Climbing Mt. Everest

This writing was shared with me by one of my clients. With her permission, I am sharing it with you. Enjoy!!!

I watched the Everest Imax movie in high school.

Climbers buy the best quality gear to help them in their quest to the top.  They search out the warmest, lightest outwear to protect themselves from the elements.  They hire the most experienced, capable guides to lead them.

Yet still, they need to climb.  They need to put one foot in front of the other.  They need to trudge through snow, and balance themselves on ice covered cliffs.

True, without the gear, the protection, and the guides you wouldn’t last thirty seconds moving towards your goal.  But all the money in the world, the best guide and the latest model gear cannot get you up to the peak of the mountain if YOU are not willing to climb.

This is how I sometimes feel about battling my anxiety.

I have the best therapist, an awesome doctor, a sensitive husband, a supportive and understanding family, and the sweet love of my children.

I have researched and found medicine that works for me, increasing my serotonin to normal levels.  I do stretching and breathing exercises, and occasionally get a massage.

But I still need to be the one to climb the mountain.  I need to put one foot in front of the other when I feel like I’m about to throw up from the intense anxiety pushing at my chest.  I need to trudge through my thoughts and feelings to figure out if there is, and if so, what might be the source of why I feel this way.  I need to carefully balance my priorities so I don’t waste precious mental energy and time.

It’s so different from my experience with a physical illness.

Sure, having Crohn’s disease is no picnic.  It’s painful, embarrassing and can get quite annoying (yes, I can make a directory of all the public bathrooms in the city.)

But really, it’s more like a very long international flight that gets delayed about half the day so you almost miss your connection.  You wait for hours in a stuffy, dirty, overcrowded waiting area.  You sit in a narrow seat on the plane flanked on either side by people who could either use a shower or are wearing a nasty smelling deodorant.  And sometimes you even have to run through an airport to catch a flight.

It’s not a pleasant experience, but you are not the one physically doing the work.  There are pilots flying the plane, and flight attendants who actually offer you a drink.

It took time to find the right doctor, and alternative care, but really in the end all I had to do was show up for appointments and make it through the prep for surgery without vomiting, (ok so I did vomit, but who cares?).

And people understand physical pain.  They get it.  They are sympathetic.  And somehow, that helps.

But even if everyone in the whole world understood emotional pain, if I didn’t put one foot in front of the other, there is no way to get any closer.

Brighten Your Days: Don’t Be SAD

By Marla Chalnick, Ph.D., LPCsad-winter-depression

Winter means different things to different people. Aside from having to deal with ice, I look forward to the crisp temperatures with great anticipation.  Others may see winter as just the inconvenient interlude between summers. For many people, winter can be down right depressing. They may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a condition that is similar to depression, except it appears only in the winter months.

SAD affects roughly 6% of the adult population of the United States. Women are more affected by SAD, but there are cases of men and children who experience it as well.  SAD can begin as early as September and last until April. The most difficult months are December, January and February because SAD is directly related to the amount of light that is absorbed through the eyes.

The symptoms of SAD occur regularly each winter and may include a number of the following: sleep problems (too much or too little), lethargy (feeling fatigued and unable to carry out daily tasks), difficulty concentrating, overeating (craving carbohydrates and sweet foods), depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from friends and family. In children, symptoms include irritability, difficulty getting out of bed and school problems in the fall and winter.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, helped discover the disorder and its treatment in the 1980’s. Dr. Rosenthal described his arrival in the United States from South Africa to complete his residency in psychiatry.

“I was born and raised in South Africa where the geographical climate is very, very pleasant, the seasons blend into one another. And then I came to New York City. I arrived in the summer, and the days were wonderfully long and I was full of energy and enthusiasm.

But then as the days got shorter, something began to happen to me, especially after the daylight savings time change occurred. Suddenly, I felt myself slowed down, less able to carry through on all the projects I picked up during the summer, reluctant to get out of bed and get going in the morning. I sort of soldiered on through the winter until the spring, when it all seemed to get better.”

