How To Make Your Brain Stop Worrying, According to Science

From Power of Positivity

Did you know that we have ‘two’ brains?

Well, structurally we may have one; but cognitively we have two. You see, there’s the “thinking” brain and the “non-thinking” brain.

Our brains are wired to worry first and think second.

New York University (NYU) brain scientist, Joseph LeDoux, sums it’s up nicely: “connections from the emotional systems to the cognitive (thinking) systems are stronger than connections from the cognitive systems to the emotional systems.”

The system that Dr. LeDoux is talking about is the limbic system, which is a set of structures deep within the breath that evokes the emotional response. The limbic system, which includes the hippocampus and amygdala, is the oldest within the brain.

The thinking part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is the newest. This helps explain why, though we’re intelligent creatures, we sometimes make dumb decisions. Maybe we’ll buy something on “sale” out of fear the sale will expire, or we’ll reach for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s though we need to “weigh in” the morning after.

The worrying brain will overrule the thinking brain every time if we don’t know to override it.

And make no mistake, it is essential to know how to overrule the worrying brain.

Read more here…

 

10 Reasons Teens Have So Much Anxiety Today

From Psychology Today

We’ve created an environment that fosters anxiety rather than resilience.

The New York Times recently published an article called, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?” The author chronicled several teens’ battle with anxiety over the course of a few years.

The article questioned why we’re seeing such a rise in anxiety among today’s youth. As a psychotherapist, college lecturer, and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do, I agree that anxiety is a widespread issue among adolescents. It’s the most common reason people of all ages enter my therapy office.

Some young people are overachieving perfectionists with a crippling fear of failure. Others worry so much about what their peers think of them that they’re unable to function.

Some have endured rough circumstances throughout their young lives. But others have stable families, supportive parents, and plenty of resources.

I suspect the rise in anxiety reflects several societal changes and cultural shifts we’ve seen over the past couple of decades. Here are the top 10 reasons:

Read more here…

20 profoundly important things we learned from Winnie the Pooh

  1. Piglet: ’’How do you spell ’love’?’’ Pooh: ’’You don’t spell it…you feel it.’’
  2. ’You are braver than you believe. Stronger than you seem. And smarter than you think.’’
  3. ’The things that make me different are the things that make me.’’
  4. ’If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in this ear.’’
  5. ’’If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart. I’ll stay there forever.’’
  6. ’’As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.’’
  7. ’’Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.’’
  8. ’’Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.’’
  9. ’’Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.’’
  10. ’’If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.’’
  11. ’Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.’’
  12. ’’I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.’’
  13. ’’You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.’’
  14. ’’Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.’’
  15. ’’A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.’’
  16. ’’A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.’’
  17. ’’Love is taking a few steps backward, maybe even more… to give way to the happiness of the person you love.’’
  18. ’’A day spent with you is my favourite day. So today is my new favourite day.’’
  19. ’’No one can be sad when they have a balloon!’’
  20. ’’How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’’

 

Having A High IQ Puts You More At Risk Of Mental Illness, Study Finds

From IFLS

If you look at television shows featuring a genius you very quickly see a pattern emerge. Hugh Laurie’s TV-doctor, House, is a medical genius but struggles with severe depression as well as a messiah complex. Sherlock Holmes can solve any case, but has many addictions and may just be a sociopath. Countless TV shows, films, and books all peddle the idea that highly intelligent people are prone to mental illness.

However, the stereotype of tortured genius may now have gained some more scientific backing to it, after a new study has found that people with high IQs are more at risk of developing mental illness than the rest of the population.

The study, published in Science Direct, looked at Mensa members with an IQ of over 130 and found that “those with high intelligence are at significantly greater risk for the examined psychological disorders and physiological diseases.”

The study found that anxiety disorders were particularly prevalent amongst the 3,715 members of American Mensa they surveyed. Of these members, 20 percent had a diagnosed anxiety disorder, much higher than in the general population, where just over 10 percent are diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

Read more here…

‘I felt bullied and harassed’: A Montrealer’s fight to get insurer to recognize his depression

Montreal writer Samuel Archibald was on sick leave while insurer tracked his activity on social media

Sometimes, You Won’t Feel Better Tomorrow

From Slate.com

We’ve gotten too used to discussing suicide as a fleeting, temporary side effect of mental illness. We might better serve people in need if we could acknowledge the messier reality.

“Suicide,” goes the popular expression, “is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” The provenance is murky, but the internet attributes the saying to 1980s media personality Phil Donahue. (I was going to write “of all people” but there’s no particular reason that something so profound cannot find its origins in the mouth of a schleppy-yet-endearing daytime talk show host from Ohio.)

