Body Mind Health Blog
Articles on mental health and wellness
From depression and anxiety, to stress and insomnia, practical help on a variety of subjects. Note: There is some Christian content, if that's not your thing just scroll past those thoughts. I hope you find some helpful tools. Let me know if there is any topic you'd be interested in seeing here.
Angela Poch, RPC-c, CLC
Let’s face it we live in the digital age. From cyber social structure to buying groceries, the Internet has become the go to place, not only for information and advice, but also for services and products. I admit I love technology. I’ve always loved cameras, gadgets, and yes, the Internet! But I also love an old school, off grid experience. No power, no problem. I’m not sure why I love these two extremes but I do and I also love both traditional in person therapy as well as online therapy. Both have their place in our ever busier, stressed out lives.
The reality is, online therapy can be face to face when using a video platform, this is my approach. Sure, there is a screen in front of you, but you still experience facial expressions and other non-verbal communication not available with phone or text which are also other forms of teletherapy. So, it’s important to see what is being used when choosing an online therapist to find the right fit for you.
Let's look at some research that's been done on online therapy versus traditional therapy and see what site says about the effectiveness. “There was support for the application of psychotherapeutic interventions through the Internet; online therapy was especially effective for treating anxiety and stress-effects that lasted after therapy ended and on average was as effective as face-to-face intervention.” 1 Online therapy is especially effective when using CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy), one of the main tools I use with my clients in both life coaching and counselling.2
Some of the pros to online work are pretty obvious:
- Availability. The client is able to get therapy without going anywhere. This has a whole host of benefits within itself. For example the client may be mobile limited and housebound. The client may live in a small town where there are no therapist. The client may have difficulty arranging their schedule to see a therapist due to work hours. Also because there’s more flexibility in scheduling on behalf of the practitioner this makes them more available to clients. For example a therapist could Offer sessions for two hours on the weekend without having to go into work open up the office and so on.
- Confidentiality. The client doesn’t run the risk of someone they know seeing them walk in to the therapist office. This is especially beneficial for professionals or those who live in smaller towns.
- Comforts of home. One online therapist reported their clients actually felt more comfortable in sharing vulnerable issues and disclosing how they feel because they’re in a familiar setting there at home3. They feel like they can relax and really share what’s on their mind.
- Flexibility & Convenience. As already mentioned with the client not having to go anywhere this makes it very convenient for clients to book an appointment and to attend a therapy session. Whether they are a mother with small children or they work long hours this convenience provides an opportunity for those who might not otherwise be able to get therapy.
- Opportunity & Specificity. Clients can find a more specific therapist to meet their needs and this provides them with more effective tools. For example not only can they find a therapist Who understands depression but also is of the same faith or similar faith. Both therapist and client can be far more specific in choosing who they work with and in line with the clients needs. Clients Are not limited to just the few therapists in their area but can search for wider for therapist not only skilled in their particular issue, But also works with the tools the client might already be interested in. For example I had clients come to me because they wanted a Christian therapist who is well-versed in cognitive behaviour therapy for relationship issues. That’s pretty specific.
So while this is a benefit I am leaving it off the bullet points because it’s not exclusive to online therapy. Nor will all online therapists be testing their clients and thus you may not know their effectiveness. But competition combined with ratings and reviews, lead to greater effectiveness. Often ratings are more available for online therapists. Because there’s more competition online therapists are learning they’ve got to be more effective. In fact there are companies working on platforms to rate therapists based on client progress reports. This maybe a ways off in becoming the norm, I do believe it will eventually be a standard of care. Well many studies report traditional therapy is about 50% effective, those doing testing with their clients using some firm of progress report are generally far more effective than 50% since they can address failures in therapeutic alliance and see what methods are and aren’t working. I have colleagues that even offer a money back guarantee because they’ve yet to have a client who’s not improved. This is not to say good therapy can cure all mental illness, but rather there should be a significant improvement in symptoms or the client should be informed the therapist does not have the skills to help them so they can find someone who can.
What about the limitations of online therapy. What are some pretty obvious ones first of all you have to have good Internet connection. And even with a good Internet connection there still technology glitches with computers freezing, Internet hiccups, software issues, and other hardware mishaps. Clients who are not well-versed in technology may find it frustrating at first to have to figure out their camera and their microphone as well as complete online tasks such as filling in reports and surveys. Additionally, just as in gave to face therapy there are some legal issues that need to be considered based on location of the therapist and the client. Another con is confidentiality problems if the clients email is not private. Because a lot of people have their computers and phones easy to access by the family members it is possible for there to be a breach of confidentiality at the clients end and the therapist has no control over that. Many online therapist refused to use email for that reason and do everything through secure platforms. Other therapists like myself warn the client about this potential invasion of privacy and encourage our clients to use a private email for all correspondence and scheduling. And lastly online therapy would be inappropriate for suicidal clients or those requiring physical intervention such as major addictions, those experiencing ongoing psychosis, or severe eating disorders. These need an appropriate treatment facility.
So of course I am writing this from a biased perspective being that I’m an online therapist. I really do find it to be easy to use with my clients. And since I’ve been the tech-support in my home for many years I don’t mind guiding clients in using the technology either. So for me it’s been a great opportunity to provide services to those who live near or far. If you want to give online therapy a try I do offer a free 15 minute consultation book yours below:
It’s out there. What out there? Every thing! If you have a question someone has an answer. Whether it’s forums or blogs or online magazines or social media. People have always been opinionated but with the Internet it was the dawn of mass support for an idea and the right to express an opinion, how ever you feel like, whether or not there’s enough evidence to back it up. Freedom of speech we say, yet at what point is it ‘bearing false witness’? Just because you see something on the Internet with 40 doctors backing it up or thousands of people agreeing on social media, it doesn’t make it true. The scary thing is something might only have a limited presence online, with a minority agreeing with it, and it truly is a saving grace. A pivotal key component of people’s happiness or health gets lost in the shuffle of nonsense and noise.
Because there are billions of people online, 3.2 billion in fact as of April of this year1, you can find support for just about anything. Flat earth - Yep, Coffee is good - of course, coffee is bad - for sure, Low-carb diets good, plant-based diets good (which are mostly carbs by the way). After awhile it gets so confusing that the easiest thing to do is just pick one that sounds good to you or seems right. How do you think superstitions began? A few ladies sitting around the stew pot over the open fire start chatting. One says, “You know a black cat crossed my path the other day and then my husband got bit by a goat.” Another lady pipes up, “Weird a couple months ago a black cat crossed my path and I couldn’t find my sewing needle for three weeks.” I don’t know how black cat crossing your path became bad luck started but this is how a lot of concepts get going. It’s called anecdotal evidence. There are two things that happen with enough frequency it looks like there’s a correlation.
The problem with that is we tend to pick things that agree with us if we are not using critical thinking and we aren’t in the mood to change. We like things that don’t rub us the wrong way or that seem better. Maybe easier and more to our liking. Or sometimes the opposite is true, if you love conflict you’ll pick the most controversial idea. Or, if being unique is at your core essence, you might pick something that is most obscure. But no matter how many people all post they agree it and share it, it doesn’t make it right. It might be partially true in certain circumstances but not to the extend we see it blown out of proportion in the media. Case in point: keto diet, low carb, has had some limited success in helping small children with severe epilepsy but plant based diets (not always vegan or exclusive) are well documented to ward off most lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, even cancer, and it is the most common for longevity and vitality in later years. So, yes, there are some positive things about a low carb diet and it may even have a place in the treatment of some disorders but that doesn’t make it the best diet for everyone.
