Coping Mechanisms: Extreme Emotion

You’re going about your day and something or someone causes you to stress or have strong feelings and emotions. Maybe you’re going to panic, it’s not the right time and place to panic or show your emotions. What do you do?

The “Stress Hour”

Whenever something stresses you out or causes you to have strong feelings, write it down or make a mental note. Put it at the back of your mind until you reach a time in the day where you can review this note/list. You can call this your “stress hour” or whatever you wish to, but it’s imperative to take time out every day for this. Depending on what worries/stresses you or causes you to have strong feelings, you’ll address them all differently. So get through them one at a time (prioritise), some of them may require quiet introspection, whilst others may need you to be more productive e.g. making phone calls/attending appointments. This is a very important technique because it is preventative. Now, let’s say you have tipped over the edge, there are a number of techniques you can try:

1. Distraction
Cleaning, watching a TV show, doing a puzzle or having a conversation. This is for short-term release because it does not solve any underlying issue. Works well with all emotions where you need to calm yourself before confronting your feelings and thoughts.

2. Grounding
Using your sense of smell, touch, sight, taste and sound, notice everything around you. Spend time observing the stillness or the sound of the world around you, walk barefoot and focus on how it feels, observe the shapes of the clouds, smell the flowers and grass around you, taste and feel the texture of food and water. This allows you to temporarily disconnect and reduces the physicality of anxiety.

3. Emotional Release
Scream, run, shout, laugh or even dance. This releases the intense pressure of overwhelming emotion, particularly anger and fear.

4. Love You
Tidy your room, treat yourself or maybe have a bubble bath. This is great for guilt or shame, but doing it in the first place might make it seem as though it’s superficial…..it’s not.

5. Challenge your Thoughts
Imagine someone you love had the same problems as you, what would you tell them? This is hard to do the more you feel and the more emotional you are because it requires clarity and reasoning. However, this is a good long-term technique if you’re logical. You can also keep a thought record.

6. Higher Energy e.g. Meditate/Pray
Take ten minutes out of your day to focus on your breathing and nothing else. If you are religious, you may wish to choose to pray. Try volunteering, joining a cause, or simply doing something nice for someone else or a stranger. This is a reminder that we all have value and purpose, no matter how small or big. However, it’s important not to get too invested in problems which are not your own. Leaving your problems on the back-burner means you’ll always find a way to avoid addressing them.

 

Core Beliefs: Conditions of Worth

In my earlier post Social Anxiety Disorder Part II: The Light, I mentioned that negative automatic thoughts (NATs) are based on deep-rooted core beliefs from the external conditions in which we were raised in, what we will call “conditions of worth”.

Carl Rogers’ Theory & Conditions of Worth

Conditions of worth are expectations of society and others e.g. family and friends. The more we begin to distance our real self to strive to meet these expectations, it results in anxiety and depression. See the illustration below:

 

Conditions of Worth

Your Real Self

Your real self is your true inner child, when you examined the unknown world around you and were pure. When you approached everything with child-like curiosity and zero judgement. When you were the most open-minded. When you showed outright sympathy, and helped in any way you could.

Separation

And so began the separation from your real self as you grew older, with your internal real self battling your external surroundings. Watching your parents interact, hearing them tell you things about you that you had yet to make up your mind about. Watching the selective broadcasting of the news, telling you what is happening in the world. Telling you that you shouldn’t question it. Watching society tell you that you are odd if you are not the majority, there is no room for minorities. Hearing strangers curse with their crass language as you pass them. Looking up at tall buildings from which suited men and women exit from. Hearing people tell you you’re doing things wrong and what the right way is. Being told to interact with others and that being introverted isn’t good. Being told you’re not good at something, so you shouldn’t even try.

Anxiety & Depression

As you begin to fit this mould which society and others around you have created for you, it becomes the norm. These imperative years of learning made you believe what they said, made you follow what they did. You now have these core beliefs and a distorted vision of yourself that you never made, society did, others did. As you attempt to fit this mould you become anxious and depressed, you have to fit in, you have to meet everyone’s expectations, you have to make them proud, you have to be what they said to be.

But it’s not you, not truly.

The separation anxiety gets worse, you become depressed.

You have a choice.

