Anxiety

‘Tis The Season: 6 Tips For Roommate Management

These are the weeks when college students move into dorm rooms and apartments. Freshman are the newest people at sharing close quarters. Everyone moves in with high hopes and good intentions, but…. Years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I moved into Towers dormitory at Boston University, I had incredibly high expectations for a warm, long-lasting friendship with my freshman roommate.  We never go close to that goal – in fact, eventually we stopped short of being civil – and I was way more than 50% to blame. I’ve thought about it a lot in the years since…

so here are  tips that may help you (or a freshman you love) to begin with awareness and intention.

  1. You have all sorts of expectations, whether you know it or not. Try to bring them into your awareness so you can deal with them.
  2. Keep assumptions to a minimum; deal with reality.
  3. Keep lines of communication open.  Don’t assume, ask.  People are different and you can preempt problems by communicating well.
  4. Talk about problems as they arise, while they are still small.  Don’t let them build up until they boil over.
  5. It is okay if you are not alike.  Concentrate on each other’s strengths, not each other’s weaknesses.
  6. Be intentional about how you intend to use the room.  Have a meeting; have them regularly if you need to.  When you get clear plans about sleep, noise, visitors, and all the other things that shared space requires, you have a framework to depend on. Later, you can diffuse arguments by going back to your plan.   Good luck

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – part 2

Yesterday, I explained a little bit about obsessions. Today, I want to describe the other half of OCD, compulsions.

Compulsions are the acts or rituals that people use in attempts to relieve their obsessive thoughts.  Obsessions can be very tormenting and compulsions are failed attempts to quiet and calm those awful thoughts and feelings.

Common categories of compulsions are:

  1. Incessantly arranging things
  2. Extreme cleaning and grooming behavior
  3. Touching objects in a particular way or order
  4. Checking doors, locks, stove, windows, keys
  5. Undue tidiness or orderliness
  6. Checking to be sure that you haven’t done harm.

OCD may be partly inherited, may be learned, may have developed as a result of early experiences, or exists as an element of personality – no one knows for sure.  Children who distrust relationships and who have been frustrated in their attempts to exert control over their environment may become more controlling of themselves as adults.  In this way, early learning, experiences and temperament can be seen to influence later behaviors. OCD can be treated with therapy and medications.  Over the years, I have seen remarkable improvement in both therapy techniques and varieties of medications.  Get help.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – part 1

We are all creatures of habit. After writing about superstition, OCD comes to mind because it is the mental disorder most closely tied to superstition – OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

As creatures of habit,  we tend to repeat certain behaviors, wear lucky clothes, or organize our lives into patterns.  Sometimes this goes beyond habit and become a serious problem – obsessive compulsive disorder.

When you shower 3X a day, brush your teeth so often that you have rubbed the enamel off your teeth, undress in the hall so you don’t bring dirt into the house, check the door 15X before you leave the house, count words in your head, or can’t sleep until you have meticulously lined up everything in your room, you may have slipped out of the range of normal habits and into obsessive compulsive disorder.

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has 2 components – the obsessions and the compulsions.  OCD causes people to be plagued by repetitive thoughts (obsessions) and/or to repeat certain rituals (compulsions).

Obsessions are unwanted, intrusive thoughts that are often frightening.  People generally cannot ignore them.  The thoughts get better and worse depending on your levels of stress.

Common categories of obsessive thinking:

  1. Fear of people or the environment contaminating you with dirt, germs, body waste or fluids.
  2. Excessive worry that a task was done poorly
  3. Extreme need for order
  4. Fear of thinking evil thoughts
  5. Fear of having committed a crime
  6. Repeated, excessive sexual thoughts
  7. Concerns with certain sounds, words or numbers

Tomorrow, compulsions……..

