Monday, April 11, 2022

Anxiety or Depression: Whatever Works

 


What some difficult times we have all been through. Obviously, I have not been writing or keeping up my blog, or doing anything of a fun nature. Both of my sons are on the spectrum and need residential services. This year, that system collapsed. My oldest son had to move home because we couldn’t find a provider who could hire staff to support their clients. A lot of providers shut down.

It wasn’t just us. Many disabled children and adults either had to move back home with their families or ended up homeless. It’s really a travesty. There are many things wrong with the system, and I’m still fighting for change.

Through it all, both of my sons have struggled with depression and so have I. The suicide prevention hotline got a few extra calls. I’ve been through some stressful episodes with my heart. I share this because all of us have had especially difficult times the last couple of years. In order to cope, I went searching for some online help. I didn’t find quite what I was looking for in help with depression. Everything just seemed to be a distraction and the minute the activity was over; I would start panicking again. Thus, my search for help with anxiety instead of depression.

Here are some things I’ve found helpful. I don’t take credit for any of the ideas. I hope they will help you too.

 

Reducing Anxiety and Stress

 

1. Remember that it will pass

During a panic attack, it can help to remember that these feelings will pass and cause no physical harm, however scary it feels at the time.

 

2. Take deep breaths

Deep breathing can help bring a panic attack under control.

Try to breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating on each breath. Breathe deeply from the abdomen, filling the lungs slowly and steadily while counting to 4 on both the inhale and the exhale.

 

3. Smell some lavender

A soothing scent can help relieve anxiety by tapping into the senses, helping the person stay grounded and giving them something to focus on. Lavender is a common traditional remedy known for bringing about a sense of calm relaxation. 

 

4. Find a peaceful spot

Sights and sounds can often intensify a panic attack. If possible, try to find a more peaceful spot. Sitting in a quiet place will create some mental space, and it will make it easier to focus on breathing and other coping strategies.

 

5. Focus on an object

When a person becomes overwhelmed with distressing thoughts, feelings, or memories, concentrating on something physical in the environment can help them feel grounded.

Focusing on one stimulus can reduce other stimuli. As the person looks at the item, they may want to think about how it feels, who made it, and what shape it is. This technique can help reduce the symptoms of a panic attack.

 

6. The 5-4-3-2-1 method

Panic attacks can make a person feel detached from reality. This is because the intensity of the anxiety can overtake other senses. The 5-4-3-2-1 method is a type of grounding technique and a type of mindfulness. It helps direct the person’s focus away from sources of stress. To use this method, the person should complete each of the following steps slowly and thoroughly:

·       Look at 5 separate objects. Think about each one for a short while.

·       Listen for 4 distinct sounds. Think about where they came from and what sets them apart.

·       Touch 3 objects. Consider their texture, temperature, and what their uses are.

·       Identify 2 different smells. This could be the smell of your coffee, your soap, or the laundry detergent on your clothes.

·       Name 1 thing you can taste. Notice whatever taste is in your mouth, or try tasting a piece of candy.

 

7. Repeat a mantra

A mantra is a word, phrase, or sound that helps with focus and provides strength. Internally repeating a mantra can help a person come out of a panic attack.

The mantra can take the form of reassurance and may be as simple as, “This too shall pass.” For some, it may have a more spiritual meaning. As the person focuses on gently repeating a mantra, their physical responses will slow, allowing them to regulate their breathing and relax their muscles.

 

8. Walk or do some light exercise

Walking can remove a person from a stressful environment, and the rhythm of walking may also help them regulate their breathing. Moving around releases hormones called endorphins that relax the body and improve mood. Taking up regular exercise can help reduce anxiety over time, which may lead to a reduction in the number or severity of panic attacks.

