Archive for Anxiety

– By guest columnist, Ryan Rivera

There is no denying how powerful a role that anxiety can play in your life. Anxiety itself can be consuming. It can affect your mind, body, emotions and even spirit. It has the potential to put you in a negative mood that affects every aspect of your life. Anxiety:

  • Prevents you from taking risks.
  • Stops you from enjoying neutral events.
  • Makes it difficult to find happiness in your day.
  • Causes short and long term physical health issues.
  • Reduces your ability to cope with life events.

When you suffer from anxiety, your quality of life suffers. That is why it is important to fight the issues that create anxiety. Sometimes these are major life changes, such as ending a serious relationship or finding a new, better job. Yet other times the changes you need to make in your life are much smaller, and may be things that you never realized were creating anxiety at all.

How We Affect Our Own Anxiety

In life, you’ll find that you have a lot of different habits. While many of these habits may seem harmless, often times they only serve to fuel your anxiety and cause it to get progressively worse over time. Below are several examples of habits that may seem harmless but are actually causing your anxiety to get worse.

  • Staying Indoors

Have you ever felt a little sad and anxious, and decided that the best thing for you to do is spend some time alone? According to research, that is one of the worst things you can do for your anxiety. Being outdoors and spending time with others keeps you active, focuses your mind on productive tasks, and helps to stimulate pleasant feelings.

  • Coffee

Coffee may have some health benefits, but caffeine itself is a fuel for anxiety. It is not that coffee is causing the anxiety itself. Rather, it is increasing the effects of the physical symptoms, which cause you to experience your anxiety in a worse way, which increases your overall anxiety. Coffee may not be that bad for you, but when you have anxiety it can make it harder to recover. Cutting out coffee from your daily diet is an important first step in dealing with severe anxiety.

  • Shopping

Many people self-medicate their anxiety by buying something expensive that they believe will bring them happiness. Going shopping for clothes or electronics is a good way to dull any negative emotions, but shopping as a solution to anxiety will only make you temporarily happy. Once the joy of buying something new wears off, you will be exactly in the same place you were, and several hundred dollars poorer.

  • Music that Matches Your Mood

It’s well known that music can influence your mood. What is less well known, however, is that listening to music that matches your negative mood can actually cause your mood to be worse. Several studies have shown that listening to sad music because you’re sad will make you feel worse, not better. You should listen to music that represents the mood you wish to have, not the mood that you want to avoid.

  • Complaining

It’s important to talk about your problems, but it’s not a good idea to merely complain about your problems. If you do nothing more than complain, it only leads to feelings of regret and negativity. Your goal is to reduce your anxiety rather than fuel it, so rather than just complaining about what bothers you, talk about what bothers you while looking towards new ways to change it.

  • Skipping Meals

Breakfast is not just the most important meal of the day. It is also a tool to help you improve your anxiety. By skipping breakfast you are making your body work harder, which increases your anxiety and promotes greater physical symptoms. It is for this reason that crash diets, skipping meals, fad diets and anything that prevents you from getting a complete meal should be avoided. Making sure to eat every meal of every day (nutritionally balanced, of course) is important if you hope to fight anxiety symptoms.

  • Working in the Bedroom

Sleep is an important tool for combatting anxiety. Yet going to sleep at night is one of the most common times for men and women to experience severe anxiety. One of the primary reasons for this is that the bedroom is supposed to be a place that is only associated with sleep. Yet many people watch TV, do work, pay bills or play on their phones in their room and/or on their bed. All of these things create energy and stress, and those start to become associated with being in your room. Your room should be your sanctuary, nothing more, and anything that causes you stress should take place elsewhere in the house.

  • Internet and Social Media

These days many people practically live their lives online. Yet the Internet and computer do nothing to cure your stress or anxiety. Although they may be a slight distraction, they are not a substitute for activity and in person social experiences. Your computer also causes you to focus your eyes on light while remaining immobile – two things that keep your mind too activated, and can lead to anxiety later on in the night.

  • Letting The House Get Dirty

Dirt, clutter and allergens may seem fairly harmless, but the more disrepair and filth that builds up around you, the more you will find yourself unable to appreciate your home and its décor. A dirty house creates anxiety, and your own worries about how other people see your home can only serve to fuel it further.

Making the Little Changes

Anxiety is not only caused by serious life problems. Sometimes anxiety can be fueled by something as simple as a missed breakfast, or listening to music that puts you in a fouler mood. While an important aspect of reducing anxiety comes from making some major life changes, other times you may simply need to change some of your habits.

