Category: Mental Health

mindulness Christmas shopping

Mindful Christmas Shopping

Of all the clinical interventions that I might use, I find mindfulness to be one of the most effective for clients. Using Mindfulness vs. not, is akin to using a navigation system or not. Mindfulness is a constant gentle awareness of where we are and where we are going. It prevents us from getting lost. Even in situations like an overcrowded shopping mall.

While Christmas shopping is a buzz-kill for many of us, you can get transcend the manic energy of it all by practicing Mindful Christmas Shopping.

These tips are useful to strengthen a mindfulness practice during the holidays.

  • KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetie

The key to cultivating mindfulness is simply practice, practice, and more practice. When a person is learning mindfulness, they will often slip in and out of awareness frequently, especially in the beginning. The more they practice they longer they will stay in a state of mindfulness, and the deeper their practice will become.  It is that simple.

  • Practice mindfulness during daily activities such as eating, walking, or driving.

You do not have to be sitting in lotus position in an ashram to practice mindfulness. Try to practice regularly  throughout the day. And Yes, you can even practice Mindful Christmas shopping while you are at the mall

  • Come Back

Be present. The most valuable energy you can give to yourself, relationships, and your work, is your full presence. Multi-tasking does not bring right action or right effort to most situations. It does bring scattered-ness and impatience.

  • Follow your breath. Mindful Christmas Shopping Instruction

Unite your body with your mind. Through mindful breathing to return to the present moment.

  • Use a phone app.

Several mindfulness apps have been made available which can be quite helpful.  My favorite is a mindfulness bell which chimes at specified intervals  to remind me to come back to the present moment.

Mindfulness strategies could be useful to curb any compulsive or obsessive behavior. To apply mindfulness  to  curb compulsive spending an individual might find these strategies useful:

  • Know when you are in a trance.

Being unconsciousness or unaware lends itself to acting on urges in a trance-like state. To be fully in the present moment, one is aware of their actions, perceptions, and feelings.  Know when the energy of compulsive behaviors  rise up. A conscious awareness of the unwanted urges is a critical first step to change.

  • Are you a puppet and your emotions the puppeteer?

Identify the emotional levers manipulating the behavior. Compulsive behaviors often point to unpleasant feelings we are trying to deny or minimize. Feelings that could be a precursor to compulsive spending include boredom, anxiety, or sadness.

  • This too will pass

Realize the nature of Impermanence. Mindfulness points to the impermanent nature of all phenomena. For example, our likes become dislikes and our dislikes become likes. Realize the impermanent nature of desire and attachment. The next purchase that we think we have to have in just a matter of time will become the thing you no longer want.

  • Attaching ethical guidelines to your mindful life

Understand your consumption. Consumer spending is as much an expression of consumption as what you had for breakfast. Who or what are you supporting through your next purchase? Understand that our spending habits influence economics, the environment, and human rights. Consider passing on those purchases which have ridiculously wasteful packaging or limit spending with companies who have notoriously working conditions for their employees.

be in peace – diane

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Mental Health and the 2016 Presidential Election

Your Mental Health and the 2016 Presidential Election

 The Connection Between Your Mental Health and the 2016 Presidential Election

There seems to be a new issue in the offices of many psychotherapist around the country.  People are coming to therapy to discuss the connection between their mental health and the 2016 Presidential election

People are reporting a mental health decline since the election, marked by intense sadness, fear, and anger.

Our relationships with family and friends are taking a hit as well.  The discord in inter-personal relationships make us feel more isolated, invisible and alone which intensifies these emotions.

These  “clinical issues” are certainly not new for therapist.  However, a collective emotional reaction being triggered by a presidential election is a new phenomenon.

