Thank you, Monument for publishing this article I wrote. Below is an article I wrote a few weeks ago and was published by a company called Monument which is an online alcohol addiction platform I have been working employed by for several months. Monument is a comprehensive platform and they have been excellent to work for and have helped a great deal of people.
Here is a link to the article: Why Your Brain Wants To Drink This Election Season, And What To Do Instead
During these stressful times, it is important to be mindful of our level of anxiety. One a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, what number would you rate your average level of anxiety in the previous 2 weeks? Has your anxiety increased since the pandemic? If you are experiencing an increase in anxiety, then you are definitely not alone. The collateral damage from the pandemic has caused a significant increase in deteriorating the mental health of individuals who have lost their jobs, have financial issues, and the first responders who work long hours. Normal and familiar coping mechanisms are no longer effective and according to Forbes, The Pandemic Has Caused An Increase In Anxiety, Stress, Depression, And Suicides. According to Dr. Ann Epstein, a psychiatrist at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance and medical editor of the Harvard Special Health Report Coping with Anxiety and Stress. "Anxiety signals us that something is awry or might need our attention. However, you don't want the response to become exaggerated or to dominate your life," she says. Increased anxiety can affect your decision-making process, your health, and your relationships. Techniques to reduce stress and anxiety can help you stay healthy during turbulent times.
Below is information about the breathing technique as well as a basic cognitive-behavioral technique to treat the anxiety. The first step is to become more aware of the anxious symptoms such as increased heart rate, heavy feeling in the chest, shaking hands, racing thoughts, etc. Then acknowledge the anxiety and try not to resist it. Below is an explanation to help better understand the etiology of anxiety.
When we have a feeling of anxiety, the prefrontal cortex is flooded with thoughts which are brain chemicals also called neurotransmitters. This is called anxiety. This increased volume of thoughts or neurotransmitters can become overwhelming which causes anxiety. When we suppress the anxiety, we may experience depression. When anxious thoughts occur, they trigger a glad inside the brain called the hypothalamus. This is known as the "fight or flight" gland. If you have ever watched a terror movie, you would notice you would become nervous about the person in the movie. That's because the hypothalamus cannot tell if you are in the movie or watching it. The hypothalamus cannot tell the difference between reality and perceived reality. The hypothalamus tells the rest of the body to react, create adrenaline, and create more neurotransmitters. This same process takes place when we react to negative thoughts, memories, or when anxiety builds up over time and releases. When this happens we try different ways to cope and control this uncomfortable feeling. Some people drink or use drugs, some have panic attacks, others control food. The reaction is a cycle. To change this reaction, we have to break or interrupt the cycle.
Here is a breathing technique to reduce anxiety.
Take one huge breath and exhale.
Then breathe in through the mouth for 8 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale through the nose for 8 seconds. The cycle of anxiety, depression, or racing thoughts is interrupted by the breathing.
This is because oxygen literally dilutes the number of neurotransmitters in the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is where the thoughts and anxiety are dwelling. This reduction of neurotransmitters (thoughts) tells the hypothalamus that you are not in danger and causes your negative thoughts and emotions to decrease.
The other part of this treatment is to increase awareness of when you are anxious. Become more mindful of when you experience anxiety. Notice the physical symptoms, acknowledge them, and accept that you are anxious. Then practice the breathing exercise. Without intervention, the cycle of anxiety is not likely to change. In other words, if you keep doing the same thing you have always done, you’ll get the same thing you always got. You must interrupt the cycle of anxiety in order to change it.
The breathing technique would be practiced once an hour for approximately 1 to 2 minutes if possible.
Forbes; Jack Kelly, Senior Contributor
Harvard Health, Harvard medical school
Are you noticing an increase in your anxiety during self distancing?
Underlying anxiety which commonly dwells in our subconscious is usually muted by staying busy throughout the day and carrying out our normal tasks. This is our normal pattern of life which we are used to and expect. Recently with social distancing, our usual life pattern has been disrupted and replaced with isolating ourselves from others. The normal pattern of life has been replaced with the unknown. In our daily lives, we basically know what to expect from day to day and what the near future is going to be like. Recent events have made that unclear. The purpose of this blog entry is to gain further insight and perspective into how our normal underlying anxiety is increased by the changes created by social distancing, being isolated from others, and how our normal coping strategies have been altered.
