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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Friday, March 24, 2017

5 Biggest Lies About Insomnia

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 24, 2017

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Many of us, not just our reader from earlier this week, struggle with insomnia. Of course, said struggle doesn’t just mean dealing with sleeplessness but with the false and terrifying myths about the many ways insomnia can ruin your life. If you can’t sleep and can’t stop being freaked out by the potential effects it’s having on you, please do yourself a favor and read these five biggest lies about insomnia and the sad/sleepy truths you should believe instead.

1) “Insomnia is preventable and treatable with good sleep habits.”
No illness is ever guaranteed to be preventable and treatable, especially those that are more behavioral than physical, and statements like these aren’t just false but damaging as they often create unreasonable expectations for control. Yes, good sleep habits will push you in the right direction, but life will sometimes disrupt your sleep habits in ways you can’t avoid and even the best of habits can’t always control the neurological demon inside your brain that decides it wants to play and read and have great ideas just as your body wants to collapse. So yes, always be open to treatment, but don’t despair or blame yourself when they aren’t as effective as you’d like.

2) “Insomnia is always a sign that you’ve got bigger issues that require treatment.”
Insomnia may sometimes reflect your worries or neuroses, but that doesn’t mean that logging several hours on a therapist’s couch to work out those issues is guaranteed to unclog your non-existent sleep valve and make rest possible again. If you do find yourself being kept up with anxious thoughts, then do what you can to put your worries into perspective while also accepting your insomnia as just another part of your current bad luck so it doesn’t become yet another thing to get worried about.

3) “Sleeping pills are bad for you.”
All pills are potentially both good and bad for you, from Advil to vitamins, and focusing on the bad part is a good way to let fear demoralize and immobilize you into avoiding potential treatment altogether. Instead of spooking yourself away from medication, educate yourself as to the particular risks of each type of sleeping pill, both in terms of trying it once and, if it’s helpful, taking it more often. Then weigh those risks against its benefits. Of course, always use non-medical methods first, but when insomnia doesn’t respond to non-medical methods, you have a right to research and consider plan B.

4) “If left untreated, insomnia will permanently damage your health.”
Living damages your health, period, but insomnia’s potential impact on your wellbeing is a lot less clear. It does good when it puts you on alert for danger and trouble, as when you need to stay up to watch over a sick child or are required to stay on call for important news. On the other hand, it can also weaken you, at least temporarily, when you’re so tired that it’s harder for your body to fight off an infection. Either way, if you let a fear of insomnia exaggerate its dangers then that fear will cause you far more harm than insomnia ever could.

5) “Insomnia won’t just damage your health, but your ability to do anything from your job to parenting to operating heavy machinery.”
You may not be able to perform at your highest level when you’re tired, but ask any parent what they’re able to do when they haven’t slept well and they’ll tell you that they seem able to do everything well enough since they haven’t gotten fired or wrecked their car despite not having a decent night’s sleep since having kids. Instead of letting insomnia terrify and paralyze you, use that fear to become a knowledgeable and confident manager of insomnia. Once you learn the facts about how insomnia affects you and how you can deal with it, you won’t have to let scary myths keep you up at night.

Sleepless in A Battle

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 6, 2017

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Good sleep, along with YouTube videos of porcupines eating and fresh mozzarella cheese, is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Unlike those other things, however, it’s not just a joy but also something of a necessity. A life without hungry porcupines or good cheese of any kind of unfortunate, but one without sleep can feel excruciating, so it’s not surprising that those who just can’t shut themselves down at a reasonable hour are so eager to figure out what’s wrong with them and so quick to blame themselves for their sleeplessness. While we now have clinical sleep specialists and a bunch of helpful theories, suggestions, and treatments, we don’t, of course, have any solid answers or cures. The answer then isn’t seeking complete control over your insomnia, but learning to manage it and find pleasure in life despite it.
-Dr. Lastname

In short, I cannot sleep. I mean, theoretically I can (because, well, biology), but practically I can’t, and I know it’s all in my head— the fact that I feel that “I have insomnia” makes it so much harder, because, obviously I don’t have any clinical disease that it’s a symptom of, just some mental block that makes sleep impossible. I really, really want to sleep and get back control over this one thing without depending on anything (drugs, diets, etc.) or anyone to fix the problem for me. My goal is to get to the bottom of whatever’s causing this insomnia and get rid of it.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Twist and Doubt