Light therapy has proven to be an effective therapy in up to 85 per cent of cases of SAD. It consists of using a light box with high intensity florescent lights. Treatment consists of daily half hour to two-hour sessions of sitting in front of the light box, where you can read, eat or do other daily activities. While light therapy is generally the first line of defense, antidepressant medication maybe helpful.  Counseling or any other complementary therapy that teaches relaxation, stress management, adaptation and coping skills can also be useful.

And, if you are very fortunate, take a winter vacation to a warm, sunny place. Spending a week or two in the warm sunshine will have lasting benefits when you return to your winter climate. It’s like “recharging” your batteries. I’ve always wanted to go to Bermuda, how about you?

Winter means different things to different people. Aside from having to deal with ice, I look forward to the crisp temperatures with great anticipation.  Others may see winter as just the inconvenient interlude between summers. For many people, winter can be down right depressing. They may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD); a condition that is similar to depression, except it appears only in the winter months.

SAD affects roughly 6% of the adult population of the United States. Women are more affected by SAD, but there are cases of men and children who experience it as well.  SAD can begin as early as September and last until April. The most difficult months are December, January and February because SAD is directly related to the amount of light that is absorbed through the eyes.

The symptoms of SAD occur regularly each winter and may include a number of the following: sleep problems (too much or too little), lethargy (feeling fatigued and unable to carry out daily tasks), difficulty concentrating, overeating (craving carbohydrates and sweet foods), depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from friends and family. In children, symptoms include irritability, difficulty getting out of bed and school problems in the fall and winter.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University, helped discover the disorder and its treatment in the 1980’s. Dr. Rosenthal described his arrival in the United States from South Africa to complete his residency in psychiatry.

“I was born and raised in South Africa where the geographical climate is very, very pleasant, the seasons blend into one another. And then I came to New York City. I arrived in the summer, and the days were wonderfully long and I was full of energy and enthusiasm.

But then as the days got shorter, something began to happen to me, especially after the daylight savings time change occurred. Suddenly, I felt myself slowed down, less able to carry through on all the projects I picked up during the summer, reluctant to get out of bed and get going in the morning. I sort of soldiered on through the winter until the spring, when it all seemed to get better.”

Light therapy has proven to be an effective therapy in up to 85 per cent of cases of SAD. It consists of using a light box with high intensity florescent lights. Treatment consists of daily half hour to two-hour sessions of sitting in front of the light box, where you can read, eat or do other daily activities. While light therapy is generally the first line of defense, antidepressant medication maybe helpful.  Counseling or any other complementary therapy that teaches relaxation, stress management, adaptation and coping skills can also be useful.

And, if you are very fortunate, take a winter vacation to a warm, sunny place. Spending a week or two in the warm sunshine will have lasting benefits when you return to your winter climate. It’s like “recharging” your batteries. I’ve always wanted to go to Bermuda, how about you


 

 

Being a Loner and Finding Love: Is It Incompatible?

 

I recloner loveently read an article on the Lonerwolf website (http://www.lonerwolf.com) discussing this apparent opposition and I thought you might be interested in it as well.

Alethia Luna suggests that being a loner comes with an unspoken “job description.” 1) You like spending most of your time alone. 2) You are self-sufficient and don’t “need” other people to fill your life, and 3) Socializing is your nemesis.

If you consider yourself a loner, this job description may give you a sense of relief from social burdens, but also a sense of loneliness just below the surface.  But how can you be a loner that enjoys your solitude but still desire to find a friend or a lover? Isn’t this completely incompatible with who you are? I think not and here’s why:

  1. Wanting to find love and friendship is normal-for any personality type.
  • Aristotle once said, “Man be nature is a social animal.” This doesn’t mean that he always enjoyed socializing, but may naturally gravitate towards collaboration with others.
  1. You don’t have to be inauthentic to find someone you authentically connect with.
  • Pretending to be someone you’re not is a certain recipe for disaster. There are unlimited ways to find and connect with people who resonate with you.
  1. Don’t let your self-definition bog you down.
  • When identifying with a label can make you feel accepted and understood, it can also box you in and restrict you. You may be a loner, but you are also many other things. You are multilayered!
  1. Think about what is really holding you back from finding love.

Perhaps your identification with the loner label is holding you back, or perhaps something else. Close relationships may have wounded you in the past, creating fear, anxiety and inability to trust in the present. Making new connections is difficult for most everybody. You are not the only one struggling with this. Consider counseling if this is an issue you can’t seem to wade through by yourself.

