Silently Panicking

Brown and black desk globe with yellow "stay home" sticky note on top of it

Living In A Ghost Town

The coronavirus pandemic is every bit as mental as it is physical. You are not in the clear if you don’t have physical symptoms because your perception on reality has now been altered. It’s not like you purposely altered your perception; it just happened as a reaction to the virus infecting humanity. Just take a look outside and you will see how quiet the streets are; ghosts have replaced human beings.

New York is not what it used to be. It now takes 30 minutes to get from eastern Queens to Washington Heights where Columbia University is located; on a normal day, it would take 45-60 minutes. Walking down the streets of Manhattan, very few people can be observed. Almost everyone is wearing a mask and you don’t even have to wait at a red light if you are attempting to cross the street; no cars are coming in the opposite direction!

There are more parked cars than there are moving vehicles. Sadly, people are either at home or in the hospital; society feels totally shut down. At least hospital cafeterias and coffee shops remain open; there are no lines and the food options have decreased greatly. But you can still get a nice warm veggie pizza however!

No more long Starbucks lines. You can now receive your Caramel Frappuccino in a couple of minutes. But as you slowly make your way back outside, you unconsciously start to panic after you see the empty streets again. You also develop a dry cough . . . “Does this mean that I have COVID-19?”

As you very well may now, this time of the year you are still susceptible to acquiring a common cold or the flu. But because of the coronavirus slowly destroying society, you start to freak out when your cough persists. Your anxiety level starts to build as you wonder if you are walking around infected. If you are living alone at home, you start to become sad as you start to feel isolated and distanced from society.

But then you remind yourself that the rest of the world is isolated at home too and that you’re not the only one. But does that help?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Coronavirus Madness

Worried man in black suit banging his head against stone wall

Corona In The Air

Many people are showing up to the emergency room despite a nationwide recommendation to self-quarantine; not for coronavirus symptoms per say, but from anxiety due to the coronavirus. For many in society, this whole scare of quarantining, evacuating college dormitories and working from home is affecting their mental health. It’s not every day that we go through this; in fact, it’s not every decade that we go through this. Coronavirus madness is here.

Patients are showing up to the emergency room with rhinorrhea, cough and chills and are worried that they’ve caught the coronavirus. They forget that during these months, they can still catch other illnesses such as the cold or the flu. But combine physical symptoms with the scare portrayed by CNN and Fox News, and you have people who just can’t handle the situation.

Believe it or not, this situation is very stressful for many, especially when they have symptoms of the cold. The fear of actually having the coronavirus puts them on the verge of experiencing suicidal ideations; they believe that their “body is shutting down,” so they rather be dead by taking matters in their own hands, rather than dying as portrayed on television.

Many mental health patients were previously stabilized before the whole coronavirus pandemic: they were taking their medications and experiencing minimal psychiatric symptoms. But when the pandemic hit, their past symptoms came back to life: they’ve become negativistic, withdrawn and taking about 30-60 seconds to respond to a question; they’ve even become catatonic!

Do not underestimate the power that a viral pandemic can have on the mental health of society. Many mentally crack when they hear all the negative news on television; the fear overwhelms them and worsens their mental health. Some are perfectly healthy and have no signs of being sick, but their mental health drops greatly from their baseline just from hearing about the coronavirus pandemic.

Corona is in the air and it can infect your mental health! Make sure that you are surrounded by positive people and always share your feelings and worries with others.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psychological War

Drawings of Chinese man with face mask on wall

Coronavirus Eating My Brain Away

Times have really changed during the last couple of months. Countries all over the world are battling a viral pandemic that is not only affecting the human body, but the mind as well. The virus is causing great damage to not only the elderly but young folks with no comorbidities. More hospitals in the U.S. and Italy are seeing younger people being admitted and even intubated! This virus is causing panic and skyrocketing anxiety levels; it has become a psychological war.

Store shelves all across the world are emptying at an alarming rate. Walmart and other big chains are decreasing their employee work hours. Countries in Europe such as France, Italy and Spain are under nationwide lockdowns. Public events such as sporting games, concerts and shows have all been canceled.

This virus is now even causing anxiety from one’s home. You don’t even have to leave your living room to feel anxious; your perception on reality is slowly changing. You’re starting to view society as a dangerous place to be. But then again, you don’t want to remain locked inside your home because you want to continue living a normal life.