Posted by fxckfeelings on June 27, 2016

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Like pooping our pants, biting our enemies, and enjoying Disney Channel shows, self-doubt is a regrettable aspect of childhood we’re supposed to grow out of. If, however, years of learning, practicing, and getting older don’t keep persistent self-doubt from pestering you on into adulthood, it’s usually taken as a sign of low self-esteem and possible failure in normal maturation. In actuality, it can also be a trait that, for reasons we don’t understand, afflicts mature people who have worked hard, gained skills, and deserve much more confidence than they ever experience. We don’t think these traits can be changed by treatment, prayer, or, as always, anything short of lobotomy, but we have many ideas on how you can manage self-doubt almost as well as you do your bowels.

-Dr. Lastname

I am constantly plagued by negative self-talk. Most days I lack confidence in nearly everything I do. No matter what it never seems to be enough for me. How can I let go of the constant self-judgment and self-criticism? These mental habits sabotage my day–stirring anxiety, panic, and impulsiveness. My goal is to change this internal negativity into something positive, nourishing, and/or helpful. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Blame Reliever

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 22, 2016

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It’s hard not to feel guilty when things go wrong, and guilty feelings may be particularly bad for just those who deserve them the least, i.e., those who are generally self-critical and insecure. If you’re someone who’s gone through a bad stretch and can’t help but feel bad and responsible for letting it happen, learn how to rely on specific information and common sense to figure out what you should really take responsibility for, if anything, and how to use your conclusions to fight a compulsive sense of having done something wrong. Instead of endless punishment, you deserve a fair assessment of the facts.

-Dr. Lastname

I often find myself on a streak of “wellbeing,” then out of nowhere I manage to fuck up whatever I had going for me, royally. Almost like I have a problem committing to something for too long. Just looking for some realistic advice as to why this may be. My goal is to figure out some realistic systems I could improvise to better cope with this dilemma.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Ways To Launch An Anxiety Counter-Attack

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 18, 2016

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When you’re deep in the throes of anxiety, it can be hard to manage your breathing, let alone your thoughts. Still, for some people, like our reader from earlier this week, anxiety can find a way to take over. Here are five ways to manage anxiety and launch a preemptive counter-attack before things get out of control.

1) Learn to Recognize Real Catastrophe

Tame your inner “Chicken Little” and learn how to appreciate how easily a fear of catastrophe can make you feel a catastrophe has actually occurred. Once you get better at reining in the overreacting, you can respect the way fear can help you run faster, and avoid the way it can run you into a wall.

2) Work with the Worst Case

If you’re stuck fixating on every possible impending disaster, then try using your almost-Casandra-like abilities to prepare instead of just giving yourself an ulcer. Do what you can to improve your odds, taking pride in your ability to act and make rational risk management decisions despite the urge to run and hide.

3) Gain Anxiety Expertise

Instead of looking for the one treatment that will work, become knowledgeable about all of them (which, given the limited number of treatments, is not too hard). Then try them out, looking for several partially effective treatment to provide some relief some of the time. Learn enough about treatments so you know what to do if it gets worse and your usual attempts to manage it stall out.

4) Reject Relief

Whatever relieves your anxiety—work, drink, hiding out and playing RPGs for days at a time—may become addictive, so be prepared to limit your favorite relief activities if you have to. Limiting them will, of course, make you more anxious in the short run, so relief can never be your biggest goal, because then you’re just replacing one issue with another.

5) Get Back To Your Goals

If you dropped certain goals figuring that anxiety would make reaching them impossible, pick them back up again and keep trying. Success isn’t based on how normal you feel or how much you were or weren’t able to achieve compared to your healthy self, but how well your life reflects your usual values, and how much you can still accomplish, in spite of the distracting, painful burden of anxiety.

Worry Favor

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 16, 2016

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Despite the bad rep it always gets, we like to remind people that anxiety can be a blessing and a curse. After all, anxious people sometimes do better work because they’re afraid of failing (and were once better at survival since they were afraid of being eaten). On the other hand, sometimes their fear of failing prevents them from working or doing anything at all. So if you’re an anxious person, learn how to use your anxiety to your advantage. Then, when it flares up too much, you will know how to use it for motivation while protecting yourself from the curse of paralyzing panic.

