Tag Archives: anxiety

Seven Natural Anxiolytics We Love

What do psychologists personally use to manage stress and anxiety?
Like any other strategy or tool, individual preference matters.

Weighted Blanket
I use one that is 20-25 lbs. It’s for grounding through weight and pressure. Pressure preferences are highly variable. Start low.

Vibrating Foam Roller
I use one that’s blue tooth enabled. Releases muscle tension with a variety of massage routines included in an accompanying app.

Leather-bound Writing Journals.
Moleskine is a brand that holds up well over time, no matter how many times you stuff your notebooks in your tote or suitcase.

Soothing Playlists
I like piano and trip hop. Find what clears your head. Important: only use the specific anxiety coping playlist you put together when you are in self-soothing mode. This creates neural associations.

Acupressure/Acupuncture Mat
Lying on a spiky mat may sound more like torture than treat, but once you get past the initial discomfort, the ancient relaxation of acupressure creates deep well-being. I like the Shakti mats.

Brown Noise Machine
We are all familiar with white noise machines. Brown Noise is a deeper version of sound, one that has a much lower pitch. Think of a heavy waterfall or distant thunder.

Golden Milk
Golden milk, also known as ‘haldi doodh’ in Hindi/Urdu or as turmeric milk in western cultures, is a drink with a lot of history. The basic recipe involves combining warm animal or plant milk (coconut, almond, cashew), turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and some kind of sweetener. It has soothing properties that range from the gastrointestinal to the soporific.

(*Embolden Psychology has no third party interest or financial stake in any of these products).
Coming next week: top meditation and relaxation apps, based on the research from neuropsychology.

Also see:
Making Sleep Your Best Friend.
Anxiety toolkit

Anxiety as a Warrior

I teach my teen and kid clients about the purpose of Anxiety. The amygdala is a part of the brain that sets anxiety in motion. It’s actually an Ancient Warrior trying to protect you. Sometimes it becomes overly protective and gives you a turbo boost. This is fuel that is meant to keep you strong, fast, and powerful in case you need to take action. Sometimes you need it, and sometimes just in case. We can work together on that ‘just in case’ part. 

Personal Prescriptions

One of the questions I get asked most frequently by patients: What can I do, if I don’t want to or cannot take medication for anxiety or depression? I say: even if you’re taking medication, you need these. I actually write a prescription for the following recommendations.

* Sweat. Whatever exercise you love or can tolerate, do it most days of the week. Move.

* Sleep. Rest fiercely. We live a life with more obligations and responsibilities than one could imagine. The internet stole the rest. Sleep is the friend we take for granted, but forget that it needs tending. Constantly. For more info see Making Sleep Your Best Friend

* Sunlight/Earth. Get outside, every single day. Even when you cannot, bring nature inside. For more info see The Sun and Mental Health and The Psychology of House Plants.

* Bark/Purr. Spend as much time as possible with companion animals. It lowers your blood pressure, creates oxytocin, and beats loneliness. See also Mental Health and Companion Animals.

* Help. Innately, we need to help others. Whether it’s a neighbor, charity, volunteer opportunity, or community service, giving creates feel-good hormones.  See also The Mental Health Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness.

* Eat. Food is medicine. There is no diet that works for everybody, but figuring out what gives you maximum energy, nutrition, and satisfaction is key. Master cooking a few delicious dishes. See also Turmeric and Mental Health.

* Express. Dance, sing, write, draw, create. Give voice to your experience. Depression stifles our feelings. Anxiety makes it hard to even express them. See also Relaxation Place.

* Play. Watch your favorite shows. Read for pleasure, not work. Play your favorite game: board game, word game, video game. Work on a puzzle. Have regular chats or Zooms set up with your besties if you cannot see them in person. Our brains need downtime. It is essential, not a waste. See also Why It’s Hard to Say Goodbye to Our Favorite Shows.

*Breathe. Martial arts, meditation, yoga, breath work. These activities performed regularly drop tension and stress, empirically. See also Meditation For Troubled Times.

*Pray. Personal spirituality or prayer improves mental health, with robust findings for reductions in anxiety and depression. See also Personal Praying May Boost Mental Health.

*Forgive. Yourself and others. We collect wounds through our years. We often can’t let them go. As important as letting go of the aggression sent our way by others, we MUST let go of self hatred, self blame, and self denial. See also Why Self-Compassion is More Important Than Self-Esteem.

