My Name is ANXIETY!!!

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Hi, Dr. Louella again. I want to chat with you about anxiety today. This comes off our talk on insomnia, where I realized that anxiety was the cause of my recent bout of insomnia.

Now, this is not a treatise on anxiety. It is just want to make you more aware of it and how to deal with it. I am in the advantageous position of both having studied and treated people with anxiety disorders and having suffered anxiety myself. Advantageous? Yes, I know both ends of the stick and it is a good feeling when what you’ve been through can benefit someone else.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that I am cured of anxiety because it is usually not that easy. But I am managing it so that it does not interfere with my life. That’s the key, how functional you are. And I do function!

Well, what is anxiety to begin with? The very essence of it is fear. It may be disguised as concern or worry. It is a negative respond to stress. We allow ourselves to ruminate or obsess over a situation because we are afraid of something going wrong in the future or are unable to let go of the hurts of the past.

Anxiety is basically a human emotion which we all feel. It can be useful in small doses. Say you are crossing a road. Next thing you see a truck come speeding out of nowhere. The anxiety you feel can catapult you to the other side of the road. That’s our “fight or fight” response due to adrenaline (‘epinephrine’, to the Americans), and we surely need it.

But there are other times when that response is misplaced. Your daughter goes out with a friend, and as the night draws later you start to worry more and more about her safety in these times of high crime. You think you have a right to worry about her as a parent. But do you? Examine it with me for a while.

You will be evoking in your body a similar but milder ‘fight or flight’ response with your worry. Hormones are going to be released. Your heart beats faster, blood pressure will elevate, digestive system is suppressed, muscles tense up, but unlike in the previous example, there is no action. You can’t run across the road and save her! You can do nothing.

You get your body in this hyped up state and the excess fuel is not used for any physical activity. Normal bodily functions are suppressed when we are ‘stressed’, including the ability to fight off diseases. You are like this, yet you can do nothing to help your daughter. I let my patients know they’re not helping her, and they’re certainly not helping themselves with their worry.

So now, imagine if you do this repeatedly. Everyday there is something new to worry about: the state of the economy, the package delivered late, the traffic conditions, murder, the failed dinner, the sick child, the list is exhaustive. What happens in our minds? What happens to our bodies?

You may be surprised by what a negative response to stress does to our bodies. Remember, everyone is faced with stressful situations on a daily basis. But we don’t all respond the same. Something one person throws over the shoulder, another person laughs at and yet another rants and raves about. So, it is not the actual stressor but our response to it that affects our bodies.

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When we respond with frequent expressions of fear such as concern, worry, fretting and anxiety, it affects us physically. We are constantly putting our bodies on alert to act but never do. Chronic anxiety affects us through: dizziness, fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, irritability, nausea, rapid breathing, trembling, digestive disorders, memory loss and premature heart attack.

Look again at those symptoms. Don’t you get some of those from time to time? I have sooo many otherwise healthy patients who come in with the symptoms above. I automatically think ‘stress’ when I see a young woman with mild dizziness. More often than not, there is a huge stressor in her life that she is not coping well with.

And isn’t everyone ‘tired’ or has lack of energy these days? What about stomach problems and memory loss? Hey! I’m not saying we simply dismiss these symptoms as stress-related but it is important to be aware, especially in general practice, that you may not be able to find an actual physical cause of a problem. The possibility that there are psychological factors triggering symptoms is real.

But, being a doctor and knowing my body, if I ever feel dizziness I say to myself, “Girl, you are stressing over something. You didn’t realize, huh?” And when I am forgetting a whole lot, I know I need a rest. When my acid reflux resurfaces, I don’t take meds. I just make a note to myself that I’m stressed.

I must re-direct you to the symptoms one final time. Do you see why you need a good night’s sleep before exams? For memory and concentration. And how could a healthy corporate executive just keel over with a heart attack? Extreme stress. Ever notice you’re just sitting there but you’re breathing hard?

So the long and short of it is that anxiety and excessive stress are not good for our bodies, especially as cortisol suppresses our immune system making us more susceptible to diseases. When I’m stressing myself out a lot I think, “You’re killing yourself girl; shortening your life. Stop it!”

But really, I would like to take you more inside the mind of an anxious person (you may well find that mind is your own) because it’s no big taboo. All of us get anxious, some more so than others. I want to teach you to be able to recognize the state and be able to get out of it quickly.

Ok, so I gotta go now. Will chat more later in the week. I have got an hour and 30 min to get to church, and for me, that ain’t enough. I’m not like my sis who needs an hour. Ciao!!!

 

The Very Basic Rules of Health

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474657739Hi folks. Dr. Louella here. Did you miss me? I wasn’t feeling too well these past couple days. Took two days off work. When I was younger, people, usually the younger ones, would say, “You’re a doctor and you’re sick!” and look in amazement. I would simply explain to them that we are human beings like everyone else and the same imperfect medicine we apply to them applies to us too.

