Archives for Mindfulness


New To Meditation? Try These Tiny Stepping Stones From Headspace

While I've played around with meditation before, I never really held myself to its committed practice. I'd get excited about it for a few days, cozying up with Meditation Oasis podcasts after dinner, but then I'd drop the habit out of boredom or inattention. Or both.

But for the past ten days, I've been using a meditation app called Headspace to get me meditating more habitually....
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Breathe Easy This Weekend With A Simple Web App

Have you ever noticed your respiration rate increase during periods of heightened anxiety? It's okay if you have -- it's completely normal and part of the body's fight-or-flight reaction.

But what if you're anxious about something that you can't fight or flee from? Then, your quicker-than-usual rate of breathing becomes an annoyance at the least -- and a panic trigger at worst.

Perhaps you've read about abdominal breathing in Edmund J. Bourne's classic text, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Breathing retraining can help with panic and anxiety symptoms, he notes -- and I agree. It can.

But perhaps, like me, you absolutely hated his 5/5/5 "Calming Breath Exercise" because, let's face it, fellow panickers: holding your breath for 5 seconds between inhale & exhale is...uncomfortable, to say the least. Right? My body hates it!

For me, it raises my heart rate, and I still can't quite understand why it's so often recommended.

So, what else can we do?
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Enter To Win A Free Copy Of ‘ADHD According to Zoë’

Yesterday, I blabbed on and on about my penchant for forgetting important appointments, feeling too distracted to do my work, and losing important stuff around the house (like my keys).

I don't have an ADHD diagnosis, but I like to joke that I might as well have one. That's why I've been reading so much about it lately. Even if I don't have the disorder officially, why not use ADHD treatment techniques to try and improve my life?

That's the thought that ultimately got me reading Zoë Kessler's new book, ADHD According to Zoë. From yesterday's post:
"Now, I can’t really give you a full review because I’m only about halfway through. Still, I can tell you this much: each chapter presents a super-friendly balance of personal storytelling, relevant research, and practical advice for handling everything from money to job interviews to friendships with less impulsivity and greater mindfulness. Even the short chapters are further broken down into ultra-digestible sections (of only a few paragraphs apiece – at the most!)

If you’ve got an ADHD diagnosis – one with a heavy emphasis on the “H” in particular – you’ll find yourself in a comforting kinship with the author."
But don't just take my word for it. From Kay Marner:
"Each of the book’s 17 chapters chronicles an ADHD-related way of being, such as 'being diagnosed,' 'being impulsive,' and 'being unconventional.' In each chapter, Kessler gives a highly personal, often funny, sometimes heartbreaking account of her experience living with that particular ADHD-related trait...Kessler’s work exhibits a seldom-seen degree of honesty and intimacy."

Want a copy for free?
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How I Completely Forgot About World Mental Health Day (Amongst Many Other Important Things)

This past Thursday was World Mental Health Day. My fellow PsychCentral bloggers were “blog party”-ing it up here.

I’d originally planned to participate, of course. Just like I did last year. And the year before.

So, where the hell was I on Thursday? Why did I forget?

Well, I was caught up in my endless loop of anxiety and distraction, as usual. First, I ran off to teach class for a few hours at the technical college across the river.

After class, I packed up and drove home. Because that's what I always do after class. It's part of my Tuesday/Thursday autopilot setting.

Then, after walking through my front door (and putting a few dishes away and then finally hanging up my purse and my keys – in that order), I realized that I’d totally forgotten to attend a professional development seminar that I’d signed up for. Dammit!

Oh, and the location of the seminar? Just a couple of rooms away from where I’d just finished teaching.

Seriously. Sigh.
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Distract Yourself From Anxiety With These iPhone Puzzle Games

I’ve always loved a good puzzle game. As a kid, I could play Dr. Mario on my NES for hours. Math and word puzzles were right up my alley as well, and on long car rides, you could find me with my nose in a puzzle book, busily hunting through word search grids.

My panic attacks began in college, and to cope with my high level of pre-bedtime anxiety, I found myself using puzzle games as a method of distraction. First, it was those word scrambles from the newspaper. Then, in grad school, I met Sudoku.

If smartphones were a thing back when I was in school, I’m sure I would have happily tossed the newspaper into the recycling bin in favor of using a shiny little handheld device that does all the things.

