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How to Curb a Busy Mind: The Ultimate Meditation Guide

It’s estimated that the average person has more than 6,000 thoughts every day.

This being an average, it means that some of us will have fewer thoughts. Some of us will have many more.

If you find that your mind is becoming overactive, it can cause a lot of stress. A busy mind can leave us unable to fully switch off or relax, which isn’t good for our health.

If this sounds like you, then read on as we look at some simple but effective ways to curb a busy mind.

What Is a Busy Mind?

A busy mind can be a mixture of thoughts, worries and anxieties, emotions, doubts, and other thought patterns.

We all have these types of thoughts on a daily basis, but when the sheer number of these thoughts begins to get too much, then you’re suffering from a busy mind. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about things, but when you start overthinking and aren’t able to control the number of thoughts you’re having, then you might want to consider ways to curb your busy mind.

How to Curb a Busy Mind

There are some simple but effective exercises you can try which can help to calm your busy mind. By incorporating these exercises into your daily life, you can begin to calm your mind and remove the stress that a busy mind can cause.

The Power of Pause

The modern world moves at a relentless pace, and it can feel like it’s not going to stop to give you a chance to catch your breath. Even if the world doesn’t pause for a second, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Take a moment to pause and focus your attention on your senses, allowing you to refresh and renew yourself without any other concerns. One of the simplest ways to do this is with a body scan.

  • Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap
  • If you can, close your eyes
  • Bring your attention to your feet and feel the sensations as they interact with the floor
  • Bring your attention to your legs and how they feel against whatever you are sitting on
  • Now bring your attention to your chest and focus on your breathing, noticing the rise and fall
  • Bring your attention to your arms and hands, noticing any sensations within them
  • Open your eyes and feel how a short pause has made you feel refreshed and renewed

If you find your busy mind starts to think about other things during this exercise, don’t allow this to cause tension within you. Just acknowledge what has happened and redirect your attention to your body.

The power of the pause doesn’t have to involve taking a long break from your day. Try to incorporate short pauses into your daily life to slow things down a little. You could take a short pause:

  • After completing your current task and before moving on to the next
  • If you are interrupted, before dealing with the interruption
  • If your phone rings or you get a message or email, take a short pause before checking your phone

By building these small pauses into your day, you break up the relentless pace of daily life and allow yourself room to breathe.

Mindful Listening

Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you suddenly realize you didn’t take in a single thing they said? Sometimes our minds are racing so much we fail to give attention to the person speaking.

Mindful listening involves bringing your full attention to the conversation you are having. Follow these steps:

  • Stop whatever else you are doing and focus solely on the conversation
  • Take a breath to give yourself time to process what you hear
  • Focus only on the content of what is being said rather than how it makes you feel
  • Ask yourself if you understand what has been said and if not, ask for clarification
  • Reflect back on what you have been told to confirm your understanding

It can be harder to practice mindful listening when you’re on the phone rather than face to face. During phone calls:

  • Put down anything you are holding so you’re not tempted to fiddle
  • If it helps, close your eyes so that you’re not distracted by anything in your field of view
  • Try to sit as still as possible to remove any distracting physical sensations

Connecting With Your Senses

A busy mind usually stems from thinking or worrying about things that have happened in the past or things that will happen in the future. A simple but effective way to pause those thoughts is to focus on the present moment.

One way to do that is to connect with your senses and bring your attention to what you are feeling in the here and now. The beauty of this technique is that you don’t have to take time out to do so; you can perform this exercise whilst going about your day. For example:

  • When you’re eating, focus your attention on the sensations in your mouth and on your tongue
  • When you’re getting dressed in the morning, bring your attention to the feeling of your clothes against your skin
  • If you’re in bed at night, listen to the sounds in your room and outside
  • If you’re driving, notice the sensations of your hands on the steering wheel
  • If you’re out walking, notice the different smells around you

By bringing your attention to the present moment, you stop your brain from worrying about the past or the future, giving your busy mind a break and allowing yourself to reset and recharge.

Are You Looking to Curb a Busy Mind?

If you’re struggling to curb a busy mind and you find that these techniques aren’t sufficient to make a difference, then we’re to help.

We treat a wide range of mental health issues, from mood and anxiety disorders to trauma and personality disorders. We have the highest success rate of any comparable program based on published scientific outcome statistics. We also offer luxurious off-site housing right next door to our treatment center so that you can move seamlessly between your appointments and your accommodation.

We’re here to help; contact us today.

7 Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety Most People Don’t Notice

Anxiety hurts. 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, making them the most common mental illness in the United States.

Few people would imagine just how prevalent anxiety is. Mental illness isn’t a physical disease. It doesn’t show up on the body. It resides in the mind, which can make it hard to recognize.

