Bipolar Disorder and Memory Problems

memory

A recent study in Bipolar Disorder found that those with the disorder had prospective memory impairments compared to those without the disorder. Prospective memory is the ability to plan to do something and later remember to carry it out.

Just today my prospective memory failed me as I had plan to make a crock pot meal for supper which involved combining the ingredients and turning the crock pot on low five hours ahead of when we planned on eating. I became engaged in other tasks, namely watching TV and stressing about getting my house cleaned for company this weekend, before I realized it was four hours before dinnertime and I hadn’t even started preparing the crock pot meal!

Now this isn’t as tragic as forgetting to take an infant out of the car before going into the store, or leaving a scalpel inside a patient after surgery, which are both examples of failing prospective memory, but it was annoying nonetheless.  Next time I will set the timer on my microwave to remind me when I should have started the meal prep.

Here are some other ways to improve your prospective memory:

  • use checklists
  • write out when and where you intend to complete a future task
  • use calendar alerts on your cell phone to remind you to do a task
  • do not put off important tasks for later; do them now
  • write the reminder on your hand
  • tie a string around your finger
  • leave a note on the door you exit everyday

How do you remember to do something later?

10 Simple Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

bluesIf you are like me then winter is not your friend. The cold, dreary days tend to drag on, as cabin fever sets in and depression, boredom, lack of motivation and lethargy begin to choke the life out of me.

I came across this entertaining, well-written article on Psych Central by author, Therese J. Borchard. Borchard lists these suggestions to help you battle the winter blues.

1.  Be of service to others

I started cooking new-to-us, healthy recipes as my husband and I committed to losing weight before bathing suit season arrives. I feel like I am doing something extra special for my family as I spend an hour or more each night chopping, dicing, and slicing fresh fruits and vegetables, and preparing scrumptious home-cooked meals. The weekly planning and execution of such dishes (compared to a box meal or popping a pizza in the oven) alone helps to battle my boredom as well.

2.  Join a gym

I did this – Yeah!!! The problem?  I never went! A gym is a great idea for some, but not for me. Because of my anxiety, I have a hard enough time getting out of the house for essentials like doctor’s appointments. I am more successful with a mile walk around the neighborhood where I can take my time and hide behind my sunglasses rather than going to the gym and risk having to interact with anyone.

3.  Use a light lamp

I do this, and it helps a lot. After 45 minutes in front of my light, I feel energized and ready to get off the couch and do something productive (like make those dinners.) I use my light twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. It really does work.

4.  Wear bright colors

I am an earthy kind of girl, wearing lots of browns, blacks, and greens.  Neutral colors fill my closets, so I have not tried this suggestion out, but it makes sense that bright colors could lift your mood.

This morning, I walked into a new doctor’s office and the walls were painted a dreamcicle, creamy orange, and adorned with bright impressionist paintings.  It was a breath of fresh air.  I literally felt calmer and happier as I sat there, surrounded by these bright, yet soft, colors.

5.  Force yourself outside

I step outside when I let the dogs out, mainly to have a cigarette, but hey at least I am getting out!  I also go for walks outdoors.

6.  Hang out with friends

This is a tricky area for me.  I meet with a small group of women once a week and overall, it helps my mood.  Having face-time with close friends definitely enhances my emotional well-being, but too much of it drains me physically and mentally.  Migraines often follow visits that last too long.  My limit for any type of social situation is about two hours.

7.  Head south

We have always taken our family vacations during the summer months when the kids are out of school.  Last year, however, I convinced my husband to head south during the month of December specifically for this reason – to battle my seasonal depression.  It worked…for that month anyway.

We will probably do it again next year, but will shoot for January or February instead.  The December trip was great, don’t get me wrong, but I think my depression really takes a nose dive after the holidays, so a trip in January would be more ideal.

8.  Learn something new or start a home project

This winter I have been editing our home videos.  I even splurged and bought a software program to add fun effects to them.  It takes me several hours to do a ten minute video, but the results are very cool and satisfying.

Creative projects like video editing, painting, and photography keep my mind off the bleak weather conditions.  When my hands are idle, my mind wanders and that is never a good thing for me.

9.  Limit sugar intake

Sugar-crashes and weight gain….’nuf said.

10.  Take Omega-3’s

My suggestion on this is to talk to your doctor.  I take them, but I don’t feel they make a huge difference (if any at all) on my emotional health.

What do you do to battle the winter blues?  Share your tips in the comments.  Also, while you’re here, I invite you to subscribe to this blog.  Thanks and have a blue-free day.

The Princess, the Pea and the Holidays

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

The holidays bring with them extra family, travel, food (usually the not-so-healthy kind), money-spending, crowds, and stress. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time managing my stress on a “normal” day.

I require a low stimulating, non-demanding environment in order to remain relatively sane. I call it the “Princess and the Pea syndrome.” If you recall the children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen, there was a princess sleeping on a dozen or so soft mattresses, and the only way to know if she was a true princess was to test her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under the bottom mattress to see if she felt it while trying to sleep.

If you are like me and the princess, then keep reading as I share the ways in which I limit stimuli to my hypersensitive system, thereby managing my holiday stress:

Family Events:

Show up late. Leave early. Tell them you have diarrhea. Who’s going to try guilting you into staying if you say you have diarrhea? Ha ha! Just kidding – don’t lie.

What I say is that I am not feeling well, which is true if my body and mind have reached their limits. Fatigue, tension in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and chills or sweating are all signs that I am beginning to experience anxiety and it is time for me to scadaddle.

