Friday, July 31, 2009

Two Sleep Tips For Those With General Anxiety Disorder

For those living with General Anxiety Disorder, sometimes called GAD, sleep problems can be an unwelcome companion. Difficulty falling asleep, and staying asleep, are so common that many turn to unhealthy habits, trying to get a sufficient amount of winks. Many turn to alcohol or other depressants to help "knock them out," a dangerous tactic that causes many more problems down the road.

So what to do when that much needed sleep refuses to come easily? According to doctors, there are two habits that are essential to practice, habits that you can begin today with very little effort.

1. Wake up at the same time everyday.

Right now, you may not be able to control what time you fall asleep, but you can certainly have a hand in what time you wake up. Choose a time early enough to complete all you need to do in the day, and stick with it. Waking up at the same time is the first step in resetting your body's clock.

2. Don't go to bed until you're tired.

Lying awake in bed, tossing and turning, actually only adds to your sleep problems. Staying up the extra hour or so will help you to fall asleep naturally. Although the first few days may be a bit rough, your new scheduled wake up time, will gradually allow you to tire earlier, and you'll begin getting the rest you need.

Alcohol, caffeine and sleeping pills are a dangerous form of temporary relief and could make your anxiety worse.

Remember, according to doctors, 8 hours of sleep is not a hard and fast rule. Practice the two rules above, eat right and get plenty of exercise and your body will begin to regulate itself. This is going to seem difficult at first, but don't abandon the plan. Give it some time.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Can 'Faith' Bail Me Out of My Depression?

The treatment options available for people struggling with Depression have evolved significantly over the years. It wasn't too long ago that treatments such as blood letting, icy water submersion and lobotomies were the preferred cure for people suffering these type of illnesses. Today we have scores of humane treatment options and a menu of antidepressants to choose from, all promising to deliver people to the promised land, and return them to the living. Many have reported brilliant results with the use of these treatments, but there are others who haven't been quite as fortunate. To those who relate to this latter scenario, the best piece of advice I can offer is to let your FAITH take over. Right now the seas are too rough for you to navigate the boat. You need to move aside and let God steer for a while.

I can personally attest to the frustration these failures generate in the minds of people in pain. When it feels like you've tried everything and you're still not feeling better it zaps your motivation and plummets you into a world of despair and hopelessness. Nobody that has't experienced depression can understand what you're feeling, so you gradually isolate yourself from the world and you feel like this curse has invaded and taken you over completely. Sound familiar? I know, I've been there. So how did I finally surface from this environment of despair? It was strangely simple, I must admit, so simple that it probably doesn't qualify as a technique. But regardless of the brand you choose to give it, I urge you to give it a try. It's easy and its free and I promise it will give you a brand new perspective and a renewed sense of courage. What did I do? I SURRENDERED!

That's right, I surrendered. That little word that is usually associated with weakness is the strongest step you can take in your battle with depression. You see, others may not understand what you're going through, but God does. He knew all this would happen long before you were ever born and He has been waiting for you to ask for help. So instead of the anguish you put yourself through, trying to make sense of the past and dreading the future, try a different route. Try God. What's to lose?

Regardless of how you feel right now, this is not a life sentence. Eventually you will feel better, but its pointless to keep banging your head against the same wall. Did you ever hear the saying, "if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got?" It's true. Just stop, and say these words, "God, I'm tired and this is too much for me right now. I need your help." Then follow through. Give it all up to him and let him steer your boat right now. You'll see that with Him driving, you won't be landing in the same dark ports over and over again, but new ports filled with hope and strength. Do it now, He's waiting.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Best Anxiety Book I Have Ever Found

I do a lot of reading, it helps relax me. There is one book, however, that I find to be superior in its soothing quality--The Holy Bible.

Now I'm certainly not trying to force religion, of any sort, onto people who'd rather not hear it, and I apologize beforehand if this suggestion offends anyone. But I don't think this book recommendation is necessarily religious, nor do I think I'm violating any code in the "polite blogger's handbook." This is just another post to let readers know what has helped me in my battle with depression and anxiety, and I would feel guilty for not passing this information along if I thought it could help even one person.

The Bible is much more than a pious symbol of my faith. It is a handbook for living that always seems to say just what I need to hear every time I pick it up. I'll admit, after the first couple of times, I thought it might just be a fluke--a coincidence of sorts--that this book seemed to be speaking directly to my problem or situation. After a while though, I was a believer (pardon the pun). This book was dead-on every single time. When I was anxious, it calmed me, and that was no small task.

