Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

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We Become Sad Because We Don’t Take Action

We become used to our comfort zone, preventing us from trying new things in life. Whenever this happens, we experience pain, sadness, frustration, annoyance and many more emotions. But to step outside your comfort zone is something else. You are the one in control of your decisions. If you want to do something, then get out there and do it. By holding yourself back, you complicate your life. Just do it.

To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone Requires Courage, Curiosity & Discipline

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To step outside your comfort zone takes courage. It’s not easy to leave a mind state that you’re used to for so many years. The problem with remaining in one mind state for a long period of time is that you get used to it; it no longer is flexible at adopting new ideas or plans of action. Mind states become fortified with time, meaning that it becomes more stable, in some cases unstable, and then become more comfortable to associate yourself with. In other words, you find yourself too comfortable to care about changing your situation.

To step outside your comfort zone requires intellectual curiosity. If you’re the type that becomes easily content with a non-progressive mindset, then you’ll be happy where you are. But sometimes you wont. Some people get really uncomfortable with their mind state but lack the power to change anything about it. So they become stuck. Imagine being stuck in a mind state? It’s like a jail cell of the mind; to some a penitentiary.

Lastly, to step outside your comfort zone requires discipline. Going at once or thrice here and there won’t cut it. You need to make it your new state of mind; the determination to succeed in brain, body and soul. This has to become your new reality. You must know that you want it! Are you ready to take a leap of faith out of your mental bubble and into the unknown? If the answer is yes, then you’ll find yourself chasing your dreams outside your comfort zone in no time. When you can expand your mind in two different horizons, then that’s what’s called multitasking.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Feeling Insecure

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Feeling Insecure in a Relationship

Your insecurities do not manifest from outside sources. Outside forces have an impact on how you feel every single day, but it always comes down to you on how to handle the effects of outside forces. You have to learn how to clean up your insecurities before they become worse. Rather than blaming others for how you’re feeling, take action into your own hands by managing your insecurities. You can do this via different vehicles, such as through exercising, mindfulness, therapy or talking to a close friend or family member. You are the master of your mind.

Insecure woman wearing winter clothes and covering face with gloves

Why Are We Feeling Insecure?

We feel insecure because our environment is constantly influencing us via social media, television and interactions with others. We constantly analyze everything on an unconscious level and this influences our thoughts and behaviors. Those who don’t learn how to feel comfortable in their environment remain insecure. Those who analyze, adjust and make the necessary mental changes flourish; they disconnect from their insecurities. The first step is identifying your insecurities and addressing them. This step often proves to be difficult for many people because they don’t want to target their insecurities.

Targeting your insecurities takes courage. It’s much easier to ignore your flaws and difficulties and remain in the same state of mind. The problem is that by ignoring your insecurities, you hold yourself back from improving as a person. If you address your insecurities, you’ll feel much better about yourself, more confident and people will notice it. The hardest part is addressing them but once you do, it becomes easier and you’ll feel glad that you did it in the first place.

Let’s be honest, living with insecurities is painful. Every day, you’re reminded of your flaws either through relationships, interactions with other people or when by yourself. You have to live with this stabbing pain within you at all times, eating you away from the inside out. Think about it; if you’re constantly distracted by insecurities, your mind has less room to enjoy activities and pleasures that are in your life. At a deep unconscious level, no matter how much pleasure you have, you can’t experience it to the fullest because you’re distracted by your insecurities.

Find courage today to address your insecurities and live a better life in return.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Negative People’s Characteristics

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We’re all surrounded by negative people’s characteristics. Some of them are our friends, family members or coworkers. At what point do you draw the line and stop interacting with them? Many times, we love these people and find them funny, entertaining, attractive and fun to be around, but their negative temperament often causes you to feel sad. It’s very important to keep this in mind because who you surround yourself with influences your thoughts, behavior and expressions. Being around negative people for too long will slowly turn you into a negative person as well.

