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Signs you have too much anxiety

What are the signs you have too much anxiety? Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, shares the causes and symptoms of anxiety, how to reduce it, and when to seek support.

What is anxiety?

“Anxiety is an uncomfortable mental-emotional state about the future,” says Buttimer. “We want predictability and control over what’s going to happen in the future; anxiety focuses excessively on the ‘what-ifs.’”

Anxiety is a normal part of life, but you could have an anxiety disorder if you experience it frequently, it starts to affect your daily activities, it is hard to control or it seems out of proportion for a situation.

“Anxiety becomes over the top when you are debilitated by it and are so caught up in the future that you can’t pay attention to the present moment,” he says.

Signs of an anxiety disorder

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:

  • Avoiding people or circumstances that cause anxiety
  • Change in eating habits (eating more or less than usual)
  • Chronic pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of fear, nervousness, panic, restlessness or tension
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Hyperventilation
  • Inability to control worry
  • Increased heart rate
  • Poor quality of life
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping

What causes anxiety?

Anxiety can be caused by:

  • Certain health issues, such as asthma, chronic pain, diabetes, drug withdrawal, heart disease, hyperthyroidism or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chronic stress
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Medication side effects
  • Other mental health issues, like depression  
  • Personality traits
  • Trauma or abuse

When to see a doctor for anxiety

You should see your primary care provider if you:

  • Are abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Have anxiety that is difficult to control
  • Have symptoms of depression
  • Have suicidal thoughts (if so, seek emergency medical care right away)
  • May have a physical health condition related to the anxiety

Your doctor may refer you to a psychologist (counselor) or psychiatrist (medical doctor) for evaluation and treatment.

“A mental health professional can teach you techniques to help you put things in perspective,” Buttimer explains. “They can offer you a more objective look at the events in your life and help you distinguish between normal anxiety and extreme stages of anxiety.”

Lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety

Buttimer recommends the following tactics to minimize anxiety:

  • Allow yourself to feel anxiety. The next time you’re feeling anxious, allow yourself to feel it instead of brushing it aside. Buttimer recommends paying attention to which part of the body is affected by anxiety, such as the pit of your stomach or your chest. Breathe deeply and bring your hand to this part of the body. Allow yourself to feel the anxiety. “As you sit with it and honor the emotion for 90 seconds to two minutes, it will usually shift into something else and move on,” he says.
  • Deep breathing. “When you’re anxious, you tend to hold your breath or take shallow breaths,” he says. “Try long, slow breathing through your nose into your belly – this is called diaphragmatic breathing.” This type of breathing sends signals to the brain to relax.
  • Exercise, particularly yoga. Regular exercise and yoga have been shown to reduce anxiety.
  • Listen to relaxing meditation audio or music. “Meditation has been shown to stop the emotional hijacking that takes place in the brain when you are feeling anxious,” he explains. “The amygdala, which is the portion of the brain responsible for your emotions, becomes hyperactive when you are anxious. Think of it like a smoke alarm that keeps going off even after the threat is gone. That’s how it is with anxiety.”
  • Make healthy food choices. Excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol can worsen anxiety, so focus on unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, lean meat, fish and whole grains. 
  • Pay attention to the media and entertainment you consume. Buttimer says negative content, like violent crime shows or the news, can worsen anxiety.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Try these tips to get a better night’s rest.
  • Take a technology break. Being constantly “on” and checking your smartphone frequently can increase anxiety. Put your phone in a drawer or on airplane mode, take a break from social media scrolling, and make time for an activity you enjoy, like walking outside, calling a friend, reading a good book or sipping a mug of tea.
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Anxiety and Panic

Panic attacks are intense periods of fear or feelings of doom developing over a very short time frame — up to 10 minutes — and associated with at least four of the following:

  • Overwhelming fear (of losing control or going crazy)
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • A feeling of being detached from the world (de-realization)
  • Fear of dying
  • Numbness or tingling in the limbs or entire body
  • Chills or hot flushes

Panic attacks and panic disorder are not the same thing. Panic disorder involves recurrent panic attacks along with constant fears about having future attacks and, often, avoiding situations that may trigger or remind someone of previous or unexpected attacks. Not all panic attacks are caused by panic disorder. Sometimes, they’re related to conditions like:

Doctors will often look for other medical conditions that might trigger or be related to panic attacks or similar episodes. They might include:

Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive and unrealistic worry over a period of at least 6 months. It is associated with at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability or anger
  • Muscle tension, aches, or soreness
  • Sleep disturbances

Phobic disorders are intense, persistent, and recurrent fear of certain objects (such as snakes, spiders, blood) or situations (such as heights, speaking in front of a group, public places). These exposures may trigger a panic attack. Social phobia and agoraphobia are examples of phobic disorders.

Posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD — was considered to be a type of anxiety disorder in earlier versions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But in 2013, PTSD was reclassified as its own condition.