Besides from giving you self-concept a space to breathe, REMEMBER TO GIVE YOURSELF TIME. It is difficult to go from a homebody to a socialize overnight. Take baby steps ad be patient, but don’t give up on finding LOVE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying Solo by Marla Chalnick

i-think-its-very-healthy-to-spend-time-alone

I recently came across an article by Kelly Fitzpatrick, www.greatistcom, called Lone Wovles Are Not Weird Wovles. Her topic resonated with me and I wonder if it might do the same for you? Kelly discusses the difference between preferring to spent some time alone and feeling lonely. Lately I find myself preferring to spend time on my own. It boosts my creativity and improves my closest relationships. That contrasts with feeling lonely when you’re alone; that kind of solitude results is sadness and ultimately might s a health risk.

Alone time is a pretty difficult to achieve. You have to be willing to unplug from cell phones, email, and social media. Psychologists define ‘solitude’ as a state of being alone with no one else to communicate with-not be confused with loneliness, or the feeling of being disconnected from other and longing for connection. In other words, it is completely possible to sit in a room, or lie on your bed in an empty room without feeling lonely.

Some experts suggest that solo time can be helpful at work and lead to more productivity.  Many relationship experts agree that one or both partners may need some alone time for a romantic relationship to flourish.

Loneliness results from being alone when you really want to connect with others. There’s a good reason to combat those solo blues. Loneliness is linked to depression and anxiety. It is also associated with poor sleep habits, high blood pressure and weaker immune responses.

Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all prescription for the amount of alone time we need. But there are ways to make sure that privacy doesn’t turn into loneliness. I suggest you might avoid using technology exclusively and call a friend to have coffee or dinner.

In closing, Kelly says the value of solo time depends on the individual. One person’s lame Friday night might be another’s ideal opportunity to fly solo.

How To Rewrite Your Life Story

1441629557172I wonder what messages you might have attached to my prose poem, Bronx Child, shared with you last month. You might have felt sorry for this little girl who ate her lunch alone everyday, or you might have experienced her as an independent, self-reliant child who could take care of herself. Maybe you had a different reaction. Children aren’t rational in their story telling. They are just trying to make sense of their experiences. Whatever meaning children attach to these stories, these meanings stay rooted in our unconscious minds and have a direct influence on our behaviors as adults.

It’s so important to review your life story to see where the words you speak to yourself are enriching your life or limiting it. Anyone can change his or her life story. The first step is realizing you have one. The next step is to challenge your beliefs about it. The final step is authoring your life.

Our stories express what we believe we are and who we believe we can be. They define us.  Stories can be positive. Narratives like “I’m great with kids,” or “Kids are my calling,” can inspire us, they encourage us to show up confidently and authentically in our relationships with others. Often though our stories have less positive effects. Stories like “People always let me down,” become self-fulfilling prophecies. They convince us we’ll never get what we want. They are absolute.

It’s important to see your story. Look at the life you’ve created and the patterns that have played out. What are the most meaningful moments? Write them down.

If you find a pattern where you are habitually putting yourself down that may signal a story of unworthiness and this limits and  disempowers you. Write down those negative patterns as well.

Examine what you’ve written down and challenge your thoughts to see which of them reflects who you are now and who you’d like to be.

Begin writing your new autobiography incrementally. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Small steady actions are more effective than big dramatic affirmations. Create a reasonable story that you can grow into.

Caution: Stress will make us more vulnerable to negative thinking, likely to fall back into old patterns. The moment you hear an old story rumbling around in your head, STOP LISTENING!  Do something different, helpful and healthy. Remember my favorite saying: “In times of stress we all regress!”

typwriterThe-art-of-writing-is-the-arttypwriter1441629557172

Rewrite Your Life

1441629557172Throughout our lives we carry stories; stories that dictate what we think about ourselves how we view others and how we see life in general. There is something intrinsic in our drive to explain, order, and extract meaning from the chaos of our lives, says Susan Gregory Thomas in this month’s Psychology Today. The stories we tell ourselves do not get fact checked but they do feel authentic to our personal experiences. Accurate or not, we believe them and they color our lives. Our ability to make sense of and create meaning from our memories defines how we feel about ourselves and shapes the identity we create throughout our lives.

