Posted by: jude49 | September 7, 2016

What to Do AFTER a Panic Attack

20160330_152932Hello Readers!

Panic attacks are debilitating…they drain you of your physical, emotional and mental energy. I know. I suffered from them for years. So how do you recover? Try the following suggestions:

  • Rest…It takes a mammoth amount of energy to slog through an attack. When it finally subsides, fatigue sets it. Don’t fight rest and sleep which is exactly what your body needs.
  • Do the Minimum…After an attack, it’s wise to gradually get back into your normal activities. You may take some time off work, cut down on housekeeping chores, make simpler meals, cancel appointments, etc. for a short while. Rushing headlong into a full schedule may well bring on another attack.
  • Eat Well…Fresh fruit and veggies, light salads, fish are good choices. Stay away from processed, packaged and fast food.
  • Drink Water…and plenty of it. You may not feel like drinking a whole glass of water in one sitting…sipping water throughout the day is fine.
  • Nature…Take a walk. Walking grounds you in the present moment. While walking, use your five senses to focus on the beauty in nature.
  • Music…Listen to calming music such as hymns, lullabies, nature sounds, classical music (not Beethoven’s Fifth!).
  • Cry…Crying lets out the frustration, the pain, the agony of the attacks. A good cry can release the pent-up feelings and thoughts that have lived inside you for too long.

If panic attacks continue, see a therapist…preferably one who has experienced one her/himself. I have found that therapists who have actually experienced attacks are more empathic, compassionate, understanding and sensitive.

Remember, that there is usually a genetic component to panic. However, and this point is important, panic attacks are often a response to accumulated stress and a result, many times, of family-of-origin issues that need addressing and family “shoulds” that need revising.

Know that panic attacks need not be a way of life. There is help!

Sending good energy your way.

Judith

Posted by: jude49 | July 29, 2016

Reactive? Try These Suggestions…

Hello Readers!

Many folks who experience anxiety react negatively when triggered. Before you know it, things have been said, actions have been taken which almost immediately result in regret.

So, what’s the solution? Here are some ways to manage reactive negative responses:

First, know your triggers. All of us have them! It may be your kids’ arguing, your mom commenting once more on your lack of housekeeping skills, your partner “forgetting” to take out the garbage for the fourth time in a row…

Second, realize that some triggers can’t be anticipated. An innocent remark by someone may hit a tender spot, a car accident, an unexpected work assignment…

What do you do?

First, be realistic! You can’t control what other people do, say, believe, think, feel, and you can’t control events. Give it up! The minute you realize how little control you have, the easier life will be. Remember, the only thing you can control is how you cope.

Second, be prepared! Take a few minutes everyday to think of what may trigger you. If you have had a restless, sleepless night, be aware that fatigue can make you more reactive than usual. As Dr. Dan Siegel states, “to name it is to tame it.”

Third, identify times throughout the day when you check in on your emotional well-being. Do that by checking your body for stressful sensations…your shoulders, your neck, your gut…Just being aware of the stress triggers cause can help you be less reactive.

Fourth, train yourself to breathe deeply. Throughout the day, regularly practice following your breath in and out. Feel your breath penetrate every nook and cranny of your body.The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes. You’ll find that consistent deep breathing results in less reactivity when you get triggered.

Fifth, refrain from acting or speaking when your triggers get the best of you until you have taken a few deep breaths. If someone presses you for an immediate response, tell them you  need a moment. There are very few things in life that need an immediate response! If you can, leave the situation briefly, walk a few steps, get a drink of water… The mere act of moving will decrease your reactivity. Move and change your mood.

Sixth, it’s good to think of the consequences of different courses of action before  making a decision. As Dr. Elisha Goldstein explains, there is a space, called reflection between trigger and response. During that reflection time, ask yourself, “Which consequence is going to move me towards positive growth?” That short reflective pause can make the difference between making a thoughtful, reasoned decision or a decision that is going to result in pain and increased negativity.