Balance and context are absolutely critical for finding what’s right for our needs in this moment. What’s good for one person might not be good for another. What’s good for you and one circumstance might not be the best choice now. There are teens who game for hours every day that would love to hear research on how video games help with math. But they neglect articles on being sedentary for so many hours a day is harmful for other aspects of their intellect and physical health. A professional athlete might read an article on pushing yourself through the pain. They want to win that metal and are willing to do what they have to get there. Never mind the research on pushing through the pain was in terms of someone who’s had an injury and needed physiotherapy. And how much pushing must be guided to prevent further injury.
Context is very important. I once wrote an article in a tongue-in-cheek sarcastic tone designed for people to use for introspection. However if you read that article with the mindset that this applied to everyone it sounded mean and/or if you aren’t prone to sarcasm. That certainly wasn’t my intention to be mean or make sweeping statements about the human condition. There are a lot a little one liners on Facebook that really fall into this category. The little one liners like “Just say no” “Peace comes from within” “Be yourself” can sound awesome and inspiring or shallow and meaningless depending on what state of mind you are currently in and what your life circumstances are.
I did a article years ago on how to do the right kind of research to decipher truth so I’m not going to talk about how to do proper scientific research here. Here we are talking about mindset. Your mindset when you’re looking at information. And how to recognize the cues in yourself because you to believe something that may not be in your best interest. I already mentioned a few. Did you catch some of them? Herd mentality, appealing to the senses like tugging at your heart strings or fear tactics, and using your current goals, likes, and dislikes to sway you.
If something appeals to you because it seems easy or fun or it allows you to continue to do something inherently that’s probably the biggest red flag. We want to hear chocolate or coffee is good for you. Or you should rest when something is sore and achy. Most of us would love to just take that at face value, depending on our state of mind or circumstances. Where this hit home for me was in terms of exercise. I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, an autoimmune disorder. There actually very few experts in the field of fibromyalgia because for a long time it was viewed with skepticism. So those of us with the disorder often rely on each other for information along with our general practitioner and rheumatologist. Almost all those with fibromyalgia will tell you doing too much makes them exhausted and in pain. So, we love to hear go slow, take it easy, rest as soon as it starts to hurt. The only trouble is it almost always does and inactivity is the worst thing you can do for fibromyalgia. Really inactivity is the worst thing you can do for your health for anyone. Yes, there are certain injuries requiring rest but the body also needs some motion for circulation the corner stone of health.
Obviously there has to be a balance based on the needs of the individual person. We don’t like to push ourselves for several reasons maybe it’s too much effort, we don’t have the time, we are avoiding pain, we want to do something else, and the list goes on. The interesting thing is when I push myself, I mean really push myself, the pain does go up a little bit but my enjoyment in life goes up exponentially! So is avoiding pain and not doing the things I love worth it? When I do that, not only am I not getting to do the things I love, but it’s slowly making me worse because the body atrophies very quickly. And truth be told the pain eventually gets less the more activity I do, if I am consistent and alternative what muscles are being worked.
So how do you pick whether or not to believe something without doing a ton of research? How do you know what the truth is?
Step one, be willing to see the truth. Really? What does that have anything to do with if something is right or wrong. Nothing of course! Your mindset doesn’t change whether or not a diet is good for you. BUT it does change how you view the information! Perspective is an integral part of knowledge. Know how you think and process information. It’s quite amazing how obvious truth becomes when we just follow a few simple steps. I’ve already mentioned the first one you have to be willing to see the truth. You have to be willing to take a look at yourself and make changes. Once you’re willing to honestly look for what’s right for you, the answers become more clear and easier to decipher.
Step two. Get to know yourself better. Are you a skeptic or accepting, are you easily swayed by emotions, how easy is it for you to stand against the crowd? Sometimes our gut is right, depending on your personality and if you really do want to know the truth. But for others who are easily swayed because their initial gut reaction is to accept what they hear. We call it gullibility (a real gene in the DNA2) but that’s sounds negative so I prefer accepting and the Big Five personality traits adds this as a factor to agreeableness. So it’s clear gullibility/accepting is not a negative character trait. It’s just a predisposition like any other. Accepting people are open to ideas and often friendly and less cynical. Ok, back to our mindset and truth. If you know you’re more accepting/agreeable then maybe your gut instinct isn’t a good first choice or only choice but you can still listen to it. Sometimes that first instinct says I’m not so sure about this, but we actually talk ourselves into it because some part of us wants to believe it. Or we might be predisposed to believing herd mentality (especially if we have low confidence), “Look how many people are saying this is good.” That many can’t be wrong.
Thus step 3 is be slow to accept new ideas but not impervious to them. There’s a good balance between being wishy-washy believing anything that comes around the corner, and immovable no matter how much evidence is presented. This is similar to the first step being willing to be wrong. So be willing to give up a preciously long held idea and open to new ones but require solid evidence.
I want to digress a bit back to herd mentality. It’s not about how many people agree with an idea but who those people are and if they are experts in that field. You might have five doctors all agree that this particular diet is wonderful. You might also have some really close friends that are smart and dear to you that also believe in that same diet. But to really know if the diet is healthy you need to check out what do registered dietitians think about it. Clinical dietitians are far more well-versed in diet the doctors. I know that sounds strange but doctors get very little training in nutrition while dietitians do years of study just in food, how it affects the body and what foods have what nutrients. So it’s not about how much you like the expert or how well they explain something but is this expert truly an expert in his field or her field. Logic isn’t always right, but I talk all bout that in my article on proper research.
And I want to qualify that a true expert is someone who not only is trained generally in that field, but has studied the particular aspect you are looking at. For example I’m a nutritionist but I’m not an expert in blue zone diet’s. I have not sat down and research them in particular for years as much as Dr. Colin Campbell. That’s not to say I don’t know enough to share information but I would not call myself an expert. I think this is where we get lost. Lots of people can talk really well, they are logical, and make sense. How are we to know if they’re actually an expert? Simply look at their biographies. I would generally trust one specialized expert in the field over 100 professionals in that same field. Another words you might have thousands of fitness trainers all with degrees and general experience, all claiming a new exercise routine is the best thing since sliced bread. Physiologists also get on board, and general practitioners start promoting it to their patients. The world gets excited and it’s in magazines and all over the internet. But a researcher comes up who is been studying this particular exercise for 10 years and they say it could possibly hurt your knees. I’m going to go with that one expert because they’ve taken the time to really look at all the critical details that are missed by the others, often because the media fails to report those tiny but vital pieces of the puzzle.
It’s easy to buy into the pack mentality. That the majority is right. But history has repeatedly shown the majority is often not right. You need to be an individual and while there’s a wisdom in a crowd for certain things in life we also have to stand on her own 2 feet when it comes to making decisions for ourselves.
