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Mental Health – No Longer a secret

A week before Christmas Emily received an early morning, alarming text which read, “I don’t know what to do. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat. I feel totally burned out. I’m having suicidal thoughts.” Should I go to the E.R.? When anyone gets a message like that, they want to do the right thing. Emily’s first reply was correct. “Yes, go to the E.R.”

Maybe you or people you know have felt that way. If so, you are among the group of more than 30 million people – one third  of the US population who have experienced anxiety, over 250 million reported cases worldwide. And yet, anxiety (and depression) is seldom talked about.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Hyperventilation
  • Appetite changes
  • Restlessness
  • Fear of impending danger

No dimension of wellness stands alone

 All of the symptoms of anxiety can and most of the time do affect all the dimensions of wellness.

  1. Spiritual Wellness – If there is a God or higher being or higher state of consciousness, why is this happening to me?
  2. Emotional Wellness – Why can’t I control how I feel?
  3. Intellectual Wellness – I’d like to read books on healing but in this state of mind I can’t concentrate.
  4. Physical Wellness – I’m losing weight, but I have no appetite, (or) I’m gaining weight from stress eating and I don’t know how to stop.
  5. Financial Wellness – I’ve had no income for a month and the bills are piling up.
  6. Occupational Wellness – Will I even have a job when I’m ready to go back to work – whenever that will be?
  7. Environmental Wellness– My family is getting tired of me being moody, withdrawn and unwilling to participate.
  8. Social Wellness – I’m not in a “Let’s go to lunch” or “Let me tell you what my husband/wife/partner said to me yesterday”. And I’m for sure not in a party mood. In fact, I don’t even feel like leaving my bedroom, let alone the house.

Mental Health is becoming more visible

Fortunately, today’s celebrities are more visible and out-front than when they were, when we saw them only on the movie or TV screen. Several of them have talked about anxiety and depression. Entertainers such as Ryan Reynolds. Lady Gaga, Gabrielle Union, Ben Affleck and so many more have talked about their experiences. Leaders of industry have also spoken out including Steve Jobs of Apple and Richard Branson founder of Virgin Airlines. They are letting us know that mental health has nothing to do with income, status in life, age, or gender.

Ryan Reynolds, one of the most outspoken celebrities on the subject, was raised in a household with a very unpredictable father.  Ryan said, “My dad was never an easy person to be around. He was like a skin-covered landmine. You just never knew when you were going to step into the wrong place, and he was just going to explode.”

Living with uncertainty can produce anxiety and panic attacks – a generalized fear of what may happen.  Some onsets of anxiety often move to panic attacks which can lead to…

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pounding heart
  • Worry about having another panic attack

The main point in Ryan’s comments is that when anxiety or panic hits, it can be an overwhelming feeling of doom. “I can’t stop this and I’m scared something bad is going to happen.”

The real question? Is there a common cause why so many of us are anxiety ridden, depressed or suffer panic attacks?

Flight, fight, or freeze

In the early 1900s Harvard researcher, Walter Bradford Cannon, coined the phrase, “Fight or flight response”. It meant that when we perceive a threat, real or not, we either stay and fight or we run. Unlike an animal in the forest, who perceives a threat from a predator, acts upon it, then goes back to normal zebra or elephant life, we store the memory in our more developed brain. We not only store the memory, we sometimes replay a threatening incident in our head, which transmits to discomfort in our bodies, even when there is no threat.

In 1936 Dr. Hans Selye popularized the word ‘stress’ and divided it into three parts:

First: An alarm reaction where the body prepares for fight or flight

Second: Trying to maintain a high alert causes lots of stress

Last: We live in this stressful state for so long, the body becomes exhausted and we go into a state of anxiety – waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Tomorrow can be a better day

What can we do about this human condition that more than one-third of us live with?

  1. If you feel suicidal, call 988, the suicide hotline and talk with a trained person. If chatting online feels better, or safer, go to Lifeline.org and click on Chat.
  1. Tell someone close to you. Don’t deal with all nerve-wracking, negative symptoms by yourself.
  2. Contact your physician. Many mental health issues come from a chemical imbalance. Simple medication may make a huge difference. If you don’t have a physician, you can go to online doctors like Zocdoc or other sites, where you can make an appointment, have a video visit and they can prescribe meds if necessary.
  3. Seek out alternative treatments
Mindful Meditation Breathing Techniques Yoga
Essential Oils Hypnosis Massage
Ketmamine Tai Chi Accupuncture

Grounding …etc….etc…almost endless alternative treatments. Check back to our website, where we will describe many holistic/alternative health protocols in upcoming blogs.

  1. Reach out to a trusted spiritual leader you know – if that is part of your life.
  2. Spend time with a trained therapist. We at 8dow.org, have therapists and life coaches available who can work with you. Many therapists take insurance and if you qualify, we do have scholarships available.

Don’t try to handle anxiety/depression/panic attacks by yourself. Reach out!

Mental health governs every part of our lives. Knowing how to live a successful, happy life means nothing to us when we are in a state of anxiety. Knowing how to get back to that life is crucial.

  • It’s okay not to be perfect.
  • It’s okay not to know how to overcome anxiety or depression.
  • You don’t have to go through this alone. Once you reach out, you’ll discover there are so many good people in this world who want you to be healthy, strong, happy, successful. You’ll also realize that it is possible to wake up each morning, eager to find out what good will come and always knowing that you deserve a great day tomorrow and everyday.

 

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