High-functioning anxiety is especially difficult to see. Many people who have it are successful people. Yet, it can be crippling.

Learn to recognize the signs of high-functioning anxiety, and you can learn how to manage it. Here are seven signs of what it’s like.

1. Being an Overachiever

It’s important to set goals and take strides toward them. But people with high-functioning anxiety may set too many high goals.

People with high-functioning anxiety may not stop working. They don’t take vacations, and they stay late at the office. Once they achieve a goal, they set a new one and start working on it.

A person may never feel satisfied with their work. Their coworkers and boss may regard them very positively. But all that matters to the overachiever is the next goal to hit.

It’s hard to recognize when someone is an overachiever. Overachievers meet deadlines and present a professional appearance. Many overachievers have full and active social lives.

But they can’t stop working. Their anxiety compels them to keep going, beyond a point that is healthy.

2. Being a Perfectionist

A little anxiety can serve as a mental check. It can help a person recognize the mistakes they have made and correct them. But too much anxiety can prompt a person to be too cautious.

Someone with high-functioning anxiety stresses out over every detail. They may revise a written work many times over. They may check-in with employees many times a day, exercising too much control.

They may become afraid of failure. If they make one small mistake, they view themselves as having failed.

People with high-functioning anxiety can become focused on results, neglecting the process of creating work. The people around them usually see them as good workers. But the truth is they are pushing themselves too hard.

3. Apologizing for Insignificant Things

A related behavior to perfectionism is over-apologizing. Many bosses forgive or correct small mistakes. But to someone with anxiety, no mistake is too small.

Many people with high-functioning anxiety apologize for something that isn’t their fault. They take responsibility for someone else’s mistake. They take responsibility for an accident that was outside their control.

Apologizing for small things may lead someone to take on more work. They want to correct a mistake, so they redo their work or ask for another task. This can cause a person to feel stretched too thin.

4. Inability to Say “No”

The fear of failure leads many people to associate failure with the smallest things. When they say “no” to someone, they think they are failing in that person’s eyes. As such, many people with high-functioning anxiety don’t say “no.”

Like apologizing, this can lead people to overexert themselves. They take on more work than they should. They stay later to work, exhausting themselves.

The inability to say “no” can lead to trouble in social areas. A person may commit themselves to a relationship that isn’t good for them. They may give too much to their partner and not ask for anything in return.

5. Overthinking

Some tasks deserve more thought than others. Someone with high-functioning anxiety may apply the same level of thought to all tasks.

Someone gives a 100-word assignment the same priority as a 500-word one. They apply sophisticated techniques that aren’t warranted.

This causes the person to exhaust themselves. It can also hurt their work process. They may turn in assignments too late because they spend so much time thinking it over.

A person can even overthink their physical and mental health. They may become a hypochondriac, convinced that they have significant health problems. They may diagnose themselves with generalized anxiety when they have another condition.

6. Too Little Sleep

The most common physical symptom of high-functioning anxiety is too little sleep. A person spends the night at the office, rather than going to bed.

When they do go to bed, their mind is racing. They keep overthinking things, and they can’t fall asleep.

They may wake up in the middle of the night, consumed in thought. They may also wake up early so they can get work done.

7. Coping With Drugs or Alcohol

People with high-functioning anxiety may use drugs to work longer. Drugs can provide a rush that gives them more energy. They may become dependent on drugs or alcohol for feelings of happiness or pleasure.

Some people may recognize that their behavior isn’t healthy. But they don’t seek professional help. They turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with their problems.

Daily Coping Tips for High-Functioning Anxiety

There are many treatment options for people with high-functioning anxiety. If anything in your mental or physical health troubles you, go to a doctor immediately.

You can receive a formal diagnosis of generalized, high-functioning, and/or social anxiety. Your doctor can point to any medical conditions that cause your anxiety.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches patients to identify negative thoughts. They practice new skills, learning to set attainable goals. They monitor themselves, developing problem-solving strategies to meet challenges.

Psychodynamic therapy allows patients to examine their own lives. They determine the roots and triggers of their anxiety. They learn management methods and grow to have a sense of peace in their lives.

Commit to spending fifteen minutes every day on your mental health. Practice sleep hygiene, sticking to a regular schedule.

When you notice a negative thought, counter it with something realistic. Practice deep breathing and muscle stretching to control your tension.

Go and Get the Help You Deserve

High-functioning anxiety can be complicated and isolating. But you can get help. Recognize some common signs, and you can start improving your mental health.

The most common signs are being an overachiever and a perfectionist. Apologizing for insignificant things and being unable to say “no” are also common.

Many people overthink things, causing them to lose sleep. Some turn to alcohol and drugs to help them work longer or to cope.
You have worth. Find some help that can maximize your worth.

Solara Mental Health is San Diego’s leading mental health clinic. Contact us today, or call us at 844-263-4882.