Seventh, see a therapist. When you are making knee-jerk negative reactions, there is unfinished business in your family-of-origin. Everyone grows up in imperfect families, and patterns, beliefs, expectations (the family “shoulds”) are preventing you from making thoughtful responses. Family-of-origin work helps you identify family patterns, beliefs, feelings and expectations, once useful, that now may need to be modified or discarded.

One thing you can start today is taking time several times during the day to focus on following your breath in and out. Consistent practice will change how the neurons in the brain fire and that will create a less reactive brain. Ready to try?

Best Wishes,

Judith

Acknowledgements: Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Elisha Goldstein. Their web-sites and facebook pages have great accessible resources. Check them out!

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Posted by: jude49 | July 18, 2016

Experiencing Racing Anxious Thoughts? Try Singing.

Hello Readers!

For years, I suffered with panic attacks. When I tried to sleep, all sorts of scary thoughts raced through my head. One night out of sheer desperation, I grabbed a children’s songbook published by my church. I started singing the songs, all verses. My voice quivered and cracked, but I kept on singing. Around the 5th or 6th song, I started to feel different. My body wasn’t shaking as much, and I was starting to feel less anxious. I was frightened to stop singing so I sang every song in the book I knew. It took about 45 minutes. After I finished singing the songs, I noticed that the  thoughts that were terrorizing me had dimmed. I felt that I had control over my body again. For years, I kept that songbook close to me. There wasn’t one time I used it that it didn’t succeed in calming me down.

Why did singing calm me down. Here are my thoughts…

  • the songs were like lullabies…soothing and calming
  • the words were ones of peace, hope and comfort
  • giving voice to the songs rather than singing them in my mind focused and grounded me in the present moment
  • singing the songs out loud rather than silently made me breathe…you have  to breathe to sing!
  • singing the songs took the focus off the anxious thoughts

As I sang the songs, I began to be more familiar with the words and the melodies. Often, I would find myself humming or quietly singing the songs (out loud and in my head) during the day when I felt anxious. I found that when I became anxious at night, I didn’t have to sing as many songs to calm down as I had previously.

With our knowledge of brain science, I now know that singing was changing my brain. Endorphins, a hormone released by singing, is associated with pleasurable feelings. Oxytocin, another hormone released by singing, can alleviate anxiety and depression.

Singing alone is good, but singing with others is even better! Ever since I was young, I have sung in choirs. Singing together creates community and lessens loneliness. Remember, we are wired to connect with each other. Singing in choirs has been a calming and productive activity for millions, including me. More and more, singing is being recognized for its health benefits. Years ago, auditioning for any choir was a pre-requisite for joining. More and more, though, choir groups are springing up that just require a willing spirit and a love of singing. There is even a drop-in singing group in Vancouver every week!

I’m joining a choral group this fall in Vancouver, BC as I’ve realized I need that community and, most of all, I need to sing!! It’s fun and it’s healthy. What about you?

Best,

Judith

Reference: Singing Changes Your Brain by Stacy Horn

Singing Changes Your Brain

 

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Posted by: jude49 | June 27, 2016

Want to Solve Problems…Use Empathy!

Hello Readers!

One would think that if someone comes to you with a problem, they want a straightforward, logical response. Not necessarily so!

A question for you…What happens when you express your feelings about and you are cut off with statements such as “Oh, don’t worry about that” OR “She didn’t mean it that way” OR “Why are you taking that so seriously”…I imagine you might feel “small” or hurt or dismissed. You’ll probably feel some tension in your body…a knot in your stomach, for example. And you may be thinking you were dumb for expressing your thoughts and feelings. You may even think your thoughts and feelings are dumb.

What if the other was curious about your concern and asked questions such as “Tell me more…” OR “I can hear your concern. I’m here to listen” OR “Yeah, I’ve had a similar experience. Feels upsetting” I imagine you would feel “heard” as these statements indicate that you are listening and showing empathy. Thus, empathy is seeing the problem from the “other’s”perspective…putting yourself in the other’s shoes, so to speak.

When empathy occurs, a valuable connection is made. And that connection can lead to “calming big emotions.” Big emotions overwhelm the left, logical brain. When the emotional brain is calm, that’s the time good decisions are made. Good decisions need input from both the emotional AND the left logical brain.

