Monday, August 31, 2015

How to avoid morning anxiety

Do you ever wake up to the shrill buzzer of your alarm with a tightness in your chest, a rapid heartbeat and/or a pit in your stomach? And you're tempted just to roll over and go back to sleep just so you don't have to deal with this feeling and face the day?

Waking up in the morning after a night's rest should be the least stressful part of the day. Yet, most mornings, I wake up with this inexpicable feeling of panic. Sometimes, shortly after I get out of bed, this feeling of anxiety melts away. Other times, it lasts for hours, even after I arrive at work.

So why does this happen? And how can you prevent it?

Some causes of morning anxiety may be low blood sugar, a fear of being late, nightmares, lack of sleep, and/or a stressful job.

Here are some tips for making the transition from a peaceful sleep to waking up more pleasant, according to trans4mind.com:

  • Switch your alarm clock noise to your favorite music or gradual pleasant chimes that increase in volume and frequency. Right now, my alarm sounds similar to a foghorn, so I'm thinking this suggestion could really help me out.
  • Place your alarm clock (or phone) out of arm's reach so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. I started practicing this last week by plugging my phone into the bathroom wall instead of by my bed. Also, check out this runaway alarm clock on Amazon
  • Put your robe and slippers next to your bed so you can stay warm and comfy as you climb out from under your covers.
  • Keep a snack that contains "good" complex carbohydrates and protein by your bed to eat right after you wake up. You went the whole night without food, so your brain may have "run out of fuel" as you slept. Some good carbs are nuts, whole grain crackers, pretzels or a granola bar.
  • Turn on upbeat music as you get ready for your day. 
  • Change how you perceive waking up. Practice thinking positively when you wake up and say out loud, "What a wonderful day!" 

Here's an example from the TV show "Friends" of how you should be starting your day:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Woman strips on busy road to promote self-acceptance

On a Sunday afternoon in London, a 24-year-old woman stripped down to her underwear in the middle of a busy road.

No, this wasn't a drunken dare made by her friends. Jae West, an eating disorder survivor, did this to promote self-acceptance.

West blindfolded herself as she stood, half-naked, on the streets of Piccadilly Circus. A sign in front of her read, "I’m standing for anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder or self-esteem issue like me. To support self-acceptance draw a on my body."

On The  Liberators International blog, West wrote that she was terrified no one would step forward to draw a heart on her skin.

"All of a sudden I felt one of the pens in my left hand slip out of my grasp. The feeling of the felt pen on my skin was one of the most overwhelming feelings of relief, gratitude and love that I’ve ever felt. I just burst into tears," she said.

"After that first love heart was drawn it felt like others were liberated to follow suit because soon all the pens were leaving my hands at a rapid pace."

One of the most moving experiences, West said, was when she heard a father explaining to his young daughter what the experiment meant to him. He told her that everyone should love themselves exactly as they are and appreciate the bodies they are given.

"If everyone could know and appreciate how beautiful they are from childhood, I think this world would be a very different place," West said.

According to a Glamour body image survey, 97 percent of women admitted they have at least one negative thought about their body everyday! And men have body image worries too. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 43 percent of men are dissatisfied with their bodies.

As someone who has dealt with a negative body image for most of my life, I think what West did was very brave and raised awareness of a very important issue in the world today.

I have dealt with low self-esteem since middle school -- when I was the first girl in my class to get a pimple...and the last girl to grow boobs. This ultimately affected the way I've viewed myself ever since. But West's acceptance of her own body and her mission to help others accept their bodies made me want to stop letting my own issues hinder me as well.

 As West said, "We really can be our own worst critics. The unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves can cause us to reject the love that others openly give because of a feeling of unworthiness."

"With the growing prevalence of eating-disorders and self-esteem issues around the world, this public act of self-acceptance aims to get people to question the true relationship that they have to themselves and body-image."

Many centers for eating disorder treatment specialize in body image awareness. To find a center near you, visit www.eatingdisorderhope.com/treatment-centers.


Monday, August 10, 2015

How to cope with change

I have to be honest – I’m not good at change.

And, last week, there was a lot of change in my life. Last Monday, I moved an hour and a half away from Oakland County (where I have lived my entire life) to Lansing, and Tuesday I started a communications job with the State of Michigan. 

Everyone has moments, good or bad, when their whole life changes. And being at the precipice of that change is, well, really stressful. For me, a couple days after the move, I had one of the worst panic attacks I've ever had. I felt like a kid again as I thought to myself, "What if they don't like me? What if I'm not good at this?"

Does anyone else have this happen? That, even when the change is good, you can't help but freak out?

I think change is stressful because it brings uncertainty. At my previous job, I liked knowing what I was doing. And now, here I am, starting back at square one.