Imagine you just spend 2 hours in an alpine meadow on your knees picking wild strawberries. You finally have 4 cups of tiny power packed morsels of goodness. If you’ve never eaten a wild strawberry, image five of the very best strawberries you’ve ever eaten packed into the size of a very small grape. Amazing, right? So, you can’t wait to mix them up with a little whip cream and top a freshly baked shortcake. You hike down the mountain and drive home.
Finally after that day’s journey you arrive at home. Joy and a feeling of accomplishment washing over you. As you walk toward the house you are so happy, you are almost ready to bite into these gems. Your mouth is already watering as you smell the sweet red jewels. But as you almost read the house you trip, wobbling you try to regain your balance but alas, you drop the basket spilling it's delicate cargo all over the gravel driveway. Your heart sinks and joy fades as you watch the precious fruit roll in all directions. You scoop up as many as you can find, but now, stuck to the tiny fruit are bits of gravel. So, now what do you do? Do you take the fruit in and wash it or do you just throw it out frustrated and disgusted it's been tainted? I don’t know about you, but I would wash it! I'm not going to give up on those little beauties I worked so hard for. Really, I reason, it’s only a little more work to clean them with the gravel than without. True, the strainer doesn’t get rid of the larger pieces of rocks, those you have to individually pull out. But it’s worth it right? Why would you give up on something you’ve worked so hard to obtain?
Yet, in spiritual, philosophical, emotional, or other matters we can be in danger of throwing out the fruit when we find a bit of gravel in it. We see error and fear grips us. Most of us have been programmed, hard wired, to desire truth over error. Disclaimer, just because we believe we are right or know something to be true doesn't make it so. But we rarely think we are wrong and are ok with that. There is something about being right that drives us. So when falsehood raises its ugly head we are quick, especially Bible believing Christians, to see it and stomp on it.
But what would happen to our little berries if we stomped on them? Would that get rid of the gravel? Well, you certainly wouldn’t have to worry about the gravel that's for sure. It's one way to deal with it. But you won't be able to eat the fruit after that. It just becomes a mess once they are mixed through and through. But you miss the blessing when that happens. The fruit is ruined. But if instead you wash the fruit, you get rid of the gravel, or error, while keeping the fruit, or in our analogy truth. Our desire to crush lies can actually hurt the truth! Wow, not something we think about very often is it?
Wait! Am I saying we should be ok with a little error when it comes attached to some precious fruit? No, not at all. Remember in the analogy, we need to wash the fruit for it to be safe to eat, otherwise we can chip a tooth if we were to eat the berries with even one piece of gravel on it. Just one tiny rock can ruin the experience. That's symbolic!
So what does this mean practically? When you listen to a sermon or read a self help book will it always be 100% true? Do you then cloister yourself from all human influences? God is working to save all humanity would you agree? Does that include Christians? Other religions? Atheists? Of course. One of my career mentors uses little proverbs from the Bible, and sometimes Buddha, and all of them fit in line with my understanding of scripture. Do I throw out a truth which can be support by the Bible because Buddha said it? What if Mohammad said it? Just because I come from one belief system doesn't mean there is ONLY truth in that ONE system and that EVERYTHING else is false. I’ve seen people so fearful of error they throw out important truths, like throwing out the strawberries with gravel stuck to them.
The good news is it’s very easy to separate truth from error, just like washing dirty fruit. We simply look for, and embrace the truth. It’s not that hard or complicated. There maybe some deep and more profound truths in symbols and metaphors hidden in scripture but that’s part of washing preconceived ideas from our own minds. None of us know everything perfectly. We all make mistakes, have biases and hidden assumptions buried in our minds. The more we embrace truth the quicker we will see errors, but it's all contingent on us being willing to accept that truth when we see it.
So, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. (An old German proverb dating back to Medieval times with truth relevant for all cultures today.)
In my last article I talked about stress, anxiety, and hidden emotions. This week I'd like to explore the body/mind connection of stress and how to combat it in our lives. But before we do that, just a reminder, not all stress is bad. Not everyone is stressed by the same stressors. It is a complicated process which means we can't give definitive answers to many of the general questions like: why do we get stressed or how can we stop it. What we can do is be aware of what is going on in our own minds and work toward mediating how that affects us.
Just in time for mental health awareness month, I've found there is more and more evidence linking stress to all manner of diseases. While there is a new catch phrase, "Sitting is the new smoking", I'd say stress is too. Since smoking has been on the decline for almost a decade now, and people are hearing all about eating right and exercise, we've gotten complacent in dealing with harmful influences to our health that are more insidious than one might first think. Not too mention harder to define and eliminate which makes them less researched. One of the best books on the subject of how bad stress is for you, is by Dr. Gabor Mate, "When Your Body Says No."
Here is some of what we do know. (Salleh M. R. 2008) "Studies have shown that short-term stress boosted the immune system, but chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness...The morbidity and mortality due to stress-related illness is alarming. Emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, coronary heart disease, accidental injuries, respiratory disorders, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.
Since I could write pages on how stress affects our health but that would not give you any practical help, I'm going to skip all that and assume you believe me that stress is harming your health and instead jump to how to treat stress. Here are the 7 secrets to managing stress:
- Prayer combined with trusting in God and awareness of oneself (or mindfulness meditation)
- Healthy diet (plant based or Mediterranean is best)
- CBT Therapy (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy)
- Rest (sleep, recreation, etc.)
- Social activity (both social support & doing something for someone else)
- Identify and limit/reduce stressors
So these are not in any kind of order of importance, in fact, I recommend you start with the ones easiest for you so you can reap the benefits as quickly as possible. Each of these has many benefits beyond stress management and there is much that can be said of them. Years ago, like a couple decades, LOL, I helped with a stop smoking program and these 7 were used successfully in helping people to quit smoking too! Of course number 7 was identify and limit/reduce temptations/triggers but all in all very similar. I do have a free course that covers most of these called Optimal Health, you can take it here.
The first one on the list is often reported as mindfulness mediation in most articles on stress but Dr. Nedley and others have reworded this for Christians. And the research backs up prayer as the alternative to mindfulness meditation. Keep in mind this is not the same as the hypnotic meditation one sees in new age religions. It is an active form, where one is aware of what is going on around them. There is plenty of help out there and it's not my forte so I'll leave that to other experts. I'm more familiar with the Christian version. This is more than just prayer. It is a three fold combination: faith/trust in God, self-examination, and prayer.
Exercise is pretty self-explanatory, but I'd add that getting outside is even better. Any amount will help, but there is a thing as too much which can add stress to the body. If you are unsure, do some research or talk to a fitness expert. In general, the recommendations are 30 to 60 minutes 3 to 5 times per week. More for those with sitting jobs and obviously far less if you are a general laborer. We often know what we need once we are willing to honestly look at it.
Healthy diet includes lots of fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and limiting free fats, added sugars, and processed foods.
CBT, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, is well researched and documented to help with stress even that caused by circumstances. It also helps deal with painful emotions. I would say this is by far THE MOST important tip, step, key, or whatever you want to call it. In fact many studies show CBT to be as or even more effective than drugs for depression and anxiety, and far more long lasting because drugs don't cure, they treat the symptoms. Once you learn to use CBT for yourself it lasts a lifetime. Now there are lots of resources out there and it can look pretty easy but there are some very important features that take real work to make practical for yourself, yet reading self help books such as Dr. David Burns, "Feeling Good", have been proven in research to be effective. In fact in one study more effective than taking drugs. Having said that not everyone will find relief reading a book, about 1/3 still needed professional help to really apply the principles of CBT, so no shame in talking to someone about that.
