Control your thoughts, Control your mood.

Moods.

We seem to have so many of them.

At any given moment, our mood can be so easily manipulated by our thoughts.

Happy one moment, raging with anger the next. All because that guy cut us off on the highway. That single moment in time can drastically change our mood, from positive to negative. Cyclic negative thoughts devour our conscious mind. It can be like an endless battle for those that have difficulty getting a grip on their thoughts. Remember, your thoughts impact your mood.

How can we gain back our control?

The truth is, you were always in control.

Relfecting on your thoughts will help you to become more aware of how your thoughts influence your mood. By implementing some techniques [that I will discuss in a moment], you can learn to have better control, which will help you become ‘less’ reactive to your negative thoughts.

Acknowledge your thoughts for exactly what they are… just thoughts. They are thoughts with no action. You create the action, or perhaps you choose to take no action. Nevertheless, the choice is yours.

A few techniques that have been helpful for me:

1) Thought record

Keeping a thought record helps you to identify a trend in negative thoughts and feelings. It helps you to become more self-aware, which in turn allows you more control over how you respond to your thoughts. Ultimately you have the power. You can choose to hold on to a thought or you can disregard it. If it is causing you distress, it may be better to let it go, for now. If it is something that is worth a second look, you can always revisit it at later when your mind is more calm and clear. But before you do, ask yourself, is it really worth it?

2) Thought Challenging

Challenging your thoughts allow you to see things in more than one perspective. Ask yourself:

Is it really worth it? Will it matter tomorrow, a week, a month or a year from now? Could the opposite be true? What evidence do I have to support this thought or assumption? What level of importance does it really hold? Is it something that is needed or wanted? What advice would I give to a friend in a similar situation? Does a decision need to be made right this second, or can I give it a few days?

Take a step back and re-evaluate your situation from a different perspective. Chances are nothing is really as urgent or significant as what our minds make us believe.

3) Distraction

Sometimes all we want to do is completely forget about whatever is probing at our brains. Although at times it seems impossible, we do have the option to let it go (even if for only the time being). If it’s a feeling you just can’t shake, or if it’s causing you a lot of distress, let it go for now and distract yourself with something else. Find pleasure in activities that bring you joy. For me, hiking along the Bruce Trails, Manicures, painting, cuddling with my furbabies, journaling, going to the gym, and reading go a long way. During the process of distracting yourself, you may even come to realize that it wasn’t as big of a deal as you first thought it was. Distraction allows you to take a step back, and revisit it when you are more calm, and your thinking is more logical and rational.

4) Support

There are multiple ways to access support. Whether it be from a friend or family member, or a professional, there is always help available.

Take advantage of the World Wide Web, the internet. This valuable tool has made access to Mental Health Support easier to access. We have education and support at our fingertips. A quick google search will reveal support services available on the internet (for example, E-couselling), or services close to you in your area.

You can also checkout the list of Helplines, and Mental Health Services under the Mental Health Resources Tab. I will continue to locate and add more resources as they become known and available.

5) Self-Help Books

Self-help books make my world go round. What works for some people may not work for all. Some people prefer a more traditional one-on-one counseling approach as opposed to self-guided lessons. Find out what works for you and do that.

A few of my favorites are Mind Over Mood, Retrain Your Brain (CBT in 7 weeks), Feeling Good (The new mood therapy), You are Badass, Unf*ck yourself, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and The Secret (Law of Attraction).

6) Apps

The world seems to be going fully digital in this Era, so I encourage everyone to utilize the online resources we have available to us. Cellphone Applications are numerous, and can be of great value. Think of it as 24/7 support, available 7 days a week, including holidays.

A few of my favorites are Dailyo, eMoods, Pacifica, Talk Life, Feartools, Moodtools, What’s up, BetterHelp, Calm and HeadSpace.

For more of my favorite applications, check under the Mental Health Resources Tab.

Are there any additional techniques that work for you? Any that you have tried and didnt work? I would love to hear from you. Drop a comment.

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Emergency Night

Another night in Emergency.

Come to think about it, I dont think I have ever blogged about my experiences in the ER.

