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Archive for the ‘anxiety’ Category

Guest post by Suzanne Marie

There are many reasons keeping a journal can be beneficial to those dealing with mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar, and eating disorders. The world can be scary for individuals with thoughts and emotions they don’t fully understand. Living in an unrelenting world is hard enough, then add in raw feelings you don’t know what to do with and it makes it even harder.

Most people with mental illness feel “stuck”. They may not like themselves or understand who they are. Their thoughts may race or they may feel void of emotions altogether. It isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere. Finding ways and means to express yourself is key.

This is where writing in a journal can be cathartic. Even if you’ve never done it, it’s okay, it’s not as hard as you think! There are many ways to journal; one may work better than Journal 4the other. First, get yourself a really cool notebook or journal. Then, find your favorite pen and find a quiet place to sit alone. No phone, no computer…

The hardest part of journaling for most people is knowing where to start so I will give you some ideas to help. However, feel free to come up with your own ideas. Remember, no one will see this but you. Be honest and just let the pen flow.

  1. Gratitude List: Write down everything you are thankful for or grateful to have.
  2. Positive Trait List: Write down a list of positive traits you have. Include the things you like about yourself and what you have to offer another person. Dig deep, there are plenty!
  3. A Letter to Yourself. Include the good and the bad. Let those bottled up emotions go, and just write! It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else but you.
  4. Self-Care: Make a list of good things you can do for yourself to help you feel better. You may be doing some already!
  5. Let It Flow: This is where you just write. Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. Don’t go back and read. Write about your day, your life, your feelings, a particularly hard time you may be going through. Don’t censor. Just keep going!

Talking about yourself, writing about yourself, even thinking about yourself can be terrifying. Especially when you’ve tried so hard to hide it and pretend it wasn’t there. Writing your thoughts and feelings down can be the easiest way to bring them to light. It can be freeing and therapeutic at the same time.

Learn to journal every day. Even if it’s for five minutes, just do yourself a favor and start. It’s your time. Do it for you.

 

Suzanne
Suzanne Marie is a professional writer living in rural North Carolina. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and anxiety. She looks forward to writing posts for “This Side of the Creek” and expanding her knowledge of mental health.
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If there is one thing I never imagined I’d be able to do, it was travel to another country. Thoughts of having to get a passport, fly for hours, acclimate to another culture, figure out where to go and how to get there, among other things, created a heightened anxiety like none other. Yet, I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience something new and be able to tell my anxiety to screw off!

It was summer 2016 and I was working in a treatment center with some wonderful colleagues who were planning a trip to Europe to attend a Cincinnati Bengals game in the fall. 14980748_753502604464_8118517951997617941_nWhile heating up lunch in the small staff kitchen one afternoon, one of the RDs going on the trip asked me to go with them. “Uh, I mean yeah, totally I’ll go if they approve the time off for all of us.” Anxiety. Set. In.

I texted my boss and then spoke with her in person. I later learned that yes, it would be possible for me to go to Europe with three of my favorite people. I purchased the plane ticket and took a deep breath as I started the process of getting my passport. And just like everything else I’ve felt anxiety about, getting my passport was not as difficult as my mind made it out to be. A few simple steps and now I have the travel book I never thought I would.

The months before the trip seemed to drag on and I purchased more travel items than I actually needed. I had moved from anxious to excited…until the week of the trip! Anxiety settled back in and I packed, unpacked, packed again. I made lists, checked them off, made new lists. I lost sleep and lost my ability to concentrate. And then THE day arrived.

We spent a majority of our trip in London, with one day/night in Paris. Fortunately, one of my travel companions had previously lived in Europe so she knew how to navigate the tube system and was more organized than my anxiety would have allowed me to be. I considered her to be the leader of the trip and it helped me to be able to enjoy my experiences that much more. Our London hotel was next to the London Eye so obviously we had to take a ride up! We visited many additional sites including Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, Harrod’s, and of course Wembley Stadium. In Paris, our main goals were to go up into the Eiffel Tower, eat crepes and get breakfast at a pastry shop. We did all of those things!IMG_0090

Fast forward two years and I’m so thankful for this trip and my ability to power through feelings of anxiety and do something I never thought I’d do. Unfortunately, anxiety’s best friend is avoidance and oftentimes we stop ourselves from doing anything that creates this emotion. By not doing, we relieve the anxiety and are back in a comfortable state. Whew!

Had I allowed my anxiety to keep from going to Europe, I would have missed out on one of the most memorable trips of my life thus far. I wouldn’t have grown closer to my colleagues, tested some of my personal limits, or had wonderful photos to look back on.

So, the next time your anxiety wells up, how will you respond?

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Photo taken by Maggie Wright of Wilmington, Ohio.

Humans have a natural tendency toward worrying. When we don’t know what is going to happen in any given situation, we may start to feel ourselves getting keyed up and thinking the worst possible outcome will come into existence. We may lose sleep, no longer have a normal appetite and becoming irritable without intending to do so. That’s what worry does.

A former co-worker of mine told me during a spiritual conversation one day that worry is a sin. He mentioned how the Bible instructs us not to worry and how God is in control, we just have to have faith. When I heard this, it helped change my perspective about the excessive worrying I had done my whole life. Yes, I was dubbed a “worry wart.”

This, along with becoming familiar with acceptance and mindfulness, has transformed my worry into productive energy. Acceptance-based interventions are part of a treatment modality known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, developed in the 1970s by Marsha Linehan. Counselors and psychologists across the country use this as part of their treatment (and insurance companies love that).

Part of the goal in DBT is to work toward acceptance of what IS and even what WAS. So often we can fall into the mindset of “I wish…” or “I should…” rather than looking at what we are thinking, feeling and doing right now. Adding mindfulness to our lives takes acceptance of the here-and-now, this moment, and allows us to be fully present where we are.

Sound complicated? It’s actually quite the opposite, but it does take a conscious effort to alleviate worry and practice acceptance and mindfulness. However, it DOES work. At least, that’s my experience. When we can stop “shoulding on ourselves” and move to a place where we can be okay with what is in front of us in this moment, we can then start to realize that there is no need to worry about the next moment. It will take care of itself.

Let me give you an example of how I use these practices in my daily life. My schedule is overwhelming as I am finishing graduate school and sometimes I look at my planner thinking “How in the world will I ever get all of this done?” Then I start stressing out and feeling like I want to give up because it seems impossible to complete all of these tasks. It is in that moment that I stop, take a deep breath or two, remember where I am (i.e. work or school) and re-focus on what I must do in the moment; what’s the task at hand. If I have a paper due in three weeks, of course I don’t want to wait until the last minute to finish it, but if I’m at work and there is nothing I can do to complete the paper while I’m there, I’m able to notice the stress coming up, feel it, not judge it, and let it go (also known as having a “teflon mind”). I can then stay present in the moment and my worry subsides.

At first I thought there was simply no way I could stay in the moment. Worrying is what I did… always. I was turned off by the idea of accepting what is and being fully present where I am because I “don’t have time to practice all of this stuff. I have too much to get done.” Yet, those were the reasons it was crucial to implement such skills.

DBT skills extend beyond acceptance and mindfulness, but I will spare you and not get into all of that. You can Google DBT to find a wealth of information that may help you stop worrying for worry’s sake.

In this moment, I am finishing this blog and heading out the door for work.

Until next time…

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