Insomnia Technique Bettter Than Counting Sheep

Insomnia from anxiety, worry or thinking too much?  Counting sheep is way too boring for your magnificent brain.  Try this technique instead:

Close your eyes and imagine drawing a big circle. 

• Inside the circle write the number 100 very carefully.  The number must touch the edge of the circle just barely and can’t go outside the circle. 
• Then write the word “deeper” outside of the circle.
• Now erase the number very carefully, as if your eyes were an eraser.  Be careful not to erase any part of the circle, just the number itself.
• Next write 99 in the circle
• Then trace the word deeper
• Erase 99
• Next write 98 in the circle
• Then trace the word deeper
• Erase 98
• Repeat and keep counting down backward until you fall asleep

P.S.  I’ve never made it to the 80’s!

Make a Worry Box

Part of the problem with worry is that it rolls around and around in your head.  It’s the hamster on the wheel.  Or the monkey mind that keeps you awake in the middle of the night.

Try getting those worries out of your head and into a Worry Box.  Take any box and decorate it as you like and put a label on it:  Worry Box. 

When you identify a worry, write it on a piece of paper and put it in the worry box.  When your monkey mind wants to worry about it, go get the piece of paper out of the box.  Make a rule for yourself: You can only worry about it while you are sitting there with the paper in hand, sitting next to your Worry Box.

This technique works well in combination with setting aside “worry time.” [Read more about that HERE.] 

Drug-Free: Is it Possible for You? (Part 2)

One of the main things I do is help people avoid psychiatric medications, especially for anxiety.

In Part 1 of this article last month I wrote about:

• Why my clients who want to get off of medication for anxiety and/or depression have a hard time believing it is possible

• Drug companies’  investment in the “chemical imbalance theory”

• That this is just one “theory” about anxiety and/depression treatment, and it may not be true

This can be hard to believe when we have been inundated with billions of dollars of TV advertising supporting the theory.

But sometimes things are worth questioning.

There was a time we didn’t believe smoking caused cancer.

There was a time we didn’t believe that stress contributed to illness.

Does Research Prove the Theory True?

Significant research challenges the chemical imbalance theory.  [Acknowledgement to Dr. Kelly Brogan MD; see link to her research below.]

o A now famous 2008 study looked at 74 studies testing whether antidepressant drug use showed beneficial results. 38 showed positive results and 36 showed no benefit. Most of the ones that showed no benefit were never published.

o Another review of existing research showed that when unpublished studies were included, placebos (sugar pills with no active ingredient) outperformed antidepressants in more than half of the studies[Placebos work because of the power of the mind to believe they will work.]

o To prove this point further, other research studied patients who were taking Prozac and reported a benefit from the drug.  They lost their perceived benefit if they believed that they might be getting a placebo sugar pill – even though they were actually still getting the Prozac.

o A meta-analysis (which is a review of a large number of existing studies) found that when patients reported feeling better, only 27% of the reported benefit was from medication.

These are just a very few examples that leave a lot of room for questioning.

If you’re interested in links to these studies and more, you can find more science and technical information in Dr. Kelly Brogan’s article “Depression: It’s Not Your Serotonin.   

How Psychiatric Medications are Prescribed Today

Most psychiatric medications are prescribed by primary care providers, with anti-anxiety drugs being the most prescribed

At the same time, research shows more and more people are being prescribed psychiatric drugs without having a psychiatric diagnosis.

I believe that doctors are caring and want to help.  They do their best to help relieve people’s symptoms with the time and tools they have to offer.  Medication is their primary tool. And time is unfortunately limited – often times limited to 10-15 minute appointments.  

My clients often tell me how this leaves them feeling under-informed, frustrated, limited, helpless, and even defective (i.e. I have a disorder, I have a permanent brain imbalance, I have a defect, I am weak, I’m not like normal people, I’ll be like this forever).

[By the way, ALL of those thoughts and feelings themselves are likely to cause anxiety and depression!]