We are basically social people and we either enjoy or are required to interact with others. This interaction keeps our minds busy and provides a sense of belonging. This interaction allows us to have personal expression and interact with people in a familiar social environment we are used to. For most people, this social activity has been a constant behavior for several years. When we are required to abruptly cease this social behavior, a form of a crisis is created which causes the brain to figure out how to deal with this change is social interaction. The human brain also likes to know what to expect and does not enjoy uncertainty. Job loss, change in income, altered social interaction and fear of the unknown are just a few basic presumptions of what many are experiencing.
Most of us have some form of anxiety in our subconscious which we do our best with to deal with every day. When we are busy, we are focusing on our every day lives which likely pushes our anxiety back into our subconscious. When we have no activity to distract us for extended periods of time, our subconscious is more likely to reveal unfinished business from our past. His can lead to an increase in dreams, irritability, increased anger and decreased ability to cope.
Anxiety is the result of threats that appear to be uncontrollable or unavoidable. Anxiety is considered to be a normal reaction to stress. When faced with a situation we have not coped with before, our “fight or flight” response is activated, adrenaline is increased, heart rate rises, and our immune system is lowered to provide more energy to protect us from the perceived threat. Anxiety can also be described as uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry.
F.E.A.R. False Evidence Appearing Real
* Fear is related to escape and avoidance.
* Fear occurs in the presence of an observed threat that is unfamiliar and the solution of the threat is unknown.
* The threat can be physical or emotional.
* When fear is not worked through, it remains in the subconscious and may manifest into anxiety.
* When fear becomes excessive and dominates the consciousness, it can be anxiety.
How the brain perceives fear,
Have you have ever almost been in a car accident and experienced your body become tense, rapid heart rate, sweating and even dizziness? This response is involuntary and occurs because the brain perceives you are in imminent danger. Another example is if you have experienced fear while watching a horror movie. Although you are not in actual danger during the horror movie, the body and brain perceives fear the same. The primitive response part of the brain (hypothalamus) cannot tell the difference between actual reality and perceived reality and therefore cannot determine if you are in actual danger or perceived danger. The hypothalamus releases chemicals and can help to regulate the body’s temperature. The same psychological response may occur (rapid heart rate, sweating, tense muscles) because the hypothalamus perceives a threat. Your hypothalamus cannot tell the difference between actual danger and perceived danger, therefore a physiological response may occur from a memory that was once perceived as a threat.
What can we do about anxiety?
Mindfulness: Be aware of your physical responses to anxiety. Be aware of negative self talk. Write down both involuntary physical responses and negative self talk.
Breathing: If we can interrupt the physiological response, we can effectively alter how we react to anxiety. Acknowledge the physical responses and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Slowly inhale through the nose for 8 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and slowly breathe out through the mouth for 8 seconds. Practice keeping the air as steady as possible when breathing out. Notice the tension on your shoulders, neck and face start to diminish.
Negative self talk: Question the validity of the negative self talk. Are the negative things your saying about yourself actually true? What positive thoughts will you use to replace the negative thoughts. These negative thoughts serve no purpose and must be re-framed.
Experiencing anxiety? Online counseling can help
Are you feeling more anxious, having difficultly sleeping, feeling restless? The world has changed during the last few months and many are struggling to adapt. For many of us, our daily schedules have changed and many are feeling isolated and alone. During this time it is common for people to experience difficulty sleeping along with a significant increase in anxiety. Uncertainty of the future combined with employment issues, having enough supplies and food, fears of ourselves or loved ones becoming ill and what our future will look like. There are all valid concerns that many of us our facing today. This fear of uncertainty can cause emotional distress and decrease our ability to cope while we are trying to figure out our new reality.
You don't have to face this alone. You can now receive affordable therapy from a licensed mental health counselor from the comfort of you own home. Online therapy is effective, affordable and completely confidential. Why get therapy now? The result of increased anxiety almost always includes a decreased ability to make decisions. Our decisions effect our insight which can diminish our ability to successfully navigate through this transition. If there is ever a time we need to be able to make sound decisions, it's now.
Here are the benefits of online counseling.
Accessibility - Online counseling removes barriers such as travel and time constraints. Thanks to technology, online mental health counseling are easy to use and accessible from anywhere. '
Safety - With the emerging Covid 19 virus, necessary precautions such as social distancing are necessary to keep from catching the virus an spreading it. Online therapy is an excellent and safe alternative.
Confidential - Mark utilizes the Betterhelp.com platform is HIPPA compliant and uses the most advanced software to insure safety, confidentiality ease of use and convenience.
Time - Online therapy saves time and eliminates travel expenses. There is no risk driving to and from the therapy session, no time is taken away from traveling and no gas or tolls to pay.
Mark Zauss is a double board certified licensed mental health counselor