According to psychologists, the older you get, the more scared you are of change because you are more rooted in your daily schedule. But, in life, besides death and taxes, change really is one of the only inevitable things. So, how can you cope -- without having a complete mental breakdown (which, let me tell you from experience, is not fun)?
  • Allow yourself to freak out but make sure not to fixate on what you lost - Relationship and family therapist Roger S. Gil told lifehacker.com: "Do all the crying, kicking, and screaming you need to do; then start to seek out ways to make your new situation more livable and enjoyable. Fixating on what was lost as a result of the change will prevent us from experiencing the good things that our new circumstances can bring us."
  • Ask others for help - Whether it's family, friends, fellow employees, a counselor or a support group, don't be afraid to talk to someone about how you're feeling. 
  • Take extra care of your emotional and physical health - If you're facing a new change, make sure to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, etc., according to a press release by the Iowa National Guard
  • Find time to relax - Take time for relaxation techniques, like yoga or meditation, every day. Do something to take your mind off of the stress, like watching a funny movie.  
  • Research - To ease your uncertainty, do as much research as you can about the change you are going through.  
  • If you can help it, don't make any more big changes - Pace yourself. Try to postpone making any other big decisions, if you can help it, until you adjust to this one. 
  • Live in the moment - Focus on the task at hand so you won't get overwhelmed. Don't think so far in the future about how this change will affect the rest of your life. Instead, think about what you will do today. 
  • Think about the positives of change -  Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., coauthor of the book Saying Yes to Change, told FamilyCircle.com, "People who greet what life offers with curiosity have stronger immune systems and live longer." Think of change as a new adventure and opportunity for growth. After all, life would be pretty boring if there was no change and life, every day, was exactly the same.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Actor Jared Padalecki talks about mental illness: 'Always keep fighting'

Photo from Twitter
This has been one of those weeks where my anxiety has gotten the best of me. This has been a week of heart racing panic attacks, difficultly falling asleep, nearly unbareable self consciousness and probably really desperate sounding text messages to my friends (I'm sorry about that, by the way).

In the back of my mind, I know that these feelings aren't logical. But when I think to myself, "Snap out of it," I only end up feeling worse.

But, after reading an article about actor Jared Padalecki's openness about his mental health and his fans' support of him, my anxiety finally began to dissipate because I finally stopped feeling ashamed. I stopped feeling alone or like something was wrong with me. 

At Sunday's Comic Con, more than 7,000 fans showed their support of the "Supernatural" star by lighting candles.

Two months ago, Padalecki cancelled his appearances at two conventions because he was "in desperate and urgent need of my family." He tweeted to his fans, "I need all of the love I can get right now. Please please give me a few seconds of your time and write me." And his fans definitely showed him the love last weekend.

On Monday, he posted on his Facebook page, "To everybody who held a light for me, please know that I hold my light for you. Though I happened to be the one sitting on stage, I am but one small light in a sea of thousands. TOGETHER, we can and will make a difference! Keep letting your light shine. I will do the same. And, keep fighting. Always Keep Fighting."

In a March interview with Variety, Padalecki said he was diagnosed as clinically depressed while filming the third season of CW's "Supernatural."

"Maybe a lot of people don’t know this, but Season 3, we were shooting an episode, and I went back to my trailer to get changed and just kind of broke down," he said. "I was 25 years old. ... I was happy with my work, but I couldn’t figure out what it was; it doesn’t always make sense is my point. It’s not just people who can’t find a job, or can’t fit in in society that struggle with depression sometimes."

He'll probably never read this, but I wanted to say — "Your bravery to speak up about your struggles with depression have made me and thousands of others feel less alone. Thank you."

Friday, June 26, 2015

How the same-sex marriage ruling can save lives in the long run

I have chills right now.

In The Oakland Press newsroom, all eyes were glued to the TV as the historic announcement was made — that gay marriage is now legal nationwide.

"They aren't asking for much. They are asking for what you take for granted," political commentator S.E. Cupp just said on CNN. "This is not a moment in history. This is the future."

A man, with tears in his eyes, told CNN that this is something he never thought he would experience.

This is a moment I will remember forever, and I am so happy to be alive at a time where people have the right to love and to marry whoever they want, no matter the person's gender.

And I really hope that this Supreme Court decision will decrease discrimination and will teach others to be more accepting. With the suicide rate of people in the LGBT community significantly higher than that of heterosexual people, most importantly, this decision could save lives.

To tell you the truth, while attending a Catholic high school, I never thought much about the rights of gay people — because I never heard about it and, what I did hear was strictly against gay marriage.

It wasn't until I graduated that many of my fellow alumni, including one of my best friends, came out. Before this, she was very depressed and would close herself off from many people who loved her. And I never understood why — until the day she told me she was a lesbian.

That day changed my life because that was the day I finally saw what people in the LGBT community are going through and what they are fighting for. Seeing my friend hide who she was for so long, I could see the relief and happiness in her face when she was finally true to her authentic self. This was the day I joined the fight for gay marriage because I wanted her to be able to love whoever she wanted and not be judged for it.

