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This blog is not intended as a substitute for therapy sessions with a licensed therapist. If you are looking for help, please contact me at [email protected] or 214-736-7438.

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How to Talk Yourself Through a Panic Attack

Posted on 7 April, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (12552)

You feel it coming on. Your chest is getting tight. Your heart is pounding. Your airway is constricting. You can't breathe! It's a panic attack, and you feel like you can't do anything but surrender to it. Fortunately, this doesn't have to be the case. You have more power than you think.


What is a panic attack? If you have never had one, consider yourself lucky. A panic attack is a sudden onset of fear or anxiety, often with little or no warning. Basically, you get an adrenaline dump into your system because of a real or perceived threat. The person having one may feel like she is dying, having a heart attack, or going crazy. There are quite a few possible symptoms, but some of the more common ones are:


Feeling faint or light-headed

Racing or pounding heart

Sweating

Chills

Feeling like you can't breathe

Anxiety

Dizziness or tingling


Now, so you know that I am not making light of panic attacks by saying you can talk yourself through one, I will share my own experience with them. About five years ago I started waking up in the middle of the night not being able to breathe. I went from sleeping soundly to having a tight chest and constricted airway, taking very shallow breaths. The feeling of not being able to breathe is terrifying. Without air, we die, so there is a desperation to fill the lungs as quickly and deeply as possible. Except that I couldn't get a deep breath. I felt the panic, but I knew I couldn't fully give in to it. I had to grab at that sliver of logic still present and tell myself this:


Calm down. You are okay. You are having a hard time taking a deep breath. Notice your breathing and slow it down. You are okay. You are not dying. Pay attention to your breathing and keep it slow. You are okay.


I repeated this to myself for as long as it took to calm down, which was several minutes in reality, but felt like much longer. You, too, can use this technique to talk yourself down from, or out of, a panic attack.


1. Use a calm, slow voice as you remind yourself that you are okay and the attack will pass.

2. Pay attention to your breathing. First, just notice your breath. Then, actively begin to slow it down and keep it regulated.

3. Keep doing these things until the panic feeling fades. You will still feel keyed-up because of all the adrenaline in your system. It takes a while for that to pass, but give it time.


If it seems like this isn't working instantly, keep at it, because it takes more than two seconds to resolve a panic attack. You must practice this technique, and you must buy into it, believing it will work for you. It will work for you.

The Beauty of Routines

Posted on 24 March, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (10201)

Routines can seem so boring. Maybe you envision yourself doing the same thing, at the same time, every single day. Blech. You'd rather live spontaneously! You want to do what you want, when you want! Live by the seat of your pants! Throw caution to the wind! Wing it!


While that approach sounds really exciting and glamourous, and there is a time and a place for it, the reality is that living by the seat of your pants, without a plan, means you don't get things done. You find yourself wasting time, feeling unproductive, wondering where the day went. You know you were supposed to do these certain tasks, but somehow it just didn't happen.


The reason those tasks "just didn't happen" is because of a lack of planning. In order to accomplish something meaningful, you must have a plan. You can't depend on things working out by themselves. You may be saying to yourself, "Well, that's not true. I do get things done." And you probably do. But, how often do you get to the end of the day and realize how many chunks of time you have wasted? Or how many necessary tasks will be put off until tomorrow? With each new day, you have a chance to begin again. You are in charge of your time and how you spend it. It's okay for you to plan, and maybe even essential.


When you create routines for yourself, you put plans into place that can become automatic for you. For instance, if you have a morning routine, you can eliminate worry over things like how long it will take you to get ready, what you will wear to work, what you will eat for breakfast, or if your lunch is ready to go. You do this by picking your outfit the night before, or even choosing your outfits at the beginning of the week; by planning your meals in advance or making your lunch the night before so it's ready for you to take with you in the morning. Maybe you have been in the habit of trying to fit in extra chores like starting a load of laundry or emptying the dishwasher before work. While there is nothing wrong with doing these things, if you find they make you late for work, eliminate them and all extraneous tasks until you are able to function with your basic routine. At that point, it is possible that you could add back some of these things, provided they are incorporated into the routine, meaning that you have planned for the time they will take. A primary reason people are late is because they try to fit in "just one more thing" before leaving. Sorry to tell you, but if you didn't plan for it, you don't have time for it, at least, not if your priority is being on time and getting things done.


Experiment with different areas of your life and see how planning ahead can help. Check out situations such as these and try making a plan, creating a routine for them: laundry, grocery lists, cleaning the bathroom, getting ready to leave in the morning, getting ready for bed at night, exercise. See how much you can get done when you let routines work for you.

Depression is a Disease of Lies!

Posted on 17 March, 2015 at 8:00 Comments comments (15346)

Depression is a disease of lies! Whoa! That seems a little dramatic, doesn't it? Well, actually, no. That statement pretty much hits the nail on the head. Depression IS a disease of lies. This is something I have come to believe after counseling many clients as they deal with depression, and as I have dealt with my own depression. Depression wants you to think nobody cares about you, that nobody wants to spend time with you, that you are a burden.


