Tag Archives: Anxiety

The Science Behind Anxiety.

As an anxious person, I have come to understand that information is key, knowledge is power. I like to know as much information about something as possible, so my anxious brain can asses the “risks” and prepare me for what comes next. If you suffer from anxiety, I am sure you can relate to that train of thought more than you’d care to admit!

Since I have decided to dedicate this blog to mental health and my progress in regards understanding my anxiety more, I have been doing a lot of research. It occurred to me that I had never really took the time to look up the biological and psychological reasoning for anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I know small amounts of information about it but I never really delved into the science behind it, until now.

And what I discovered, was strangely comforting.

First off, I want to make it clear that everyone one has their own issues and experience(s), that has led them to developing anxiety. However, the way anxiety works is always the same. It is a physiological result of your body reacting to stress. In short, your body is literally trying to protect you from danger by producing a fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or flight response is a reaction your body produces to protect yourself from perceived, impending danger. Back in the cave man days, this was really useful for fighting off wild animals etc. and essentially kicked our brains into survival mode. During this response, the brain releases a chemical in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. During this time, chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) are released into our blood streams. Blood rushes to the lower half of our body, our heart rate increases and our senses sharpen, keeping us incredibly alert to the potential dangers that surround us. So, ironically, stress doesn’t set out to kills us, it actually wants us to survive! But sometimes, it sure doesn’t feel that way.

The problem with anxiety in modern, western society, is that we aren’t avoiding dinosaurs or hunting for food daily to survive anymore, but our bodies still react the same way to perceived danger. Prolonged stress can often result in a list of physiological and psychological problems, such as irrational thoughts, irrational fear, headaches, stomach cramps etc. Anxiety affects the entire body if external and internal stressors aren’t dealt with. Anxiety doesn’t need to know specifically why you are stressed, it just reacts to stress accordingly.

http://www.cbtandfeelinggood.com/

In regards to the anatomy of the brain, the stress hormones and stress regulatory systems at play are the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala and the hippocampus. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that helps us with planning and contributes to personality development, it is the “higher thinking” part of our brain. The amygdala is located behind each ear and this part of the brain is responsible for survival instincts, emotional behavior and fear. When signaled, the amygdala will interact with the hippocampus, which will in-turn allow the brain to connect emotion to events, releasing stress hormones. Basically, anxiety trips your poor amygdala, which is trying to act like a house alarm by letting you know danger is near, when really there is nothing life threatening happening externally at all.

Your brain is literally “triggering” you. If you are in a situation similar to something stressful you experienced in the past, your memory has stored that as an unpleasant event. Which will fire up your amygdala, conjuring up all of the emotions and frightening memories you had in the past, as it prepares your body to deal with impending doom.

Neurologically speaking, your overactive amygdala wants the best for you but your prefrontal cortex is really fucking tired of it’s shit. All the while, your hippocampus is trying to regulate your stress hormones to calm you down but because your amygala is firing loads of warning signals, it can’t do it’s job properly. Too much cortisol (stress hormone) can actually create disfunction in how your brain stores and recalls memories. That’s right, anxiety isn’t just a bad mood, it’s literally something that chemically changes how your brain functions and reacts.

Isn’t it sort of nice to know that it’s not just you? This is how every anxious brain chemically reacts.

I discovered a lot of this mind-blowing information from the author Caroline Foran and her book Owning It, which I would highly recommend to anyone suffering with anxiety. (This is not sponsored, I just really like the book and am finding it very informative!) 

Thank you for taking the time our of your day to check out my blog. I hope you found this post useful. Make sure to check back next week, where I will be sharing more tips, thoughts and useful (hopefully!) information. Let’s break the stigma together!

You are not broken, you are not a freak and you are certainly not alone.

Ellie. xo

Let’s break the stigma.

It’s taken me a while to finally sit down and write this blog post. However, I decided that instead of trying to write the perfect post, I would just let the words flow from the heart.

Without going in to personal details, I can safely say that this month has been one of the hardest months I’ve ever had. I have taken a step back and have been doing a lot of self-reflection. I feel as though I have finally admitted to myself that something has to be done, in regards to my self-esteem and issues with anxiety. I have tried to put a band-aid on it for too long now and I have to take responsibility and do something about it. That’s not to say that I haven’t made progress with my mental health over the years. I certainly have, but I must admit that more can be done to improve my well-being, relationships and my life. This is sentiment is true for most people.