Negative people's characteristics: angry white man wearing hoodie with folded arms

Negative People’s Characteristics: Bitter, Pessimistic and Rigid

To feel bitter is to feel angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment. When someone has had many bad experiences in their past and has not properly dealt with them, they become bitter. This is a defense mechanism that attempts to prevent them from experiencing more bad experiences in the future. Rather than learning from their bad experiences and moving on, they can’t properly process them and remain angry instead. So when you run into them, you can’t help but to experience their bitterness.

To be pessimistic is to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen. Again, this stems from many bad experiences in their past to the point that they have lost hope for the future. This is another defense mechanism that attempts to protect them by expecting the worst. If you expect the worst, your mind is not surprised if a bad outcome does result. It almost becomes an automatic process to be pessimistic unless you point it out to someone and help them to change.

To be rigid is to be inflexible in your communication, interactions and behavior. People can also be inflexible in their thought process and how they approach situations. While rigidity may be a personality trait from birth, I believe it has a lot to do with your upbringing. Your relationship with your parents and/or siblings along with early school experiences play a role in your rigidity. Some children experience a lot of bullying and end up developing rigidity as a protective defense mechanism; they’re protecting themselves from more future negative interactions.

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How To Open Up About Your Mental Health

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In therapy, the psychiatrist can only help you as much as you want to be helped. But there are ways on how to open up about your mental health without feeling ashamed. It’s very important to find that comfort zone and open up about your symptoms. When you open up, it makes easier for your doctor to better understand you. Withholding your symptoms will only delay the process to your mental health recovery and you will suffer more in return. Find a psychiatrist who makes you feel comfortable and divulge to them everything going on in your mind. Your doctor can’t wait to help you but you have to want to help yourself as well.

Stressed man talking to counselor on couch during therapy

How To Open Up About Your Mental Health: Finding Trustworthy People

Finding trustworthy people can be a challenge. Trustworthy people should make you feel comfortable enough to share anything with, including your mental health problems. The problem is that the mental health stigma is still alive and many people are afraid to open up. They are ashamed of their symptoms, believing that they will be judged and ridiculed if they divulge them. The fear of being judged makes them keep their struggles a secret, worsening their symptoms in return.

It takes courage to come out about your mental health symptoms in the same way that it takes courage for gay people to come out. But once you do it, you’ll immediately feel better because you’ll feel a great weight come off your shoulders. It’s very therapeutic to share with others what you’re going through. It makes you feel like you’re being heard and no longer isolated inside your world. If you prefer a professional to talk about your mental health symptoms with, then even better! But you never want to be ashamed of talking to someone about your symptoms. Take that initial leap of faith that things will work out and the rest of your journey should hopefully become easier.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Exercise and Mental Health

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Exercising is not just about physical health. The point of exercising is to also feel good mentally. Exercise for your mental health helps decrease your anxiety, improve your mood, promote the birth of new neurons in your brain and elevate your self-esteem and confidence. Not to mention, exercising feels amazing! When you feel physically and mentally good, you radiate that positive energy into the world and people can sense it. This can lead to an improvement in your relationships! Start with baby steps if you don’t currently exercise: every day, go for a 20 minute walk on the street. After doing this for a week or two, include some jogging, cycling, weights or whatever you enjoy. You’ll notice soon enough how beneficial exercising can be for your mental health.

Exercise and mental health spinning bike

Exercise and Mental Health: Cycling

Cycling is a great form of exercise and can be done in the convenience of your home. No, you don’t need to buy that $1500 Peloton bike. You can find cheaper bikes on Amazon under $1000 that will provide the same benefits. Cycling is convenient because what can be easier than sitting in place and moving your legs? If you have a bike with a screen and programming, the experience becomes even easier. Besides not being able to afford it or not having enough space in your home, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t by cycling; especially during the pandemic. You’ll tone your calves and upper legs as well as your abs. And mentally, trust me when I say that a 30 minute ride feels amazingly refreshing.