These lies, and others, keep you from reaching out to people. They keep you from doing the things that could help you feel better and less depressed, such as exercising regularly, spending time with friends and family, eating nutritious foods, and keeping a regular schedule. Unfortunately, the very things that can counteract depression are the very things that are so difficult to find the motivation to do. And then there's that little voice whispering in your ear (or that huge voice screaming in your face, depending on the day) telling you not to bother, that no one wants to be your friend, and you should just give up. Because, you see, when you feel depressed you believe anything depression tells you. It's when you are feeling better that you are able to logically recognize the lies as such. That's why it is so important to become aware of the lies and call them out when you are feeling good. If you wait until the next bout of depression strikes to try to identify the lies, you will buy into every single one.


You must internalize the truths that combat the lies depression tells. Of course, the lies are endless, but below are some examples. I'll add statements addressing these lies, but please make them your own by using words that are meaningful to you. Remember, you must use logic to power through.


I'm not worth it, I'm not good enough: Good enough for what? Why are you worse than other people? Have you done something so horrible that the rest of humanity should shun you? That really seems unlikely. It's okay if you aren't perfect. Nobody is. We're all just going along in life, doing our best to have a good one. You can do that, too. Give yourself a break from the comparisons and just be who you are.


No one cares about me: Really? Not a single person in the entire world cares about you? Start listing the people in your life (parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coworkers, babysitters, children, etc) and truthfully consider that statement. "Does my mom care about me? Yes, of course she does. What about my boss? My sister? My husband?..." This is an example of All Or Nothing Thinking. All Or Nothing Thinking tells us there is either perfection or failure, with no in-between. It only recognizes 1 and 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, leaving out 2 through 9. Allow yourself to consider the middle of the spectrum.


No one wants to be around me, no one wants to hear from me: Why not? Why wouldn't people want to be around you or hear from you? Again, what have you done that would make people want to shun you? Probably nothing. We all like to spend time with our friends. Assuming you have chosen nice people as friends (if not, that's a whole other issue we should discuss), they would like to spend time with you, too. When someone you like contacts you, you feel excited/glad/happy. Just like when you realize all your mail isn't junk or bills: "Hey! There's a personal letter in here!" Same with a phone call, text or email from a friend: "Hey! Susan just texted me! Wonder how she's doing? Maybe we can get together and catch up." Reach out, and allow yourself to be "reached out to," too.


Keep on checking what depression tells you. Often, you will find, it tells you lies about who you are and what others think of you. Don't buy into this. Don't believe the lies. Always search out the truth.

Three Ways to Master Sensitivity

Posted on 10 March, 2015 at 9:00 Comments comments (6344)

As promised, continued from last time. So, how do you deal with sensitivity? Here are three things that can help.


Become aware that you are a sensitive person, and tell yourself it is okay to be that way. There is nothing wrong with sensitivity. However, when you approach certain situations, think about how they might trigger you so that you can be ready to deal with them. You often know how being around specific people will affect you. Prepare for this. Know what to expect going in. If your sister is critical of you every time you get together, remind yourself that she has not changed since last time. She will continue to be critical this time. Don't be surprised when she tells you she doesn't like your outfit, your kids aren't as smart as hers, or she doesn't understand how you can be a working mom. This is typical of her. You get to choose how you react. You can change the subject, confront her critical behavior, or let her get to you once again. What will you pick?

 


Along the same lines, don't take things personally. Remember, the way people act is almost always about them. Certainly, if you have made a mistake, own it and take care of it, but don't take on problems that aren't yours. Don't accept blame for something you aren't responsible for. When someone cuts you off on the highway, that is not about you. That is about them. Maybe they had a bad day or a run-in with the boss. When the checker at the grocery store plunks down your produce and it gets bruised, that is about her. Maybe she just got dumped or had a fight with her mom. When your family member (spouse, sibling, parent, etc) yells at you for no reason, that is about them. Maybe they had a hard day at school or work, or had a fight with a friend. Are you getting the idea? Now, please understand, just because someone is having a bad day does not mean it's okay for her to take it out on you or someone else. It's not okay. But, it's also not your fault. You get to refuse to feel guilty about the exchange. You get to tell the person not to take their anger (or other feelings) out on you. You get to choose not to take it personally.

 


Finally, put yourself first sometimes. If you are the sensitive type, you probably end up putting yourself last most of the time, if you even make the list. Don't do this to yourself. You deserve to be treated well, just as you treat others. Make sure to set aside time for yourself. Get a massage or a pedicure. Go shopping or window shopping. But a new pair of shoes or a fab dress. Get together with friends. Go to therapy. Heat your socks or bath towels in the dryer before using them. Go out to lunch. Trade babysitting with a friend and go on a date with your spouse. Trade babysitting with a friend and stay home with your spouse (sans kids). Take a dance class or learn a new language. The possibilities are endless. You figure out what you need to stay sane and to not feel resentful of those in your life you put first. Do those things. It's important to fill your cup so that you can give and do for others out of the overflow. Do not neglect yourself.

 



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