 

List Lover

I confess, I am a devotee of lists. Lists are my friends. I take great satisfaction in making lists of things, and then I enjoy crossing these items off my list, one by one.  I will not admit or deny that I add things to my list just so I can have the pleasure of crossing them off.  I have my standards. I cannot add a chore to the list I made today if that task was completed last week.  However, I can add very short tasks (inhale, exhale) if I need more guaranteed check marks or a boost to my self esteem. For those of you who also love lists, you do not need to read further, but you are probably the only people who will keep reading.

I don’t expect everyone to be this nutty, but I may be able to convince you that lists can be very useful.  Here’s the trick – think of lists as a compilation of things you WANT to do, not things that you have to do. For example, I have “Watch Project Runway,” on this weekend’s list.  I also have laundry, pay bills, and sweep the garage on the list and they are not quite as appealing as things-to-do, but I do want to get them done and will be pleased when I have finished.

Tips for list making:

  1. Most importantly, have enough things on your list that you WANT to do, like, “Shop for a camel jacket.”  I was able to check that off rather quickly.
  2. Decide if your list is for a day, week, or six months and make the number of chores appropriate.
  3. If you need to carry things over from one list to another, do it – so what.
  4. Be reasonable.  For a daily list, don’t write, “Lose 8 lbs.”  Maybe you want to say, “Eat a salad” or “Go for a walk.”
  5. Lists that are ridiculously impossible only make you feel bad; they don’t work. Keep it somewhat reasonable.
  6. You are the boss. Change your list if you need to. After all, this is not homework for 6th grade and your teacher isn’t watching.
  7. Break things down into small steps (baby steps).  For example, my monthly list has, “Paint the dining room,” but this weekend has, “Take down the cabinet.” The full week’s list has, “Pick paint color, Buy paint, Tape woodwork” – very possible with llots of check marks.

Lists work.  They get the chores out of your head and on paper; you can think about other things; you won’t forget; you are focused; you feel organized; and you will get more done. Tell me about your lists and share your tips.

Face It – Avoidance Does Not Work

      How avoidance is ruining your life and what you can do about it.  DSCN1054
      Many, many people in the U.S. consider themselves procrastinators. They avoid doing the tasks in their lives that need to be accomplished. I suspect that others just avoid thinking about whether they procrastinate or not.  When you avoid something that needs doing, you add to your stress because avoidance isn’t effective; you carry the knowledge around like a mosquito buzzing in your brain that chants, “you didn’t….., you didn’t…. when are you going to…..what will you do about….. Like a B horror movie, IT IS WAITING FOR YOU, TODAY AND ALWAYS, WAITING….
 
      You can stop avoiding. Here are 6 suggestions to help you Face Your Life
 
1. Write down the problem (a bill to be paid, a paper to be written, a call to be returned, a discussion to be undertaken) AND write down a concrete solution, such as: I will call the credit card company today; I will spend 1 hour on research for the paper this evening, As you can see, these are first steps. When these are done, you can take the next step.
 
2. Do it first. Not after lunch, not after you grow old; NOW.  It isn’t going away, and it isn’t going to be more fun, so do it first and get it over with.  You will feel smug and happy for hours. It will give you enough of a high to actually accomplish other things. It will also improve your confidence that you can accomplish other things.  This makes room in your mind for the rest of your day’s activities.
 
3. Don’t delude yourself. It is probably not going away. If anything, it is going to get worse. Even if the problem doesn’t get worse, you will feel worse because now you have thrown away good hours by allowing this bill/paper/conversation to hijack your brain.
 
4. Reframe the problem.  Here is where a little (or a lot) self talk helps. Remind yourself that whatever the problem is, you can deal with it. Maybe you can solve it, maybe you can make it go away, maybe you will ask for help, but even if you cannot make it disappear, you can deal with it, and you will survive.
 
5. Experiment. If ‘you’ are not particularly good at getting this done, become someone else for awhile. This can be someone you know, like a friend who does exercise (if that is what you are going after), or an admired mentor, or a superhero.  When I supervised doctoral dissertations, I often used to send signs to students with instructions to hang the sign above the computer. The sign usually read something like “I have no feelings. I am a dissertation machine.”  Be the person who gets it done.
 