In any event, it’s a clever saying, and also one not altogether wrong. I can see why it’s had such viral appeal. Oftentimes a myopic focus on the present, accompanied by a flash flood of negative emotions, gas-pedals that fleeting impulse. Yet if we can survive that terrible moment, we may feel shockingly more composed just a day later.

This tends to be the prevailing narrative around suicide and suicidality—a message cloaked in a constant admonishment to “just reach out for help” if you are feeling this way, and someone will try to see you through to the other side. The problem with this, though, is the obvious reality that some problems really are permanent, thank you very much. We may, with the right therapy or psychopharmacological help, change our perspective of such problems so that they don’t cause us so much ongoing distress. But not all problems fade with time; some actually do get worse. It should not be irrational to acknowledge this existential fact, and yet it remains stubbornly difficult to talk about.

Read more here…

Mental Health: Depression and boardgames, an unlikely friendship

Mental illness. Something that so many people deal with but something that is so scary to talk about. Statistics say that one in four, that’s right, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. That’s huge.

I try to speak up about the issues that I face but often feel like people will think less of me if I am open and honest about my mental health. However this must change, it has to. I want to create a space where anybody can come and talk about how they are feeling with no judgement and I want to talk a little bit about the many ways in which boardgames help me cope with depression and anxiety on a regular basis.

Having dealt with depression and social anxiety for as long as I can remember and often being unable to talk about it, I would like that to change. I’ve built my own little space on the internet which has helped my wellbeing and mental health in so many ways so if I’m able reassure or support even one person, then my work here is done. 

Discovering boardgames and the boardgaming community has had such a positive impact on my life. 

People often ask me why I play the kind of games that I do, what attracts me to them. One of the most simple answers I can find is that they provide an escape. A few hours away from the ‘real world’, a few hours where I am so immersed in a game that I can’t  afford to think about anything else other than what I’m doing in that moment. Planning my next move, working on a strategy, finding solutions to problems, something I often find overwhelming and exhausting in real life. It reassures me that I am able to come up with solutions, and see a way out of problems that I may face.

My brain is constantly in overdrive from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, consumed by negative thoughts, dread, worry, stress, over analysing every situation that happens throughout the day and pure exhaustion. Heavy games allow me to escape those feelings. A positive, healthy escape.

I had spent many years trying to find an escape and often found myself doing so in unhealthy toxic ways, that actually made the battle with depression much worse. Im sure it can be said for any hobby, but putting myself out there, enjoying something again, feeling motivated and feeling a sense of achievement is something that helped save my life. 

Read more here…

Mental health matters every day of the year

Gaels rugby star comments on her struggle with mental health

It was the most important game of our season — the OUA semi-final.

Every season, we set our sights on making it to the U Sports national championship. And every year, we have the potential. But in order to get there, we had to win a critical game against the McMaster Marauders, a formidable force in the OUA.

Having lost to them in regular season play, the odds were against us, but we were determined to outwork our long-time rivals.

Before the match, the atmosphere in the team room was intense.

When I looked around at my teammates, I reflected on what could’ve been my last chance to make a national championship. I knew we were ready. We had just the right balance of pregame dance battles and a fierce focus that always produces our best performances.

We came out flying. Every hit, every ruck, every run was on point. Our unity was unbreakable, with every player executing their role with unmatched heart. I had the game of my life, scoring two tries to secure our ticket to nationals. When the final whistle blew, the score read 20-10 for Queen’s. Everyone was cheering and crying and bursting with excitement.

But I felt nothing.

In a moment where I would normally be overflowing with emotion — and embarrassingly drowning in a puddle of happy tears — I was numb. This is the most frustrating part about living with a mood disorder like depression.

Anhedonia is a fancy word for the inability to feel pleasure, even when doing the things you love. Rather inconveniently, these familiar symptoms of depression resurfaced at the outset of this season’s OUA playoffs. I had previously been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder while centralized with the Canadian national team, but this was the first major depressive episode I experienced since my return to Queen’s in 2016.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at warding off the darkness — which at one point consumed me — but this was a not-so-gentle reminder that mental illness can strike even when we do everything right.

At the time, I was on top of my classes and feeling incredibly engaged in what I was learning. I got to spend every night playing the sport I love with my best friends, who I love more than anything else in the world. I was taking care of my mental wellbeing through mindfulness and self care, listening to what my body and my mind were telling me.

I was happy — until I really wasn’t.

Read more here…

How Addiction Affects Sleep

From The Sleep Help Institute

The quality of your sleep is affected by everything. From your habits and the food you eat, to the medications you take and drinks you ingest. So, it’s no surprise that if a person has developed an addiction—to an over-the-counter drug, alcohol, or other type of substance—that addiction could affect their sleep quality, too.