Who Will Save Our Mental Health from Technology?

Saving our mental health

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

A Former Google Manager is Spearheading Efforts to Limit the Negative Effects of Technology and Social Media

What are the negative effects of technology and social media on us? We’re aware of its influences on our mental health, with studies linking excessive social media use to depression and anxiety. What other grips does cyber-reality have on us?

In 2012, a young manager at Google named Tristan Harris made an impassioned plea in a presentation for his bosses to attend to “[our] moral responsibility to create an attention economy that doesn’t weaken people’s relationships or distract people to death.”

His ideas for a more ethical digital world gained some traction for a time, and it even got him tapped to be the company’s design ethicist. The company lost focus, however, and shifted its attention to other priorities.

Harris left Google in 2015, and three years later, Google produced a screentime tracker known as Digital Wellbeing, so that Android users could see how much time they were spending each day on each application they tapped into. Apple followed suit with a counterpart app for iPhones.

Continuing the Crusade

Were the new screentime tracker apps enough of a leash? Not according to Harris. In Harris’ estimation, the “free” business model is the most expensive business model ever invented.

More recently, Harris started the Center for Humane Technology and has expanded his thinking to bring more awareness to the negative impacts of the internet on our lives. From misinformation/disinformation being proliferated on various social media platforms (e.g., Facebook and YouTube (owned by Google)), to election tampering and invaded privacy, and finally to political divisiveness in our country, the internet gets blamed for a lot. And probably with good reason. Just think about how much control we give our cyber lives over our actual lives.

Harris continues to grow his audience with various national media appearances, conferences, and additional presentations of his own. The biggest takeaway he wants his listeners to remember is the mistake it is to treat mobile technology drawbacks as mutually exclusive from those inflicted by social media. It’s all part of what he refers to as the “extractive attention economy (EAE).”

Our Private Information Used as a Currency

It’s been said that “money talks.” Well, so does information in the EAE. Its business model is driven by gathering and leveraging data about its users and what they like. In order to keep them engaged online, more and more of what users want to see is constantly being fed to them, faster and faster, by automated platforms. This may sound great and convenient, but it actually gives them more extreme, sensationalized content, which only feeds upon their frailties.

Without any thought, judgment, or intent, people dealing with mental health issues might be looking on YouTube for ways to improve their mental health, while being unwittingly steered via “recommendations” toward videos about suicide and death. The only thing the platforms care about is how the relationships between what users are searching for and what the algorithms calculate they like will keep users online, engaged and clicking.

The Unbearable Lightness of Technology

What happened to “fun” social media? Harris warns that our addiction to retweets, likes, comments, and reshares, is only keeping us distracted and depressed.

Steve Jobs spoke of technology as an “exercise bicycle for the mind.” Harris has responded that the exercise bike is taking us down dark, unfamiliar roads where we might not ever want to find ourselves.

Harris believes that language can help shape reality, but he had to work through a growing fear that the language we were using to define the real impact of cyber-reality on our lives was very much lacking. It wasn’t enough to describe what he warns as a coming hailstorm.

One of his epiphanies was the realization that the real danger we’re in isn’t technology overpowering our strengths (like the cliche science fiction bit when computers take over the world). The real danger is when technology learns to overwhelm and leverage our emotional weaknesses against us… for profit.

Harris and his cohorts brainstormed themselves to a point where they thought that what might be going on was a process of diminishing, of degrading human lives and humanity as a whole. Technology, as we give it more and more of our time and attention, is causing the downgrading of human relationships, of human attention, of our common sense of decency, of democracy itself.

How Social Media Negatively Affects Us

Harris has commented specifically about how various social media platforms negatively affect us:

  • Snapchat turns conversations into “streaks,” redefining how children value real friendship.
  • Instagram glamorizes the picture-perfect life, eroding our sense of gratitude for our real lives, along with diminishing our sense of self-worth.
  • Facebook puts us into separate echo chambers, dissolving our real communities.
  • YouTube auto-plays the one video after the next, within seconds, regardless of what it does to our sleep.

Four Ways Technology is Hurting Us

Harris shares the four main ways he sees our subservience to technology is taking its toll:

Mental Health

The rat race to keep us on screen 24/7 makes it harder to disconnect, increasing stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.

Children

The rat race to keep children’s attention trains them to replace their sense of self-worth with the number of likes they get, encourages them to compare themselves with others, and creates a non-stop illusion of missing out…which can lead to coping problems and mental health challenges.

Relationships

The competition for attention forces social media users to prefer virtual interactions and rewards (likes, shares, etc.) on their screens vs. interaction in a real face-to-face community.

Democracy

Social media unwittingly rewards faux rage, sensational facts, while reducing the role of factual information. It’s dividing us and making it increasingly difficult to agree on what is “real.”