Problems abound…they are a constant in life. Next time you encounter a problem with someone, I challenge you to listen to the “other” perspective.

Warm Wishes,

Judith

 

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Posted by: jude49 | May 20, 2016

One Excellent Strategy to Control Anger

From Distress to Peace

Hello Readers!

We all get angry. And that’s fine. It’s HOW we deal with anger that’s vital to our own well-being and the well-being of others. Here is one way I’ve successfully taught my clients to calm their anger…

  • Recognize what triggers your anger
  • Remember what happens in your body when you feel angry (Remember your mind is in your body!)
  • As soon as you recognize that “angry” trigger or feel the anger inside your body, acknowledge the anger. Say to yourself, “I feel anger coming on.” (If you can, remove yourself from the situation.)
  • Start taking deep breaths. Breathe in to the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 8. You can fiddle with this count as long as you breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable. Accept feelings, sensations and thoughts…let them flow through you. Fighting them…

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Posted by: jude49 | May 20, 2016

One Excellent Strategy to Control Anger

Hello Readers!

We all get angry. And that’s fine. It’s HOW we deal with anger that’s vital to our own well-being and the well-being of others. Here is one way I’ve successfully taught my clients to calm their anger…

  • Recognize what triggers your anger
  • Remember what happens in your body when you feel angry (Remember your mind is in your body!)
  • As soon as you recognize that “angry” trigger or feel the anger inside your body, acknowledge the anger. Say to yourself, “I feel anger coming on.” (If you can, remove yourself from the situation.)
  • Start taking deep breaths. Breathe in to the count of 4 and breathe out to the count of 8. You can fiddle with this count as long as you breathe out twice as long as you breathe in.
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable. Accept feelings, sensations and thoughts…let them flow through you. Fighting them will only prolong the anger.
  • Keep breathing until you find your anger starts to dissipate. While you are breathing, you can say, “Breathe in peace and breathe out anger.” You can use this mantra or use another. Self-talk helps. “I can control my anger.” I am bigger than my anger.” “My anger is not my identity.”
  • Once your anger has dissipated and you are breathing steadily, choose a task you can focus on. I, like many others, use nature and my senses to further calm down.  Get out in nature and breathe in the good air. Walk or stand up. It grounds you. Choose a sense…sound, for example. Listen for 5 sounds and try to identify them. Choose another sense and so on…
  • Anger may return; if it does, focus on your breath, following it in and out.
  • Gradually, your big emotions (your right emotional brain) will shrink and you will be able to integrate your logical, left brain with your emotional brain. At this point, you can make GOOD choices/decisions. Making decisions with your full-blown emotional brain will end up in saying and doing what you will come to regret.

Anger is usually a reaction to fear, pain or unresolved issues in your family-of-origin. Give yourself compassion (positive self-talk, hug yourself). No sense in getting angry at yourself for being angry!

Every time you can resolve your anger wholesomely, you re-wire your brain. Soon, lashing out, kicking walls, swearing, shouting, throwing will be a thing of your past.

Check out my Facebook page for other great information and strategies to wholesomely manage your anger. Go to my web-site…www.judithbarnard.com and click on the Facebook button. You can access my page even if you’re not on Facebook.

As always, please share your comments, add your experiences…

Best,

Judith

 

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Posted by: jude49 | April 14, 2016

Four Tips to Calm That Anxiety!

Hello Readers!

For years I suffered with debilitating panic and anxiety. One of the good things about that experience was that I learned ways to calm myself down. Here are my FOUR best suggestions:

