with Anxiety by Edmund Bourne & Lorna Garano

Paradox of Our Times

Lot of people from the west  visiting the third world countries  often notice that people there are usually happier and more content, even though they are not wealthy; but have enough to meet their basic requirement. For some reason people expect them to be less happy because they don’t have enough “material stuff”. They don’t realize that is exactly why people from the west are not happy. The ” material stuff ” gets in the way of making human connections which is the essence of being happy.  The ” stuff ” disconnects and distract us from forming bonding and attachment to others in our communities. It has come to a point where we don’t even know our neighbours very well. We are on our computers loading ourselves with useless information or playing video games or watching television. There is no time to talk to our friends and neighbours, we think we are happier playing with our stuff.

I really admire the Amish people who consider very carefully before they introduce any technology in their community because they have the wisdom to know that any technology  under the pretext of efficiency is not necessarily good for the crucial human connections in their community. Here is a slide show which show this paradox of our times. …..ENJOY.

Interchange Blog

Interchange Blog

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