So, where does this leave us? Possibly with additional challenges for those coping with mental health issues brought on by extensive technology use.

The good news is that you can take back control of your life by better managing your social media use.

Curious to hear more?

Do you suspect that excessive technology use and social networking are having a negative effect on your mental health or on that of a loved one? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

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Journaling to Help Depression and Anxiety

Journaling can help depression and anxiety

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Can journaling help depression and anxiety? You may have heard others talk about or counsel you to just take up a daily journaling habit to help you organize your thoughts, express gratitude in order to appease depressed feelings, or even just to give you a sense of accomplishment each day.

But you’re skeptical. How can something as simple as writing down your thoughts help you work through mental health issues. We’re going to walk through how it works, why it works, and why you should be journaling to help you “sort things out.” You’ll even get some of what is referred to as “depression journaling/writing prompts,” to help you get started.

What is depression/anxiety journaling?

A conservative estimate of 350 million people throughout the world deal with mental illness, or about 5 percent of the entire world’s population.

In contrast, in the United States, that percentage is significantly higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in five people in the U.S. struggles with depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, or some other mental affliction, though experts could say with the utmost confidence that the actual number is probably higher, due to underreporting.

How do many people who struggle with mental illness cope? Many of them employ journaling! If you’re not familiar with the practice, you might be wondering “Exactly what is depression journaling?” Depression is a daily (or it can be be-weekly, or even weekly) practice of getting your thoughts, ruminations, feelings down on paper. It can involve gripes, it can involve gratitude. It can be completely random, or more structured and systematic–whatever works best for you.

How journaling helps depression and anxiety

How does depression/anxiety journaling work? Not only can it help calm depressive and anxiety-driven symptoms, it can also help reduce stress, manage anxiety, help you routinely organize, prioritize, sift through exactly what’s bothering you, and it can bring new perspective, insights, and clarity you hadn’t considered.

Let’s take a closer look at how journaling helps.

Take the wheel
Sometimes brooding over things can feel overwhelming, and without any kind of outlet. Writing it all down can bring order to a seeming loss of control, and can make it seem more manageable.

It can make your concerns feel less daunting, and can make you feel more grounded and in control.  Talk about taking more proactive control of your mental health management.

It can help you feel better almost instantly, especially as you form a consistent habit of doing it, and can help you recognize when you’re down in the dumps enough that you need to talk to someone about it rather than keep it bottled in.

Enhanced awareness

 Have you ever thought that perhaps you feel like a stranger to yourself?

Journaling during depression and/or anxiety in real time as it comes to mind pulls your feelings and thoughts out into the light where they can be reviewed and considered. You may even surprise yourself with what surfaces, like realizing that something is making you apprehensive that you never noticed until writing it down.

Something else: Your journal may be very cathartic if you keep it private and to yourself, and it can also be something that you share with your counselor, to help you keep your inner musings documented and organized.  This can help improve the effectiveness of your therapy as your counselor helps you sort out what’s most important in terms of your goals, and helps you progress forward.

Finding patterns

Consistently writing about your conscious thinking and what you notice about what’s going on with you internally can help you keep track of recurring symptoms, and can help you identify those things that trigger your anxiety and depression.

Maybe symptoms spike at a certain time of day, or when you’re stressed at work, or when a certain topic of conversation comes up in your significant relationship. Knowing and recognizing your triggers is at least half the battle when it comes to avoiding them as you move forward.

As you journal, you may also more readily be able to recognize your own personal progress, and can help you gain insights into how you’re perceiving things differently (hopefully for the better!)  Reviewing past entries is almost like having an outsider’s perspective into your own world view. Are you feeling better? Worse? More or less the same?

Journaling can help you recognize when and where you might need more help and perspective, and can also help you find reassurance in the progress you’re making on your own path.

A different perspective

Journaling to beat depression and/or anxiety is a solid way to feed yourself positive self-affirmation.

Writing about the things you’re grateful for (gratitude journaling) and about the things you like about yourself and that you and others see in yourself (affirmation journaling) is a consistently beneficial way to reinforce and enjoy all the positive in your life.

Keeping happy memories at the forefront of your mind by far overpowers all the negative thinking that all too often surfaces, and helps you recondition your mind to always be looking for the positive, rather than relish in the less savory.

Journaling prompts for depression and anxiety

How about some journaling prompts to get you started?