It describes a range of emotional reactions caused by exposure to either death or near-death circumstances (such as fires, floods, earthquakes, shootings, assault, automobile accidents, or wars) or to events that threaten one’s own or another person’s physical well-being. The traumatic event is re-experienced with fear of feelings of helplessness or horror and may appear in thoughts and dreams. Common behaviors include the following:

  • Avoiding activities, places, or people associated with the event
  • Persistently re-experiencing the traumatic event, such as:
    • Unwanted memories
    • Nightmares or flashbacks
    • Emotional or physical distress when experiencing reminders of the trauma
  • Changes in arousal or reactivity, including:
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Being hypervigilant (you closely watch your surroundings) or being easily startled
    • Irritability or aggression
    • Risky behavior
  • Negative changes in feelings and thoughts, such as:
    • Feeling a general sense of doom and gloom with diminished emotions (such as loving feelings or aspirations for the future)
    • Feeling isolated or negative about the world
    • Less interest in activities
    • Exaggerated feelings of blame for self or others about the trauma
    • Negative thoughts and feelings about the world

Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, fainting, and weakness should not be automatically attributed to anxiety and require evaluation by a doctor.

What Should I Ask My Doctor?

If you have anxiety or were recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, consider asking your doctor these questions at your next visit.

  1. How did I get anxiety? Is there a chance I passed this on to my kids?
  2. Are there any underlying medical problems that could be causing my anxiety symptoms?
  3. What are my treatment options for anxiety? Will I need to take an anxiety drug? Will I take it every day or as needed? How long will I need to take it?
  4. What side effects can I expect from medications? Is there a way to minimize or prevent side effects?
  5. What should I do if I miss a dose of medication?
  6. Should I begin therapy sessions? Which type and for how long?
  7. How long before I can expect to feel better?
  8. Once treated, how likely is it that my anxiety symptoms will return?
  9. What lifestyle changes can I make to help me feel better?
  10. How will alcohol or other drugs interact with my medication or affect my anxiety?
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My Story of Fighting Back Against Severe Anxiety

I was in the midst of my routine at the gym, doing my bench presses on the incline barbell rack. In the middle of a set, a sharp pain appeared in the left side of my chest. Stirred, I carefully rested the bar in the metal brackets and waited, trying to get a sense of what was happening.

When I stood up I felt light headed, like I’d gotten up too quickly and air had sucked out of my head. Putting my hand on the bench I folded over to maintain balance. I

pressed my fingers against my chest, trying to locate the pain, figuring I just pulled a muscle. I stared at a clock on the far wall, a fixed point and watched the second hand tick. After about a minute the feeling dissipated, so I sat back down and continued my set.

By my third rep the pain returned, more persistent, demanding. It was accompanied by this tingling sensation, which started at the fingertips of my left hand and moved up my arm. Like a foreboding message squirreling through my body. I put the bar down again and sat up. This is not normal, I thought.

I took a drink of water and again waited for it to pass. This time, though, fear had begun bubbling up that I was trying to talk myself out of. If I don’t acknowledge it, it’s not really there. But it was creeping fast. Then faster. Then, as I stood up again, it was on me.

My heart picked up speed, rocketed forward and beat furiously, like someone slamming on an accelerator. I checked my heart rate on my watch monitor — 150 bpm per minute, significantly higher than normal, despite the fact that this was my normal workout.

Something about seeing the numbers, the recognition of the facts, sent me into a panic. I started to hyperventilate, and the room began spinning, the perimeter mirrors exacerbating the effect.

I have to get home, I thought. If I make it home — see Nicole — I’ll be ok. I scrambled outside for sunlight and fresh air, but the chaos of the outside world made it worse. My body felt like putty and I had to drag myself through the parking lot.

I found my car, fumbled with getting out my keys and the suddenly difficult task of opening the door. I let gravity drop me into the driver’s seat, and took a look at myself in the rearview, trying to reconcile that face with this person. I seemed like a stranger to myself, distant from my limbs, swimming and disoriented.

When I tried to throw the car into reverse, it felt like I was intoxicated. I couldn’t align my movements with the car’s and I pulled the car straight back into the curb. After struggling to re-park and getting out.

I found a bench in front of the strip mall to wait it all out. Nothing was balanced. The blue mailbox on the curb seemed turned on its side. The wooden bench wasn’t steady. Everything was is in motion.

I’m not going to die, I tell myself.

On the bench, my heart rate read 170 bpm. But my energy level was draining out of me, like a liquid, my arms heavy and my body beginning to lump. It’s as though a force is rising up from my limbs into my neck and then head. The ground is coming up to meet me, on an angle, like I am going to pass out.

I fumbled for my phone and dial 911 and moved down to lay on the curb, my arm wrapped around the pole of a street sign.

“I’m having a heart attack,” I said the moment I hear the click of someone answering. I couldn’t describe it any other way and know it will cut through with those words. A young woman’s tinny voice tried to calm me.

“Ok, stay there. We’re going to send help. Where are you?”

“I’m at the shopping center on York and Seminary. In front of the Rite Aid,” I told her. “I’m on the curb. I can’t move.”

“Ok, someone’s on the way. Stay there and don’t drink anything.” Her voice was

a thin noise from a distant planet.

“Please hurry up,” I begged. “I can’t do this much longer.”

She started to ask what I had taken and what I had been doing. I was struggling to breathe, much less talk. I tried to imagine each breath going through me. My eyes felt heavy as though I’d been awake for days. My mouth was dry and my body weakening, like air draining from a tire.

I felt trapped inside my own body, like a plane in a tailspin, hurtling toward the earth. I closed my eyes and said a prayer:

Lord God, please let me make it through this.
Allow me to raise my children
To see another day.
Please forgive my wrongdoings and create in me a clean heart…
I ask that your will be done
In Jesus’ mighty name Amen.