The Weights Are Waiting For You

Lifting weights can also be done in the comfort of your home. You can easily buy weights on Amazon and start lifting in your living room every day. The hardest part are not the weights but the discipline to pick them up and use them. It may be easier to start off with small weights so that you can motivate yourself to use them every day. Once your motivation is there, you can upgrade to heavier ones. If you start with heavy ones, you might get discouraged early on, especially if you don’t have a strong drive to work out. Lifting is great because it shapes your deltoids, triceps, biceps and forearm muscles. When your arms start looking bulkier, trust me when I say that your mental health will bulk up as well.

Stretching is Important

Lastly, you must stretch! I am so guilty of preaching this but not consistently doing it myself. Can you imagine? I cycle and life almost every day but I won’t stretch which is the easiest of them all. Stretching is important to prevent injuries and stiffness. You feel much better after immediately stretching and it will you to avoid stiffness during work. When I feel stiff during work and talking to patients, it becomes a distraction and affects my mental health. I end up feeling annoyed. The worst is when I feel pain that could have easily been prevented with stretching. So if you start exercising after reading this, don’t forget to stretch.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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How to Prevent Social Media Toxicity

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Everyone talks about what they love about social media, but the negative aspects are often left out. Social media can be toxic and detrimental to your mental health when you are exposed to negative comments. These negative comments can be very powerful and make you feel sad at times. Social media is also toxic if you are constantly comparing yourself with people on Instagram who post exotic and wealthy pictures. This can make you feel sad by comparing your life which lacks those elements of materialism. When using social media, keep your mental health in mind and learn to spot and eliminate the negative aspects of them. How to prevent social media toxicity is not difficult, but are you willing to make the changes?

Blue woman thinking about social media applications

How to Prevent Social Media Toxicity Depends on Your Mindset

You have to stop approaching social media with an expectation of change. What do I mean by that? Stop wishing for more likes, follows, impressions, retweets, etc. Deep down, we all desire these features because they make us feel important and popular. Whenever they happen, believe it or not, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is part of the reward system of our brain and is released to make us feel good. So that’s why when you get that famous follow or a bunch of likes, you feel really excited in that moment; that’s dopamine. The problem is that like with any drug that induces a release of dopamine, a similar experience can be observed with social media.

Instead, approach social media with the intention of just having fun and naturally interacting with others, but without any expectations. If you’re naturally good at attracting attention on these platforms, then it’s even more important that you maintain a healthy life balance. Try to avoid habitually checking your social media pages at the same time; mix it up. Learn to incorporate other activities into your life such as exercising, meditating, stretching and in-person socializing. Don’t fall into the trap of checking your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter multiple times a day. This is when you risk becoming psychologically hooked on the platforms.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Dealing With Mental Health Labels

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When psychiatrists inform you of your diagnosis, they are not doing it with the intention of labeling you. No one is denying that dealing with mental health labels can be difficult, but it’s important to also understand what a diagnosis is. A diagnosis is given to inform you of what we think may be going on and as a guide for treatment. Psychiatric diagnoses do not define you as a person. It’s important to mention this because many patients experience an uncomfortable feeling when certain psychiatrists slap a diagnosis on them. Informing patients of their diagnosis is very important when it comes to delivery of the information. Empathy and being nonjudgmental are crucial to making patients feel comfortable. At the end of the day, we are here to help you overcome your symptoms.

Dealing With Mental Health Labels: The Diagnosis

When a patient first becomes diagnosed with a mental disorder, it can be very uncomfortable and frightening for them. There’s a tendency by some patients to believe that a label or diagnosis makes them less human than others. First, let’s clarify the difference between a label and a diagnosis. A diagnosis is the assignment of a mental disorder unto a patient based on the symptoms he or she is experiencing. Psychiatric diagnoses were created based on the observation of human experiences. They help to classify patients with different disorders so that physicians can more effectively treat them. A psychiatric diagnosis is an objective term while a label is subjective.

Depressed man dealing with mental health labels

So What Are Labels?

A label is like someone saying, “you are crazy” or “he’s weird, he’s got schizophrenia or something.” A label is like a tag that someone identifies you with and usually in a negative manner. Mental health labels are used by the public who is not formally educated in psychiatric diagnoses. You can imagine that the labeling of patients can be very embarrassing and difficult for them to experience. This is especially true for children and adolescents who are still very much in the mindset of fitting in to get approval by their peers.