Is There a Better Way?

Lots of experts have differing opinions about that. 

I happen to believe in alternatives to medication which are proven by research to be equally or more effective. These have nothing to do with chemical imbalance.  [HINT: The gold standard treatment for anxiety and panic is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).]  

What do you believe? 

I encourage you to question, to be aware, to be informed and know that there is more than one way to feel better.  Ask yourself what makes sense to you.

Sometimes things are worth questioning.

There was a time when we all believed that the world was flat.

 

 

Disclaimer:  The topic of prescription medication can be a challenging one for many people. I encourage you to take responsibility for being fully informed and confident making the right healthcare choice for yourself. This article is not medical advice and does not replace consultation with a qualified healthcare professional of your choosing. Never make medication changes on your own.

Drug-Free: Is it Possible for You? (Part 1)

One of the main things I do is help people avoid psychiatric medications, especially for anxiety.

That’s not always the goal but that often is the result of holistic anxiety treatment.  I have many clients who are sensitive to medications, or just plain tired of drugs that don’t really solve their whole problem.

Believe It Is Possible?

People want to get off of psychiatric medications for anxiety but they don’t believe it is possible.  Why?

• They are told that they have a chemical imbalance in their brain (because of this they tend to feel defective, helpless).

• They are told that the only thing they can do is take drugs.

• They are told they will have to do this for the rest of their lives.

• They are afraid to ask questions of their doctor, or don’t know what to ask, or don’t have enough time to ask questions.

Did You Know?

Learn about anxiety treatment without drugs• The chemical imbalance theory about anxiety and depression is just one theory.  In my reading, some prominent doctors and researchers call this theory a “myth.”

• This theory is highly promoted by drug companies who have everything to gain from it.  They actively market to both doctors and the general public (through billions of dollars’ worth of TV commercials).

• Drug companies promote their drugs routinely to doctors by inviting them to “drug dinners” at fancy restaurants with the drug companies footing the bill.

• Serotonin is the main chemical that the chemical imbalance theory was based upon.  There is no way to measure levels of serotonin in the living brain. Also, it is now known that 90-95% of the body’s serotonin is found in the stomach, not in the brain. (Then how can the brain be so out of balance to warrant a need for brain altering drugs?)

• The FDA does not do its own independent research.  It merely reviews the results of research the drug companies themselves conduct and/or pay for.

• The result is that drug companies (with obvious vested interest in the chemical imbalance theory) pay for the vast majority of research about psychiatric medications. 

• If drug companies conduct and/or pay for a study that does not show results in their favor, they do not have to submit it and the FDA never has to see it.

• Research paid for by the National Institute of Mental Health has failed to show that psychiatric medications regularly help a majority of people get well and stay well.

• It is well known that there is about a 30-80% placebo effect with any medication (meaning a sugar pill with no active ingredients works just as well because of the power of the human mind to believe it will work).

• Psychiatric medications have up to 84 side effects! (as Prozac does per webmd.com).

• Additionally, there are long-term risks of psychiatric medications.

• Tapering off of psychiatric medications can be difficult and be accompanied by withdrawal. It must be done under close medical supervision (so don’t make medication changes on your own).

What To Make of All This?

The average person can’t really understand all the complexities of human biology and neuroscience.

It’s also really hard to understand all the technicalities of research methods and how test results can be manipulated and interpreted.  The hardest class I’ve ever taken in my life was the research methods class required as part of my master’s degree!

 

Q:  With so much conflicting and confusing information, what can we actually take away from all this?

A: To QUESTION.  To be aware.  To keep yourself informed.  To ask yourself what makes sense to you.  To listen to your INNER WISDOM about what is right for you and what isn’t.

In Part 2 on this topic (Click HERE) , I provide an overview of significant research that challenges the chemical imbalance theory.

