The Painful Rollercoast

Man dressed in a shirt experiencing pain

Do Not Run Away From Pain

Pain is part of life. From the time of our birth, to the death of our loved ones, the concept of pain is experienced at all times. But why do we experience pain? What is the role behind it and is there a way to avoid it?

Pain can be physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Because pain is experienced in so many different ways, there is absolutely no way of avoiding it. Therefore, rather than running away from pain, we should embrace it by experiencing its full effect and reaping the benefits: a development of a stronger character, a more experienced perception of life and increased resilience! The concept of pain is not an accidental design in human nature; it is a purposeful experience that humans must go through in order to build character.

When a cycle of pain ends, have you noticed that you come out of the experience feeling stronger and more confident to tackle the challenges of life? Unfortunately, many people remain stuck in a cycle of pain, leading to depression, suicidal thoughts and even death. It can be very dangerous to remain stuck in a cycle of pain and not learn how to deal with it in the moment.

Remember that we all are in this together; experiencing the concept of pain during our lives. It is an inevitable feeling that will come back into our lives at unexpected times, but we must not fall shy from experiencing it. Together, via the DSM Movement, we can help each other deal with pain through the sharing of our experiences with pain and how to handle various situations.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Health Benefits Of Playing Tennis

Man playing tennis on red clay courts

The Green Balls

The benefits of tennis can be reaped from just about anyone. It is a lifetime sport that can be started at any age, from as young as age 2 to as old as . . . well, that depends on you! Most importantly, it is fun! You can participate in singles or doubles; doubles involves two players vs. two players (make sure to pick a partner that you get along with or you are in for a two hour nightmare). Most people I have met who play tennis have a great character: they are motivated, fun and enthusiastic individuals.

Tennis connects and brings people together, can be played all year round on multiple surfaces, (Har-Tru classic green clay, red European clay, grass and hard) indoors or outdoors, and is not that expensive to play. All you need is a tennis bag, a couple of racquets, strings, overgrip, clothes and shoes and a smile on your face (maybe some proper footwork too).

What are the health benefits of playing tennis? The sport increases your aerobic capacities, lowers your resting heart rate and blood pressure, improves metabolic function, increases bone density, lowers body fat, improves muscle tone/strength/flexibility and increases your reaction time. Tennis also has mental health benefits: it increases your alertness and tactical thinking, enhances the neural connections in your brain and reduces stress.

Tennis is also very social; you can talk to your opponent in between games, sets or while you are hitting balls. And if you are playing at a country club, you can enjoy the delicious food and beverages served (no pun intended) after a long sweaty match! Lastly, tennis offers an escape from the world and your daily routine; when you step on that court, you become disconnected from the troubles of the world and focused on something relaxing and peaceful.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Why E-Cigarettes Have Hit A Left Turn

Person in black hoodie surrounded by smoke

Smoking Mirrors

E-Cigarettes were never meant to be targeted towards the adolescent population. They were in fact designed to be a replacement of cigarettes for long-term smokers. But somewhere along the lines, adolescents started to get their hands on them, resulting in a massive epidemic. Adolescents see these devices as fun, easy to use and easy to hide; vaping can be done in bars, restaurants, malls or even in schools. The vapor has no smell and it disappears within seconds.

Vaping also is considered cool in the adolescent world: teenagers learn to do “vape tricks” and even get paid on Instagram for advertising the different types of E-Cigarettes. What do these companies get out of it? A large growing, vulnerable and immature portion of our population who is throwing money their way and helping the industry strive! It is unfortunate that this industry is taking advantage of our youth, despite the health consequences that come along with vaping.

The FDA recently reported that 35 people have had seizures from E-Cigarettes by accidentally or intentionally ingesting the liquid cartridge. 35 is a minuscule number, but will this be the beginning of a large study proving that E-Cigarettes decrease the seizure threshold in its users? And what consequences will this have on users who have a family history of seizures but are too addicted to stop vaping? In addition, vaping does not mean that one’s lungs are not harmed.