Just remember that as a psychiatrist, we don’t label you. We give you a diagnosis if we think you have one based on your symptoms and experiences. I know it can be difficult to sometimes accept a diagnosis, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t define who you are as a human being. A diagnosis is just a definition of your symptoms that allows us to provide you with the correct treatment so that you can improve and no longer suffer. In a nutshell, the public does the labeling but mental health workers provide the diagnoses.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

What is Psychoanalysis?

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Psychoanalysis is based on the Freudian school of thought that our unconscious mind contains repressed thoughts, drives, traumatic experiences, memories and unresolved childhood conflicts that influence our present thoughts and behaviors. By accessing your unconscious mind through analysis of your transference during therapy, you can gain a better understanding of yourself and why you say and do the things that you do. Besides formal psychoanalytic therapy with a therapist, you can also analyze yourself. This is helpful to better understand your interactions and behavior, but make sure that you’re not overdoing it. Too much self-analysis can potentially make you rigid if you’re always thinking about why you said this and did that. A healthy dose of analysis is the best way to go.

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So what is Psychoanalysis?

The human brain has a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. The conscious mind is you experiencing life and everything in it. But your unconscious mind is where all the magic happens; you’re not aware of this portion of the mind. But there is a time when you can become aware of it and that is through dreams. Freud referred to dreams as, “the royal road to the unconscious.” In addition, physiological functions such as respiration, heart rate and digestion are unconsciously performed. You’re not aware of these functions; they happen automatically. You can become aware of them but let’s hope you’re not doing that!

So What Does it Do?

What is so great about the unconscious mind? Well, it records everything in your environment, including every waking and sleeping moment of your existence. With the information it gathers, it interprets it, manipulates it, stores it and then pulls the strings of your conscious mind. The strings that are pulled influence your thoughts, actions and behavior. In other words, you’re controlled by your unconscious mind. One can argue that it’s not possible since you have free will to do whatever you want. You are correct in that you have free will, but your free will is controlled as well.

The bottom line is that your unconscious mind is not some malevolent force trying to do you harm. It loves you but it also acts like a computer, studying your every move and action. Sometimes you don’t make the best decisions in life and this ends up adversely affecting you. Where do you think all your baggage is stored? It goes straight to the vault called the unconscious mind. The point of psychoanalysis is to gain access to this vault and retrieve lost memories, lost files and lost experiences. Once you reconnect with them, the pieces of the puzzle fall back into place and things start to make more sense.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

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Emotional Manipulation

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Manipulators are all around us. Sometimes they are our friends, family members, acquaintances, coworkers or strangers. These people love emotional manipulation and can also use fear tactics to further attempt to control your thoughts and behavior. It’s important that you learn how to catch onto manipulative behavior so that you can protect your mental health. It’s not hard for someone to attempt to manipulate you but it can be difficult to catch onto their behavior if you’re not aware of it in the first place.

Narcissistic man practicing emotional manipulation using shh sign

Emotional Manipulation: What to Look Out For

People who manipulate enjoy getting you to do things which aren’t in your best interest. They use tactics such as lying, deceit, passive-aggressive behavior, withholding information, gaslighting, psychological and physical abuse and even sex to achieve selfish goals. Some manipulators are very obvious in what they do and don’t hide it. They have mastered the art of getting others to do what they want. Other manipulators are very discreet and have learned to manipulate without the other person noticing.

All manipulators are dangerous to your mental health but I would argue that the discreet ones are most dangerous. The classic obvious manipulators are people with antisocial personality disorder and/or substance use disorders. These people get stuck in a life of crime or drug abuse, and resort to manipulation to make their ends meet. They’ve done so much manipulating in their past that it’s second nature for them. Discreet manipulators are those with narcissistic personality disorder or sociopathy.

