Current Event’s Effect on an Empath’s Mental Health

I am what you call a highly sensitive person or an empath. These types of people are highly attuned to the emotions of others, have a hard time blocking out the emotions of others, and often are adversely affected by the negative moods of other people. Being in a large crowd of people is exhausting for me especially if it’s in a type of setting where emotions run high like a large church gathering or a wedding reception or a funeral. Even something as simple as a medium-sized family gathering is too overwhelming for me at times because the social dynamics are often too tension-filled for my empathic tendencies to handle.

Unfortunately, I don’t even have to be face to face with people in order to be affected by their emotions. Reading comments on social media, watching news stories on the television, or hearing people talk about current events on the radio or podcasts, all affect my emotions and mood.

As you can imagine, the past couple months with the pandemic and all of its complications and discussions and controversies over whether people should wear a mask or not or whether people should still be staying home or not or whether businesses should be opening or not have had a negative effect on my emotional stability.

But now, even more so, with racial tensions running high due to the death of George Floyd, my mental health stability has been pushed beyond its breaking point and I find myself feeling anxious and depressed and worried and upset and at times filled with despair about a situation in which there seems to be no viable solution.

I am not black, so I do not wish to take away from anything the black population is going through right now. I am a person with severe mental illness who is going through something, not the same as what they’re going through, but something negative due to the racism and hate currently brewing in the United States.

I don’t know what to do with these horrible emotions that come about from witnessing the hate and racism and conflict going on between the citizens of this country except to block it out from time to time by signing out of my social media accounts and turning off the television so as to not listen to the news reports. It seems to be the only way to protect myself from all the negativity, because I can’t seem processes it in a healthy manner if I let any of it in otherwise.

Does anyone else out there have this issue as a highly sensitive person? How do you deal with it? What coping skills do you use to manage the emotions that come up from witnessing the hatred and violence that are going on in our nation right now without becoming filled with anxiety and despair?

Dealing with Anxiety During the Corona Virus Pandemic

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Unprecedented times can sky-rocket anxiety that is already high for those of us with mental illness. Let’s not be too hard on ourselves if we are feeling particularly out of sorts during this craziness. Let’s remind ourselves that it will not last forever and that life will go back to the way it use to be relatively soon. In the mean time, let’s make a plan of ways we can cope with our anxiety and get through each day, moment by moment, knowing that there is no shame in merely doing the best we can no matter what that may look like.

Make sure to get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy. Get exercise. All the usually advice. Take time each day to do something you enjoy. A hobby or special interest. Watch relaxing or funny videos or movies or shows. Read uplifting or positive material. Create a soothing environment in your home with soft lighting, pleasant aromas, de-cluttered rooms, and quiet or calming sounds.

When you are in the midst of an anxiety attack, try the following coping statements, suggested by http://www.healthyplace.com:

  1. I’m going to be all right. My feeling are not always rational.
  2. Anxiety is not dangerous. It’s just uncomfortable.
  3. Right now I have feelings I don’t like. They will be over with soon and I will be fine.
  4. That picture or image in my head is not a healthy or rational picture.
  5. I’ve stopped my negative thoughts before and I’m going to do it again now.
  6. It’s not the first time I feel anxiety. I am going to take some deep breaths and keep on going.

Finally, remember this: “You have survived everything you’ve gone through up to this point. The best day of your life is still yet to come. There are still people you haven’t met and things you haven’t experienced. YOU CAN DO THIS.” (Source unknown)

12 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

Let’s face it. Holidays are stressful. No matter how many years of experience we have going through them, no matter how far we plan ahead, and no matter how hard we try to cut back, the stress is there.

But, it doesn’t have to be an all in, freaking out kind of stress. Or a overwhelming, panicking, losing sleep kind of stress.

How about we shoot for the slightly uncomfortable feeling of having a few extra things on our to-do list for a few weeks and leave it at that kind of stress?

The following list may help you do just that. Good luck and happy holidays!

12 Ways to Decrease Holiday Stress

1. Make space for difficult feelings like grief.

2. Create your own holiday traditions.

3. Set realistic expectations for yourself and the holiday.

4. Stick to your self-care routine.

5. Give yourself permission to let it be a normal day.

6. Make a plan and try to stick to it. Staying organized is key.

7. Learn to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.

8. Shop online and stick to a budget.

9. Set boundaries with family and friends.

10. Avoid excess alcohol.

11. Stay active with exercise.

12. Ask for help.

Resources: Eli’s Place, Health Point, Blessing Manifesting

10 Common Signs of Depression versus 10 Hidden Signs of Depression

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Depression can present itself in many different ways.  Some common signs of depression include the following.

  1. sadness, loneliness, or emptiness
  2. loss of interest in things normally enjoyed
  3. tiredness and chronic low energy
  4. difficulty thinking clearly, concentrating, making decisions or remembering
  5. feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  6. irritability, frustration or anger
  7. restlessness and agitation
  8. sleep disturbances
  9. change of appetite
  10. recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

There is also something called hidden depression or “functional depression” where the individual with depression may not experience the common signs of depression, but the depression manifests itself it other, less obvious, ways, such as the following.