E-Cigarettes may be slightly safer than cigarettes due to the lack of combustion which results from lighting up the tobacco in cigarettes; however, they still contain a number of harmful chemicals: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, acetaldehyde, acrolein and formaldehyde. These chemicals are toxic to cells and can cause lung disease as well as cardiovascular (heart) disease. Acrolein is a herbicide used to kill weeds; it can cause COPD, asthma, lung cancer and acute lung injury.

E-Cigarettes have not been found to be effective in helping smokers quit. Nicotine is the addictive culprit. E-Cigarettes have only replaced the mode of inhalation, from smoking to vaping, but nicotine is still present when one inhales vapor; hence, the addiction never clears the smoke. The DSM community is about promoting excellent mental and physical health, and with knowledge and honesty, we can lead the way on promoting a healthier and more vibrant society.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Power Of Knowledge

Books on shelves

Why You Need Knowledge

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to garner as much knowledge as possible. This can be accomplished with many different sources, such as reading books, articles, magazines, surfing the internet, watching educational television channels, and learning from people! I believe that the best source of knowledge are books themselves. There is something magical about the process of reading a book; it keeps you engaged and wanting to learn more.

But why am I addressing knowledge and its importance? The reality is that knowledge opens up doors in life; it allows you to sway in different directions and avenues and to meet new people who also have knowledge. Knowledge attracts knowledge. It can also protect you from danger; it provides you with facts, experiences and awareness of different situations and people.

I believe that a lot of people underestimate the power of knowledge; especially in this day in age since everyone is so distracted with technology. For instance, Gaming Disorder is now a real psychological diagnosis! Who would have believed that growing up 10-15 years ago?

Gathering knowledge can also help you with your mental illness. For instance, someone who is experiencing the terrible feeling of a panic attack, can prevent it from turning into a nightmare by remembering what he or she read in a book or article about panic attacks: they can be dissolved by taking deep breaths, they can be lessened by not fighting against them, and even distracting yourself by shifting you attention to another thought process or topic at hand can help dissipate them.

One of the goals of the DSM movement is to come together and share our knowledge and experience of mental health disorders, so we can learn together and ultimately end the stigma!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Focus On Yourself

woman with green eye peaking through green plants

Do Not Lose Track Of Your Importance

We are often so preoccupied with the lives of other people that we forget to focus on ourselves. “What are they doing tonight?”, “He or she is in that relationship…”, “If I do this, then others will think that…” When we focus on what others think about us, we become distracted and start to lose track of our goals. The best thing you can do for yourself is to remain focused on your plan, work hard, ignore all the buzzing that goes on around you and strive for success!

Why do some people focus on others? Insecurity is one reason. People want to feel needed and by addressing their attention to other people, they believe that they are gaining valuable information about themselves through the eyes of others. What is wrong with this process is that a lot of times, other people do not care about you as much as you think they do, and this results in valuable time lost on your part.

I am not suggesting that you become self-centered for the rest of your life, but maintain a successful ratio of focus (The DSM ratio): 80% focus on yourself and 20% focus on others; this way you are not out of the loop with the viewpoints of other people.

One common trap that people fall into is that they become bored with their life. And what can boredom lead to? Depression, anxiety, worries and stress! They see other people on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest living exciting lives, and in return, they start believing that their life is dull and mundane.

In reality, we do not know if any of these people we observe on the internet are happy to begin with! Just because someone is flashing luxurious pictures on their social media account, does not mean that they are not struggling internally. Do not be fooled by the mirage of modern day materialism; somewhere in the minds and hearts of all people lie some mental health concerns and heartaches.

Turn your boredom into something productive: reading a book, studying for an exam, exercising, socializing, etc. There is always something that you can focus on which will help better yourself. And that focus should be on you!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

What Is Anxiety?

A scared man with his mouth open keeping his hands over his eyes

Anxiety: Entering Another Dimension

There are many forms of anxiety: panic attacks, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, substance-induced anxiety, agoraphobia, etc. Anxiety is prevalent in all cultures and nobody is immune to it. The Existential School of Thought actually believes that the source of anxiety is existence itself.