Deep breathing and anxiety

When you feel a wave of anxiety, these are tools that you can use wherever you are.

Your breath is your friend.

  • Acknowledge to yourself that anxiety is occurring.
  • Remember that you’ve dealt with this before, and you made it through.
  • EXHALE a long breath. Yes, exhale. You’re letting it out first.
  • Give yourself a self statement. I’ve done this before, and I will be OK.
  • Breathe in deeply.
  • Exhale. Repeat.
  • Place your hand on your belly. Feel the air going in and out. You are solidly being there for yourself.

Deep breathing lowers your heart rate, reduces stress hormones, and lowers your blood pressure.
Your breath and you: Allies.

Also see: The Anxiety Toolkit.

The Morning Routine Checklist for Anxiety

Wake up at 7 AM.

Stretch.

Check day planner or calendar to mentally set the day.

Brush teeth and wash face.

Take care of companion animals and younger children.

Drink water.

Respond to important overnight texts.

Make bed, tidy room.

Eat healthy breakfast.

Write or journal.

Meditate/Pray.

Go for a twenty minute walk. Even just on your street.

Shower and get dressed.

The foundation holds up the house.

How to keep your mind busy when you’re anxious

How to keep your mind busy when you’re anxious:

Personal

Have an empathy buddy. Check in daily for each other.
Binge watch a show that feels engaging, make it a personal choice.
Organize. Make your desk, room, closet, and kitchen a reflection of what you want.
Try an online workout.
Go outside. The majority of us have a vitamin D deficiency. Sunlight helps us, both mentally and physically.
Try a new recipe. The steps of cooking are great for our frontal lobe functioning.
Find the foods that make you feel good. Simple carbs give us a lift and a crash. Complex carbs and proteins keep us going.
Deep clean your home.
Listen to, read, or watch things that make you laugh and feel uplifted.

Work

Plan, create, and consolidate social media and web content.
Revise, edit, refresh your product and service descriptions.
Volunteer your time and talents. What can you offer to your community, from meal delivery to services online?
Simplify and streamline areas of your life that you can automate. Do you need a cleaning service, a driving service, office help, or even daily help for groceries and errands? Saving time adds to peace of mind.
Build or update your website.
Take an online course. Adding a certification or learning something new creates self efficacy and confidence.
Write a cover letter. Even above your résumé, your networking, and your social media, having a specific letter that emphasizes who you are helps others to really see you.

Seven Subtle Signs of An Anxiety Disorder

Seven signs of an anxiety disorder that are hard to recognize:

  • You feel mentally exhausted. Even the simplest tasks feel huge.
  • Everything annoys you. You feel easily irritated and frustrated by seemingly small things.
  • You feel nervous, even when there is nothing threatening happening in the given moment. You might even wake up feeling a sense of dread.
  • You don’t feel like doing anything. Even things that you usually care about.
  • You feel like numbing out. This might include scrolling through social media or watching Netflix for hours.
  • You feel scattered.  In the middle of doing something, you remember something else that you should’ve done, or something you need to do.
  • Your body isn’t happy. You might have trouble sleeping, waking up, going to the bathroom, or just generally feel sore and achy.

Eight tips to fight loneliness during holidays

Tis the season when we presumably spend our days sipping hot cocoa, eating delicious food, gifting, and doing all sorts of holiday fun-ness with our loved ones, these days, virtually. It’s the jolliest time of year. At least, that’s the lovely picture we’re all marketed for the holidays. The unfortunate reality is this sentimental holiday scenario is anything but the norm.

For many people, this time of year can be a painful reminder of the things they’re not surrounded by. Loneliness happens. And the painful feeling may grow, until you’re convinced you’re destined to be a lonely hermit whom no one wants to be around.

Part of that reason is simply because of our cultural expectations around what the holidays SHOULD be like. When we set our expectations to be one thing, and the reality is something different, we can see it as less than.

Think, for instance, about all of those holiday Hallmark family films that focus on the heartwarming ~feels~ that come from quality time with the fam.

The reality is, though, your IRL or virtual version could easily not match what you see on the screen or with what your neighbors with their beautiful lights and decorations might be experiencing. Coping with the loneliness and holiday blues can be challenging.