If you feel as though your mental health has deteriorated since the presidential election, understanding your reaction, and knowing how to respond with right action and right effort, can help balance and equalize your well-being

Understand Your Emotional Response

If you have been a victim of, or witnessed acts of violence such as sexual assault, bullying or racial discrimination, re-exposure to a similar threat can trigger responses associated with the fight/flight/freeze response such as fear, anger, or sadness. For example, the sexual predatory language used by President Elect Donald Trump may trigger a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder flavored reaction for women who have been sexually assaulted. The same is true for victims of racial discrimination and bulling. The exposure to the recent racially charged acts of violence can trigger a fight/flight/freeze response in those who have been a victim or or witnessed this type of violence.

Empowerment and Healing

If you have felt emotional upset by recent current affairs, this does not make you weak or thin-skinned. Don’t buy into this perspective which only re-victimizes the victim.

Although you may have been victimized, you are still responsible for your own actions, thinking processes and how you regulate your emotions.  

Victims have a responsibility to understand and take care of the part of themselves that is wounded.

When we begin to feel in control again, our sense of autonomy, confidence, and self-mastery is enhanced. Walking a path that empowers, although not easy, is the path which leads to healing.   

What You Can Do?

  • Engage in Self-Care – Do the things that make you feel cared for. Approach yourself with the nurturing love of a mother or father that protects, heals and soothes. Self-care does not mean you must spend a lot of money. Self-care might include  subtle actions such as speaking meaningful words of affirmation and encouragement to yourself.
  • Therapy – Release some of the pain by talking about it. Express your emotions. Therapist are trained to help us understand how we internalize emotions in a hurtful manner such as self-blame. If you cannot talk to a therapist consider a faith leader, a trusted friend or family member who will listen with compassion.
  • Master Yourself – Every long journey begins with the first step. Take the first small step to self-mastery. You do have the capacity to feel in control, safe and connected. Take risk and be willing to try new things. There are others out there who have suffered similar traumas, and like a phoenix, they have risen out of the ashes.
  • Unplug – Many of us have become obsessed with the latest political developments. If watching the news upsets you beyond what might feel like a normal response, take a break. Unplug. You don’t have to put your head in the sand or become uninformed, just take a little break. Instead, allow something uplifting to become the object of your mind such as spiritually uplifting material.

Be in peace – diane

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What is the best time of day to meditate ?

As a psychotherapist, I offer clients skills which promote emotional and mental well-being.  If I could give my clients one gift, it would be that they learn to meditate . For new students, practical questions such as what is the best time to meditate are important.

“If I could give my clients one gift, it would be a regular meditation practice. ” 

Find a teacher:

When learning to meditate, having a teacher is important. Different types of meditation should be matched to fit the needs and personality of the student. Also, new students may experience periods of frustration as they begin to meditate.  Attempts to control a racing “monkey mind ” is difficult in the beginning. Individuals may experience difficulty sitting still.  Zen Meditation practice teaches to face your discomfort with the energy of a smile. In other words, you lovingly observe the discomfort without attaching to it.

As far as time –  there are specific times of day to meditate that are particularly conducive to a experiencing a deep meditative state.

“Rolling in or out of bed and directly into your meditation practice provides an obvious advantage. Your  brain is already humming at a frequency that is conducive to a meditative state”

There are two times of the day that are particularly advantageous, for meditation but any time of the day will be beneficial to your mental and emotional health. If you cannot accommodate these suggested “best” times it is better to practice when ever you have a chance. Be as diligent as possible with your practice.  Daily meditation is like a savings account. You are making deposits into the account of calmness, clarity and peace and you make withdrawals on those feelings when they are most needed such as during times of stress.

However, if possible the best times of the day to mediate are:

Women Meditate Sitting on Rock
Meditation during specific times might deepen the meditation experience because of corresponding brain wave frequencies.
  • First thing in the morning

  • Before bed time

These times periods are optimal because of corresponding brain wave activity. Meditative states have a corresponding brain wave frequency. The brain wave frequencies observed in meditation are the same frequencies experienced when we are coming in or out of sleep cycles.  Rolling in or out of bed directly into your meditation pillow provides an obvious advantage. Your brain is already humming at a frequency that is conducive to a deep meditative state.  Add a dose of focused awareness, and you have a deep meditation experience.