Sleep disorders and addiction have a bidirectional relationship: Each individual issue—alcohol dependence, insomnia, etc.—relate to and effect the other issue. The nature of this intricate relationship requires a person seek treatment for both issues to find a healthy, sustainable resolution.

Keep reading to discover how various forms of addiction affect sleep. This guide also will delve into various types of substance-induced sleep disorders, substances that can cause or lead to sleep disorders, and information concerning how an individual can recover from addiction.

The relationship between sleep and addiction
How do various substance addictions upset the body’s brain chemistry and disrupt the natural sleep rhythm? The answers vary. Each substance type has different characteristics, and affects an addicted person’s sleep in various ways.

Stimulants
Cocaine effects the brain’s limbic system. The system consists of interconnected regions that regulate motivation and pleasure. Cocaine’s short-term effects immediately cause a buildup of dopamine, which can cause euphoria. This euphoria can make a person want to take the drug again.

Because cocaine increases wakefulness, it can disrupt REM sleep. And cocaine withdrawal can lead to disturbed sleep and unpleasant dreams (also known as a parasomnia).

Amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system. Although amphetamines are used to treat multiple medical issues, such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), people can develop a psychological amphetamine dependence.

Use of amphetamines can decrease the amount of time a person spends in REM sleep periods.

Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are a group of drugs that can alter a person’s perception, and cause sensations or create images that aren’t real. A few examples of hallucinations are as follows:

Ayahuasca
DMT
D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
Peyote (Mescaline)
4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (psilocybin)
In general, hallucinogens can interfere with serotonin. Serotonin regulates sleep and other major bodily functions. When a person takes a hallucinogen, they can experience short-term sleep problems. A study in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology also states LSD users often experience a loss of sleep.

Sleep loss, which sometimes presentats as insomnia, can either be chronic (difficulty falling or staying asleep at least three nights a week for three months or more) or short-term (lasts less tan three months, or presents when a person has trouble falling or staying asleep).

MDMA, also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or ecstasy, is a specific type hallucinogen and stimulant. It’s a synthetic drug. MDMA can make a person feel energized, and distort their perceptions and how they experience time.

People who use a lot of MDMA can experience persistent sleep disturbances. MDMA also can affect the human body’s monoamine neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters greatly affect sleep and daytime alertness (also known as hypersomnia).

Depressants
Marijuana dependence is similar to other substance abuse disorders. People who have issues with this substance face social, psychological, and physical impairments. Dependent users also have sleep problems.

A study that appeared in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews reports that people who smoke marijuana have a hard time falling asleep, and have strange dreams when they experience marijuana withdrawal.

Another study in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice found that chronic cannabis use can negatively affect sleep during withdrawal. Insomnia, sleep withdrawal, and strange dreams were reported.

People often assume alcohol can help them sleep because it causes drowsiness. Although alcohol can help a person fall asleep, it causes disrupted sleep. Disturbances can occur during sleep stage transitions. These disturbances can worsen the effects of insomnia and cause sleep apnea.

The previously mentioned study in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice also reports that alcohol users can experience:

A hard time falling asleep
Awakening during the night
Daytime sleepiness
Abnormal sleep quality
Also, insomnia is the most prevalent complaint from alcoholics after they quit drinking.

Opioids

Opioid drugs come in illegal and legal forms. Heroin, for example, is illegal, and other opioids, such as the synthetic drug fentanyl, and pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine, are available via prescription.

All opioids interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. According to the U.S. government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids misuse the drugs.

Although most prescription opioids are safe to take for a short period of time, long-term opioid use can cause addiction. Addiction can occur because these pain relieving drugs also can cause euphoria.

The longer a person takes an opioid, the greater the chance they could develop an addiction. Addiction to opioids also can arise from prescription misuse.

Sadly, opioid addiction can lead to death. The CDC searchable database, CDC Wonder, reports that 20,000 overdose deaths in 2016 were related to fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

Why opioids are addictive
Environmental and individual factors impact how a person reacts to opioid drug affects. In general, however, opioids affect a person when the drug enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain.

A study in the journal Science & Practice Perspectives found that proteins that opioids attach to, which are called mu opioid receptors, are located on brain cells. This chemical/receptor interaction triggers the same biochemical brain processes that give people pleasurable feelings via “brain circuits” in the mesolimbic (midbrain) reward system.

According to the article, this “system” creates signals in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA). This “area” releases the chemical dopamine (DA) in another part of the brain, which is referred to as the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Dopamine creates “pleasurable” feelings.