In addition to the above list, spend some time reflecting on your daily life and see if there is anything that contributes to your anxiety. You’ll find that you likely have many habits that seem harmless, but in the end make your anxiety worse.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera is an ex-anxiety sufferer and has more information about anxiety, symptoms and treatment at

Categories : Stress and Anxiety
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The Stress Response and Its Affects on Breathing

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The stress response was adaptive for physical survival

When prehistoric humans were in physical danger, they had to be prepared to fight or run away.  The stress response below helped them survive.

  1. Muscle tension:  Large skeletal muscles contract to prepare you for action (fight or flight) or to help you hold still and hide (the freeze response).  When chronic, this tension can cause pain and discomfort, especially in the shoulders, neck, back and head.
  2. Rapid breathing:  As the lungs attempt to provide the blood with more oxygen, hyperventilation (over-breathing) may occur.  Muscle tension and anxiety may also cause a person to hold their breath or to take quick shallow breaths.  Both can lead to faintness, dizziness and tingling.
  3. Dilated pupils:  The eyes allow in more light to help the person see the threat.
  4. Racing heart / palpitations / increased blood pressure:  More blood is pumped around the body carrying oxygen to produce energy.  Blood pressure may also increase due to constricted blood vessels.
  5. Blushing, sweating:  The body needs to get rid of the heat generated in the production of energy.
  6. Dry mouth and slowed digestion:  Digestions slows down or ceases because it is a non-vital function when facing a physical threat.  Saliva is part of the digestive process and is reduced when digestion slows.
  7. Restlessness:  Adrenaline causes a “rush” of energy.  Other stress hormones are also released that affect various organ systems.  Stress hormones take time to subside.
  8. Shaking or trembling:  Adrenaline may cause you to shake.  Also lactic acid buildup in the muscle tissues can cause shaking or trembling (often in anticipation of the threat or after the threat has passed).
  9. Intense Emotions: Fear motivates us to be cautious, to anticipate dangers, and to hide or run if necessary.  Anger can motivate us to defend ourselves or our loved ones… to fight.
  10. Effects on the mind:  Intense emotions, excess energy, and alarm may make it difficult to think clearly or focus.  Your mind may rapidly jump from one thought to another, you may have racing thoughts or worries, and you may have difficulty remembering things or making decisions.

The stress response is less adaptive in coping with modern stress

Although this stress response is useful in dealing with physical threats, it is much less useful in dealing with modern stressors like deadlines, finances, presentations, traffic jams or sensory overload.  It also doesn’t help much with positive stressors involved in growing, learning, pursuing your life dreams, and achieving goals.

Indeed, the stress response, especially when chronic, can create problems. Chronic stress can contribute to heart problems, digestion problems, decreased immunity, body aches and pains, headaches, and many other physical, emotional, mental, behavioral and social consequences.  Nonetheless, our bodies still react with the same old stress response.

That’s why it’s important to understand your natural responses to stress, and to learn how to manage stress effectively through a variety of strategies including: understanding your difficulties and triggers, problem-solving, self-care, communication skills, emotion management, cognitive strategies, time management, organization, mindfulness, and especially relaxation techniques (to calm the body).

Effects of stress on breathing

There is one part of the stress response that I’d like to discuss in more detail.  This is how our breathing responds to stress.  Breathing is important for two reasons.  First, breathing rapidly can create some frightening symptoms (e.g.: lightheadedness).  Second, breathing is something you can learn to control consciously, and therefore, something that you can use to trigger the relaxation response.

Hyperventilation or over-breathing (“fight or flight”)

Some people tend to hyperventilate (or over-breathe) when stressed.  In other words, they breathe faster and deeper than they need to.  This is part of the “fight or flight” response.  They’re actually breathing too much rather than not enough.  This may be more pronounced for some and subtle for others.

Hyperventilation can cause symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, headache and numbness or tingling in the hands, feet and lips.  Although someone who is hyperventilating feels that they can’t get enough air, they usually have normal levels of oxygen in their blood.

The problem is that hyperventilation causes you to breathe out more carbon dioxide than your body produces.  This reduces the carbon dioxide in the blood below its normal level.  This increases the pH level of your blood, which triggers the constriction of blood vessels, and thus reduces blood flow to your brain and other organs.  Because the blood is flowing through narrower blood vessels, it takes longer to bring oxygen to where it’s needed, making you feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen, even though it’s abundant in your bloodstream.

The catch is that since you feel like you’re not getting enough oxygen, you’re going to want to breathe even faster and deeper to supply more oxygen.  In so doing, you will be breathing out even more carbon dioxide, making your blood vessels constrict even more, and feeling even worse.