Why are these times of the day better?

Explanations of brain wave frequencies and brain functioning help us understand why meditation in the morning or at night has advantages.

Beta (14-40 Hz) – The waking consciousness and reasoning waves: Beta brain waves are associated with normal waking consciousness and heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. Beta waves are important for effective functioning throughout the day, they can also translate into stress anxiety and restlessness.

Alpha (7.5-14Hz) – The deep relaxation wave: Alpha waves are associated with deep relaxation. This usually occurs when you close your eyes, when you slip into a lovely daydream, or during light meditation. Alpha is responsible for heightening your imagination, visualization, learning and concentration. The voice of Alpha is your intuition which becomes clearer and more profound the closer you get to 7.5Hz.

Theta (4-7.5) – The deep meditation and sleep wave: Theta is present when sleeping, when in deep meditation and light sleep. It is the realm of your sub consciousness and only experienced momentarily as you drift off to sleep.   Research has shown that a sense of deep spiritual connection and unity with the universe can be experienced at Theta. Theta is where you experience vivid visualization, great inspiration profound creativity and exceptional insight. The voice of Theta is silent.

Delta (0.5 – 4Hz) – The deep sleep wave: The delta frequency is the slowest. It is experienced in deep dreamless sleep. In this state, awareness is fully detached. It is the only brainwave that is important for the healing process. Not having enough Delta can be dangerous to health.

Gamma (above 4OHz) The insight wave: this brain wave is the most recently discovered. It is the fastest of all frequencies. It is associated with burst of insight and high level of information processing.

Please leave a comment below if you have any further questions about meditation or if there is an aspect of meditation you would be interested in seeing in a blog post.

Be in peace – diane

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Ninja Ego

Ninga Ego 

The Ninja Ego

The ego. An elusive but dominating force. It sneaks up on us and takes control of our thoughts, words, and behaviors in a wink of an eye. I have had many discussions with clients, friends and family about the importance of understanding one’s ego.  I have been trying to understand mine for a long time.

The persona of my ego is a ninja. It is shadowy, elusive, potentially dangerous but never far away.

When the conditions are right my ego-ninja takes control of the wheel by hi-jacking perceptions, emotions, rational thinking and behaviors. Often the agenda of my ninja are at odds with my true objectives.

The Latest Coup Attempt 

Please let me provide a little background information for the recent conditions which made a coup attempt perfect for my ninja . My family, like many families, has suffered a great deal due to alcoholism and substance abuse. If you have or have had substance abuse in your family, you know that it is the bad gift that keeps on giving through the years and sometimes, sadly through generations.

Right Conditions

The conditions could not have been more perfect for my ninja ego. It’s summer and I’m at a pool party. An acquaintance, I will call Dean, is drinking shots of Jack Daniels. And…as people do when drinking Jack Daniels…. Dean is becoming obnoxious and loud. A group of vibrant 20 year old girls are at his table. Dean tries  to convince the young women to drink shots with him. None of them do thank goodness. However, Dean was perfectly modeling a crash course in Binge Drinking 101. Responsible Drinking 101 is the course that would benefit the young women. Not to mention Dean’s is breaking the law. And, not to mention, maybe the families of these young women would like to be the ones who introduce them to alcohol by modeling responsible drinking ie Now that you are legal drinking age, would you a glass of wine with dinner?

The Ninja Takes Control

After observing Dean’s actions, I was quite angry. After calming down, I decided to talk to Dean and explain why his actions were not OK on many levels. The discussion I planned to have with Dean began running through my head. It was only through a deep awareness that I understood what Ninja Ego truly wanted. My true objectives were to try and help Dean see how his actions encourage binge drinking of hard whisky to young women and why that is dangerous.   Ninja had a different agenda. Because of my past pain, Ninja Ego wanted to make Dean feel stupid and ashamed. Trying to shed some light on Dean’s behavior had taken back seat to Ninja Egos objectives. Ninja Ego wanted Dean to pay… a little. And at the end of the conversation, Ninja wanted to feel superior and smarter. Yes, Dean should be told that what he did was not smart and explain why. But Ninja wanted more

Surprise….You Too Have an Ninja Too

Your ego has ninja qualities too. Look for them. Understand them. What makes your ninja ego plan a coup? To answer this ask yourself, what do you defend? Is your existence or worth based on some idea of what it  is to be a good man/woman, Republican/Democrat, vegetarian/meat-eater, victim, Protector of Young Women?

