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Manage Your Stress

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Photo by Thao Le Hoang on Unsplash

Learn how to reclaim your emotions and your life

Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at different times in our lives. Our lives have without preamble been turned upside down. We could never have predicted the current situation that has become our ‘new normal”. Our stress levels are at an all time high! While some folks seem to have various methods of coping, others encounter varying degrees of difficulty in managing their stress levels.

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Image credit: clipart.com

Stress is often the result of mental or emotional pressures. You feel overwhelmed with life. The disconnect begins with a real or perceived demand placed on your brain or your physical body. The stress is compounded when multiple competing stressors are placed on us. Presently we are faced with many unpleasant stimuli and this may cause us to feel incapable of holding the reigns.

We try valiantly to hang on but may become unable to and just let go, retreating into ourselves.

A funny image of a man unable to keep a hold of the reigns to his horse.

Image credit: clipart.com

Stress can present in one of two ways:

  • Acute stress

or

  • Chronic stress

Acute stress:

Acute stress has its origins in the fight-or-flight response. It is the body’s signal of imminent danger that alerts us to the presence of a threat and prepares us to fight or to take flight. It is part of our built-in protective mechanism.

Chronic stress:

This type is more insidious, the stressor remains for longer periods of time, and will generally affect your health and your everyday lives. This ongoing stress produces symptoms, such as, shortness of breath, headaches and insomnia, etc. These chronic-stress responses are sneaky and subtle than those of the acute-stress response, but their effects are longer lasting and way more problematic.

Stress may also be triggered by sudden emotional changes, i.e., a loss or a change in your living situation, our health and our world, e.g., COVID-19.

A funny and utilitarian sign that states: Stress Relief at the next exit.

image credit: clipart.com

Some ways to manage are:

  • Get enough rest
  • Take deep breaths
  • Use guided imagery
  • Recognize factors that trigger your stress
  • Keep a diary, things seem much less threatening when you see it in writing
  • Try progressive relaxation
  • Laugh
  • Music / dance
  • Get a massage
  • Meditate
  • Get physical e.g., yoga, exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Limit caffeine & alcohol
  • Avoid illicit drugs, they may make stress and anxiety worse
  • Get moving, change your scenery e.g., take a walk
  • Try medication therapy
  • Develop some hobbies

Deep breathing − Breathe in slowly through your nose. Hold your breath for about 3 seconds. Exhale slowly out your mouth. Close your eyes, if you can and concentrate on controlling and slowing down your breathing.

Guided imagery − Close your eyes and picture a safe, peaceful scene. Choose some place you love and where you feel safe. Concentrate on the details of the scene and remember how you feel when you are there.

Progressive relaxation − Sit or lie quietly. Start by making a group of muscles tense or tight and then relax them. Tense your muscles for at least 5 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat. Then, move to another group.

Laughter − Laughing helps lower stress. Try watching a comedy on television. Tell funny stories. Share jokes, books or laugh with a friend.

Music − If you love music like I do, this is a surefire way to allay feelings of stress and anxiety and help you to relax. If you play an instrument, now is a good time to give it a go.

Massage − We all know the joys and benefits of a good massage, get a back rub from someone you feel safe with just bask in the presence of their companionship.

Meditation − Do a familiar activity that calms you and helps you clear your mind. If a walk or a run helps you to feel calm, do so in a safe space.

Take a 10-second break − You may feel very stressed but not able to leave where you are. If so, close your eyes and breathe deeply for 10 seconds, e.g., on an airplane.

Yoga or other forms of martial arts− These slow and purposeful body movements coupled with deep breathing, serves to take your focus off the stressor and can help you feel better.

Limit/stop caffeine, alcohol and illicit street drugs — these substances can all cause/increase stress and anxiety, so avoid them when and if possible.

Finally medication therapy — talk to your healthcare provider about what medication / therapeutic options are available and may be effective for your particular situation. Together you can initiate therapy that still allows you to remain a productive member of society.