Narcissists are excellent at getting what they want because their inflated ego is full of confidence. They tend to be sharp and emotionally intelligent and have mastered the art of manipulation. Sociopaths have similar traits in addition to dangerous behaviors such as killing, stalking, raping, kidnapping, etc. Either way, whether you’re dealing with an antisocial, narcissist or sociopath, they all have one goal: to win and to see you lose. Keep in mind that many people don’t have any of these personality disorders but still manipulate. They probably aren’t as intense as those with personality disorders, but they can still get away with manipulation if you’re aren’t aware of what they’re doing.

In the end, trust your gut feeling if you think someone is manipulating you. Your intuition is often right.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Panic Attack Symptoms

Beautiful anxious woman experiencing a panic attack

Millions of people all over the world experience panic attack symptoms. These occur out of the blue and involve a great sense of doom, fear and sometimes even physical symptoms. Panic attacks can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or antidepressants. Don’t be afraid to seek therapy. Would you rather take a chance with therapy and medications or continue to suffer from panic attacks while in public?

What are some Panic Attack symptoms?

The most obvious is fear. I still remember my first panic attack because the fear was insane. It was a Saturday night in Redlands, California the day after I drank a lot; typical freshman college weekend. I went to a Chinese store to order some food with a friend and while standing in line, started to experience fear. I had never just randomly experienced fear before. This time was different because there was nothing to fear besides fear itself. But then the fear started to make more sense. I was afraid of standing in line and being in the store.

Then there are the physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, lightheadedness, dizziness, tachycardia and shortness of breath. Some people also tremble. My physical symptoms weren’t as bad. I would only experience sweaty palms thankfully. But I can imagine how more intense physical symptoms can worsen the panic attacks, worrying the person into thinking that others are aware of their symptoms. For me, sweaty palms were a sign that I was getting anxious and that a panic attack was looming around the corner.

Then there are the symptoms of overthinking, a general feeling of anxiety, heightened vigilance for danger and wanting to escape your environment. Some people also get depersonalization and/or derealization. Depersonalization is when you don’t appear real in your surroundings while derealization is when your surroundings don’t appear real to you. I experienced some derealization but it wasn’t until in my late 20s. My panic attacks started when I was 20.

The Fear

The worst part of the entire experience is definitely the fear. It’s like experiencing a sense of doom like something really bad is doing to happen to you. This is accompanied by the thought that others around you could be noticing you having a panic attack. This further motivates you to leave the vicinity. I don’t believe that I ever walked out of a classroom or mall (the majority of my panic attacks occurred in college lecture halls or in the mall). However, I do remember being in an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh with my mother once, and I had to get up from the table and go outside because the panic attack was too unbearable.

Lastly, the most important feature that distinguishes isolated panic attacks from panic disorder is the worrying about future panic attacks. People with isolated panic attacks have them too randomly to worry about future ones. But people with panic disorder constantly worry about future panic attacks; it becomes part of their daily thought content. This is another worrisome symptom because it can prevent you from going to places where you previously experienced panic attacks. For me, I was worried to go to the mall thinking that I would have another one. This symptom can get tricky because it can easily lead to agoraphobia, which will be discussed elsewhere.

Antidepressant medications for panic attack symptoms

So what do you do about them?

If you keep experiencing them, than what should you do? Honestly, what worked for me was an antidepressant called Prozac. I took about 20 mg once in the morning. Probably within six months of consistent use, my panic attacks significantly went down. The medication was like a miracle. How did I improve so much just from taking one pill every morning? The dose was low too. Prozac goes up to 80 mg. But I can’t complain. I started the medication when I was 20 and continued it until 28. I know, eight years is so long! But the problem was that I stopped taking it a few times and my panic attacks had returned.

The reason I tried to stop again at 28 was because I was ending medical school and had matched into a residency training program. I was in a good place mentally, free of panic attacks for many years and was ready to try going off the medication again. My recommendation is that you need to be in a good place in your life to try to go off an antidepressant for panic attacks. Panic attacks can be induced by drugs, alcohol, stress and genetics, so it’s important that you’re in the right state of mind when discontinuing an antidepressant. Overall, panic attack symptoms are brutal.

Have you had an experience with panic attacks?

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