  1. When you look in the mirror, who do you see?
  2. If you could meet and speak to your 8-year-old self, what would you say? Write about mentoring a younger version of yourself.
  3. Summarize for yourself all the lessons you’ve learned about life. Share them with a younger version of yourself (see previous), and offer encouragement to yourself.
  4. What song lyrics, or movie quotes, or poems have served as a guiding light to you and why?
  5. What’s your favorite holiday, and why?
  6. Make 10 promises to yourself and write about them
  7. What is one time when you felt on top of the world? How did you feel about achieving a goal? Give that version of yourself a superhero name, and write all about it for future reference.
  8. What are some pressing questions that have been on your mind recently? Talk yourself through them to some sort of satisfactory answer.
  9. What’s the first thing you think about every morning upon awakening, and what’s the last thing that crosses your mind before you drift off to sleep?
  10. What is causing you pain and anxiety right now? Write about it and see if you can’t find a way to find some comfort and healing.

What prompts can you come up with? How would you like to know yourself better? Write about it!

Some final journaling tips

Journaling is never going to be perfect, and it’s going to take a while to get into the habit of doing it and to start recognizing the positive effects it’s having.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you adjust to this new way of looking at and documenting your innermost feelings and thoughts and how you process them.

  • Free write without judgment (less editing, more writing)
  • Be consistent (about 20 minutes every day, or at least once a week)
  • Keep your writing notes handy (on your nightstand, in your backpack, in your car, etc.)
  • Get in the habit of always looking for the positive

Does journaling sound like it might interest you? Give it a try! If you are struggling with mental illness or low self-esteem, start organizing your thoughts, however awkward it may feel at first. 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.

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Millennial Depression is Spiking, According to 2019 “International Journal of Epidemiology” Study

Depression and anxiety are on the rise among teens and millennials

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

What percentage of millennials has a mental health issue? It may come as no surprise to anyone, but there is an upward trend in the incidence of reported mental-health related issues in the world today.

A February 2019 study published by the International Journal of Epidemiology shows that those from the millennial generation are more prone to depression and self-harming behaviors than they were a decade ago. This comes even in the wake of continuing reported declines in substance abuse rates and anti-social behavioral trends.

For as long as anyone can remember, teenagers and young adults have been considered to be self-centered, emotionally unstable, and irrational. Usually by those older than this age group. Adults have been known to gripe about how millennials are moody and unable to “leave their problems at the door,” and that it’s a problem for the workforce’s (and hence, society’s) stability in the future.

Depression levels among those born between the years 1990 and 2000 have risen up to almost 15 percent, and self-harm rates are up to 14 percent among this group. This is not only a problem for the individuals themselves, but also an increasing public health challenge.

What is causing this upswing? The reasons don’t seem readily clear. As some studies report on observable data, not all are designed to analyze the backstories behind the data. The next step is to figure out the “why” behind the increase.

Theories

The study indicates that obesity rates among this age group nearly doubled in the last 10 years (From less than 4 percent to more than 7 percent), and that that this increase in depression levels might be tied to the weight gain.

It’s also worth noting that 29 percent more of those born around the turn of the century thought they were overweight when compared to those born in the early 1990s.

The obesity concern, coupled with poor sleeping and eating habits, along with negative body image is being looked at as at least one of the source problems.

The interpretation of the data and the framing of it becomes more complicated, especially considering the decreases in youth substance abuse and anti-social behavior, which could understandably be considered to be good things. A better understanding regarding the nature of these dynamics could be very valuable in determining risk factors for mental illnesses, as well as developing effective ways to approach and deal with relevant core problems.

Despite all the good news regarding declining substance abuse and anti-social behavior rates, researchers are seeing that American youth are developing severe mental illnesses at an increasing rate.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that about three million teenagers (aged 12-18) showed at least one major depressive episode in 2015 alone, and that in excess of two million from the same group reported experiencing depression to a degree that interfered with their normal daily activities.

Possibly more unsettling is that these number are likely to continue on the upswing. According to a study published in Time magazine designed to track depression among young adults, the number of reported symptoms of low self-esteem and problems with concentration and sleep rose by 37 percent between 2015 and 2016.

Cases of anxiety have also spiked in the last few years.

  • The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), reports anxiety disorders as the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting just over 18 percent of youth annually.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicates that over six million American teens have some sort of anxiety disorder.

Anxiety has passed depression as the most common reason college students seek mental health consultation. The number of undergraduate college students claiming “overwhelming” levels of anxiety due to school work and college life rose from 50 percent to 62 percent between 2011 and 2016. It would appear that more pressure than ever before is being placed on kids to not just succeed, but to outperform everyone else.

The “Why?”

Though no one seems to be exactly sure what cause to pinpoint as the source of this increase in the levels of millennial mental illness, most camps can agree that it is probably a combination of many different dynamics factors.

Consider that anxiety and depression have recognized biological causes, including many that are not just genetic. For example, researchers have shown that human stomach bacteria may be influencing the functions of regions in the brain, like the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala (both have been causally tied to anxiety and depression).

A significant number of experts agree that environmental and societal changes are having a heavier impact on teens and young adult mental health than genetics or digestive bacteria, however.