But it’s worse when you’re a doctor. I recently read an article from the UK which expressed the same things I experience. You’re both doctor and patient, there’s no one to turn to, you’re not objective when it comes to yourself, you shun any unpleasant treatment.

So why was I not well? It comes from breaking the basic rules of health, as I am going to discuss with you, and indeed I have discussed with many of my patients. Let’s put aside all the fancy medicine for a moment, all the gadgets and the tests, the antibiotics, the vitamins and the painkillers.

The basic rules of health are to eat well, drink plenty water, sleep well, be active, exercise and don’t be stressed.

So which one did I break? … not enough rest. I am frequently guilty of that. Caused me to faint at a bank. Also think I strained my abdominal muscles lifting some very heavy books. I’m still in pain.

Now, do not take these basic rules lightly. Many people come to me run down saying they think they need some vitamins. Now, vitamins are still controversial but there’s no harm in taking them because we do have deficiencies in our diet that we are not aware about. But vitamins ain’t food! We can last a lifetime on food alone but certainly not on vitamins alone.

Are you having three square meals a day? Basic. No, you miss breakfast because you can’t eat that early in the morning or more likely because there is no time. Well have a juice or a fruit or a cup of milk, something. Pack up breakfast and take it with you to the office. You miss lunch because you’re too busy or dinner because you’re trying to lose weight or it isn’t convenient. No wonder so many of us have stomach problems or experience lack of energy.

I’m sure I explained already that to lose weight you eat small amounts more frequently. You don’t miss meals. Our meals also need to be balanced with sufficient veges, peas and beans and fibre and less of the rice, flour, meat and sweets.

Do you drink sufficient water? Many people don’t. 6-8 glasses a day is a rough estimate. You may require more but not much less. Many people do not like to or do not make the time to drink enough water but our bodies are made up mainly of water and all systems need it to function efficiently.

What about sleep? That’s my Achilles’ heel. I literally started to feel that there weren’t enough hours in the day to get a proper rest, 7-9 hours, and do everything I wanted to do.

But that’s the quickest way for your body to be run down, for you to be less alert, less focused. You make more mistakes without a good night’s sleep, have more memory lapses and are more irritable. It also feeds both anxiety and depression. We need to plan our days so that we get the essential sleep.

You don’t need a doctor to tell you to eat right and sleep right. You need to know the importance for yourself. There is no medication that can replace these things. As I say, basic.

Being active. Many of us lead sedentary lifestyles. A family doctor may sit at a desk for hours with little breaks in between. The office worker, the computer geek, often does the same. The little old lady will sit on the comfy chair all day. The housewife may whip up her chores early in the morning then relax all day. These are common but unfortunately unhealthy scenarios. We must keep moving throughout the day. Obesity is so rampant because we do not do this.

Exercise is something you need to add to that active lifestyle. It increases your heart rate, breathing and the energy you expend. But we don’t like to exercise!!! It takes up our time, and certainly takes effort. It even hurts sometimes. The exercise buff is the exception rather than the rule. But we all know we need to exercise. It’s no secret. Exercise has a long lists of benefits. You lack energy? …Well exercise.

Lastly, let’s talk about stress baby. It is a relatively new buzz term isn’t it? But it’s so real. It incorporates worry, anxieties, fears, depression, all sorts of negative emotions we allow to play on our minds and disturb our psyche. Stress is not the situation or person that is affecting you, but your response to them. Two persons can have completely different responses in identical situations. If we are stressed we cannot function properly.

We often blame others for our problems. But if we do that, we can never solve them because we cannot change the other person. We need to change our attitude to acceptance and move on.

We cannot be dwelling on our past. Those monsters can only hurt us if we bring them into the present. And worrying about the future does not help either. I tell that to clients who insist on worrying about their children and grandchildren as a duty.

We often find inadequacies in ourselves. But we should not dwell on these. Sure, we all have faults, but there are so many wonderful things in each of us that we can be grateful for and focus on instead.

I ask my patients, when last did you have a vacation, or a break? Do you have any me time, especially those wives and mothers. I’ve come across miserable housewives caring for husbands, children, parents and/or in-laws with no time for themselves and feeling unappreciated by those they care for.

For me, I know, I need a time everyday to feel like I am me. Not a doctor, daughter, sister, friend, just me. Just to exist for a few moments. Nothing to rush and do next.

So, please people. These tips I am giving here are worth thousands. Take care of yourself. Do what is necessary. Avoid unnecessary doctor visits. He cannot do for you what you ought to do for yourself. Eat right, sleep well, a little exercise wouldn’t kill, in fact it prolongs lives. And deal with the stressors.

And if you do break these rules know that you will suffer and who will put humpty dumpty back together again? …  Take care. Dr. Louella.