  • Water is one of your best friends when anxiety strikes. Splashing cold water on your face, neck, and shoulders helps ground you in “the here and now” rather than in the anxious world of the future. In other words, it helps you be present. Drinking cold water, taking a bath/shower, wetting your hair, rubbing an ice cube wrapped in a wash cloth also provides relief.
  • Walking is one of the best ways to lessen anxiety and ground yourself in reality. When anxious, many people feel like they’re “floating.” I found it an odd and terrifying sensation. Putting feet to floor/earth and walking  can take away that sensation. When walking, it may help to say, “left foot, right foot” as you walk. Whenever possible, walk outside.
  • Sing that anxiety away! For years, when I felt anxious at night, I would get out my childhood hymnbook and start singing. Gradually, I felt my muscles relax and the tension leave my body. That “unreal” feeling of seeing through gauze gradually disappeared, and I became grounded in “what is” and not in “what might happen.” Listening to calming music can have a similar effect. However, I found that actually singing the hymns/songs was more effective when I was experiencing high anxiety.
  • Talking myself through tasks was helpful in reducing anxiety and grounding myself in the present. I was most anxious in the mornings so getting ready for school and/or work was often challenging. I would find my anxiety lessening when I would talk myself through my morning routine. For instance, my script might be something like this. “Get two pieces of bread out of the bag for toast. Put the bread in the toaster. Good! Go to the fridge and take out the peanut butter. Now get a bread knife. Let me check on the toast. Still not done. Hmmm. I’ll wash up a few dishes and the toast should be ready…Notice the specificity. It’s important to be specific; if not, your focus will return to anxiety and that’s not where you want it to be.

As usual, I am open to receiving comments and other ideas. One in every 4 women suffer from anxiety so if you have a helpful suggestion, please share! Thanks.

Until next time,

Judith

 

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Posted by: jude49 | May 23, 2015

I’m Feeling Emotional, Not Suicidal!

Hey All,

For years now, I’ve noticed that when folks become emotional, the people around them become scared! Usually, there are comments like “There is nothing to be emotional about”…”Calm down”…Getting emotional doesn’t help anything.”

When tears accompany emotions, many people back away even further. Tears and emotions “means” people are sad, depressed, even suicidal. Wrong!

No emotion is bad. When people are emotional, it means they are having an emotional experience. It may be one of joy, of fear, of amazement, of sadness…

Emotional experiences are not bad or good; they just are! They are like the rain…they come and go.

What is the best way to deal with having an emotional experience yourself or seeing someone else have one? Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge emotion by showing empathy.  “I’m feeling sad.” “You look like you’re having a bad day.
  • Know that emotions/feelings pass quickly…their life span is short.
  • Know that everyone is in charge of his/her own emotions. You are not the reason someone is happy, upset, frustrated, etc.
  • Give yourself or the other time to calm down. Often a move (standing up and moving around) will change mood, having a drink of water, a short walk in the fresh air or simply taking a deep breath will do the trick. Often, a light touch on the other’s shoulder or hand will calm.
  • Ask what you or the other needs. Give yourself and the other compassion and empathy.
  • Use words. “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. I need a minute.” Giving voice to what you’re feeling helps shrink “big” feelings.
  • Be calm yourself. Don’t “catch” other people’s emotions. Stay grounded in your own place of peace.
  • Refrain from judgment. Some people are more emotional than others. Being emotional is not a character flaw!

If you happen to be an emotional person, know your triggers. In knowing them, you can manage them much better. You might say, “I need some time before I can discuss this”…”I’ll get back to you”… Make sure you take sufficient time to “shrink” your big emotions. Good decisions are made when your right (emotional) and left (logical) brains are equal size.

At first, you will need to constantly monitor the “impact” of your emotions on yourself and others so they don’t get too big. When triggers occur…and they will…the constant monitoring will pay off. You’ll find you are calmer and respond to yourself and others in a more loving way.

There are times when it is best not to show your emotions. Remind yourself that you don’t have to “stuff” your emotions forever; there will be a time when you can safely “diffuse” them.

Remember, your emotions belong to you; you manage and enjoy them; and it is your choice as to how and when you use them. If these tips aren’t helping you manage your negative emotions better, it may be best to consult a therapist to determine what else is contributing to having “big” emotions so much of the time.

I challenge you to use your emotions to your benefit and to the benefit of others! Choose rainbows over rain…

Best,

Judith

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Posted by: jude49 | April 30, 2015

Coping With Sudden and Traumatic Deaths

Dear Friends,

In the last six months, I have had two dear friends experience sudden and traumatic deaths of their loved ones. Death is hard to cope with at any time, but there is an additional level of stress when deaths are unnatural and unexpected.

