Yoga for anxiety and depression. It works!

Have a look at this press release from Boston University and Maclean Hospital. If their research is repeatable then Yoga could be an important treatment for anxiety and depression.

Yoga practitioners have long insisted that there was an important mind and body angle to yoga. But this has been lost somewhat amongst the mass of alternative and complimentary therapies on other. In reality lots of therapists that offer whacky remedies at huge cost don’t want us to know that there are other, much cheaper options that may well be more effective.

My personal experience of Yoga and Anxiety

When I suffered from anxiety on a regular basis I used to visit a yoga centre in Totnes in Devon. I had a very good teacher and the yoga itself felt good. It was very relaxing. Let me say that first. I can really believe that on anxiety or stress alone yoga is probably very potent. I felt relaxed enough to sleep!

Is Yoga the answer then?

No, yoga was not the answer to my anxiety. Because Anxiety is a very complicated thing. In my experience, anxious people don’t like sudden change, and becoming suddenly relaxed after years of tension can be very disorientating. I believe that sufferers of anxiety and depression choose to suffer, subconsciously (in some case for secondary gain reasons). I believe that it is important to treat the whole condition, and that does include a cognitive side and a psychotherapeutic side, as well as physical and soul issues.


When the physical tension of anxiety was removed I didn’t feel fantastic. I actually felt a bit bemused because all of my underlying issues were closer to the surface.  

For those reasons I would say that Yoga can be an important part of a wider treatment strategy, and if practised regularly an alternative to drug therapy, but not an entire treatment strategy is itself.

“Here’s the quote: 

Using magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging, the researchers compared the GABA levels of eight subjects prior to and after one hour of yoga, with 11 subjects who did no yoga but instead read for one hour. The researchers found a twenty-seven percent increase in GABA levels in the yoga practitioner group after their session, but no change in the comparison subject group after their reading session….Our findings clearly demonstrate that in experienced yoga practitioners, brain GABA levels increase after a session of yoga,” said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at BUSM and a research associate at McLean Hospital.”


Breaking the Anxiety Habit

What if Anxiety was just a habit. What if we habitually had the same thoughts, put ourselves in the same situations, disrespected ourselves, and reacted in the same way.

I have to admit that I am a little bit fat. Not obese in anyway, but overweight, heavier than I want to be. I will also freely admit that being overweight effects my self-image and self-esteem. I think diet, anxiety and digestion are intrinsically linked which is why I have started to put together a section on IBS. I digress.

In my desire to lose weight I have started investigating various studies, theories and programmes. Obviously quick-fix diets don’t work any better than quick-fix cures for anxiety, so they are out. Also, exercise regimes which require high motivation are also out, I know myself well enough.

Recently I came across a theory which says that being overweight isn’t to do with eating too much and exercising too little. They are just symptoms of a wider problem, a problem which, when correctly identified, can be easily dealt with. You guessed it, the problem which causes poor diet, low motivation for exercise, and obesity is all to do with habit.

On reading this theory further I think the same can be applied to anxiety. I am testing the theory on myself over the next three weeks, and when I have seen the results I will post back here. So far it looks promising! I’ll keep you posted!

By the way, this is NOT some expensive programme where you have to pay $100 through PayPal to some guy with a bad haircut who promises the world. It is all in a book which is quite possibly freely available in your local library. I won’t recommend it though until I have tried it myself!

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We need better funding for mental health issues

This week a report was released into the suicide of a teenage boy (18 years old) in Northern Ireland. As reported on the BBC the Care Trust involved has admitted failings. But again this kind of tragedy goes to show that mental health issues are still not properly funded or understood by mainstream healthcare professionals and organisations.

On the day that he died, the victim in this case had tried to get himself admitted to hospital but had failed, as a specialist nurse wrongly assessed his suicide risk as “low”. Hours later he hung himself.

In this case there were the usual breakdowns in communication and confusion which are unfortunately the hallmark of a modern health service in these “outsourced” times. But further more I think there is still a lack of understanding and compassion from the side of the medical establishment.

There is still a massive misconception that patients can be cured of depression and anxiety through medication. There is still a massive misconception that anxiety and depression are somehow not real health concerns.

