Anxiety and Creativity: Another View of Anxiety

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Anxiety may not be your favorite thing to deal with, but there’s a flip side to it. Maybe you’re sensitive, moody, and maybe others think of you as “unusual,” but take heart knowing that anxiety and creativity may be closely linked.

Yes, it’s true, anxiety affects many people every single day (affecting around 40 million adults in the United States over the age of 18, which amounts to 18.1 percent of the U.S. population. Though anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., only 36.9 percent of those that suffer from them seek treatment), but it tends to be particularly acute and prevalent for the highly sensitive, creative, and gifted members of our society.

Look at it this way: without anxiety disorders, the world would never have been graced with the talents of: Abraham Lincoln (U.S. President), Emily Dickinson (American poet), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch artist), Brian Wilson (American musician/Beach Boys frontman), or T.S. Eliot. In fact, Eliot gave us the sentiment, “Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity.”

Anxiety is a common experience shared by “creative types,” experienced very differently from person to person, even though outward symptoms in different individuals may bear resemblances. It is a defense mechanism that may be a reaction to the surrounding environment or to something that may happen in the future, and it may be a reaction to something from the past, even as far back as childhood.

Anxiety has even been referred to as “the price one pays for the ability to imagine the future.”

Why creative folks?

Simple. Very active minds are able to conjure up so many things to be worry about. Less complex minds may worry less because there isn’t as much thinking. But with the creatives, there’s always a lot of thinking.

If your mind is not only active, but also creative, that ups the ante. Stress is a universal experience, but for those that are creative, bright, talented, motivated, ambitious, etc., these added talents can add to the everyday stress of life—more is always expected.

What do creatives stress about?

 

Sources of stress are different for everyone, but here are some typical stressors for creative minds:

EXISTENTIAL

  • Immense concern with universal problems (e.g., poverty, war, climate change, world hunger, etc.)
  • Idealism/Perfectionism
  • Isolation
  • Anger at God/fate
  • Driving need for meaning and purpose

SITUATIONAL

  • Disharmony in relationships
  • Time constraints
  • Inner conflict between “what is” and “what should be”
  • Boredom (due to lack of intellectual stimulation or challenge)
  • Feeling overwhelmed, even paralyzed by challenges
  • Lack of resources to accomplish a task

SELF-IMPOSED

  • Exceedingly high, even unrealistically high standards for self and for quality of work
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of failure
  • Incessant negative self-talk
  • Emotionally-driven, overly analytical beliefs about self and surroundings
  • Believing that they should be loved, adored, and esteemed by everyone
  • Buying into the negative evaluations/criticisms of others
  • Worrying
  • Always expecting the worst case scenario

Stress/anxiety management

There are enough stress and anxiety management tools and techniques that you should be able to easily choose at least one or two that work well for you in a pinch.

  • For starters, remember to breathe slowly and deeply. 
  • Another good tool is the cognitive exercising of turning your negative self-talk into positive, relaxing, productive thoughts.

And for your no-brainer, create a lifestyle for yourself that supports calm and relaxation. A hectic lifestyle can place unnecessary strain on your nerves, and hence, on your mental health.

For more, check out this post that addresses stress reduction.

Five things to remember about anxiety and creativity

Humanity cannot afford to waste human creative gifts. We need to continue learning how to nurture them. Some individuals with a talent they’d like to play with and develop more thoroughly may erroneously think that “it’s a silly waste of time” or maybe that it’s “too late in the game.” Creatives need to understand how important these gifts are and pursue them. It’s never too late to start.

Creative individuals are naturally more vulnerable, though more… creative. An openness to new experiences, an aptitude for dealing with ambiguity, and novel ways of approaching life allow creatives to perceive things in fresh, original new ways. Creatives live in a much more fluid and ethereal world, as stressful as it may be (think of sensory overload). Meanwhile, those that are less creative tend to quickly respond to life based on what they have been told by those in “authority.”

