In this video The Mind Doctor shows you how to help someone who is having a panic attack or anxiety attack. Am I having a panic attack? What is a Anxiety attack? Many people are not sure how to best support someone with anxiety or how to spot when they are having a panic attack. This video describes some of the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks as well as the do's and don'ts of how best to help someone cope with anxiety.

 

 

Published in Anxiety

Think exercise is all about weight loss? Think again. A surge of scientific research into the links between physical exercise, the brain, and mental health in the last few decades has revealed more and more great reasons to get moving. Below are just some of the ways in which exercise has an impact on how you feel.

 

1. Research shows that regular exercise (burning around 350 calories three times a week) can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression. In fact, studies have shown exercise programmes reducingsymptoms as effectively as antidepressants. The side effects of exercise are more pleasant too.

 

2. Stress causes our bodies to show signs of ageing right down to a cellular level. Researchers at the University of California have found that vigorous exercise significantly reduces the signs of ageing on our cells. So after a bad day at work a game of tennis could be a better stress reliever than watching television.


 

3. Participating in yoga three times per week has a significant effect on the chemicals in our brain associated with depression and anxiety. This makes it a great complement to both pharmacological and psychological therapies.


 

4. The runner's high is no myth. High intensity exercise such as interval sprinting can lift your mood and leave you feeling uplifted for the rest of the day. But you don't have to be a runner to get the effects. Cycling, swimming, football or tennis will have the same effect. The important part is just to involve bursts of high intensity with short rests in between. Get the heart pumping and the blood circulating and your body will do the rest.


 

5. Exercise can improve your confidence, but you don't have to wait for radical changes in your waistline to feel it. Studies have found increases in self-esteem and body image just from reaching goals such as lifting heavier weights, running a faster time or winning a game. Furthermore, taking the focus away from weight loss and paying more attention to improving your performance can be much more motivating and enjoyable.


 

6. Depression has a negative effect on concentration and memory. But a study in Germany found that students scored better on high-attention tasks after doing just 10 minutes of exercise compared to those that did not. Their scores were even better if that exercise was something complicated such as dancing or a racquet sport. This is because complicated activities that require our full attention and hand-eye coordination improve our capacity to learn by enhancing attention and concentration skills.

 

These are just a few of the ways that exercise influences the way you feel and so, if you do nothing else today, exercise. Any form of activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you feel a little out of breath. If exercise is new to you, visit your GP to get some advice on getting started, or seek out a therapist who can support you in gradually increasing your activity level to help improve your mood.

 

 

Published in Mind & Body
Sunday, 17 November 2013 00:00

5 Things You Can Do To Feel Happier Today

Everyone has good days and bad days. At times it can feel like we are at the mercy of the mood we wake up with. Once you are feeling low, it can seem as though you are doomed to feel that way for the rest of the day. But research shows there are small things you can do that lift your mood and do your general wellbeing some good. No rocket science involved and you don't have to get up at 5am to pracitce yoga. These are the small things. Some of them might seem too simple to make an impact, but give them a try. These are generally the first things we let slide when we are feeling a little low. So I invite you to try a couple and see if you can improve your day, starting now.

Tip 1. Exercise

Take the stairs two at a time.Get yourself a little out of breath. On a low day you feel even less like going to the gym, but small ways to get the blood flowing can help too. There is a mountain of research evidence to show that exercise gets our bodies sending feel good chemicals to your brain. But you don't have to climb that mountain to feel the effects. So run up those stairs or do a couple of star jumps in your office (when no one is looking). If it doesn't work it's because you are not working your body enough so pick up the pace when you take your dog for a walk. Get out of breath. The effects are almost instant so get going now.

Tip 2. Music

While you are doing that, play some music. Carefully select the happiest tunes that cheer you up. Music has a powerful impact on mood and emotion. It's a great way of drowning out the sound of our own worries for 10 minutes. So get yourself a Happiness playlist and turn up the volume on the commute to work.

Tip 3. Kindness

For an immediate feel good factor, do something for somebody else. It doesn't need to be a grand gesture. No need to devote your life to charity (although this would be wonderful). Small acts of kindness help you to feel good straight away. Helping that mother get her pushchair onto the train, helping someone with their work, always pass on a compliment. They'll feel better and so will you.

Tip 4. Gratitude

Grab a pen and write down three things you are grateful for today. Low mood can cause our mind to act like a sieve, filtering out the positives in life and leaving us with just the negatives. This short exercise can help to bring back a broader perspective and lift mood. If you find this helpful you can make even more use of this by making it part of your daily routine. When you get into bed at the end of the day, make a short list of things you have enjoyed, moments when you have felt close to someone else, and times you felt you have done well.

Tip 5. Nutrition

The food you put into your body has an impact on your mood and wellbeing. Today, try adding a banana to your breakfast. Firstly, having breakfast is important for waking your body up, fuelling your brain ready for action and reducing cravings for sugary snacks that give you dips in mood. Secondly, bananas have been shown to help produce those happy chemicals in your brain. Thirdly, it gets you closer to your five a day. So if you do nothing else today, eat a banana.

Published in Happiness
Monday, 15 July 2013 00:00

How Shy People Think

Believe it or not our thoughts are not always a true reflection of reality. They are filled with biases, a pattern of thinking that affects how we perceive things. We all use these types of thinking. But research shows that those people who feel shy or socially anxious tend to use these ways of thinking more of the time. In turn, the more you think in this way, the more anxious you feel, leaving you in a vicious cycle of anxiety. So for those of you who wish to feel more confident and less anxious in social settings, here is a list of some of the types of thoughts to look out for and some tips on how to keep them under control. As you go through the list try to think of times when you have thought in this way. Some you will be more prone to than others.