When anger, frustration, judgement, intolerance arise, your ninja ego ninja is close by. She is elusive. She is in the shadows, but she is there. Before you know it your good intentions are vanquished.

The most interesting aspect of this experience was the subtle nature of ninja. I barely saw the true intentions, which were to make Dean feel bad, and for me to feel superior and smarter. It was if ninja ego was somewhere, very, very far  back in my subconscious mind.

I know you are there ninja ego. I am watching out for you.

be in peace – diane

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Watching the news is stressing you out

Is Watching the News Stressing You Out?

Watching the news is stressing you out

Images in the news of  police violence, racial tension, domestic and international terrorist attacks, and a divisive Presidential Election are constantly streaming. These images become part of our conscious mind. The result is that 

Watching the news is having a negative affect on our mental health.

I have noticed relationships between family and friends straining and breaking  as we argue and disagree about the causes and solutions to our problems. What I know about problems and solutions is this: Creative and solutions focused thinking, deep listening and flexibility are the ingredients  needed to solve the complicated problems we face in our families and communities. Stress, worry, ego and anxiety will always prevent collaboration and understanding.

If you are stressed out, understanding the root cause is critical, and will dictate the best course of treatment. The root causes of anxiety vary a great deal from one person to the next. Some of us are predisposed to anxiety because of heredity factors.   

We inherit personality types from our parents which make us susceptible to becoming  easily excited, aroused or threatened.

Anxiety might also be sustained through our beliefs, behaviors, or emotions. When we sustain anxiety we are often engaged in anxious self-talk, irrational beliefs, or disassociating from feelings.

Irrational beliefs often have their genesis in childhood. We inherit them from our family of origin.

For example, if the unspoken family rule was “We don’t talk about feelings”, we may assume this behavior. Irrational beliefs further support the behavior. We may subconsciously  think “I am weak when I talk about feelings”. As the cycle continues as we begin to disassociate. We try not to feel anything when in reality, anger, worry and fear is marinating somewhere deep inside, waiting for the right conditions to erupt. The final nail in the coffin occurs when we begin to only pay attention to the stimulus that supports our entrenched beliefs and perceptions. We see what we want to see. We only tune in to the news or radio shows which will support our pre-existing beliefs.

Short-term causes of anxiety are driven by experiences we have in the world. A personal experience with a traumatic event is the hallmark experience which leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Witnessing a traumatic event in which we feel threatened or in danger can create PTSD symptoms.

PTSD is particularly relevant  concern today. When we turn on the news we risk witnessing a traumatic event in which we feel personally threatened.

Here are a few solutions to reduce anxiety, stress and worry.

  • A healthy mind must be supported by a healthy life style.

    If your lifestyle lacks exercise, a healthy diet or adequate rest, try to address these issues first. Begin with small changes. If a gym membership makes you feel overwhelmed, begin with a 15 minute walk.

  • Minimize the personality traits that feed anxiety.

    If you are a glass half-empty personality, try to see the glass  half-full. Don’t expect changes to come all at once. This will be a gradual process.  Start with a paradigm changes few times during the day.  I like the book Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson which provides great exercises for changing how we internalize environmental stimulus from a half-empty to a half-full paradigm.

  • Find a therapist.

    Maintaining causes or short term causes of anxiety, are often sustained through a complex interplay of cognition, behaviors, perceptions, and emoting. It is very helpful to have an objective person to help you figure it out, provide support, and offer specific treatments. Use list services  such as Psychologytoday.com or Networktherapy.com to find therapist in your area. These websites also allow for searching by criteria such as areas of specialty, treatment options, gender and religion

  • Practice mindfulness.

