Rumination: How Obsessive Thinking Impacts Depression and Anxiety

“It emotionally hijacks us and intensifies our negative feelings.”

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Some people know rumination — the repetition of the same thought in your head over and over — as obsessive thinking, and for those who experience it, ruminating can be a frustrating state.

Thinking over and over about a missed opportunity, an ex, or when you misspoke — it’s bad enough to live through a negative experience once without beating yourself up in an unvirtuous mental loop. While it can often be beneficial to allow yourself the time and space to think about things that are important, too much of a good thing might actually be a bad thing. And when it comes to dealing with issues like depression or anxiety, allowing too much time to ruminate could keep you stuck in a mental rut.

“Rumination is associated with depression,” writes clinical psychologist Dr. Suma Chand for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Research shows that people who ruminate are more likely to develop depression compared to those who don’t.” Maybe up to four times more likely, she says.

This goes the other way as well: A Canadian study conducted among college students found that those who experienced higher levels of anxiety or depression already tended to engage in more ruminative behaviors. Another study in China found similar results among the elderly population. Rumination, it turns out, becomes a vicious double-edged sword.

What Does Rumination Look Like?

Everyone at one time or another may feel like they’re “obsessing” over some idea or thought. The difference between a healthy amount of thinking about a topic, versus harmful rumination, is the end result. For example, if you find yourself thinking about a particular problem in order to come up with the best solution, you’re probably not ruminating. But if the thing on your mind has no solution, or may not be in your control, then you might want to ask yourself if you’re ruminating.

Depending on whether you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, rumination can take varying forms. One of my clients describes her anxious worrying as “catastrophic thoughts.” She often begins with a fairly benign thought, such as “This traffic is going to make me late to work.” This becomes “I’m a horrible employee who can’t even show up on time,” which turns into “I’m definitely going to get fired from my job.” For the rest of the week she’s sweating over a small, common mistake that wasn’t her fault.

“One of the things I find hard to articulate to people is that if I keep bringing something up or making jokes about it, that’s an indication I’m ruminating about it,” writes Alexis Schuster for The Mighty. I’m guilty of the same “tell” in my own ruminations. I find all sorts of creative ways to discuss the thing I can’t stop thinking about, from joking about it to asking rhetorical questions to asking others if they’ve ever had similar thoughts. Then I start obsessing over whether I’m annoying everyone with my ruminations.

It can feel lonely to be stuck in your head with your thoughts; sometimes letting them out is the only way to feel like you’re releasing the tension that’s building, to feel like you’re not the only one bearing the heavy load. However, once you let out some of the steam, it’s likely going to build up again. That’s when it’s time for a better solution.

Read more here…

Aging in Place: Taking Precautions to Prevent Falls

Falling is the leading cause of fatal injury among seniors and the greatest safety threat faced by older adults who want to age in place. Avoiding falls and staying safe at home depends on several factors, including environmental modifications, exercise, and regular visits to your doctor. With the right precautions, your life needn’t be dominated by a fear of falling.

Safety adaptations

Seniors should have unimpeded walkways from room to room with no electrical cords, footstools or unsecured rugs in the way. Boxes, plant stands and coffee tables are also tripping hazards, and shoes and clothing should be safely stored away. Railings should be securely installed in stairways and hallways, which should also be well-lit with ambient, non-glare bulbs. Install motion-activated sensors for automatic lighting in the bedroom and darker parts of the house, with night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallway.

Bathroom safety

The bathroom is an especially hazardous part of the house for seniors, so make a careful assessment of potential dangers. Place non-slip surfaces in the shower and in front of both the sink and toilet. Safety rails should be firmly anchored into the wall in the shower and next to the toilet. Stepping in and out of a bathtub or shower can drastically increase your chances of falling, so consider installing a zero-entry shower with a chair or bench.

Exercise your core & lower body

Regular exercise is an important addition to your lifestyle, especially because it helps strengthen your core and legs, helping to improve balance. Strength can be improved with easy-to-do exercises that don’t require a gym. Lunges and leg lifts, repeated every day, will make it easier to get around safely and climb stairs without stumbling or falling. Walking, water exercise, tai chi and yoga are also good ways to maintain flexibility, muscle strength and balance. Consult your doctor or physical therapist if you aren’t sure what exercises are best for you.

