Archive for: Anxiety

Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

Lessons learned from resistance to change

“I need to change” is probably one of the most common issues that bring a person into counseling and frequently the person has a specific idea of what needs to change. However, how change will occur and what needs to be different in order to bring about change can be very challenging for many people. There are numerous reasons why we resist change–fear, anxiety and uncertainty, just to name a few. The counseling process can help one sort through their resistance and discover that in every situation– no matter how unfortunate, painful, hurtful or scary, there is a meaningful lesson that can be learned from the experience. Think what wonderful lessons are waiting to be discovered if you allow yourself to stop resisting and appreciate what your problems and experiences can teach you.

April is Counseling Awareness Month

April is Counseling Awareness Month! Although many people know generally what counselors do, this is a time for counselors everywhere to stand together to promote the use of counseling services. We do this by reaching out to clients, readers, social media outlets, and through simple word of mouth that “We are here”. Pinnacle Counseling stands in full support of Counseling Awareness Month by showing people that we care and are here to support you. Knowing that there is a group of professionals near you, ready and willing to listen and help you through a particularly hard time or everyday struggles of life is a valuable tool. In any given situation, no matter the cause, difficulty, or time you have been dealing with the issue—we are here. Simply remember…Keep Calm and Call a Counselor!

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Sources: American Counseling Association

 

 

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a mood state characterized by general feelings of unease, fear, worry, or dread. Sometimes it occurs in response to external stimulus. For example, you are camping and awaken to the sounds of sniffing outside your tent. Upon further inspection, you realize that this sniffing is rather loud. You start to think about it. It doesn’t really seem like mouse-type sniffing, more like bear-type sniffing. Anxiety is a natural response to a bear sniffing around your tent late at night.

But what about situations where there is no bear? Many people experience unwanted anxiety in situations that don’t necessarily represent a clear safety threat. What about people who find themselves paralyzed by fear at the thought of going to the mall, or interacting with their classmates at school? In these situations people affected by anxiety disorders find themselves unable to act due to some Big Scary Thing. The Big Scary Thing, whether it’s going to visit a friend or attending choir practice, feels very much like a bear scratching at the around outside your tent.

Here are a couple of steps to take when you encounter a Big Scary Thing:

  • Know that what you are dealing with is a Big Scary Thing. Don’t judge yourself for encountering this Big Scary Thing or try to force yourself into thinking about the BST in any particular way. Just recognize that a BST is what you are dealing with.
  • Focus your attention on small non-scary things. If, for example, going to a doctor’s appointment turns into a BST, focus your attention on all of the small things you would normally do to get ready to go to the appointment. Try to isolate these little things from the BST.
  • Talk to yourself in your mind as you do these little things. I am brushing my teeth. I am tying my shoes. I am looking for my car keys. I am looking up the address of a doctor’s office online, so I can write it on this piece of paper. I am walking toward my car. I am putting the key into the ignition of the car.
  • See each of these little things as separate tasks, not related to each other. It’s especially important to isolate these tasks as much as possible from the Big Scary Thing. It’s okay to try to fool yourself a little. Even though you know you are doing it, there’s a pretty good chance that it will work.
  • By the time you complete five or six separate tasks, you will realize that you are in charge of your actions. Even if the BST is still Big and Scary, you’ll realize that it’s not controlling your behavior. That alone will make it a little smaller and less scary.

The holiday "blahs"

With the holiday season and winter months fast approaching, feelings and symptoms of depression will often surface or increase. Feeling “down in the dumps” or “blah”, sad, discouraged, hopeless, irritable, cranky, or easily frustrated are typical symptoms of depression. Also feeling withdrawn, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities, changes in appetite, sleep, energy, difficulty concentrating, and making decisions are commonly reported. A sense of feeling worthless or excessive guilt may be experienced. Some of these feelings may actually interfere with our relationships, school, job, social activities, and even day to day functioning. If you experience a few or most of these symptoms it is wise to pay attention to what your body is telling you and to take care of yourself.

Often people minimize or don’t understand depression and the possible effects of going untreated. Working with a mental health professional can help you understand depression and learn multiple ways to manage its symptoms. Regardless of the season, feeling better means living better!

