gratitude

The Scary Trifecta of Mental Health -- Anxiety, Depresson and Bipolar

            I’m a counselor, right?  So I figure it would be good to write something about anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, a trifecta of mental health experiences you’ve probably heard about. 

 

Cease and desist complaining!

Cease and desist complaining!

                                                                   

 Random Facts About Anxiety

The constant and continually changing worries of people with anxiety disorder are mostly about everyday matters; they can’t shake the feeling that something bad will happen and they will not be prepared. (missing an appointment, losing a job, having an accident)  Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. 

            Included in anxiety conditions are various phobias like social phobia, agoraphobia and OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder.  And if you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know those symptoms of heart racing, numbness and  tingling in your extremities, short, gasping breaths can send you to the emergency room, thinking you’re having a heart attack!  That’s how scary anxiety can be. 

            As shown on the thermal images of the picture above, the brain’s chemistry is directly affected in anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. 

 

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Depression

Is more than just sadness.   People with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

            A recent study revealed that in general, 300 million people worldwide experience depression.  That’s 300l,000,000 – a lot!  About 50% have both anxiety and depression.

            As in anxiety, the brain’s chemistry is impacted by an overload of adrenaline creating cortisol, the stress hormone.  High levels of cortisol can wear down the brain’s ability to function properly, so you definitely want to stop that production as quickly as possible! 

            Fortunately, depression is treatable. A combination of therapy and antidepressant medication can help ensure recovery. (American Psychological Association). 

 

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 Bipolar Disorder

A serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy and clarity to sadness, fatigue and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.

All people with bipolar disorder have manic episodes — abnormally elevated or irritable moods that last at least a week and impair functioning. But not all become depressed (WebMD)

            Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy).

 What Can Be Done About These Three?

            If things are bad enough, you may need an antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medication.  With bipolar disorder, you generally need to see a psychiatrist to see if you will benefit from a mood stabilizer as well. 

Some other helpful things you can do on your own:

·         Science agrees that food can be a powerful tool for people dealing with depression and anxiety.  The good and bad news:  Sugar throughout the day with ice cream and candy needs to be cut way down.  And, of course, as we have all heard (but might not heed) the messages of no grains, no dairy, more healthy fats, medium amounts of protein and most importantly, lots of vegetables.

·         Exercise is so beneficial that some people have overcome their symptoms by regular working out, running, or walking.  If you start feeling anxious, doing a few jumping jacks, or a quick walk around the office or home helps give that extra adrenaline a place to exit! 

·         Set healthy boundaries – I once had a client with an extreme case of anxiety and depression who began to speak up for herself, told her family and friends no most of the time so she could choose to say yes when she wanted. (See Yes! I Said No!)

·         Care enough to confront.  Many people avoid confrontation like the plague; as a result, they often stuff anger and resentment so deep it turns into depression.  I have a list of 10 guidelines to help you confront positively that you can receive by contacting me at barb@barbrarussell.com 

·         Practice gratitude.   I believe this is so crucial, it could have gone to the top of the list.  Most people automatically look for what’s wrong (a survival mechanism, after all), but that continual sweep of your environment or hearing what’s wrong repeatedly in the media (including social media), will definitely stress you out!  I recommend writing down 3 new things you are grateful for each day. 

 

I trust this information has been helpful; if I can provide additional information or answer any questions, I am happy to do so. 

Here’s to living well – Barbra Russell   

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Four Christmas Killers

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Four Christmas killers:

 

1.  Rushing

2. Living in anxiety

3. Doing too much

4. Forgetting our greatest gift is who we are, not what we do

Four antidotes:

 

1.  Make a list of what needs to be done, then say “there is plenty of time.“

2. Make time to breathe deeply three times a day

3. Learn to say no – I know a good book for that!

4. Every day be grateful for the abilities you have

Cancer Saved My Life

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Cancer Saved My Life

With a sense of wonder and awe, our son said, “I just realized that cancer saved my life.”

“That’s a strange statement, “I thought, but upon reflection, I had to admit it was true.  We had been reminiscing during the Thanksgiving season about the major physical challenges Dane has endured.

It all began when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  As you can imagine, our family immediately experienced the fear, doubt and questions about why God let this happen.  Why did this healthy young man who had served God all his life be struck with cancer?  In spite of our prayers, the cancer didn’t miraculously disappear.   Unable, of course, to answer those unanswerable questions, Dane followed the doctor’s recommendation to have immediate surgery to remove the malignant organ.

Then, as if that bombshell wasn’t enough to deal with, the anesthesiologist found a problem with his heart. And that problem required open-heart surgery.

 Open heart surgery? Really, God? What’s up with this? Hasn’t he gone through enough?

Probably others facing such life-threatening news or continuing problems can fully understand the wide range of emotions we all rode like a wild carnival ride roller coaster. 