 

9. Try muscle relaxation techniques

Another symptom of panic attacks is muscle tension. Practicing muscle relaxation techniques may help limit an attack. This is because if the mind senses that the body is relaxing, other symptoms — such as rapid breathing — may also diminish. This involves tensing up and then relaxing various muscles in turn. To do this:

1.    Hold the tension for 5 seconds.

2.    Say “relax” as you release the muscle.

3.    Let the muscle relax for 10 seconds before moving on to the next muscle.

 

10. Picture your happy place

A person’s happy place should be somewhere they would feel most relaxed. The specific place will be different for everybody. It will be somewhere they feel relaxed, safe, and calm. When an attack begins, it can help to close the eyes and imagine being in this place. Think of how calm it is there. People can also imagine their bare feet touching the cool soil, hot sand, or soft rugs.

 

I hope to continue moving forward in helping my sons, but also get back to writing and enjoying a few simple things.

 

Best wishes,

 

Cindy A. Christiansen

Clean & Wholesome Action/Adventure Romance

 

 

 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Things You Don’t Forget: The Big, Fat Apple!


My best friend looks gorgeous in red! Red clothes, red shoes, red lipstick…

I have never been so bold as to wear red. My brain tells me it’s not my place. It’s not appropriate. It’s not you!

One day, I was shopping for clothes; a task I hate. And, I saw this beautiful, red, shimmery blouse…in my large size. I loved it! Maybe for my friend. I was me after all. But, my best friend isn’t a small woman. She can wear red. Why can’t I?

Because it’s not your place. It’s not appropriate. It’s not you!

I loved the shimmery, red blouse.

I walked away.

I stopped.

I turned around and walked back. I picked it up and went and tried it on.

For a second, I looked in the mirror and thought… “You look beautiful!”

My brain told me it’s not appropriate.

But I really felt special. I took off the red blouse and put it in my cart. I went home and hung it in my closet; the only red item on the rack.

The first time I had a chance to wear it was at a dinner party with a group of old friends. I was happy. I felt pretty. I felt bold. I felt good about myself. I had a wonderful time. Friends were snapping photos of everyone. What a liberating moment!

I came home joyous and started looking at social media to see what everyone was posting about the evening. There I was in my beautiful, red, shimmery blouse…smiling with my friends.

The first comment I saw said, “Look at that big, fat apple in the middle.”

Yeah, yeah. I’m supposed to say something inspiring here. Not care. Not let it bother me. Don’t base my self-worth on what other people think. My brain said, “See! I told you it’s not your place. It’s not appropriate. It’s not you!”

I never wore that beautiful, red blouse again.

That’s not what you wanted to hear, is it?

Why don’t people take seriously the thought that words can really hurt? The brain remembers them no matter what logic you throw at it; especially a brain that’s been telling you the same thing your whole life. That one comment. That one, thoughtless comment.

Take from my experience what you want. End the story your way. Let me here your comments.




Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Communicating Through Your Spirit

 

I have been chronically ill for over forty years. That means I’ve been in chronic pain for that long too. Not just with one chronic illness, but several many. I have had to learn how to avoid and ignore my pain and set it aside.

You can’t be thinking about how your stomach hurts or your head hurts if you are trying to concentrate on someone else’s words or emotions. Believe me, I have been there and remember very little of those communications. Sometimes, it can’t be helped, especially with migraine-type headaches.

There are times in life, though, where you really need to connect with another person. Whether it’s critical information, an emotional event in someone else’s life where you need to be present, or a learning experience that can’t be accomplished later, sometimes you have to separate from the pain/fatigue/sickness/brain fog and be totally present.

I’m not sure I can explain the mental process needed to communicate through your spirit, but it can be done. If you are religious, you may believe that the Holy Ghost is helping with this process. Either way, I go to a spot in my body (usually my head) that doesn’t feel the pain. To me, it is not my mortal body but my spirit who doesn’t feel the pain and can freely respond without the mortal confines of my body.

I think of this glowing ball of energy that is free of pain. The thoughts, emotions, and information flow from this spot, undeterred of restrictions. Picture it flowing easily from you to someone else like a stream of lighted energy. It is really inspiring. For that moment in time, there is no pain, just the free-flow of inspiration—from your heart to theirs.

