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?

Serotonin: What Is It and How To Get It Naturally

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is related to depression. It is thought that those with depression are lacking in serotonin. Some antidepressant medications block the reuptake of serotonin leaving more available for use by the brain, thereby decreasing depression symptoms or so the theory goes.

Besides medication, which has been proven in clinical trials to have a significant effect on depression symptoms, there are anecdotal treatments some people say increase serotonin in the brain. These “treatments” aren’t always backed by scientific studies and should be discussed with your doctor before being tried especially if they involve any sort of supplement or exercise, but most appear relatively harmless and may even be helpful in relieving some depression symptoms in some people. These serotonin-producing ideas include the following:

  • Get more tryptophans from foods like lean meats, eggs, and dairy.
  • Get a massage.
  • Boost your vitamin B.
  • Soak up the sunshine or use a light therapy box.
  • Add more magnesium to your diet with dark, leafy veges, fish, bananas, and beans.
  • Be more positive, practice gratitude.
  • Reduce sugar intake.
  • Meditate.
  • Increase exercise.
  • Increase vitamin C.
  • Practice self care to reduce stress.
  • Keep a journal or practice some form a regular writing.

Don’t try to make all the changes at once, if it seems overwhelming. Tackle one or two items a month. Eventually you will get to feeling better and better and before you know it all of these things will become second nature, if you tackle them like a marathon not a sprint.

Play the long game. These changes are lifetime goals. You have all the time in the world to reach them, but start making them one or two at a time. You can do it and will be glad you did as you begin to feel better and better little by little until it adds up to be quite a lot!

It took me over ten years to get to some real solid stability in my bipolar depression. I did it by addimg a lot of coping skills and healthy habits to my life year after year. Trauma work in therapy and constant medication management was a huge part of it, too, but the anecdotal cures were essential and still are. They may be for you, too.

As always, comments are open for any questions you may have for me and for any shares you have regarding your experiences. Thanks for reading.

How to Know if You Have Depression and What to Do About It

How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.

The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.

According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:

  • “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)

If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.

Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!

Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.

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)

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

4 Areas Affected by Depression

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Depression affects the whole person.  Not just our thoughts, not just our emotions, not just our behavior.  It affects everything, including our physical body as well.

In a nutshell, below is how depression may present itself in these four areas.

  1. THOUGHTS
  • self-criticism
  • impaired memory
  • indecisiveness
  • confusion
  • thoughts of death and suicide

2.  EMOTIONS

  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • guilt
  • anger
  • mood swings
  • irritability

3.  BEHAVIOR

  • withdrawal from others
  • neglect of responsibilities
  • changes in personal appearance

4.  PHYSICAL

  • chronic fatigue
  • lack of energy
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • weight gain or loss
  • loss of motivation
  • substance abuse

If you recognize these symptoms of depression in you or someone you care about, talk to a doctor about it.  There is help for those who suffer from depression.  I am one of those people.  It is not the end of the world.  There is life beyond depression.  It does go away.  Getting through it until it is gone is what you need help with.  I can share my experience with you via my Facebook page here.  Or feel free to comment below.

 

Symptoms and Behaviors of People with Social Anxiety Disorder

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Social anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that causes people to be fearful of social situations where they might be embarrassed or judged.  Psychological symptoms include self-consciousness when around other people, excessive worry about upcoming events where interaction will be expected, avoidance of places or events where people gather, and difficultly making friends and maintaining friendships.  Physical symptoms include excessive sweating, difficultly speaking or catching one’s breath, a sensation of flushing, trembling or uncontrollable shaking, and nausea.

There are many behaviors people with social anxiety may do or not do in an attempt to cope with the overwhelming anxiety this disorder produces such as not talking because of being afraid of being judged, not being able to go anywhere alone, staying inside all day, hating when the teacher calls on you in class, avoiding eye contact with others, avoiding eating in front of others, counting money before you pay, not leaving voicemails, not asking for help when you need it, always preparing what to say ahead of time, being worried about running into people you know, going to the bathroom to escape, using a phone or some other crutch to avoid people, dwelling on a small awkward moment for much longer than necessary, never going to any social event without a person that makes you feel comfortable and following said person way too much, worrying about the person beginning to find you obnoxious, and faking an illness to get out of a social event.

Have you done any of these behaviors to deal with social anxiety?  How else do you cope with your social anxiety?  What are some positive ways to cope with social anxiety disorder?

Reference: socialanxietydisorder.net

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