More training, or a change in training is needed to improve healthcare professionals understanding of these conditions.

Until doctors, nurses and managers start to look at more than just the short term cost-effectiveness of treatment tragedies like this will continue to happen again and again.

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Relapse Signature – anxiety, panic, agoraphobia and depression

What do you do before it all goes wrong?

Most people who have anxiety, panic, agoraphobia, depression, bipolar have good days and bad days. And often people find that they have good periods, weeks or months where things are going well and they feel better, or at least not so bad. However, instead of turning into prolonged recovery, these periods often end in either gradual or sudden decline back to a bad state that you know only to well from the past.

It often seems like this kind of relapse or setback happens without any reason, but in truth nothing in life happens for no reason at all. Everything is linked by cause and effect. That means that the cause of the relapse or setback can give you important clues on how to deal with or overcome your condition.

They key is to understand your “Relapse Signature”.

What is a “Relapse Signature”?

A relapse signature is the individual events, emotions or situations that lead you to relapse. I use the plural here deliberately as you may have several patterns of behaviour that lead you to relapse, or more than one.

The important thing is to watch yourself. When you feel worse examine what happened, how you felt, what was going on in your life, at work, home, with friends.

You may well then have to look at what caused that, and at what caused the cause! You are like a detective working backwards. It might be beneficial to see if a trusted friend can help you. Sometimes other people see things about us that we don’t know about ourselves.

My personal relapse signature.

Personally, I managed to trace my relapse signature to a point where I start to feel out of control in my life. Maybe people or work is invading my personal space, or I found myself going along with decisions that effected me that I didn’t like, for the sake of avoiding conflict.

Sometimes quite minor things can build up. Think of it as a mug which is being filled by drips. Eventually the mug will overflow, but as you can’t see through the sides of a mug you don’t know when that will be. That is why it is important to trace the causes back, possibly over several relapses, to get to the original cause.

So now I can be on the look out for situations where my locus of control is negatively impacted. Some I have to accept (taxes) and some I can change (pushy friends). What is important is that I take control of some, and learn to think rationally and consciously about the others, instead of letting them fester inside me. That way I can stop relapses before they start!

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Depression and Drug Use

It has long been known that so called “recreational drugs” have exacerbated the risk of mental illness in those with a predisposition.

So obviously the best advice for people who suffer from anxiety and depression is to stay away from recreational drugs and over-indulgence in alcohol.

There is one more area in which you should be careful, and that is the area of prescription drugs and over the counter medications.

Unfortunately, it is naive to assume that the professional bodies that oversee the licensing of prescription drugs will be sufficiently meticulous to demand research into mental health side-effects is carried out.

Unfortunately, many people have found that all sorts of drugs have worsened, or even brought on, symptoms of anxiety and depression. This is particularly true of drugs which in anyway effect brain chemistry, weight, libido, or sleeping habits

This week the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted to ban weight-loss pill “Rimonabant” over concerns regarding suicidal thoughts. This drug is, at present, still available in Europe but this is shortly to be reviewed. There seems to be an ongoing battle between the big-pharma companies and consumers and licensing bodies regarding the necessity to research mental health issues in terms of drug side effects.

What should you do if you get prescribed a new drug and you are worried?

My advice is to speak to the doctor prescribing the drug about your concerns. If you get any negative side effects at all, speak to the doctor (or another doctor if the prescribing doctor is not available) at once!

Also, spend some time on the Internet. Investigate how others have reacted to these drugs.

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A guide to drugs and medication for anxiety, depression, panic etc.

Treatment Options.

Anxiety and Diet

Many people believe that there is a link between anxiety and diet, which was one reason for me adding a section IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) to Anxiety2calm.

In terms of diet I would give two pieces of advice.

Firstly, get to know your own body. Everyone is different and different foods effect people in different ways. See if what you eat effects how you feel, and see if the state of your stomach effects your anxiety or low mood.

Secondly, remember that a healthy body and a healthy mind are often one and the same thing. I don’t believe people who think everything bad in life is down to wheat allergy, but that said it is worth investigating what foods may have adverse reactions on your body and mind. In Gut Instinct, Pallardy advises that reducing your intake of sugary foods, acidic foods, and red meat might help reduce anxiety. He also reminds you to eat slowly and and to not take part in highly regimented diets or fasting, as this can make anxiety worse.

