THE CORONA VIRUS AND HYPER AROUSAL

THE CORONA VIRUS AND HYPER AROUSAL

I wonder is you are observing yourself with your reactions to the corona virus threat. Are you feeling anxious and at what level is it out of 10? It is natural for us to feel concerned for ourselves and others with this virus. The media are in full throttle mode reporting on the virus from a multitude of angles. It is a media frenzy.

If we read every article and watch every media advise about the virus it is to be expected that we are constantly telling our brain to get ready for a fight or flee situation. On top of this we are likely to be catastrophizing many possible outcomes.

What we have now is hyper arousal where there are increased amounts of adrenaline being pumped into our blood streams and we are now also hypervigilant. We are also causing our minds to become stressed and cortisol is also being released causing bodily symptoms of disturbed sleep, irritability, headaches, digestive disorders, general anxiety and panic.

So, we have the corona virus event and we have our reaction to it. These are two separate issues with the former causing psychological distress about an unknown event.

From a mental health perspective there are things you can do to keep you well. The first thing to do is observe your anxiety and take time to investigate the stories behind these feelings. How are these feelings being generated and from where? What are these feelings robbing you of? What behaviours are resulting from these feelings?

We all need to be aware of this virus threat and make plans to handle it. We need to get the information about the virus and make good decisions. But do we need to be continually scaring ourselves with the media onslaught?

One of the best ways to protect yourself is to not totally emerge yourself in all the media stories. By limiting the immersion in the media stories, you will reduce your hypervigilance. This will lead to less fear chemicals being released into your body’s circulatory system. You will have far better mental health if you observe your reactions and with self talk change the behaviour of any media obsession you might have. Try this for one day and observe the difference.

Living in the here and now will greatly reduce anxious catastrophizing, which the latter is about living in an unknown imagined future. You will deal with this virus when you get the right information.

There is the corona virus and there is the reaction to the threat. Stay mentally well by not frightening yourselves. Go for a walk, ring a friend, make sensible plans. Meditation is brilliant for anxiety so is taking deep breaths. See

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and treats anxiety, panic attacks, depressions, addictions and grief/ loss. Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com

Shame – Dealing with It

SHAME – WHAT IS IT AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

When we are small children and do something wrong in front of our primary care givers, usually our parents, we cover our eyes with shame. We do this as adults in front of others too covering our eyes when embarrassed, usually uttering words or self-rapprochement – Oh No!

We all were told off by our parents and teachers at some time and we got over it without creating belief systems that we are not okay in the world. However, if the shame is felt as continual reflections from our parents, teachers, peers and others, we develop ingrained feelings that we are constantly disappointing others – we are not good enough.

Childhood experienced shame can continue throughout adulthood with constant feelings of being disappointing in the world. That word disappointing is very powerful. We also develop adolescent shame about a wide variety of self-disclosures from sexual identity, not meeting parents’ expectations, failing at learning or work and many other personal behaviours that did not meet the expectations of others.

Let’s look at different ages with shame. When we are children, and without any real sense of power in the world, we do not know how to deal with these feelings of disappointing others. When these feelings of shame happen, it goes right to the core of our being where we want to withdraw from the world for not being worthy. We want to cover our face with our hands. But maybe it was totally unfair for others to make us constantly feel this way? Maybe it was in actual fact emotional abuse?

When an adult it is helpful to reflect on that wounded child within and visit him or her and retell the stories of this unfairness. It is through retelling these stories the wounded child within can heal him or herself. If not the stories and cruel messages of being disappointing sit constantly underneath the adult experience.

How do you communicate with the wounded child within? Well you write letters or stories to this wounded child, putting your adult arms around him or her and reflect on the fairness of the judgments of others. Were you actually a child that experienced the world in wonder only to be crushed by unfairness? Maybe you were not an angel but still felt wrong a lot for just being you. Writing it down externalises the experiences by your own self reflection..

I want to talk about the term Agency. Having Agency means shameful feelings can be addressed because of the power of your unspoken voice that says I am not disappointing others; I am only disappointing myself with these feelings -I am not a bad person!

Having Agency means you can talk to that negative inner belief system and heal with more positive thoughts and feelings. We all make mistakes in life as an adult where we experience shame and we can heal these with thoughts on all the good parts of ourselves.

However healing childhood or adolescent shame requires opening up the many stories that created it; to look at the fairness of it, to challenge the right or the authority of those who reflected back those shameful feelings and to visit all the positive stories of things done well and the personal drives to do good things. Were you really disappointing?

Gerry North is a couple counsellor and also treats depression, anxiety, panic attacks, loss and grief plus additions. Email: gerrynorthcounsellor@gmail.com.

BUSY STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

BUSY  STRESS OR PLEASANTLY FULL – HOW IS YOUR LIFE?

I see many clients who report 10 to 12 hour workdays suffering either: stress, anxiety, depression or a breakdown in personal relationships but not wanting to reduce the corporate work commitments. They say they are happy working these hours, as they feel fulfilled. They are actually addicted to doing and not being, well their mind is so addicted.

When they return from a long holiday they experience how their lives have been hijacked by a corporate work ethic. After a few weeks back at work they are again addicted – or their brain is. Are you leading a pleasantly full life or a busy life? Is it time to be mindful or thoughtful about how you are living your life? It is an important question to ask don’t you think?

Peer pressure, public status, wanting glamorous life goods and the push to get as much money as possible are some of the drivers for people developing exhausting busy lives. What is a pleasantly full life is another question and is it naturally different for everyone? I think it is about increasing the connection with the real world – the natural environment and our relationships with family, work colleagues, our communities and friends.