Creative aptitudes can lead to social alienation, anxiety, and depression. Such is the life of a creative. Though they may experience higher rates of mood disorders than others, their highs and lows tend to be more spread out and brief, which can lead to more creative periods in their lives.

Talented, creative, original individuals may seem unique, unusual, and even strange to others. Creatives may find themselves responding to criticism, mockery, or outright rejection for their unconventionality, or for questioning “too much.”  Most people are uneasy with open, new ways of looking at life, and many will never hesitate to say so. But creatives should never let that stop them.

Creative minds are challenged at “curating” incoming thoughts and ideas. Creatives are not only more prone to mental illness, they exhibit a problem with filtering or selectively blocking the countless stimuli coming into their brains. Something that helps them? Spending long blocks of time isolated from other people.


And one more: Creative people are more likely to be original and productive when enjoying the company of other creatives.

The poet once said ‘It’s good to be tortured. The thoughts are unstoppable.’

Take American musician Lady Gaga, for instance, who once spoke of one of the most common experiences among artists: a racing mind. She spoke of not being able to “control her thoughts at all,” and of being “tortured.” But she claims to enjoy the torture. Thus, she says her music comes to her constantly.

So, if you’re a creative, embrace the creative gift you’ve been given and celebrate your uniqueness. Use it. Use what frightens you to get motivated and creative.

Some anxieties, like an overwhelming sense of perfectionism, can interfere with creative thought, and be crippling in countless areas of everyday life. If you feel your anxiety is interfering with your creative side, it may be time to seek treatment for your anxiety. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

Did You Miss World Mental Health Day? 3 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make Right Now to Improve Your Mental Health

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Mental health awareness can help you develop stress management skills and improve your overall sense of wellbeing. Did World Mental Health Day passed you by? Not to worry, because you don’t need to wait until next October 10th to start improving your mental health.

In fact, you can start implementing changes today that can start helping your mood improve right away.


What mental health looks like

Individuals who might be considered to have “good” mental health share some common characteristics:

  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem
  • An overall  sense of contentment, satisfaction, and love for living
  • The flexibility to adapt to change and to learn new things
  • The ability to cope with and manage stress, and to bounce back from challenges
  • Good work/play/rest/life balance
  • A sense of meaning and purpose in activities and relationships
  • The ability to laugh easily and have fun
  • A healthy ability to build and nurture meaningful relationships

If many of these don’t sound recognizable to you, it’s OK. If you put some effort into it, you can learn to enjoy these same benefits.

Are you ready?

  1. What the heck are you eating? A brain-healthy diet is always good for your mental health.

Have you ever thought about the effects your diet has on the way you feel and think about life? Eating too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right ones can impacts your brain and your mood, saps your energy, disrupts your sleep, and debilitates your immune system. So what to do? You need to change over to a healthy diet, low in sugar and rich in healthy fats.

Everyone is different, and responds differently to foods. Genetics and other health factors come into play, so go ahead and experiment a little. First, get rid of your “bad fats,” the ones that can wreck your mood and optimism for life, and start consuming all the good fats that are healthy for your brain.

Foods/drinks that mess with your mood:

  • Fried foods
  • Sugary snacks and soft drinks
  • Trans fats/anything with “partially hydrogenated” oils
  • Refined carbs (e.g., white bread, white flour, white rice)
  • Foods with lots of chemical preservatives/hormones
  • Caffeine/soda/energy drinks
  • Alcohol

Foods that help your mood:

Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna

  • Avocados
  • Nuts (i.e., peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, almonds)
  • Flaxseed
  • Beans
  • Leafy greens such (i.e., spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale)
  • Fresh fruit (e.g., blueberries)
  1. Get moving!

Physical activity releases endorphins, which are mood-boosting chemicals that also give you energy. A regular exercise regimen (it doesn’t take a lot!) will also improve your memory, release stress, and improve your sleep. By getting on top of your physical health, you’ll start feeling better almost right away. Also, you can’t have a healthy mind without a healthy body.

How to get started

You can get away with as little as 30 minutes for your exercising to have a positive effect on your brain. Even broken up into three 10-minute blocks will work just as well.