Once again, we prayed for a miracle.  We hoped for a miracle.  We believed for a miracle.  But nothing seemed to change.      

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  Dane still had to undergo two major surgeries and all the rehabilitation required afterward.   

We didn’t fully realize that a miracle had happened until years later.

 I believe that can happen to anyone. When you are going through struggles, especially ones that stick around, it’s hard to see that anything good is happening.  How many people despair after years of seemingly unanswered prayers?

  •        Are you still struggling with a health issue?

  •         Do you have a dream that God has not yet granted?

  •         Do you have other prayers that have not been answered?

You, like Dane, may not realize that God is working a miracle on your behalf. And this Thanksgiving that’s what Dane realized.  First, it was a miracle his thyroid cancer was even discovered. The doctor said usually this condition is not discovered until it’s too late.  Secondly, because he had to have surgery, the problem with his heart valve was discovered. Either one of those conditions was a silent killer, waiting to pounce suddenly, without warning.

            But a miracle did happen and, as Dane declared, “ cancer saved my life.”

            Don’t get discouraged when you think God has forgotten you; it may be years later that you look back and realize a miracle happened. It might even show up as cancer.

 Barbra Russell, MA, LPC                                                    

                                   

“What Did You Mean By That?”

couple design over white background vector illustration
couple design over white background vector illustration

What did you mean by that?”  Bob’s question took Susan totally by surprise because he had never asked her that before.  But his tone was so respectful, with a genuine “I- really- want- to know” attitude that she quickly recovered and they began to discuss an earlier conversation.  As they talked, both realized he had misunderstood her meaning and intention.

It was a good thing he asked the question.

After a few minutes’ discussion, the confusion was resolved.  They both exclaimed, almost at the same time: “Hey!  This is way different from what we’ve done before! ”

That prompted Susan to inquire, “How did you think to ask me that, Bob?  It was so helpful.”

“I decided I’d do things in a healthy way, too” he answered, referring to her new-found skills discovered through counseling.  They discussed what they previously did when there was such miscommunication between them.  They’d either fight, or go to their respective “corners” and not talk at all for days, both reeling from hurt feelings and misperceived motives.

This interaction between them inspired Bob to try that phrase at work as well.  It wasn’t long before he had an opportunity to ask a co-worker, “What did you mean by that?”  They found a solution by first discussing the issue with his co-worker, then the supervisor.

Once again, a potentially ugly or explosive situation was resolved.  Bob just shook his head as he reflected on how things often happened at work.  Guys wound up leaving their jobs or remaining miserably unhappy and feeling trapped, all for the lack of using six words.  “What did you mean by that?”

I recently heard a respected speaker utter this well-known phrase:    [bctt tweet=" “I wouldn’t be divorced today had I known then what I know now.” " username="@BarbERuss"]

One of the things he said is that he, like Bob, needed to let his wife know when he was unhappy.  In that first marriage it seemed other things he tried never worked.  So, one day in hopeless despair, he left.  He had come to a lot of conclusions about the futility of things changing and didn’t know at that time how to even bring up the subject.

All too often, guys feel they must just “suck it up” when they are displeased with what’s going on, whether at home or at work.  They’re fearful of the confrontation that will likely follow.  And just as often, wives or bosses don’t make it safe to say anything when they look for what’s wrong and criticize more than they compliment.

We have a long history in the West of the strong, silent man.   For many years, guys have absorbed this mantra:  “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”

daniel boone
daniel boone

Daniel Boone declared, “I was never lost but I was powerfully bewildered once for three days.” As goes the Pioneering Western man, so goes the Modern man!"

So what are men and women to do?  I, of course, always suggest counseling to couples but often men don’t like that idea.  It doesn’t fit into the creed that “Real men don’t eat quiche, they don’t ask for directions, and they certainly don’t ask for help!”  One very creative approach is this web site:  http://mantherapy.org/ which talks about therapy done “the manly way.”  I laughed when I checked it out.  It’s definitely done with humor. Click on the link to see what you think.  Men do things a different way!

Bottom line: "Ask the question – “What did you mean by that?” It could save your marriage; it could save your job"

And gals, if you want a better relationship with your man, here's some things to think about. We women have a tendency to look for what’s wrong and we’re not usually hesitant to bring that up.  Plus, we also like to talk and talk!  So, sometimes we’ll take an opposite point of view with men just to keep a conversation going.  But that can quickly backfire when he feels disrespected and judged.

A common complaint I hear from married men is this:  “No matter how hard I try, I can never do anything right.”  If he helps with the dishes, she informs him they’re not put in the dishwasher correctly.  When he offers to do the laundry, she instructs him to divide the clothes differently.  Usually, she means to help, but he perceives those “orders” as critical complaints.  And perception is reality.  That’s why I say:  

"Compliment more than you complain!"   

and

"Appreciate more than you argue!"