I won't go on and on about this, but I'll be satisfied and sleep better knowing I passed this information along to you. This blog wouldn't be completely honest if I only posted articles that I knew would be accepted by everyone, in fact, it would probably be blank. Take some time and make up your own mind.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Three Steps To Help Improve Irratibility

One of the most peculiar aspects I encountered in my depression was the habitual irritability I felt, especially in the mornings. Before I learned to deal effectively with this trend, I regularly dreaded each new day. It seemed okay when I was alone--there was nobody to get on my nerves and I could ease slowly in to a familiar routine. But on the days my girlfriend wasn't working, everything she did seemed to cause me anguish. It took me a while, too long, to recognize that it wasn't her actions, but my own instability that was bringing this about.

Irritability is a mysterious, yet common companion to depression. Many sufferers go so far as to identify this feeling as the most troublesome symptom they experience. Unlike other symptoms, which are often experienced only internally, irritability is visible to everyone, and can often cause serious difficulty within relationships. So what can be done? So far, nobody has a proven cure for this phenomena, but many have developed techniques to help make the effects a bit more manageable. Personally, I developed and implemented a three step process, that when practiced regularly, helped me get my mornings back.

1. Pray/Give Thanks

Regardless of your feelings toward spirituality or a higher power, I think you will agree that every new day is a gift from somewhere. On the moment you awake, take 3-5 minutes and give thanks for everything in your life. You'll find it's very difficult to remain surly and quick of temper when you're giving thanks. It will transform your mood and help you get off on the right foot.

2. Move

There is no question, considering extensive research, that the body and mind are interconnected. Any type of exercise during the first hour of your day will expend the energy currently being misused by the mind. It can be as simple as a short walk or a long stretch. Any type of movement will send signals to the brain that will improve your mood.

3. Write

More and more doctors and therapists have begun to acknowledge the power of the pen as a way to treat the symptoms of a mood disorder. Writing is a release of energy, a way to help you organize your thoughts and chronicle the conditions that seem to make your symptoms better or worse. This information is an invaluable tool you can refer to whenever you need help recognizing and managing your mood.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Depression: It's Not Your Fault, but.....

Looking back, my particular battle with Depression unfolded in three stages. These stages were not evident to me at the time, however. Regrettably, coping with my life-altering symptoms left little time for honest reflection. In retrospect, though, these three distinct periods seem crystal clear.

Below is a brief explanation of each stage I passed through. Maybe you can recognize or relate to one or all of them, and maybe some of my errant thinking can save you a bit of unnecessary grief.

Stage One: Why Me?

When I first began experiencing the symptoms of Depression I felt conflicted. I was scared, sure, but I was mad too. Why did this thing have to hit me? Consequently, I began to blame everyone and everything within earshot. I blamed: my parents for passing on their genetic code, my job, my upbringing, doctors and my friends. This thing was wiping out everything I had worked for, and darn it, if I had to be miserable, I was determined to pass the misery along.

Stage Two: Poor Me!

Eventually, I accepted depression for what it really is: an ILLNESS. This scourge was not my fault, nor the fault of anyone else. Depression hit me in the same way cancer may hit another. This news in itself is not harmful. In fact, it should have been encouraging. But the way I reacted to this revelation is where I went dangerously wrong: I threw myself a world-class pity party. Slowly, I began to give up on everything formerly important to me and I retreated into a world of isolation and loneliness that, without going into too much detail, should have killed me.

Stage Three: The Right Combination

At the conclusion of the above two stages I felt beaten and bruised. My life had turned into something I dreaded, something only to be tolerated. Hope, the emotion that once made life bearable, was nowhere to be seen. Ultimately, I decided I had only two options, choices that may seem cliche, but they were all too real: live--really live--or die.

Well, you know what option I chose, and that decision ignited remarkable results. As it turned out, stage three was actually nothing more than an amalgamation of stages one and two. First, I accepted my depression as an illness, and then I got mad as hell, determined to beat it.

I came out of my cocoon and I started searching for, and applying, every piece of information I could get my hands on. I became an active participant in my recovery and I stopped playing the victim. With every small success my life gained a sense of momentum and purpose, and soon the light of hope, absent for so long, began to return.