Here are some tips that hopefully will help you survive these difficult times…

  • Know that you will feel seemingly out-of-control when it comes to your emotions. You probably won’t be able to stop crying. It’s uncomfortable and it’s normal. Let the tears come. They are part of the grieving process. No apologies necessary.
  • You will feel tired. Your body will go into a natural depression to protect your organs. Your memory will fail you for awhile. It’s all normal.
  • Your body will probably ache all over. You will experience fatigue and yet not be able to sleep. Accept it. You don’t need to like it. Rest, even though you can’t sleep. Calming music or hymns will help your body and mind relax.
  • Get outside. Nature is one of the best healers I know of. Nature reflects the life cycle…birth to death. You are part of it. Take comfort in that you are not alone.
  • Let others help. We are wired to be connected. Sometimes people don’t know what to do or how to be. Tell them what you need. Some will want to give advice. You may have to tell them you don’t need advice or instructions on how to grieve. Everyone grieves in his/her own way. There is no one right way.
  • Trust your instincts. Sometimes counselling is helpful. If you feel you are burying your emotions by working too much, drinking too much, over-eating, get in touch with our local Hospice or a counsellor. You’ll know what you need. Trust your inner wisdom.
  • Replace the ugly, distressing last moments of your loved one’s death with happier memories. Privilege the positive!
  • Journal how you are feeling. Write down the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Talk to your loved one who died. This suggestion may sound unusual, but it can help. You can tell your loved one how much you miss him/her, how angry you are that s/he left you, etc. You can also ask for advice. Listen for the answers.
  • Death cannot stop your relationship. Yes, your loved one won’t walk on this physical earth again, but s/he will always be in your heart. You still walk together, just in a different way.
  • You won’t get over the death. Time dims rather than heals all wounds. The acute pain you feel now will fade and you will begin to integrate the death into your everyday living. Remember that nothing stays the same…
  • If you believe in a higher power, rely on it. Don’t expect to understand the whys of what happened. There are some things that can’t be understand on this earth. Focus on what will move you forward.
  • Give yourself kindness, love and compassion. Don’t fret over should haves, could haves or would haves. Accept that you coped in the best way you could at the time it happened. Stay away from judging yourself.
  • Talk about your loved one. Remember them…their quirks, their favorite sayings, those special looks, their favorite books/cd’s/songs…

Above all, remember LOVE. You had the wonderful opportunity to be loved, to love, to feel love. Death cannot take those memories away.

Blessings,

Judith

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Posted by: jude49 | March 25, 2015

Meditation and Primroses

Hello Friends!

A month or so ago, I bought five pots, each one filled with a different colored primrose. I put them on my balcony in different pots and in different places. Here’s what I learned:

  • when I watered my plants, they flourished
  • when I let my plants “go” without water for a few days, they usually came back but not to their full glory (e.g. dead leaves and flowers)
  • when I didn’t meet one plant’s needs, it revived a few days, but finally it died
  • certain plants needed more water based on their placement and environment (e.g. more waterings on hot days)

How does the above information relate to mindfulness?

Water is to flowers what meditation is to people. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to be engaged in some kind of meditation. Without meditation, you won’t fully flourish. You may not physically die but you will surely “die” emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Meditation is needed everyday, not just when stress strikes! When I meditate everyday, I am less reactive, and I can more wholesomely cope with everyday stresses and unexpected challenges.

Not meditating, even for a few days, leaves us open to falling back on negative and unproductive ways of coping. Meditating produces positive energy which allows us to engage with life with flexibility, curiosity and open-mindedness.

Meditating consistently creates new neural pathways. Meditation moves us towards positive growth; it helps us decide which beliefs and expectations to keep, modify or discard; it creates a healthier, more positive status quo.

Earth life is challenging. At times, everything goes along smoothly and then, whoops, the unexpected challenge(s) come. At those times, it is best to meditate more for extra support and to provide the peace necessary to make good decisions.

The question is: What kind of primrose do you want to be: vibrant and healthy; just getting by or dying?

As usual, comments are welcome. Comment here or e-mail me at judith@judithbarnard.com.

Blessings,

Judith

 

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