3 red puzzle interconnected pieces labelled laughter, yoga and connections.

image credit: clipart.com

With our lives are turned inside out and our current circumstances are extremely stressful, we hopefully have the support of family and friends. We should seek out resources to that offer assistance as well as use some of the techniques set out above in learning to cope and self de-stress for better mental health.

Reference:

Posted on 27 Comments

Anemia and Eating Ice

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Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Do you have a constant need to chomp on ice chips? Crunching and munching at the detriment of your pearly whites — this behavior is known as pagophagia a form of pica.

Pagophagia — craving and eating ice.

Pica — is the compulsive urge to eat non-nutritive substances. Pica eating is not a recent phenomena, it has been observed for centuries. Pregnant women and preadolescents are a group with the highest risk of pica, though many persons indulge in Pica. Ice, soil, paper, rubber bands are some examples of non-nutritive items eaten in pica. It is also thought that pica has an association in the disorders in mentation.

Woman Eating Dirt
Photo credit–Study.com

This non-nutritive eating is often associated with anemia.

Pagophagia

Pagophagia —  the practice of eating ice is also a type of Pica eating. Pagophagia is a common form of pica associated with iron deficiency. You may aware that the constant chewing on ice will damage your teeth yet you are powerless to cease the destructive behavior. We may view the desire for chewing ice as a pleasurable act, which may be natures way of alerting us of a deficit.

Per the National Library of Medicine approximately one third of the world’s populace suffers with anemia. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency are manifested in adults as; restless legs syndrome and pica eating. In adolescents the symptoms are; decreased learning and behavioral anomalies. In neonates iron deficiency show up as; arrested growth and development.

sliced-lemon-on-ice-water-90763
Image credit: Pixabay

How is it diagnosed?

Pica eating is usually diagnosed on the admission of patients on consuming non-nutritive items such as paper, soil, paint chips, hair, rubber bands and ice for a period greater than one month.

Diagnosis is also based on tests for anemia, intestinal blockages, parasitic infections and toxic side effects of things ingested, e.g., lead poisoning.

Most persons are not cognizant that consuming a lot of ice everyday is a form of pica. Many patients assume that it’s just a habit and medical care practitioners do not always make a connection between the behaviors and pica or a mental health issue. Practitioners need to be cognizant in investigating the etiology of the blood loss that results in the anemia.

Pica eating is not diagnosed in children under two years of age as this is part of their normal developmental testing and learning their environment.

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

How is it treated?

Once diagnosed patients are usually treated for the iron deficiency. Studies have shown a resolution for the pica/pagophagia once the anemia has resolved. Iron supplementation is given intravenously, orally (liquid, pills or capsules) and must be supplemented with vitamin-c to enable absorption by the cells.

Since pica also has its etiology in some psychological disorders, e.g., obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), stress and developmental disorders  —  cognitive therapy may be required to aid the patient in future management of the disorder.

Final Thoughts

Pagophagia/pica has been a part of the human condition for eons, its etiology and pathophysiology remains a mystery (perhaps due to our bodies instinctive need to exist). The powerful urge to chomp on ice and other non-nutritive substances regularly may be our bodies way of screaming for help. I have personally witnessed pica eating, with many other substances.

Should you become aware you or family members possess any unusual cravings for non-food items, inform them/your primary care provider as an investigation and resolution may go a long way to improving your/their life.

References:

  1. https://study.com/
  2. https://www.nlm.nih.gov
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org
  4. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
  5. https://jmedicalcasereports.biomedcentral.com
  6. https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/ipho20/current

 

Posted on 41 Comments

Dancing — A Love with Health Benefits

Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

I love to dance! I also love music. One cannot separate the two, for you really cannot have one without the other. If only I could be sixteen again, If I had a change to choose a path once more, I would choose my one true love, I would choose to dance.

If there is music I cannot, I will not be still. My body, my feet, my soul is compelled to move on its own accord. The moving parts are not controlled by me but by the master musician. I cannot help myself as I simply love dance and music!

If there is music I will dance!