Sometimes we ignore ourselves because we don’t think we’re worthy of our own time. We push our feelings away like they are an annoying sibling. We act like a school-yard bully towards ourselves, taunting our minds with negative self talk and untrue statements.

Why do we keep telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough?

I’ve come to realise the importance of self-love and self-compassion.

Investing time in yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Treating yourself with respect and care is so eye-opening, because we often forget to do it! We’ve been conditioned to think that praising oneself in anyway, is vanity or cockiness. Sadly, in Ireland this is especially true.

It is no secret that Ireland has massive problem with mental health. As a country, we have stigmatized mental health so much so, that many people fear coming forward about their struggles, out of embarrassment. Living in a small, rural town in Ireland, I can confirm that in my own local area alone, there have been a astonishing amount of suicides in recent years. A lot of it has to do with shame. Shame for feeling depressed, anxious and fearful to talk a about it because of the stigma. It’s harrowing to think of all the lives that potentially could have been saved, if only those people had someone to talk to or tools to help them through their mental turmoil.

I have been to my local GP twice in order to seek help for my anxiety and each time I was turned away, with no support. One of the doctors told me to simple “get over it”. The other, told me I should eat more meat and vegetables. A simplistic cure for an complex, cognitive behaviour. If only it were that easy.

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That is why I have decided to dedicate this blog to my mental health journey and the road to self-discovery. To contribute to breaking the stigma in Ireland, that is attached to mental health. I want to speak openly about my struggles with my issues with anxiety and mentally self-harming ways of thinking.

It is time to take the jacket off the book, to get to the true story within.

I want to finally be open with myself and others, about mental health and finding tools that work for me, so that I can share them with you all and hopefully help some people in the process too. I also want to help my loved ones understand why I feel this way and that it’s not just me being “stupid” or “over dramatic”. Mentally, it’s a hard place to be in and I don’t want to feel this way, just as much as they don’t want to see me this way.

I hope you will join me on this journey, share tips and advice and move towards a happier self. I am full of ideas for blog topics and I must admit, it is nice to feel inspired again. I’m sure it won’t be easy and I know this is cliché, but if I can help at least one person by sharing my thoughts, it will be worth it.

xoxo

Netflix, Onision & Anxiety Relief.

How meditation is helping me overcome my anxiety.

If you’ve been a long time reader/viewer of mine, you know of my struggles with anxiety. To be honest, I can’t remember when my issues with anxiety arose. It may have developed in my teen years or maybe, it was always there? Lingering in the background like Pennywise the clown, waiting to scare the shit out of me at any given moment! As funny as it may sound, that’s actually quite an accurate description of what anxiety has felt like for me over the past few years. A scary, threatening entity that is always waiting to pounce.

I have read countless self-help books in order to learn the magical cure to ridding myself of this looming feeling. Nothing has worked for me, no matter how practical the advice. Not because the advice wasn’t helpful, but because I wasn’t open to receiving the information. That’s what anxiety does to us, it doesn’t let us see past our own fear.

Recently, I have discovered minimalism. Minimalism is a lifestyle that allows us to focus on the important aspects of our lives by ridding ourselves of the excess and zoning in on what is important to us. By using minimalism as a tool to de-clutter both my outer and inner space, I have been able to prioritise what my needs are. In doing this, I realised that I never gave my thinking mind a rest. It was constantly running like an engine getting ready to finally burn out. Instead of listening to my inner thoughts, I hid from them. I kept pushing them down further and further until they were muffled cries beneath the surface. But you know what happens to suppressed emotions? They take physical form, they infiltrate our bodies and kick us when we’re down, making us sick and run-down.

I noticed that by not dealing with my stress, I was making myself physically unwell. My immune system was shot,  I caught every bug and flu going, not to mention the fact that I was constantly tired and irritable. I was always snapping at my loved ones for no reason at all. The most ironic thing of all, was that I was completely blind to the fact that I was the one causing this anguish within myself. I blamed it on the bad weather, a shift in temperature or not using hand sanitizer at ever opportunity. I had became so used to feeling anxious, I had made it apart of my physical make up.