When you make it safe for him, he won’t be afraid to ask:  “What did you mean by that?” 

Thank you for reading.  If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe, comment or follow me on Facebook.  Or follow me on Twitterhttps://twitter.com/BarbERuss

Turn The Ship Around! Part II - Invest In Yourself

ship in storm“Turn The Ship Around”

If you looked in the dictionary under “angry man,” you would likely see a picture of the man in my office who sat across from me. His body was uptight, he wore an intense frown and with clipped words began to list all the reasons he was entitled to be angry.   “I have never been appreciated,” he announced. “I’m the one who’s always being blamed for things not my fault.” As he continued to catalog all the wrongs in his life, it was clear this man believes the world is against him and to say he has a negative mind-set is an understatement!

As he told his story of a troubled childhood, failed relationships and difficulties keeping a job, I could quickly see the impact of all that negativity on his life! As a counselor, I knew he needed to feel a little bit of hope! Therefore, before we started probing into the reasons for all that anger, I acknowledged he must feel like he’s all alone on a ship in the middle of a storm. However, I went on, “Even in the midst of a storm, you can turn the ship around!”

He quickly and loudly declared he wasn’t just in a storm; he was in the middle of a tsunami! And, he wasn’t so sure about his being able to turn anything around. He, like so many people, felt certain his circumstances needed to change; that others should treat him differently, etc. That belief, of course, left him feeling helpless and out of control. No wonder he was so angry!

I then shared some good news with him:

Many years ago, the philosopher James Allen penned these words: “Order your thoughts and you will order your life. Pour the oil of tranquility upon the turbulent waters of the passions and prejudices, and the tempests of misfortune will be powerless to wreck the ship of your soul.” In other words, this man’s life can be transformed by the renewing of his mind - Romans 12.

“Angry man” will surely benefit as well from the teaching found in Philippians 4:8: “…think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”

I was also able to inform him that medical science is now offering proof of these Biblical truths. Indeed, as Proverbs declares: “As a man thinketh, so is he.” As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf talks about this process: “As you think, you choose and you cause genetic expression to happen in your brain. This means you make proteins, and these proteins form your thoughts. Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate.”

Because I know the importance of these scriptural and medical truths, I asked him to think of two or three things he might be grateful for, even now.  As you might imagine, however, he struggled to come up with even one! His thoughts had for so long been ones of depression and disappointment, it was clear that changing their direction would be like turning a big ship around in the middle of the ocean!

While most people won’t likely sink to the level of despair as “angry man,” it is the rare person indeed who hasn’t struggled to follow the scriptural principle to renew your mind and think on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report….If there is anything praiseworthy, think on these things.

Have you ever thought of turning off the TV as an empowering action for your mind? A way to “renew your mind?” In this age of constant broadcasts as close as your phone, rest assured you will most often hear what’s wrong with the world. It’s difficult to trust God for your healing when you’re regularly instructed to buy the latest pharmaceutical miracle medication because otherwise you will surely be struck with some horrific disease! There is certainly a place for modern medicine and medication, thank God! I’m just saying we can set ourselves up for all sorts of problems when we primarily hear about all the brokenness in the world and we neglect the renewing of our minds.  

When, however, we regularly invest in our minds, there are wonderful benefits! One excellent way to renew your mind is to practice gratitude. Psalms 118:24 instructs us to declare: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Interestingly, as soon as you start to feel grateful for what you already have, more good things will come your way. That’s because our mindset begins to change. As we practice gratefulness, we train our brains to move in positive directions. And good things are found in positive directions!

Similar to the advantages experienced by breathing deeply for your body’s benefit, let’s look at the medical benefits of gratitude for your mind’s benefit.

  • Being grateful 15 minutes a day raises antibodies.
  • Grateful people are less vulnerable to clinical depression
  • Expressing appreciation instead of anger, frustration or worry improves blood and heart rate.

One woman expressed those benefits this way: “I began to put into practice the

idea of saying that this would be a good day the minute I woke up. And I can positively say that I have not had a bad or upsetting day since then. The amazing thing is that my days actually haven’t been any smoother or anymore free from petty annoyances than they were, but they just don’t seem to have the power to upset me anymore. Then every night I list all the things for which I am grateful, little things that happened during the day which added to my happiness. I know that this habit has geared my mind to pick out the nice things and forget the unpleasant ones. The fact that for six weeks I’ve not had a single bad day is really marvelous to me!”

I think she learned to turn the ship around! You can too! I challenge you to declare in the morning, “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!” Then, at the end of the day, think of at least three good things that happened that day. You will start to feel the difference, see the difference and you will find your mind on a different course – you’ve turned the ship around!