Rest is another important key in reducing the effects of stress as well as helping you cope better with stressors. Getting a good nights sleep, healthy recreation, and taking time to slow down even for just a few minutes a day are all great starting places.
Social activity not only helps you work through stressors like grief and loss, or life changing events, good or bad, but helping others is a proven way to improve your health. Volunteering has been shown to add up to 7 years to ones life and improve the overall quality of aging.
Lastly we have the most obvious of the 7 secrets, identify and reduce stressors. This one will take some introspection and you can combine it with the first one, prayer. Taking a few minutes each day to think about what caused you the most anxiety, worry, frustration, anger, fear, annoyance, feeling overwhelmed, etc. You might even find some things bother you more on certain days. Sometimes we can cope with circumstances better than other times. Keep track. Then are there some you can reduce? Are you spending more than you earn? What is contributing to your time management issues?
If you want more help with CBT or working out identifying and reducing stressors, join me for a free 15 minute consultation.
- Salleh M. R. (2008). Life event, stress and illness. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences : MJMS, 15(4), 9–18.
- Griffin, R. M. (n.d.). 10 Stress-Related Health Problems That You Can Fix. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/10-fixable-stress-related-health-problems#1
- Agnvall, E. (2014, November 01). Stress and Disease - Conditions that May Be Caused by Chronic Stress. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2014/stress-and-disease.html
- Kandola, A. (n.d.). Chronic stress: Symptoms, health effects, and how to manage it. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323324.php
- Nordqvist, C. (2017, November 28). Stress: Why does it happen and how can we manage it? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145855.php
- Kandola, A. (n.d.). Why do I keep getting sick? Causes and what to do. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324842.php
There’s been some evidence that hidden emotions are linked to some to anxiety issues. That when we bury, or repress, negative emotions that can lead to anxiety. And since none of us are immune I thought I’d share my own story which of course, is still a work in progress.
I tend to be able to cope with major life or stressful events fairly easily. I go into a task oriented mode and deal with the situation clinically. My faith feels strong and connected with God when it’s a major crisis event. However, when small things upset me in big ways I feel disconnected, alone, even incompetent. As I did some soul searching this past year, I discovered some of the reason I have this problem is a hidden “should statement” in my brain. “I shouldn’t feel this way.” There are different “reasons” for my believing this statement but usually something like: “I should be a bigger person”, “I know better”, “Jesus would just forgive them”, “I should forgive them, I forgiven far worse”, “It’s just a little thing, this is ridiculous it's upsetting me”, “A nice person wouldn’t be bothered by this”, “I should just let this go, it’s no big deal”, and so on. I don’t know if any of these kind of thoughts ring true for you, but they’re pretty common for those of us with anxiety. The wording may vary from person to person but the theme is similar.
One little text from a friend or family member can set me into a major tailspin, while a car crash I’m able to work through without going through any major anxiety or panic attacks. Then I begin to question my own sanity. “I’m so stupid. Why is this one little thing bugging me? It’s not the end of the world.” But still I find myself stressed over that one little sentence. Other thoughts seep in. In the past family members have been upset with me over what I believe to be very little things. So upset, in once case I never heard from again even after writing a few letters. Like things creating big conflict. Things like forgetting to call before showing up at their home, not keeping in touch often enough (not that they ever kept in touch), posting a picture on social media, or even making a pie (long story). So because it’s happened before I’m thinking FOR sure this is going to happen again. In fact it will likely happen anytime there’s any conflict.
This is my hidden emotion, or hidden thought if you will. Fear of abandonment because I might have said or done something wrong. In my mind I wonder what’s wrong with me? I do my best but I still screw up. I put energy into being the best I can be but it doesn’t ever seem to be enough.
Now I don’t know about you. but I can see a lot of distortion’s, exaggerations, or untruthful thinking, just in those few sentences/questions. But even though I know there’s distortions, and they’re not true, when I’m feeling anxious I believe them 100%.
Most of the time we can crush a thought without figuring out why it’s there in the first place. BUT with hidden emotions we do have to do some digging. While knowing why we have a particular thought doesn’t usually crush it, we end up in a loop of thoughts until we draw it out. We work on surface negative thoughts but they repeat the next time a stressor comes our way. This is deeper work. Digging down into our hearts.
One of the ways to search out a hidden emotion is to recognize patterns between certain kinds of stressors/events and certain thoughts. Another way is to use the “downward arrow” a cognitive technique. And lastly an easy place to start is 'niceness' since, for about 75% of those with anxiety, the most common hidden emotion is niceness. Now, I know ‘niceness’ isn’t really an emotion. It’s a self-defeating belief. I’m supposed to be nice (because X) and therefore I can’t be upset, angry, hurt, etc. That’s the emotion part of it. The anger, hurt, etc. I encourage you to listen to this podcast by Dr. Burns about anxiety and hidden emotions: https://feelinggood.com/2017/03/13/027-scared-stiff-the-hidden-emotion-model-part-5/
But in any case, whatever your hidden emotion/self-defeating belief, to crush the negative thought we may need to use several tools. We need to come up with a positive belief we can believe 100%. One of those techniques is acceptance. The crazy thing about accepting a negative belief is you can actually crush it by seeing the value and truth in it. That may sound really strange, but it actually helps you to positively reframe it. Let me give you an example. So one of my thoughts regarding my anxiety when a mistake is pointed out to me is: “It’s not fair. I try really hard to honour my friends/family’s wishes and when I screw up they shouldn’t be angry with me. I’m only human.” So let’s break that down. First of all, it hinges on the fact that nobody should get angry or upset with me, ever. Is that realistic? What am I asking of those around me if they should never get angry, or hurt, or upset ever? Is that fair of me to expect that of them? Note this line of thinking is doesn’t put more blame on me or them. It’s just to see the reality of the situation as it is. If I screw up and hurt someone they have a right to get upset, hurt, angry, or even just let me know (they might not be feeling any of those things, just pointing out something I did). There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make them a bad person or me a bad person, we are all human. We all make mistakes. We all have feelings. Getting angry isn’t the end of the world, nor does it necessarily mean the end of a friendship. I don’t need to withdraw just because I’m afraid of anger. I might not like it, I might feel uncomfortable about it, I might wish it never happened. Those are acceptable thoughts.
Now there are some truths in my negative thoughts listed above, for example I do try hard. Here’s one way to refrain this thought. I care a lot about my friendships in my family and so I try hard to be the best person I can be but sometimes I screw up and that hurts them. It’s OK for them to express this hurt however it affects them, whether that is anger or pain, and in it which ever way they want to communicate that to me. I don’t have to fix the problem in fact many times I can’t it’s something that can’t be undone.