The next morning I skipped the gym and just a half of a cup of coffee, hoping to erase the previous day’s nightmare. But by late morning, it was back. Creeping and then on me. I was caught inside another attack. Then that night it came on again. Then the next morning.

Then the next.

Then the next.

My body was in a full-blown rebellion. The anxiety started to spread outward, like water seeking any and all cracks. I started to question everything, never feeling grounded or safe.

My sleepy neighborhood became a minefield of triggers. As days rolled into weeks, I became too terrified to sleep and too crippled to do anything. I was trapped inside the walls of my own prison.

This was the sequence: my heart would start beating hard, and then fast and faster. My mouth would go dry and then I would start to feel a dizzy, like the floor was curving upward or I could feel the tilt of the earth. A sensation would start creeping up my left side: fingertips, hand, gaining speed and intensity up my arm and left side.

Then I’d be hit with chest pains, and difficulty breathing that usually spiraled into hyperventilation. A powerful force I couldn’t see was smothering me. It was like I was at the bottom of a deep hole and dirt was filling in above me.

My own body had become untrustworthy and the world was dangerous. Nicole tried her best to comfort me, but she was as mystified as I was. Watching me obsessively check my heart rate, or seeing me get up in the middle of the night to drive myself to the ER, she felt helpless.

It was hard for her to watch this weakened man, scared to be home by himself, always seeking confirmation that he’d be okay. I was a shell of the man she had grown to know and love, as needy as our infant son.

Things got increasingly worse. After waking up in the middle of the night too many times, I started to sleep in my car in the hospital parking lot in case an attack came.

I refused to go anywhere that wasn’t a quick ride to an Emergency Room. Walls went up all around me. I was terrified by the loss of control, the inability to predict, the fear of never feeling normal again.

I refused to drive long distances and was afraid to work out at the gym, thinking that would keep it at bay. But I still had clients I had to train. I canceled and pushed a few sessions until I had to get back to work. I was secretly afraid of doing even the basic cardio or lifting that I had my clients do.

The thing I had once gone to for peace and strength was now terrifying to me. I often invented in- juries or other reasons why I couldn’t participate. I’d become a fraud, my life a spectacle.

Sometimes when I’d call 911, an ambulance would arrive, and it would dissipate once the paramedics reached me or once I got to the hospital. Once it just vanished right after I hung up the phone with 911.

The appearance, the suggestion, of help would negate its need. This was the first inkling that all of this was from a deeper well.

At the ER, they would hook me up to an IV, and give me a sedative to try to induce sleep. Then came countless blood tests, CT Scans and EKG’s, leaving me with no answers.

After every visit the ER doctor would say, “follow up with your primary,” but I didn’t have one. About a month into the attacks, I was back at the ER when they gave me a Lorazepam pill. It was like a cool breeze blowing through my body. It was a relief. It was magic.

The next morning I finally went to see a general practitioner; I had been putting off for the typical insurance reasons. Dr. Barnes was a tall white guy in his late fifties, with one of those large builds that told you he had once been heavy. He wore thin frame glasses and had silver hair along the sides — a bald highway down the middle — and a trimmed beard.

Dr. Barnes looked over all my blood work, tests, and medical records from all the emergency room visits, a virtual pile of information. I cycled through the explanation of symptoms yet again, which I hated doing because it was like unlocking the cage. An aura of panic floated into the room just by me saying some of those words.

During my recitation of stories and symptoms, he cut me off, putting his hand up. “Okay Quentin,” he said in his nasal voice. “It sounds to me like you have a severe anxiety disorder.”

“A disorder?” I asked, confounded. “You mean like a dis- ease.?”

“Yes. It’s very common. It’s called Generalized Anxiety and Panic Disorder.” I told him about the Lorazepam I’d gotten from the hospital and he prescribed it for me daily. I rarely took medicine as a child and vividly remembered my mother’s refusal to medicate me as a teenager in the psychiatrist’s office.

She knew the dangers associated with it a lot more than the average person because she was med-certified and had worked in the industry for 25 years.

There was also a cultural divide. There was not a single kid on medication for behavior in my community. One of my cousins was hyperactive and he was the only kid that I knew who took a medicine to calm down. I knew some diabetics, but that was it. No one took anything for anything.

But what choice did I have? I was a drowning man and the doctor had pulled up in a boat. I put my complete trust in my physician’s hands, relieved to know that my problem had a name and that the symptoms were treatable.

“How long do I have to take this?” I asked, staring at the prescription sheet. A strange mix of relief and suspicion weaved through me.

“Well, the disorder is quite severe,” he said. “Medication is the only option effective enough to control your anxiety.

He didn’t really answer my question, but I didn’t push him. I was just happy to have some weapon to fight back.

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Panic Attack

Panic attacks are more than just an emotional experience. When someone experiences a panic attack, their “fight or flight” response is triggered, and they experience a full-body physical reaction that can be as scary as the panic itself.

Common symptoms include racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, shaking or trembling, numbness, dizziness or fainting, and nausea or digestive upset.

Panic attacks can be debilitating and seriously affect your quality of life.