 

Erika McCaghren

Innovative, Creative, and Inspiring

Innovative, creative, and inspiring are tags used to search for videos on TED.com, the source for videos on almost anything. While it is nice to find something something funny to watch while you are at work, here are some videos that might spark your attention in the “tag” areas. Check them out:

Sarah Kay
“How many lives can you live?”
https://www.ted.com/talks/sarah_kay_how_many_lives_can_you_live
Sarah Kay uses two spoken-word poems to explain her love/hate relationship with living one life. She shares her hope to rush and hear everyone’s stories and to share her story so that she can see life through another person’s frame of reference as many times as she can, so as to not miss out on anything that others have to offer. Sarah ends her talk with another spoken-word poem about the power of experience and living lives of our own and of others in a special way.


Ash Beckham
“We are all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up.”
https://www.ted.com/talks/ash_beckham_we_re_all_hiding_something_let_s_find_the_courage_to_open_up
Ash Beckham discusses the closets that keep us from opening up and sharing our story. The story that makes us shut the door to the closet of secrets and pushes others away. Although she tells her own story of having a hard conversation about who she was to a little girl in a diner, Ash sends an important message about connection. That message is that the safety of covering up secrets and hiding from owning our story scares us into believing that we are alone. What we are is different and unique, but we are never alone in our struggles.

“All a closet is… is a hard conversation.”  –Ash Beckham

 

Colin Stokes
“How movies teach manhood”

http://www.ted.com/talks/colin_stokes_how_movies_teach_manhood#t-46850
Colin Stokes uses two classic movies, The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars, to illustrate the differences between masculine and feminine ideals presented by mainstream video media that play continuously throughout a child’s upbringing. These ideals in the form of movie protagonists in Disney and Pixar films can be masculine or feminine, but the message of courage transcends much deeper than hero or heroine. Stokes challenges parents to see the journey of the movies to show children themes that are more impactful and universal than fighting the bad guy or saving the princess; they involve friendships, self-discovery, and teamwork.

Erika McCaghren

Phobias

With over 500 recognized phobias, what exactly is a phobia and how does it affect a person? A fear alone does not distinguish a phobia. A phobia is an overwhelming and unreasonable fear of an object or situation that poses little or no real danger. A phobia is long-lasting and can cause intense physical and psychological reactions. Both fear and avoidance must be present and to the point of interfering with everyday life. Because you become so preoccupied with thinking about the fear, you often are unable to sleep, to work, function in a social setting or enjoy things you normally like to do. IRRATIONAL fear is predominate in phobias.

Adults usually recognize that their phobia is excessive and unreasonable, while children do not usually have a sufficient impairment that warrants a diagnosis. The following is a list of subtypes for phobias and are fairly self-explanatory: 1. Animal Type (fear cued by animals or insects), 2. Natural Environment Type (fear cued by storms, heights, water, etc.), 3. Blood-Injection-Injury Type (fear cued by seeing blood, injury, injections or other invasive medical procedure), 4. Situational Type (fear cued by specific situation such as flying, bridges, public transportation) and 5. Other Type (fear cued by other stimuli such as choking, loud sounds, contracting an illness). Women tend to have diagnosed phobias more than men and phobias seem to run in families. Seek professional help if you have excessive fear or phobias as there are a number of effective interventions that can help.

Stressed? It’s just desserts spelled backwards.

The word “stressed” is indeed “desserts” spelled backwards. So when you feel stressed, think about your favorite desserts. Late car payment? – think about a rich Crème Brûlée. Health problems? – try thinking about Flan for a while. Lose your job? – might have to pull out the big guns on this one: Bananas Foster, or maybe Baked Alaska.

Could it really be this simple?

Well, no. It can’t be that simple. Real problems require real solutions.

But how you think about your problems has a lot to do with the amount of stress you experience. And stress is bad. Stress does not generate solutions, just more problems. A problem might exist in your personal or professional life, but stress exists in your mind.

If thinking about pecan pie helps you realize that you have a modicum of control over the amount of stress your are experiencing do it. It’s worth it. It’s silly, but it’s worth it.

Helpful tips for handling the holiday "blahs"

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Pinnacle Counseling | Covid 19 Update Learn more