Mental health tips:

Recognize how much stress you might be under
Since the holiday season is short and goes quickly it creates a sense of urgency and overwhelm, making you feel like there’s so much to do and so little time to get everything done. Expectation is also a huge cause of stress during the holidays. Everything from holiday decorating to shopping and gift giving come with expectations that are most often unrealistic which causes you to stress about measuring up to those expectations whether they are your own or ones held by family and friends. When people get stressed or feel overwhelmed they can begin to feel alone in their struggles.

Comparison is the thief of joy
People can feel less than, especially when they see everyone else seemingly ‘happy’ and having everything under control. Social media can be a huge culprit of making it seem that everyone else has it all together except you with those happy/perfect pics. Even though social media is for “connecting” with others it can actually do the opposite and make you feel less connected and more alone especially when you compare your life to those you see. Try limiting time on social media.

Don’t isolate yourself, no matter how tempting
When people feel lonely, sad or are struggling they may tend to isolate themselves or feel unmotivated to reach out or interact with others. They may also feel unworthy of someone’s time and that they would burden or inconvenience others by asking them to participate in an activity or by sharing their feelings. They get caught up in their low self-esteem and negative thoughts, and choose to isolate instead of virtually socialize or reach out. The best way to stop and change negative thoughts is by choosing to see them for what they are-as mental distortions, rooted in fear, self-doubt and low self-esteem. Their purpose is to keep us from pursuing relationships and opportunities.

Self compassion
Please ask yourself if this is a kind thought you are telling yourself. Flip the negative self statement to a positive thought, for example if you are struggling with worth and feelings of deserving ask yourself “Who am I not to deserve this?” Start repeating “I am worthy” multiple times throughout the day and you will begin to believe it and act from a place of feeling worthy and deserving. The more you practice positive thinking, the more empowered and less lonely you will feel. I actually have my patients write this down on index cards and carry it around to look at throughout the day. 

Process and be in your feelings
It’s okay to feel sad and to let yourself feel lonely. Everyone has bouts of loneliness at times and often it’s because family may be far away or maybe right now you don’t have a significant other or kids. Spend some time fully feeling your feelings until they dissipate. You can do this by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches you how to be aware of your feelings, to feel them in your body and to allow and accept them without creating a narrative around them. It is OK to cry or feel an intensity of emotions, and in accepting and inviting these feelings to be present they dissipate and more calm and peace prevails.

Engage in the practice of opposite action/emotion
Practice opposite emotion and action, derived from Buddhism, to change your mood by engaging in behavior that is opposite to what your current emotion is pulling from you. For example, if you are angry and feel yourself tensing up, then try to open your posture and uncross your arms. Stretch your body for release. Similarly, if you are feeling sad and lonely and want to withdraw, then make a point to reach out to friends or watch a funny or well loved movie to help mitigate sadness.

The theory behind the skill I teach in my clinical practice to patients that I call OPPOSITE EMOTION is that every emotion is accompanied by an urge to engage in certain behaviors and these behaviors perpetuate the emotion. For example, the most common action urge for anxiety is avoidance. The more you avoid something you fear, the more intense your anxiety will become, and so approaching what you fear will help reduce anxiety both because you learn the situation is okay and because you aren’t continuing to reinforce your fear by avoiding the situation. It is important to note that the goal is not to push away your emotion or suppress it, but rather to work on cultivating another emotion.

Community service and volunteering
Use your energy and resources on behalf of people who need your help. Volunteer to tutor students, as many are struggling with virtual learning; help at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, make food for an elderly neighbor, or volunteer at an animal shelter.

Appreciate what you have
Send cards or a personal note to everyone who means a lot to you. Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude. Make your holidays a spiritual growth time, such as creating a personal ritual, prayer, meditation, or virtual gathering with close friends. I have several friends who have a personal altar at home, and engage in prayer to their ancestors and loved ones who are not present. Find something for you that is meaningful. 

Anxiety and Elections

Anxiety is an ancient emotion that can help us assess and respond to future risks to our safety and security, a basic human psychological need as Maslow taught us, in his hierarchy of needs.  Anxiety refers to a prolonged state of apprehension brought on by uncertainty about future threats. Past threats logged in our neural memories and unconscious can also influence our view of upcoming risk. As such, anxiety is a natural emotion and vital for survival.

In contrast to anxiety, fear is an acute or phasic response to an immediate and identifiable threat. Anxiety has apparently persisted over human history, indicating that it has an important evolutionary role. Simply put, the evolutionary advantage of anxiety could be that it leads individuals to take fewer risks, seek safety, and focus on doing things well. On the other hand, anxiety can limit the risk-taking that advances mental flexibility, growth, and adaptability.