Positive reframing is only one way to deal with a negative emotion and it works even better if you can dig deep and find the hidden emotions and self-defeating believes underlying this anxiety. Unfortunately positive reframing doesn’t work all the time and sometimes you need other tools where you can talk with someone else through them. I went through this with a negative thought about being a failure as a mother. I did some of the CBT tools by myself which helped quite a bit. But I still had anxiety on and off until I did a short role-play technique with a peer. That 10 minutes cured months of anxiety and it’s been gone for a year now. Now we do get relapses, that’s guaranteed. But we know the tools to use to help squash those painful anxiety feelings by crushing the negative thoughts. We use the same ones that gave us the first victory. So if your dealing with anxiety, try the self-help books they are very powerful (especially “When Panic Attacks” by Dr. David Burns) and if you still need some support look for someone you can talk to who is willing to work with you using these tools. You can even find a friend who read the book as well, and practice together or look for a therapist near you. Let’s face it we are all defective human beings and it times we need a helping hand. How critical are you someone else who says they need help? I bet you’re more critical of yourself. So if it’s OK for some people to get help why not you?
If you’d like to work with me on an anxiety issue, book a free 15 minute consultation session below.
Over the years I’ve learned I’m not alone. As unusual and unique my situation and my circumstances, even my thought process at times, when I’ve shared my story I found others who can resonate with the topic of conversation. So I know there are people out there who are wondering, how could I ever go to therapy if I’m a Christian or person of faith? Shouldn’t my faith and scripture be enough? Won't the therapist just try to make me feel better without me changing the way I’m supposed to?
Over the years, as I studied scripture, my faith has grown and strengthened in different ways. First, I’ve learned my God is so big, so amazing, and so loving, His grace truly is sufficient for me. That has brought an immense amount of comfort. But there is an opposing force. Satan, the father of lies, will use anything he can to cause suffering, including your religion. I'm borrowing that from Mike Christison, RCC, MACC, Here’s a link to the podcast "Spirituality and Psychotherapy: Contradictory or Complementary?" for more on this subject.
There is no conflict between TEAM therapy, or the integrative approach that I use, and faith. In fact, I found much support within the Bible for the concepts and methods we use. Here's some of what I found, granted this is from a Christian perspective. I am by no means trying to alienate other faiths, this is just what I am familiar with. The podcast listed above goes into more detail how those of any faith can benefit from TEAM therapy, and I assure you I would never push my faith in a therapy session EVER!
With that disclaimer, do we see in the Bible those who had issues with "negative" emotions? Of course. In fact, Jesus, our Lord, King, and example, struggled with complex, painful, and conflicting emotions. "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" So, do you take this Bible verse literally? Do you really believe God forsook Jesus? Or perhaps it just felt that way to Christ in that moment of crisis. If the creator of the universe (John 1:1-states Jesus was the creator) could feel so abandoned why are we so hard on ourselves for feeling badly!!! Job, also had some really painful emotions and he was said to be "a righteous man" by God Himself! Job 15:11,12 “Is God’s comfort too little for you? Is his gentle word not enough? What has taken away your reason?”
Reason can go out the window in times of severe stress or emotional crisis, such as King David when we was so ashamed of his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 12:18, “Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. ‘He wouldn’t listen to reason while the child was ill,’”
That's one of the tools of TEAM therapy, we use reason to get us back on track. This gives us a Biblical foundation for doing cognitive-style therapy (using reason & wisdom) and there is more:
- God commanded us to use reason. Isaiah 1:18, KJV. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:” TEAM uses reason at it’s core. We are arguing with distorted, untruthful, or misapplied negative thoughts. Reason is how we defeat those thoughts.
- Jesus, our example, used reason. Acts 17:17 ESV. “So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”
- Wisdom is open to reason. James 3:17, ESV. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Wisdom from heaven is “open to reason.” This verse also explores how to reason with heavenly wisdom. We can have this. God’s wisdom is first pure, that is there is no fault in it – no distortions. Then peaceable, gentle, full of mercy, how we reason with others is done warmly with empathy. It is impartial, no bias, and it is sincere, we must be genuine.
- Thoughts lead to emotions and actions/behaviours is the core of cognitive therapy and TEAM-CBT. The Bible uses this principle. 1 Peter 1:13, ESV. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Prepare your mind, the mind is the starting point. Set your hope, you can choose your emotions and beliefs. Even for bad habits or things we think we can’t control this principle applies. We start with our thoughts. Job 31:1, NIV. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” Making a covenant, purposing in ones heart, these are choices.
- God’s word can help us examine our thoughts. Hebrews 4:12, ESV. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
- We can’t trust all the thoughts and feelings that we have because of our sinful nature. Proverbs 28:26, ESV. “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Mark 7:21-22, ESV. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Note: the words heart and mind are used interchangeable in scripture. In our culture heart means emotion, but that was not how it was used 1000’s of years ago. Even still you could argue that still works, because when we control our thoughts we control our emotions. Romans 8:6, ESV. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Philippians 2:5, ESV. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”
- Feelings are not our guide, thoughts must be and they can be on better things. Proverbs 19:2, ESV. “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” Colossians 3:1-2, ESV. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” We can change our minds and be a new person. Ephesians 4:23, ESV. “..be renewed in the spirit of your minds…” 1 Corinthians 2:16, ESV. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
- Working on a spiritual level is important. Colossians 3:2 ESV. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This verse also can be used as a promise that the thing of this earth don’t need to consume our minds.
There are even Bible verses about negative thoughts that are in line with TEAM therapy (and other therapy models, including CBT, DBT, mindfulness, etc.):
- Negative thoughts seem real. Proverbs 14:12 as well as Proverbs 16:25, ESV. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” This verse is almost word for word the same in both places. Bible writers would repeat things that were of extra importance, thus we can deduce God is really cautioning us about thinking we know what is right in absolute terms. Being open to exploring what we believe is the only safe guard. We can be sure about what we believe about ourselves, others, or even how we understand the Bible, yet be wrong. Reason, prayer, surrender, along with continued study are vital to know truth.
- We can kill our own happiness by the negative thoughts that we believe. Proverbs 15:26, ESV. “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.” Since “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” we are not excluded from this verse. So, are you being gracious to yourself, having pure or truthful thoughts?
- Bible teaches us to dispute our negative thoughts. 1 Corinthians 3:18 ESV. “Let no one deceive himself...” 1 John 4:1, ESV. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We can be influence by the spirits/Angels around us, for good or bad. We could also view this verse as talking about our own spirit and thoughts. Replace the word spirit with thought and this is how it reads, Beloved, do not believe every thought, but test the thoughts to see whether they are from God, for many false theories have gone out into the world.
We have permission from scripture to work on our belief system, in TEAM therapy we call it analyzing self-defeating beliefs (REBT and CBT therapists also work on self-defeating beliefs), and there is biblical evidence certain tools can be effective:
- Humility is critical. This verse could also be used to support acceptance. 1 Corinthians 3:18 ESV. “…If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.”
- God has something better for us than our current self-defeating beliefs. Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Ephesians 5:17, ESV. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
- Life isn’t fair, but God is. James 1:2, ESV. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” Trials and challenges shape us, and if we allow it, make us better people. God can turn bad experiences into a positive outcomes for those that are willing to trust Him. Romans 8:28, NIV. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Notice, it doesn’t say all things are good, or all things work good. There is a catch to this verse, all things work for the good of those who love him. Love trusts.