So you’re gridlocked; you either isolate yourself in your home or you take a chance and go about in society. Either way, your anxiety has never been this high. Psychiatric patients are also suffering more, especially those with a preexisting anxiety disorder or OCD. Those with anxiety are even more worried about their everyday lives and those with OCD are washing their hands until they turn red.

The coronavirus is slowly entering our minds and controlling us. It wants us paralyzed with fear. It whispers to us, “If I can’t get you sick physically, at least I’ll torture you mentally.” Many of us can control our anxiety and go about living our normal lives, but many people are vulnerable to freezing and allowing their preexisting mental illness to get the better half of them.

The most important thing to remember during these types of psychological wars is to remain positive and go about living your normal life without fear. Once you allow fear to plant a seed in your mind, you become a victim before anything even hatches. Take care of your physical health by washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, eating healthy and exercising and maintaining a positive outlook on life.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

So You’re Afraid Of The Coronavirus

Scared woman with face mask leaning on fence during daytime

Self-Harming Your Mental Health

The most effective tool for control of the masses is fear. When fear is used as a form of control, it penetrates the mind of the individual to a great degree, influencing his thoughts, emotions and behavior. Unfortunately, many people do not even realize that they are being controlled by fear; they view fear as a deer views the bright lights of a Chevy pickup in the middle of the Pennsylvania turnpike. So you’re afraid of the coronavirus? It’s time to stop this.

Mass hysteria is why fear spreads faster than the virus itself. The media doesn’t care about spreading fear; it cares about raising its viewership. So why do you continue to watch negative news about the coronavirus? When you continuously harbor doubts about the status of society, you slowly start to self-harm your mental health.

Rather than panicking and allowing fear to get to you, you must continue to live your life as if nothing is happening. What are you going to gain out of stockpiling on toilet paper and masks? Just the very act of doing this should prove to you how you are under the influence of fear; you are being controlled and your actions are proof of this external control.

There are conspiracy theories floating around that the coronavirus was manmade in a laboratory to analyze how the world would react in a time of crisis. What if this scenario were true? What if a group of elite individuals are sitting somewhere in Switzerland analyzing how the world is running around to buy more toilet paper?

While no one is suggesting that this is the case, it’s just an example to keep in mind how fear can manifest from any source and how you can become a victim of fear if you don’t control your mind. Whatever the source of the coronavirus is, no one can doubt its existence and deadly potential.

But what is also extremely harmful is allowing the coronavirus to affect your mental health. Anxiety can have a great toll on the way you think, view the world and even your physical health, such as blood pressure. You’ll be in much better shape if you don’t worry about the coronavirus and go on living your life as if nothing is happening.

Focus on staying positive and bettering yourself. This too shall pass.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Being Open About Panic Attacks

Woman lying on floor experiencing a panic attack with hands on face

Impending Sense Of Doom

Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. The impending sense of doom that many experience when a panic attack comes into being, is a feeling and thought that your life is about to end; everything to come down to this very moment. That’s why being open about panic attacks is important and can prove to be very beneficial.

Sometimes it helps to tell someone around you that you might have a panic attack in the next couple of minutes. It takes a lot of confidence to divulge such information, so that’s why it’s better to tell someone who you feel comfortable with. But if you have the courage to tell anyone, it can still help prevent you from experiencing a panic attack.

When you share with others around you your fear of an impending panic attack, you are basically incorporating another person into your experience: when this happens, there’s a greater chance that the panic attack will not start in the first place, or diminish right away. This is because you’ll feel more comfortable about your situation if someone knows about it.

Part of the battle with panic attacks is that you want to avoid any detection. If anyone notices your symptoms, you start to freak out even more, thinking to yourself, “I probably look like a fool right now. This is so embarrassing!” This worsens the symptoms. But when you tell someone that you’re about to have a panic attack, that person can now help you calm down.

It’s all about distraction with panic attacks. Whenever you become distracted from the train of thoughts surrounding a panic attack, it tends to either never come into play or go away much faster. Because what is a panic attack? It’s a set of uncomfortable anxious symptoms based on thoughts that have gone haywire in the present moment.

Panic attacks are also based on patterns: if you previously had a panic attack in the middle of the mall, then the thought of having a future one, again in that setting, starts to occur even before you arrive at the mall. But if you tell someone who is with you at the mall, “Hey I think it’s about to happen. Can we sit down and relax for a bit?”, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel better, rather than dealing with it on your own.