  1. How about some rhythmic exercises that get your arms and legs moving? Walking, running, weights, swimming, dancing, martial arts, etc.
  2. Be mindful. Mindfulness can help enhance your exercise. Don’t let just let your mind run wildly and blindly, rather focus your thinking on your breathing, on how your body is feeling as you move, on the wind on your skin, on the way your feet feel as they touch the ground. This will help clear your mind, too.

So, take a walk at lunchtime and enjoy the fresh air. Play Frisbee with your dog. Dance to your favorite tunes. Play active video games with your family. Start cycling and walking more.

A little bit of exercise goes a long way, and helps you get a sense of more vigor and control.

  1. Stress management

Stress will sap your mood as quickly as just about anything, leaving you feeling emotionally drained and bummed out. Life is always going to have some level of stress (if you had zero stress, you’d never be motivated to go to work, pay your bills, take care of yourself, etc.!), but it is unhealthy to have it in excess; fortunately, you can keep it controlled. Try some stress management activities and say “hello” again to a sense of balance in your life.

  • Learn to enjoy leisure time.Do plenty of things simply for the sake of doing them, and because they make you feel better. Watching funny movies, walking on the beach, diving into a good book, etc. And don’t feel guilty – you’re not being irresponsible. Your brain and body need to decompress from time to time.
  • Spend time with family and friends. Getting some face time in with someone who cares about you and your wellbeing is a surefire way to calm your nerves and insulate your stress. You’ll feel better quickly, even if you can’t change the stressful situation right away.
  • Be good to your senses. Big, scented candles. Soothing music. A hot bubble bath. The warmth and the scent of coffee in your favorite café. Do any of these things sound appealing? How about squeezing a stress ball? Opening the window and listening/smelling the rain? Start experimenting with some things that make your senses tingle to find out what you respond to best. You’ll always be able to get yourself to calm down and relax when you need to.
  • Gratitude. Nothing dissolves a bad mood quicker than being grateful. Pray and meditate on these things, keep a gratitude journal (write down at least three things daily you’re grateful for), remind yourself to be grateful more often. Your outlook on life will begin to improve drastically.

Bonus tip! Own your emotions

How well do you know yourself and what you’re feeling? How good are you at identifying and articulating those feelings for yourself and others? If you learn to be more aware of, identify, and take more responsibility for your emotions, you’ll be well on your way to better mental health management skills. Find an app or check out this free online pdf download that can walk you through some techniques.

When to seek professional help

If you’ve made honest and consistent efforts to get your mental and emotional health normalized where you’d like them to be and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, and in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. Input from a trusted mental health professional may be able to motivate you to do more for yourself than you’d otherwise do alone.

What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

12 Things You Should Know About Anhedonia

anhedonia symptoms treatment

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Anhedonia has received an increasing amount of attention in the past few years. What exactly is it? A working definition of anhedonia would be that it is one of the primary symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD).

In Greek, anhedonia directly translates to “without pleasure.” Anhedonia is a symptom of other psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Note that major depressive disorder/anhedonia are not the same thing as dysthymia, which is also known as persistent depressive disorder.

Have you ever gone through a phase (perhaps you’re in the middle of one now) when you wake up in the morning without any emotion, opinion, or interest in life? Completely “blah” about everything? Caring about nothing? Emotionally flat?

Typically, when you experience something pleasurable, the “happy chemical” dopamine rushes through your brain’s reward mechanism. Some research indicates that anhedonic conditions might be caused by lower activity in a region of your brain called the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC).

Anhedonia inflicts a loss of interest in activities and hobbies that you once found pleasurable, such as eating, socializing, touching, friendships, relationships, music, events, conversations, and even sex. It’s as if the brain’s pleasure/satisfaction center shorts out or shuts down completely.

This inability to experience pleasure (or to maintain a good mood for very long) can severely impact the quality of your life.