Travel:

If in the car or airport for any length of time, make sure you have ways to block out extraneous sensory input, which to me is anything beyond someone honking their horn at you for weaving into their lane, or at the airport, the attendant calling for finally boarding on your flight.

Some ways I block out extra stimuli when traveling include listening to relaxing music through earphones. Sometimes I leave the ear buds in even when there is no music playing because strangers or even my kids are less likely to make small talk or bother me if they think I am listening to something.

Bring sunglasses! I don’t have a problem just shutting my eyes no matter where I am – in the airport, a restaurant, or on someone’s couch. Closing my eyes, even if just for a minute or two, really keeps me from becoming visually overstimulated.

Food:

Eat a carrot for every cookie you inhale. Do I do this? No. But it’s a good idea, right?

Shopping crowds:

Online, baby! Unless your lap is overpopulated.

I hope some of these suggestions help you manage your holiday stress this week. What do you do to decrease stress during the holidays?  Please share in the comment section below.

Thanks,
Wil

P.S. December 31, 2012 is the deadline for submissions to Turtle Way‘s next issue. Turtle Way is Write into the Light’s online mental health journal. See submission guidelines here.

Writing Moment by Moment #23 and #24

#23 – A beautiful person gave me permission to accept help without feeling guilty and to take extra-special care of myself because I am “going through a healing period” which I need not minimize.  A weight lifted from me in that moment.

 

#24 – I think that I finally get what “mindfulness” means versus distraction.  Here’s a fun fact:

“Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density…in brain regions involved in learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”  ~Psychiatry Res. 2011 Jan 30;191(1):36-43. Epub  2010 Nov 10

Now, to practice it…

What moment are you grateful for today?  I had three wonderful “in the moment” moments today – the above two and a third which I posted here.

For more on “Writing Moment by Moment” click here.

Codependent No More – Book Review

Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself, defines a “codependent” as:

one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior

She details specific examples from her personal experiences and those of others to connect with her readers and offers practical solutions to those whose lives are affected by a loved one’s negative, often destructive behaviors.

The dominant theme across Beattie’s solutions is a therapeutic tool called detachment, which she describes as a separation of ourselves from a person or a problem in a loving way.  To disengage mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically from unhealthy people, from problems we cannot solve or ones that are not our responsibility to solve.  She goes on to say:

Detachment is based on the premises that each person is responsible for himself, that we can’t solve problems that aren’t ours to solve and that worrying doesn’t help.  We adopt a policy of keeping our hands off other people’s responsibilities and tend to our own instead.  If people have created some disasters for themselves, we allow them to face their own proverbial music.

Sounds like a tall order for a world that has its nose in everyone else’s business or a country, whose attitude is often one of pass the buck, point the finger at the other guy, and cover up or, worse, buy a way out of facing the consequences of one’s own actions.

So, does this mean we are to stop caring, helping, and loving?  Is this a barbaric, every-man-for-himself type of detachment?  Beattie says not:

(Detaching) means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy.  We stop creating all this chaos in our minds and environments.  When we are not anxiously and compulsively thrashing about, we become able to make good decisions about how to love people, and how to solve our problems.  We become free to care and to love in ways that help others and don’t hurt ourselves.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? 
I thought so and my next thought was, “Where do I sign up?” 
Or better yet, “Where do I get a prescription for this detachment stuff?”
If only it was that easy…

Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think about it?

 

How to Meditate – Book Review

         How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery by Lawrence LeShan is a best-selling classic with more than one million copies in print.  Although, LeShan wrote this book over thirty-five years ago (in 1974), the benefits of meditation are needed now more than ever in our fast-paced, multi-multi-multi-tasking, high stress, latte-consuming society. 

        There are many ways you can meditate.  LeShan divides these ways into four different “paths,” as he calls them, which can each help you to achieve the same goals – less anxiety, better health, and a greater joy in living to name a few.  The paths are as follows:

1.  intellect
2.  emotions
3.  body
4.  action

        How to Meditate is a “practical instruction for anyone seeking inner peace, relief from stress, and increased self-knowledge.” I became interested in meditation several years ago when stress and anxiety started to negatively affect many areas of my life, including my sleep, my relationships, and my work.       

        Now, I meditate almost everyday for periods of five to thirty minutes. Even that little bit makes a huge difference in my anxiety levels and ability to calmly handle life’s normal stressors and even some of the big ones. 

        Do you use meditation as a way to cope with anxiety and/or depression?  How does it work or not work for you?

        Do we do things we don’t want to in order to please others? When we say “no” do we often feel guilty? Martyrdom is for saints. We are not saints. We are also not bad. We are sick and we are trying to get well.

        Unless we are doing for others for “fun and for free” we are harming ourselves as well as lying to ourselves and others about our motives for helping them.

        Today, I will give freely that which I can afford to give. I will not risk my physical, emotional, or mental health by saying yes when I want to say no or by feeling guilty for making my health my top priority.

“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.”  ~ Richard Carlson
 

          Often our symptoms are triggered by stress.  Although, the bigger stressors aren’t usually the ones that get us.  We may actually feel better in times of crisis.  It is the little stressors that seem to befuddle us; our day-to-day activities somehow become more overwhelming than a huge crisis might be.

          Crises are often short-lived.  Anyone can do almost anything for one day.  Daily responsibilities, on the other hand, are life-long.  And when we focus on the “life-long” part, we may feel like giving up.  Yet, there is another way – to stay in today.

          Today, I will fulfill my responsibilities to myself first and next, to those around me to the best of my ability.  I will focus on my tomorrows when they become my todays and I will know peace.