-Dr. Lastname

I recently completed several large and important projects at work in a brief amount of time. I am satisfied with my work and proud of myself for finishing, but due to the emotionally and mentally taxing nature of this work, I am exhausted in every way that it is possible to be exhausted. I find myself getting sick a lot, and I have had two anxiety attacks in a single week. Because I have a tendency toward anxiety, introversion, and depression, my exhaustion takes the form of wanting to withdraw and shut down. My supportive spouse is willing to shoulder more work at home (which leaves me feeling guilty), but, as much as I would like to, I can’t reduce my workload at my job at the moment. But I find it very difficult to deal with people there without feeling panicky and irritable. What I really need is like a month’s vacation, but I know that I am not going to get it without destroying my career. If I hang on for one more month, I will get a week off, but I have to make it until then. My goal is to get through the next four weeks without totally collapsing or burning bridges with colleagues and friends. 

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Steps To Get Your Sh*t Together

Posted by fxckfeelings on January 21, 2016

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At the start of a new year, you don’t have to be like our reader from earlier this week—someone in an usual career going through an usually hard time—to feel motivated to get your shit together. Here are five easy steps anyone can follow to get back on track no matter how rocky the terrain of your life happens to be.

1) Get A List of Goals

Obviously, if you’re trying to figure out how to get organized and motivated, you need to know what’s important enough to you to work for. Define these goals in terms of values, not results, e.g., include making a living, not making a mint. Think about what’s necessary, healthy, and fun in the long run, not what your wildest dreams are made of.

2) Put Together Your Priorities

The hardest part of prioritizing is learning to both accept the fact that two or three things deserve highest priority and the skill of juggling them all at once. It gets easier over time, and in the process of learning, you also get better at figuring out whether some of your priorities are actually worth dropping or putting aside.

3) Choose a Coach/System

Without a domineering spouse, day job, or ticking bomb in the basement, most people have to develop a system for self-management, particularly when they have to juggle their own obligations on top of their spouse’s, kid’s, dog’s, etc. Since most schools don’t teach you executive functioning skills, take a course and/or hire a coach. It’s amazing how much better you can do with a good to-do list, a set of urgency categories, and an omnipresent schedule.

4) Suss Out a Schedule

Assuming you have lots of responsibilities, limited time, and a strong desire to have fun, you need to create a schedule. A schedule helps you develop habits and shortcuts, so that you can reduce procrastination, deal with top priorities first, and make time for the things you really want to do. Again, don’t hesitate to take a course or use a coach.

5) Learn Your Limits

Many people experience endless feelings of responsibility once they engage in a serious task and those feelings can become consuming, particularly if an outside source (boss, spouse, parent, etc.) believes your share of responsibilities is never big enough. Train yourself to judge your responsibilities objectively by comparing them to your job description, taking into account your resources, and determining what a good person should do. Then you can remain focused on what’s really important, not overextend yourself, and not only get your shit together, but get shit done with a real sense of pride.

5 Ways to Overcome Social Anxiety

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 5, 2015

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If, as discussed earlier this week, you’re a shy person struggling to get by in a socially-driven world, there is hope. Sure, you may never feel comfortable as a party animal (without employing some unwise methods that will lead to a very uncomfortable trip to rehab), but you can find ways to feel less like a trapped animal at parties. Here are five techniques that anti-social people can use to survive social situations.

1. Accept Your Social Impairment

Respect your anti-social nature and don’t apologize for appearing anxious, feeling a lack of social enthusiasm, or dreading the event in the first place. Instead, develop your own criteria for considering social events necessary and worthwhile. For example, it’s worth pushing yourself to go to a beloved cousin’s wedding or your boss’ birthday party, but you can feel OK about skipping your creepy neighbor’s Pig Roast.

2. Try Fear Management

Research all available anti-anxiety and anti-shyness techniques and treatments, then sample those that seem reasonable for your specific issues and budget. There are plenty of non-medical treatments out there, from books to therapy to breathing techniques, that will make parties less painful. If they are helping, however, be willing to try medication if necessary, understanding that effectiveness is often no more than partial and requires tolerance of side effects.