I want to share a prose poem I recently wrote about my childhood. I wonder what story you would tell yourself about this little girl?

Bronx Child

I have the only bedroom in apartment 3B, 1815 Monroe Avenue.   On school days I walk three blocks home for lunch.  The first block is the longest, with brown stone row houses.  I pass my dentist’s, and apartment houses, each one different: colored brick, white, yellow, and red.   My apartment house has an elevator I take to the third floor. Most of my friends are afraid to ride by themselves! I am seven.

My lunch is usually soup in a Thermos, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I have no watch but I know that after Love of Life and Search for Tomorrow I turn off the TV, lock the apartment door with the key I wear on a string around my neck. On my way back to school, I head for Julie’s Candy Store.  I get a Nestlé’s Crunch for  six cents. I eat it one square at a time, so it lasts. I’m in no hurry to get back to Mrs. Gold’s class. She’s so mean.

On hot summer nights Julie’s is the place to go for cones—sugar or plain, with or without sprinkles. My favorite is a sugar cone with coffee ice cream and sprinkles. It costs twelve cents, two cents extra for the chocolate sprinkles.  Next door is Fedderman’s Pharmacy.  Fedderman’s has a soda fountain, too. Red and black twisted licorice sticks stand in glass jars, wax lips make you look like you’re wearing smeared lipstick. Sugar Dots are pasted on white paper: Sky bars, Clark bars, Bonomo Turkish Toffee .  My mother says I grow cavities like weeds!

Events don’t inherently contain meaning. It’s the meaning we give our past that matters. This is how our stories get created, and themes begin to emerge.

Next monthy we’ll talk about the meaning you attach to the stories you tell yourself, and you can decide if you need to rewrite your life story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help for worrying about worrying

worrying  In following up on “When to worry about worrying,” there are 3 strategies you might consider to cope with chronic worrying. It is important to understand what worrying is, since the beliefs you hold about worrying play a huge role in triggering worry. You probably feel like worries come from the outside-from people, events that are stressful or situations you’re facing. In fact, worrying is self-perpetuating. The trigger may come from the outside, but your internal dialogue keeps it going! When you’re worrying you are likely obsessing on worst case scenarios and if you are focusing on ‘what ifs’ your worrying is unproductive. If you can give up the idea that your worrying somehow helps you, you can begin to deal with your worry and anxiety.

Many people with anxiety don’t know how to calm down quickly. Some ideas for self care to create calm include:

  • Exercise, a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment
  • Get enough sleep, limit caffeine, avoid alcohol and nicotine.
  • Start eating healthy

You will also benefit from learning relaxation techniques-deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation and yoga. Be aware of what you can do for yourselves and design a self care program that works for you. Be flexible-does this mean you can never have a glass of wine? Absolutely not-everything in moderation!

If you have given self care a good shot and find you can’t seem to shake your worries and fears, you might consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one type of therapy that is particularly helpful. CBT examines distortions in our ways of looking at ourselves and the world. It can help you identify automatic negative thoughts that contribute to your anxiety. For example, if you are the type of person who catastrophizes, always think of the worst case scenarios, you might learn to challenge this tendency through asking yourself questions such as: Has this ever happened before? What is the likelihood it will happen now?, What are some more positive outcomes that are more likely to happen? With the help of a mental health professional it is possible to change your mind set and alleviate your worry and anxiety. This might not come easy to you, but with repeated practice you can retrain your thoughts and consequently your feelings.

Finally, with the assistance of a physician it is possible to alleviate your anxiety with the use of medication. Anti-anxiety medications relieve anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system. Their relaxing effects have made them very popular. Common anti-anxiety drugs are Xanax, Klonopin, Buspar, Valium and Ativan. Your physician can advise you about the pros and cons of these and other drugs to treat your anxiety. It’s important to remember that medications alone aren’t the cure. Therapy and lifestyle changes should be incorporated into your treat plan when you’re worrying about worrying!