- Positive reframing and straightforward thinking are tools I use in my sessions with clients. The Bible supports we are to focus on positive thoughts. Philippians 4:8, ESV. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
- Examine the evidence, another tool in the TEAM and other therapy models. Testing thoughts to see if they are true. Romans 12:2, ESV. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Acts 17:11, ESV. “… they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
That's just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. There is support for us to work through some of the stuff that goes on in our heads. It's ok to get help and support, God understands. In fact, I strongly believe God has given me the tools to do this job. I felt called to become a therapist, so there must be people God has out there that need me to be a therapist. Just seems logical to me.
Here's a disclaimer that actually ties this all together, or I hope it does. A good therapist from any background is there to be a guide but they are on dangerous ethical ground if they work against your belief system vs your self-defeating beliefs or cognitive distortions (distorted thoughts). Most therapists try to honor their clients without imposing their own ideas. Now, I admit from experience this doesn't always happen, and research shows desire/effort doesn't always equal success. If you feel your therapist seems to be leading you in a direction not congruent with your belief system, OR if your therapist doesn't realize you feel in conflict, it is up to you to tell them how you feel. Also, not every counsellor is a good fit for every client. I'm certainly not perfect, and I am not a good fit for every client either. It's ok to shop around!
If you do want to give me a try, and you live in Canada, I'd love to talk with you. If you live in the USA, or elsewhere, I offer life coaching which can be quite effective for many life challenges too! Book a free 15 minute consultation, to learn more.
Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide*. The World Health Organization states, "Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease."* Some stats report up to 15% of people will experience major depression (who know how many will have to deal with mild or moderate symptoms).**
But beyond statistics, it gets personal when it’s a dear friend, close family member, or even closer to home, yourself. I’ve certainly not come away unscathed. Several years back I was diagnosed with depression and given some antidepressants. But what really helped me to completely heal was an integrative approach. The program I went through was called the Depression Recovery Program by Dr. Neil Nedley. This program has since been renamed The Depression and Anxiety Recovery program because it works for both. This integrative approach aims to eliminate or reduce the risk factors for depression as far as possible. Those risk factors according to Dr. Nedley's research include***:
- certain events during upbringing
- nutrition (lack of certain nutrients or too much of others)
- certain lifestyle choices (such as not enough activity)
- frontal lobe function
- toxins (certain heavy metals)
- social support
- medical conditions such as diabetes
- interrupted circadian rhythm
Some of these you can’t do anything about now, such as your genetics or childhood development. (although you could make a difference in future generations). But the good news is Dr. Nedley found that you usually had to have four "hits" to get depression. That means even if you had the genetic marker and a rotten child hood you could still work on the other eight hit categories of risk factors to prevent or reverse depression. Note: there are several individual items within each of these risk factor categories, but he found that that did not increase your likelihood of having depression. Another words, if you had 2 addictions and 2 nutrition issues that wouldn’t necessarily give you depression.
This makes a lot of sense because when researchers try to isolate and study, say tryptophan, they find it has an impact on depression but not everyone with a tryptophan deficiency has depression. Dr. Nedley's approach is a more accurate way to work toward healing depression because it's covering a multitude of risk factors. His 10 category "hit" model has been researched and given an 84% sensitivity rate (research speak for a form of accuracy).
And he has been very successful with using this category approach in practical programs. In one study, after only 8 weeks on the program (done by video, workbook, and small group classes once a week), 57.6% (2754 participants) did not qualify as depressed. Keep in mind, the whole program is 12 weeks, and many participants do not work the program but only watch the videos. I would love to see the numbers from this study on those who actually do the program. In my limited experience (and other director's I've been in contact with) it's been close to 99% for those that do the whole program, and this is substantiated by the 99% success rate of those that attend the live in program*****. Anyway I don’t want this to be an advertisement, I just wanted to set the foundation for my experience and why I believe so strongly in an integrative approach.
Dr. David Burns, who uses cognitive behaviour therapy along with other powerful tools he has developed also has an incredibly far above average success rate. I believe one of the reasons Dr. Burns model is so successful is because the power of the mind is incredible in healing the body. Also when doing this kind of cognitive behaviour therapy (more advanced than standard CBT) you really are working on several of the risk categories identified by Dr. Nedley such as social, lifestyle, frontal lobe, addiction, and even developmental, in as far as how you perceive its effects on you now.
Back to my story. I found the medication my doctor prescribed gave me the ability to complete Dr. Nedley's program, and work through the Feeling Good book, which shows medication can have a place in this process. To date, I haven’t needed medication since, and that was over 12 years ago. Yes, part of Dr. Nedley’s program is using cognitive behavior therapy. In fact, in the original program that I took, we used Dr. Burns book "Feeling Good". That’s how I learned about Dr. Burns and eventually TEAM therapy.
But it wasn’t just me, it helped two of my friends and my husband, who took the program with me (we used the in home video program). All four of us recovered from depression within the 12 week program time frame. I went on to become a director and facilitator and found those who stuck with the program had a full recovery from depression. As a bonus we had participants also do better with their diabetes and heart disease. Their doctors even had to reduced their medications just 6 weeks in.
So, while integrative approach is a lot of work, it also improves other aspects of your life. Because you’re not just going to feel better emotionally but also physically. And this means you’re around longer to be with your kids and grandkids. You have more vitality and energy to do the things you would like to do as you age. And if you’re younger, you can help to avoid those top five fatal diseases in Western society that are often preventable****.
So whether you are interesting in learning more about the integrative approach or simply working on your thinking process and emotional health, I’m happy to help you either way. I don’t have a burden to pressure you with what helped me because we all are different and only you can choose what's right for you. I just wanted to share part of my story so you can see there is light at the end of the dark depression tunnel and I understand what it's like to be in that dark place where hope is bleak. Book a free 15 minute consultation with me to learn more how we can work toward a brighter future.
PS: If you are dealing with depression, whether or not you want to work with someone to get help, I encourage you to start with getting Dr. Burns book "Feeling Good", usually under $10, and found in almost any book store in North America or internationally on Amazon in several languages (I checked, it's available in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, China, France, Germany, and India just to name a few). 2/3 of patients on a waiting list for therapy found they had symptom improvement from depression just from reading this book.
PPS: If you’re feeling like life is not worth living and you’d rather not even be here please contact:
Crisis Line for Canada toll free 24/7: 1-833-456-4566 Or chat or text www.crisisservicescanada.ca/
National Suicide Prevention Hotline for USA: 1-800-273-8255 OR you can chat with them and other resources online visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org
For International Crisis lines: thelifelinecanada.ca/help/crisis-centres/international-crisis-centres/
* “Depression.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression.
** Morin, Amy, and Lcsw. “How Many People Are Actually Affected by Depression Every Year?” Verywell Mind, www.verywellmind.com/depression-statistics-everyone-should-know-4159056.
*** Nedley, Neil, and Francisco E Ramirez. “Nedley Depression Hit Hypothesis: Identifying Depression and Its Causes.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, SAGE Publications, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5103329/.
**** “The Top 10 Deadliest Diseases in the World.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/health/top-10-deadliest-diseases.
***** Carney, Linda, MD. "Nedley Depression Recovery Program" DrCarney.com Blog, June 2, 2016 https://www.drcarney.com/blog/entry/nedley-depression-recovery-program.
OK have I got your attention? Sometimes we need to look at a problem from a completely new look. The title is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but what IF we were to explore a course that taught us how to suffer more and be grumpy. What would that look like?