I feel my absolute best when I am at work. I feel energized, motivated and accomplished.

The reward of being a nurse is beyond anything I have ever experienced. It is an incredible feeling knowing that you are touching the lives of another human being, with as much as a genuine smile.

I have worked in Emergency for just over a year now, and it is like my second home. I feel like this is where I am suppose to be. My calling.

I will share some of my personal experiences (eventually) but the identify of my patients or the people involved will be kept confidential.

This is just my introduction to my life in the ER.

It is as ‘crazy’ as people claim it to be.

A moment of silence

I apologize for my absence. I needed some time to recollect my thoughts. Although I still don’t have a complete hold on them, I will try my best. [LOL]

Overall, things have been wonderful. I can honestly say, I am almost back to my “complete self”. My life will feel satisfied when I start hitting the gym again, and increase my social interactions.

I have been having difficulty focusing my mind to produce anything concrete. I have so many ideas, goals, tasks, commitments, and responsibilities flooding my mind every minute, it makes it difficult sit down long enough to even type a sentence, before I have the urge to get up and do something else. I am learning to get a grip on this ADD.

Throughout the years, I have learned the skills necessary to overcome the constraints of my illness (ADD). What works is goal setting, prioritization, routine, scheduling, and simplicity. Beyond those basic principles, I think it’s important to also take care of yourself and know when it’s time to take a break and relax. Gift yourself some tender loving care. It speaks volumes when you learn to love yourself.

Is there anybody that wants me to post about something in particular?

Perhaps drop a comment about a particular situation you’re having difficulties with and maybe we can all help each other?

Let’s help each other.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder | A personal story

What do you worry about?

I used to make every thought that came into my mind something to worry about (or maybe I still do – laugh out loud – I just react less).

Worried about being late; worried about getting into an accident; worried to death if a cop is riding behind me; worried about getting lost; worried about having to parallel park; worried about relationships; worried about death or the potential of death; worried about health; worried about work; worried about my future; worried about family; worried about my parents being late by 30 minutes; worried about social events; worried about something awful happening; worried about what I am going to wear; worried about my weight; worried about my complexion; worried about work related stress; worried about love; worried about running out of gas; worried about driving at night, in the snow or rain; worried about not being about to fall asleep; worried about worrying.

These worrying thoughts would ruminate in my mind in a cyclic fashion.

Sometimes my constant worrying would be about a make-believe situations or hypothetical conclusion. I’d worry so much about something that hadn’t even happened (yet) that it would end up causing the very thing I feared to happen or create unnecessary conflict over it. It would basically create an issue out of nothing, for absolutely no reason; an issue that had no reason to even exist.

It was exhausting to say the least.

It was an ex of mine that pointed out my compulsive worrying, and kindly suggested I talk to my doctor about it. I hesitantly took his advice after many months. I had nothing to lose.

It was the best decision.

I was also diagnosed with Depression at the same time I was diagnosed with GAD. Being diagnosed with depression came as a shock to me. I knew I had suffered with Major Depression in the past, but at this particular moment I didn’t feel sad, so thought nothing of it. However, I did lose interest in things, I didn’t want to spend time with my friends or go out anywhere, I felt hopeless about my future (at times), I was irritable, had difficulties sleeping and concentrating, and felt tired a lot of time. I assumed all this feelings were related to anxiety.

It isn’t uncommon for the both to be diagnosed together. Which one came first is still up for debate.

A few months later my depression slipped into a Major Depressive Episode and required me to take some time off work. My treatment plan changed a bit, but I will leave this story for another day when I talk about Major Depression.

My treatment plan consisted of medication, exercise, diet, self-help books (CBT), a sleep routine, mindfulness practice, meditation, CBT and talk therapy by a psychologist, and referral to a psychiatrist for evaluation.

To get into details about specific approaches I took would require another publication, or maybe two or three. If you have specific questions, please never hesitate to email me.

-Rachel Page

Social Anxiety Disorder | A personal story

Social Anxiety, another disorder I am familiar with.

It began in my earlier years, right around the time when the bullying began.

