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Stress

_A_470_1458438Walk through the fire, through the dust and ashes

while the building crashes…show no sign of fear (Peter Gabriel)
On August 6, 2005, my home in England was burnt down. There are days I actually wake up and forget this minor fact. Seeing my home be digested by flames – including a nearly completed manuscript inside – was not the worst part.

No — the worst part was having to try to live as normal a life as possible while trying to forget that someone set my home on fire. Sometimes I wish I could wear a big sign that says “Home burnt down – Cut me some slack.” It’s been over six years since the fire. My life has improved dramatically and I should be over this by now. And yet I’m not over it. I probably won’t be for a long time.

In various moments of my new life, things happen that trigger the memories of that fire, such as seeing news about a fire on television. Panic attacks built up many times depending on how busy the local arsonists are. I heard a Julian House homeless shelter worker in Bath, England tell me how to deal with panic attacks but it wasn’t until the last few years did I follow his advice.

Oh No, Not Again!

This is the reason why we have panic attacks. We fear that the past will repeat itself. This is a normal instinctive response, but if you let it stay too long, you get so stressed that you can get ill. Also, you can make some very strange choices. I get so panicked; I dive under the covers and won’t come out for hours.

I have these strange arguments with the air about “Haven’t I used up my portion of bad luck yet?” However, the air has yet to argue back, which really makes me feel that arguing with me is just not worth a Deity’s attention. Yup – this is the way my brain works when I panic. Frightening, isn’t it?

Panic attacks screw up my stomach so it’s hard to drink tea . Life is too short not to drink tea when I feel like drinking tea. That’s reason enough for me to work on dealing with my panic attacks. Now, I have not been diagnosed with a panic attack disorder . That needs a doctor’s help. I’ve had doctors tell me that it’s normal to have panicky moments after witnessing my home burn down, but they say I do not have panic attack disorder.

Stop, Look and Listen

If you feel panic coming on, STOP what you are doing. Even say the word “Stop,” if that helps you.

Look around. Is anything threatening you at that moment?

Sniff the air. Listen. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Is anything threatening you at that moment? If not, then concentrate on the moment. If you have someone sympathetic with you, describe the immediate surroundings to them. This should distract you enough to calm down. Also this is where learning meditation really helps. Even rubbing a piece of marble or a smooth stone or a piece of jewelry can soothe you.

Take deep breaths. If you have trouble breathing deeply, then try and sniff something that will force your body to take deep breaths, like peppermint, roses or frankinscence. Although it sounds weird, getting enough oxygen through your body will also help you calm down. When you breathe the shallow, quick breaths associated with fear, your brain goes a mile a minute and you see dangers where there aren’t any.

Other Tips

If you meditate, then your meditation ritual will help you relax. Me, I like to watch my fish swim, or pet my dogs, or even write in one of my blogs. The trick is to do something that takes your mind off of the hamster wheel of remembering your past. And if you know what scenes, smells or actions can trigger a panic attack, try to avoid them whenever possible (For example – I rarely watch international national news programs anymore).

Life does get better after a tragedy. Perhaps panic attacks are our bodies’ way of reminding us, “Could be worse!” All you need is a reminder. Try not to dwell on it. You can do it.

References

“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety.” Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D. Alpha Books; 2006.

Daily Mail Online. “10 tips for coping with panic attacks.” Claire Bates. 13 August 2007; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-377876/10-tips-coping-panic-attacks.html

Author’s personal experience

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I wish I looked half as good when I get angry.

“Don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” — David Banner (The Incredible Hulk)

Anger is a tool.  It is neither good nor bad in and of itself — it just is.  Anger can be used for good or for bad.  It’s not fun to be angry — at least, I don’t think it’s fun to be angry.  When I get angry, my head hurts, I shake and my stomach gets upset.  I’m not fond of any of those sensations.

However, being a stereotypical Scorpio, it takes me a good long while to settle down when I get angry.  I used to beat myself up for being “sinful” when I was angry.  Now, I don’t (much).  Instead, I try to use my anger constructively.  Key word is try — I don’t always succeed.) This not only lowers my body’s stress responses, but sometimes gets something done.

Chop Wood

When I lived in the woods outside of Bathwick, England, my only means of power was from firewood.  I had to spend a couple of hours a day collecting firewood and kindling, hauling it back to camp, sawing it into manageable chunks with a bow saw and then chopping the heck out of it.  It took a lot of energy.  Fortunately (I say with my tongue firmly in my cheek), I had a turbulent relationship with a blue-eyed alcoholic.  Needless to say, I was angry almost every day.  But I used the anger constructively by filling the wood boxes.

Some days, I still miss chopping wood.

Cute With Chris LIVE

An even better example can be seen from actor Chris Leavins, who has an extremely popular (and extremely funny) web series and blog called Cute with Chris.  (Before you click over there — be advised that adult language is used).  Although he does not get paid for his show, he puts a lot into it.

One day in early January, he received an email from “Rhonda of Hollywood”

“Dear Chris:

I am an actor, too (stage actor).  I am thinking of starting an internet show to spread my talents but I worry that it will affect the way I’m seen as a stage performer.  Your show is charming, but often strikes me as being very amatuer.”

I don’t know about you, but nothing ticks Chris off more than having his beloved show being called “very amateur.”  He used his anger constructively and, in a mere 18 days, wrote, produced, promoted and starred in a one man live version of his internet show called “Cute With Chris LIVE”.  And in the front row was a sign taped to a chair that read, “Reserved for Rhonda.”  The show was hysterical.