Amendment: So I’ve had some really positive comments on this article in another forum. But I also had a really important constructive criticism so I'm adding 3 key points to remember as you read it.
1. This article is intended for the reader themself, not to be used as a tool to criticize other people for being critical.
2. There’s something called logic fallacies. One of those is when the opposite of a fact is also a fact. This is often not the case in reality. Example; Fact: carnivores have canine teeth. But the reverse is not true. Thus having canine teeth does not make something a carnivore. For example gorillas and camels among others, have canines and they are herbivores.
3. Just because something is a risk factor does NOT make it a cause. Example: "Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to an approximate 30-50% increased risk in breast cancer."* But the alcohol does not cause breast cancer. Nor is it valid or helpful to blame women with breast cancer for drinking a glass of wine at their meal.
4. Poor health and disruption in happiness is not our fault because we are not "positive" enough. There is an unfair system (sin) at place in our world, where often the person who is hurting has to do work to alleviate their own suffering even though it may not be their fault they are hurting in the first place. Life can suck, but it doesn't have to stay that way.
5. My humorous look, intentionally overgeneralized, at some tools for cognitive behaviour therapy are not to be taken as rooted in some kind of all or nothing factual science. In fact doing so is a distortion in and of itself. My intention in this article is to look at oneself from a different perspective using humour, because humour can often be quite therapeutic when doing self reflection. We can be pretty hard on ourselves and I was hoping to alleviate some of that pressure by getting you to laugh at some of the mistakes that you might be making. But in no way would I want to shame anyone who is struggling with a critical attitude or denial or any of those things, in fact others may think you are being critical when you are just being honest. That is there misunderstanding not a reflection on your character. I myself have struggled with many of the items in the follow list. I think that’s why I found it so relevant to me personally and why found so much humour in it.
The first step in being miserable would be to be, stay in denial. Why? Well, if you’re denying it you don’t have to deal with it. Denial a way of enabling you to continue to feel miserable when the event is already passed. You can deny that it’s over and relish in your depressed, angry, frustrated state. Next step, hold it all in. Certainly don’t share what you’re thinking and feeling with anyone else. After all they can’t help you. They’ll probably just say what you’re going through isn’t even relevant. At the very least, they’re going to minimize it and try, or worse yet try to fix it for you.
If you can’t hold it in, then complain. Complaining is a great way to stay grumpy. After all you’re just telling people the truth. I mean isn’t honesty the best policy? In fact, I highly recommend journaling. List all the problems you’re having and how miserable each one makes you feel. That way whenever you get a little too positive or happy, you can go back and rehash old grudges.
Mope. Moping lets the body know the correct position to be in when you’re feeling terrible. There’s nothing worse than a hypocrite, like someone smiling when they’re miserable inside. So it’s much better to mope because you’re being honest with the world around you.
Notice honesty has come up a few times. Being right is the best way to keep your relationships on the rocks and protect you from being vulnerable. After all when your always right it’s really hard for other people to live up to your expectations and that can increase your suffering tremendously.
Blame yourself and others. A good place to start is blaming others, that’s usually easier than blaming yourself. Well it does depend on your personality, and either one works pretty good. Blaming others takes all the responsibility off your shoulders, and since you’re not responsible you can’t fix it. Blaming others takes the pressure off you from having to make yourself miserable because people often hurt us and do us wrong. Remember since you are right, they must be wrong. That’s just logical.
Of course if you have a hard time blaming others, then you can always turn to blaming yourself. This is also quite effective because it acknowledges the fact that you’re an idiot, a failure, and since you are those things there’s no point in trying to fix anything. It’s just who you are and this will just continue to go on forever.
Minimize the positive. Those happy thoughts thinkers with all their foo foo fluff just don’t know reality. If you minimize positive things that you or others do, it helps put everything more in context of reality. It certainly won’t last. Nothing good lasts forever.
Accentuate the negative. You could even exaggerate a little bit. I mean come on, realistically who doesn’t get that when you’re feeling miserable and grumpy, exaggeration is probably more truthful than saying it exactly the way it is. Here’s and example, I’ve got such a headache feel like my heads going to explode. I mean it’s not really going to explode, but you’ve got articulate it well so people get how you’re feeling.
Trust your emotions. Oh this is a good one. Your emotions are really going to tell you how you should be feeling and thinking. Just go with your gut, go with your heart, that’ll really stop all your positive thinking. I mean if you feel miserable you must be miserable. If you’re feeling lonely you must be alone. You can’t trust that someone sitting beside you is really going to be there for you. I mean obviously they’re not doing enough to make you feel part of the group. Oh I guess I’m combining blame here. Well that’s great to show you can combine several of these to make them far more effective in staying miserable.
Remember, if it’s ever happened once, somewhere, to someone, it can happen to you. That’s right if it’s possible it’s probable. There’s at least one person out there who got run over by a truck while sitting in their living room. You should worry about that every time you sit down to enjoy watching some TV. I mean sure, they’d have to drive on the sidewalk, across the lawn, and through the house wall, but it’s possible right? And I mean if we’re going to be positive, we need to be positive that the possible can happen. That leads me to the next one.
If it’s happened before it’s going to happen again. If you found a hair in your food three times in a row, then you can certainly conclude every time you eat out there will be a hair in it. This is a good one to combine with our last one “if it’s possible it’s probable”. After all if bacteria can be on hair, and you found hair in your food three times, you better watch out for flesh eating bacteria in your burger. This tip can add much anxiety to your miserable grumpiness which is a bonus.
Label everything. Now I don’t mean with stickers. Of course you could do that which would take up time and anything that waste your time helps to make you miserable because you’ve wasted time. But what I’m talking here is labelling people or yourself. You see when you label something it really encapsulates what it is at its core. I mean someone didn’t just spilled the milk they are a slob. You didn’t just fail the one test, you are an absolute failure. See how much worse that sounds, there’s great material here for feeling miserable.
I think those tips should really help you to suffer and stay miserable. But if this course really wasn’t right for you then might I suggest the reverse of these? I also recommend reading Dr. David Burn’s best selling book, “Feeling Good” or listen to his podcasts. But I warn you that won’t do much to help you feel grumpy.
* McDonald, Jasmine A, et al. “Alcohol Intake and Breast Cancer Risk: Weighing the Overall Evidence.” Current Breast Cancer Reports, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3832299/.
Type the words “sleep & mental health” into Google and you’ll get article after article from reputable sources relating how important sleep is to our mental well-being. From medical journals to blogs by psychologists, the interconnection between body and mind play out very closely when it comes to sleep and poor mental health.
While the studies of neurochemistry and neuroscience are still in infancy, researchers are discovering some very real connections between sleep and mental stability, or lack thereof. “There are some studies in both children and adults are suggesting that a lack of proper sleep may raise risk for, an even directly contribute to some psychiatric disorders And that treating the sleep disorder may actually help alleviate symptoms of the mental health problems caused by that sleep disturbance. (Harvard Health 2009)
Depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar, Schizophrenia, PTSD, and psychosis, just to name a few, are disorders that have been studied in relation to sleep. Up to 80% of the people who have these disorders also have sleep problems and while it’s been long thought there was some kind of correlation, now scientists are starting to see an actual causal relationship. That means lack of sleep is actually contributing to the disorder itself. (Scott 2017) Just one statistic reports, people with insomnia are twice as likely to develop depression as those who sleep normally. (Khawja MD 2017) This is it to say sleep alone will cure all these diseases, but the more we can make a positive choice, the more we get a handle on each aspect of health, the more we can improve both our physical and mental health.