    Breathe and be in the present moment. Learn to turn down the racing thoughts. Stop right now and practice. Find something in the present moment that is beautiful, graceful, calming. Often we over-look stimulus in the present moment that will bring us peace, joy, or calm. There are many options for learning mindfulness. Meetup typically offers local groups that provide instruction and support for learning and practicing.  I learned a great deal about mindfulness from reading books. You A. re Here by Zen Master Tich Nhat Hanh is beautifully written, simple and easy to apply. If you are new to meditation, begin with guided meditations which can be found on-line for free.

  • Use a comprehensive treatment approach.

    .We are holistic beings. A change in our physical behavior can change our attitude and vice versa. Do not limit your treatment to one area. If you take up exercise, that will likely reduce anxiety or other psychological symptoms. Try to expand your consciousness and be willing to try changing your behaviors, thinking patterns and how you emote. You can then learn to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.

I often tell clients to try and be the best version of you. This best version is not a version that is hyper-vigilant, afraid, or worried. The best version is flexible, expressive, authentic, happy and calm. Be this. The world needs you at your best.

be well, diane

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Energy Psychology Named Evidenced Based Treatment

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently recognized Thought Field Therapy, a prequel of energy psychology, as an evidenced based treatment in mental health. This is a big deal particularly to those seeking a holistic approach with minimal side-effects in mental health therapy.

Who Cares ??

As a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services, SAMSHA is tasked with educating the public in regards to treatments options that are considered effective. Of course this is a moving target, which changes as theories are proved or disproved. Sometimes, the answer to the question “What is the best treatment for X?”  depends on who you ask and who is asking. Some folks  only consider New Age approaches, fearing side-effects and risk associated with mainstream medicine. Other folks only consider treatments endorsed by government agencies such as SAMHSA or a physician. The New Age crowd have been using energy psychology for awhile. The recognition by SAMHSA will offer more conservative individuals another option.  Who cares about the SAMSHA endorsement? My answer would be those who consider New Age approaches to be “out-there”, and want empirically based evidence to support their treatment decisions, with as few side effects as possible.

For the Traditionalist

Energy Psychology is a smart pairing of traditional psychological interventions which are tried and true, with Eastern ancient approaches to healing, which have been used for thousands of years. Traditional psychological interventions which are also utilized in Energy Psychology include:

  • affirmations which support a new and more positive beliefs or thought patterns
  • exposure therapy which suggest that progressive and continued exposure to a traumatic event results in desensitizing the responses when re-callling the event
    • exposure therapy is used to treat phobias and often post traumatic stress disorder
  • changing brain chemistry by releasing endorphins which help regulate mood
  • slows the fight/flight/freeze response in the central nervous system

Specifically…

The endorsements by SAMSHA recognized Energy Psychology as effective in the treatment for the following:

  • Personal Resilience
  • Self Concept
  • Self Regulation
  • Trauma
  • Stress Related

The endorsements by SAMSHA recognized Energy Psychology as promising in the treatment for the following:

If you have any questions re. how Energy Psychology may help treat a condition, please do not hesitate to call Authentic Life Counseling. We have used this treatment option to help many people with a variety of mental health problems feel better. I will do my best to answer your questions.

be in peace – diane

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The Avatar of Ego

 

Guest Blogger Sonic Yogi

As soon as we begin to attach to an Identity we begin to build an Ego. What’s an Ego? The ego is an avatar that we have created. It seems worthy of love from others. An avatar is also something to be defended from others. So, ironically, ego keeps the connection to others from fully occurring.

We also begin to build the “Shadow”, or the part of of identity that is hiding from view. Shadow fears being discovered because it conflicts with the identity I have chosen. Shadow has desires that seem unacceptable and must be kept secret. This shadow is partly conscious, but mostly subconscious.

