Monday, November 9, 2015

What You Need to Know: Positive Affirmations & Positivity

I have been reading many gratitude and thankful lists on blogs recently. I love this and I think it’s great that people take the time to realize all the wonderful things and moments in their lives. While I think it’s great that so many people are writing these kinds of posts, I would love to suggest to everyone to take the time learn about positive affirmation and decide if writing these would be a beneficial addition. Toward the end of this post I have a link to my full list of my own positive affirmations as well as the 5 daily repeated affirmations I tell myself.

I keep using positive affirmations as part of my routine because it helps me when things get stressful and this year has been especially stressful for me. My mom died early this year and my grandpa died recently. I lost my good job that I had worked so hard to get and that my mom had been so proud of me for having. In addition to these events, I have health issues and more specifically emotional disorders. I struggle with anxiety nearly daily and I go through periods of depression. For these reasons alone, I work on being more positive and with the events of this year I needed those affirmations all the more.

I believe positive affirmations are important because studies have shown that being consistently more positive than negative is beneficial to our overall health. While a recent study showed that being overly positive does not greatly improve oneself physical and emotional wellbeing, it did show how much of a negative impact negativity has on our wellbeing and how being moderately positive does improve our overall wellbeing. I guess the point here is that too much of anything is not a good thing. Being too positive is not more beneficial and it would be better to work on being consistently positive and preventing negativity.

Being positive is beneficial to our health, according to Mayo Clinic, by having a positive outlook it enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. When people are feeling stressed the body is harmed by the chemical reactions that occur in the brain and nervous system. People feeling constant stress tend to develop emotional issues like depression and anxiety which creates a cycle of harmful reactions from feeling stressed.

The idea here is that people need to prevent stress in themselves by being more consistently positive than negative and this will help them to have a healthier mental health status. They will also have more motivation and determination in their tasks and goals which will help people feel like life is easier. There are many benefits to having a positive outlook and more than just mental health, but also physical health.

Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Affirmations are New Thought and New Age terminology referring to the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment. New Thought and New Age are belief systems that focus on the idea that humans have a responsibility to take part in positive creative activity and to work to heal ourselves, each other and the Earth.

One way to live up to these ideals is to work hard on ourselves to improve our own mental and emotional wellbeing. Positive affirmations are a simple and easy way to start making improvements and think creatively while being more positive. An affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should be repeated to one's self and if possible written down frequently. For a positive affirmation to be most effective, it should to be in present tense, personal and specific.

One suggestion is to write the same 5 positive affirmations daily with the flexibility of changing one or more of them as your goals in life change. Creating positive affirmations and writing them down once is not enough. The point in creating and using positive affirmations is to improve our health as well as helping to improve how people are as people. This is why it’s important to repeat them on a daily basis, because the more we repeat these personal affirmations to ourselves the more our subconscious and conscious both believe them to be true and thus our natural behavior tends to align with those beliefs.

There are different affirmations for different intentions. Some affirmations are to help prevent negative feelings like fear, sadness, hopelessness, and anger. Positive affirmations can also be for self-esteem, empowerment, and to give you confidence. The important thing to remember is to make your affirmations personal and specific to your goals whether that’s you wanting to feel more beautiful or you want to ward off a negative emotion that keeps creeping in on you.  

Right now my main focus is on giving myself more confidence and having self-compassion as well as keeping calm and relaxed. I know I am doing better than I was a few months ago and I think I can give credit to putting my mind to work and repeating these 5 affirmations to myself daily.

My 5 Positive Affirmations:
I fill my mind with peaceful thoughts
I am worthwhile and capable even though I make mistakes
I forgive myself, because I lovingly accept my human limitations
I have inner power and strength to get through anything
I have the courage to see beauty in all the possibilities, even in the face of pain

I would suggest making a longer list of positive affirmations and choosing 5 that are more important and urgent. As life moves and things begin to change, you can refer back to that master list of affirmations and possibly pull out a new one to work on to replace one that you feel you have mastered. My master list of positive affirmations can be found on Diary of Emily Rose. Go check it out!