Tension and restricted breathing (“freeze or faint”)

Stress can also cause some people to tense up and take shallower breaths, and sometimes even to hold their breath.  This is part of the “freeze or faint” response which could help people to hide when in danger.

Such restricted breathing limits the amount of oxygen that you take in, and can reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood.  Therefore, your heart has to work harder to pump more blood to all your organs and tissues to supply them with oxygen.  The reduced amounts of oxygen in your blood can cause similar symptoms as caused by over-breathing:  lightheadedness, dizziness, headache and numbness or tingling in the hands, feet and lips.

A basic breathing technique

A basic technique you could use to counteract both of the above problems, and to trigger the relaxation response, includes the following three steps:

  • Focus your mind on your breath (and repeatedly re-focus when you get distracted again)
  • Slow down your breath by counting how long it takes to breathe in and out, and by extending your count every few breaths.  (you may start  with in-1, 2, 3, out-1, 2, 3, pause-1, 2… then add a count to each, breathe at this pace for a little while, until comfortable with this pace, then add another count, etc.
  • Continue for a few minutes of mindful, slow, deep, relaxed breathing.  Relax your muscles too while you’re at it.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Helping challenged kids during back-to-school time | Need to Know | PBS

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Every child faces challenges when heading back to school. But back-to-school time can be exceptionally difficult for the 20 percent of children who suffer from a psychiatric or learning disorder. The school environment can feel toxic to these children, for it demands so many things that summer activities don’t — the ability to sit still, get organized, stay on task, and adapt to a new, highly structured daily schedule. School also requires kids to separate from their parents and interact with peers — enormously challenging tasks for any child with anxiety.

via Helping challenged kids during back-to-school time | Need to Know | PBS.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Three Videos on Anxiety

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I just found “The Answered Patient” which is a series of educational videos from AnswersTV.  I picked three videos on anxiety to share with you.

This first video is an overview of anxiety:

This next video is about how psychotherapy can help with anxiety:

The third video is about how anxiety affects the body:

I hope you found these videos helpful.

If the embedded videos in this post did not come through on your e-mail subscription, please click the title of the post to view the videos on my website blog.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort. Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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Johns Hopkins: Depression|Anxiety on exercise|mood

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I have run across several such reports, which indicate that exercise is good for managing mood and anxiety.  I recently read another article that claimed that a 1/2 hour of aerobic exercise per day can have a similar effect as an antidepressant medication (I wish I could remember where I read that).

This article proposes several mechanisms for how exercise helps.  I believe they left out an important one with regards to anxiety.  Exercise can be cathartic and serve as a positive channel for excess tension and restlessness.

However, I do see one flaw in this article.  The study it cites appears to be a correlation study.  They administered questionnaires and saw that there is a correlation between exercise and improved mood and reduced anxiety.  They appear to make the classic mistake of reading causality into correlation.  I did not read the original research article, so I could be wrong, but this is a common mistake.  It is possible, for example, that it is easier to exercise when your mood is good (rather than vice versa).  Personally, I believe that the causation flows in both directions in this scenario.  Of course it is easier to exercise if you feel great… but you can also help yourself feel good by exercising.

Just 20 minutes a week of physical activity can make a difference in your mood. No one seems able to agree on how much exercise, or what type, is best for mental health. But a Scottish study, reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has found that just 20 minutes of any physical activity, including housework, in a week is enough to boost mental health.

Almost 20,000 men and women participated in the study, which involved taking a quiz for the Scottish Health Survey about their state of mind and how much weekly physical activity they engaged in. Using a standard scale to measure distress levels, over 3,000 participants were classified as suffering from distress and anxiety.

After controlling for factors such as age, gender, and long-term health conditions, the findings revealed that… (click to read more Johns Hopkins: Depression|Anxiety on exercise|mood.)

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park, IL (60477);  near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Orland Hills, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.  Click here for more about Anda Jines MS LCPC.

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What Happens When Stress Doesn’t Go Away?

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Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Often people wonder whether they feel depressed because of the stressors in their life, or whether things seem stressful because they’re depressed.  You could ask the same question about anxiety.  I believe that the causal relationship goes both ways.  People’s emotional predispositions combine with their life circumstances to result in their symtpoms.

The Role of Stress

Can constant stress literally cause a mood disorder? Possibly. Of course, not everyone with depression or anxiety has experienced a very stressful event — such as the death of a loved one, moving to a new town, or losing a job. And not everyone who is under stress develops depression or anxiety. But stressful events may induce changes in brain chemistry that predispose you to depression and anxiety.