Most of ego is ingrained into society at a deep level so that it remains subconscious. When we are children, we are asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” What will you become? It’s as if what we are isn’t enough. We have to choose from a list of activities that will someday define us. It’s not the activity that’s the problem, it’s our need to define ourselves and our need to define others.LoveoverFear

Why is this all so insane? Because no one, not one soul on the planet, chose to be most of these things that define our ego. None of us chose to be White, Black, Yellow, Male, Female.. ..most did not even choose to be a certain religion etc.. ..before we got here. Some things are fundamental to us and others we have chosen, but NONE of them are what WE ARE. But what are we? Humans? yes.. but more importantly we are spirits..and we are psyches..which above all, desire to love and be loved…This is universal for every person and ironically it’s this desire that fuels the quest for identification and acceptance in the first place.

So, the ultimate stress reduction is to surrender, and let go of all of this, and to begin to choose Love over Fear.

About Sonic Yogi (Jon Adams)

Sound has the power to heal. During an experience with extreme anxiety, I found Sound Therapy to be a valuable tool for relaxing and letting go of stress. As a musician, I have always thought of music as a way to entertain and move our emotions. Now I see it’s potential as a healing force. Sound, used therapeutically, can help us relax, de-stress, reconnect and FEEL GREAT. Free downloads and insightful blogs are available at: http://sonicyogi.com/

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10 Methods to Reduce Stress That Anyone Can Do

Chronic Stress – Modern Day Malady

Stress is a modern day malady that has reached epidemic proportions.
Stress is a modern day malady that has reached epidemic proportions.

Traffic jams, computer fatigue, high-pressured work environment and an impossible fast pace in our day to day lives. This has become the rule more than the exception and it takes a toll on our physical and mental health. In effect, we stay in a chronic state of fight/flight/freeze which does a number on the central nervous system. The fight/flight/freeze response is great when we need it. It keeps us alive by signaling the body to release neurotransmitters, hormones, suppress the immune system and increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels to prepare for the fight or enable us to run for our lives. These reactions are obviously hard on the body. We are not designed to stay in this hyper vigilant, annoyed, on-guard state. It is designed for emergency use only, not traffic jams or slow internet connections. The result is a hyper sensitive, quick to react response from the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze reaction) and a parasympathetic nervous system (rest/relax) that can’t is sluggish and slow to activate.

10 Methods to Reduce Stress That Anyone Can Do

1. Exercise. Even moderate exercise can help to offset the physical responses of the fight/flight response. Tension can be released from the body by stretching or walking. Blood pressure is reduced and the mind is cleared.

Moderate exercise is beneficial to reduce stress.
Moderate exercise is beneficial in reducing stress.

2. Use Intentions. Form follows our thoughts. We don’t have to set world changing or even life changing intentions. A simple intention can help us to remain calm. Public speaking is one of the biggest triggers for anxiety. Recently before making a presentation I felt my heart rate spiking. I set an intention that I will share the information I have been asked to share with calm and ease. It brought my anxiety down immediately

3. Notice the Rest/Relax State of Mind – When you are feeling calm or relaxed, try to be conscious of this fact. Notice the ease of mind and body. Feel the calm and be aware of it to help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to “kick in”.

4. Do Something You Love – It sounds simple and it is. Sometimes the most simple of treatments are the best place to start. When we take the time to engage in those things which make our heart soar, or our mouths curve into a smile it is like a release valve. The stress melts away.

Make your heart soar. Do something that you love.
Make your heart soar. Do something that you love.

5. Be Grateful – Seeing the blessings, the good, the glass as half full is a great healer which holds enormous healing potential. It gives the mind a break from the troubles and stops the repeat narrative of gloom/doom.

6. Use positive Self Affirmations – We live in a highly competitive society. When we do not excel or properly keep up with the Jones’s, the negative self talk narrative kicks in and gets loud. Many people have highly harsh and critical inner voices. You may not be perfect, but you are not all bad. Find something true, pure, loving that is good about you. Say it. Own it. Remind yourself of the good that is your true essence.