Since then, my cousin has come out as gay and I have had the priveldge of meeting several other members of the LGBT community. And each and every one of them affirmed my belief that human beings should never be judged or discriminated against for who they love. They should have the same rights as the rest of us.

To anyone upset about this decision — who thinks the definition of marriage should be confined to a man and a woman — you must not know anyone who is gay. Because if you did, you would be able to see in their eyes that it is not a choice.

Instead of judging them, I honestly think we could learn a thing or two from our gay brothers and sisters.

Like my friend Mark Frankhouse said, "I just can't wait five years from now when statistics show how gay couples have at least a 60 percent lower divorce rate than straight couples."

As S.E. Cupp said, we take marriage for granted. Meanwhile, they have been fighting for this right for years. If straight people took a page out of their book and all fought for the person they loved instead of giving up when times get hard, this world would be a better place.

#LoveWins

NOTE: Also, check out The Oakland Press Online Coordinator Andrew Kidd's column on the legalization of gay marriage.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How following your passion can save your life

Photo from Inocente's Facebook
I think having a passion is vital to surviving this life.

I think passion is something you do for you and no one else; something you put your soul into. It's something you love doing, something that gives you a reason to wake up in the morning and something that, while you are doing it, makes you forget about the rest of the world.

Inocente Izucar, 21, is proof that passion can directly change your life. Inocente was homeless for more than nine years, but she didn't give up her passion of art. And because of her art, she was selected as the subject for an Academy Award-winning documentary named after her.

"I think art makes me a stronger and better person because it's a way that I express my feelings. I'm not a big talker on how I feel. But ... I can definitely describe all my feelings to you on a canvas," she said in an interview with the National Endowment for the Arts.

"So it's made me stronger in the sense that I've become more confident. And art just kind of kept me away from all the bad things I could have been doing. I felt like it saved my life."

Photo from Jenn Neitzel's Instagram
I think many people, as they get older, give up on these passions. Maybe they gave up after someone made them feel like their passion was "stupid" or "unrealistic." Or maybe life got in the way — the job, the bills, the housework, the kids, etc. — and makes them forget about their passion.

Blogger Jen Neitzel says that it's essential to your happiness to make time for your passions — whether it's writing (like it is for me), art (like it is for Inocente), music, photography, cooking, inventing, playing sports, hiking, acting, or anything else you love to do.

Jen wrote, "It’s always practical to nurture and develop your passion, paid or unpaid, because it’s tapping into your authentic self and growing that part of you. ... If you become an expert from following your passion, the world opens up for you with people and new opportunities."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What is anorexia? Demi Lovato describes it as a 'deadly disease'

Photo credit: bevocalspeakup.com
Anorexia is not a choice and it's not just a desire to be thin — it's a potentially life threatening disease.

Singer and actress Demi Lovato, who publicly battled anorexia as a pre-teen and teenager, described it best on Twitter.

"There's a wide misconception that anorexia and/or bulimia is a choice and you often hear people say things like 'Why doesn't she just start eating?' Or even 'Just stop throwing up.' It's the ignorance and lack of education on mental illnesses that continues to put mental health care on the back burner to congress even though this is an epidemic that is sweeping our nation, and causing more and more tragedy every day," she wrote.

"Starving is not a 'diet' and throwing up isn't something that only extremely thin men or women do. Eating disorders do not discriminate. Neither does any other mental illness. These are deadly diseases that are taking lives daily."

Someone with anorexia nervosa has a distorted body image and an exaggerated fear of becoming overweight or obese. Experts say the mental disorder is caused by a combination of biological, environmental and psychological factors.

According to Web MD, the risk for anorexia increases if you have a family history of an eating disorder, if you have low self-esteem, if you feel social pressures to be thin, and/or if you have depression or anxiety. Parents should be concerned if their child or teen starts worrying about his/her weight at a young age, becomes strict with a diet and/or intensifies his or her exercise routine.

For Lovato, she said she compulsively overate at a young age. At 12, when she was bullied for being "fat," that's when she stopped eating.

In an interview with Refinery 29 last month, Lovato said, other than the bullying, bipolar disorder also contributed to her anorexia. She was diagnosed with the disorder while in rehab in 2011. She said the diagnosis allowed her to get the help she needed and to figure out a treatment plan to address both her anorexia and bipolar disorders respectively.

For the last three years, she has stopped drinking alcohol and has maintained a meal and exercise plan put together by her trainer.

"I love seeing muscles rather than bone. I'm healthier than I've ever been," she said.

Lovato recently launched the campaign "Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health." Her goal is to encourage people to play an active role in their own mental healthcare and to not be ashamed to talk about their own disorders.

“Asking for help when you are struggling is a sign of strength. Using my voice has always been a part of my professional life, but that wasn’t always the case when it came to bipolar disorder. Despite the setbacks, I finally found the strength to speak up," she said.