Interestingly, across the data, anxiety has a curvilinear relationship with behavior. For example, if you are moderately anxious, it can spur action and involvement. However, once over the hump of the curve, when anxiety becomes excessive, it leads to destabilizing and even shutting down of behaviors that are productive.
There are certainly plenty of reasons to be anxious about the state of the nation: the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, climate instability, physician burnout, mental and medical health, homeschooling, and racism, among other societal and personal psychosocial stressors. Some mental health professionals are calling 2020 the most challenging year they’ve ever seen.

Also, partisan political warfare, civil unrest, and terrifying conspiracy theories on TV, news media, and the internet. The actual polls confirm intuition: we are a nervous nation. In May 2020, the US Census Bureau found major depressive disorder at the highest level since they recorded statistics. Earlier this year, my professional organization, the American Psychological Association, conducted a “Stress in America” survey, in which they found more than half (about 56%) respondents identified the 2020 election as a significant stressor. At the end of June, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the highest rising levels of anxiety were among young adults, as well as black and Latinx people of all ages.

The physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety, such as feeling tense or having trouble concentrating, can be so uncomfortable that they cause behavioral changes. Fight or flight stress responses range from avoidance to aggression, as well as self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. One can also have anxiety about one’s very existence and the purpose of one’s life. That is called existential anxiety disorders, as coined by the psychologist, Irvin Yalom.

In terms of evolutionary psychology, anxiety helps us survive. We look for threats. One way that anxiety can do this is to organize our cognitive functions quickly in response to danger. Another body of research indicates that isolation induces anxiety. For most of us, being with community helps alleviate anxiety. we need people. What else helps? Keeping to routines and schedules, self-care, engaged participation, and hope through improved mental well-being. And, when needed, seeking mental health professionals. 

What is social anxiety disorder?

My patient is sobbing in the office, stating she could not order her meal in a restaurant, and felt tongue-tied. She was on a date, which also took immense courage. Social anxiety disorder (also called social phobia) is a mental health condition. It is an intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others. Being embarrassed, or feeling foolish becomes a pervasive fear. This fear can affect work, school, and your other day-to-day activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends.

Social anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder. A person with social anxiety disorder feels symptoms of anxiety or fear in social situations, such as meeting new people, dating, being on a job interview, answering a question in class, or having to talk to a cashier in a store. Doing everyday things in front of people—such as eating or drinking in front of others or using a public restroom—also causes anxiety or fear. The person is afraid that he or she will be humiliated, judged, and rejected.

The fear that people with social anxiety disorder have in social situations is so strong that they feel it is beyond their ability to control. As a result, it sometimes gets in the way of going to work, attending school, or doing everyday things. People with social anxiety disorder may worry about these and other things for weeks before they happen. Sometimes, they end up staying away from places or events where they think they might have to do something that will embarrass them. Avoidance creates comfort, but keeps the person from learning the skills to manage the situation.

Social anxiety disorder is not uncommon; research suggests that about 7 to 10 percent of Americans are affected. Without treatment, social anxiety disorder can last for many years or a lifetime and prevent a person from reaching his or her full potential.

What are the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder?
When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder tend to:

  • Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their “mind going blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
  • Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they don’t already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they sometimes wish they could.
  • Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
  • Be very afraid that other people will judge them
  • Stay away from places where there are other people

Patients often ask me what causes social anxiety. Social anxiety disorder sometimes runs in families, but no one knows for sure why some family members have it while others don’t. Researchers have found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety. Some researchers think that misreading of others’ behavior may play a role in causing or worsening social anxiety. For example, you may think that people are staring or frowning at you when they truly are not. Underdeveloped social skills are another possible contributor to social anxiety. For example, if you have underdeveloped social skills, you may feel discouraged after talking with people and may worry about doing it in the future. By learning more about fear and anxiety in the brain, mental health professionals can treat symptoms and help build strategies. 

Social anxiety disorder is generally treated with psychotherapy (sometimes called “talk” therapy), medication, or both. A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful for treating social anxiety disorder. CBT teaches you different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help you feel less anxious and fearful. It can also help you learn and practice social skills. CBT delivered in a group format can also be helpful. Don’t give up on treatment too quickly. Both psychotherapy and medication can take some time to work. A healthy lifestyle and self care can also help combat anxiety. Make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and turn to family and friends who you trust for support.

Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.