You can either be you, regardless of what society and others think, or you can continue down this self-destructive path of letting everyone else dictate how you should feel and what you should be. Deep down, you yearn to be free again. Would you rather you are your true self and others criticise and bully you for it? Or would you rather follow this path made by others which will only lead to misery as you struggle to become something you’re not, accompanied with thoughts which have been fed to you to keep you on this single path?

The only way to strip yourself of years of conditioning is by challenging your core beliefs.

What are Core Beliefs?

Core beliefs are deeply held beliefs based on past experiences which dictate and influence how we understand or interpret our new/future experiences.
Everyone sees the world differently, people can go through the same experience and yet have vastly different interpretations of what occurred. Core beliefs determine how you see the world.

It’s a 3 Step Method

Situation ———-> Core belief ———-> Consequence

Example:

Core Beliefs

The pattern:
Core belief ———-> Thought ———-> Behaviour

 

How to Challenge your Core Belief

Easy, with evidence. Write down your negative core belief and list three pieces of evidence which suggest the opposite.

For example:

Negative Core Belief: I’m Stupid

Three pieces of evidence which suggest otherwise:

  1. I’m at University studying Biomedical Science and I am getting good grades.
  2. People usually always look to me for solutions to their problems.
  3. I’m good at both the Sciences and the Arts and possess a range of practical skills.

 

It’s as simple as that! I hope you can find time in your day to introspect and challenge your negative core beliefs.

Social Anxiety Disorder Part II: The Light

The following is part II of a two-part series on Social Anxiety, you can find part I here.

My Recommendation

Try to spend time reflecting on how to be more confident and assertive. As I said in Part I, I had a “fake it ’til you make it” attitude in combating my social anxiety. In my experience, in the long-term it helps to become assertive as it changes your outlook on a lot of situations. Always remember, a lot of the general public are far too narcissistic and busy with their own lives to focus on anything/anyone else. I would also suggest to speak to a counsellor about this. Someone to challenge your thoughts and ideas, allowing yourself to gain a different perspective.

Today, I’m going to show you how to challenge your own thoughts using fact, logic and introspection by following this 7-step thought record. I recommend completing one of these thought records for every negative emotion or feeling. Always find at least ten minutes every day to reflect back on the day. Think about how and why something happened. Draw a mental conclusion and think of how you can prevent it from happening again.

Let’s begin.

  1. Where are you?
  2. What are your emotions or feelings?
  3. What’s your negative automatic thought (NAT)?
  4. What’s the evidence that supports your NAT?
  5. What’s the evidence that does not support your NAT?
  6. What’s the alternative thought?
  7. What’s your new emotion or feeling?

 

I will now complete one as an example:

  1. Where are you?
    I am in the library.
  2. What are your emotions or feelings?
    I feel anxious, like I can’t breathe (note: feel free to include physical symptoms). I feel like I need to see everyone around me. I feel hot, too hot.
  3. What’s your negative automatic thought (NAT)?
    I have to look like I’m doing something whilst I wait 5 minutes for the person to leave the room that I’ve booked in the library. If I don’t do something, I’ll look odd, people are already looking at me. I can’t just stare at my phone, that’s not what people do in the library. I have to get out my notebook and pretend that I’m working for 5 minutes. I need to take a deep breath and calm my blood pressure otherwise I’ll sweat. I DO NOT want to sweat.
  4. What’s the evidence that supports your NAT?
    None. NOTE: Usually there will be no evidence to support your NAT as they are based on deep-rooted core beliefs from the external conditions in which you were raised in.
  5. What’s the evidence that does not support your NAT?
    No one is really looking at me, I just feel like they are. I see two girls a table away from me and they are looking at their phones, I know that’s not unusual.
  6. What’s the alternative thought?
    I’m not being abnormal and nobody is looking at me or cares what I’m doing. They’re far too absorbed with their own lives.
  7. What’s your new emotion or feeling?
    Indifference to my surroundings. Nonchalant. I feel calm tuning everyone else out. I don’t need to concentrate on everyone else. I feel like watching a funny YouTube video until my room is free.

 

So, there you have it, it might not seem like much, but challenging your thoughts effectively challenges your core beliefs and vice versa,  which I explain here. You also need to be rational in order to use this thought record. I will also be posting a guide on how to combat extreme sudden emotion, for both short-term and long-term relief.

When Old isn’t Gold Part II: Pain Management

This is the second post as part of a two-part series on managing the physical effects of human body degenration. You can find Part I here.