Needless to say, it would have been great to have begun at stage three rather than putting myself and my loved ones through so much pain. That regret, though, is a worthless emotion unless put to good use. I hope my story helps to steer you into stage three before you have to cope with the hardship and misery of the other two.

Anxiety and Panic Disorder: The Symptoms

Anxiety sort of snuck up on me. I was 17 years old and one day I just started feeling like something wasn't right. I couldn't explain what was happening to me. It felt like that sensation you get, body and mind, when you narrowly escape a traffic accident. That, at least, is how I explained it to other people. But this feeling was different, unexplainable and it was scary. As the symptoms got worse, I swore I was going crazy. My life felt unmanageable at every level.

If you have recently experienced "weird" symptoms you can't explain, and you want a bit of information that may explain them, I have provided a link which lists all anxiety and panic symptoms for your reference. Go here:

Anxiety and Panic Disorder Symptoms

It's important to treat anxiety and panic disorder early. It is a nasty condition that can feed on itself, and symptoms can quickly become escalated if it's not addressed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Depressed? Get up!

This is going to be short, simple advice, but it's perhaps the most important advice I can give to depressed people. Unfortunately, though, this advice is sometimes the most difficult for affected people to follow. My advice? Get up!

While I was depressed--really depressed--I faced a difficult decision every morning. I knew I had to get up and face the day, but every fiber of my being was telling me to stay put. I felt heavy and foggy, and the prospect of a new day was more than I thought I could handle. The real tough mornings were waking up where other people were also around. To say I was irritable would be a grand understatement. Every thing they did bugged the living you know what out of me.

If you have suffered from Depression, I can almost see you nodding your heads in agreement.

I knew I had to do something, and I was out of ideas. One day though, while surfing some web sites, I came across some pieces of information written (of all people), by Anthony Robbins, the TV self-help icon. Now I must admit, in the past I never gave much credence to the things he said(or wrote), but the advice I discovered that morning proved not only relevant, but quite useful as well.

In this article, Robbins urged me to do two things every morning without fail. They worked for me so I will pass them on to you:

1. Get up, start moving and breathe.

I know what you're saying, "wow, what a revelation," but please hear me out. He says the brain will respond in a positive way in accordance with healthy movement, combined with deep breathing. He was right! Since that day, I get up and walk around my block every morning, focusing on my breathing. I feel better and I no longer dread the mornings. In fact, I often look forward to the AM now. My "power" time gives me a chance to organize my thoughts and prepare for the day.

2. Be grateful.

If you're me, you find it quite easy to complain in the midst of your symptoms. When depressed, I would curse this disease and I was convinced that nobody could possibly understand what I was going through. Now, whether that's true or not is insignificant. The truth is everybody has concerns of their own, and the time they have set aside for dealing with yours is probably quite minimal, if it exists at all. I came to understand that complaining was a waste of energy I could be spending elsewhere. So I followed Tony Robbins' second piece of advice--be grateful.

I started scheduling 10 minutes every morning dedicated solely to gratitude. I thought of all the things and people in my life to be thankful for and discovered there were quite a bit. These thoughts became mantras for me, and I soon found it hard to complain at all. I had so many things going for me, and when I actively considered these thoughts, I could feel the transformation in both my mind and body. The best way to describe it: it felt like I had put on my favorite pair of jeans. The mood was comfortable and reassuring.

So there it is. Give it a try if you want, and remember to follow through. Make it a habit and you too can look forward to the mornings.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Alcohol: An Anxiety No-No

For a while, at the height of my battle with anxiety, alcohol became both my best friend and worst enemy. No medication I was prescribed seemed to produce the same short-term calming effect that I got from alcohol. It soon became the first option I turned to for upsetting anxiety symptoms, and for a while I thought I had discovered a miracle treatment. As my disorder progressed, however, it became evident that my consumption was causing more problems than it was addressing.

Alcohol, a controlled depressant, can certainly help to ease symptoms for a bit, but sooner or later you have to sober up, and that is where the problem begins to get scary. In the mornings, after a night of drinking, my anxiety became almost unbearable. I was shaky, uneasy and confused. The treatment that had seemingly worked so great the night before, had worn off, and the anxiety had actually worsened.

So you'll never guess what I did. Yep, I started drinking again, desperate for the same results. This became a vicious cycle that would lead me to the brink of physical, mental and emotional disaster. The symptoms of my anxiety continued to spin out of control and my alcohol intake rose to dangerous levels. Naturally I became hopeless, desperate and miserable.