What is one of your positive affirmations? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Spooky Thoughts, Spooky Feelings: Panic Attacks and Symptoms

Anxiety is a spooky disorder and it is the most common mental health disorder in the USA affecting at least 18% of the population according to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America). There is not a true difference between an Anxiety attack and a Panic attack; these terms are interchangeable. My preference is to call them Panic attacks.

These attacks occur for people affected with different anxiety disorders and it is seen as a symptom of an anxiety disorder, but people who have a panic attack due to the fear of having a panic attack are diagnosed with Panic Disorder which is commonly in addition to another anxiety or depressive disorder or other mental illness and is rarely diagnosed as a standalone disorder.

Feeling a chill, you get goose bumps down your neck and down your arms. The hair is standing up and you can feel your skin, some even say it feels like their skin is electric or vibrating. This feeling and the goose bumps happens frequently for people who have anxiety. Goose bumps and feeling your skin (different sensations for different people) is a common symptom of anxiety.

For me this feeling and the goose bumps are a warning to me that I am about to have a Panic attack or an anxiety attack. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. I had struggled with these disorders since I was a teenager and then being in a highly abusive relationship re-enforced my mental health disorders.

In 2010, I had enough of the debilitating nature of these disorders and I had hit the peak of severity as well as hit rock bottom in my abusive relationship. I finally had the courage to seek help in getting out the abusive relationship and I began to take a look at myself. I realized I needed help with me as well.

I needed to make changes and start to conquer my disorders. I had enough of being controlled. I was ready to be in control of my disorders and of my own life. As someone who has multiple different anxiety disorders, I have experienced a variety of panic and anxiety attacks. I sought professional therapeutic help and thus began my journey toward recovery through cognitive behavior therapy techniques.

Learning about Panic Attacks
The first step to making changes is to realize that changes need to be made. I had that plus motivation! Next I needed to learn more about Panic attacks and about the anxiety disorders that were affecting me. With this post as well as my post about trauma, which is found here, I hope to help others understand more about these disorders and their symptoms.

There are over 15 different anxiety disorders, not including OCD Disorders, listed in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) which lists the criteria for mental health disorders including symptoms of those disorders. Each of these disorders has the potential to have the symptom of having Panic attacks.

While some experience just a few symptoms during each panic attack, others may experience most or all of the symptoms at once. Also the symptoms experienced may vary with each panic attack and between different people. Some people who have panic attacks will experience the same few symptoms each time. The point here is no one experiences Anxiety the same as someone else.

A key factor to Panic attacks is that they typically hit a person without warning and many times without real reasons. Panic attacks can be normal for people who face crisis situations, like a car accident or someone breaking into their house, but for people with anxiety disorders panic attacks are not rational and happen without a realistic cause.

Panic attacks tend to peak within a few minutes and this peak normally last 10 minutes or longer. Feeling worn out and tired is very common after the panic attack subsides. According to DSM-V, at least 4 or more of the following symptoms must occur simultaneously for someone to be considered having a Panic attack. If less than 4 are present, than it is simply called having some anxiety.

Symptoms of Panic Attacks:
Palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
Sweating, clammy palms
Trembling or shaking
Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering/unable to breathe
Feelings of choking
Chest pain or discomfort including but not limited to tightness, heaviness, and pain
Nausea or abdominal distress (may vomit)
Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
Chills or heat sensations
Paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations)
Fear of losing control or “going crazy” and/or feeling as though you are
Fear of dying and/or feeling as though you are
Derealization - is when you have thoughts and/or feelings of unreality
Depersonalization - is when you have the feeling of being detached from oneself (like feeling out of body)

A More Uncommon Type of Panic Attack
Some people may experience a less common type of panic attack called an impending doom panic attack which is when a person has a strong overwhelming feeling of fear disproportionate to reality and they feel as though someone or something is going to get them. The latter feeling is one that can be both delusional and paranoid or it can be one or the other.