Panic attacks are usually thought of as a symptom of anxiety, but not everyone who has an anxiety disorder experiences panic attacks. They can be experienced by anyone with a mental health disorder, including PTSD, depressive disorders, and substance abuse disorders. Sometimes people with no history of mental illness experience panic attacks. 

If you experience recurring, periodic panic attacks, you may be diagnosed with panic disorder, a standalone mental health condition experienced by 2-3% of the population in any given year.

Treatment for panic disorder and panic attacks usually include therapy, or medication, or both. It’s important for people who experience panic attacks to get help because recurrent attacks can lead to extreme isolation, or other associated panic disorders, which can severely limit a person’s ability to function normally and live a full life.

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Maintaining Mental Illness

When managing serious mental illness (SMI), the recovery journey can be long and challenging. It often requires creative and prolonged efforts to build and maintain a full life, but many people do reach recovery. In fact, up to 65% of people living with SMI experience partial to full recovery over time.

The term “recovery” refers to the process of learning how to minimize the symptoms associated with SMI. Note that recovery does not mean symptoms stop entirely or that deficit disappear.

Ultimately, recovery is not synonymous with “cured.” Rather, it means reaching a place where you can pursue a safe, dignified and meaningful life.

The cornerstones of recovery are self-determination, treatment, engagement with family and friends, work and hope. Loved ones play a critical role in a person’s recovery, especially when well-intentioned caregivers listen to and respect their loved one’s goals. Additionally, the guidance of competent, experienced and compassionate mental health practitioners can also be invaluable.

While recovery may look different for different people, several basic strategies can serve anyone looking to manage their illness. These basics may help you reach recovery more quickly and easily.

Maintaining Hope
Recovery is rarely achieved in the absence of hope. Its power cannot be overestimated.

You must always try to maintain hope despite the challenges (including loss, stigma, discrimination) you face.

Hope doesn’t have to come solely from internal strength; it can come from caregivers, friends, peers, people outside of a mental health context, and even animals or faith. Feeling supported, accepted and loved as a person of value and worth can foster and nurture hope.

Practising Self-Determination
Recovery has to be pursued; it does not simply occur in response to medication or other treatments. That is why it is so important to make your own decisions and actively use treatment, services, supports or other resources.

For example, preparing a Psychiatric Advance Directive, which states your treatment preferences in the event of a mental health crisis, can allow you to retain control over care even if you become impaired.

As with any illness, you may have to self-advocate to ensure everyone in your care team respects your right to have a say in your care.

Do not give up on your dreams. Identifying your life pursuits, such as living, working, learning and participating fully in the community, is an important recovery goal. After establishing these objectives, you can work with your providers and caregivers to make those goals a part of your care plan.

Starting Now
You should not delay the pursuit of recovery in the hopes that your symptoms will go away on their own. Progress typically occurs through a series of small steps, which may involve considerable effort, patience and persistence over time.

These accomplishments become possible and noticeable if you set and achieve realistic and short-term, if not immediate, personal goals.

Small, incremental steps can build on each other, positioning you to address more ambitious goals further down the line. Celebrating achievements, no matter how seemingly mundane, is an important part of the recovery process.

Finding the Right Care
Finding caring, trusting, supportive relationships with a practitioner is critical for recovery.

Practitioners should encourage and support your hopes, interests, assets, talents, energies, efforts and goals.

To achieve these, you should discuss calculated risk-taking with your practitioner. A calculated risk is a carefully considered decision that could be beneficial but includes some degree of risk. For example, deciding to change your treatment plan or medication regimen.

Care should be person-centred and you should hold an active role in your care. Accordingly, practitioners should engage your participation using a strengths-based approach. This approach, known as shared decision-making, is evidence-based and has been shown to improve outcomes.

Care should also be grounded in your “life context,” which acknowledges, builds on and appreciates your unique history, experiences, situations, developmental trajectory and aspirations.

Care plans should be based on individualized, culturally sensitive, holistic and multidisciplinary considerations and developed in collaboration with you and your supporters each step of the way. Your care should focus on helping you live the life you want and choose.

Gathering Information on Community Factors
Practitioners should have adequate knowledge of community factors that may impact care, including opportunities, resources and potential barriers. These may relate to access to employment opportunities as well as employment disincentives that are built into programs for access to affordable housing and medical care.

If practitioners cannot offer you guidance on these subjects, they should at least be able to share resources and provide referrals to people who can.

Coping with Stigma
Stigma is widespread, even among friends and family and within the mental health care system, including from practitioners themselves. The detrimental impact of stigma can be greater than that of the illness itself. Thus, you may need to develop coping strategies to manage stigma, particularly if you are experiencing self-stigma.

You might consider discussing how you are impacted by insensitive statements with those who use them. You could also consider limiting interaction, if possible, with people who may continue to stigmatize you.

Talking to peers can also be helpful to process the way stigma affects you.

Engaging with Peer Support
Peer support can be invaluable. People living with a similar condition can help you normalize SMI, address loneliness and isolation, and offer acceptance and support.

They also can provide insights based on their own struggles and achievements, and they can help take away some of the uncertainty of living with SMI by helping you understand what to expect. They can offer hope as a mentor who is a living example of the reality of recovery.

The recovery journey is never easy, but it is always worth it. When a person with SMI reaches recovery, they often regain their self-love, self-worth and self-esteem.

Recovery can then free a person from stigma, shame and embarrassment. Perhaps most importantly, it can stop them from defining themselves merely by their illness.