I realize firsthand how frightening anxiety can be. People suffering will try almost anything to get relief, but alcohol, despite its initial assistance, is definitely not the answer. If you feel like alcohol is beginning to cause a problem with your anxiety and your life in general, I strongly urge you to get help. I finally broke the cycle and I am happy I did. My anxiety is now fairly under control and has not bothered me for quite some time.

This is not a permanent condition. Try not to let fear lead you into destructive behavior. Keep fighting the "good fight" and eventually your symptoms will subside.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this subject. Please post your comments.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tame Your Depression: Six Steps toward Feeling Better Now

For the past fifteen years I have lived with chronic depression. I use the word lived but that’s a bit misleading. For the majority of that time I allowed the symptoms of my depression to take over my life. I existed, sure, but I certainly didn’t live.

One day that changed—it had to—and I got my life back. I’ll explain that in a bit, but first let’s take a look at Depression and its uncanny ability to assault your life.

Depression is a very serious medical condition, but unfortunately for those who suffer its effects, it is very misunderstood. I lost count of all the people who, while trying to help, consistently urged me to “cheer up,” or “just relax.” Their support was well meant, but their ignorance of this disease left me feeling very frustrated. Believe me, I wanted to cheer up, but I just couldn’t. It’s similar to asking someone with COPD to just quit coughing: it’s just not going to happen.

Consequently, depression made me feel very lonely and hopeless. I thought there was nothing I could do and I felt paralyzed. Here’s what I was dealing with. You will undoubtedly recognize the items on this list, as they are classic symptoms of this curse:

 Feelings of darkness, heaviness and persistent “blah”
 Loss of interest in things I used to enjoy
 Anxiety
 Inability to focus or concentrate
 Irritability
 Sleep Problems
 Loss of energy

Yep, I had it all, and it had me.

Sadly I relinquished a large chunk of my life to this illness—a chunk I can’t get back-- but one day I finally decided to fight back. I was taking medication at the time, and although it helped somewhat with the nagging symptoms, I knew I needed to take additional steps. I read everything I could get my hands on and began acting upon some of the solutions that had worked for other people. The advice I read seemed so simplistic, and to say I was skeptical at first would be an understatement. Regardless, I surged forward and I came up with a list of six simple steps that would ultimately change my life. Slowly and with significant effort, the darkness began to fade. The better I felt, the more progress I was able to make, and my world began to look a little brighter.

Below are the steps that helped me. Keep an open mind and give each one of them a try. I sincerely believe these simple steps can help you as well:

Six Steps Toward Feeling Better Now

1. Get Up!

• Even if you don’t feel like it or you have nowhere to go, get up, jump in the shower and get dressed. Believe me, that simple step will make a world of difference. Lying in bed all day will only make your depression worse.

2. Exercise.

• Dedicate 30 minutes a day to some form of aerobic exercise. Jog, walk or ride a bike. Exercise has been proven to perk up your mood, and help you sleep at night.

3. Get some sun.

• Many experts agree that spending time outside in the sunshine can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Schedule some form of outdoor activity everyday: Take a walk, have a picnic or fly a kite. Any outdoor activity will help you beat the blues. Bonus: a little tan may improve your self-esteem.

4. Be positive.

• Depression makes it all too easy to take a negative view of your world, but these thoughts only worsen depression symptoms. Force yourself to spend some time considering all the positive things in your life. Plan a trip or take up a hobby. Give yourself something to look forward to and your life will take on a sense of momentum and hope.

5. Keep a journal.

• Writing is a great outlet for troubling thoughts, associated with depression. Keep track of your challenges and successes by putting them down on paper. Depression can make it difficult for you to concentrate and focus, so writing things down can be a helpful tool. After all, once it’s down on paper, you no longer have to remember it.

6. Talk about it.

• Depression can be very lonely. You convince yourself that nobody understands, and retreat into your own little world. This behavior is not only unhealthy for you, but can poison your relationships as well. Remember that your depression affects everybody close to you. Sharing your struggles (and your hope) with your family and friends is very therapeutic for everyone involved. Open, consistent communication will lead to healing and understanding.

Your life is too precious to have it imprisoned by depression. These steps worked for me, and I am willing to bet they’ll work for you as well, assuming you commit to them. It’s worth a try isn’t it? Implement each of these steps into your daily routines and you will feel better. What do you have to lose?