So don’t let panic attacks corner you. Always tell someone about it, especially if you have a good opportunity to do so. Don’t be embarrassed.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Escaping Panic Attacks

Anxious man holding his head during a panic attack

How To Help Someone With Panic Attacks

Anyone who has ever experienced a panic attack will tell you that it’s one of their worst experiences; maybe more terrifying than a natural disaster. Panic attacks are like intruders who invade your mental space and do not allow you to have peace. They disrupt everything about you during those 5-10 minutes. Escaping panic attacks must be done right!

The more that you fight a panic attack, the greater it becomes in strength. Panic attacks want you to fight them, because they strive on your fear, pain and struggle. Panic attacks are also very sneaky: they’re like snakes coming from behind you and snapping without your awareness.

But once you become cornered by a panic attack, you become more aware of them than anything else. Your surroundings quickly become irrelevant as all you can focus on is the war zone that has just erupted in the depths of your mind. And just as any war zone, you become fearful for your life and consider running away from your current location to hide in a safe haven.

But there is no safe haven outside of your immediate surroundings. Because if you do run away, you are actually beating yourself up. What do you accomplish by running away? You may be in an important meeting, in a room full of people or even seeing a patient in the office; running away will make your current situation awkward.

The safe haven lies in your mind; it always has and it always will. Panic attacks are just intruders that capitalize on the chemical imbalance in your brain; their high is your low! As long as your serotonin levels remain on the low side, panic attacks remain high and elated. So when you attempt to run, you are actually running away from yourself, because everything is happening within your mind.

Besides medications such as antidepressants or benzodiazepines and psychotherapy, such as CBT or psychodynamic, the real way of helping yourself or someone else from panic attacks is by learning how to become comfortable with panic attacks when they do strike. Medications and psychotherapy do help a lot, but if you cannot learn how to become comfortable in your own skin during the attacks, you will continue to struggle.

Experience is key. The more panic attacks you have under your belt, the more comfortable that you become at handling them. And the way to handle them is to remain calm in your present environment and continue to focus on what you were doing prior to the attack. This technique helps prove to yourself that you are still in control of your mind and that you do not have to get up and leave.

You can also try incorporating a technique such as massaging your hands without making it noticeable to those around you. For most people, hand massages feel good and put you in a state of relaxation. Hand massages can be a coping mechanism that you only perform when cornered by a panic attack: they help redirect your thoughts to the good feeling of your hands, and take away your focus from the uncomfortable sensations of the panic. Call it a “hand job” if need be.

Overall, the only way to properly escape a panic attack is by not reacting to it. No matter how difficult and uncomfortable it may be to ride it out, the more experience you have remaining cool, calm and collected during the attacks, the more control that you will gain over future ones.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Attacked By Pressure

Stressed man wearing black shirt and beanie cap experiencing pressure

Anxiety Due To Pressure

Pressure is the feeling of discomfort, worry and even fear. Many of us feel pressure on a daily basis: bills to pay, relationships to live up to, jobs to hold onto, material to study up on, expectations to maintain, etc. Pressure is a natural feeling that accompanies our everyday lives: it’s part of motivation and drive but can also be associated with anxiety and panic.

If not handled properly, pressure can quickly alter your state of mind for the worse. Uncontrolled pressure can easily chip away at your sanity by introducing daily stressors and discomforts into your life, eventually turning your once peaceful state of mind into an anxious cyclone. And when this tropical storm makes landfall, you better have a strong grip on your mind.

When confronted with anxiety, the last thing that you want to do is freak out. Freaking out is when you start overthinking about the source that brought you pressure in the first place. You don’t want to deal with your anxiety by confronting its source. It’s quite the opposite: you want to alleviate your anxiety by redirecting your mind onto pleasant thoughts or activities.

One example is exercise. Whenever you feel pressure, you can start to exercise; it does a great job at neutralizing anxiety. That’s why you can even start using exercise as a preventative measure: keeping away anxiety in the first place. Whenever you get into a solid exercise routine, you’ll start to feel less pressure or at least not react to it as intensely as you once did.