All I would add to that is: start listening to your body. When you have anxiety it is often easy to focus all the time on your mind and your thoughts and your breathing which you are sure is out of control and your racing heart beat. Start to focus on other areas of your body, get in touch with your stomach. I knows they taste good, but sweeties, candy, chocolate cakes etc may not be helping you in the long run!

Gut Instinct and is by Pierre Pallardy has sections on healthy eating, abdominal massage, abdominal meditation and much more besides.

It is available from US Amazon and UK Amazon.

The advice in Gut Instinct can really help lift your mood. 

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Your personal stress detox program

Sorry there hasn’t been a post for ages….More coming soon. I found this at lifehack and thought it was interesting! Summertime is a good time to deal with stress!

I have been thinking recently about the importance of taking enough vacation to get a real break from work. Here’s how to use the upcoming vacation season to make a huge impact on the load of stress that you’re almost certainly carrying around.

  1. Make sure that you take a long-enough vacation for the program. You need at least seven days, preferably more if you can manage it. Any less won’t give you the time to make a real impact on your mind or body.
  2. Make a list of what you must leave behind: your laptop, your BlackBerry, your PDA, any paperwork from the office, any work-related reading matter. You must treat those as a recovering alcoholic should treat beer, wines, or spirits: absolutely forbidden!
  3. Give your cellphone to someone whom you can trust to prevent you using it during your vacation, except in the direst emergency. No “checking in” with the office. No telling colleagues they can contact you if they need to.

  4. Make it clear to everyone at work that you’re not contactable. If necessary, tell them that there’s no cellphone signal where you’re going, no Internet links, and no possibility of getting anywhere where electronic communications are available. (Consider the message you give when you resolutely remain in contact during your vacation, or make others check in with you. It says: “I don’t trust you not to mess up, because you’re a moron, you’re incompetent, or you’re such an asshole that you’ll stab me in the back as soon as I walk out the door.”)
  5. Travel these days is very stressful.Try not to travel too far. Make plans that include lots of lay-over time, so you won’t be fretting about making that next flight.
  6. While you’re away, ask that trusted person to answer all phone calls. Never pick up the phone yourself. The rule is no contact from anyone concerned with work, save in a genuine emergency (and I mean genuine, like the office burned down).
  7. Pick a vacation that includes lots of places to go, things to see and do, and fresh experiences to keep you fully engaged. Don’t lie on a beach or hang around the pool. Boredom will send you mind scurrying back to work-related issued and have you imagining all kinds of problems waiting for you. Then you’ll try to find some way of getting in touch.
  8. Stay in the moment. No past. No future. Simply pay attention to what is happening right here and right now. Most of us spend nearly all our time worrying about what’s going to happen, or analyzing what did. You can do nothing to change the past and the future is unknowable. But both can prevent you from enjoying what’s here, right now.
  9. Let go. Let go of worries, fears, hopes, expectations, anxieties. they will still be there when you get back, so try to ignore them for the period of your vacation.
  10. Get plenty of sleep. Most people are chronically sleep-deprived. Make sure you can have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at might. Maybe throw in a few siestas as well.
  11. Accept how things are. Don’t try to imagine the perfect vacation. Don’t judge it against any preset ideas, or against past vacations, or against other people’s ideas of how it should be. Just accept whatever comes.
  12. Don’t watch TV. None. If you want to watch a film, make sure it’s the kind you get on a special channel, not one on a regular network. Let the world look after itself. No checking up on the stockmarket either.
  13. Reading is fine, but must not include anything even remotely work-related. Try to choose something other than typical pulp fiction. Something to stimulate your mind and challenge your habitual ways of thinking.
  14. Listen to music. Better still, play some music. Sound and rhythm are great healers.
  15. If you find yourself feeling bored and with nothing to do, do something energetic that won’t let you sit and think about work, or about how bored you are. Play some sport. Go for a walk. Swim. Go to the gym.
  16. If you find yourself spending hours just enjoying what you’re doing and thinking about nothing in particular, congratulations. Your program is a success!

 

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