Congratulations, You’ve Graduated! Now What?

Graduation has traditionally been anxiety-provoking. But this year’s class faces particularly difficult times. Some suggestions for how to move forward.
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Just Say No, to Anxiety and Fear

Are you tired of fighting against anxiety and fear? It may be time to just accept it and let it pass through.
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Are You Hiding Anxiety Behind These Behaviors?

Anxiety can be a nebulous emotion. Sometimes it’s obvious you’re worrying — even Doctor Obvious could diagnose you if you’re spending four sleepless hours each night fretting over your big move. But sufferers of generalized anxiety might not be able to identify obvious triggers or realize some of their worst habits stem from the stress. You may recognize your odd, changing behavior, but you can’t identify why — and the uncertainty only creates more stress.
Here are six behaviors that signal that your anxiety needs more attention, or even the help of a professional therapist.

Too Much Alcohol
Anxiety and alcohol abuse often come hand in hand: research suggests that 20 percent of those affected with social anxiety disorder abuse alcohol. The correlation makes sense when you consider that social anxiety lowers 4% for every drink. People suffering from anxiety disorders often feel alcohol lowers their inhibitions and decreases their stress. So, bottoms up — right?
Except anxiety can be exacerbated by prolonged drinking, which can dramatically increase your stress over time. In a worst-case scenario, drinking can even change your brain’s structure, making you more susceptible to anxiety attacks. Adding insult to injury, prolonged drinking can create a physical dependence on alcohol, causing stress-inducing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit.
Endless Criticism
Whether they’re criticizing themselves or others, some anxious people cover up their worries by finding fault with everything. This pattern might be a learned one that goes back decades — research shows critical parenting fosters anxious children.
To understand this, think about how an anxious person’s brain operates. Excessive worrying can literally change the way you experience reality. Everything is frightening. Everything is more difficult. And everything you’re doing is wrong. This overdose of scary emotions transform into criticism. The mind posits, “Well, if things were different, we wouldn’t have to worry so much.”
Soon, these thoughts manifest externally. For many anxiety sufferers, self-criticism provides a balm to the thoughts whirling inside their head: beating themselves up for their perceived (but not actual!) flaws helps temper their scary emotions in the moment. And becoming hypercritical of your surroundings — and your friends and family — provides an illusion of control.
But ultimately, hypercriticism will only prove to further your anxiety. People don’t typically like to be criticized, so they may distance themselves. Looking at the world through narrowed eyes makes it a more stressful place to live.
Increased Codependency
Do you love your best friends — or do you need your best friends? A strong support system is a must for people suffering from anxiety. But if you notice yourself clinging to your pals or partner, consider taking a step back: your behaviors might be stemming from stress.
Codependency amplifies your connection to the point of obsession. You might find yourself calling them frequently, wondering where they are. Or you focus intently on their activities and problems. In a sense, this is a form of control spurred by worrying. Frequent, almost obsessive contact calms the images of accidents and loss that wheel through your mind.
Not only could codependent behavior ruin your most precious relationships, it also feeds your anxiety. Working through your troubles with a qualified therapist can help you decrease your stress and save your friendships.
Cup After Cup of Coffee
While anxious people may not chug coffee to fend off a worried mind the same way they do booze, too much caffeine consumption may increase your symptoms. Caffeine-induced anxiety is a clinically diagnosable condition, and a cup of joe can cause stress reactions in your cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems.
But some anxious people do use coffee to cover up their stress: the sleep deprived. There’s nothing wrong with chugging down some caffeine to wake up in the morning, but if you’re drinking too much too often, consider why. If worries keep you tossing and turning all night, powering through the day on caffeine alone can mask your weary eyes. Desperately need that warm brew every morning? It might be time to start working through the root cause of your insomnia with a therapist so you can skip the multiple a.m. shots of caffeine.
Overdramatic Outbursts
Let’s be clear: just because anxiety can manifest as “overdramatic” blow-ups doesn’t mean you’re actually being dramatic. Your “over-the-top” responses may feel entirely rational — to you. But if multiple people have claimed your reactions are disproportionate to the problem, consider that there might be an underlying issue.
Anxiety can cause a brimming worry that manifests in your body, kicks your brain into overdrive, and makes every minor issue feel like a really, really big deal. Losing the keys to your car feels like the end of the world. A few minutes late for dinner reservations can be a tragedy. And you react according to that heightened state.
As reasonable as your responses may feel, if you find you’re regularly exploding with stress over tiny little things, look to your anxiety as a root cause. Your mental health is manageable — and when you address it, you may find that life is more manageable too.
Sometimes, those anxiety-derived dramatic outbursts can take a concerning direction. Many sufferers of anxiety — but particularly men — react to triggers with anger. After all, at its root, anxiety is fear. Fear is terrifying and can feel like a threat. Anger may be a natural response to a threat, but anxiety turns tiny things into big threats — making anger feel omnipresent. For many men, anger feels like a more acceptable emotion that stress and worry.
If you’re lashing out at the smallest things, consider the source of your fury. There’s rarely good reason to be angry so frequently — and chances are excellent your outbursts obscure a raft of other concerns. Checking in with your emotions may uncover the true stressors behind your sudden anger.
Need Help Controlling Your Anxiety?
Pay attention to these six behavioral cues, which might indicate underlying anxiety. When you’re drinking too much coffee, chugging too much beer or just reacting strongly to things you know aren’t that big of a deal, consider reaching out to a mental health professional. Getting treatment for your anxiety could change your life.