It instilled such fear that I refused to present in front of the class. My assignments would be presented in front of only the teacher at the end of the day. I become isolated, and alone. I was probably thought of as a ‘loner’ at one point. Eating lunch alone, even then I would sit there and worry about what the other kids were thinking about me. If they didn’t speak ignorant words, I knew they were thinking it; rolling their eyes as they walked by.

This fear has followed me throughout my life, and had affected multiple areas of my life.

My greatest challenge was in nursing school, and having to work in groups and present in front of the class, later it was working with ‘actual’ patients. Come to think about it, this is probably when the panic attacks started. Having to face my fears was terrifying, but I knew if I ever wanted to have a career in nursing, and practice safely, then I would just have to ‘suck it up’ and do it. I remember the first time I had to call a doctor. I wrote out everything, according to SBAR, quickly rehearsed it in my mind, then called the doctor. I maybe got 4 or 5 stuttered words out, panicked and hung up.
I made my preceptor call back.

With practice, it has got easier. I still get anxious when having to discuss a patients care with a doctor, but I manage (what choice do I really have?). I usually get anxious with anyone with higher ‘authority’. Probably because I am afraid of saying something incorrect, or not making sense, or afraid of what I ‘look like’. When I get anxious in social situations, I become flushed, I blush, and my body temperature rises. At work, I know I can’t avoid those situations, or else I could compromise the patient, and could lose my job.

The repeated exposure has helped drastically at work, but I still have avoidant behaviours in my personal life with family and friends. I have been known to avoid gatherings with large groups, including family functions. A “large” for me is any gathering consisting of more than 3 people. Usually when I gone out with friends, at most, it has only been with 2 other people. I have missed weddings, parties, birthdays, and random gatherings out of fear. It has affected my relationships with friends and boyfriend’s along the way, and made it difficult to make new friends.

A million thoughts will occupied my mind, and repeat over and over again.

“What if I say something silly? What if I look uncomfortable and awkward? Will they notice how nervous I am? What if my face goes red? What if my voice trembles? What if I don’t make sense or ramble? Will people ask me questions I don’t know the answer to? Will people think I am stupid? Will I have to initiate the conversations? What if I can’t relate to the conversation? What if people wonder why I am being so quiet? What if people think I’m wierd? What if?” Literally the thoughts never end, it’s exhausting.

And simply telling me, “I’ll be fine, suck it up, who cares what they think, or have a drink” or get angry or upset at me, only makes me more anxious. And it’s totally screwed up to think anyone could get upset at you over something you have no control over.

Imagine you are standing at the edge of a 100 foot cliff, and the only way back down is going over the edge, and climbing down a rope latter with some of the steps broken or missing. That is the same intensity of fear I get in some social situations. Sometimes it is easier to just sit down where you are (where you feel comfortable), and not move.

I definitely feel the most comfortable at home; I call it my safe haven. I do go out, maybe once every 2 weeks. Each time is always a struggle, my initial reaction is to cancel plans as the anxiety starts to build due to negative anticipations. It’s frustrating because I love my friends and family, and I should feel the most comfortable around them but my anxiety usually hinders over my trust.

I once had an ex friend get so angry at me because “I could go out with complete strangers (on dates), but I couldn’t hang out with my girl”. Anxiety is a weird thing, it is totally F’ed up. Meeting with strangers felt so much easier because they knew nothing about me, I had an opportunity to only allow what I wanted them to know, when I wanted them to know it. I could put an abrupt end to things if the relationship lacked a connection. I cared less about what they thought. I was in control of those situations.

With my friends, I am an open book. They knew every raw detail. I cared so much about what they thought. I valued their opinions, perhaps too much. I’m not sure why, but I felt like I always had something to prove. My mindset was very damaging to my relationships. Only the strongest relationships were able to survive.

I knew I wanted to change. I needed to changed. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy has really helped me gain back control, and is helping to change my way of thinking. I’m still a ‘work in progress’ but things are changing for the better. I also had to make some difficult decisions with ending some friendships. The purpose was to eliminate the people in my life that held me back, or no longer supported me or served me, grew with me, shared the same values or interests, able to understand me (or took the time to understand) or ride the highs and lows with me. Hardest, but best decision I ever made. Took a very heavy weight off my shoulder.