Researchers have also blamed technology and social media. Everyone is connected on the internet, and it’s difficult for the youth to not be constantly worried about their digital image and to compare themselves with peers.

Ultimately, we have yet to determine how to address the problem. The increasing demand for mental health help reveals an increasing lack of available public resources to help.

Are you anxious about your lack of sleep? Is your lack of sleep making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. 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.

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Depression and Anxiety at Work: What They Are and What to do About Them

depression-and-anxiety-at-work

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Career depression is a thing. Work-related anxiety is also very real to those who experience it.

Stress is a normal part of life, and in fact, any long-term “stress free” scenario would end up being counterproductive. What would motivate you to go to work and pay your bills? A base level of stress is normal in everyone’s life. The problem comes when it becomes overwhelming and induces debilitating depression and irrational anxiety (anxiety disorder) for someone.

Stressed at work

It should not come as a shock that most working Americans experience stress at work.

According to a Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA) stress and anxiety disorders survey, the following is worth noting:

Among those surveyed, reported stress and anxiety was culprit to most often impact:

  • Quality of work (50 percent claimed)
  • Performance in the workplace (56 percent… this would be considered “performance anxiety”)
  • Working relationships with coworkers (51 percent)
  • Working relationships with supervisors/bosses (43 percent)
  • Personal life (75 percent: 83 percent men, 72 percent women)
  • Personal relationships with spouse or significant other (70 percent: 79 percent men, and 61 percent women)

Not surprisingly, the dominant “go-to” behavior for coping with work-related depression, stress, and anxiety? For 44 percent of both men and women, it’s to sleep more. Other stress “escapes” include: drinking more alcoholic beverages (20 percent), over-the-counter meds (23 percent), more frequent exercise (25 percent), smoking (27 percent), and more caffeine (31 percent).

Career depression (work-related depression, career disillusion, etc.) and anxiety at work

Have you ever been depressed at work? Had an anxiety attack or panic attack? Felt non-stop anxiety? Had difficulty concentrating on work, or maybe you’ve been exhausted and felt unable to keep up because you’re having trouble sleeping? Have you frequently felt on the verge of tears, or felt overwhelmed or like an “exposed nerve?” Have you ever felt like you just needed to “push yourself” through, and then you’ll feel OK later? Maybe some combination of the previously mentioned scenarios?  .

As we mentioned earlier, some level of stress at work is to be expected. Maybe you’ve upset a client, feel like you have more than your fair share of work, or have a big presentation coming up – Job burnout is very common. But depression and anxiety at work can develop into a serious problem.

To make matters worse, when you feel extremely uneasy, depressed, chronically stressed, or anxiety at work, you might begin to develop additional anxiety about your boss’ assessment of your work, or about your job’s stability.

More on depression and anxiety at work

One defining characteristic of depression and anxiety involves a distinct feeling of helplessness, like you have no control whatsoever over your situation.

You may feel like you need to speak with your boss, supervisor, or HR office, though many people are reluctant to because they don’t want to be viewed as “a problem,” or “incompetent,” or “weak.”

There are definitely some things you can do, some things that are within your control. Consider the following suggestions:

  • Get organized.It may seem like a waste of time when you feel you have so much to do, but tidying your desk and filing things away where you can easily find them later will end up saving you time, help you feel on top of your game, and even divert a catastrophe down the road.
  • Take control. Become acquainted with the symptoms of anxiety/anxiety disorder, and learn how to manage them when you experience them unexpectedly.
  • Manage your time effectively.Thoughtfully set goals, and get in the habit of creating and checking off to-do lists for every day and for every week overall. Learn to prioritize your tasks, and get yourself onto a disciplined schedule.
  • Prepare to plan, plan to prepare.Dive right in to big projects as early on as you can. Get ahead of your work schedule as much as possible. Set intermittent deadlines for yourself. Be proactive about identifying potential problems, and think through how to address them before they happen.
  • Get to work! Easier said than done, but diving in and pushing yourself to excel at work can help take some of the edge off, give you a sense of accomplishment, and improve your confidence and self esteem.
  • Set your own standards of excellence.Focus on the quality of your work so you don’t have to backtrack and redo anything if it can be avoided.
  • Be ambitious, be disciplined, but be gentle with yourself. Be realistic and avoid overcommitting and overextending yourself.
  • Don’t be shy about asking for help. Especially if you feel overwhelmed. You can always return favors later when someone else needs your help.
  • Speak your mind. Communicate, and articulate calmly and diplomatically when you feel overwhelmed. Most managers and supervisors are understanding and will do what they can to help you succeed.
  • Talk to a trusted peer/friend at work.It can be very therapeutic to get your worries and anxieties off your chest with someone you trust. Talking through your doubts, concerns, worries, etc. with someone can also give you some valuable perspective.
  • Avoid difficult coworkers. Does it stress you out thinking about how to deal with difficult people? Avoid negativity, gossip, backbiting, bad attitudes, etc. in the workplace. Just press on.
  • Take occasional breaks. About once an hour, take a breather. Walk around the block, enjoy the day, clear your head, breathe deeply. It will help you get refocused and improve your productivity.
  • Celebrate your successes. Never forget to give yourself credit (as well as to those who may have helped you along the way) when you accomplish something you feel good about, even small things.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet, mind that you get adequate sleep, get your regular exercise in, and as much as possible, avoid caffeine and alcohol. Your mind will remain sharp and limber, and you’ll always be ready to confront the next challenge.

