Can’t Keep My Eyes Open

Tired young man laying in bed with sunrays shining on face

Exhausted But Still Kicking

The lack of sleep is a silent killer, similar to uncontrolled high blood pressure. While high blood pressure viciously attacks your organs such as your brain, heart, kidneys and more, the lack of sleep nonchalantly attacks your mental well-being. And so you start to rely on coffee, energy drinks, stimulants or a bunch of sugar.

While not the best way to go about your day, millions of people worldwide are sleep-deprived due to a poor sleep hygiene. Not having enough time to sleep is only an excuse propelled by those who actually do not have the discipline to get a full night’s 8-hour rest. It’s not hard to get good sleep, but are you interested in getting it in the first place?

The worst days are when you wake up and can’t keep your eyes open! All you can think of is emailing your employer, “leave me alone for today, I don’t want to think about you” and climb back into bed and peacefully snooze. That sounds nice and can definitely be done once in a while, but should not be your go-to-strategy.

And even if you sleep all day, it’s just not the same quality of sleep as you get during the night, especially when going to bed earlier in the evening. Sometimes it’s worth considering taking days off from work in order to refresh your mind and unwind your chakras. But your best strategy should be an awesome sleep hygiene!

You may be exhausted and still kicking, but is that really how you want to go about your day? Wouldn’t have it been easier to just go to sleep on time the previous night? But that’s where a lot of us struggle: we want to watch another episode of a Netflix show, talk an extra hour on the phone, fall deeper down the YouTube hole, etc.

The excuses for not getting enough sleep at night can pile up, until you become chronically sleep-deprived and start to experience a change in your mental well-being. Lack of sleep is associated with irritability, sadness, anger, anxiety and a poor outlook on life; it’s associated with feeling incomplete!

Can’t keep your eyes open but are still kicking? Good. A little pain is what it sometimes takes to make a change in poor behavior.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Couch Laziness

Lazy adult American bulldog sitting on brown leather couch with pillows

When Exercising Is The Last Thing That You Want To Do

. . . is when you have to push yourself the hardest to get off that comfy couch and jog straight to the gym! You think that couch wants you to get off? You think those beers want you to stop drinking? You think your girlfriend wants you to stop paying attention to her? When exercising is the last thing that you want to do, you do it anyways!

It’s so much easier to come home from work and crash on your furniture; just lay back and browse the internet or surf your cable packages. But within 20 minutes of relaxing on your couch and decompressing after a long day’s work, you begin to experience a nagging feeling within your mind, “get off the couch and head to the gym!”

You then begin to contemplate whether going to the gym is even worth it, “I have to jump in some comfortable clothes, actually get there and then put some effort on the machines or free weights, all while experiencing a crowded environment in-between the hours of 6-8 pm.” On the other hand, the little red bastard demon on your left shoulder is whispering in your ear, “forget that BS! Grab a beer or a fat J and kick back and relax!”

Sometimes you give in to the flesh and do just that. But if you want to improve as a person and lift yourself to the next level (no pun intended), then you have to get off your behind and go lift some weights! It actually doesn’t take that much effort after you develop a consistent routine, and you end up feeling better physically and mentally.

It’s easier to take the lazy and comfy route in life, but are you expecting to gain long-lasting results that way? The harder routes are the ones that pay off dividends in the long-run. But many people lose patience and don’t want to put in the work for that long; these are the folks who never learned or applied the concept of delayed gratification.

When exercising is the last thing that you feel like doing, then you go ahead and do it! It’s as simple as that.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Blessed But Still Suffering

Blessed brunette woman holding her hair near pink flowers

Everyday Nagging Pain

When everything lines up nicely and smoothly and your life is going according to plan, you become quick to admit to yourself, “I am blessed!” But when things don’t go your way and you start to complain to others, all you hear in return is, “count your blessings!” So whether you feel blessed or not, one thing remains obvious: suffering just does not seem to ever go away!