 6. Follow these suggestions over and over. Habits are not formed by one good day; exercise programs are not habitual because you made it to the gym last Sunday; eating habits do not mean skipping one french fry; and savings’ accounts are not built up with one deposit.  Repeat.  You will find that these suggestions go from awkward and difficult to commonplace.  You can reduce the worrying by facing the tasks that belong to you. We all have responsibilities, some big and some small.  It’s okay.  Take the first step.
Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D.
847-328-7878

Fifty Million Anxious People In The U.S.

50,000,000. Yes, fifty million people in the US suffer from a form of anxiety each year. Anxiety is the # 1 disorder among women dead tree silhoueteand #2 for men (alcohol and drugs are # 1 for guys). Why is it so prevalent?
Here are some possible answers about the epidemic nature of anxiety disorders:
1. Anxiety is learned in families – was your mother anxious?
2. Some people are probably predisposed to anxiety disorders.
3. Anxiety may be masking depression.
4. Anxiety arises from an accumulation of stress over time
        On a global scale………..
1. Our society pounds us with fear and stress; it feels out of control
2. Things change fast and we have little time to adjust to change, especially technological change
3. We worry about the future of our lives and planet
4. People are creating their own meaning because we are bombarded with so many disparate views
Want to change? My suggestion is to work with a therapist and begin reading Edmund Bourne’s book.
book cover
 What do I Say?

Social Anxiety

Social anxiety is the fear that some people experience in social situations (parties, work, even weddings and funerals). They feel judged; they may feel trapped; they always feel uncomfortable. So, not surprisingly, they begin to avoid people and places where their anxiety might occur.DSCN1177

Relaxation techniques and exercise help. Heenan, Nikolaaus and Troje, researchers at Queen’s University, say that relaxation practices and exercise are effective because they change the way an anxious person sees their world. Their experiment was novel – subjects watched a human figure walking. Anxious people saw the figure walking toward them (threatening) and non-anxious people saw the figure walking away. After either relaxation (progressive relaxation or muscle relaxation) or physical exercise, there were fewer occurrences of seeing the person coming toward the subject. Try relaxation techniques; there are many of them, from meditation, yoga, breathing, body scans and more. If you want to learn more, you can easily Google ‘relaxation techniques’ to find something that suits you. Don’t expect miracles after one or two tries – it takes time but it works.

source: Social anxiety turns neutral signals into threat PLOS One 9(7):e99902.

Face It – Avoid Avoidance

This post is about how avoidance is ruining your life and what you can do about it.  Many, many people in the U.S. consider themselves procrastinators. They avoid doing the fillette effrayéetasks in their lives that need to be accomplished. I suspect that others just avoid thinking about whether they procrastinate or not.  When you avoid something that needs doing, you add to your stress because avoidance isn’t effective; you carry the knowledge around like a mosquito buzzing in your brain that chants, “you didn’t….., you didn’t…. when are you going to…..what will you do about….. Like a B horror movie, IT IS WAITING FOR YOU, TODAY AND ALWAYS, WAITING….

You can stop avoiding. Here are 6 suggestions to help you Face Your Life

1. Write down the problem (a bill to be paid, a paper to be written, a call to be returned, a discussion to be undertaken) AND write down a concrete solution, such as: I will call the credit card company today; I will spend 1 hour on research for the paper this evening, As you can see, these are first steps. When these are done, you can take the next step.

2. Do it first. Not after lunch, not after you grow old, NOW.  It isn’t going away and it isn’t going to get to be more fun, so do it first and get it over with.  You will feel smug and happy for hours. It will give you enough of a high to actually accomplish other things. It will also improve your confidence that you can accomplish other things.  This makes room in your mind for the rest of your day’s activities.

3. Don’t delude yourself. It is probably not going away. If anything, it is going to get worse. Even if the problem doesn’t get worse, you will feel worse because now you have thrown away good hours by allowing this bill/paper/conversation to hijack your brain.