Some people with SMI have to recognize that the greatest barrier to reaching recovery may be their own mindset. People who refuse to take back control of their lives (including their care) and refuse to take responsibility for their illness will find it more difficult to reach recovery.

It is a great tragedy that so many never reach recovery because it is possible for so many more.

Ultimately, we all need more visible and promoted examples of everyday people living in recovery.

The promise of eliminating stigma does offer hope, but recovery offers so much more.

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We are all Sugar Addicts

Did you know that one simple nutrient, one simple food you are almost surely consuming every day is hindering your well-being? And did you also know that you have all the chances in the world to be addicted to that substance without even realizing it? Yes, you are a junkie. A sugar junkie.

Let me get something straight here: I am a drug addict too. I sometimes have cravings that I feel like I cannot control. I rush to the fridge and binge on some milk chocolate or sweets.

 I like eating sugar when I am sad or alone. If you think you are not like me, that you are stronger, try to cut sugar from your diet for a few days, even just in its refined form – which would mean that your sugar intake could only come from fruits, honey or maple syrup.

Let me know if you do not experience a single withdrawal symptom.

You might have experienced the harmful effects of sugar on your body already. 

When you eat a lot of sugar your spirits are high, you feel very excited and energetic.

You might have already used the idiom ‘being high on sugar’. After a while though, your body crashes down and you can feel debilitated for some time.

When you quit refined sugar, those crashing moments happen more often.

You need to sleep more, sometimes even in the afternoon, just to make it through the day.

This is caused by the fact that sugar is numbing you to tiredness, it powers you through beyond what your body is capable of actually doing.

The sugar addiction we are all experiencing can be explained scientifically.

Once it is consumed, sugar sends messages of pleasure to the brain, which triggers a form of excitement.

This leads the body to function at a higher rate than usual, to accelerate from its natural rhythm to a faster one. Of course, the body has to work harder to maintain this new rhythm and needs more energy.

So, once the effects of the sugar you have previously taken wear off, you will feel tired and exhausted and will look for another hit of energy.

Guess what could give you instant satisfaction? Sugar, that goes without saying. Here, you can clearly see that the mechanism is very similar to drug addiction.

In addition, research has shown that when provided with a mouthful of a sugary drink, people’s brain activity had the same reaction as when it was exposed to a hit of cocaine or heroin.

When you are getting off sweets, the same neurological symptoms as withdrawing from nicotine, alcohol or morphine can be experienced.

Beyond physical effects, sugar addiction can also be experienced through the mind.

When your blood is filled with sugar, you will usually feel good, feel high and energetic.

However, when you are crashing down, your mood will instantly degenerate and you will more likely feel emotional and down than your usual natural average.

Sugar will also lead you to behave in ways that are not suited for you, that is too hard on your body.

Such behaviours include over-exercising, going to bed too late, over-eating, working longer hours without realizing you are exhausted, among other things. Just add a good splash of caffeine to the mix, and you are well set for a disaster.

On a worldwide scale, numerous medical studies have shown the negative impact of sugar on the population.

In early childhood especially, sugar has been linked to the development of depression, anxiety and behavioural troubles.

High blood glucose levels have also been linked to the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia in people that were not affected by diabetes.

Sugar can also impact the health of our heart and other vital organs which are put on a strain as they are being asked to work faster than their natural pace.

It is hard to be aware of all the effects of sugar on your body while you are still on it.

It is only once you have quit and made it past the withdrawal syndrome that you will start feeling better, more connected to your body and your mind. Nowadays, more and more people are trying to set themselves free from addiction, and succeed.

Even if it takes a strong commitment to making it, it is possible to stop being a refined sugar slave.

But where to start when facing such a vast challenge?

First of all, if you decide to stop eating refined sugars, do not replace them with artificial sugars.

Indeed, those can lead you to eat more calories during the day and gain weight, by creating confusion between the gut and the brain.

If the sweetness does not come with the right amount of calories, the system gets confused.

Also, if you are addicted to real sugar, still getting that sense of sweetness will not help you get off it at all.

You are still satisfying your craving. Then, it may be a good idea to start exercising regularly.

When you do that, your body will release higher levels of serotonin, making you feel happier, just like when you eat a cookie.

Another way to enhance serotonin levels is to add whey protein to your diet, for example by drinking more milk. Improving your sleep habits will also be beneficial.

 Indeed, if you have not slept enough at night, you are more likely to give in to a sugary treat during the day.

 And if you go to bed earlier, you will say goodbye to that late-night cookie you used to not be able to resist.

Now, are you ready or should I get you one more glass of soda?

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7 Surprising Ways Anxiety Benefits Your Life

Anxiety benefits aren’t exactly something most people talk about. With such a bad rap, it isn’t hard to view anxiety as a hindrance that at its best must be tolerated.

And yet anxiety can be a positive force in your life, sometimes a powerful one, especially when you choose to see it that way.  One of the most important things to keep in mind is that its discomfort doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, or that you can’t use it to your benefit.

Recognizing how anxiety can help can put you on the path to using it to your advantage.

Understand these 7 anxiety benefits and you are well on your way to harnessing this powerful force for good next time you experience it.