Not all anxiety is bad however; it is normal to have anxiety if you are being threatened. That means that your sympathetic system is warning you that potential danger lies ahead. On the other hand, other forms of anxiety can be very debilitating and paralyze people.

What are panic attacks? A panic attack is a sudden feeling of acute and disabling anxiety: a fear of the world coming to an end, sweating, palpitations (heart beating fast), a fear of being “doomed”, a fear of loss of control of oneself, trembling and shaking, shortness of breath or chest tightness, chills or even hot flashes.

Multiple recurrent panic attacks over a month with a future fear of having more panic attacks results in a diagnosis of Panic Disorder; this can be caused by genetics or substances such as excessive alcohol use.

If anyone has even experienced a panic attack, they know that it is extremely unpleasant. I have experienced panic attacks and I can attest that the feeling of “derealization” is very real: an alteration of the experience of your surroundings. For example, you may lose track of time or you may feel a sense of disconnection with your surroundings. On a positive note, panic attacks can be treated with medication and CBT.

What is generalized anxiety disorder? This is 6 months or more of excessive and exaggerated worrying and tension about everyday things, that other people would normally not worry about. For instance, a mother may excessively worry about: going to work, paying the bills, picking her son up from soccer practice, putting food on the table, doing the laundry, not making enough money, not exercising enough, not having enough friends, etc.

These are all normal things to worry about, but patients with GAD take it to the extreme where the worrying becomes debilitating: it interferes with their sleep and relationships and they may even experience feeling lightheaded or shortness of breath. Thankfully, GAD can be treated with medication and therapy.

What is social anxiety? This is the intense fear of being judged, negatively evaluated or rejected in a social situation. For instance, you go out with your friend to a bar on a Friday night and he suddenly storms out within 20 minutes of being there. When you find him outside on a bench down the street from the bar, his reasoning may be “I thought everyone was staring at me and judging me” when in fact, nobody was.

This disorder can be very debilitating because it prevents people from having a normal social life; some may not even go to work or school anymore due to a fear of being humiliated. The solution is medication, therapy and encouraging the person to socialize despite having the irrational fear.

What is substance-induced anxiety? As you can guess, it involves anxiety that has been brought upon by a drug, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, K2, methamphetamine, etc. The anxiety usually occurs while the person is under the influence of the drug. They may feel panic, worried, have shortness of breath and sweating and feel like they are going to die.

The anxiety usually subsides after they come out of their high. Some drugs such as alcohol can cause panic disorder, which persists after the intoxication from alcohol goes away. This is treated with medication, therapy and sobriety.

And lastly, what is agoraphobia? This is an extreme fear of being in open places, such as a mall or college classroom, and results in the person not wanting to leave their home, in order to avoid the anxiety that comes upon them when they are in the open place. They interpret these open places as “being difficult to escape from.”

A lot of times, agoraphobia is associated with panic disorder, because the person may have had a panic attack in an open place (a mall, a college classroom, a gym, etc.) and therefore, has developed a fear of being in that open place; they try to avoid having a future panic attack by not going to that open place again.

Agoraphobia can be very serious as it can paralyze people and prevent them from leaving their home. It is a very depressing condition to have. This is treated with medication, therapy and encouraging the person to go into open places and live a normal life, despite their fear.

There are more anxiety disorders that haven’t been covered here, but I hope you are able to understand the serious nature of these disorders and their impact on humanity. The DSM movement encourages everyone to come together and share their experiences, so we can unify and tackle these problems together.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Focus On Your Goals In Life

Fist pump directed towards the sunset after achieving your goals

Keep Your Garden Free Of Distractions

It is important to be goal-oriented and shoot for the stars! Goals give you direction and allow you to visualize where you want to stand in the future. The problem is that we tend to lose track of our goals or give up on them. People give up on their goals because of lack of success in achieving them, laziness, distractions, drugs, addictions, mental illness, relationship issues, etc. Goals become replaced with distractions, and distractions prevent you from achieving your maximum potential in life.