Usually, we think of stress as a bad thing. But at its most basic level, stress is helpful. When your mind senses a dangerous situation — such as an animal about to attack — it triggers your body to react with the “fight or flight” response, which helps you do one of those two things.

The hypothalamus brain region signals your adrenal glands to release a surge of hormones…  (click here to read entire article)

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.

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Relax to the Sounds of Nature

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One of the best gifts my parents ever gave me is an appreciation for nature, and a habit of going for walks in beautiful places.  I still remember snapshots of our hikes in Poland, and of course everywhere else we’ve lived.

Tuning in to the Moment

I find that being in nature is one of the most relaxing things I can do.  It’s relaxing to stretch my limbs after a day in the office, to breathe in the forest scents and scenes, and to feel the coolness of a light breeze overlapping with the warmth of the sun.  But I notice the beauty most when I tune in to the sounds around me, especially the sounds of birds or water.  It’s a soothing way to tune in to the present moment, and to put the planning, problem solving, and worries of the daily grind on hold.

10 Minute Break

But I don’t always have the time to go there… or it might be too cold, rainy or dark (especially here in the Chicago area).  When I need a few minutes of relaxation, but can’t go for a walk, I can use my imagination.  A little help from a soundtrack like this makes it even easier.

I recommend that you close your eyes as you listen to this; and picture yourself in nature where these sounds came from.  Use your imagination to layer all your senses over these sounds.  What do you see… smell?  Can you taste the fresh air or clean water?  What objects or textures can you touch? Let your imagination envelop you completely in these sound-scapes.

Anda Jines MS LCPC offers mental health counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, in Tinley Park (60477); near Orland Park, Oak Forest, Palos Heights, Mokena, and Frankfort.

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Cloud Watching Relaxation

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Simple Relaxation

Do you remember, when you were a kid, laying in the grass, looking up at the clouds?  What a peaceful memory… what a simple way to relax.  Many of the relaxation exercises I see and use are much more elaborate, scripted, with music and “procedures.”  But I have always come back to the simplest relaxation techniques in my own day to day use.

Don’t Forget to Breathe

Mindful breathing and deep breathing are two other very simple relaxation techniques.  You always have your breath with you, and you can always use it to ground yourself, re-connect with the moment, and trigger the relaxation response.  Of course, you can combine gazing at the clouds with deep breathing very easily.

My Favorite Combination

The most peaceful scene I have experienced combines gazing and clouds, deep breathing and floating in water.  There was a beautiful lake in southern Illinois, lake Kinkaid, with a few trails following its shores.  I used to walk my dog there.  Every once in a while I went far enough to reach a secluded spot perfect for swimming.  I would float on my back in the water, breathing slowly, deeply, using my breath as a flotation device, and just watching the clouds.  Having my ears be underwater added a special muffling effect that I found very soothing.  Although I cannot go there now, I can still visit that spot in my imagination.  I will always remember it.

Cloud Relaxation

Here is a short video about watching clouds for relaxation.  This video is intended to be watched in the morning.  As you listen to the description of the experience, let yourself imagine being there with all your senses.  Relax, and enjoy…

Categories : Stress and Anxiety
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Saying No to Fear

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I used to coordinate the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) program at Southern Illinois Regional Social Services, in Carbondale, IL.  Dr. Marsha Linehan, who developed DBT, brought together Western and Eastern ideas in a unique way, to help people who have issues with self-sabotage, self-harm and suicidality.  A core principle taught in DBT is the importance of mindfulness and breath in managing your emotional reactions.   Here is an article that talks about the same techniques, and how they can be used in controlling fear.

Lying in my tent, I gaze up at a blue-black blanket of sky pierced by a billion silver, effervescent stars. The final fingers of smoke from the dying fire drift through the campsite, and the essence of crispy marshmallow and molten chocolate lingers on my lips as I drift off to sleep. I begin to dream of the Alaskan sunrise–the mist gently rising from the moss as the sun, introduced by the red, pink, and orange light of morning, creeps from behind the towering mountains. My slumber is perfect, peaceful, warm…until the tent crashes down upon me under the weight of a 900-pound grizzly bear. I try to scramble away from the angry, razor-sharp claws, but I’m enveloped in my tent. I’m trapped, with no way out… (click here to read entire article)

If you’re looking for counseling and mental health services in Tinley Park, Oak Forest, Orland Park, and the surrounding area, please call 708-429-6999 to set up an appointment or to ask questions. Tinley Park counseling service, Oak Forest counseling service, Orland Park counseling service. Call today.
Anda Jines MS, LCPC, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Offering counseling services in the southwest suburbs of Chicago

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