Keep in mind that, no matter how well you think you may be able to manage your stress, anxiety, and depression at work, you may at some point need to call on a professional to help. One way to know you might need to get help is a chronic painful, uneasy feeling (a.k.a., malaise) that you can’t seem to shake no matter what, and that crippling feeling has infiltrated not only the workplace, but all areas of your life.

It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you’re smart.

Is work leaving you feeling emotionally exhausted, beaten down, overwhelmed, in a panic, or helpless? If you feel you need some guidance to cope with stresses, depression, and/or anxiety at work, consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Are Video Games Really that Bad for You?

video gaming addiction

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Mental health advocates may now officially have something else to worry about. In the latest revision to its disease classification manual, the World Health Organization (WHO) states that compulsive video game playing now qualifies as a mental health condition.

By treating “gaming disorder” as its own separate addiction, WHO claims that it should serve as a help for families, friends, spouses, health care professionals, and governments to be more aware of the associated signs and risks involved. Don’t be too alarmed, however (at least not yet), as WHO and other professionals have clarified that incidence of the disorder is to date very rare, with the belief that less than 3 percent of all gamers are affected.

The trend seems to be on the rise, however, as the existing scientific evidence has been compelling enough to convince WHO to approach gaming disorder (also known as gaming addiction) as its own problem. There appears to be adequate demand for the disorder’s treatment in some parts of the world. You may already know someone or know of someone’s child who spends countless hours getting wrapped up and consumed playing violent role-playing games like “Fortnite.”

While there are those that express concern about the new classification being “something else to worry about,” a sizable contingent of interested parties welcome WHO’s assessment, claiming the critical necessity of identifying as soon as possible those who are addicted to video games, in order to get them help.

Should this be of concern? It’s been pointed out that compulsive gaming/gaming addiction could be a symptom of something deeper that needs to be addressed, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Some studies suggest that when individuals are engaged in playing online or other video games, certain pathways in the brain are triggered in an intense and direct way, similar to the way that the brains of drug addicts are manipulated by their substance of choice – in other words, gaming can set off a neurological response that influences the mechanism of enticement, pleasure, and reward. In severe cases, this dynamic has manifested itself as strikingly similar to the uncanny pattern of addictive behavior.

What is an addiction?

For the vast majority of people, video games are more about entertainment and novelty. Take the fad game “Pokemon Go,” for example. Even if most people play games like “Pokemon Go” a lot, it’s just a passing “phase,” more than anything, and when they get bored with the trend, they’ll just get on with their lives. No addiction. Others are not so fortunate.

Most people associate addiction with substances (usually alcohol or drugs), and maybe with some behaviors, such as compulsive gambling and compulsive promiscuity. Here are a few possible criteria for what could be considered to be an “addiction” in the context of psychology, psychiatry, and mental health:

  1. An individual continues to need more and more of a substance (or behavior) to keep him or herself going/engaged/entertained.
  2. If the individual runs out of the substance/behavior, he or she becomes unhappy and irritable.
  3. When in doubt, the quick definition of an addiction is: When an individual continues to indulge him or herself with a substance or behavior, even when that person is aware that it is detrimental and harmful.

Gaming likely meets these criteria, with many reports of severe withdrawal symptoms in game addicts. Episodes of aggression, anger, depression, and even violence have been reported.

What’s the big deal?

Gaming addiction is typically associated with teenagers, but it can be just as harmful to adults. Compulsive gaming for adult video game addicts can hinder job or school performance and can be harmful to relationships.

Many adult gamers often skip social engagements, work, meals, and sleep.

Be mindful of addiction warning signs

Remember that most people who play video games, even if they seem to play them a lot, don’t develop an addiction to them. Parents and friends of video gamers should be mindful and watchful for warning signs of potentially detrimental problems. Some warning signs of gaming addiction include:

  • Gaming for ever-increasing amounts of time
  • Declining performance at school or work
  • Playing video games to escape from real-time problems, depression, or anxiety
  • Thinking about and talking about gaming at other times throughout the day
  • Lying to friends and family to hide gaming
  • Becoming irritable when having to cut down on time playing video games

If someone’s gaming time appears to be taking over his or her life, when someone’s normal routine is consistently disrupted (e.g., schoolwork, socializing, work), then it may be time to seek professional help.