The post Are You Hiding Anxiety Behind These Behaviors? appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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6 Common Myths That May Be Hurting Your Sleep

Sleep myths can hinder your ability to get your best, most refreshing and restorative sleep. Steer clear of them and you’ll put yourself on the path to better sleep.
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Fascination With Murder—Should You Be Concerned About It?

According to experts, an interest in murder is more common than we may think.
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What Holds People Back from Giving Up Anxiety-Based Habits?

There are more barriers to giving up disordered behavior than you might think. Here are five of those barriers, and solutions to break through them.
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Sensory Deprivation: How Floating in the Dark Eased My Anxiety

What the hell am I gonna do in a pitch black chamber for an hour with literally nothing but myself and 10 inches of water?
This is all I could think right after committing to an hour-long sensory deprivation session. I’m fine with being alone — but without my iPhone, a book, or vision? What was I going to do? How would I shut my mind off? Anytime I try to meditate, I hyperventilate, and I’m not a fan of stillness or deep breathing exercises. I found myself becoming anxious at the thought of … something that is supposed to bring me complete and utter relaxation. The irony.

What is Sensory Deprivation?
Floating, Sensory Deprivation, or Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) — same thing, different names — are scientifically proven to have both mental and physical health benefits. Research done for this alternative treatment is extremely promising.
How does floating work? Well, it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate and helps us get into relaxation mode. It also lowers blood pressure as well as levels of cortisol (a stress hormone). Studies have shown that floating is a great complementary treatment for generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety sufferers in one study showed significant improvement in anxiety symptoms, mood, and sleep regulation after 12 sessions. Another study suggested floating can result in short term relief from PTSD, Agoraphobia, and social anxiety.
So, while I was admittedly a little scared to float at first, I couldn’t ignore all the science backing up the benefits of sensory deprivation. The more I read up, the more excited I became.
Starting the Session
My appointment was scheduled for a Saturday afternoon at Lift Next Level Floats in Huntington, New York. When I arrived, I was given a quick rundown by manager Adriene Passannante before I watched a short video that would tell me everything I needed to know before my float. I was pleased to hear there were buttons conveniently located on the inside of the tank to turn the lights on — just in case I freaked out. By the time I was shown to my room, I was itching to get in the tank, but I had to shower to get oils off my hair and skin first.
When I finally plopped myself into the tank, I immediately floated — no effort necessary. I couldn’t help but smile. It was a phenomenon I’d never experienced before, as I can’t float in pool or salty ocean water for the life of me. I thanked the 1000 pounds of epsom salt in the tank for keeping me up. The water felt perfect — because it’s kept right around human body temperature. They say for this reason, it becomes easy to lose track of where the body ends and the water begins, adding to the sense-free experience. Tiny lights resembling colorful stars lit up the ceiling of the tank, and zen music played at the perfect volume.
Beginning to Relax
With my ears submerged and earplugs in, my breath began to sound like gentle ocean waves, coming in and out of shore. I tried my best to keep my inhales long and my exhales longer while I struggled to find a position for my arms to feel natural and comfortable. Arms at my side, palms up. Arms at my side, palms down. Hands folded across my belly. Hands folded beneath my head. I ended up feeling best with my arms up overhead, and settled into the weightlessness.