Many of us feel blessed when our lives are going according to plan. While a list cannot be composed because everyone considers their blessings to be different than others’, it can be universally concluded that feeling blessed equals something along the lines of, “living the life.” But even with all of our blessings, life still finds a way for us to suffer.

Some of us suffer by experiencing a nagging pain related to emptiness, as if we feel incomplete. We often feel like something is missing within us or in our lives; this is not in reference to materialism. This is in reference to something much larger: a deeper meaning about our lives and where we stand in the world.

Some of us also suffer because we lack a significant other or a close friend who we can call or hang out with. You can have all the materialism in the world and still feel incomplete, without a good set of friends! Continuing to indulge in materialism without meaningful relationships makes the surface smooth and shiny, but the interior dusty and rusty!

And then there are the unexpected life circumstances that can happen at anytime. This can include the death of a loved one or friend, the loss of your job or just about anything under the sun. Keep in mind that you may be blessed and still experience unexpected life circumstances. And your blessings won’t help you recover from them any easier!

It’s fair to say that no matter how blessed you are or you will be, you will always be suffering in one way or the other; maybe not at the same level as others, but still at some level significant enough to impact your emotions, mental health and well-being. Remember that your mental health is not immune to everyday suffering; blessings are not a shield that protects your mental health.

Your mental health is very vulnerable to change, pain and influence by outside forces. Maintaining sound mental health on a consistent basis is a much bigger blessing than living a life full of pleasure and materialism. With sound mental health, you can at least enjoy the peacefulness of sanity. Without sanity, the many blessings that you may have can easily fall apart very quickly.

Are you blessed? Are you still suffering? Probably so.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Addicted To Addiction

Closeup photo of green and white signage of person running towards arrow and door

Warning: Addiction Territory Ahead

No matter the amount of pleasure that some people seek and receive, it never seems to be enough. Either more of where that came from is their thought process, or they seek a new form of pleasure. Not every source of pleasure is derived from a substance, but all sources of pleasure have the potential for inducing an addiction.

Why are some people more prone to developing an addiction? What is an addiction? Why do we feel the need to provide ourselves with pleasure? These are all fundamental questions that need to be answered in order to better understand ourselves, and the decisions that we make in our everyday lives.

An addiction is a state of mind that involves a person becoming dependent on a source of pleasure. Dependence is a state of relying on or being controlled by something. People can be dependent on alcohol, drugs, sex or even other people, known as dependent personality disorder!

Some people are more prone to developing an addiction because it has a great deal to do with their personality traits and genetics. If their relatives had addicting personalities, there’s a high chance that their genes were passed onto them; genes have a great influence on personality. Some people also enjoy pleasure more than others: what might be “fun and cool” for one person hitting a fat J, might be “amazing and dope” for another.

The “amazing and dope” person could be that one person who develops Cannabis Use Disorder, Severe. The same applies with sex, eating, gambling and any other type of pleasure that happens to be very reinforcing. Reinforcing means that you want it over and over again, because of the intensity of the pleasure; your behavior for seeking a particular activity is credited, strengthened or reinforced with pleasure.

We feel the need to provide ourselves with pleasure because it’s human nature to feel rewarded and happy. Without pleasure, life would be mundane. Depression and suicide rates would probably be astronomically higher than they already are. But keep in mind that pleasure can also lead to a mundane, depressing and suicidal state of mind!

At the end of the day, pleasure is innate in all of us. We need pleasure to survive. But what we don’t need is that invisible line that we are all susceptible to crossing over into addiction territory. You’ll never actually see the line, but you’ll be bombarded with warning signs and flashing lights! When this happens, stop and return back from where you came from. It means that you’ve overdone it with pleasure.

Don’t overdo pleasure; it’s much sweeter in moderate amounts.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Coping With Anxiety Without Medications

Man with an anxiety disorder hugging himself next to his shadow on wall

Fighting Anxiety Naturally

You walk into a psychotherapy appointment or on a tennis court with good intentions, when all of a sudden your mind sprinkles anxious symptoms all over you. For someone who has never experienced anxiety, this may be quite frightening: worry, fear, uneasiness, on edge, constantly touching your hands or face or feeling like something bad is going to happen.