Why should we shoot for our maximum potential? Because it can provide us with more happiness when we realize that we achieved everything we set out to accomplish. Falling short of the prize can result in regret and even depression in some. Our maximum potential can open up new doors in life that can take us in directions beyond our wildest dreams.

Never give up on your goals and do not be afraid to fail! Failing is part of the process and even the most successful people have said “learning occurs more from failing than succeeding.” This is because through failure we build character and receive the opportunity to analyze our shortcomings and grow from them. Failing, ironically, is therapeutic to our mental health because it instills perseverance, growth, character and resilience; and we need all of that in this day in age!

Sometimes we become distracted from our goals. Distractions are like weeds that pop up in a garden; sometimes we forget to take them out. At first, the weeds may not even be noticeable, but over time, the garden starts to look messy and unattractive.

That is what happens when we let distractions take over our life and interfere with our goals. Make sure you tend to your garden (mind) everyday and keep it precious and a place of comfort and happiness. Together, the DSM movement is our garden where we can come together and share our goals, experiences and mental health concerns.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

What Is Psychotherapy?

Beautiful attractive blonde girl sitting on the couch

Dive Into The Mind With Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is the treatment of mental disorders by psychological rather than medical means. There are many forms of psychotherapy, each with its different school of thought and techniques for helping patients achieve more order in their lives. Did you know that you do not need a mental illness to undergo psychotherapy? Some people attend sessions just because they want to improve their lives; it can be very therapeutic and help one rediscover their ways, thought processes, intentions, motivations, problems, etc.

There should be no shame seeing a psychotherapist. Think of it as reorganizing the files on your computer (your mind); after years of use, it can get messy in there. Psychotherapy can be performed by a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist trained in mental health. Who you see does not matter as much as whether you actually start the process of psychotherapy itself.

What is psychoanalysis? This is a form of psychotherapy founded by Sigmund Freud – one of the greatest minds the world of psychology has ever seen. This form of therapy aims to treat mental disorders by investigating the interaction of your conscious mind and your unconscious mind, and bringing repressed fears and conflicts into your conscious mind by techniques such as dream interpretation and free association.

You might have seen free association in movies, where the patient lays down on a couch with his or her back to the therapist and speaks whatever is on their mind; this helps facilitate a natural flow of thought and allows the therapist and yourself to understand why you think of the things you do. Freud called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.”

He believed that dreams provided images, clues and information about your unconscious mind, but because of the difficulty of interpreting a dream’s meaning, it has to be carefully deciphered. This is a little harder to do because many people don’t attempt to recall their dreams. Often, a dream diary is required for this process.

Overall, psychoanalysis needs to be performed 3-4 times a week for a patient to reap its benefits. The total duration of therapy is based on each individual case. And lastly, it can get expensive. Usually this form of therapy is sought out by people who have time and money on their hands. One recent famous example is Howard Stern; he was recently on CNN talking to Anderson Cooper about how he has benefited from psychoanalysis. And boy, did he look like a changed man!

What is cognitive behavioral therapy? CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression. This is less time consuming than psychoanalysis because this allows a patient to meet once a week with the therapist. This form of therapy does not attempt to analyze your unconscious, nor does it attempt to get to the root of the problem. Oftentimes, the root of the problem is very difficult to discover.

For example, you might have a fear of flying in airplanes which started 6 months ago. Prior to that, you never had that fear. CBT does not attempt to analyze why you developed this fear in the first place, because it might have developed from a multitude of factors, which can take years to arrive to or maybe never. Secondly, arriving at the source of the problem will not fix your present fear of flying.

So what CBT does is provide you with a set of tools and techniques to help you comfortably fly again. The therapist might advise you to attend a flight simulation laboratory where you experience the act of flying in gradual steps. Think of CBT as “I recognize your problem, I’ve seen five others patients in my career with your problem, here are a set of tools that have worked for them and which I believe will work for you.”