So what constitutes a good night's sleep? Is there a set number of hours you should sleep? What time is best? How do you get a good quality of sleep? The answers to all these questions are important so let’s dive into each one.
A good night's sleep is one where you fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed, don't wake more than a couple times during the night, more than 20 minutes awake during those periods of time, you spend 85% or more of time asleep while in bed, you don't need an alarm to wake you up, and you feel rested in the morning.
Most sleep experts agree 7 to 8 hours is the optimal amount of time for a good night's sleep. It is true some people seem fine, even appear to thrive on, under 7 hours on the pillow. I've know a gentleman who slept less than 4 hours per night most of his life and he had so much energy he thought it was ok. Turn out he was bi-polar and sadly he ended up drying of suicide in his 60's. Let this be a warning, you can't judge your sleep only by how much or little energy you have. This can be a dangerous road. People think they are the exception to the rule until poor health sets in and it's too late. Too much sleep can be indicative of a health issue was well. Generally over 9 hours on a regular bases is cause for concern. Talk to your doctor if either of these apply to you.
I know some of you night owls will disagree with this next one, but studies confirm it's best to get to bed between 8pm and midnight depending on time of the year, where you live, and other factors. Most people have a spike in melatonin around 9pm, which is the hormone to help you sleep deep and to repair your body.
So how do you get the best quality of sleep? Develop a healthy bedtime route. Routines help our bodies maintain a systematic circadian rhythm enabling good sleep cycles. Go to bed at the same time each night, get up the same time each morning, limit caffeine throughout the day, don't eat a large meal at least 4 hours before bed, have a relaxing routine 1 hour before bedtime, limit screen time 1 to 2 hours before bed (blue light affects sleep), keep the room dark as possible, leave electronics out of the bedroom, and don't do anything but sleep in bed (well, there is one other thing you can do but no reading in bed, texting, etc.). The mind and body are habitual. If you only sleep in bed it becomes a trigger to sleep just by laying there.
If you'd like to know how you are sleeping visit: www.higherpath.ca/sleep for a free assessment and hand out on sleep.
- Understanding Sleep. Mental Health Canada. www.mentalhealthcanada.com/article_detail.asp?lang=e&id=28.
- Allen, Lauren. “How Sleep Affects Mental Health | Effects of Poor Sleep on Anxiety, Depression, & ADHD.” Neurocore, Neurocore, 12 July 2018, www.neurocorecenters.com/blog/how-sleep-affects-mental-health.
- Breus, Michael. “Sleep and Mental Health Disorders. Psych Central.com, 8 Oct. 2018, psychcentral.com/lib/sleep-and-mental-health-disorders.
- Scott, Alexandar J, et al. “Does Improving Sleep Lead to Better Mental Health? A Protocol for a Meta-Analytic Review of Randomised Controlled Trials.” NCBI, 18 Sept. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5623526/.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Sleep and Mental Health.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, July 2009, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
- Updated: June 19, 2018
- Curtin, Cathryn. SHF Australia. “Sleep and Mental Health.” The Sleep Health Foundation, www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/news/sleep-blog/sleep-and-mental-health.html.
- Khawaja, Imran, S, M.D. “Sleep Disorders and Mental Illness Go Hand in Hand.” UTSouthwestern Medical Center, utswmed.org/medblog/sleep-disorders-mental-illness/.
- "Sleep Disorders, Depression, Schizophrenia -- How They're Related."WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/psychiatric-disorders.
- "Sleep Matters: The Impact Of Sleep On Health And Wellbeing." Mental Health Foundation, 17 Jan. 2016, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/sleep-report.
- "Find Out Your Best Hours for Sleep Based on Your Biology and Your Life." Sleep.Org, Sleep.Org, www.sleep.org/articles/best-hours-sleep.
So I thought today I would talk a bit about why I believe in an integrative approach of body, mind, and soul. And why I follow a plant-based diet as well as other lifestyle choices.
Since science can’t really articulate the separation of the physical brain and emotions/thoughts, this will be a little bit philosophical. We all have our different views that come from a combination of things we’ve read from science or the Bible or even social media posts. And while I could document the sources where I get my ideas from, the reality is, I cannot prove it and my goal is not to convince you of my believe but rather to understand a little bit more about why I do what I do. So, I hope you will read all the way through this article with that in mind.
You may have heard me say body mind health, or body mind and soul, or integrative approach, or various combinations of these. Certainly it's in the name of my blog, website and facebook pages. LOL. Obviously, when I say 'body,' I’m referring to your physical body. Mind refers your thoughts and feelings and soul is the essence of who you are or your personality.
You might be with me so far, or not, but I’m not sure you’ll be on board with my next belief which is that not only our minds, but our souls are also intricately linked to our physical brain. One of the evidence is for this is Phineas Gauge who had an abrupt personality change when a tamping bar went through his frontal lobe. There’s actually many more stories of people who had brain injuries or disease, and had personality changes, emotional problems, or even the way they think changed. Unlike alzheimer's, some dementia patient's family members will tell you this is NOT the person they remember. So we know that physical disease and injury to the brain do you change thoughts and emotions in a person, and even their personality. As a Christian I believe the breath of life comes from God, as mentioned in Genesis and in the New Testament, and goes back to God when we die. I just don’t believe that the soul and the breath of life are the same thing. I don’t think that your soul lives on without a body. I actually have a Bible study on this if you like and you can get that here. Don't get me wrong, I do believe in heaven and life after death, just not life immediately after death, I believe in the resurrection John 5:28.
You might have different definitions for these words, or beliefs, and that’s absolutely fine. I do know many things that affect one affects the other. Having a doctrinal difference won’t affect how we work together, it only explains why the body, and specifically the brain, is so important to protect. Because whether you believe the soul is a separate entity from your body or not, we can agree the mind is affected by physical health, and that one can no longer make good decisions if they get a stroke from a poor lifestyle. Our brain's can't function properly without our whole bodies working in good order. We need proper nutrition for the chemical messengers in our brains, we need exercise for circulation and delivery of these, and so much more. We’ve seen this in science many times. We know that extreme lack of sleep can cause emotional problems such as irritability and poor cognitive function. Likewise we know certain thoughts can actually reduce physical pain, reducing emotional stress can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease, and many other interconnections.
A plant based diet is one of the best ways to get on the road to optimal health. The blue zones are centuries of proof that eating lots of plant foods and limited sugar, added fat, and animal products, is the most healthy way to eat. There are hundreds of studies and books in modern research to back this up. And even some of those following a keto or low card diet believe this so much they endeavor to be vegan or close to it, which is not easy to do, but is possible.
I think in general people forget how important their overall health is to their emotional happiness. Of course I totally believe in any state of health you can have peace and even happiness. And I do believe that we can’t always determine how healthy will be by our choices. I realize there are other factors that influence our health such as DNA, environmental factors, and other unknowns out of our control. Let’s do what we can, when we can, is my philosophy. This is why I choose to walk with you on your journey, rather than dragging you along on mine.