63 Chapters
Medium 9781855754744

Your inner process

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

What has been happening is that you have started on a positive road towards mental health, tackling your anxiety and/or depression. You have started to reduce your levels of stress and to tackle some of the residual stress, mostly through a combination of exercise, relaxation, and diet. You have also probably started to change your thought patterns, and you will almost certainly find that, as you do this, your moods and feelings will have begun to change as well.

You have started to accept that the negative perspective dominated by the depression is not a valid one. You have started to look for other possibilities. This is a positive change. You have begun to challenge the way that you have done some things previously, thinking that this was the only way possible. You have started to look at other possibilities. You have also begun to challenge some of the setbacks, the negative thought forms and feelings, and the inherent difficulties of depression a little, as well as challenging some of your own fears. This is all excellent progress.

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Panic attacks

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

What are panic attacks?

Panic attacks are both a form and a symptom of anxiety disorder, and they are fairly common, occurring in 15–20% of the population. The symptoms of a panic attack are varied and can include a sudden onset of intense apprehension or nervousness, or actual fear or terror accompanied by a variety of physical symptoms, such as palpitations, pounding heart, or fast heart rate, sweating, trembling and shaking, difficulties in breathing, sensations of shortness of breath or smothering, feelings of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint, de-realization (feelings of unreality) or deper-sonalization (being detached from oneself), fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, shaking, paresthesias (numbness or tingling sensations), chills or hot flushes, sweating, dry mouth, nausea, “jelly legs”, visual difficulties, or that you cannot speak or think clearly, or fear that you might die, collapse, be having a heart attack, etc. If they occur very frequently, panic attacks can be seen as an anxiety disorder, or as accompanying anxiety disorders such as agoraphobia or social phobia.

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Relaxation

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

Besides doing exercise, it is really important to relax as well. However, only try relaxing first thing in the morning, or some time after you have exercised. Done regularly, this will help you to rebalance your basic bodily functioning (the autonomic nervous system), which is what gets overstressed. For most people under stress, it is very difficult to relax—for two main reasons: (1) they think they cannot afford the time; and (2) they are so stressed that they cannot relax easily. It is therefore necessary to build in a programme of relaxation (ideally once or twice a day for twenty minutes). There are many different ways to relax. Here are several suggestions:

•  Progressive relaxation. You can get booklets, tapes or CDs of (usually) progressive relaxation exercises that tell you how first to tense, then to relax, progressively, all the various sets of individual muscle groups in your body (feet, calves, thighs, buttocks, etc.). As you do this, you tend to relax generally more and more. It is sometimes called “differential relaxation”.

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Symptoms of stress

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

Some of the most frequently experienced physical symptoms of people in anxiety or stress are headaches and migraines. There are many other symptoms of stress, but these seem to top the list. It is very easy to reach for an analgesic (pain-killer): there are plenty to choose from. However, these can also be symptoms of something starting to be seriously wrong. Would you ignore a little flashing light on your car dashboard display?

Headaches

Headaches and migraines are very different. Headaches are usually experienced as an ache or pain in the head, or as if there is a tight band around the head. You can usually carry on doing things with a headache, though you might need to use some medication. They may arise from a short-term problem: stress, worry, too much alcohol, etc. Headaches can also be a symptom of an underlying problem and so, if you experience constant or persistent headaches, go to see your GP.

Here are a couple of background checks: is the headache part of a hangover? Too much alcohol dehydrates you and destroys your reserves of vitamin C: so try drinking a couple of large glasses of orange juice, or have a smoothie, and the headache may well disappear relatively quickly. Have you had too much chocolate, coffee, etc? People who are sensitive to caffeine can easily experience headaches because of this. Again, caffeine dehydrates. Drink plenty of water. Drink plenty of water anyway: at least 1.5–2 litres per day.

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Thoughts and moods in depression

Young, Courtenay Karnac Books ePub

Basic concepts

Experiences that happen to us (initially often neutral) are received by our senses, and processed by our brain. There they are interpreted, or given a particular set of meanings, dependent on our way of thinking, expectations, or previous experiences. This is all before we experience any emotional responses.

Depending on the type of experience and the different expectations or meanings that we can attach to it, our subsequent emotional reactions can vary considerably. Essentially, our feelings are often created by our thought patterns, and our thoughts are determined by our moods. Dependent on our thoughts, and thus our feelings, we then decide to behave in certain ways. There is, therefore, a connection between thoughts, moods, and behaviour. Within cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT), this thought–mood–behaviour connection is seen as fairly paramount, and as the essential key to any change. While this is true, it is—of course—not the whole story.

Internal belief systems, and sub-conscious thought patterns (like the one where you don’t think that you are a very nice person) will determine how and what you perceive of the surrounding environment: events that are happening, or may happen; how you might respond to them; how you interpret your perceptions; and what conclusions you might draw from these.

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