3. Own Your Awkwardness

Once you accept your own social shortcomings, it’s easier to learn to tell people that you occasionally suffer from anxiety; you shouldn’t feel obliged to share this information with everyone—after all, you’re part of a group least likely to throw a parade in their own honor—but not to hide it from those important to you. Imply that you’re comfortable with this fact of life and are not sensitive to their reaction; even if you aren’t so comfortable, fudging it puts them at ease and can reduce your anxiety about your making them anxious.

4. Forecast Your Fears

Since social gatherings feel like risky stunts, it’s important to have several escape and emergency plans in place. Prepare plans A, B and C for managing that anxiety in a way that will reduce symptoms, save face, and allow you to emerge unscathed. Just knowing that you have plans in place will have a relaxing effect and it make it easier to relax (slightly).

5. Take setbacks in stride

No matter how solid your management plan or how long your panic-free streak, there’s always the possibility that things will go wrong and you’ll be struck with an outburst of social anxiety, shyness, or self-criticism. If and when that happens, don’t take it as a crushing defeat or failure. Instead, take pride in your persistence and willingness to tolerate these painful feelings for a good cause. You’ll never conquer your shyness entirely, but, as we always say, you can keep it from conquering you.

Social Strife

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 3, 2015

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In a society where all the spoils seem to go to the outgoing, being shy or anxious can feel like being cursed. Just because you can’t make direct eye contact and small talk, it’s easy to feel like a failure, clam up even more, and become convinced you’re doomed to a life of banishment. In reality, however, some people are shy and self-critical, no matter how hard they try to become outgoing, and many shy people still find ways to get ahead, no matter how much they hate getting trapped at parties. There may be no real cure for shyness, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a curse, either.

-Dr. Lastname

I’m terribly self-conscious. It makes me extremely shy, self critical and lonely. I don’t talk to people much. I’m terrified to speak to a group of people. It takes me too long to do projects since I’m avoiding mistakes. I’d love to say f*ck my self-consciousness, self-criticism and self judgment. It comes over me, however, like a wave and I don’t overcome it. These negative feelings affect me both emotionally (panic, frustration, resentment) and physically (sweating, shaking, shallow breath). I’d rather be social, self-accepting and a more agile and accomplished performer at work. My goal is to be able to tell my problem to f*ck off and become the person I’d rather be.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

5 Steps to Keep A Kid Safe… and Keep You Out of the Crosshairs

Posted by fxckfeelings on October 29, 2015

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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re frustrated with your inability to help a child in a bad living situation, you can feel as trapped and tortured as you imagine the child does. There are things you can do to help, but if you’re driven by passion, not patience and care, you might end up doing more harm than good.

Here are five steps you can take that have a good chance of getting a child to safety and keeping you out of the crosshairs.

1) Align With The Authorities

Never protect a child from neglect or abuse before first notifying a state child protective agency. It’s not just the law, it’s also your best protection against taking too much responsibility while also having no authority. If you’re working with the people who can actually make a difference, then you won’t feel like it’s all up to you.

2) Take Stock, Then Take Action

Assess your own needs and other priorities before over-committing resources, factoring in state benefits and possible legal fees. If you’re really upset, you may feel like your only choice is going after the problem with everything you’ve got, but if you’ve got limited time and resources, barreling ahead means sabotaging your own efforts.

3) Give Up The Guilt

After taking every reasonable measure, don’t let your fear of possible neglect blackmail you into assuming full responsibility if you don’t really have the time, energy and health. After sharing your concerns with the state, offer to contribute whatever caregiving you can and no more. Learn to be satisfied with your best compromise, not the best, period.

4) Avoid Exploitation

If you feel your care is being misused by a child or her parent, define standards for good behavior and enforce incentives that need to be met before you give your time. Good behavior, for those whom you shelter, includes doing work (school work, chores, a job), avoiding self-destructive behavior (drugs, bad friendships, self-harm), and not being mean. Then reward those behaviors with incentives include money, car access, and, of course, praise.

5) Advocate for Yourself

Once you’ve set limits you believe are fair and taken actions you believe are smart, don’t second-guess yourself or your choices, or appear wishy-washy. If you gain the authority of custody, use your authority fairly without getting bogged down in self-doubt or explanation. Most importantly, keep reminding yourself that you are an outsider trying to do the right thing without being sucked into chaos.

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