All I had then was a flip phone with a trial version of Tetris. Before that, I lugged around a very solid-looking Nokia. The best game on that clunker? Snake.

And now? I have every game at my fingertips – and, while convenient, it’s a little overwhelming. There are so many – well, too many -- puzzle games to choose from in the iTunes app store.

Which ones seem to work best at quelling my anxiety at the end of the day?
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Prepping for Hurricane Sandy: Handling “What If” Thoughts

Okay. I've admitted that I'm nervous. When I think of the possibility of losing power for a few hours, I get butterflies (bad ones) in my belly. Especially if the power goes out at night.

The thought of losing power for a day? Very stressful. Will my food be okay? How will I cook without my electric oven and stove?

Losing power for two days? Extremely stressful. Will all of my food go bad? Will I be hungry? Will my apartment get too cold? I can surely bundle up and stay warm, but my pet parrot is, uh, a tropical bird. He likes warmth. I can't exactly cuddle with him under the down comforter.

Three days? Ugh. Let's not even talk about it.

This is a great time to discuss the concept of "what if" thinking. All too often, we get caught up in thoughts about future events or activities that haven't occurred yet -- and may not even occur. My therapist's motto? Focus on the "what is", not the "what if".

But...but what about when you're in the direct path of a hurricane!?

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Five Steps Toward A More Mindful Relationship With Caffeine

Hi. My name is Summer and I have panic disorder. Yup.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know this by now. Panic disorder with agoraphobia. (Although, admittedly, the second half of my official diagnosis is slowly fading away. Knock on wood for me, people. Please?!)

So, why in the world would a panic attack sufferer want to use caffeine -- a stimulant -- to aid in her overall recovery?

Here's why: I don't want to perceive caffeine as some sort of frightening threat. (If you missed my first caffeinated post from late last week, read it here.)

I want to create a truce with caffeine. I want to recognize that my body's reactions to this drug are completely normal. I want to train myself to be comfortable with caffeine again.

The key here is mindfulness.
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Cozying Up With Caffeine: Can Mindfulness Help?

Know this: between every sentence in this blog post, I am taking a sip from my cup of delicious half-decaf Americano from my local home-grown coffee roaster (read: NOT Starbucks, despite the photo. Their coffee tastes like cigarette butts to me.)
You might be wondering why I didn't go full decaf with my beverage today. After all, I'm a panicker. Caffeine kick-starts one of my main panic triggers: it increases my heart rate.

Boom boom boom.

So, why am I doing this? Why am I willingly drinking coffee again?

Some might argue that avoiding caffeine altogether is the best way to reduce general anxiety and prevent panic. And that very well may be true -- avoiding caffeine completely is necessary for many of us who suffer from anxiety disorders. I withdrew from caffeine completely when my panic attacks first began in college, and it helped to reduce my anxiety level.

But, then again, consider this: avoiding potential threats only amplifies them into larger, scarier threats.
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My Mind is Blank and So Is This Blog Post

Okay, I fibbed a little bit. The blog post isn't technically blank.

There are words and sentences and stuff, but that's about it. It's hard to fill anything with great meaning when you're placidly walking around with a blankity-blank mind.

Let me set the scene: it's 4:23 p.m. I am sitting in my bedroom office (i.e., at an L-shaped desk that I hacked together with a real desk from Target and a long hand-me-down dresser from the 1970's).

I'm facing the bed. I see an unmade mess of sheets, quilts, and pillows. I should probably make the bed, shouldn't I? Or, well, maybe not -- after all, I'm only going to un-make again five hours from now.

There's a window to the left of the bed. From my vantage point, I see an overcast sky that makes me strangely comfortable. Overcast days give me permission to do whatever I'd like -- work, read, putz around, cook -- without dealing with the manic "OMG get outside and enjoy the sunlight while it's here!" message that the sun tends to broadcast.
A cloudy sky releases the pressure to savor the season. It's a neutral force that I've come to know and love ever since developing panic disorder. In my pre-panic days, I was a high sensation-seeking gal who never passed up an opportunity to spend a day in the sunlight, ride an upside-down roller coaster, or jump off a 20-foot cliff into a river.
I'm not a high sensation-seeker any longer. Adrenaline is not my friend. I don't search for it. And when it finds me accidentally, I usually tell it to shut up.

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