How many internal thoughts have you had about observing people totally disconnected from the real world? The prime example is watching people texting while walking or driving. This embodies this disconnect, especially when witnessed at pedestrian crossings.

It is time to become thoughtful about spending more time with family, friends, taking walks in the country air, sitting outside watching life, cooking slowly, wearing cosy socks, comfortable clothes and reading a good book on the couch with the dog at our feet. Does this seem more nurturing to you and relaxing into life’s joys?

Our real lives of being rather than doing are under ever increasing threat. The fascination with the latest technology, instant entertainment satisfaction, wanting instant online sex, and experiencing a constant feeling of needing to do things faster robs us of a having a thoughtful pleasant life. Mindfulness is being thoughtful about what your true self wants as a life.

To make life changes we first need to acknowledge there is a problem, as we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Can you put technology down, leave your phone at home, stop texting so much, reduce your work hours, date rather than get casual instant sex and generally develop a plan for a new life of being over constant doing.

Having a simpler life might mean moving to a cheaper house, working less hours, doing creative things rather than only financial pursuits and generally slowing it all down and at the same time having a full life of non work activities.

My partner recently decided to take a year off from the corporate world and is experiencing life anew. But his friends insist he get back into the work force. Can you think of reasons why they pressure him to do so? I find the reasons for this peer pressure very interesting!

So maybe have a good think now on what you are doing with your life. Mindfulness will get you there because now you are thoughtful rather than repeating unconscious busy pursuits.

 

 

 

 

REDUCING ANXIETY WITH ACCEPTANCE

Anxiety is a feeling that is common to us all and in fact we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning without feeling compelled to do something with the day ahead. But what happens if your anxiety is really high about everything all the time? Well the best thing to do it accept it and stop struggling with it. If you struggle with thoughts of anxiety you are in the loop of being anxious about your anxiety. But if you simply accept your feelings of anxiety, even though uncomfortable, you no longer enter the anxious struggle world.

I wonder if you can understand the concept that you are not your mind? In your own internal world your mind uses the language of words, images and thoughts to project onto a screen what you are experiencing. Humans can however, observe their own thoughts so if you are experiencing anxiety you can actually step back and see your mind is projecting thoughts of anxiety. The trick is not to struggle with these thoughts as if you do you are fighting anxiety thoughts.

Imagine falling into quicksand. If you laid flat you would float and stay alive. Quicksand only kills you when you struggle in it and in doing so you drown yourself. Anxiety is the same, if you observe, recognize and accept the feelings and do not struggle the anxiety feelings will lessen.

It does not matter what uncomfortable feelings you are experiencing whether it be loneliness, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or whatever, rather than struggling with these feelings accept them. Maybe laugh at these projected thoughts onto your mind screen or make the words that pop up into bright colours with a bouncing ball or make up a song about these thoughts. Doing this allows you the control to observe and defuse your thoughts as just thoughts that will pass.

So here is a trick. Imagine a struggle switch at the back of your mind. Right now it is off. You all of a sudden have feelings on anxiety say about a meeting where you have to present material. Okay you accept these feelings of anxiety. You recognize where in your body you feel these translated feelings. You see the words that pop up in your mind and make them a colour but you don’t switch the struggle switch on which is a secondary mind system.

Your primary mind system produced anxiety thoughts and feelings and you accept these but you do not allow your mind to fall into a secondary system of struggle. Once you enter the struggle world you are now struggling with the anxiety, which means being anxious about the anxiety and this is not a good place to be. How am I going here? Have I lost you?

The important thing to take away is that you are not your mind. You can observe your mind as a series of language expressions of thoughts, images, ideas that come and go to be projected onto a screen for you to observe. Don’t fight the quicksand, lie flat and float and you will survive although it is uncomfortable.

 

Anxiety and Mind Churning

We all come across people that really get to us over what they said or did. We also tell ourselves negative stories about ourselves during the day. We could have done this or that! There are times when something happened that we can not understand why it occurred. And what do we do, we churn. Over and over we churn over the events, we take mental positions, work out what we should have said or done. We then set ourselves up to become outraged, angry, bitter and really upset. What follows next is negative behaviour like depression or anxiety.

Churning is just our minds making up stories and presenting negative emotional responses. Churning never ever achieves anything positive so what can you do to stop this mindful obsession? Easy, tell your mind to shut up. You see you are not your mind. As humans you can observe your mind thinking and actually decide what it can think about. There is a gap between you and your mind. That gap allows you to say to your mind – Shut Up.

Training your mind to shut up takes practice but by addressing any useless churning you will become stronger mentally in a very short time. Self talk to tackle churning allows you to get above the upsetting stories your mind is very content to replay continuously, if you allow it to have its way.

There is a difference between consideration and churning. When your mind processes ideas and events it is seeking solutions to move towards insight. Insight is when you feed your brain information about an issue and the brain pops up a solution you feel will work. Mindful consideration is productive but churning never is.

Why not try and stop the churning today. Practice makes perfect. First decide if the stories your mind is playing are either consideration or churning. If it is churning tell your mind to stop. To help this along sing a nursery rhyme like “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Doing this is a humorous and a positive step to stop the churning. Maybe make up a song about what your mind is churning about.

You are right they should not have said or done that, we do tell ourselves negative stories and certain events should never have happened but life is always moving forward and trapping ourselves in the past does us no favours.

You won’t have to wait long for a negative story to pop up so be ready to tell your mind to just shut up. Maybe even use a swear word if that helps. Take care.

P.S. If you want 3 free lessons to tackle anxiety or depression, that you can do online, send me an email and I will send you the link to the St Vincent’s Anxiety Clinic.