Discussion with my therapist

August 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

My therapist said today she felt I should temporarily stop trying to taper off of my anxiety drugs. The point is the very thing that I was worried about yesterday. Once I’m off the drugs, I’ll still have to be functional, make sure my work is done on time and still manage my anxiety at a time when we will still be stuck in the Covid situation. And now there’s talk of reopening the schools.

So her advise is for me to wait until at least some of the negative factors turn positive. For example until I feel a lot more confident and a lot less anxious about work or until the Covid situation eases up with vaccines becoming available and so on. With some companies just entering phase 3 trials with their vaccine candidates, we should probably have them available by Feb-March if the vaccines work and are deemed safe.

On the work front, now that I’ve found Descript, at least some of the transcription work will become easier, so to that extent I’ll be less anxious or prone to procrastination. And as I become more engaged again with my wife and son, becoming more involved — as I’ve gradually done over the last three months especially — the tensions with my wife should also ease. The last two weeks, for instance, have been much better.

We also spoke about my depression, for which my health anxiety is an important trigger. And the health anxiety took root over two and a half years ago when an intermittent fasting programme went totally wrong I ended up with a series of scary heart palpitations. My therapist’s view is that it is possible that I learned to become more depressed with each of these episodes because of the feeling of helplessness that the palpitations brought.

So she asked to look up the work of Martin Seligman, who’s famous for his work on something called the theory of learned helplessness — which he later found was incorrect — and something called positive psychology, which he is credited to have pioneered. Authentic Happiness is one of the books he’s written and another more recent one is The Hope Circuit, which is biographical.

I have witnessed the transformation of psychology, and at more than one pivotal moment, I led the transformation. Psychology in my lifetime rejected these premises in order to remove four huge blind spots. First, the discipline abandoned behaviorism to embrace cognition and consciousness. Second, it realized that evolution and the brain constrain what we can learn. Third, it ended its fixation on only curing what is wrong to include building what is right and positive in the world. Finally, it discovered that we are drawn into the future rather than driven by the past. Together these make up the new psychology of hope. — Martin Seligman

#anxiety #depression #authentichappiness #martinseligman

 

Anxiety hack 3 — Pranayama and meditation

August 18, 2020 § Leave a comment

I was in a state of semi wakefulness around 5:45 a.m. this morning when I heard my son exclaim from the next room — he was having a dream. That woke me up fully and my wife had heard it too. We both got up to just check on him once, and while my wife is an early riser, I too decided not to go back to bed.

Our son was sleeping fine and we decided to make our respective mugs of coffee. Later, my wife sent me a link to a guided pranayama session that she’d been following for some time now. I decided to give it a try as well. As you may well know, there is evidence to show that pranayama, like yoka, reduces anxiety. See here and here for example.

It was a 15-minute guided session on YouTube and I found it quite relaxing. If you want to check it out, here’s the link to it: https://youtu.be/N2wR1OWhD4s

As I make my two-steps-forward-one-step-back (and sometimes three steps back) type of painfully incremental progress, getting out of my depression and managing and reducing my anxiety, I’ve been thinking more about the kinds of practices I can incorporate into my everyday routine that will help. So pranayama is another anxiety hack for me. I also wrote about cooking, and picking up a hobby.

Pranayama and meditation should probably be high on the list of activities to include in one’s daily routine for anyone, not just people with anxiety and depression. The benefits are significant and hard to ignore. But for me, I’m hoping pranayama and meditation will be a long-term alternative to taking medication. Along with walking, running, yoga and lifting weights.

A highly respected proponent of mindfulness meditation and its effect on stress and anxiety is Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose book Full Catastrophe Living helped me. I have it on my Kindle and keep going back to it. The book covers much of what Kabat-Zinn does in a stress reduction program he conducts and is a resource I would recommend to anyone dealing with stress, anxiety and depression.

Even people who mentally healthy can benefit from Kabat-Zinn’s book, by learning from the mindfulness practices and meditation he describes in it. Among the practices he describes are body scanning, sitting meditation, yoga and even walking meditation. I often try to empty my mind and focus on slow breathing, relaxing my belly, as I walk in the evenings every day. The walks, which my Endomondo app shows me I’ve been at for almost five months now, and have progressively increased to at least 90 minutes each day, have been really beneficial. Maybe that’s my next anxiety hack to write about.