For a seasoned veteran suffering from anxiety, the symptoms listed above are nothing new; just more pain to suffer but grow from. For many, medications are used to control anxiety, especially panic attacks. Medications such as antidepressants take at least 4-6 weeks for you to see a difference in your anxiety, and even then it’s no guarantee.

Nothing is a guarantee when it comes to mental illness. Don’t get me wrong, medications work great for anxiety! But you just have to make the choice of wanting to be on one or not. Remember that no medication is free of side effects. Your typical SSRIs commonly cause sexual dysfunction such as delayed ejaculation, anorgasmia, reduced sexual desire and more.

But it doesn’t mean that you will experience sexual side effects if you get started on an SSRI, but it’s definitely worth being informed about them! The other solution of battling anxiety is fighting it naturally, such as going through psychotherapy, performing mindfulness in your free time, praying or just experiencing the symptoms enough times that you eventually adopt a good control over them.

When you decide to take the natural route, you will notice that it’s a much more rocky and unpredictable road: the symptoms can return at anytime and you must be prepared to deal with them. When on medications, the symptoms tend to be much better controlled in the long run.

But the risk of experiencing side effects from antidepressants does not outweigh the benefits in many peoples’ eyes. So they rely on beating anxiety naturally. But “beating” is the wrong word because you will never beat a mental illness, you will just learn how to be in better control of it! And being in better control may mean never experiencing the symptoms ever again.

You won’t “beat” it because there is no cure for any mental illness; there is no magic formula or special medication which eradicates the mental illness from your mind. There is no talk therapy which does that either! The illness is multifactorial: genes, altered levels of neurotransmitters, unconscious conflicts, personality, receptor damage 2/2 alcohol or drug use, etc.

Your goal should not be to “beat” your mental illness. No . . . your goal is not that. Your goal is to live a happy life and not allow your mental illness to take that away from you!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Depressed And Demented

Elderly woman with dementia sitting on wheelchair near houses and stone driveway

Ambien And Dementia

Understanding what an elderly person with dementia is going through is like trying to understand what it feels like to slowly lose your memory for good. Imagine forgetting to turn off the stove or driving to the supermarket and ending up across town by a bridge which you have never seen before!

Try to imagine what it would feel like to be living in your last years of life with memory loss. Not only is your life coming to an end and are unconsciously worrying whether you have lived a productive and meaningful life, but your memory is also slowly fading away. And imagine feeling confused and forgetting details related to everyday situations.

Imagine performing an activity with a person one day and almost forgetting about it the next; “what was it that we did yesterday?” Patients with dementia do not forget as much autobiographical information as they do with recent activities that were just performed. Ask them where and when they were born and they will most likely be able to provide you with that information.

Ask them what they had for breakfast and they will give you a blank stare! On top of that, 1/3 of patients with dementia suffer from depression. Let’s sum this scenario up:

  • Elderly knowing that your life is soon coming to an end
  • End of life worries regarding having lived a prosperous and fulfilling life
  • Confusion about everyday events
  • Memory loss about everyday events
  • Depression

How would you feel if you experienced the above scenario? In addition, many patients with dementia may be prescribed psychotropic medications despite contraindications. For instance, Prozac and Zoloft may cause fractures and falls in the elderly. Antipsychotics increase the risk of death in patients with dementia, and benzodiazepines increase the risk of falls in the elderly.

Ambien or Zolpidem is a “Z-Drug” or sleeping medication used for insomnia. It is known to cause cognitive impairment and amnesia as side effects. Consider a patient with dementia who is suffering from insomnia, and who is prescribed Ambien by their physician. Not only is this patient losing their memory, but they are now taking a medication that worsen’s their cognition!

One would argue, “no physician in their right mind would prescribe a demented patient a medication that does that!” But is it really that hard to believe? Just because someone went to medical school and received an MD or DO degree, does not mean that they are a competent physician!

Overall, we need to be understanding and compassionate in regards to what patients with dementia are going through; especially family members who understandably lose patience with their loved ones. Consider the symptoms mentioned above and try to put yourself in their shoes.