Black and White Thinking

Seeing things as all-or-nothing, as only perfection or failure. When you hate yourself for that 90% test score, or calling that dinner party a total disaster because you ruined the dessert. This is a dangerous one as it leads to frequent and vicious self-criticism which leaves you feeling like a total failure – which you are not!

Over-generalisation

Taking one negative event and seeing it as typical and likely to happen again and again. The last time you went to that restaurant you tripped on the step so you vowed never to go there in future because, of course, it will happen again. This type of over-generalisation means that one bad experience can have a negative impact on all other areas of your life.

Mental filter

Picking out a single negative detail in a room full of positives and dwelling on it, to the exclusion of all else so that it taints your entire experience. You may be unable to join the conversation and have a good time at a party because you are so focused on the fact that you spilled a drink half an hour ago and felt embarrassed. The mental filter has the potential to ruin your experiences and your memories of them in the way that a single drop of cordial darkens a whole glass of water.

Fortune-telling

You just know that when you do your presentation at work you are going to stumble on your words, sound stupid and everyone will laugh. You not only anticipate that things will turn out badly, but convince yourself it is an absolute fact. This sends your anxiety through the roof and greatly increases the likelihood that you will find a way to avoid it.

Jumping to Conclusions

You wave at a friend across the street and she doesn’t wave back. You immediately conclude that you must have done something wrong as she obviously hates you, when in fact there are a whole host of possible explanations. Your chosen theory leaves you feeling terrible.

Notice anything familiar? Great. Noticing is the first step. Keep looking for them everywhere as you’d be surprised how much they crop up in daily life and how much they then make you feel terrible. When you notice yourself using one of these thought patterns, note it down. Then write down how you felt when you had that thought. Sometimes this process of simply noticing that link can help us to detach ourselves from accepting that thought as a fact.

When you get familiar with this, look over your list of thoughts and see if you can gently challenge them. Is that thought really true? Look for evidence for and against, as if you were in a court of law. If you establish that the thought was not a fair reflection of reality, firstly cut yourself some slack. When you feel anxious you are more likely to think in that way. Then write down what thoughts might have been more useful to you in that situation, which sort of thought would have been more realistic and which would have been more helpful to you in your aim to feel confident. The more you do this over and over, the easier it becomes for your brain to access those types of thoughts in the future, so get practicing!

By noticing when you have thoughts like this as soon as they happen, you can step back and re-balance your thinking pattern by gently challenging how realistic they really are.

Published in Anxiety
Sunday, 23 June 2013 00:00

When Shyness Becomes a Problem

Most of us feel shy from time to time. That moment of awkwardness and uncertainty that makes you feel anxious around other people. Many people admit to feeling shy when they meet someone new, go on a first date, speak to people in authority or in a job interview. In these situations it is not uncommon to worry about being criticized or judged. Your voice starts to sound shaky, your mouth goes dry, you sense the heat across your face as you blush. Your mind goes blank and you don’t know what to say next, allowing those awkward moments to last even longer. It is only later, when you are back home, that you begin to think, ‘I should have said this or that’. It’s important to remember that these feelings are normal and very common. Research suggests over 98 per cent of people report having these shy and anxious experiences.

So when does shyness become a problem that you need to work on? For some people, shyness begins to take over. You begin to avoid doing certain things that are good for you and that you once enjoyed. You start spending less time with friends, turn down that party invite, avoid using the gym, or even decide not to apply for that job you wanted. Shyness becomes an invisible barrier holding you back from living the life that you want. The isolation that results increases the risk of developing low mood and mild depression. Listed below are some of the signs and symptoms of a social anxiety problem.

  1.     Physiological symptoms could include sweating, muscle tension, nausea, trembling and difficulty talking.
     
  2.     Feelings of anger and frustration with yourself.
     
  3.     The tendency to worry and dread situations weeks before the event.
     
  4.     An intense and enduring fear of being negatively evaluated by others or causing yourself embarrassment.
     
  5.     Frequently scrutinizing every detail of yourself and worrying about what you say and do around others.
     
  6.     Excessive self-consciousness and the perception that everyone is looking at you.
     
  7.     Extreme discomfort in public or social situations, which leads to avoidance.


If these symptoms seem to describe your experience, then you could have a problem with social anxiety. But don’t panic. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to rebuild your confidence. In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to seek professional support to help you along with this, but below I have described a useful exercise taken from the ground-breaking Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) to help you to start by helping yourself.

Those with social anxiety tend to be highly self-critical in the way they talk to themselves in their own heads. When they make a mistake they can be very self-attacking. The result is more anxiety, more self-loathing, shame and more avoidance of things they value. In fact, constant self-criticism has the same affect as it would to live with a bully 24 hours a day 7 seven days a week. Not a pleasant idea. But learning to replace that harsh self-talk with a more compassionate one, when you have made a mistake, helps you to calmly engage with the situation so that it can be repaired and you can move on with confidence.  Here is one exercise that is sometimes used in therapy to help individuals tackle that very critical self-talk that keeps shyness alive.

Step 1. Think of a specific situation that causes you to be self-critical.
       

Step 2. Write a list of all the self-critical thoughts you have bout this situation.
       

Step 3. Next to each thought, write down a more compassionate perspective, one that is understanding of your feelings, kind to yourself, focusing on your strengths and positive experiences. Generate alternative thoughts about the situation that are more supportive.

This can be incredibly difficult to begin with. After all, it is likely that you have a lifetime of practice at being self-critical. To make it easier, consider what you would say to a good friend in the same situation. Remember to be honest, kind, understanding and encouraging. With plenty of practice at doing this it will eventually become a habit that helps.

 

Published in Anxiety

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