My journey to self-improvement began with the formulation of specific goals.

1) Decrease social anxiety and gain control
2) Build and sustain meaningful relationships

Then I came up specific tasks to complete each goal.

An example could be, decrease social anxiety by challenging catastrophic or distored thoughts, or slowly integrating different levels of exposure. You really have to be your own cheerleader when it comes to purposely exposing yourself to anxious situations. I’ve had to force myself, but each time always got easier, and I always ended up having a great time. I use reflection to remind myself of the positive experiences I had.

Before you jump into CBT or Exposure Therapy, I would advise that you talk with your doctor to develop a plan together that would work best for you. If it is decided that you would benefit from this type of therapy, you can either purchase a self-help workbook, or you can complete a plan under the care and supervision of a psychologist or trained therapist. I would advise the latter for more severe types of social anxieties or phobias, especially if they are causing significant distress.

-Rachel Page

Panic Disorder | Coping Regime

 

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Going through the experience of a panic attack are some of the scariest moments I ever had to live through. Each time felt like the last time, and to think it was a ‘harmless’ event was impossible, at first.

I really believe it was my frame of mind that helped me to cope as well as I did, as best as I did. It was really mind over mood, so to speak.

The frequency of the panic attacks seemed to diminish once I graduated from Nursing School and eventually came to a point of being almost non-existent. It look accepting what needed to change, dedication, and a change in mindset to adequately manage, and mostly prevent the return of the attacks.

Nursing School created a high level of stress in my life, not only was I dealing with the usual and expected stress related to the volume of weekly readings, essays, exams and presentations, but I was also trying to manage the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression and Social Anxiety. Furthermore, I was dealing with the psychological devastation of a cheating partner, relationship conflicts with friends, and the death of family members.  I believe it was a combination of these factors, fighting against each other, that led to the development of the panic attacks. I wasn’t diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety at this point, but I am sure my mental health history would have suggested it.

What coping mechanisms or techniques did I use to help manage the symptoms of, and prevent panic attacks?

I think the scariest part is the fact that you think you are about to die. The symptoms are very similar to a heart attack, which is why a lot of people will Dial 911 or go to their nearest Emergency  because it can be difficult to decipher between the two if you have never experience either one of them before.

With both, you get chest discomfort, short of breath, dizziness, apprehension, and/or nausea. The difference is usually the intensity of the chest pain, and the duration. Please note that not everyone who suffers a heart attack or a panic attack will experience chest pain or discomfort. Working in Emergency, I have seen people come in with crushing chest pains to mild heart-burn like symptoms to vague complaints of  “I am just not feeling that well, I am just more tired”. Panic attacks come on abruptly and are short lived, lasting only a few moments, and the pain DOES NOT radiate to the neck, back or jaw. If you ever experience chest pain and cannot contribute it to an exact ‘non-emergent’ cause, or when in doubt, call 911. Never EVER drive yourself to emergency if you think there is ANY possibly it could be a heart attack.

First and foremost, the biggest thing that helped me was when I finally decided to go see my doctor. It look me a few months to go, when the attacks were happening every other day, because I felt embarrassed over my lack of control over my own mind and body. Confiding and trusting my doctor provided me with a peace of mind that these signs and symptoms were being produced by my mind, and not something more serious. She sent me for a cardiac workup that included blood work, and diagnostic tests (ie. chest xray, ECG, and a cardiac holter monitor). All the reports came back normal, as suspected, and I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder. My doctor and I discussed my options for treatment, an developed a plan that best suited my life. I took a non-pharmacological approach.

Having a definite diagnosis, brought a sense of peace because I was able to know, without a doubt, that these physical feelings were harmless. The absolute worse that could happen is I could faint as a result of hyperventilation.

Which brings me to my next, very important, coping technique; the art of breathing.

Most often, people begin to feel lightheaded when they are breathing fast and heavily. When the panic attack comes on, you usually don’t realize that your breathing has increased, because you are scared stiff of what is lurking around the unknown corner of Doomsdale. That impending doom feeling, the feeling that something so horrible is about to happen. Your body is trying to figure out whether it wants to fight or take flight or play dead.