Disclaimer:  The topic of prescription medication can be a challenging one for many people. I encourage you to take responsibility for being fully informed and confident making the right healthcare choice for yourself. This article is not medical advice and does not replace consultation with a qualified healthcare professional of your choosing.

Mindfulness / Self-Compassion to Calm Anxiety

loveyourselfmore-stencilSelf-compassion is part of Mindfulness, and it helps to reduce negative thinking and rumination (obsessive or repetitive thinking) while activating the self-soothing states of the brain.

A core component of self-compassion is the understanding that you are not alone in what you are experiencing.

Put both hands on your stomach and remind yourself that anxiety is actually a common part of the human experience.  You are not alone in what you are feeling and struggling with right now. In this very moment, there are thousands if not millions of people who are experiencing the same or very similar feelings. You are not alone.

(*Adapted from and thanks to Elisha Goldstein, PhD)

“Just Think Positive” Doesn’t Work

Negative thinking is a big problem with both anxiety and depression. It’s so easy for the mind to get stuck in habitual patterns of seeing the negative.  The mind can dwell, or even obsess, on worst case scenarios.  In fact, the fight-or-flight mechanism in your brain is programmed to do just that.

Have you ever been stuck in negative thinking only to have a friend or family member say “just think more positive!”  

Well…duh.  If you could do that, you would have already done it.

newmindset-dreamstime_xs_52555226It is possible to transform negative thinking, but you need to learn HOW to turn your thoughts around to get a new mindset. That doesn’t just happen automatically.  And it doesn’t happen by merely telling yourself to think more positive.

It’s pretty impossible to “just think positive” without learning some specific ways to reframe your thinking.  (This is the whole basis of CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

Bottles: Half Empty or Half Full?

My Vipassana meditation teacher told a story of a mother in India with three sons…

She asked her first son to take an empty bottle to the market and have it filled with oil and she gave him three rupees to do so. Her son had the bottle filled and on his way home, he stumbled and half of the oil spilled out of the bottle. He became very upset and ran home crying.  Because he thought he was a failure, he felt shame and guilt and he was afraid to tell his mother what had happened.

Next the mother asked her second son to take an empty bottle to the market and have it filled with oil and gave him three rupees also. This son also had his bottle filled, but the same thing happened. He fell on the way home and spilled half the oil. But this second son was so happy that there was still half of the oil left in the bottle that he ran all the way home smiling.  He told his mother: “Look what happened – I stumbled but I was able to save half of the oil!”

Finally, the mother asked her third son to do the same thing. Unfortunately, the same thing happened to the third son. He ran all the way home very excited. He told his mother: “Look what happened – I stumbled but I was able to save half the oil! Now I can just get an odd job tomorrow and earn enough money to refill the whole jar!”

halfemptyhalffull-stencilThinking: Half Empty or Half Full?

Were the bottles of these 3 boys half empty or half full?

Was their thinking half empty or half full?

The human mind is wired to see the negative first – the bottle is half empty.  But you can train yourself to also see something good in your situation.

• Gratitude is one way to shift out of a negative mindset.

The third son was surely upset about spilling some of the oil.  But he quickly found something to be grateful for in his situation.

Negative thinking keeps you stuck.  Gratitude opens doors to a new mindset. A new mindset is necessary to make change and to get new results in your life.

• Taking positive action is another effective way to turn negative thinking around.

By adding positive action (getting an odd job tomorrow) to a seemingly negative situation, the third son did not get stuck in half empty thinking.  He was able to turn his thinking around and move on with a new mindset.

Next time you find yourself dwelling on a half empty situation, ask yourself:

What is one positive action I could take any way?

One small action can create enough shift for you to start turning those thoughts around, so you can start seeing your glass getting fuller by the minute.

• Imagine a Silver Lining

Close your eyes and ask yourself:

• If I could dare to hope for just one positive thing in this situation, what would it be?
• If I had one wish that could be granted in this situation, what is one positive outcome, or positive aspect, that I would wish for?