Personally, I don’t take medication unless the pain consumes me to an unbearable level. However, if you take medication on a daily basis with approval from your doctor, that’s okay too, it’s your life and you make the choices.

Without further ado, here are 8 Ways to Manage your Physical Pain:

  1. APPLY HEAT
    Don’t think internal inflammation means you shouldn’t apply heat to a painful joint or stretched muscle. Internal and external inflammation are vastly different. I personally favour very warm oil (olive or coconut) rubbed into the painful area. Hot water bottles and heat pads work fine too, it’s just my preference. If you haven’t tried it yet, try it! Be careful of the hot oil, it only needs to be heated for seconds depending on its boiling or melting temperature. However, if the skin over the affected area has a rash or is red and swollen, I recommend the following….
  2. APPLY ICE
    Sometimes we have swollen, inflamed and painful joints. This could be a regular occurrence for those with autoimmune conditions, any form of arthritis, osteoporosis, misaligned joints e.g. knock knees or after a partial dislocation. Applying ice works well to minimise swelling and redness, especially when applied immediately after injury. The ice numbs the localised area providing much needed pain relief, but be careful not to leave the ice on too long if no injury has been sustained as it can lead to achy joints later. Ice works particularly well on muscle injuries.
  3. APPLY PRESSURE
    Most people tend to massage or rub their joints and muscles when in pain, and for good reason. Applying slight pressure in soothing circles or using a comfortably tight pull on bandage provides some pain relief. I would not recommend this right after an injury or if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it may increase chances of developing a deep vein thrombosis or further injury.
  4. NONSTEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDs)
    NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory drugs in the form of tablets, liquid or gels e.g. Ibuprofen/Advil. These drugs work to block enzymes and reduce hormones responsible for inflammation. NSAIDs may cause some adverse effects in some people, so please check with your doctor before taking any.
  5. STRETCHING (FOR THE LONG TERM)
    When your body starts ageing or you have a condition which does not allow you to be physically active, your body begins to weaken. To prevent muscle wasting and increase blood flow, regular light stretching is extremely beneficial. When you do not lead a physically active lifestyle and all of a sudden you realise you need to walk more than you usually do or carry something slightly heavier than normal, your stretching pays off. Due to your regular stretching, injuries after exerting more physical strength than usual can be minimised. I recommend resistance bands for everyone, however if fatigue and lethargy are the only culprits keeping you from keeping fit, try light ankle weights. I do not recommend ankle weights for anyone who suffers from hip and knee conditions.
  6. TELL PEOPLE
    Do not feel as though you cannot socialise just because movement is difficult or impaired. Instead, educate your friends and family, tell them and help them understand what you can and cannot do. You’re not burdening anyone, in fact not opening up to your loved ones isolates you more and makes them feel helpless.
  7. FIND NEW INTERESTS & MAKE NEW HOBBIES
    There are some things you cannot do anymore, it is just something you have to accept in order to move forward. Don’t look back at the memories with longing, look back at them with fondness. Think about what interests you and make new hobbies instead of dwelling on the past. Drawing, photography, writing, baking, volunteering, mentoring……..the possibilities are endless.
  8. REST & RELAX
    You may feel you’re not productive or useful enough, but that just isn’t true. You do not need to be physically active to teach a room of students or to provide counselling. You may write or read something to someone which may change their lives. Don’t let anything stop you from resting and taking a break, everyone takes a couple of hours, a day or a few days of doing absolutely nothing in order to recharge their batteries. So, why can’t you?

Social Anxiety Disorder Part I: The Shadow

The following is Part I of a two-part series on Social Anxiety, you can find Part II here.

Anxiety, the shadow. Something we’ve all undoubtedly felt, yet seem to think we’re the only ones, stuck in this abyss with not a light in sight. They say that light burns brightest in the dark. Not in this shadow, because no one sees it but me, so how will light find it? Will light know where to look?

Social Anxiety Disorder

What’s a social anxiety disorder? When you’re not shy anymore. When the prospect of socially interacting with people doesn’t just scare you, it controls you. When you will do anything to avoid social interaction, scrutiny, judgement and rejection.

To anyone who has ever had an anxiety disorder, be patient with those who do not understand and wave it off as extreme shyness. Let it be enough that you know exactly what you are going through and that you will be free.