7. See Impermanence – If you pay attention to your current condition, the only thing you can be sure of is it will change. Our moods can change moment to moment, as well as our pain level, relationship status, financial status. You name it, and it is changing. Keeping the notion of impermanence in our minds helps us to create a space between ourselves and our suffering.

8. Massage Your Forehead – This simple technique is used in Energy Psychology. It is effective in bringing blood back to the pre-frontal cortex area of your brain. When you are under stress blood leaves this area of your brain to support fight/flight/freeze. That is why it is difficult to think when you are under stress. Crown Pull Instructions – Place the thumbs of each hand on your temples. Let your fingers rest across your forehead, just above your eyebrows, with finger tips touching. Begin pulling the skin on your forehead, until they separate and reach your hair line. Repeat the process moving up your forehead, until you reach the upper part of your hairline above your eyes.

9. Talk With Someone – When we feel alone, not understood or not seen, we spiral much easier into anxiety and depression. Find someone to talk to. Reach out to your friend that gives you support and good advice. If you don’t have a good support system you need one. It will mean taking risk and doing things that might make you uncomfortable. Visit a church, find a support group in your area, join a social meet-up group with people who have similar interest.

10. Humor – Laugh easily and freely. If it is hard for you to laugh, watch funny movies. In the book Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins describes using a high intake of funny movies and vitamin C to significantly reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. He was able to stop taking pain killers and reduced many of the symptoms associated with the disease.

be in peace – diane

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Lazy Sickness

Symptoms for Lazy Sickness include spending more time than you intended engaged in non goal directed or frivolous activities.
Symptoms for Lazy Sickness include spending more time than you intended engaged in non goal directed or frivolous activities.

Lazy Sickness

There are many behavioral, cognitive and emotional patterns that are pathological and destructive. Many have “official” diagnosis, symptoms and treatment protocols. Many don’t. Many conditions are quite common, yet we don’t acknowledge or recognize them in the standard mental health vernacular. We should. A condition I call lazy sickness is a good example.

Lazy sickness is identified by a behavior of spending an inordinate amount of time wasting time ie computer games. The hallmark of these activities is they are not goal directed. Due to these activities, priorities often become skewed and responsibilities go by the wayside ie computer games over homework. Lazy sickness is compulsive, chronic and obsessive. The intensity of laziness begins to impact interpersonal relationships and important obligations and reresponsibilites are ignored.

Physical activity is believed to help us grow willpower reserves
Physical activity is believed to help us grow willpower reserves

Treatment for Lazy sickness

1. Recognize and acceptance are hallmarks in the treatment for most pathological conditions. Most people that I have worked with who have lazy sickness are aware of it. They may not admit it to their families, but in counseling they will be honest and admit to profound laziness.

2. Do a honest pro/con analysis of the behavior. What is it costing you? Flunking out of college because of a computer addiction is quite  a cost. Is it worth it? Working with a therapist during this stage is crucial if defense mechanisms such as denial and minimization are used to justify behaviors.

3. Set goals for change – Identify specifically what the change will look like? Realistically, how can the problem improve in one week, month, or year?

4. Make a decision regarding treatment. When a person decides they cost of laziness outweighs the benefits it is time for a treatment plan.  Problems solving skills, strengths and resource inventory, and coping skills help mobilize the tangible skills to reach his goal

5. Behavioral modification with positive reinforcement – Use rewards to reinforce non-lazy behaviors.  For example, when you do homework (instead of computer games) you get a reward (favorite meal)

6.  Behavioral modification with negative reinforcement – Engaging in the behavior you are trying to change results in an unpleasant experiences you would rather avoid. The room is intolerable with either noise or temperature manipulation while playing computer games.

7. Taking in the Good – Neuroscience tells us that we naturally cling to negative thoughts with a great deal more energy than positive thoughts. Therefore, when we make positive steps in the right direction, it s very helpful to purposefully enhance the positive experience. Rick Hanson provides practical guidance in his book Hardwiring Happiness.