Yes afterward, the symptoms slowly return and you may find yourself a little exhausted from the experience. But, it is a good fatigue, filled with enlightenment and joy.

I believe most writers write from their spirits. Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? How would you describe it? Share your comments below.

 

Cindy A. Christiansen

Action/Adventure Romance with humor and…dogs!

http://www.dragonflyromance.com


Monday, February 1, 2021

Some Farm Girl I Am!

 

I have a confession to make.

I grew up on a farm, but I’m not much of a farm girl. As an author and lover of western stories, I guess it hurts my pride to admit I’ve never milked a cow. I mean, what would readers think to know that I never participated in many of the farming tasks we did.

Let’s take, for example, the milking. My older sister took that job in the nice warm milk barn with a radio while I did all the rest of the chores feeding the cows, sheep, hogs, horses and dragging hoses from the well on the property all the way down to the pens, breaking ice and withstanding blizzards or tolerating extraordinary heat.

What do people ask me first? Did you milk the cows? No, I didn’t get to do that. The other reason I missed out on that chore was that when I was 12, I was racing to grind grain for the hogs and I got my right hand caught in the belt to the motor and cut three of my fingers 9/10ths of the way off. That took some recovery time, years in fact, and I never regained the ability to bend and grasp with those fingers, thereby limiting my ability to milk.

And although I helped butcher animals, my dad never had us “girls” participate in the shooting of animals. I can say I’m definitely happy about that. But I did help hold the innards while a beef was skinned, and I helped scrape the hair off a hog with a bell. I helped in our meat house, too, cutting and wrapping the meat for the freezer.

Another task I rarely performed was gathering the eggs. There was something about pecking and chickens that really bothered me. It could be that I have always had a phobia about birds in numbers. Or it could have been that I'm allergic to chicken feathers. I’m not sure. Anyway, I could usually get my sister to gather the eggs while I feed and watered them. I still had trouble breathing in the coop.

That leads us to the next question I get asked a lot: Were you a horsewoman? Well, I cringe at that question. Truth be told, I didn’t get to ride…much. When I was three years old, my older brother put me and my sister on a horse bareback and we fell off when the horse lunged over a ditch. My sister fell on top of me and I broke my left arm.

When I was around ten-years-old, we loaded our horses and took them up Butterfield Canyon for a ride. My dad saddled the horses and put me and my sister on a horse named Shack. He mounted and headed up the canyon. Shack would not move. We did everything we could to get her to move and she wouldn’t. Dad came back, slipped us to the ground, and mounted her himself. She wouldn’t move. He gave her a good kick with the heels of his boots and she reared up and over, crushing Dad into the driver’s door of the truck. We found out later there was a cocklebur under the saddle that had been in the back of the truck.

Dad broke a rib that punctured his lung. There we were—up the canyon, Dad couldn’t drive and I and my sister were too young to drive. Thankfully, my older sister knew enough from learning how to drive the tractor that she managed to drive us home without the horses and the trailer. My mom rushed my dad to the hospital and my brothers went back up the canyon for the horses and trailer.

After that catastrophe, we sold all the horses and never had them again for a long time. Our next adventure was motorcycles, but that’s another story.

It wasn’t until my dad and brother rescued a horse that had been abused and locked inside a barn with no sunshine for the first year of its life that I took an interest in horses again. I watched my brother patiently work with this colt he named Pongo. She was part Clydesdale and grew into a beautiful, fine horse. My greatest joy was getting to ride her, but horsewoman? No, not me.

And then there were my allergies. I remember taking my dad a quart bottle of ice water while he was cutting hay. I climbed on the tractor to ride with him while he continued cutting so that I could take the bottle back to the house with me. After a round or two, Dad stopped and let me off. My eyes itched and my vision started going fuzzy. I could see my mom hanging wash on the clothesline and then I couldn’t see anything. All was dark. I tried to feel my way. I reached out and felt the barbed-wire fence. My mom was watching me stumble to the yard. She called out my name as I entangled with the fence.