There are many other forms of psychotherapy. The important point to understand is that some people can benefit from talking more than they can benefit from medications alone, and that there should be no shame or stigma of seeking someone to talk to about your mental health concerns.

The DSM movement is about promoting an open community where people feel proud to share their mental health concerns, and are loving and caring with each other.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

The Importance Of Exercising On Your Mental Health

Attractive woman jogging on stadium bleachers in blue spandex

Exercise Helps You Escape Reality

There is something magical about putting your body in motion. If you learn to be focused during your exercises, whether that is through music or socializing, you will find out very quickly that you enter a “fitness tunnel” that keeps you motivated to push harder during your workouts. This results in endorphins or “endogenous opioid neuropeptides” or “feel-good hormones” to be released by your Central Nervous System and Pituitary Gland into your system to help you feel good.

Your body literally interprets the intense exercise as fatigue and injury, and so it rewards you with natural painkillers to feel good. And guess what happens when you feel good? You keep exercising because you want more. And guess what happens when you keep exercising? You are distracted from depression, anxiety, worries, stress, work, relationships, etc.

Exercising is a natural remedy for treating mental health issues. Your body and mind click during exercising like two pieces of puzzle; they are both preoccupied with the workout. But when you are suffering from a mental illness, your mind is preoccupied with the symptoms and your body is just there, not really doing anything – see the disconnection?

Now that is not to suggest that you should no longer take psychiatric medications if you start exercising. It’s always best to talk to your psychiatrist about any changes in treatment, but I believe exercise and medications is better than medications alone.

Is exercising hard? Sure it is. You have to maintain your motivation, establish a routine, actually step outside your home and perform the activities. But is going to work or school hard? Just because you don’t get paid during exercising doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

With exercising, you reap the benefits that same day: your circulation (blood flow) is increased, your LDL (bad cholesterol) goes down and your HDL (good cholesterol) goes up, your glucose (sugar) is burned, your muscles start breaking down and rebuilding into a more fit and lean structure, and lastly: you are taking care of your mental health; you feel happier! The DSM movement is all about excellent mental health and proper fitness!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Dating, Mental Health And The Impact On Millennials

Millennials sprayed in skin paint taking a group picture with a cell phone

The Emotional Epidemic

Loneliness rates are increasing at an all time high and dating has turned into superficial hookups and one-night stands. Burnout was just recently classified as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization. Depression and anxiety are increasing, not decreasing. Friendships and relationships are becoming more superficial; no one has time for anybody.

People are marrying at a later age and divorces are still at an all time high. Student debt is plaguing the country with unhappiness; one report tells the story of a student who attempted to import Cocaine from Panama to try to pay his student debt. It is evident that the millennial generation is facing a unique time of hardships not experienced by prior generations.

What is behind this rise in hardships and why is our generation experiencing it? The culprit, unfortunately, might be technology itself. We have become so hooked and dependent on laptops, cell phones, television, social media, Instagram and Facebook, that it has caused us to become detached from one another.

Back in the day, the lack of technology forced people to interact with each other on the street, work and school way more frequently than present day; that was the only opportunity for socializing. Nowadays, if millennials go out, they may attend a bar which again involves superficial relationships that either lead to an intimate rejection or an overnight quickie, only to never see the person after the next day.

Is there a solution to this madness or are we doomed? I believe the solution involves deleting dating apps, spending as little time as possible on social media websites, watching television at a bare minimum, and in return, spending more time exercising, meditating, praying and getting involved in hobbies. Even psychotherapy can be beneficial; a mental health diagnosis is not required.

I think most importantly is changing our mindset: lowering our expectations, being more loving with each other and being forthcoming regarding our mental health issues; putting an end to mental health stigma! We need to lose our selfish mentality that everything is “about us.” We need to form a cohesive alliance again, and tackle these hardships together. The DSM movement is about prevailing together!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)