4. Reframe the problem.  Here is where a little (or a lot) self talk helps. Remind yourself that whatever the problem is, you can deal with it. Maybe you can solve it, maybe you can make it go away, maybe you will ask for help, but even if you cannot make it disappear, you can deal with it.

5. Experiment. If ‘you’ are not particularly good at getting this done, become someone else for awhile. This can be someone you know, like a friend who does exercise (if that is what you are going after), or an admired mentor, or a superhero.  When I supervised doctoral dissertations, I often used to send signs to students with instructions to hang the sign above the computer. The sign usually read something like “I have no feelings. I am a dissertation machine.”  Be the person who gets it done.

6. Follow these suggestions over and over. Habits are not formed by one good day; exercise programs are not habitual because you made it to the gym last Sunday; eating habits do not mean skipping one french fry; and savings’ accounts are not built up with one deposit.  Repeat.  You will find that these suggestions go from awkward and difficult to commonplace.  You can reduce the worrying by facing the tasks that belong to you. We all have responsibilities, some big and some small.  It’s okay.  Take the first step.

 

Anxiety: Friend or Foe

I’ve written many (maybe too many) posts about anxiety because it is a prevalent and disturbing problem for as many as 15% of Americans. Most postsMerry-go-round have been about understanding or countering anxiety. Here is a new twist. Some studies have found anxiety to be helpful – you be the judge.

1. Anxiety leads to embarrassment but people TRUST others who show embarrassment.

2. Anxious people have fewer accidents when they are younger (but more health problems as they age).

3. When anxious people deliberate and evaluate decisions, their memories are stronger than others.

4. Anxious people think they appear weird to friends, but friends rate them highly. People don’t notice as much as you think they do.

5. Worry is good for planetary survival (Jeremy Caplan study). I remain unimpressed with our care of the planet.

So, for those of you who are anxious, I hope you enjoyed knowing that there are some benefits to the problem.

Gifts That We Grow Into (first published 12/25/10)

When I was ‘sweet’ sixteen, my parents bought me a long strand of pearls. The necklace was, and remained for years, my only piece of “real” jewelry.  At the time, I was told that the pearls ought to be worn, not put away, and that their color would change subtly according to my skin. However, I don’t remember ever wearing the pearls in high school or college – they never went with the preppy, then hippy, outfits I preferred.pearls over black gloves

But, the pearls always traveled with me and I did grow into them. Years later, when I was getting my Ph.D., my mother visited me in Evanston. She was sick at that time and gave me her jewelry and the few pieces left by my grandmother.  The pearls had company – I now had a beautiful, meaningful, small collection of ‘real’ jewelry.  Right after her visit, my friend Carol had a wedding to attend in Pennsylvania. Her Quaker upbringing had not provided pearls at sixteen so I easily offered her my pearls for the weekend.  They looked lovely on her.  The gesture, genuine at first, left me with second thoughts.  After Carol left for her weekend wedding, I tormented myself with scenarios of her losing the pearls, mistreating them, breaking the strand and watching them roll away, unable to recapture them.  I imagined that she would misplace them or lose her suitcase during the flight. I was as overcome with regret as if I had already lost the pearls.

On Monday, just before Carol returned to town, I unexpectedly had to take my daughter to the pediatrician. We were only gone for an hour.  As soon as we returned home, the house felt bad to me and as I walked through the rooms, I knew we had been burglarized.  The thieves were selective – money and jewelry.  I had little money.  They took all my jewelry.  They left the TV that I didn’t watch and ignored the stereo whose multitude of buttons I never learned to operate.  My jewelry box was emptied.  All of it: mine, my mother’s, my grandmother’s and my aunt’s jewelry – gone and never recovered.

Within hours, the pearls came back to me from Pennsylvania.  I still have them; I still treasure them.  My daughters like this story.  So do I.  What I gave away, was returned to me.  It’s a holiday story – it’s an everyday story.