The Power of the Phone

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Photo by Laura Beyer

Ah reader, the irony. The last time I wrote to you, it was gorgeous out and I was even tanning my blindingly white Minnesota skin. Now, we have been blessed with a week of 40 degree temperatures and rain. Rain, rain, go away.

Anyway, I stumbled upon another piece of news that I wanted to comment on with you, concerning something that seems extremely beneficial to anxiety sufferers and I could not be more excited about it.

As a teenager, I am constantly looking at my iPhone (pictured above). Like, constantly. Sometimes I worry it’s becoming an addiction. I don’t know if you know the feeling, but a typical day for me goes like this:

I’m tapping away at my computer, doing research or writing the billionth paper of the semester when I hit a little brain block. No matter, I pause to recollect my thoughts, and there it is.

My phone is just sitting next to me, taunting me, making my fingers move toward it. It’s saying, “Look at me, Laura. I’m so much more interesting than school work. Look at what you’re friends are doing…” and on and on like that.

Fumbling to stay on track, I steadfastly try to ignore the nuisance, but ultimately my concentration has been broken and I have to take a peek, maybe check my emails, send out a few text messages, whatever it is, it always feels good to pick up my phone.

Now, I hope I’m not the first person to admit that this is extremely shallow and definitely irritating. Why does an inanimate object hold such a weight over me?

And as my fingers are flying over my screen, I begin getting anxious about the pile of work I still have to go through. My little friend isn’t so helpful after all.

Now, there are tons of articles about how teens should not be using their phones as much as they are including this one from postdesk.com, and this one from the Washington Post with study credentials to back it up. Negative news on phones is just a Google search away.

Teens aren’t going to quit using their phones. Trust me, it’s just not going to happen. So imagine my glee when I find an article about a smartphone app that is proven in studies to reduce anxiety. Eureka! A positive use for my little friend.

This is extremely promising because, according to the article, 18% of the population suffers from anxiety, and less than 37% are getting treatment for it. This could be a low cost, widespread treatment for anxiety sufferers everywhere.

The app basically makes you follow a happy faced creature around the screen, carefully guiding it away from angry faced creatures. Sounds kind of silly right? Wrong. Science proves this can actually retrain the brain to focus on the positive, not only in the game, but in the world around you.

The article goes into further detail about its anxiety reducing ways, but all I can say is that I am super excited and I hope this makes it out into the app world.

It’s about time scientists focus on a mental health problem that ails so much of the population, and I for one, cannot wait to download it to my phone and reduce my anxiety, hopefully this time AFTER I complete my work.

 

 

Breathe in the Peace

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Photo by Laura Beyer

Okay reader, I don’t know about you, but the weather around me has finally started to act more Spring-like. Last year at this time, Minnesota still had seven inches of snow on the ground. Ew.

We were blessed with a 75 degree day full of sunshine yesterday. I took the opportunity to sit out on my back deck, letting the hot sun finally soak into my blindingly white skin.

Sitting out there, I could literally feel my stress melt away. All my anxieties about the upcoming school week, finals, and other end of the semester activities dissolved as I took in the sight of new buds forming on trees, baby blades of grass poking their heads up through the ground, and the world just coming back to life after winter.

It was gorgeous. Such a peaceful moment for me, and I look for those whenever I can find them. Having anxiety means never quite knowing when my body will finally relax from overdrive.

So what is it about the outdoors that brings down anxiety? Is it the warm weather, telling me that summer is coming soon and most of my anxieties will be gone? Is it the fresh air I’m finally breathing in after so many months of dry winter air?

Maybe, but it could also just be that people and their bodies respond positively to the outdoors. Especially areas where there is a lot of greenery.

The article, “Greener neighborhood reduces depression and anxiety,” discusses an interesting new study out that proves those who live near more greenery reported lower rates of depression and anxiety.

This is exciting news for people, like me, who suffer from anxiety. I can quell my stressed feelings by simply taking a walk near some green areas in nature.

The study proves the “attention restoration theory,” which states that the more time people spend outside in nature, the better they can concentrate.

I know as an anxiety sufferer, that when I start feeling the chest tightening, heart pounding, overwhelming feeling of an anxiety attack coming on, I have no concentration whatsoever.

Simply by going outside, or even looking at pictures of outside if you’re really feeling lazy, can reduce those feelings and instantly give a boost to your concentration. This is awesome news. Who knew going outside could be so beneficial?

This article highlights other beneficial reasons to going outside, including increased vitamin D levels, that make taking a nature walk sound like the best quick fix I’ve heard about in awhile.

So, if simply going outside can reduce anxiety, increase concentration, and do loads of other good things for you, why not head out there for a few minutes a day? I know that’s where I’ll be.

 

 

Finding Dreamland

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Photo by Laura Beyer. Chocolate lab Holly tries to catch some Z’s.

Okay reader, here’ s a topic I’m sure we have all dealt with in the past. Sleeplessness at night. Today, in particular, we’re going to discuss sleeplessness brought on by anxiety.

This post idea hit me last night, around 4 am, when I was tossing and turning in my bed, desperately trying to get some sleep. As an anxiety sufferer, let me tell you this definitely was not my first sleepless night.

My sleepless nights do not come from getting too much sleep the night before, or from having caffeine, or from taking too long of a nap that day. My sleeplessness always comes from little pinpricks of anxiety in my brain, making my mind go a thousand miles a minute.

First I’ll start thinking about how the day went, I’ll worry obsessively over what I said to someone, which will make me question every single thing I said that day, which will make me question my ability to interact with others, which will then lead to my heart hammering in my chest as I wonder how I’m going to do it all over the next day.

These thoughts will then lead to me wondering whether or not I did enough on an assignment due the next day, then I’ll start worrying about grades, which will lead to worrying about the semester and finals, which will eventually lead to worrying about finishing college and everything that takes.

Phew. I kid you not, my mind runs away with itself, and soon I’m tossing and turning, worrying about all that, as well as why I can’t sleep now. This is part of something that HealthWorks Collective calls Night Anxiety, and it’s something that can often lead to insomnia in bad cases.

With insomnia comes something called Sleep Anxiety, which means you start to have anxiety over the fact that you’re not sleeping. Insomnia is a paradox. The more you worry about it, the worse it gets.

I, fortunately, do not have insomnia. But the way my mind carries on some nights makes me wonder if that’s something my anxiety could develop in me. I decided last night that I needed to come up with tricks to nip this in the butt before it gets any bigger.

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Photo by Laura Beyer. Is your sleeplessness at night causing you to fall asleep anywhere? Chin up, I can help.

One thing I know that helps me when it starts feeling like I’m having sleep problems is rearranging my room. You’re probably thinking, what? What does that have to do with anything? Let me tell you.

Therapist Mark Tyrrell suggests rearranging your room to help with sleeplessness in his article, because if you’ve spent so many hours laying in the same room worrying, you can develop a conditioned response to immediately become anxious the moment you get in that room.

I know this works for me because last year, I was having sleep problems in January, and my roommate and I decided to rearrange our room just for something different. Wouldn’t you know, our rearrangement instantly made me sleep like a rock.

Redecorating or rearranging gives your brain a clean, restful canvas, which puts a stopper on all those anxious feelings. This is just one way to calm sleepless nights, and in Tyrrell’s article above, he gives you four more I definitely recommend checking out.

So, if you’re starting to feel that itch of anxiety overtaking your good night’s sleep, it may just take a little redecorating to fix the problem for good. Now, get some sleep.