I don’t think you’ll be going to sleep tonight dreaming of that scenario!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Drinking And Driving

Drunk adolescent male leaning on SUV in front of woods

Wheel Of Fortune

“Don’t drink and drive” are the 4 words which we repeatedly hear since adolescence, yet there continues to be thousands of drunk drivers worldwide on a daily basis. It’s as if the words are registered and discarded faster than they are processed. Why do so many people continue to drink and drive despite the adverse consequences?

For starters, alcohol has a powerful influence on one’s judgment. Unlike marijuana for instance, alcohol can make someone so intoxicated that they can no longer discern right from wrong; in this case, they get behind the wheel drunk and drive to their destination. What the consequences will be do not matter to them in that situation and state of mind.

This is not to imply that marijuana does not make people intoxicated or stoned. But the difference with this drug is that people who are stoned tend to remain more preoccupied with a relaxing activity, such as watching a movie or listening to music. They are not as tempted to get behind the wheel and go driving to random places, even though it does happen quite often!

Most people would agree that it’s more tempting to drive under the influence of alcohol, because they want to get from point A to point B without any delays. In this case, point B may be another party, their house, a friend’s crib or their significant other’s pad. Drinking and driving has a lot to do with the final destination: “I need to get there tonight and I need to get there quick!”

Even if one tells himself prior to drinking that he will not drive tonight, once those few shots of bourbon or that sour whisky goes down their throat and hits their nucleus accumbens, their judgment begins to quickly change. They may also experience peer pressure from their friends to drive: “come on bro, we gotta make it to this party!”

What started as a good intention of not driving for the night, may end up in a damaged vehicle and a fatality or two. Some would argue that drinking and driving is also fun! You can blast the music with your friends, while speeding on isolated back roads to your destination of choice! Until you lose control of your vehicle or a deer jumps in the middle of the road, distracting you and causing you to swerve and crash into a tree!

The wheel of fortune is not to be reckoned with when it comes to drinking and driving. Be smart and either stay sober for the night, have a designated driver or have someone sober pick you up!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Scared Of The Future

Person holding clear round glass in front of body of water

The Road That Lies Ahead

With so much pressure to keep improving and bettering yourself, many question marks remain about your future. When you attempt to visualize it, your dreams become apparent in your mind’s eye. But in addition to your dreams, the reality that truly lies in the future is pure darkness; you don’t know what tomorrow will bring you!

No one can predict their future. Even if you know that something is supposed to happen next week, is that guaranteed at all? Life always manifests unpredictable events; some bad and some good. But you never truly know what lies in your future. For instance, take a look at the rapper Juice Wrld: he was flying with his crew on a private jet when all of a sudden, he had a seizure in the airport and passed away at the age of 21!

The unpredictabilities that lie in the future can be very scary and anxiety-provoking. Not knowing what life has in store for you tomorrow, is actually quite frightening if you sit down to think about it! Many people experience injuries, losses, sad news and even death when they least expect it.

But does this mean that we should live a guarded and fearful life? Absolutely not. You would be making a grave mistake if you did, because when you live a guarded and fearful life, you are preventing yourself from flourishing; you are essentially half-alive. Do not give power to fear, because once fear senses a little weakness within you, it starts coming at you even harder!

Regardless of not knowing what your future has in store for you, you need to wake up every day and do your best! Live a life of dignity and happiness, even if you are going through difficult times. You are always in a better position than someone else is. And keep your complaints to a minimum. So what if you are eating the same sandwich for lunch 5 days a week! Do you think the homeless person down the street from you has it any better?

Keep dreaming and living your life in the present. Don’t dwell so much as to what is going to happen in the future.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Marijuana For Anxiety

Person holding marijuana joint in front of tree and body of water

Can Marijuana Help With Anxiety?

Marijuana is an interesting drug due to its intoxicating effect on the human mind. Many people swear by the fact that marijuana alleviates their anxiety by relaxing and calming them down. But others would argue otherwise, claiming that marijuana exacerbates their anxiety to the point of inducing panic-like symptoms.