Whenever I ponder the sadness of my eventual demise it is the absence of music and dancing for which I grieve. I am saddened that I will no longer hear music or get to dance.

I have always loved the sounds of music, not just any music, the conscious kind, the type that speaks to me on a soul level. The kind of music in which I can lose myself in. The kind of music that expresses all that I could ever wish to say.


                                  Photo by Leon Liu on Unsplash

Benefits of dancing

Throughout history dancing has always been present at celebrations, when wars were won and conquests were made. The use of dance as a form of therapy should be practiced more often in society. According to Harvard Medical School, Institute of Neurobiology, dance is currently being explored for its role in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

 Dancing:

  • Improves the condition of your heart and lungs.
  • Increases your general fitness level.
  • Helps build strong bones thereby reducing injuries.
  • Boosts your mood.
  • Improves your sense of well-being.
  • Increases muscular strength and endurance.
  • Helps with weight management.
  • Improves coordination, agility and flexibility.
  • A gentle exercise.

Psychology today states that the act and physical exertion of dancing and for a sustained amount releases the mood-altering neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. It also posits that new neurons and neurological connections are established as a result of proteins produced with prolonged physical activity

The movement of dancing produces beauty, it gives rise to agility and strength. Dance is healing, soothing, spiritual and when used in conjunction with music provides a plethora of healing benefits.

So to those of us out there, us that love music and dance, we who cannot remain seated when we hear music … rise up and dance, for dancing may be a key to your emotional and physical health.

What could be better!

So next time I vow to choose you dance as my first love.

Then … I will dance.

Resources:

Posted on 9 Comments

The Forgotten … How are They?

And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then_Good day my friends. I read an article in the New York Times about the prison population, this got me wondering about the forgotten … the homeless, the undocumented, those imprisoned and those held in detention centers and their risk amidst this COVID-19 pandemic and began to do some checking around.

The Imprisoned

The Incarcerated

Of those persons incarcerated according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons 120 inmates and 54 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. (see link for updated statistics).

It is reported that criminal justice and reform groups and some lawmakers have been advocating the early release of some inmates due to the current pandemic and       pre-existing conditions.

Attorney General William Barr proposed review for some criminals to be on home quarantine subject to assurance that they would not be spreading the virus into communities.

The bureau have been on social distancing order (14-day lock down, that began April 1st, 2020, inmates have been isolated in their cells.

  • All inmates and staff are screened for COVID-19 prior to movement
  • All non-essential activities / assignments are suspended
  • All essential persons in and out of the facility will be screened
  • Any symptoms of COVID-19 will immediately be placed in isolation
  • Inmates telephone minutes increased to 500 mins/month
  • Absolutely no social visits
  • Transfers based on forensic, legal,essential and medical health issues
  • Legal visits suspended for 30 days and re-evaluated on a case by case basis

The Undocumented

The Incarcerated (2)

Since undocumented immigrants are well “undocumented” they will not be receiving any monies from the stimulus funds so what do they do?

A few community organizations are trying to help families get through this crisis. They are  paying for some groceries or offering small grants so families can remain safe at home during the pandemic.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance have begun a Coronavirus Care Fund as a means of support for domestic workers.

Lobbyists are hard at work trying to have undocumented workers included in the stimulus package.

The Homeless and Mentally Ill

The Incarcerated (1)

I wondered about the whereabouts of the homeless and “at risk” population in my area?

Where are they? What is happening with them?

I must admit I had not thought of that before today!

I found that they have been staying in the shelters and are being monitored and screened before entry and high traffic areas cleaned once each hour.

The shelters have also identified a “far wing” that can be used for quarantine should it become necessary.

They have also identified a hospital close by where any suspected cases can be sent to.

I have not passed to many persons in the streets as Dallas had always ‘encouraged’ them to see refuge in the shelters.

What’s happening in your Town?

If anyone out there is feeling they cannot cope, please reach out to; National Coalition for Mental Illness and Homelessness and you will be directed to your closest available resources.

Some resources

For Incarcerations