  1. Anxiety means we care.

Like a highlighter pen for our highest priorities, anxiety helps remind us of the things that matter most to us. We worry because we care, not because we are crazy. Thinking about anxiety as a reflection of our top priorities can help us embrace it as a resource.

  1.  Anxiety helps us focus.

Current science suggests anxiety may have more to do with harnessing attention than fear, and in this way can be a huge help when it comes to managing our increasingly distracted attention.  

We worry about the things we care about most, and anxiety can keep us focused on our top priorities even when we may not want to.

  1. Anxiety helps us maintains focus, especially when distractions beckon.

Distractions lurk seemingly around every corner these days. Increasing competition for our attention means it has never been easier to veer off track, and not surprisingly anxiety has become part of this picture.

A return to the beloved fable of the tortoise and the hare illustrates another anxiety benefit when it comes to maintaining focus and effort as well.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”

Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”

Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line. The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare. Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. The tortoise was over the line.  –Aesops Fable

As an executive coach, David Cottrell, notes in his article the real reason the tortoise beat the hare, distraction is deceptively dangerous.

“After all, if the hare had run straight to the finish line, it would have won. Perseverance would not have beaten speed in that case. But the hare was so consumed with its talent that it forgot to use that gift, diverted by the prospect of a soothing nap. The tortoise never got distracted: It focused on the finish line.”

  1. Anxiety fuels motivation and energy to find solutions.

Anxiety alerts us to potential threats to our priorities and motivates us to find solutions. It keeps grabbing our attention and stirring our motivation to act until we find solutions. Can’t stop worrying about those taxes that need attention? You probably won’t until you get them done. This is your anxiety helping you stay on top of important things, even if you might not want to.

  1. Anxiety is uncomfortable for a reason.

Like an alarm clock that will snooze, but only turn off once we wake up and deal with turning it off, anxiety keeps hassling us to pay attention and tend to the problem at hand until we do. If we ignore it temporarily or distract ourselves from it, it can suspend itself temporarily but will keep coming back until we face and use it to problem-solve.

  1. Harnessing anxiety can be good for your brain.

Research shows that acute bouts of stress can help boost neural growth and memory. Stress hormones help us perform optimally and also learn from our experiences such that can do it again and with less effort.

Like straining muscles and bones contribute to strength building, handling stress helps us get stronger and better at it.

  1. Seeing is believing. 

Finally, how we think about anxiety actually defines how we experience it. Perception is so hugely powerful, and how we choose to view our anxiety is completely within our control.

Naming our emotions is a well-documented, powerful tool in gaining control of them.

Simply defining that you are anxious and it is helping you stay on task can help keep your anxiety productive.

Moreover, research shows that how we think about stress and anxiety can have a powerful influence on its overall impact.  According to science, if you believe you can handle it, you can.

Anxiety keeps us awake and alert to the things that matter to us, protecting us from distraction and complacency.

We need the anxiety to help us pay attention, and protect ourselves against threats, be they modern or age-old temptations.

Anxiety benefits become real as we choose to see them.

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Women and the lack of confidence

For days now, I have been reading that scientific evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men, women lack confidence compared to men, and that hinders their performances on the way to success. In a word, women, because of their natural lack of confidence, would be less successful than men. Is this true? And if so, how can this be possible? Finally, maybe most importantly, what can we do about it?

Today, in the United States, women earn more college degrees than men do. The same trend can be observed in Europe. Several studies, conducted by organisms such as Goldman Sachs and Columbia University, have shown that companies employing large numbers of women out perform their competitors.

And women resources are not scarce, as they make half of the world’s workforce. Still, women remain largely absent from the higher positions, and most of the world’s influent companies are still men.

The world of politics is still largely dominated by men. Furthermore, women still earn less money than men on average. Why is that so? To some, confidence would be the key.

When you ask powerful women how they made it to where they are today, the answer is usually the same: “I got lucky”, “I was just at the right place at the right time”. Others, like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, sometimes feel like they should not even be where they are: “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am”. As bizarre as it may sound, it appears that there is a confidence gap separating the sexes.

Women tend to underestimate themselves more, and doubt more of their abilities to succeed than men. The main problem here being that success depends as much on competences than on confidence. In reality, women perform on average as well as men do. In that regard, women would just be partly refraining themselves from making it to the top.

When it comes to scientific facts, it appears that men and women do not display significant enough differences in the brain that could explain such a confidence gap.

However, studies have shown that women tend to activate their amygdalae quicker and more easily than men – amygdalae are sometimes described as the brain’s primitive fear centers. Furthermore, the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the rain helping recognize errors and weigh options, is larger in women.

As a consequence, women are more likely to recognize and respond to threat. In addition, it appears that higher levels of testosterone can be linked to a greater taste for risk taking – testosterone levels are 10 times higher in men than women. Winning yields even more testosterone and keeps the cycle going. Yet, these physical features are not enough to explain the confidence gap existing between men and women.

Our environments have a lot to do with our futures as well. As early as primary school, girls are rewarded for being ‘good girls’, to have good grades and behave properly, not to be energetic or pushy. Young girls usually have longer attention spans and more advanced verbal skills than boys, allowing them to earn better grades.

This tends to lead to situations where girls are being rewarded for being perfect, and that is what they will be looking for later in life. However, it also leads to situations where girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes.

The problem being that many psychologists believe that risk taking and failure are an important part of confidence-building. Boys, on the contrary, by being scolded more, learn to fail and in the process, build up their levels of confidence.