Opioids and sleep

Opioids are a well-known sleep disrupter. A study in the journal Anesthesiology explains that opioids can block the human body’s access to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These drugs also can block access to the deeper, restorative stages of non-REM sleep. A lack of sleep can actually make any pain a person may feel—for example, the pain they are taking opioids for—worse.

Opioids, withdrawal and sleep

When a person ceases using opioids, she can experience sleep issues. An article in the journal Psychiatry Research examined the quality of sleep in people who had “heroin use disorder” who were going through “early methadone maintenance therapy” (MMT). The study participants experienced less sleep and daytime sleepiness.

Another study in the journal Drug Alcohol Dependence also found that people in the early stages of methadone detox had issues getting enough sleep. Their sleep quality was poor, too.

When sleep deprivation leads to drug use

Although heavy drug use can lead to sleep issues, sleep issues, such an insomnia, can also lead to drug use.

A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that lower levels of weekday sleep were related with substance use, specifically alcohol. An association also was found between alcohol and cigarette use and weekend oversleep, which is defined as “wake time on the weekends as compared to weekdays”. The study also posits that lower sleep times could also lower an individual’s inhibition, and their ability to regulate their emotions, which can lead to substance abuse.

Although the study examined youths’ relationship with the previously mentioned substances, the findings may relate to adults, as the study also discovered that after a follow-up, which occurred two years after the study, alcohol use was associated with weekend sleep delay (defined as a person’s time to bed on the weekends compared to weekdays). Alcohol use also was associated with greater weekend “oversleep”, too.

Read more here.

4 Ways You Can Help a Senior After the Death of Their Spouse

Watching someone you love grieve is heartbreaking in its own unique way. Many people experience this when one of their aging parents dies and leaves the other widowed. They find that the sadness they feel over losing their parent takes a backseat to the empathy they feel for their surviving parent, who they know is grieving more deeply and intimately than anyone else. When this happens, many people find solace in helping their surviving parent work through the after-death preparation and grieving process.

Here are four ways you can help your parent (or any senior) after the death of his or her spouse.

Assist with Funeral Arrangements

Nobody wants to think about a budget or paperwork when they are grieving, but financial limitations and bureaucracy are a reality in this day and age. A grieving spouse is often not the best person to make rational, wallet-based decisions, so offer your help in handling arrangements related to disposition of the body, burial site, and funeral or memorial services. If you need to cut costs, you can be the one to run numbers and find creative but respectful solutions, such as hosting an “open house” instead of a full funeral procession. Don’t let unscrupulous people upsell or take financial advantage of your loved one’s grief. Be their rational eyes and ears. That said, some grieving spouses prefer to take on a more active role in funeral planning than others, so don’t take on more responsibilities or tasks than your loved one is comfortable with.

 Contact Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Authorities

 In the days, weeks, and months following a death, there is no shortage of people who need to be contacted. One way you can help a new widow is to handle the notification of death for them. Offer to be the person who calls close friends and family to tell them about funeral arrangements. Inform organizations like churches or social groups that the deceased was a part of. Likewise, the Social Security Administration and life insurance providers need to be notified so that the spouse can begin receiving the financial assistance he or she is entitled to. Open bank or credit accounts should be closed and all debt collectors informed. However, you’ll need the official death certificate before some of these notifications can be made.

Let Them Grieve

Remember that there is no definitive formula or timeframe for moving on after the death of your spouse. People grieve in their own ways, and it’s your job to respect that. Funeralwise suggests being available, being patient, referring to the deceased by their name, and avoiding unhelpful statements like “you have to be strong now” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Listen more than you speak. This is their pain to share, not yours to fix. For some, grief will come on strong and dissipate over time. For others, grief will be delayed. It’s important you recognize the signs of grief so you can address them when they do manifest. Signs of grief can include forgetfulness, disorganization, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of interest or motivation.

 Help Them Adjust Their Life

 For many people, the loss of a spouse necessitates many long-term legal, lifestyle and financial changes that might require some tough decisions. For example, if the recently departed spouse was the beneficiary of the new widow’s insurance policies or wills (and no secondary beneficiary is named), then those documents need to be adjusted to reflect the living’s desires for disbursement after death. Similarly, many aging seniors find that downsizing or moving homes after the death of their spouse is the most practical and economical. While it may not be advisable to address such issues immediately after a death, you would be responsible to make sure that a grieving senior does not let such decisions fall by the wayside indefinitely.

Although the death of a spouse if never easy, you can ease some of that pain by helping your loved one during this difficult process. However, remember to be respectful and pay close attention to their specific needs as they grieve.

Photo via Pixabay