Do you or someone you know struggle with an addiction to video games? Behavioral addiction is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about behavioral/compulsive addiction or mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Anxiety and Creativity: Another View of Anxiety

anxiety-and-creativity

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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.

 

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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 a 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 of 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.

12 Must-Try Products to Help You Cope with Anxiety and Stress

anxiety relief

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Anxiety and stress can get the best of anyone from time to time. Anxiety can also overwhelm and make you feel chronically ungrounded and without any sense of control over yourself—even at times for seemingly insignificant or non-existent reasons whatsoever. Anxiety symptoms can undermine your sense of self-esteem.

You might be undergoing treatment to help you more proactively manage anxiety issues you may be having, learning relaxation skills, and other coping mechanisms to help you in moments of crisis. You might be getting comfortable and feeling more natural in regard to talking to friends, loved ones, your therapist.

These things are definitely the first components of a viable strategy in your treatment, but sometimes having something tangible, like a relaxation tool, or listening to calming music, or taking a long, hot bath can be just what you need to get you through to your next moment of calm.

None of these tangibles should be considered cure-alls, and you should always consult with a mental health professional if you are really in need of help. However, in the meantime, below is a list of fun tools, gadgets, and items that can give you an extra edge in confronting your own anxiety, and in feeling more content, energized, and calm.

Headspace app: Learn the pleasures and benefits of mindful meditation, made simple (free, AppleAndroid). Features hundreds of themed sessions on a wide range of topics, like stress, sleep, focus, and anxiety. Also: an assortment of brief guided meditations for when you’re a bit too busy to slow down for long, and emergency meditation/breathing exercises, in case you suddenly go into crisis mode.

 

 

Tea, anyone? Discover a new favorite, natural relaxation tea, starting with Traditional Medicinals Organic Nighty Night Valerian Relaxation Tea, ($4.82, Amazon).

Or, try the Tension Tamer herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings for a relaxing dip into soothing mint and lemongrass ($5.40, Amazon).

 

Feeling hip? Start a new trend with your new handy Maroamlife Lava Stone Diffuser portable aromatherapy bracelet ($7.99, Amazon). You can add a couple of drops of your preferred  essential oil to your bracelet, rubbing the oil into the stones. The anxiety-calming scent will follow you around while you’re out and about, keeping your mind at ease.

 

Do you grind your teeth at night and wake up feeling stressed and agitated? Pick up a 10-pack of Plackers disposable Grind No More Night Guard for your teeth. Plackers brings you the first disposable and ready-to-use night tooth guard, offering a cost-effective solution for you – comfortable, hygienic, and protective. No cutting, molding, or boiling required.One size fits all, Plackers can be worn on upper or lower teeth. Can be used for three days, then conveniently disposed of ($13.78, Amazon).

 

Go Zen! Overwhelmed? Anxious? Frazzled? Try WellPath Zen, featuring a natural mix of adaptogens, herbs, and vitamins shown to support stress relief ($15.85, Amazon).

 

 

 

Want to create a warm, relaxing, stress-free environment? Use VicTsing wood grain diffuser and cool mist humidifier, 300 ml ($27.99, Amazon).

 

 

 

Try it with this “aromatherapeutic” set of essential oils, which includes calming and relaxing scents like lavender, tea trea, eucalyptus, and frankincense ($16.95, Amazon). Check it out here.

 

 

When was the last time you had a nice, hot, fizzy bath? Try these 5 oz handmade bath bombs ($18.04, Amazon), and let them take you away!

 

 

Acupressure is an “in” thing! You wouldn’t think it by looking at it, but this Nayoya spiked mat and pillow ($39.97, Amazon) are designed to relieve your neck, back, and shoulders when you’re in pain.  Using them consistently can also help you sleep better, improve your circulation, and take the edge off of everyday life and anxiety. Residual side effects of using this acupressure mat includes better sleep, circulation, and relief from stress and anxiety. What are you waiting for? Take a look here!

Your blanket needs more weight. You may not have known it, but heavy, weighted0 blankets, like the 12 lb. polyester Brookstone Nap Weighted Blanket ($94.89, Amazon), have been shown to promote better sleep, and to reduce anxiety and stress. In fact, you’ll feel like you’re wrapped in a big, warm hug.

 

 

Or, look into the super-soft microfiber 48″ x 72″, 20lb. Gravity Blanket, otherwise known as the original weighted blanket ($249.00, Amazon).

 

 

 

Concerned about anxiety issues? Not to worry. It is 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.