Now that is using the tool of anger constructively.

I live with my Mom. She grew up in the 1940s.  She has a problem that is very common to people of her generation — she will not hang up on phone scammers, salespersons or telemarketers.  It’s been drilled into her that hanging up on someone is rude, especially if that someone is talking. I’ve been having a hard time to convince her that it’s okay to hang up on these annoyances. At the very most, she should say, “I’m not interested. Goodbye.”

Unfortunately, she learned the hard way that it’s okay to hang up on telemarketers. She got a call from a chimney sweeper company. I kept telling her that they were scam artists.  However, Mom owns the house and so I don’t apparently have the right to choose her contractors.  Also, I can’t supervise my Mom 24 hours a day (believe it or not!)  She made an appointment with the chimney sweepers behind my back.  Long story short, the scammers arrived and proceeded to kick holes in the roof — which cost nearly $3,500 to fix (done with a legitimate roofing contractor. Roof is doing great even after the horrible winter we’ve been having in the greater Philly area.)

Do not suffer any anxiety when you need to hang up the phone.  Just hang up and get on with your life.

999821_595402237192519_2113001318_nYou really want to piss off someone with depression?  Tell them to think positively.  It will be guaranteed to fuck up a depressive’s day.

Now, granted, thinking in extremes (“I never get ANYTHING right”) can affect our mental health.  But let’s be realistic here.  You don’t want to swing to the other extreme (“I ALWAYS get things right!”)  You want to keep things in their proper perspective. (“Sometimes I’m right — sometimes I’m wrong.”)

Part of the problem of depression or mental illness is that it skewers your perceptions.  You cannot truly see what is right in front of your face.  It takes time (and often a combination of medications and therapy) to truly perceive what is going on about you and not what you FEAR is going on around you.

And you know what?  Much of the time, real life does indeed suck donkey balls.  Being able to perceive when it really does and when it doesn’t is a big step forward in your mental health.  If something upsets you, don’t try to cover it up with positive thoughts.  Be upset.  But if something does not upset you, don’t look for reasons to make it upset you.  That’s a big difference.

Any well-meaning friends who talk on and on and on about “be the change you want to be” and “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade” can wind up making you feel worse.  Tell them to shut up (if you can safely get away with it).  You’ll feel better.  Trust me.

 

 

St. John’s Wort

One reason people persist in using marijuana is because it can help you relax even in extremely stressful situations.  Although I support legalizing marijuana, I do realize that I cannot use it for relaxation because it is illegal.  So I wrote this article about legal drugs that can help you relax or at least help your muscles to relax.  These include chamomile, mint, St. John’s Wort and velarin.  It’s always best to check with your doctor before taking herbs or herbal products.  For example, if you are allergic to ragweed, avoid chamomile.  If you are on antidepressants, avoid St. John’s Wort.

Please read my article about legal herbs at Yahoo.  Thanks!

A glass of ginger tea/ Wikimedia Commons

Do you need to relax? Try ginger essential oil or other ginger products. Please do not use this article in the place of a medical professional’s diagnosis.

There are a few legal herbs that can help you relax. These herbs — chamomile, mint and St. John’s Wort — help your body to relax, even when it’s tensed up in pain. Technically, they’re called anti-spasmodic. But are there any herbs known to help combat stress? Say hello to ginger.

Now, before you go on a ginger spree, please be sure to talk to your doctor or physician first, especially if you are taking blood thinners. Although ginger is natural and not synthetic, it still needs to be treated with respect.

Different Forms

Ginger is another anti-spasmodic that some people prefer over chamomile or mint. Ginger snaps, candied ginger and ginger tea are great for digestive upsets. And many children of my generation were raised on ginger ale whenever we got sick. This turned me off of ginger for a long time, because whenever I got sick, I got ginger ale — no matter what it was I was sick with. If you have unpleasant memories of ginger, try to eat ginger treats or drink ginger ale when you are feeling happy (or at least, not sick) and soon your unconscious will pair the smell and taste of ginger ale with feeling good.

Ginger essential oil is good for helping your body to feel warm. Sometimes, a massage with diluted ginger oil helps people with digestive cramps, rheumatitis or stress. One or two drops in a foot bath is also very relaxing.

Different People React Differently

I like a bit of ginger treats to help me feel better about life in general. I don’t take it medicinally, but there are people that do. Again, you have to talk to your doctor or a licensed herbalist about this. I find ginger to help me relax, calm down and get perspective. Because it’s a bit spicy, I have to eat or sip it slowly, lest I burn my mouth. If you are working with any kind of ginger — ginger essential oil, fresh ginger or even ginger powder for baking, be sure to wash your hands after handling it. You don’t want that stuff in your eyes or up your nose. Trust me on this one.

And yes, there are people with which ginger does nothing at all for their stress levels. We’re all different. Things to help you relax when under stress are still out there. Think of me when I accidentally blew my nose after mincing fresh ginger. I was hopping up and down shrieking like my nose was on fire — because that’s what it felt like. Perhaps that mental image can help you to laugh and relax.

Women are so stressed because we have to put on bras. Pantyhose are pretty stressful, too, but that is becoming more and more optional. Bras, however, we’re stuck with until we can place an anti-gravity field around our chests. Men, you are more than welcome to continue reading this, especially if you are considering cross-dressing. You will get to know what we have to go through if we want to leave the house. And yes, it’s a long explanation…

Please read the rest of my YCN article. Thanks!</strong>