Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ingesting the news mindfully

One of the things I have been working on in sessions with my clients is finding ways to both stay informed about the state of the country but also to protect themselves from a sense of despair and overwhelm.

Although some have come up with the solution of deleting anyone from their facebook feed who posts about politics, or discontinuing their nightly  news watching habit, others feel a responsiblity to the world and the rest of humanity to stay informed. If you fall into this category, what can you do to help yourself from being impacted by the seemingly merciless stream of negativity? The state of the world can impact our mental health profoundly. How can we stay involved and informed without ourselves becoming a casuality?

Below are some ideas I have come up with to help my clients.

1. Set aside a time when you will ingest your media, and control and question the sources. Most of us go about our days not controlling how information gets to us. If we are at a stop light, we look at our facebook feed or twitter. If we are getting our oil changed or eating dinner, the television might be on. This isn't the way we want to be processing information right now ( or ever, really). I recommend to clients that they schedule a few times a week where they consult a reliable source for their news.

2. I often use the concept of putting on your armor in my sessions. Putting on your armor means preparing to do something difficult. Do this before you read the news. The news can be terrifying and revolting. Be prepared for intense emotions and in a place where you can handle your reactions. Don't do it before bed, or before a stressful meeting. Think about the timing. Prepare yourself for the impact it may have.

3. Limit your social media time. Set aside a particular time when you will use it and stick to that plan. Check your phone and email less. Checking your phone and email regularly keeps you in a constant state of anxiety. Take up a mindfulness practice. All of these things will naturally decrease your stress.

4. Protect family time and time with your loved ones. Check in with one another regarding whether you want to talk about politics. It's easy to become anxious and uncomfortable when swept up in catastrophic thinking, and if doing so in a group, it is contageous.

5. After you read the news, check in with a postive news site where you can connect with good and hopeful things that are currently happening around the world.   Postive News is a great site you can subscribe to. Read one of these stories for every other news story you read.

6. Practice working on things you have control over. It's easy to become overwhelmed and feel helpless. Check in about this and modify your behavior as necessary. Take action when you have the ability to do something. Work on shifting your focus and energy if you are worrying obsessing over something you cannot do anything about.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Can we look at babies brains to tell if they will be anxious or depressed later?

The amygdala and it's development has long been studied and associated with a variety of emotional disorders specifically trauma, phobias, bipolar disorder and other forms of depression and anxiety.
It has also been found to be associated with both fear and pleasure and has been studied in relationship to anger, appetite and sex to name a few more areas.

Most recently, researchers at Washington University say they were able to determine which babies were at an increased risk of developing symptoms related to depression and anxiety by looking at their brains.

 Specifically, they looked at connections between the amygdala and other parts of the brain in an fmri scan, and were able to predict and determine whether these babies would exhibit symptoms at age two that are associated with later symptoms of anxiety and depression.

 These symptoms called signs of behavioral inhibition include shyness, anxiety, and sadness. Washington U researchers believe that the brain connections they found suggest that the groundwork is already laid AT BIRTH for anxiety and depression to develop.

They intend to follow up when possible with these same children at 9 and 10 to determine what their brains look like ( have the connections changed or stregnthened?) and if they have developed full blown anxiety, and or depression.

 The implications of this study are important. If we can identify people at risk for anxiety and depression as young as infancy, we can intervene earlier!


 Rogers C, Sylvester CM, Mintz C et al. Neonatal Amygdala Functional Connectivity at Rest in Healthy and Preterm Infants and Early Internalizing Symptoms. JAACAP. 2017.