Archives for December, 2011
As we approach another New Year, people are writing and talking about the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. A couple of days ago Chuck wrote a blog about questions you should ask yourself before making a list of resolutions. He promised that I would write a blog about how to go about making your resolutions. Well, I could do that. For example, be specific and concrete. Don’t say you are going to support world peace—instead, resolve to contribute something to UNICEF, the United Nations fund to help children around the world. And don’t go overboard—like stating that you are planning on working out 5 times a week every week. What happens when you get a bad cold or the flu? You mess up and then your resolution becomes unobtainable. Many people give up entirely when they experience a small lapse. Instead, make your goal more reasonable such as “I will work out most weeks of the year.”
Now is the time that most people start thinking about what resolutions they want to make for the New Year. But before you undertake that task, you’d be well advised to reflect back on this past year first. You can start by looking at last year’s list of resolutions and reflecting on how things went. Even if you don’t have such a list, you can still ask yourself some questions such as:
Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list and checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice. This popular Christmas song is really about how we encourage children to have self-control or engage in moral behavior. The song lets kids know that someone (could be a parent, big brother, the neighbors, the police, a spiritual figure, or Santa Claus) is watching what they are doing. And there will be consequences for their actions—presents for those “good” or “nice” kids and nothing or worse for those who were naughty. Philosophers have grappled with the reasons people behave the way they do for centuries. What motivates saints and sinners? Do people behave because they want to be good (nice) or because they don’t want to be punished? Well, that depends.
During the holiday season, many people find themselves hosting out of town guests. For the most part, these encounters go smoothly with people generally going out of their way to make those visiting comfortable. However, for people who tend to be anxious, visiting others can be quite stressful. For those who host, here are some holiday tips for helping people who may worry too much feel welcome and at ease:
A couple of days ago, Laura wrote a blog on how anxiety can morph into panic. Many people experience episodes of mild to moderate panic here and there—a few of the common triggers for such episodes include looming deadlines, upcoming parties, and presentations to work groups. However, some people experience panic at a much more intense level, to the point that they actually develop a full blown Panic Disorder. True panic attacks of this sort involve anxiety and fear of stunning intensity. The actual attacks usually peak within ten minutes and slowly fade, but it’s common for people to actually think they could die during one of these attacks. Common symptoms of these attacks include: Profuse sweating Rapid, irregular heartbeat Shortness of breath or sense of suffocation A sense of unreality or detachment Fear of impending death without any real basis Nausea Fear of losing control or “going insane” Trembling and shaking Chills and hot flashes Dizziness When such attacks reoccur, the person worries about future attacks, has considerable concerns about the meaning of the attacks, or changes his or her behavior in order to avoid attacks, the odds are that a Panic Disorder is in play. Frequently, but not always, people with Panic Disorder also have Agoraphobia (fears of being in places that would be difficult or highly embarrassing to leave or escape from), but that’s a topic for another blog.
We all feel anxiety. Anxiety is normal and can be very useful. For example, last summer we were walking our dogs down by an irrigation ditch in Corrales and Chuck suddenly grabbed my arm and spun me around. The dogs followed—obediently. My first feeling was annoyance, but as I looked back at a snake slithering across the path, my physical response was quick. I was alert and aware of the snake behind us. I distinctly heard a rattle as we moved quickly and silently away. I was not thinking, only acting.
It’s not uncommon for people with anxiety disorders to have episodes of panic. A panic attack is defined as a period of time when a person experiences intense discomfort or fear. Along with that feeling, there is a biological response such as a pounding heart, trembling, dizziness, sweating, nausea, trouble breathing, or chills. People who have panic attacks frequently describe their experiences as horrible. Some say that they felt like they were dying; others say they thought they were going crazy; some say that they worried about losing control of themselves; still others report that they felt like they were outside of their bodies. It is quite understandable that, after experiencing a panic attack, people want to avoid another one.
Many people love the holiday season—in fact someone once sang “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” oops I hope I didn’t ruin anyone’s day with an earworm! This season people are worried about finances. Whether faced with a job loss, salary reductions, homes losing values, or savings lost to the stock market—many families are cutting back on holiday spending or feeling anxious about meeting expectations. The holidays are meant to be joyful, not full of worry and woe. So, here are a few ideas that may help you and your family enjoy a relaxing and meaningful holiday season.