Medical visits

Schedule regular visits to your doctor and make your healthcare providers aware of any changes in your condition. Take a full list of prescription and over-the-counter medications to each appointment. Your doctor will need to assess the risk of side effects that medicine interactions may cause. For example, a dizzy spell while in the shower or on the stairs could cause a serious injury. If any medication is making you feel fatigued or disoriented, your physician will need to reassess your medication regimen.

An eye or ear disorder can increase your risk of falling, so be prepared to address such problems with your doctor. Numbness in the feet or legs, joint pain, or shortness of breath can also lead to in-home accidents. Make your doctor aware if you’ve fallen recently, or if you’re feeling unsteady as you move around the house.

Shoes and assistive devices

Sometimes simply changing to footwear can reduce your risk of falling. High heels or hard shoes with slick soles can lead to an accident on hard flooring, like tile or hardwood, while loose-fitting sandals may cause you to trip on carpeting or a loose rug. Wear sturdy shoes that fit properly, and consider switching to rubber-soled shoes, which may be your best option. Above all, avoid walking around the house in socks or stockings, especially if you have a lot of hardwood, tile or laminate flooring. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist if you require a cane, walker or another type of assistive device to move around.

Aging in place safely is all about taking precautions. Providing clear walkways, using safety rails and installing adequate lighting are essential modifications, especially in the bathroom. Be sensible about footwear and make a point of exercising every day, especially your lower body.

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

3 Keys to Solving Relationship Problems

From Psychology Today

Win-win problem-solving is a matter of mastering 3 basic skills.

Disagreements, arguments are part and parcel of close relationships with partners, family, friends. While what you disagree about in a relationship is always a moving target, where most people get stuck is in 3 key areas. Here’s how to navigate them to make effective problem-solving happen: 

1. Creating safety

If you feel safe in a relationship you can be honest, speak your mind, and express your thoughts and feelings and concerns without fear of the other person’s response. That doesn’t mean that the conversations at times don’t feel awkward and uncomfortable, but that from your side of it you’re not stopped by fear.

Safety is the bedrock of any close relationship. If it isn’t there what is there instead is a walking on eggshells, a shutting down, a giving in, a holding back that leads to depression or resentment or flares of anger or acting out. The lack of safety and the resulting caution can obviously come from within the relationship — that your partner has a wicked temper or is critical, that your brother is sensitive and easily feels hurt, that your friend is apt to blame you or heap on guilt. So, you don’t bring up problems with your partner for fear of the blast back, you bite your tongue with your brother because he’s not only going to feel wounded, but is likely to misunderstand your point, you water down your comment to your friend to avoid that well-known reaction.

Though your anxiety is going to tell you that safety comes only by being increasingly cautious around these folks, the path to creating a sense of safety actually comes from being bolder. You want to have a conversation about conversations, about what trigger your fears – I feel you don’t really listen and dismiss what I’m saying; you get this angry edge in your voice that makes me shut down. You do your best to be clear, and if the other person pushes back, isn’t willing to make an effort, decide what you need to do next to not feel like a victim. Don’t just take what you get. 

Read more here…

One Sheridan school increased teacher retention and decreased students ‘falling through the cracks’ by adding mental health professionals

From Chalkbeat

At one school in the tiny district of Sheridan south of Denver, two social workers roam the hallways with handheld radios, responding to crisis after crisis.

It might be a student crying in class for unknown reasons, a disruptive student, or a fight. Less urgent requests, such as a check-in for a student who just seems to be having a rough day, usually come through email.

“It’s very much boots on the ground,” said Maggie Okoniewski, one of the social workers at Fort Logan Northgate.

The school has just under 600 students in grades third through eighth. The demographics are typical of the Sheridan school district. About one in four are identified as homeless — the highest rate for any school district in the state — and about 15 percent qualify as having special needs.

In between those calls, Okoniewski and her fellow social worker Danielle Watry check in on students they’ve identified as a priority. Every week the list includes about 60 students. In the last year, the list includes students from the heavily Hispanic population who have especially struggled with deportations or fears of separations, they said.

“And if I’m in the classroom, it’s almost certain that another student will flag us down,” Watry said.