I was unfortunate that I had numerous impending doom panic attacks. I was afraid of monsters in the shadows and behind corners. I believed during an impending doom panic attack that there really were monsters and that they were going to jump out at me to maim and kill me. I would be on the edge of edge, more than just jumpy, when in this state and any little surprise or unexpected noise would startle me to the bone.

Within seconds of these attacks subsiding, I would break free of those delusions and I would feel childish and silly for having thought and believed such nonsense. But during these attacks nothing could convince me of the truth, that monsters aren’t real. I even stopped watching monster movies, horror, for a few years thinking this would help me by preventing new ideas of spooky scary monsters from slipping into my memory to be used against me later during a Panic attack.

Anxiety is Treatable
There is help for anyone who has Panic attacks. Professional therapists are out there who specialize in helping people learn how to cope with having panic attacks. Some people are able to get to the root cause of their fears and the reasons behind why they are having attacks. Once that issue is resolved, panic attacks tend to diminish and go away.

For others, the reason why can’t be resolved completely and those people need to learn better coping skills and what works for them to stop a panic attack when they happen. For some, medication is what helps them most, but this is not a long term solution. It would be much better to resolve the issues causing the attacks and learn how to cope with them.  

Exposure therapy and Self-talk are two techniques that helped me.

When faced with my delusions, I began to challenge them with self-talk. I would talk to myself in my head questioning my thoughts and stopping them from continuing, like changing the subject in a conversation, I would change what I was thinking about and this would help to end the panic attack. This was the most valuable technique I learned on how to stop a Panic attack from escalating and at times I could stop an attack in its beginning. Self-talk is also very good for giving me confidence and reassurance. I use self-talk with exposure therapy as well as by itself.

Exposure therapy is when I would put myself in uncomfortable situations that caused me great anxiety and could throw me into a panic attack on purpose and with the intent to stay in that situation for as long as it took for me to start feeling comfortable with it. I would start small and increase the difficultly as I mastered the lesser tasks.

Example of Exposure Therapy  
I was afraid of the shadows and darkness. I learned through self-exploration that this was really me being scared of the unknown since I can’t see in the dark that well and seeing in the shadow is also difficult. Fearing the unknown is not something I can just get over or resolve. So I started small by trying to sit in dimmer light while working on homework or blogging. This made me uncomfortable but not too much. That uncomfortable feeling went away and it felt easy to sit in the dimly lit living room.

Next I turned all the lights off in the living room and surrounding rooms, but did this only during the day. It was even dimmer, but some light from outside still shown through and gave me some light. I was once again uncomfortable with this, but not too much. And once again over time and repetition, that uncomfortable feeling went away and it was easy.

Finally, I made it most difficult by doing that same no lights on at night. Now I was very uncomfortable, but not nearly as much as I was in the beginning before I went through this process. Although I was uncomfortable in total darkness, I was no longer feeling a panic attack coming on. I was able to handle that darkness without the delusional fears creeping into my mind. I continued to work in total darkness until that too became comfortable and it was easy. And now I no longer fear the darkness and I haven’t had a panic attack from the darkness in over 2 years!

This has been a post in response to Fabulous Fridays weekly prompts linkup. This week’s prompt is Spooky. Interpret the prompt any way you wish, but be sure to link up with us!

Fabulous Fridays is brought to you by the admins of Bloggers for Life, a Facebook blogging group. If you have not joined already, we would love to see you in there, so stop by and join here.

Next week’s prompt for Fabulous Fridays is 10 Fun Facts about You!

Link up with us! This week will stay open until Thursday, November 5th at Midnight.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

10 Quotes for Inspiration in Life

“It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” – Charles Darwin

I think what Charles Darwin is saying here is that humanity needs to remain flexible in life. By staying flexible and working with what comes our way instead of fighting the changes, we as people will have the ability to adapt to new situations. This will prevent undue stress that is mainly created in our mind. Which brings me to the next quote:

“The mind is everything. What you think you become.”  – Buddha

I agree with Buddha! The mind is a very powerful thing and a major part of our lives. If more people would focus on their own thoughts and in what way are they thinking about things, I am confident that these people would have more control over their thoughts and hopefully they will realize that all the negative thoughts they have are making their lives more negative. So think nice and positive thoughts that way nice and positive things will be in your life.

