Reading List: 006

Gamifying your psychological well being, curing anxiety in six rather simple steps and listening without judgement…all in this week’s Reading List.

Therapists’ Apps Aim To Help With Mental Health Issues

By Maanvi Singh
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Gamification — the use of video game techniques to do more than just entertain — is a big buzzword these days. It’s being used in management, education and advertising.

And now, mental health. Our field needs to continue to explore new ways in which individuals can role play, test their own interpersonal theories and track their psychological health. Games, technology and even comic books (shameless plug!) should continue to get pulled in to our field. I use an app to track my sleep patterns, my diet, the number of steps I take, my exercise and almost every other daily activity. There’s even apps for making sure you drink enough water. It’s about time we start tracking our psychological well being too. Although, one could argue tracking sleep, exercise, activity levels and diet are a major step in the right direction of stable mental health, but that’s for another post.

In her article, Maanvi continues discussing how these new apps are being used for this exact purpose:

Her app, called ReliefLink, is more of a mood-tracking tool than a video game. It tweets users regular affirmations, helps them make a safety plan and puts them it touch with nearby resources if they’re contemplating suicide. Koslow says she is starting to test the app’s effectiveness.

Apps like ReliefLink that can be used in conjunction with therapy are getting more scientific attention these days.

Good. ‘Bout time!

How to Cure Anxiety — One Workaholic’s Story, Six Techniques That Work
By Charlie Hoehn
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Back in Reading List: 002 I linked to a story by Charlie Hoehn, Preventing Burnout: A Cautionary Tale. Charlie has now released his follow up article and discusses his M.E.D1 for overcoming anxiety. The article is worth a read through, but here are his main points:

Enjoy guilt-free play with friends

When was the last time you did this? When was the last time you just played? Not running on a treadmill for exercise, not bicycling for your PR, not walking as fast as possible to get done as quickly as possible. Just played. With friends and family?

My uncle2, who I just found out reads my posts, is one of my role models for this. The man camps, plays outdoors and looks like he’s 20 years younger than he actually is. He’s living proof that enjoying guilt-free play is good for the soul.3

Unplug from all sources of news

This one is tough. I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s amazing how freeing it is. And, it’s amazing how freeing it is and how infrequently I do it. If you truly unplug (yes, that means Facebook too) you will be amazed at how little you miss out on. Now that our phones are with us 24/7 it’s extremely easy to “check in” which is actually really just you “checking out”.

Consistent bedtime & afternoon naps

I haven’t been able to get the naps worked in, but consistent sleep is a must. I recommend using a sleep tracking app like Azumio’s Sleep Time to track your sleeping progress. If you can’t get your Sleep Efficiency4 above 80% on average you will start to feel it. My Sleep Efficiency last night was 83% and I feel pretty good. Two nights ago…56%. And it showed. My average Sleep Efficiency was 82% for the month of March and the average Duration of sleep was 6 hours and 34 minutes. I would like to raise both.

Eliminate stimulants

This one will probably push you away and you’ll never come back again. But give it a try, just one week. Seven days. It’s amazing. Actually, when you finally do have a cup of coffee it will be much more pleasant as a reward rather than as a necessity.

Here’s what you need to do:

Cut out any substance you regularly consume that’s correlated with increased feelings of anxiety. Common culprits include: caffeine, aspartame, gluten, refined sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. Keep it out of your body for one week.

If you have that substance in your house, throw it away. If the people you spend the most time with are encouraging you to consume it, politely turn them down and do something else. If you have strong cravings for that substance, find a healthy substitute you can consume instead (e.g. water, tea, sugar-free gum).

After the substance has been out of your system for seven days, you can reassess its toxicity by consuming a typical dose you’re used to taking. If your anxiety symptoms return within one hour of ingestion, you’ve found the culprit. Try to eliminate that substance for good.

Trauma Releasing Exercises

I’ll let Charlie handle the heavy lifting here:

I know T.R.E. might sound kooky, or even a little scary. But it’s really not bad at all. It’s basically just a series of stretches that help your body thaw itself out by alleviating your chronic tension. Your tremors will definitely make your body move in strange ways though, so be sure to do these exercises in a relaxed environment where you won’t feel self-conscious.

Fix micronutrient deficiencies

Vitamin B’s and Fatty Acids. Not having enough may be increasing your stress and anxiety. His suggestion is expensive but may be what you need to get on track. If you’ve done everything else and you’re still struggling, give this a serious look over.

Creativity and Listening
By David Intrator
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There are those who speak about active listening, but for me listening is a state of absolute receptivity.

When you’re really listening, you don’t expect anything and you don’t want anything.

If you’re listening to a person, for example, you simply take in what they’re saying: the timbre of their voice, the rhythm of their speech, their inflection.

Sure, a great deal amount of mental activity is required to rationally understand what’s being said, but this, ideally, should be happening the in background, out of consciousness.

That little voice inside us should not be commenting upon or judging what you’re hearing. There will be time for that later, when you recall what you’ve listened to and have the chance to speak about it and be listened to yourself.

If only we could all do this a little more…

Why a Reading List? I do a lot of RSS reading and I am constantly finding articles which are informative, entertaining and applicable to my private practice. Instead of hoarding this information to myself, I’ve decided to begin sharing the articles and pull quotes on a regular basis.

  1. Minimum Effective Dose. The exact right amount for getting the desired impact on any given intervention. Why work harder, take more, or stress more than what is actually necessary. 

  2. Hi Uncle Mark! Love and miss you man! 

  3. He’s also the one who told me when I was young and impressionable that he can’t stop from growing old, but he can refuse to grow up. Words I have lived by since, to be sure. So blame him if you ever have to deal with me on an interpersonal level. 

  4. Basically, Sleep Efficiency is the time you are Awake in total to your Sleep Duration. Digging deeper, Sleep Duration is the percentage of sleep phases you experience, which can be either Light Sleep or Deep+REM Sleep. Deep Sleep is where its at. That’s when your brain is recuperating from the days events and gets you feeling refreshed for the next day. Go too many days with poor Deep Sleep and you’ll know it. 

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