I am a mermaid. I thought. This is what it feels like to be a mermaid. For a moment I even zipped my legs together and pretended to have fins before trying to settle into stillness. The lights and music shut off at about the 7 minute mark, as Adrienne had warned me — but it was startling! I freaked out a bit as I realized I was all in, but I reminded myself I could easily turn the light on or even open the door if I really wanted to. To get in the zone, instead of trying to shut my brain off, I tried thinking of relaxing happy places I have been to. I thought of lying down on a paddleboard in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Honolulu, and wading in the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona. And then…
I suppose I entered the portion of the session where my normal Alpha and Beta brain waves transformed into Theta waves. These waves are usually only present right before falling asleep or waking up, which makes sense because I felt as though I was going in and out of some sort of consciousness, like how I feel when I’m just drifting off to sleep. I even felt like I was having little snippets of dreams! No longer was I making a super-conscious effort to be relaxed — I just was.
Basically, being in the Theta state helps us reach a level of calmness that we don’t really experience otherwise during our waking hours. Theta brain waves are much slower than Alpha and Beta waves. These slower waves allow for — you guessed it — deeper relaxation and reduced stress. When the brain is in this state, benefits go beyond stress relief. When the brain’s this relaxed, it allows your body to heal from physical pains. Not to mention, the floating and anti-gravity your body is experiencing takes pressure off your joints and muscles!
Slipping Back into Consciousness
When the music and lights came back on I couldn’t believe an hour had gone by. I was sleepy and relaxed and didn’t want to come out of my little mermaid cave. I stepped out of the tank and slowly headed towards the shower, but then turned around and stepped right back into the water for just a few more seconds of floating before the filter kicked in, signifying my session was definitely over. Ugh!
After my float, I spoke with Passannante about her own experiences with floating.
“Ever since I’ve incorporated a regular floating practice into my life (once a week) I’ve noticed my sleep patterns have changed quite a bit. I’ve suffered from insomnia for the last year and the nights I float, I have such deep and uninterrupted sleep. My mind doesn’t spin out (especially at night) the way it used to,” she said.
I also spoke with Lift co-owner, Gina Antioco, who is happy that so many people are focusing on wellness.
“People are shifting away from unhealthy habits and I think it’s wonderful! Antioco said. “It’s no secret that people are ditching happy hour for Friday night yoga, and choosing healthier eating habits as it becomes more clear to us where our food comes from and how it is being treated — and floating is just a part of the journey to healthier living.”
Floating into the Future
Antioco is committed to educating people, including skeptics, about the science and credibility behind floating. She even told me that some insurance carriers in the US are starting to cover floatation sessions. “Once [skeptics] hear that, it tends to give credibility to this relatively new industry and make people more receptive to the idea that the practice of floatation really does have the power to do amazing things,” she said.
Now that I’ve experienced sensory deprivation, I don’t doubt the power of floatation at all. I’m so excited for more research to be done surrounding the topic and its effect on mental health — and even more excited for my next session!

The post Sensory Deprivation: How Floating in the Dark Eased My Anxiety appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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Why You Feel Regret—and What You Can Do About It

What you regret and why has a lot to do with how you see yourself.
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Mental Illness: The Non-Casserole Disease

When catastrophe first strikes, it’s cause for support. Stigma prevents this crucial support to these most in need, however. It’s time to change this.
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What You Need to Know about Microdosing

Most of us are familiar with the idea of doctors prescribing medications for health issues. In recent years a newer trend called microdosing has emerged to help people cope with health conditions but in a different way, with different kinds of substances.