She managed to get me to the house and put cold compresses on my swollen shut eyes. A farm girl allergic to hay. Oh, and hey, that’s not all. With future allergy testing I found out I’m allergic to pretty much everything outdoors…and indoors…and dogs and horses and wool and chickens and melons and fresh vegetables and fruits and… Well, you get the point. I grew up on a farm in which I was totally allergic to everything. My youth was one of itching, scratching, trouble breathing, and even hives.

Is it surprising I feel embarrassed? Some farm girl I turned out to be. It doesn’t mean I sat in the house and didn’t haul hay, ride horses or feed the chickens. I just remember feeling so miserable. Not exactly a fun experience.

Interestingly enough, I have chosen to still deal with allergies. I love dogs and the doctors have said I should never own a dog. That to me would be a horrible existence. This farm girl needs something to remind her of her youth. For me, it just happens to be an itchy nose.

P.S. You'll never see a western love scene in one of my books where the couple is laying in the hay or in the straw. The whole idea makes my eyes itch and my nose run.


Cindy A. Christiansen

Clean & Wholesome Action/Adventure Romance with Humor…and Dogs!

http://www.dragonflyromance.com


 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Christmas Is Not Always Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice!


Christmas should be a joyous time to remember family and friends and the birth of the Savior. Unfortunately for many, it is a time of depression and sadness for the losses we have experienced over the last year and the years that came before. I know it is true for me.

This year has been particularly difficult with the tension-filled election, lockdowns, the widespread pandemic, natural disasters, and deaths. Honestly, who hasn't been affected? As I keep telling my two autistic, adult sons, "This isn't just about you. Everyone has been affected."

My family has had many setbacks this year other than the ones listed above. Maybe your family has too. So where does that leave us? Resenting Christmas? Denying Christmas? Refusing Christmas? Is that really possible? I don't think so. As the Grinch said, "Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He hadn't stopped Christmas from coming! It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same!"

I had an experience that really impacted me this year. When I received a statement saying I owed $10,000, I took the letter, crumpled it, and threw it across the room. I refused to deal with it. I was angry, bitter, scared, frustrated, overwhelmed and I just refused to accept that in order to prove I didn’t owe that money, I had to just do the work. I didn’t like the way I felt. I even felt suicidal; like giving up.

But then I realized, all of those emotions were only hurting me. I needed to accept it and just do it. And, you know, it worked!

Another thing I tell my sons when they are struggling is, “Ride the waves.” It was an original Magnum P.I. episode that caused me to make that realization. Tom Selleck is caught out in the ocean and has to tread water for hours, waiting for a rescue. Sharks keep surfacing around him. He keeps calm and rides the waves to stay alive. This advice has helped my family tremendously.

Here are some other suggestions to help us this holiday season:

Acknowledge your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Reach out to others if you feel lonely or isolated. You might not be able to do it in person, but there are lots of other ways such as: texts, calls, video chats, community websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events.

Volunteer. Volunteering your time can also lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

Be realistic in your planning. Don’t try to outdo yourself on what you think is the perfect holiday. Enjoy yourself instead.

Acceptance. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. By expecting perfection from yourself and everyone around you, you set yourself up for disappointment.

Stick to a budget. As the Grinch found out, it’s not about things. It’s the feeling you have in your heart.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

Eat healthy meals. Eating too much or too many sweets can make you feel ill and depressed.

Get plenty of sleep. Getting your rest will help with mood on a large scale.

Take a breather. Make some time for yourself for an activity you enjoy or to find some inner calm.

Seek professional help if you need it. There is nothing to be ashamed of in admitting you are human and need a little extra help. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

So, take a few deep breaths and ride the waves this holiday season. Know that you are not alone.

Happy Holidays,

Cindy

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