Meditation is another great tool for alleviating anxiety due to pressure. By being present in the moment and allowing all of your thoughts to swarm your mind uncontrollably, you remain non-judgmental and observant. By building upon this skill, you will become more resilient to pressure in real time.

Talking to someone who you can trust also helps a lot. The act of verbal communication by getting your thoughts out is very soothing and comforting; it actually alleviates pressure and prevents it from boiling up in the depths of your mind. Always have someone who you can call or meet up with to talk to about your life.

We’re all attacked by pressure; it’s not something uncommon that only occurs to a select few. Some of us are naturally more resilient to it, while others are more prone to experiencing a mental or emotional hit. The key is to never allow pressure to break you down. Breakdowns can lead to job loss, broken relationships and even psychiatric admissions.

Always remain one step ahead of pressure.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Worried About Tomorrow

Worried bald man leaning and staring out of window

Uncomfortable Feeling In My Chest

Tomorrow is never promised, but how about today? The uncomfortable feeling one feels in their chest is certainly something to be worried about. Think of it like a Life’s Good (LG) washing machine, spinning all of your insecurities in one place, expecting them to be washed away of all the dirt. But oftentimes, the stains are still present the very next day after waking up.

Waking up the next day with a bunch of emotional stains and a stinky washing machine that apparently does you no good, you begin to feel even more weight piling on your chest as you make your way to school or work. You either end up having a good day which takes away some of the pain, or a terrible one, which cranks up the noise like a washing machine on high speed.

But no matter how many days that you go through, you just can’t seem to get rid of this monster of a worry hibernating in the center of your chest. Is this the monster under our bed which has been plaguing us since the days of watching Sesame Street? Perhaps it has taken residence within us all these years, only making its presence known as we grow older.

Is there a way to stop being worried about tomorrow? The inherent fear about something bad happening tomorrow is experienced by many people; some call it anticipatory anxiety. Maybe it’s a new person in your life who you don’t feel comfortable talking to, or maybe you’re afraid that you will do something bad at work, exposing your vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

There is a solution: remaining confidently calm, praying to God for guidance and enjoying life for what it brings you. There is no true way of getting rid of worries, but you can definitely live a happy and comfortable life while still experiencing them. The key is to avoid consistently paying attention to them; the more that you keep your eyes focused on these worries, the more that they will take advantage of your state of mind.

Your state of mind is as valuable as your organs throughout your body. Without a healthy state of mind, you become like a fully equipped vehicle with no GPS guiding you in the right direction. Freestyling your way throughout life is certainly not the path that you want to take, unless you really want to be worried about tomorrow!

We will always feel worried about tomorrow, but at least we can worry peacefully if we enter a right state of mind. You can start tapping into this state of mind today, by remaining confidently calm, praying to God for guidance and enjoying life for what it brings you. This doesn’t start tomorrow. It doesn’t start today. It starts now.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Living In Superstition

Assorted skull hangings and Halloween decors

Friday The 13th

Many people live in superstition because they seek reasons and explanations for the events which they have no answers for. For others, being superstitious is a fun mindset to apply because it brings them excitement, thrill and hope. On the other hand, there are people who are superstitious out of fear that something unlucky or bad is going to happen.

There are also many people who are not superstitious at all. For them, being superstitious is humorous and silly. They believe that it’s a waste of time and energy to sit around and analyze why a bird repeatedly pecked on their bedroom window at 11:11am, or why a cockroach fell on their shoulder at work.

Living in superstition is not the best way of living, because if randomly odd events do occur and you just so happen to pick up on them, they tend to leave you in a worried and frantic state of mind. When this happens, your superstition is being reinforced even more, increasing your chances of experiencing future episodes of unnecessary stress and worry.

Superstition can lead to chronic stress and anxiety. No one really thinks about it in this way, because not many people relate superstition with mental health. We kind of just take superstition for granted. But superstition can also affect you on an unconscious level, activating stress and anxiety when you least expect it.

Don’t give superstition power when it’s not necessary to do so. It’s completely unnecessary to hold a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation, leading to certain consequences of an action or event. You don’t have to incorporate “the supernatural” in your everyday events.

All you need in your life is God, the creator of what was before, what is now and what will soon be to come. If you dedicate your heart to God and his beloved son Jesus Christ who was sacrificed in order to save humanity on judgment day, then you are living in good hands. Step out of a superstitious state of mind and step into God’s heart.

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)