What is Microdosing?
When your doctor prescribes you a medication, the dosage indicates how much of that particular drug you are to take and how often you should do so. This formula is based on the substances or chemicals of the medication and is designed in a way to help you gain the most benefit from the treatment, while hopefully limiting its potential negative impact. Prescriptions take into account your treatment goals (like improving mood, for instance), and make a recommendation based on those factors as well as other physical considerations like your age, weight, etc.
Microdosing is similar in that its purpose to help you gain the most benefit from a particular substance. The main difference is that microdosing most often applies to illegal or recreational drugs for medicinal purposes. The premise is to consume the drug to gain its healing properties while attempting to avoid getting “high” and other negative consequences.
There has been some support for microdosing and its ability to help those in need, but the results are from very small studies and rely heavily on personal stories. Nonetheless, it does work for some, and the science works similarly to traditional medications. In some instances these small studies show that microdosing with substances like LSD or psilocybin work more effectively than antidepressant medications.
Typically, microdosing (as the name suggests) means that you would consume a very small amount of the substance that one might normally consume for recreational use. Most often this amount would be physically out of your perception, meaning that you would not consume a dose at a high enough level to feel intoxicated or “high.” This might mean taking an amount as little as 1/10 of a recreational dose on a regular schedule, perhaps daily.
Drugs like LSD or magic mushrooms are among the first substances experimented with in this way, largely due to the personal exploration of psychologist Dr. James Fadiman. He also authored a hallmark text on experimentation with substances called The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys.
The Use of Non-Traditional Therapies in Treatment
Microdosing is a controversial and provocative discussion in the medical field. It’s very existence challenges the notion of continued investment in traditional medication. Some see using traditional “party” or street drugs in treatment as as a moral issue. Many others, such as researchers and scientists hope to find the best substances to treat common health problems, regardless of the substance’s origins. As such, many investigators believe that substances like LSD or ketamine has a place in the treatment of many mental health issues.
Ketamine, also known as the party drug “Special K,” is a sedative medication that has been used in the medical community for years for anesthesia and pain management . However, in recent years, scientists have begun to examine its effectiveness in the treatment of conditions like depression. Patients may go to one of a few hundred clinics in the United States who prescribe ketamine as a treatment for depression. They often leave feeling much better, and there is anecdotal support that as a treatment ketamine may also help decrease suicidal thoughts .
Drugs like MDMA, or ecstasy, continue to undergo trials approved by the FDA to treat Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and depressive conditions. These small studies have had promising results too . Some have indicated that after a few rounds of treatment, those living with PTSD reported a significant reduction in symptoms, with many going on to avoid mental health relapse in follow-up contact with the researchers.
Microdosing and Marijuana
There has been an increasing amount of research about the health benefits of marijuana . It helps treats symptoms associated with many health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, PTSD, various cancers, and anxiety amongst others.
Microdosing has emerged as a potential treatment tool to help those with such conditions gain the healing and medical benefits of marijuana but minimize the experience of being “high,” as well as other potential negative consequences such as altered states of consciousness, low motivation, overeating, and hallucinations. CBD oil is most mainstream arm of marijuana-related treatment and has been approved in some states for the treatment of certain conditions, even for children for conditions like seizures.
Attitudes towards using street substances for medicinal purposes are slowly changing. By extension, this shift sets the stage for ongoing research about microdosing, which has largely been non-mainstream to date.
The Future of Microdosing
While very few treatment providers provide microdosing services, there is certainly momentum building in the medical community about its benefits due to ongoing anecdotal and research support for the use of drugs like LSD, ketamine, and marijuana (or CBD oil) for a variety of health conditions. However, we still have a lot to learn and there has yet to be a mountain of evidence around the long term effects of microdosing with these substances.
There is still a lot of research that needs to be done in order for the medical community to have great faith in the positive outcomes and utility of microdosing. That being said, anecdotal experiences have indicated that microdosing may soon be a viable option for people looking to treat a range of psychological and physical health problems. As with any treatment option, be sure to speak with a licensed physician if you’re considering microdosing as an option.

The post What You Need to Know about Microdosing appeared first on Talkspace Online Therapy Blog.

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