Amused.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

amusement

Amused.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Amused

“I have found that the key to being happy — well, one of the keys, anyway — is to be easily amused,”

― Wil Wheaton

“amusement is a sort of relaxation, and we need relaxation because we cannot work continuously.”

― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

“Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

― Will Rogers

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

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Tools for Stress Busting.

By David Joel Miller.

Feeling stressed out? Try these stress reduction tools.

Stressed

Feeling stressed out?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Life is full of stress. Good stress, bad stress it all adds up. The more gadgets we get the more there is to do. Stress can damage your mental and your physical health. Continuing to pile up stress without discharging it can do you harm. Here are some simple suggestions for stress reduction.

If you have too much unhealthy stress in your life how about trying some of these methods for reducing stress.

Take a brief break to lower stress.

Staying at the grindstone or the computer long after you have worn yourself out does not increase your productivity and it can be detrimental to your health. Take a few brief breaks from the stress in your life. Stop and look out the window, go for a walk, daydream a while.

Brief breaks do not reduce productivity, they enhance it. Just be careful to avoid other time-consuming activities during those breaks. It is not a break if you use the time to tackle another stressful activity.

Breathe deeply to feel less stressed.

Slow deep breaths increase the oxygen in your blood stream. Deep breathing can reduce anxiety and reduce stress. Forgetting to breath is one of the first effects of excessive anxiety. Shallow breathing can set off panic attacks as the body interprets that lack of oxygen to a life threatening emergency rather than to your inattention to breathing.

Declutter your environment for less stress.

Some few of us like clutter. Everything needs to be visible for them to find things. But for most of us all that clutter is a constant reminder of things we still need to do. Clean off those unneeded items. Make piles, throw the unneeded things out.

Having a clean well-organized work space can make working less stressful. Throwing out unneeded items and filing things away can give you a quick boost in your feelings of getting things done.

A clean organized environment can reduce stress for most of us.

Play your tunes to reduce stress.

Sound effects your mood and emotions in ways that words can’t. Music reaches parts of the brain that are oblivious to the spoken word. Having your songs playing in the background can keep you in a more relaxed and de-stressed mood.

Pick “white noise” type tunes if possible, thinks that screen out the rest of the world without distracting you. I have some personal favorites that are meditation and relaxation recordings I keep playing in my office. People who come to see me often comment on how relaxed that music makes them feel.

Put your mind on silent, meditate to banish stress.

Meditation, far from being a time waster can be a huge asset to creative thought and concentration. Let you mind empty out and make room for those insights to flow in. One immense source of stress is a mind full of things competing for attention.

The mind consumes a lot of calories and does a huge amount of work each day. We rest our bodies but many of us continue to pile work on our minds even while the body rests.

Learn to mediate as a way to take the stress load off that brain.

Get adequate sleep to mange stress.

People in industrial societies are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep is not a waste of time. Sleep is when the brain does its repair work. Waste products from the heavy lifting are removed from the brain during sleep.

Memories are consolidated and moved around during sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep just might improve your memory and help you retrieve those facts when you need them. When we are over tired, mentally or physically we are more prone to injuries and to making mistakes. A rested mind can conquer stress, a tired mind is no match for even the smallest amount off stress.

Take a stress reduction walk.

Walking is a great way to reduce stress and exercise the body. Make walking a part of your routine and use a walk, even a short one to reduce stress during the work day. You will see benefits from walking in both your physical and your mental health.

Short walks increase attention and alertness. They make you more able to stay on task and reduce the stress of feeling overwhelmed with things to do.

Eat Healthier for less stress.

A health body is a key to having a healthy mind. Give your brain good nutrition and see how much more it can do. Running on low-grade brain fuel produces additional wear and tear on the thing you will need for your entire life – your brain.

Practice these stress busting methods and see if your life does not improve. Do you have any favorite stress busting techniques that you would be willing to share?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Practice using your stress reduction tools every day.

Getting rid of Nightmares that maintain Depression and PTSD

By David Joel Miller.

Then Come Nightmares.

Frequent nightmares play a major role in maintaining depression, PTSD and other mental health problems. It is common for people to think that they need to cure the PTSD or Depression and then the nightmares will go away.  The opposite approach is more likely to be productive.

Most treatments for PTSD do not target the nightmares. There are treatments for nightmares available, some as brief as three sessions. These have been shown to help reduce nightmares and promote recovery from other problems.

Treatment for nightmares has been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD and depression.

Children also suffer from nightmare related problems. Children who are fearful because of a family problem, moves, divorces or separation develop symptoms of mental illness. “Bad dreams” are the result of the child’s out of control fear and are at the root of many childhood attention or conduct disturbances. When the child gets a good nights sleep they behave, when they don’t sleep they don’t pay attention and they don’t mind.