I decided to begin a journey to self discovery a long time ago, but only this year have I really taken it seriously. A part of that journey was to give meditation a try. I have used guided meditations in the past to help me sleep, but I had never used them purely to calm my mind during the day-time. It might not sound like there is much of a difference between those two instances but I can assure you, there is.

Since January of this year, I’ve been using the Calm meditation app (not sponsored, just FYI!) and it has allowed me to stay accountable and consistent with my practice. It tracks each meditation on a calendar and helps you to focus on specific areas of your life that need healing. There are guided meditations for all sorts of things, such as stress, anxiety, gratitude and self-love, to name but a few. I have discovered that sitting with my thoughts isn’t this big scary thing I’ve made it out to be, it’s actually very interesting. Meditation is teaching me to hear what my thinking-mind has to say and what it worries about. However, the most important part of my meditation practice comes in the form of what is known as, noting. In layman’s terms, noting is essentially the practice of simply acknowledging a thought and letting it pass by without judgement.

The simple act of recognising our thoughts and not getting wrapped up in them, is quite transformative. In fact, it’s the opposite of anxious thought! Anxiety makes us over-think and over-analyse our thoughts to the point of exhaustion. Taking in to consideration that humans think up to 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day, that’s a heck of a lot of worrying to get through on a daily basis. By implementing mindfulness into our lives, we are giving ourselves a break from this chaotic way of thinking. Believe me, it isn’t always easy to do this but as the famous saying goes, practice makes perfect.

Meditation is something I would recommend to everyone. It is not something that only the most enlightened individuals can do, it is something everyone can practice and benefit from. Living in the modern world is not always easy, it can be overwhelming to say the least. Meditation gives us space to de-clutter our minds from what is going on in the physical world and helps us to regenerate feelings of calm, compassion and stillness. If we can begin to use meditation as a tool, it can be life-changing. If you think meditation is just some wishy-washey bull-crap, you’re not alone. However, science is on meditation’s side!

According to studies, research shows that after eight-weeks, it is possible to shrink the brain’s “flight or fight” response. If you would like more information on the benefits of mediation, Forbes recently posted a great article about 7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change the Brain.

In order to avail of the benefits of mediation, you don’t need to do anything fancy. Just start off small, even five minutes of meditation a day can do wonders for a person. I would suggest using an app to track your progress and help you ease yourself into a regular practice. Alternatively, there are thousands of wonderful guided and un-guided meditations on YouTube. My favourite meditation channel is The Honest Guys youtube channel, it’s full of beautiful, free meditations. There is something for everyone on their channel, I highly recommend it.

Meditation is helping me to understand my myself, listen to by body and not judge every single though that goes through my mind. Meditation is a rest period and a time heal. Honestly, I feel like I have discovered something that is so helpful, in some many ways, that I want to shout it from the rooftops so everyone else can know about it. Meditation is a practice, it takes time and time is our most precious gift. I think it is important to make time for ourselves no matter how busy our lives may be. Meditation is a way to give back to ourselves and to get to know ourselves as human beings. Like any new venture, the hardest part is getting started.

Once you open your mind to the prospect of mediation, it can be truly wonderful.

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Social Media Envy & Online Anxiety

This year I have been going through a mindful change, I decide to do my best to become more aware of life and what is going on around me and inside my head. As some of you may know I have suffered a bit this year with anxiety and it has been difficult to deal with, especially around stressful times and emotional times. I really wanted to write a honest blog about my feelings towards social media and I have forced myself to really take a look at what is going on inside my head and my heart and I discovered something that I am sure a lot of people can relate to. Loneliness and online envy.

You might be thinking “what? online envy?” let me explain.

Imagine you have been having what you assume to be a good day, maybe not even a good day, maybe just a decent day with no major hiccups. Then you log into your favorite social networking account to see that everyone is having the best damn time of their lives, travelling to exotic countries, hanging out with armies of friends, swinging from the ceilings of the hottest night club in town and having the best damn time ever it seems. All of a sudden your day seems like a total pile of shit, a sad existence, you feel like billy no mates and you may as well have not even bothered to get out of bed at all seems. You feel terrible and start to analyze your entire life and all of a sudden you don’t feel so good.  In reality, it only takes one beautifully filtered picture of a gorgeous friend to make you feel like quasimodo.