 

For further information, visit:

www.healthguide.org

www.americanfamilyphysician.org

www.anxeties.com

 

 

When to worry about worrying

A recent article in HEALTHbeat, a publication of the Harvard Medical School, caught my eye. The title: When to worry about worrying. The article suggests there is no shortage of things to worry about-from personal concerns about your family, your job, your health, to fears related to larger issues such as political conflicts, terrorism and natural disasters. Temporary anxiety can be a healthy response to uncertainty and danger, but constant worry about things real or imagined may be a sign of a more serious problem-generalized anxiety disorder.

A generalized anxiety disorder involves chronic worrying, tension and nervousness. It is diffuse or free floating, not connected to anything in particular. People with a generalized anxiety disorder can’t shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen and they will not be prepared. Some people even worry about worrying too much. Does this sound familiar?

“I can’t get my mind to stop-it’s driving me crazy!”

“He’s late-he was supposed to be here 20 minutes ago! He must have had an accident!”

“I can’t sleep-I just feel such dread…and I don’t know why!”

Worries, doubts and fears are a normal part of life. The difference between “normal” worrying and a generalized anxiety disorder is that the worrying becomes:

excessive

intrusive

persistent

disruptive.

Emotional symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder

  • Constant worries running through your head
  • Feeling like your anxiety s uncontrollable; there is nothing you can do to stop worrying
  • Intrusive thoughts about things that make you anxious; you try to stop thinking about them, but you can’t
  • An inability to tolerate uncertainty; you must know what’s going to happen next
  • A persuasive feeling of apprehension or dread

Behavioral symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder

  • Inability to relax, enjoy quiet time, or be by yourself
  • Difficulty concentrating on things, like reading a book
  • Putting things off because you feel overwhelmed
  • Avoiding situations that make you feel anxious, like driving or being in a crowd

Physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder

  • Feeling tense; having muscle tightness or body aches
  • Having trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep because your mind won’t quit
  • Feeling edgy, restless or jumpy
  • Stomach problems, nausea, constipation or diarrhea

You will need a doctor’s help to know if you are dealing with a generalized anxiety disorder.

Self diagnosis is never a good idea!

Specific therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people recognize when they are misinterpreting events, exaggerating difficulties, or making pessimistic assumptions, and offer new ways to respond to anxiety-provoking situations.  For some people, medications maybe an important part of treatment. There are also many things you can do for yourself (self-care) to foster anxiety reduction. It is not one choice or another, but a combination of several options designed specifically for you to help you get a handle on your anxiety. In my next post, we’ll concentrate on the specific treatments for help manage a Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Stay tuned, I’ll continue this discussion next week!

 

 

 

Thank You For Everything!

by Marla Chalnickgratitude-1

I have been thinking about gratitude lately. After my recent MS episode, I realized how thankful I am that my body springs back. I feel like myself again! So I started doing some research on gratitude and I came across this article by Richard Kronick. He describes himself as an author, teacher, speaker and coach. This article appeared in the Huffington Post on January 4, 2016.  Here’s an excerpt. Hope you enjoy!

 

To whoever or whatever is behind all of this, this life, I am grateful.

Thank you for all the things I take for granted, for the gifts which I have become used to.

Thank you for occasionally catching me in the rain, so I can be reminded of how incredibly fun it is.

Thank you for never letting me be fully content, so that I may forever seek to better myself and others.

Thanks you for the aches and pains, so that I may appreciate comfort and ease.

Thank you for thwarting my attempts to get what I want, and then offering me something better down the road.

Thank you for all the moments of magic, joy, excitement and serenity.

Thank you for all the people who are so special that it hurts to be apart from them.

Thank you for the ability t read, to enter into imagined lands of other minds and partake in the wisdom of geniuses.

I am grateful for the dreamers of the world, who give us glimpses into the realities that we shall one day know.

Thank you for the trees and plants which magically take in my carbon dioxide and return to me healthy oxygen.

Thank you for smell and taste, protecting us, yet providing daily adventure and excitement.

Thank you for making me, on the scale of the cosmos, infinitely tiny, so that no problem could ever truly be considered big.

Thank you for the memories, thoughts and experiences which can never be taken away from me.

Thank you for the mind which lives through all of this and experiences it.

Thank you for this life, it is so much more than I ever could have asked for.

Thank you for everything, I have no complaint whatsoever.