There are so many different ways to practice breathing techniques. Count to 4 or 5 or 6, or 10 (but don’t make yourself pass out), hold for x amount of time, breath out through your nose, or through pursed lips. Just pick what ever comes natural and easiest for you. The idea is you want to slow down your breathing and distract yourself by focusing on and counting your breaths. If you breath in through your nose the first time, but breath in through your mouth the second time, who cares…. just breathe – deep and slowly.

Just as important as breathing is relaxation. I know it seems impossible to be able to relax when you are in such a heightened state. An easy way to achieve this is to practice deep muscle relaxation. I often used this technique at night when my attacks were the worst. Get into a comfortable position. Start from one end of your body and work your way up (or down), tensing and releasing each muscle group. Tense as tight as you can, but without causing pain. The idea is to not only distract your mind, but it also helps you distinguish between what a tense body feels like, versus a relaxed one. I hadn’t known how tense my body really was until  I went for my first massage, and the massage therapist expressed concerns over how tense I was. My neck muscles were the worse, which often brought about agonizing, frequent tension headaches.

If  neither of those two did the trick, then I would depend on calm music and stretching, or endlessly pacing around the room until I tired myself out or forgot what I was pacing about. Keep in mind, although what seemed like forever, the panic attacks only lasted a few moments. Most of the time you spend is on psyching yourself out thinking about, instead think of something else, anything else (blue frogs, purple grass, pink sky, the smell of eggnog, a polka-dot pig;  the more random the better).

Sleeping was(is) exceptionally hard because my mind likes to wander and worry at night, so I started creating a routine for myself, and never went to lay down in my bed unless I was tired and on the verge of falling asleep. This meant, laying on the couch, watching TV, and waiting for that moment my eyes would start to droop. Some other remedies that would help me were a warm comforting bath with Epson Salts, Chamomile tea, and Melatonin, but eventually I had to upgrade to a prescribed temporary sleeping aid. Do what ever you need to to ensure you get an adequate nights sleep.

During the day if a panic attack would strike, I would use those same methods as mentioned above, but I would also incorporate other options such as going for a walk, calling a friend or family member, or wrote my thoughts and feelings down in my journal.

I also used reflection as a key competent to my management regime. Reflecting on previous attacks, helped me to see that I was always going to be okay, and it showed me what worked and what didn’t. Being more aware of my body and mind allowed me to feel and anticipate when an attack was likely to hit. It provided me with an opportunity to intervene before it turned into a full blown fit of terror.

Eventually I started to hit the gym, and I think that is actually what pushed me over to the happier, calmer side of life. Some other things that helped were decreasing or eliminating the factors that were causing unnecessary stress, and simplifying my life.

Really, it is a matter of finding out what works for you. A lot of the time (especially in the beginning)  you will spend your time trying to figure out different techniques that work for you. Don’t give up on this trial and error process. If you are having a hard time coping, and haven’t seen a doctor yet, I advise you to make an appointment. There is no reason anyone should have to suffer, and always know that you are never alone.

ℜachel ℘age ♥

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panic Disorder | A personal story

Panic Attacks; unfortunetly, something I am way too familiar with. Worst moments of my life. I seriously thought I was dying every time, then the thought of dying would just increase the intensity of the attack. Out of nowhere, minding my own business and BAM. My body would start to feel really warm – hot, and I’d feel really lightheaded, like pre-syncope (pre-fainting). My heart would start to race (I could feel it pounding in my chest; I could hear the rhythm echoing in my ears). I would find it difficult to swallow, and sometimes it was like I would forget, for a moment, how to breathe. My chest would start to tighten. The world around me wouldn’t feel as “real” (very wierd sensation to explain; it’s like I’m stick inside my body, looking through these windows – my eyes). I really thought I was going nuts. I was certainly losing control, to the point where it felt like my life was being sucked out of me. Then… the impending doom. The ultimate panic. That moment of “I’m about to die, my life is now over”. Tears would start to roll down my face. What seemed like forever was probably only a few minutes, maybe 10 mins at most. They would happen at random, never triggered by anything in particular. They would keep me awake at night. For some reason, they were always so much worse at night. I would have to get up out of bed and start pacing my room. If I laid down, I’d hear my hear pounding, my body would shake with each pound. I’d often check my pulse, just to see how crazy it was going, or to see if I was dead. Worst mistake ever. Feeling my pulse, or envisioning my heart stop pumping in my chest, would freak me the (beep) out of me. Impending doom would hit me again. What is worse then dying, if you think you are always dying?