8. Become friends with Discomfort – Not-liking, unsatisfactory conditions, and frustration are ongoing conditions. By the end of this minute, hour or day we will likely experience them. Learning coping skills to deal with discomfort is very important.

9. Willpower – The kryptonite of laziness. The use of affirmations is simple yet can be effective in helping us to build our willpower reserves

10. Aerobic exercise – Some researches describe aerobic exercise as the Willpower Miracle. Studies indicate that aerobic exercise strengthens the centers of the brain where Willpower sits.

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Lazy Sickness, Control Freak Disorder and Sefish Illness

My Proposed Mental Health Diagnosis

 Lazy Sickness, Control Freak Disorder and Selfish Illness

An accurate mental health diagnosis is important because it lays the foundation of mental health treatment. It will determine the medication you are given, and the type of therapy you receive. However, it’s not unusual during assessment  for mental health clinicians to disagree on a person’s diagnosis . Don’t be surprised. Mental health diagnosis and assessment is less of a science that you would think. Often subjective measurements such as questionnaires and observation are used as assessment tools. I have observed a number of common behaviors or character flaws which reach a pathological state and create a tremendous amount of problems for individuals. While they are not a part of our current mental health vernacular, they make as much sense to me as some of the diseases that make up our current mental health vernacular.   You will probably recognize some of the proposed conditions which include Lazy Sickness, Control Freak Disorder and Selfish Illness.   

Lazy Sickness – Symptoms include an excessive presentation of lethargy, sluggishness, and a lack of goal directed activity.  Lazy Sickness  Sufferers  (LSS) typically have very little self control or discipline.  Individuals who suffer from lazy sickness have often been enabled by family members. Lazy sickness sufferers are often financially dependent on another person  because they have not cultivated  an academic or professional career. This may result in an inability to live autonomously, even as adults. Much of their time is spent engaged in frivolous activities. These activities may have similarities to addictive behaviors ie unsuccessful attempts to stop activities. As adults, LSS have often been enabled for a period of time by their family members.  Treatment should include family therapy to help enablers learn how to stop enabling.

Control Freak Disorder (CFD) – Presenting symptoms include attempts to control the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions of the people around them.  The spectrum of dominating behaviors is often overbearing and may become intolerable. Therefore, one of the primary symptoms of the Control Freak is a lack of close relationships.  The Control Freak often has few friends, is not liked by family members and may be isolated. The Control Freak often becomes angry or feels threatened  when others  act, emote or think differently than him. Due to his lack of emotional control and need to dominate others, the control freak often responds with insults, criticism and sometimes threats when others act as an individual. The Control Freak may cling very strongly to his beliefs and opinions  and harshly judges others who do not share the same beliefs.

Selfish Sickness – Symptoms include an obsessive focus of self. A person who presents with selfish sickness feels as though their experiences are very different, unique, and grander than they actually are. Their problems are often an obsessive focus, and are generally blown out of proportion. Selfish Sickness makes it difficult to empathize with the difficulties of another person. Other people’s problems are greatly minimized. If attention is not directed toward a person with selfish sickness they may get angry or engage in sabotaging behavior in order to draw attention back to themselves.  Selfish sickness presents with a great deal of sensitivity on special occasions such a Birthdays or Holidays. If a great deal of attention is not received, selfish sickness sufferers react with anger or are deeply hurt. While it is not impossible for an individual with selfish sickness to feel compassion for another, the compassion it is not sustained. Selfish Sickness individuals often have little tolerance for other people who may be experiencing problems.  

You probably know someone with one of these make-believe disorders because they are common flaws. I try to stress the importance of using mental health diagnosis as a term which uses broad strokes to define a cluster of symptoms. It is not you. It is a label. A label that many people would argue has less validity and empirical evidence to support it’s existence than the make believe disorders. Don’t attach to hard to your labels. Break out of them

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