Let yourself imagine it even if you can’t see how that one positive thing could actually become possible.  Imagination changes the way the neural pathways in your brain fire up, making way for new thoughts.

Stop Negative Thinking with CBT

cbtthinkingprocess-dreamstime_xs_36181364The best long term strategy for getting rid of negative thinking patterns is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). 

With CBT, you learn to:

1) correctly identify distorted, negative “stinking thinking”
2) shift negative thinking by refuting it with more accurate, logical thoughts
3) learn very specific tools and strategies to turn negative thinking around and lessen its power over you

By refuting negative thinking over and over again, the neural pathways in your brain literally change and the negative pattern diminishes over time.  Read more about CBT for Negative Thinking

Write Down Your Great Things

worry-stencil-default-1Worries are thoughts about negative things that may or may not happen in the future.

To combat worry, write down the positive things that are actually happening in your life now.

Research at the University of Chicago shows that writing down your positive feelings for a few minutes had these results:

• significantly lowered worry
• reduced harmful cortisol levels
• raised performance on tests on memory and critical thinking skills

Secret Ways Technology Hurts Relationships

Most of you will know intuitively the types of problems that technology can cause in relationships. Your own experience has taught you this.

My experience with clients proves this also, and scientific research studies also confirm that technology has as many downsides as upsides when it comes to relationships.

Feeling Connected or Neglected?

I love visiting my daughter but we just don’t talk like we used to. I wonder why?

Smartphones and other portable devices often get in the way of face-to-face, meaningful interactions. How many times have you been sitting with someone, and then in the middle of conversation, they start using their cell phone for something?

Perhaps the email, text or phone call they just got is more important than you? Perhaps the job/career that is beckoning on the smartphone is more important than you? We have all felt this way.

And perhaps you have even fallen into the same trap yourself, and made other people feel that way when they are sitting with you. My husband called me on it the other day. It happens.

Even though we are sitting across from each other, technology enables the interruptions and attention to other priorities that prevents us from really being present. The body is present but the mind goes elsewhere, so it is difficult to feel real connection.

The iPhone Effect

Research studies show that smartphones actually change the interpersonal connection process (often referred to as the iPhone effect).

A famous 2014 study at Virginia Tech found that the mere presence of a smartphone made partners less likely to talk about their feelings.

The mere presence of a smartphone made connections less meaningful, and partners were less understanding of each other.

But here’s the kicker…

These negative consequences occurred even if the phone was not actually in use, but just sitting as an object in the background!

Does Your Partner Have Secrets?

Ever wonder what your partner is spending so much time doing on his or her phone?

The phone provides a private portal to private conversations and private activities. Passwords on phones send a message that there is something private to be kept hidden. Secrets.

Partners have always been able to keep secrets from each other, but the technology makes it so much easier, more tempting, and more prevalent. Even if no secrets are actually being kept, the phone itself and our phone habits present new worries about the possibility.

Here’s a common scenario I see with my clients:

tech-adultry-dreamstime_xs_13830684Partner #1 is texting very regularly with a “friend” of the opposite sex from the gym, or someplace where Partner #2 is not involved.

Partner #2 finds out about this and asks questions.

Partner #1 says this is an “innocent and appropriate friendship.”

But this “innocent” friendship starts to interfere in the partners’ relationship.

Partner #2 wonders about the appropriateness of the friendship.

Partner #1 starts to hide or delete text messages. Secrets.

Hiding often turns into lies. All of this leads to trust issues, and arguments.

If this is just an appropriate friendship, then why does Partner #1 continue with hiding, deleting texts, putting passwords on their phone? Because technology makes it so easy to do so.

Before the popularity of smartphones, Partner #1 would have had to make a phone call or setup a meeting with the “friend.”  Often, these steps probably would not have been taken. But the smartphone makes it so easy.

And the line between appropriate and inappropriate friendships can get very blurry.

After That?