I’ve had social anxiety all my life. No really, all my life as far back as I can remember. At the age of 4 I refused to leave my mother at the school gates and would hyperventilate and cry. That’s the very first memory I have of my anxiety. But every child does that, right? How about every teenager? How about every adult? It spiralled to the point where inflicting pain upon myself to avoid school was the only option I felt like I had. The longest I went without stepping outside of my house was 3 months. Education was my motivator, I wanted to go to college and univeristy, I wouldn’t let this control my entire life. So I faked it until I made it, no magic cure. I deliberately forced myself into daunting social situations, it was terrifying. It finally worked, I enrolled to college and made friends who helped me in some way, even if they didn’t understand. It stopped when I took control at the age of 18.

And yes, sometimes I still don’t want to interact with cashiers in shops or attend a social function, small steps. The fake it ’til you make it attitude is a good starter, but it doesn’t last. What does last is challenging your thoughts and actions.

Mind over matter

Think yourself free through introspection and logic.

Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

So if you can find out whether your unborn child will have a debilitating genetic disorder, would you? What would be the next step? An abortion? A lifetime of primarily taking care of your child?

It’s all subjective, all of it.

The severity of the disease, what it means for the parents or the parents simply may not wish to know the status of their embryo.

What’s important? Penetrance. What’s penetrance?

Penetrance is the risk of the child developing the disease in their lifetime. If your child tests positive for a gene mutation, they may still never have the disease itself. In the case of gentic diseases such as Huntington’s Chorea, the penetrance is 100%. However, for other diseases, the penetrance may be less than 50%. In which case, is it morally right for a parent to end the possibility of a disease-free life for their child?

 

Eugenics and the death of Evolution as we know it

Selective breeding, picking who gets to live or who doesn’t or however you wish to word it. It means there is no natural selection, nature no longer decides where the balance is, humans do.

What does it all mean?

It means you get to decide if you don’t want your child to suffer for the rest of their life. It means you get to choose to end their life. It means you get to choose if you don’t want your child due to their eye colour or hair colour……wait, we’re spiralling out of control. So comes the question, what if PGD is used for reason unrelated to pathology? What if it’s used for superficial reasons?

The future of PGD

Encouragement and progression of PGD may lead to further moral, ethical, social and legal issues where PGD and other associated tests may be carried out for less serious diseases or conditions unrelated to pathology. This would make it difficult for legal bodies to regulate eugenics and raises further social/moral issues of whether the legal system should be involved in personal medical choices and women’s autonomy.

When Old isn’t Gold Part 1: Growing Pains

This is the first post as part of a two-part series on managing the physical effects of human body degenration. You can find Part II here.

Now being in your early 20’s definitely doesn’t count as being old by any stretch, but I physically feel that way. Why? Since I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with a bone disease. This meant I couldn’t do physical education without the risk of fractures and due to fatigue, I rarely socialised with friends. Around 10 years later, I no longer have the disease, but some joints of mine have already begun to show early signs of degeneration. This coupled with regular dislocations, fatigue and pain doesn’t allow for an active lifestyle which most 20-something-year-olds have.

I recall something someone told me whilst waiting in a waiting room for an endoscopy whilst I accompanied my mother who was having the same procedure. The old woman who looked to be in her 70’s told me,

“I don’t wish old age on anyone”

It wasn’t in a bitter manner either. I proceded to ask her why, surely growing old means you have more life experience, stories to tell, advice to give and an appreication for life. I watched her lean against her husband, smiling, old couples always look so adorable, so put together as though they have figured out all the secrets to some long lasting relationship. She just nodded and replied, “there’s not much you can do anymore” and with that she gave me a little wave and left the waiting room with support of her husband.

I understood and empathised partly with the physical experiences which come with old age. I empathised with the debilitating pain which leaves you dependent on another. The constant worrying about the future when that “another” leaves, what will happen? who will take care of me if I can’t? The emotional pain of burdening someone else. The need to sleep all the time. The not feeling useful enough or being productive enough. The endless time spent thinking about the things you used to do before your body began degenerating. The search for jobs which you can still do without being in constant pain. The emotional and mental pain which comes from being physically isolated. The need for companionship fading as you focus on the end and sometimes yearn for it. The observations of others around you accomplishing things you never did, and now you will never get to. The making excuses for socialising due to the anxiety you feel when others see you this way. The freedom lost when you became dependent on another person to take care of you.

Maybe growing old is a beautiful thing and an individual process, but no one can escape the physical effects of growing older and how they impact one physically, mentally, emotionally and soemtimes financially.