When girls switch the playground for an office desk, they do not realize immediately that the rules haves changed. While they look forward to being rewarded for their perfect work and their flawless manners, the actual reward actually comes from something different. The realization of this often hits their confidence a little bit more.

The other consequence is that, let us be honest, women are not expected to behave assertively and might be badly considered for doing so. The problem is stuck on both sides.

Yet, the fact that the only thing holding women back is their level of confidence and self-esteem has been heavily criticized. Indeed, some argue that if women lack self-esteem it is only because the way society is built is making them so, and even when they are confident, women are all but helped to progress.

Take as an example the recent Paycheck Fairness Act, which was defeated by Republicans arguing that women actually prefer lower-paying jobs. In toy stores, engineering and electronics is only made for boys, while girls have to stick with Barbie’s dream house and horse. I have read that “women’s lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them”.

To make women feel more self-confident, the first thing to be changed would then be society and the value given to women and what they do. We need to truly start valuing self-assured women instead of calling them ‘bitchy’ or ‘bossy’. This is the way to success.

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How Social Media Is Changing the Way We Think About Mental Illness

As the 1 in 5 adults living with mental illness know all too well, accessing resources and receiving adequate care can be a challenging process. A study published in “Psychological Science in the Public Interest” found that 40% of the 60 million people living with mental illness go without treatment. The study identified two perception-related barriers to care: stigma surrounding mental health and people’s inability to recognize their symptoms.

The results of this study beg the question: How can we best eradicate stigma and help people identify when they are experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions? Perhaps we should turn to Gen Z when looking for answers, as young people are beginning to chip away at these barriers — largely with their openness on social media.

While social media can be a minefield of triggering content — whether it’s encouraging unhealthy comparisons or exposing users to destructive behaviors — online platforms like Instagram and TikTok also provide spaces to share personal experience with mental illness, find community support and work through trauma in creative ways.

Ultimately, the access to a wide array of personal stories and mental health journeys encourages an open dialogue and allows for more nuanced portrayals of mental health conditions than what we consume in sensationalized films and TV shows.

Thus, social media’s role in changing the dialogue could be considered a critical step in addressing barriers to treatment.

Opening The Dialogue And Tackling Stigma

When perusing your Instagram feed or the TikTok “For You Page,” you’re likely to discover mental health content, thanks to the sheer volume of related posts. The #MentalHealth hashtag has been used in millions of TikTok videos, racking up 11 billion views, and it has generated nearly 30 million public Instagram posts.

This flood of mental health-related posts undeniably normalizes the discussion of mental illness. Young celebrities, influencers and private individuals alike have opened up about their mental health conditions, sharing videos and posts addressing their experiences, panic attacks, depressive episodes, recovery, etc.

In May 2021, former “Bachelorette” lead and current “Bachelor” host Kaitlyn Bristowe shared a selfie with her 2 million followers in which she spoke candidly about her mental health journey.

“I have led a pretty blessed life, and I still suffer from depression and anxiety,” she captioned the photo. “I still need to work on my shadows, stop believing the lies I tell myself, overcoming my traumas (big or small), and learning to love myself. Therapy has helped me for the last eight years more than I can put into words.”

The ABC star and influencer’s post received nearly 85,000 likes and hundreds of comments from followers who shared the difference that therapy made in their lives.

“Thank you for this reminder,” one commenter wrote. “Getting help is normal!”

Making Mental Illness Relatable

Beyond creating an open dialogue, social media platforms also encourage a fresh approach to coping with and explaining mental illness — specifically, using humor.

In one viral TikTok video, a creator jokes about placing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a common anti-depressant medication, in a colorful gumball dispenser. In another video, set to dramatic background music, a creator “keeps score” of her daily match against OCD. She wins a point when she allows items on her desk to remain out of place. OCD scores a point when she reverts to obsessive thinking. Both videos have received hundreds of comments from viewers who joked that they felt “personally attacked” by the accuracy of the clips.

Naturally, there are drawbacks to approaching mental illness with only humor and short captions. Mental health conditions are more complex than a two-sentence description and can result in serious complications if not treated appropriately.

However, tongue-in-cheek posts can make a mental health diagnosis seem less foreign or daunting. Perhaps beginning a medication regimen feels less intimidating knowing that another TikTok user has had a positive experience taking the same SSRI. Or maybe a day of “losing” to OCD doesn’t feel so isolating knowing someone else is facing a similar battle and finding ways to poke fun at the occasional setbacks.

As the robust comment sections on these posts suggest, social media platforms offer a place for healing and finding community — and, in the process, reducing stigma.

Showing Nuanced Depictions And Deepening Understanding

As individuals with mental illness frequently point out, Hollywood rarely offers an accurate depiction of their conditions. Reductive tropes in horror movies or brief, tragic character arcs on medical shows offer a limited understanding of what mental illness looks like day to day.

It’s no surprise, then, that a research study identified a failure to recognize symptoms as a barrier to treatment. If audiences understand dissociative identity disorder (DID) to be an affliction causing homicidal tendencies (as suggested in the 2016 thriller “Split”) or view borderline personality disorder (BPD) as a character flaw of chronically unstable and selfish women (as suggested in Grey’s Anatomy) they’re unlikely to identify their own behaviors as symptoms of mental illness.