The availability of that instant connection with someone else also makes it easier to have an emotional affair .  It can even help facilitate logistics for a sexual affair.  Obviously, technology does not cause these things, but it is being used as a tool to make these things more accessible and easier and therefore more prevalent.

Technology and the internet at your fingertips, has also created the phenomenon called sexting, and increased the accessibility and prevalence of pornography.

All of these things affect the dynamics and communication within a relationship.  Technology  has created some new problems within relationships.

This makes it more important than ever for couples to connect and communicate face-to-face, and to talk about how technology may be impacting their lives and their relationship.

Take Micro-Breaks

In all the busyness and doingness of your day, stress and anxiety continually build up. Your mind and body need more breaks.

Try taking micro-breaks many times a day, perhaps even many times an hour. Micro-breaks can last for just 5-60 seconds at a time. You can try many different things on your micro-breaks.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:cloud-stencil

• Stand up and stretch
• Stare out a window
• Close your eyes
• Breathe in through your nose and out forcefully through your mouth
• Step outside and look at the clouds
• Give yourself a quick hand massage
• Drink a glass of water
• Visualize the best part of your last vacation
• Imagine a peaceful nature scene – by mountain, lake, river, forest

 

Here’s what NOT to do on your micro-breaks:to-do-buster-stencil-default

• Do not multi-task
• Do not use any electronics
• Do not look at your To Do List
• Do not make a mental To Do List
• Do not eat junk food
• Do not talk to someone else

10 Great Ways to Love Yourself – Be Your Own Valentine

iloveme-stencilI talk a lot about loving yourself. Often times, my clients aren’t sure what that really means.

Selfish?

Many people resist the idea of loving yourself because it feels “selfish” and people have a lot of negative connotations about the word “selfish.”

Taking good care of yourself, valuing yourself, and giving yourself the respect you deserve is not selfish. It’s more like putting your own oxygen mask on first.

Gifts that Say I Love You to Yourself

1. Date Night with The Most Important Person in Your Life. (YOU!) Put one on the calendar right now and make it just as important (or more so!) as all your other appointments. Don’t cancel on yourself.

2. Be Thankful for Everything. One of the best ways to combat negative thinking, gratitude is a gift to yourself. It’s just about guaranteed to help you feel happier.

3. Take a Bath. People don’t take the time for a bath anymore. This is a gift of time and calming for your nervous system and muscles. Try this Ultrabath.

4. Accept That Some People Won’t Like You. So what? It’s inevitable. Put an end to people-pleasing and you will have more time and energy to do what pleases you.

5. Sleep. Is this the first think you cut out when your life gets inevitably busy? Your investment in sleep means you feel better, have a more positive attitude, and have more energy to take good care of yourself and your loved ones. Sleep equals more love all around!

6. Eat One Healthy Thing Each Day. Feeding yourself well is a concrete way to tell yourself that you are worth being treating well.

7. Let Yourself Off the Hook. Forgive yourself for past mistakes, choices, for not being perfect… in other words, for being a human being like everyone else. Holding on only harms yourself, while letting go will make you lighter, happier, and more loving of yourself and others.

8. Digital Detox. Constant connection can be exhausting. The other day I forgot my phone when I left home for yoga class followed by meeting a friend at a coffee shop. After momentary withdrawal symptoms, I found it so freeing. Take a little break.

valentine-bemyown-stencil9. See Yourself as an Innocent Child. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to an innocent child (or loved one). The self-talk in your head can be so harsh. Strive to be nicer to yourself in your head.

10. Allow Yourself Some Down Time. I like to tell myself that I can do it all – I just can’t do it all at once! You deserve a break from all the “doing.” Allow yourself the gift of some space in your schedule.

BONUS:

Look in the Mirror. This can be the hardest one of all for some people. Look in the mirror and tell yourself out loud “I love you.” Keep looking at your unique and amazing self for 1 minute without looking away.

You are incredible and perfect exactly the way you are.