Using Mindfulness to Remedy Anxiety and also Depression

Feeling trapped in your own mind can be a very scary, frustrating, and unpleasant feeling, and something that many people with anxiety experience. I’m someone who battles chronic and often acute anxiety and have done so for nearly 20 years, and during that time I’ve often been a prisoner of my own thoughts. It’s a lonely place that triggers more anxiety.

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8 Symptoms of Being Trapped in Your Own Thoughts
1. Indecisiveness

2. Procrastination

3. Overthinking Everything

4. Being Emotionally Reactive

5. Sleep Problems

6. Poor Concentration

7. Tension and Sore Muscles

8. Not Making Time for Relaxation  

How to Stop Feeling Trapped?
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1. Practice being mindful. Sit. Only focus on the breath.  

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is an established program shown to reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Mindfulness is the most effective technique that helped me to finally get out of my head, and I cannot recommend it enough. Practicing mindfulness trained my mind to focus on the present moment, which is the only moment where I was able to experience fewer thoughts, no thoughts, and calmness.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. – Buddha

If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath. – Amit Ray, mindfulness leader and author of several popular books on mindfulness

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2. Get fresh air to clear your mind by immersing yourself in nature
Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature

In a previous study, time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety. Study finds that walking in nature yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce risk of depression.—Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

3. Release your thoughts by journaling or talk therapy
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Keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. You get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings. Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time. It’s a time when you can de-stress and wind down. Write in a place that’s relaxing and soothing.—University of Rochester Medical Center

Journaling to Reduce Anxiety

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Journaling may whisk your worries away. Keeping a journal has many health benefits, and according to research it is a highly effective technique for managing stress and anxiety.

Studies also show that journaling can help boost self-confidence, improve mood, relieve depression and improve focus, further reducing your anxiety. There are no rules to journaling. You can write freely or use journal prompts for anxiety.

Research shows that journaling can help

  • Boost mood
  • Release negative thoughts
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce chronic worrying
  • Release pent-up feelings
  • Induce better sleep
  • Enhance self-awareness of anxiety
  • Help with depression
  • Increase productivity
  • Boost memory and comprehension
  • Help achieving goals
  • Strengthen self-discipline 

Journal Prompts for Anxiety (as taken from a UMN Center for Spirituality & Healing class group work):

  1. What do you feel most anxious about and why?
  2. What 3 positive things have happened to you today?
  3. What are today’s worries?
  4. What are 3 things that you are most afraid of and the reasons why.
  5. What is your dream job?
  6. Write about 5 occasions in your life when you were truly happy?
  7. Write about what you have learned from a past failure.
  8. What strategies have you used to help you cope with anxiety?
  9. Make a list of situations when you are anxious.
  10. What triggers your anxiety or makes your anxiety worse?
  11. Write a letter to a person that caused you pain explaining that you forgive them.
  12. Write about the 3 lessons you have been given by your anxiety.
  13. Is there a situation or person that you need to let go of? Write your reasons for holding on.
  14. Make a list of all the things that you are grateful for in your life.
  15. Take a moment to imagine your life without anxiety. What would you be doing in this life?
  16. Write down at least 10 things that always make you smile.
  17. What are your greatest qualities?
  18. If you could meet anyone in the world who would that be and why?
  19. If you could travel anywhere, where would that be?
  20. Choose a fear that you would like to overcome and write a list of ways how you could overcome this fear.
  21. Describe your biggest accomplishments.
  22. Make a list of things that you like and don’t like about your body. Next to each item write a reason why.
  23. Write down all the people with whom you have a good relationship with and the reasons why.
  24. Think about people who you have a bad relationship with. Make a list of these people and the reasons why. Also, write next to each person why they are still in your life.
  25. Write down your most re-occurring negative thoughts and the reasons why they keep repeating.
  26. What brings you peace and why?
  27. Make a list of 3 things that you want to change about yourself. Then write action points on how you could accomplish this.
  28. Where do you feel the safest and the reasons why?
  29. Who loves you truly for who you are?
  30. Write about what you look forward to every day and the reasons why.

Life realities

Schizophrenia is a reality for me and many others; but we try regardless. We show up, perform the task to the best of our abilities, and return to loved ones like everyone else. Stereotypes may create false expectations that everyone with a disability is or should be unbalanced or unhealthy. Much work needs to be done to break down stigma around psychiatric disabilities such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Plus, I’ve got social anxiety disorder, but I continuously test the limits. One doesn’t need to be condescending and joke that we’re introverts which I’ve encountered many times. In fact, many people with social anxiety are extroverts, such as actors, comedians, and public speakers. We can wear many hats as do people without disabilities. It’s true that I can be a little bit of both when the situation calls for it. One shouldn’t underestimate those of us with whom mental health disabilities are a reality.

Do I prefer to work in a structured environment with rules and expectations or in a setting that has more organized chaos?

I’d definitely have to respond with a structured environment being best for me. I avoid chaos because I think that I’d lose sight of myself. Insight is something that people with schizophrenia supposedly lack. However, like many others, I strive to remain insightful and therefore need to keep on my toes. To do this, I need to box myself up with rules and expectations that assist in paving the way to a mindful mindset. And I can only accomplish that in a structured environment with little chaos.

Do I believe it is acceptable to do something wrong if no one will ever find out?

The answer is a resounding no. Why? Karma. I’ve learned from personal experiences, i.e., a horrendously difficult divorce, that negative actions come back to haunt you. Some may say that I’m superstitious, but my untruths or bad behaviors have always come with consequences.

Others might point to a mindset that expects karmic retribution, so I set myself up to obstacles blocking my way; hence, I’m the cause of my own failures. May be so; but I’ve learned that I don’t want to find out. Life is easier with a good conscience.

And finally, one could point to my schizophrenia diagnosis as bad karma; but I actually think that it has made my life better as I see things differently than I once did and live most days mindfully and as if they were my last. 

Book review: Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton

Random House, 2017

This YA fiction novel tells the story of Adam, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is about to start a new school, and is also in a clinical trial for an experimental drug to manage his symptoms, the most prominent being that he’s sees people that aren’t there, all the time. Adam discusses friends, family, and love as he navigates a world much different than his peers. He gains a new best friend, attracts the attention of a bully, and falls in love all the while his main concern is traversing a new social situation without giving anyone reason to think he’s “crazy.”

This book is comprised of Adam’s journal entries to his therapist. I think the end just really highlights the strong relationships Adam has, and how they can support him. Adam is an amazing character, because he feels so real. I enjoyed reading his thoughts about the little things and his vision of the world. This book will make you laugh, cry and smile. It also brings a new light on schizophrenia, a disease most people do not know much of. This book sits right next to The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Words on Bathroom Walls is a beautiful, touching book, a true masterpiece. Adam is so engaging and funny, and his commentary on the cast of characters in his head so fascinating. While he wants to keep a secret from close ones at all costs, his drive behind it is that Adam just wants to be known as a normal kid. I like that Adam himself is a complex, but likeable character; he likes making people happy and does noble deeds, but he makes mistakes from time to time as well.

The conflict Adam has with himself, over keeping his mental illness a secret is well-written and the people Adam hallucinates and interacts with as a symbol throughout the book represent Adam’s thoughts and feelings, adding to the conflict. Above all, I came away with mental Illness isn’t something we can control. Learning to live with it is difficult and we should never have to apologize.

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