  1. perfectionism with a constant, critical inner voice
  2. heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
  3. difficulty with accepting and expressing painful emotions
  4. worry or need for control over self and environment
  5. intense focus on tasks, using accomplishments as a way to feel valuable
  6. active concern about the well-being of others, while not allowing anyone into his inner world
  7. discounts or dismisses hurt or abuse from the past, or the present
  8. accompanying mental health issues involving control or escape from anxiety
  9. a strong belief in “counting your blessings” as the foundation of well-being
  10. intimate relationships may be difficult, but are accompanied by professional success.

If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself lasting more than a few weeks, please talk to your doctor about them.  Depression is a real illness and is not something we can wish away or control by will power alone.  Get the help you need so you can live the life you were meant to have.

Source: rtor.org

Signs of Overthinking and What to Do About It

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Thinking about things is good, right? When we have important decisions to make we have to think about them before committing one way or another to ensure we are making the correct decision. We have to weigh the pros and cons, ask others for advice, sleep on it; you know, think about it. After all, thinking is one of the main things that distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Does there come a time, however, when thinking becomes a liability to our well being? I believe there does.

Signs of Overthinking

  • second guessing everything
  • analyzing things to death
  • expecting the worst
  • having insomnia
  • hating to make decisions
  • would rather someone else decide things for you
  • regretting things often
  • have a hard time letting things go
  • taking things personally
  • being a perfectionist
  • criticizing yourself a lot
  • never feeling one hundred percent certain
  • feeling tense
  • feeling like you can’t turn your brain off

What to do if you are overthinking

  • Journal – writing down your thoughts can sometimes take them out of your head and keep them out. It is worth a try.
  • Talk to someone about your thoughts – again the idea is to get the thoughts out of your head. The longer you keep them bottled up, the longer they will just swirl around in there.
  • Use positive distractions – engage in a creative hobby, something that gains your entire focus so you are no longer thinking about anything else except for the task at hand. Sometimes our thoughts just need to be interrupted by action, whether we feel like taking that action or not.

Are you an overthinker? I am. What do you do to deal with it? Leave a comment or message me on my Facebook page here.

References:

8 Ways to Help Someone With an Anxiety Disorder

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Chances are you or someone you know has an anxiety disorder since it is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over eighteen percent of the population (reference). But do you know how to help that someone, or better yet tell others how to help you if you are the one who has the anxiety disorder?

Below are eight ways to help someone with an anxiety disorder.

  1. Be predictable. Don’t surprise them. If you say you are going to show up at a certain time, be on time. Don’t change plans at the last minute or bring an unplanned guest to dinner or take them on an impromptu date or a spur of the moment trip. People with anxiety need time to prepare mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, for most events. Give them that time and notification well in advance.
  2. Don’t assume you know what the person needs, ask them. How long do they need to prepare for events? Don’t guess. Ask them. When they are worried or stressed, don’t come up with solutions for them. Ask them what would help them at that moment or in general. If they don’t know then tell them you are there for them when they think of something, which brings us to number 3.
  3. Let the person with the disorder set the pace for recovery. Don’t pressure them to get well quicker than they are able to. Don’t expect fast fixes or for coping skills to work perfectly every time in every instance. Recovery is slow and messy. It is not a straight forward moving process. It is some steps forward and many back and some more forward and back again. Eventually the forward steps out number the backward ones, but it happens over time, not over night.
  4. Speaking of progress, it is best to find something positive in every attempt at progress. Meaning even if the attempt is unsuccessful that time, something positive should still be acknowledged about the attempt so as to encourage subsequent attempts in the future.
  5. Take care of yourself first. Don’t sacrifice your own life wants and needs too often. This will only lead to resentments later on. It will do neither of you any good if you both are ill.
  6. Don’t get emotional when the person with the disorder gets upset or panics. Keep a calm, cool demeanor, talk with a compassionate tone and when all else fails take a time out, telling the person you need to walk away for a moment to gather your thoughts, and come back when you can deal with him or her. If he or she is being irrational, sometimes it is impossible to rationalize with him. It is best just to validate his feelings (because feelings are not right or wrong, they just are) and keep him safe and see number 7.
  7. Encourage them to seek out therapy. You are not a professional. And even if you are, you cannot treat your own friend or family member objectively. Most people with anxiety disorders need some type of professional help.
  8. Finally never ridicule or criticize a person for being anxious or panicky. It is truly a physiological and psychological phenomenon beyond their conscious control in many instances that takes months, if not years, to figure out and overcome.

If you have any questions about anxiety disorders in general or panic disorders or complex PTSD, I have experience with all of them and would be glad to discuss. Leave a comment or contact me via my Facebook page here.