Anhedonia symptoms and signs

How does anhedonia manifest? Following are some common symptoms/signs to be aware of:

  • Despondent and with feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Inconsolable, and non-respondent when comfort is offered
  • Practically impossible to smile or laugh at anything; mirthless
  • Unexplained paranoia, dread, fear, social/emotional withdrawal, and/or irritability
  • Frequently sick, with the flu, colds, etc.
  • Increased difficulty adjusting in social situations; intently observant of others, but without engaging socially, almost as if not present in the room
  • Severe difficulty following a conversation; lack of interest in listening
  • Refusal to seek support or assistance
  • Negative feelings about self and others
  • Significantly reduced emotional abilities, including difficulty articulating thoughts and feelings
  • Difficulty pinpointing exactly what you feel, if anything at all
  • “Going through the motions,” with a tendency to act out emotions, because that is “how you’re supposed to feel”
  • Decreased sex drive, and lack of interest in physical intimacy
  • Suicidal ideation, fixation with death

Anhedonia risk factors

Risk factors for anhedonia include a family history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression. Females are at a heightened risk for suffering from anhedonia.

Other risk factors include eating disorders, a history of abuse and/or neglect, recent trauma and/or heightened stress, major illnesses, etc.

12 things you may not have known about anhedonia:

  • There are two types of anhedonia: Social Anhedonia and Physical Anhedonia. Social anhedonia is manifest by an overall disinterest in social situations and engagement. Physical anhedonia is a pronounced inability to feel pleasure from everyday activities.
  • Depression may reduce the brain’s hedonic (pleasure) capacity, but studies have led some researchers to formulate another theory: that anhedonia is not caused by an inability to feel pleasure so much as it is caused by difficulty sustaining positive feelings consistently.
  • Some people who suffer from anhedonia don’t have any mental illness at all.
  • Aside from MDD and schizophrenia, anhedonia can result from other conditions/illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, psychosis, anorexia nervosa, and substance abuse-related disorders.
  • Anhedonia may have a role in sparking a desire to take part in risky behaviors, such as bungee jumping or skydiving.
  • One of the reasons that anhedonia has received increased attention is the fact that it has come to be known as a good predictor of whether someone with depression will respond to treatment. Popular anti-depressants typically don’t work as well for people who have depression with anhedonia than for those with depression, without anhedonia. Research continues to demonstrate that common treatments for depression don’t help alleviate anhedonia and may even exacerbate the problem by inflicting sexual anhedonia, anorgasmia (the inability to orgasm), and what’s known as emotional “blunting” (feeling an utter lack of any kind of emotion).
  • Some evidence indicates that an anhedonic state can increase the risk of suicidal tendencies.
  • Some research shows that many individuals with anhedonia can experience pleasure along with the best of them. The problem is that there is something “off” in regard to the dynamics between motivation, anticipation, and reward.
  • Anhedonia may also sap your energy significantly.
  • Currently, there are no treatments specifically to treat anhedonia. It is usually treated in tandem with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
  • Anhedonia may bring about thought disorder (TD) or formal thought disorder (FTD) which shows up as disorganized thinking and disorganized speech. Thought distortion includes such issues as: poverty of speech, tangentiality (tendency to speak about topics unrelated to the main topic of discussion), derailment (conversational narrative consisting of a sequence of unrelated or only remotely related ideas), illogicality (drawing conclusions that do not follow from the premises), perseveration (repetition of a particular response (such as a word, phrase, or gesture), and “thought blocking” (ceasing to speak suddenly and without explanation mid-sentence).
  • Anhedonia can cause emotional detachment, which can mean a couple of different things. It can mean an inability to connect with others on an emotional level, and it can also refer to a means of coping with anxiety by avoiding trigger situations (also known as dissociation, or “emotional numbing”).

As mentioned, anhedonia can bring about suicidal thoughts and intents, and can be very dangerous. If you suspect that you or someone you love is experiencing anhedonia, contact your primary care physician or a mental health professional as soon as possible. Anhedonia tends to dissipate when depression is being managed properly.

Are you going through a phase experiencing anhedonia? It is very treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.