Social media, while certainly not an immediate solution to this problem, does serve as a direct line from individuals to audiences. Simply put, users are free to share the real, mundane,

Hollywood-unfriendly version of mental health conditions — symptoms that audiences may be more likely to recognize in themselves.

Rather than seeing homicidal rage marketed by Hollywood, audiences are exposed to content creators experiencing fatigue, dissociation, obsessive thoughts or aversion to certain tasks and behaviors. They’re witnessing the day-to-day reality of BPD or OCD. They’re given implicit reminders that people living with mental illness are just people.

Hope For The Future

While social media is a complex tool that can exacerbate anxiety or promote unhealthy habits, it also contributes significantly to the ongoing dialogue surrounding mental health.

An estimated 4 billion people use some form of social media — and most of these users will see mental health-related content at some point while scrolling through their feeds. Much of the available content takes the form of personal stories, which both destigmatize mental health conditions and offer a fresh perspective of what mental illness really looks like.

As the next generation continues to share this perspective, we have reason to be optimistic that stigma-related barriers to care won’t last forever.

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An Introduction To Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is today one of the main and most important topics discussed in psychology. In our ego centered societies, reaching a high level of self-esteem for yourself is seen as a form of success, or even of completion.

The importance of the concept of self-esteem sometimes shows through declarations made by the States themselves, as it was the case in California in 1990, with the California Task Force to promote self-esteem and responsibility: “the lack of self-esteem is central to most personal and social ills plaguing our state and nation”.

The words that are being used here can seem unusually strong compared to the perceived importance of the issue by the general public.

To assess the real, accurate weight of the notion of self-esteem in our society, let us first try to define the concept. Self-esteem is actually a fundamental concept of the personality, encompassing three major components of the Self: behavioral, cognitive and emotional. First, the behavioral aspect of self-esteem can be found in how the latter has a power of influence on our capacity to take action and how it feeds itself and grows along with our successes.

Then, the cognitive aspect is expressed through the fact that self-esteem is highly dependent on how we judge ourselves, and how this judgement can also influence our level of self-esteem.

Finally, self-esteem is linked to emotions as it relies on our basic mood while also greatly influencing it. In a nutshell, a good level of self-esteem can help you be emotionally stable, perform a reliable and accurate evaluation of yourself and engage in action more easily.

In most cases, self-esteem is adjusted depending on the people present in our immediate environment. In reality, the concept of self-esteem cannot be conceived outside of a social group, a social environment. How would you judge yourself if you had nothing to compare yourself with?

Many studies have shown that for most of us, it is very important to be “better than average effect”. In other words, our self-esteem is mainly based on how we perceive ourselves in comparison to the others, where we place ourselves in the ‘people living on this planet’ ranking table. It may be surprising, but the crushing majority of people actually do believe they are better than others. In that regards, 90% of businessmen think of themselves as superior to the average businessman, 70% of top university students think they are more intelligent than average and 90% of high-school teachers believe they are better than their colleagues.

When it comes to friends, people still believe they are better than them, but they nevertheless consider them as being much better than the average person. It can seem nice at first sight, but this is actually related to our own self-esteem: if my friends are great people, and I happen to be even greater than them, I must be a really exceptional person!

For some academics, self-esteem can even be regarded as a “sociometer”. This means that we base our own self-esteem on whether people like or reject us, on where we feel we belong in the social scale of our environment. The more approbation one receives from his peers, the higher his self-esteem is likely to be.

What is important here is to feel loved, but not so much to be dominant. Being appreciated is more important than being the best, and this is where self-esteem differs from the notion of leadership – leadership is more likely to trigger self-satisfaction. We can take the example of a school class to illustrate this example: the most popular kid in the class can have more self-esteem than the kid getting the best grades.

The roots of self-esteem go back to the childhood of a person, and more precisely to the relationship that person had with her parents. Indeed, to saw its seeds in the long term, self-esteem needs to be nurtured with the unconditional love of the parents, a form of love that is completely disconnected from performance – may it be good grades, sports performances or any other thing. If the child evolves in an environment suitable for him to identify that his value is not linked to his performance level, then he is more likely to have a high self-esteem later in his adult life because he will have no, or a very small, fear to fail.

If failure does occur, a person with a higher level of self-esteem will also be less affected by it; while the latter will put the blame on external factors for his failure, the one with low levels of self-esteem will automatically blame himself (‘I’m not worth it’, ‘I suck’), thus lowering his self-esteem even more. It is possible to measure self-esteem in one given individual, and several methods are available for that.

One of them has been developed in 1967 by Stanley Coppersmith and is still largely used today. Three main dimensions are present in his inventory: general self-esteem, family self-esteem and social self-esteem.

In our daily life, self-esteem has built a strong link with optimism. If you are optimistic about your chances to succeed in a project you need or would like to engage in, not only your final success will be more likely but it will also bring you a raise in your self-esteem level as you can be proud of yourself.

Optimism itself will grow bigger as well, triggering the start of a virtuous circle. Resources and optimism used can be behavioral (if your behavior can influence the way the situation will turn out eventually) or emotional (if you have no control at all over the situation). Adaptability is thus influenced by self-esteem.

This explains why people with a low self-esteem take less action than the others and, in the end, succeed less. If you think this is your case, you need to take action now!

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