Reference: http://www.HealthyPlace.com

Fighting Bipolar Depression and Chronic Pain: When to Just Stay in Bed

I spend a large part of my day in bed. I’ll admit it right now, I do. I sleep at night and most of the morning and get up for the afternoon and early evening time to do some self care and house chores and back to to bed again I go.

Many of the morning hours are spent sleeping away migraine, of which I have chronically. Depression plays a role in my perpetual inertia as well.

It seems the more that is demanded of me, the more migraines I get and the more depressed I become. Therefore, it has become this catch twenty two of not doing because of the fear of becoming sick and being sick, so not doing.

It sounds like a fairly pathetic life if you’ve read how I’ve written it out thus far, but there are so many things I do on a fairly regular basis when I am out of bed. For example, I cook and clean and write and create art and raise children! I take pictures and participate in social groups and keep up with a multitude of doctors appointments. I am a dutiful wife, a generous friend, and a eager volunteer.

So many things I am capable of, but I’m only able to do them for short spurts of time with much rest in between activities. That I’m able to do them at all I so am grateful!

Mental illness and chronic pain have taken a typical life from me, but I still have a life and this is what it looks like.

Is your life with mental illness typical or atypical? Do you have trouble getting out of bed?

Am I My Illness?

I’ve started this place on my phone where I keep blog post ideas and rough drafts because I have so many bits and pieces of information flying through my head at one time that I get completely overwhelmed at the thought of sitting down and writing something out.

I attribute these rapid thoughts to my anxiety disorder or to possible depressive symptoms such as the inability to focus or concentrate long enough to organize disjointed ideas into a single theme.

Then I get to thinking, is this it? Is everything always because of my mental illnesses? Is my difficulty writing or remembering or socializing or driving or losing weight or parenting or making friends all due to mental illness? How do I distinguish that which is part of my personality from that which is my illness? Are they one in the same?

I’m not going to pretend to have the answer and quite honestly this is not a rhetorical question. I would love for some feedback here because I have read on numerous occasions well-meaning memes that state “you are not your illness” when I think sometimes maybe I am.

Because I Journal…

I’ve been closely tracking my moods for the past four months because I slipped into a depressive episode back in August of this year. I keep an online journal that is password protected so that I am sure it is for my eyes only. This allows me to be as candid as I want to be, which I find to be extremely therapeutic.

I typically write in my journal every other week or so, making note of my mood or state of mind and writing all about what is going on in my life with regard to myself and others and my feelings and thoughts regarding all of these things. I also write about my hopes and fears and goals as they come to mind in random ways.

It has been a rough couple of months as looking back on my journal entries will reveal, peaking with a practice-go at writing a suicide note. I didn’t plan on writing one, but I got to writing about all of the hard things I’ve been through in my life and it just kind of turned into one. Then the weirdest thing happened: the next day I felt great and my mood has steadily improved since then. It’s like I just had to get the bad thoughts out of my head and on to the paper for them to no longer have power over me. I can’t say that it will work for you like this, but for me, it just does sometimes.

I am going on two weeks of an upswing in my mood and I’m real happy that things don’t seem so bad these days. They’re not wonderful, but they’re not unbearable like before, and you can bet I am writing praises about that!

Bipolar: Commitment Issues Plus H.O.W. to Journal

There are many difficult aspects of having bipolar disorder. This I know since I suffer from it. The mood instability, which can vary from being manic or very upbeat and reckless to depressed, to the point of being suicidal, can wreak havoc on my life in many ways.

Bipolar and Commitment Issues

One of the main things I experience is the inability to commit to anything long term for fear that what I have the energy and motivation for now I soon will not when a depressive episode takes over. I feel like I have to leave my schedule flexible and open so that I can say no to things at all times without reprecussions.

It is hard to find that kind of arrangement in today’s workplace. Currently, I am self-employed, working independently in the creative arts field and that is going well for me.

Still I would rather be able to commit to more long term projects in my field so as to collaborate with other artists. It is isolating to have to do it this way.

Bipolar and Isolation

Bipolar by nature is an isolating disorder. It sets me apart from my family and friends because they do not have the disorder and do not understand the fluctuations in my moods, the agitation, anxiety, irritability, anger, saddness, or suicidal thoughts.

However, this is okay. I have my doctor and counselors and peers, including you, dear reader, who know exactly what I am talking about.

Bipolar and Journaling

I also have one of the best ways to cope with the frustrations of dealing with all of these bipolar difficulties and that is to write about them! Have you ever tried it? If not, please do!

Get it all out on paper or the screen. Spill it out of your head so it’s not mucking up your thoughts anymore. If you don’t release it physically, it will never go away.

H.O.W. to Journal

Just do what you can, when you can. It will all work itself out if you keep an open mind and are willing to do the work and be honest. That is H.O.W. you can journal:
1)Honesty
2)(with an) Open mind
3)Willingness (to do the work.)

If you have any questions or want to chat, leave a comment. Good luck!