But without randomized-controlled trials, we cannot assume that marijuana is efficacious for anxiety disorders. But that does not mean that we should discount the many user reports circulating around about marijuana’s positive effect on anxiety. If marijuana does alleviate anxiety, how does it do that?

We know that THC, the intoxicating chemical found in marijuana, binds to CB1 receptors in the brain and CB2 receptors in the periphery. We also know that there are two strains of marijuana: indica which produces more of a body high and sativa which produces more of a head high.

Which strain alleviates anxiety more depends on the user. Many would attest that indica highs do a better job at alleviating anxiety, because the high is more directed towards the body. This results in a lesser head high and potentially less anxious symptoms. On the other hand, sativa may exacerbate anxiety in users because it mainly provides a head high.

What is a typical user experience on marijuana that leads to less anxiety? If you’re feeling on edge, worried and anxious, within the first 5 minutes of inhaling marijuana, the user will feel their state of consciousness slowly being altered. The feeling is a sense of mental relaxation with the perception of slowed time.

The user also becomes more aware of their bodily sensations and their surroundings; everything becomes more alive and interesting to the senses. Because of this, it may take away the user’s focus on their anxiety symptoms; their attention becomes redirected to other activities which become more interesting, such as music and movies.

But what about a user’s experience with marijuana exacerbating anxiety? The anxious symptoms can escalate within a few minutes of inhaling or later on in the journey. The anxious symptoms can be quite severe, to the point of inducing a panic state or the thought of “losing one’s mind.”

An example of anxiety while on marijuana may include something of this sort: you’re standing in your kitchen high and eating a delicious delicacy. Your taste buds are on fire while you slowly allow your masticatory muscles to chew away your small piece of heaven. But all of a sudden, out of no where, your perception of you standing in place and eating becomes magnified and blown out of proportion!

There is way too much unnecessary focus by your mind on your current situation: your posture, your chewing, your bodily sensations such as your heart rate and breathing, and your thoughts. The next thing you know, you’re starting to experience anxious thoughts: “oh my god, I’m freaking out! I feel uncomfortable. Something bad is going to happen! I wish I could end this high!”

And that’s how one potentially experiences a panic attack while under the influence of marijuana. Therefore, we do not yet know if marijuana is a good medicine for anxiety. For some people it works wonders, while for others, it wreaks havoc! Until we have conclusive RCT results, we can only go by user reports.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Cake By The Ocean

Cozy beach house overlooking turquoise water and purple clouds

Living Your Dreams

To achieve the big dreams which you have been entertaining for years, you must be certain that you are in the right state of mind. You cannot be 100% focused on your current situation without a little dreaming in-between. Dreams are present-day unrealistic thoughts and fantasies which have the potential to become a reality in the future!

Your dreams should be alive and active every single day, regardless of whether you hold a killer job or no job. Dreams are there to smooth out the bumpy roads and provide you with hope that you will one day be in a better position in life. But not all dreams are related to wealth and prosperity.

Some dreams are about good physical health, new positive relationships or improved mental health. These dreams have nothing to do with money, fame and materialism; but these things aren’t bad either. It all depends on what you want. God gave you free will to decide what you want in life!

If one of your dreams involves a big fat piece of cake by the ocean, overlooking the turquoise water and purple sunset, then visualize and believe that every day of your life, until it becomes a reality! Never let someone else put you down because of your “grandiose” dreams; they’re not grandiose if you can visualize them with your mind’s eye!

People will always have a tendency to discredit your dreams because it’s human nature to not want others to get ahead. But don’t be like them. If someone accomplishes their dreams, sincerely congratulate them for their achievements! Having a good heart free of jealousy and envy will propel you towards your dreams at a much faster rate.

And lastly, live your dreams like there’s no tomorrow. Daniel Craig’s upcoming movie title “No Time to Die” says it best: there’s no time to cut your life short because every day is an opportunity to work towards your dreams. And you must believe that they are achievable; believe with all your will and you will succeed!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)