“You can’t do anything to change the past, but by changing your thoughts and actions in the present moment, the future is yours to create.” – Tom Venuto

Many times people get caught up thinking about the past and what could have been. Instead it would be much more beneficial to live in the moment and focus on your present thoughts and actions. Making the appropriate changes to increase the positivity in your life will also increase your overall happiness. We all have the power to pave a better future for ourselves. All we need to do is let go of the past and focus on the here and now.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” – Epictetus

This is a very true statement. By trying to control something is truly outside of our control is utterly useless and can create a great deal of stress. By letting go of things outside of our immediate control we are left with only the things we can control which lessens our stress levels and increases overall happiness. This is something I have been working on in myself for the past few years and I have made tremendous progress. I have felt a great weight lifted off my shoulder and I feel much freer to just be and that makes me happy!

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Love is about giving and very little to do with receiving. I think it is much better to give your heart and soul into the love you have for others. There are different kinds of love, but one thing remains the same across the board and that is the fact of caring more about that other person’s happiness above your own. I agree with this ideal of love and what it means to love someone else.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein

Life and time do not stop for anyone or anything. The only way to succeed in life is to keep moving with the flow of life. It’s important to me to improve my life and keep moving forward. I try my best to stay focused on the now in order to pave the way for the future that I desire. If you try to stop then you will most likely crash. Crashing in life is not a failure, but merely a setback that takes times and energy to fix. I have had my share of setbacks and in fact I had one this year. It has been a hard year for me, but I have picked myself back up and I am once again moving forward with my life. It may be hard, but sometimes the best thing in life is to keep moving despite the hardships.

“Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill

Courage is a valuable attribute for anyone to have and it is much needed. In order to keep moving in life, and to be flexible with life’s different changes, it is important to have courage. By having courage, we as people are strong and able to overcome any and all adversities that we are faced with. Sometimes I struggle with having courage, but I seek out little reminders and support that signal to me that I am able to handle this situation. Nothing in life lasts forever and this tough situation will soon pass. This is a statement I tell myself when things get really hard and I feel like giving up. By talking to myself and reassuring myself, I give myself the courage to continue and not give up.

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” – Charles Swindoll

While it is true that things happen in life that are outside our control, the truth is there is something we can always control and that is how we react. The best reaction is to act with careful thought. Focusing your thoughts on what you are about to do or say will help you make sure you are doing the right things. You can always be in control of yourself and I believe the first step to this is to control your thinking.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

Sometimes words carry heavy weight and can mean the world to people, but what they remember isn’t what you said word for word, but rather they remember the feeling those words invoked in them. Having someone help you to feel a strong emotion makes for a strong memory. Sometimes memories are all we have left and I think it’s highly important to leave your loved ones with good memories and that means creating strong (hopefully good) feelings between you. Sometimes the simplest thing, such as smiling, can make a huge difference in the way interactions take place. I hope people become more aware of the affect they can have on others as well as the feelings they are helping to create in others. Let’s try to make happy positive feelings!

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”  – Robert Frost

I can remember the many times my mom would ask me ‘why must you always take the harder path?’ and I remember thinking to myself that I wasn’t trying to take hard roads, but I didn’t believe I could just take other people’s word on what I should do. I had to learn for myself and make my own mistakes. Trust me I have made plenty of them, but I am grateful for all of my life’s experiences. I have learned and grown into the woman I am today, because I had refused to take the easy route of following in someone else’s footsteps. I wanted to create my own road and travel down it on my own. I had always been more individualistic and I felt I needed to be myself. By taking that “hard” road, the one less traveled, I have become strong and I have been fortunate to have many great opportunities for both success and learning.

What are some quotes you find to be inspirational?

Have you been taking the road less traveled? What are the pros and cons to taking the harder road?