It can be really depressing, not to mention a super sonic hit to the ego. I don’t know about you but this happens to me a lot and as a self admitted over thinker, it can be really disheartening to log into a social networking account. It can cause me some panic and dread. I was chatting to a friend recently and I said “I don’t really like logging into facebook, it makes me feel anxious.” My friend replied with a raised eyebrow “Why!?” I explained and it didn’t seem to register with my friend the same as it did with me and I thought to myself, am I the only one who feels this way? Maybe my friend is just more secure then I am or, maybe they don’t follow enough beautiful internet celeb’s online!

Either way, I understood that this is something that needs to be discussed. Is online envy something that effects everyone at some point? And is it effecting how we live our lives?

I have a very close friend who doesn’t use facebook for this very reason and I admire her for that. Not having a facebook account these days is regarded as big a crime as not watching Breaking Bad is. IT IS INTERNET BLASPHEMY ALMOST! We live in the age of information technology, people can develop addictions to technology as easily as an addiction to cigarettes or drugs. There are technology addiction disorders such as Nomophobia, which is mobile phone addiction and Problematic Internet Use. It’s kinda scary and it makes me wonder what we are putting our poor psyche’s through on a daily basis when using the internet.

If you meet some one on a night out or at a social occasion, instead of asking for your mobile number now day’s most people will ask “Do you have facebook?” and what I have been thinking about is WHY? And I think I know the answer, we are an age obsessed with knowledge, we are more educated today than we ever where and we must know what is going on at all times and if we don’t we feel left out. Don’t get me wrong I am no stranger to this myself, I rather enjoy social networking, blogging and receiving information as fast as it is put out there. I usually know major news stories before my parents do because I check twitter constantly.

But there is a major down side, the thing that get’s me about social networking is that our lives are edited into the best fractions of their existence. The “best of” if you will. Honestly, I think social networking as made me paranoid and vain in some regards, if some one takes a picture of me and I don’t like it, a massive feeling of anxiety comes over me like a hurricane ready to hit, I don’t feel at ease until they delete it so I know that picture won’t pop up on social media to be seen by all online. What’s funny is, I should be used to it by now! I have been uploading online since the days of Myspace (yeah i’m old) and really, it should be just dirt off my shoulder. When you really think about it, there are companies out there that have taken advantage of these types of insecurities we have in today’s beauty obsessed world and have made apps based on them, photo editing apps where you can photo shop your blemishes while you sit on the bus, filters that make everything look more dream like, basically we give ourselves digital face lifts on our smartphones almost daily! Heck the word selfie has even made it into the dictionary!

The burning question on my mind is why do I care? Hell, why does anyone care! Why do we even feel the NEED to share our information with people and edit it before we release it into cyber space. I honestly think it is just a sign of the changing times. My Grandmother for example can not even fathom the idea of facebook and why people are so eager to share information about their daily lives so willingly. When it comes down to it, I really believe that seeing perfectly cropped and edited instagram pictures and epic statuses about the night before can cause us to feel a little envious at times, and naturally so. It is not strange or unusual to feel this way and I sometimes have to remind myself that not everyone’s lives are so amazingly awesome 100% of the time and that the internet is full of optical illusions of illustrious lives and perfected camera phone photography!

Social networking usually only shares the half truth version of our lives, which really isn’t so bad in a sense, it might mean we still have some modesty left in us I guess! But it can instill the idea that everything is all sunshine in rainbows in everyone’s lives but your own, but at the end of the day that is no where near the full truth at all. I think we should take the time to tune out the outside world for at least a short while every day, I know we can not really avoid technology living in this era but we can at least take a few moments to get back to basics and take care of ourselves, chill out and relax our brains and let our egos go and enjoy the simple things in life.

Remember that as humans we are flawed but isn’t it our unique attributes that make us who we are? If only we could see life through a valencia filter but for now I am just happy when there is actually sunshine in Ireland!

Ellie xox