To be honest, me typing out that last part made me feel a bit uneasy, a bit on edge. My pulse started to quicken. I closed my eyes, and I took a deep breath in…

Now I am back!

This happened for almost 6 or more months, my entire last year of nursing school. I was living in hell, so too speak. They started off gradually, one every 2 weeks, but increased to almost daily. I was living in complete fear – fearing when the next one might rip through me. Eventually it started to affect all aspects of my life. The only places I felt comfortable was at home with my head in my books, or at my boyfriend’s (now ex’s) home. I never really wanted to do anything or go anywhere, because I was deathly afraid of making an ASS of myself out in public (even around my own friends). I am surprised I made it through that last year of nursing school without having to pause my studies or repeat any course(s). (I’m very proud of myself).

I reached out to my doctor, and did a series of blood work and diagnostic tests (chest xray, ECG, cardiac holter monitor). To no surprise, all came back normal.

I was diagnosed with Panic Disorder.

My doctor advised against treatment in the form of medication. I know what you are thinking (WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD SHE NOT WANT TO TREAT YOU), but I agree with her reasoning based on the information I provided to her.

She felt the medication that is used to treat panic disorders, could really attack my ability to study. Plus panic attacks come and go so quickly, the attack would be over by the time the medication would kick in, and they aren’t the type of medications you want to take around the clock. They are sedating, and make you ‘too mellow’, and very addictive. Benzodiazepines are used on an “as need” basis (unless directed otherwise by your doctor). I was also against taking anti-depressants (at the time). So really my only option was to just ‘deal with it’, and I did.

Reflecting on that entire situation, I also don’t think I ever really told her exactly how bad it got, or all the dreadful details. Probably because I was scatter brained, and too quiet and timid – I didn’t know how to ‘speak up’. This is probably when the Social Anxiety, and Generalized Anxiety started.

I isolated myself so much that social situations made me feel incredibly uneasy. I didn’t want to hang out with my friends, and I even stopped showing up to family holiday gatherings.

The sad truth, I lost some of the ‘greatest’ friends due to my illness. Well childhood friends. BUT if they were truly meant to be in my life, they wouldn’t have gave up, they would still be here.

Hundreds of people will enter your life, lots more will exit. It will sometimes be a blessing, other times it will hurt. But everything happens for a reason, a life lesson. I have learned that as you get older you meet new people and start to build relationships based on similar interests, values, beliefs, and even mental illnesses (or mental wellness). The people in my life now have a very unique understanding of mental health, and can relate either on a personal (either they suffer from a disorder, or know someone close to them that does), or professional level. I find these ‘new’ friends can truly and deeply relate, and don’t take offense to my flare ups (moments where I isolate myself, and become MIA (missing in action) or non-existent; whatever you want to call it). I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends in my life, and I am so grateful for the friends I have yet to meet.

The great news is, I rarely get Panic Attacks anymore. Maybe one or two a year if I am unlucky. They pretty much vanished once I graduated from nursing school. I was able to spend all my energy on learning how to overcome those awful attacks on my own through relaxation, diet, and excerise.

I’ll be speaking more about treatment, and specific, yet simple, things you can do to help in another blog

Disclaimer: None of my information, education or personal stories are for diagnoses or treatment purposes. Mental Health Disorders are serious, and most of the time require help from a trained medical professional. If you think you suffer from one, and find you are having a really hard time coping…. please go speak to your doctor. Do not be afraid. Truly, they are only there to help you. It is very helpful to make a mood and thought diary, and write down everything you experience. When it is time to see your doctor, make some bullet points and some questions to ask to discuss with him or her. This will shed some of the anxiety. You can do it.

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