#anxiety #depression #anxietyanddepression #pranayama #meditation

Connections

August 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

I keep meaning to review a book here, called Lost Connections, by Johann Hari. The author himself struggled for a significant part of his adult life with depression, was on meds for many years, and then eventually went in search of the root causes of depression. His findings made sense to me. I will find time to read his book again and write a proper review soon, but as I remember it, Hari found five different ways in which we are increasingly disconnected, which causes depression.

More recently, for whatever reason, whether because I’ve been tapering off my meds or because I’ve been doing small incremental things like creating my own workspace or because of a combination of it all, some of my interest in connecting with people has returned. This, by the way is one of the disconnects Hari talks about in his book — the disconnection with people, if I  remember right.

So this is a lesson I’ve learnt for myself now. One of the reasons for my depression is the lifelong disconnect I’ve had with people — even though there were always friends in school and college and at work. I had walled myself off of them. It is only now that, in many ways, that I’m opening up to my wife of 20 years even. Getting back to my therapist, on the phone this time, also seems to be making a difference.

So today, for example, on a walk with a close friend — a Saturday ritual, when we visit him and his family every weekend — our conversation was largely about his work, which he is very passionate about: currently one important project of his is about helping manual scavengers in our city and the villages around it. This conversation was a first-time departure from the usual talk of my anxiety and my depression and everything that I’d been going through.

So my interest in connecting meaningfully with people is returning with a difference as well — with a genuine interest in them. My anxiety remains, but I’m able to push through its hase and connect with people. That may hold the key to getting better in the long run. Meaning, the anxiety might stay, but I might find ways to cope much better with it.

I still can’t read the daily news, filled with so much doom and gloom and death and hurt. But on a personal level, I’ve now an intense interest in knowing what my friends are up to, and if they are doing alright. This is how normal, mentally healthy human beings are, right? For me it’s a new experience. Some I WhatsApp, others I call. I would prefer to call even those whom I message, but I know that they can be busy and it might not always be convenient to talk to me when I call.

Today a friend sent me three videos to watch, featuring someone like a life coach called Nina Camille. My friend said the advice of this coach really helped her during a bad phase. I listened to all three videos and some of it made sense — basically about treating oneself gently and progressing to a healthier lifestyle, and inculcating practices that raised self-love first, so that we could then share with others.

Perhaps that’s critical. To really connect with others, we need to first know ourselves, and be happy with ourselves. Isn’t that what depression is all about — being unhappy with oneself to varying degrees. Anyway, according to this coach, there are things we can do everyday to be happy even when there are circumstances that we don’t have control over that are sadness inducing.

#anxiety #depression #happiness #pursuitofhappiness #friends #connectedness #connections

HR, Lego Movie 2 and The Century Trilogy

July 28, 2020 § Leave a comment

The payroll/HR folks have sent me a mail saying parts of my profile in the company database are incomplete and I need to fill them up pronto. I tried, but the system isn’t allowing me to ‘save’ any of the data. Will have to try and talk to the ‘HR business partner’ tomorrow but I despair of sorting this out. My HR contact NEVER takes my calls and only sends me emails or calls me from her end if there is something HR expects me comply with. Expeditiously.

The wife and son are at the end of Lego Movie 2. In fact, they are watching the credits roll, I think. I’m in a different room typing this post. The second interview for my feature went okay as well. Yesterday was the first one. Now I’ve to cobble together a piece based on the two.

It was an okay day until after my walk in the evening and until after my daily call with my father — I began to call him in the evenings after he had a minor health scare recently. Then my wife got very upset about how I never get my parents to talk to our son on the phone. ‘You can’t do it. You just don’t have the guts’. My nephew, who lives in the same town as them, with his mom, my sister, and his dad, a musician/actor/photographer, gets the most of the grandparents.

I’ve been reading Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy. Slowly. I’m into the third part now — titled The Edge of Eternity — and I’ve just stopped at where Beep Dewar decides to stick to Walli, deliberately deciding to deny herself the chance of getting back with Dave. It’s a great read, the trilogy — historical fiction that covers much of 20th century, populating it with colourful fictitous characters, building their stories over generations, juxtaposed with historical events.

A close friend had to rush to hospital recently to help his cousin, whose husband died suddenly from a tumour in the brain. He came back and quarantined himself in a room. He has two children one of whom is my son’s classmate. The boys talk on Google Meet every evening. They miss actually seeing each other physically and playing together. I wonder when our kids will be able to play freely together again.

#HR #Legomovie2 #Thecenturytrilogy #anxiety #anxietyanddepression #depression

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