Nightmares are associated with high levels of anxiety. They are fear based.

Most people who have PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder or any other diagnosis also have a co-occurring anxiety problem. Now sometimes anxiety is good, it protects you from danger. But when the anxiety circuits do not turn off the anxiety gets to be the problem rather than the solution.

We also see lots of disturbing dreams in clients recovering from substance abuse problems. Substance abuse counselors report clients sharing about drug using dreams. We have some simple interventions around those issues but not much research has been done in this area because substance abusers, people with Bipolar Disorder and people with psychosis are routinely excluded from research studies. I believe that the treatment for nightmares will work for anyone.

The solution is to tone down that fear circuit.

Before I describe a treatment method for reducing nightmares – a word of caution, working on nightmares, especially those that maintain PTSD, can be a painful process. It is best to work with a therapist or other professional person and you need to make sure you have a strong support system in place in case you have difficulty coping.  For more on support systems see “How to develop a support system” or “How supportive is your support system?”

Taming nightmares involves three steps.

1. Learn relaxation methods.

Nightmares are fear based and the fear persists after you awake. Sitting thinking about the scary part of the dream might reinforce the nightmare and result in memorizing your nightmare. Fear and relaxations are not compatible. The more you relax the less fear you will have. As you get better at relaxing your fear shrinks and your dreams become less traumatic.

2. Learn sleep hygiene

Keeping regular bedtimes, reducing or eliminating caffeine especially in the hours before bedtime and other efforts to improve sleep naturally are helpful. It is important to allow plenty of time for sleep.

People who stay up late and get up early gradually become sleep deprived. Lack of sleep aggravates all sorts of mental health issues. Insufficient sleep increases the possibilities that you will be suddenly awakened and will remember the “bad dreams.”

During sleep the brain keeps working on our issues, memories are consolidated and thoughts organized. We only call dreams “nightmares” if we awake during the dream and have memories of it. Better sleep can result in fewer nightmares.

3. Begin treatment of the nightmares once you are relaxed and well rested.

The process of “reframing” nightmares makes them less scary and more manageable. Reframing or reprocessing is helpful for intrusive daytime thoughts as well as for nightmares.  The application of this to reducing or eliminating nightmares was described by Rhudy et al in their 2010 article on CBT treatment for nightmares in trauma exposed people, where they called it “ERRT” therapy.  Ben Furman has also described a similar approach for use with children.

Disclaimer- Rhudy et al’s study, like most research in the mental health area excluded substance abusers, people with mania or psychosis and probably screened out all people with Bipolar Disorders. The sample size was also low with about twenty people per group. There is so much overlap between substance abuse, bipolar disorder and PTSD in the clients I see these studies leave out exactly the people who most need new effective treatments . That said – the ideas appear to be fully appropriate for clients with co-occurring disorders.

Here is how it works:

To reprocess or reframe nightmares do the following things:

A. Write out as full a description of the nightmare as possible.

Getting it down on paper tames the story and makes it manageable. It also allows you to go back over it and add missing details. In step C you will be rewriting it with added insight.

Remember that it is a normal process for your brain to use your dreams to make sense of your experiences. In dreams your brain will turn the experience around and examine it from all sides. Your brain may also play out multiple alternative endings for the event. It is not the dream that is the problem; it is the connection between the dream and fear that makes this a nightmare.

If you have several versions of the dream try to write them all down.

B. Read the nightmare story aloud.

Listen for the themes in the story. What are the fear messages? I think it is helpful to be able to read this to a therapist or other support person who can keep you from being overwhelmed and can provide some insight to things you may not immediately see. Just don’t make someone listen to your nightmare that is not emotionally able to hear the story.

C. Re-script the nightmare.

What is the expected ending? What is an alternative ending? Write out the story this time with a new less scary ending. Read the new version out loud. Has seeing a new possible ending tamed the fear?

Furman described a story, not sure where it originated, in which a grandmother applied the sort of approach to her grandson’s nightmare.

The child came to grandmother scared because of a nightmare.

“Grand ma” he said “I had a nightmare.”

“There are no such things as nightmares” The grandmother said “Only goodmares. All dreams should have happy endings. The problem is you keep waking up before the end. What is a good ending that could have happened?”

In this story the child then works with his grandmother to find new happy endings for these scary dreams. The result – fewer scary dreams and less fear when bad dreams occurred.

Warring – in people with PTSD who were treated with re-scripting the fear declined first, anger later and the frequency and length of nightmares were the last thing to decline.

Talk to your care provider about this process. If you try this process, see if it works. Learn to relax more. Tame your sleep. Then tame your nightmares. If you have had success in changing your nightmares ending please share your success with the rest of us.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books