Read more…

Be Kind, Retrain Your Mind: 3 Tips to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

From Tiny Buddha

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

In 1990, in an early encounter between the Dalai Lama, the foremost Tibetan teacher of Buddhism, and Western students, the Dalia Lama was asked a question about how to deal with self-hatred. He was confused and didn’t understand the question. The translator translated the question again and still the Dalai Lama was confused.

Finally, the Dalai Lama understood that the question was about how to manage negative feelings about the self. This was a new concept to him: he knew that people had negative feelings about others, but he had not encountered the challenge of self-hatred.

I wish I could say that I had never encountered the problem of self-hatred, but I’d be lying. Like so many people, even if I didn’t necessarily recognize my self-talk as such, I was inundated with internal negative self-talk.

My process of coming first to recognize what that voice was up to, then to listen to it with more compassion, and finally, once and for all, to ask it to grow up and step out of the room has been a journey of self acceptance, growth, and ultimately, freedom.

Here are three steps to deal with your own inner negative self-talk:

The first step is to become aware of the negativity of your internal voice. 

For the first twenty-eight years of my life, I was so familiar with my negative voice that I didn’t even recognize it.

I’ve been told that people with Tinnitus, a constant ringing sound in the ears, grow used to it and learn to live with it so successfully that they’re no longer really even aware the ringing’s there. That was the case with my negative voice: it was a kind of background hum.

If I did pay attention to it, I was tricked into thinking that its particular message mattered.

At sixteen it might have been the enormous, overly sweet corn muffin I’d eaten on the way home from school that was a sign of my failure.

At twenty-six it might have been that an essay I wrote hadn’t been accepted for publication; this was a sign, I was sure, that nothing I’d ever write would ever be fully understood.

It wasn’t until I’d been in therapy for a while and had a real mindfulness practice that I even began to notice the daily hum of background voices and to notice that the particulars of the negative voice I did hear were less important, actually, than the larger pattern it was a part of.

Any mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of the negative self-talk in your head. You can try guided meditations, deep breathing exercises, or mindful walking, or simply spend time tuning into your senses. When you become conscious of the present moment, it’s easier to recognize what’s going on internally.

The second step is to listen a little more deeply.

What was important was not so much what the voice was saying as what was under the voice. Often the negativity was there to distract me from something else.

Was the corn muffin or the publication rejection really the problem?

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

What Worries You Masters You

From Feisty Frugal and Fabulous

In an era of self-help, the idea of taking control of one’s destiny and being mindful are constants. Which is a good thing, but for some people, these thoughts can add to a growing list of worries and become overwhelming. It can be a vicious cycle, but only if you let it.

When presented with a stressful situation, I try to make a conscious effort to not let my thoughts get out of control. I am one of those people who can immediately think of a worst-case scenario and then determine all the possible outcomes of that scenario. I’ve had to remind myself that worrying gets me nowhere, and that I need to work through a problem (and all those possible outcomes) and then leave it be. In other words, “I’ve addressed it, now I have to leave it.”

Mindfulness is key. We’re going to have worries, anxieties and life stresses – that can’t be helped – but if we learn to master those thoughts when they begin, and be more mindful, we can better deal with the issues as they arise.

Last month, for the 12th consecutive year, Capital One Canada and Credit Canada Debt Solutions (CCDS) partnered to celebrate Credit Education Week and raise awareness of financial literacy among Canadians. This year’s theme was focused on helping Canadians manage their stress and become more mindful, as it pertains to personal finance. Capital One Canada and Credit Canada fielded a survey to uncover Canadian sentiment towards finances, which revealed some interesting info about how Canadians are feeling.

According to the study, 44% of Canadians believe that their financial situation negatively impacts their mental health. The biggest financial stressor on Canadians’ mental health is their total debt load (31%), followed by affording essentials (20%).

But here’s the thing: that same study found that one in five Canadians (21%) would go to extremes to avoid reviewing their personal finances, including:
– Eating dinner with an ex-friend or ex-significant other (11%)
– Getting stung by a bee (7%)
– Sit through a root canal (6%)
– Sitting next to a sick passenger on a long-haul flight (4%)

Yikes! I realize looking at our financial situation can be awkward and uncomfortable, but it surprised me the lengths people would go to to avoid that experience. It doesn’t surprise me then that so many Canadians have debt that is mounting rather than subsiding – especially when we’re not willing to even look at the problem.

Read more here…