Monday, 21 April 2014

INSOMNIA --PART 2

Insomnia cures and treatments: Changing habits that disrupt sleep

Some of the things you’re doing to cope with insomnia may actually be making the problem worse. For example, if you’re using sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep, this will disrupt your sleep even more over the long-term. Or if you drink excessive amounts of coffee during the day, it will be more difficult to fall asleep later. Often, changing the habits that are reinforcing sleeplessness is enough to overcome insomnia altogether. It may take a few days for your body to get used to the change, but once you do, you will sleep better.

Using a sleep diary to identify insomnia-inducing habits

Some habits are so ingrained that you may overlook them as a possible contributor to your insomnia. Maybe your daily Starbucks habit affects your sleep more than you realize. Or maybe you’ve never made the connection between your late-night TV viewing or Internet surfing and your sleep difficulties. Keeping a sleep diary is a helpful way to pinpoint habits and behaviors contributing to your insomnia.
All you have to do is jot down daily details about your daytime habits, sleep routine, and insomnia symptoms. For example, you can keep track of when you go to sleep and when you wake up, where you fall asleep, what you eat and drink, and any stressful events that occur during the day.

Adopting new habits to help you sleep

  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Noise, light, and heat can interfere with sleep. Try using a sound machine or earplugs to hide outside noise, an open window or fan to keep the room cool, and blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block out light.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends, even if you’re tired. This will help you get back in a regular sleep rhythm.
  • Avoid naps. Napping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel like you have to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
  • Avoid stimulating activity and stressful situations before bedtime. This includes vigorous exercise; big discussions or arguments; and TV, computer, or video game use. Instead, focus on quiet, soothing activities, such as reading, knitting, or listening to soft music, while keeping lights low.
  • Don’t read from a backlit device (such as an iPad). If you use an eReader, opt for one that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before bed. Avoid drinking alcohol in the evening; while alcohol can make you feel sleepy, it interferes with the quality of your sleep. Quit smoking or avoid it at night, as nicotine is a stimulant.

Preparing your brain for sleep

Your brain produces the hormone melatonin to help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. As melatonin is controlled by light exposure, not enough natural light during the day can make your brain feel sleepy, while too much artificial light at night can suppress production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep. To help naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle and prepare your brain for sleep:
  • Increase light exposure during the day. Take breaks outside in sunlight, remove sunglasses when it’s safe to do so, and open blinds and curtains during the day.
  • Limit artificial light at night. To boost melatonin production, use low-wattage bulbs, cover windows and electrical displays in your bedroom, avoid bright light and turn off television, smartphone, and computer screens at least one hour before bed. If you can’t make your bedroom dark enough, try using a sleep mask.

Coping with shift work

Working nights or irregular shifts can disrupt your sleep schedule. You may be able to limit the adverse impact by practicing the healthy bedtime habits above, and following these tips:
  • Adjust your sleep-wake cycle by exposing yourself to bright light when you wake up at night, use bright lamps or daylight-simulation bulbs in your workplace, and then wear dark glasses on your journey home to block out sunlight and encourage sleepiness.
  • Limit the number of night or irregular shifts you work in a row to prevent sleep deprivation mounting up.
  • Avoid frequently rotating shifts so you can maintain the same sleep schedule.
  • Avoid a long commute that cuts into your sleep time. The more time you spend traveling home in daylight, the more awake you’ll become and the harder you’ll find it is to get to sleep.
  • Eliminate noise and light from your bedroom during the day. Use blackout curtains or a sleep mask, turn off the phone, and use ear plugs or a soothing sound machine to block out daytime noise.

Insomnia cures and treatments: Neutralizing anxiety when you can’t sleep

The more trouble you have with sleep, the more it starts to invade your thoughts. You may dread going to sleep because you just know that you’re going to toss and turn for hours or be up at 2 a.m. again. Or maybe you’re worried because you have a big day tomorrow, and if you don’t get a solid eight hours, you’re sure you’ll blow your presentation. But agonizing and expecting sleep difficulties only makes insomnia worse; worrying floods your body with adrenaline, and before you know it, you’re wide-awake.

Learning to associate your bed with sleeping, not sleeplessness


Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex.
 Don’t work, watch TV, or use your computer or smartphone. The goal is to associate the bedroom with sleep and sex, so that when you get in bed your brain and body get a strong signal that it’s time to nod off or be romantic.If sleep worries are getting in the way of your ability to unwind at night, the following strategies may help. The goal is to train your body to associate the bed with sleep, sex, and nothing else—especially not frustration and anxiety.
  • Get out of bed when you can’t sleep. Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Tossing and turning only amps up the anxiety. Get up, leave the bedroom, and do something relaxing, such as reading, drinking a warm cup of caffeine-free tea, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music. When you’re sleepy, go back to bed.
  • Move bedroom clocks out of view. Anxiously watching the minutes tick by when you can’t sleep—knowing that you’re going to be exhausted when the alarm goes off—is a surefire recipe for insomnia. You can use an alarm, but make sure you can’t see the time when you’re in bed.
Challenging self-defeating thoughts that fuel insomnia
Self-defeating thoughtSleep-promoting comeback
Unrealistic expectations: I should be able to sleep well every night like a normal person.
Lots of people struggle with sleep from time to time. I will be able to sleep with practice.
Exaggeration: It’s the same every single night, another night of sleepless misery.
Not every night is the same. Some nights I do sleep better than others.
Catastrophizing: If I don’t get some sleep, I’ll tank my presentation and jeopardize my job.
I can get through the presentation even if I’m tired. I can still rest and relax tonight, even if I can’t sleep.
Hopelessness: I’m never going to be able to sleep well. It’s out of my control.
Insomnia can be cured. If I stop worrying so much and focus on positive solutions, I can beat it.
Fortune telling: It’s going to take me at least an hour to get to sleep tonight. I just know it.
I don’t know what will happen tonight. Maybe I’ll get to sleep quickly if I use the strategies I’ve learned.
Remember, replacing self-defeating thoughts takes time and practice. You may find it helpful to jot down your own list, taking note of the negative thoughts that pop up and how you can dispute them.

Insomnia cures and treatments: Harnessing your body’s relaxation response

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and tai chi can help quiet your mind and relieve tension. They can also help you fall asleep faster and get back to sleep more quickly if you awaken in the middle of the night. And all without the side effects of sleep medication!

Relaxation techniques that can help you sleep

It takes regular practice to master relaxation techniques but the benefits can be huge. You can do them as part of your bedtime routine, when you are lying down preparing for sleep, and if you wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Abdominal breathing. Most of us don’t breathe as deeply as we should. When we breathe deeply and fully, involving not only the chest, but also the belly, lower back, and ribcage, it can help relaxation. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. Lie down or make yourself comfortable. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles as tightly as you can. Hold for a count of 10, and then relax. Continue to do this for every muscle group in your body, working your way up from your feet to the top of your head.


Insomnia cures and treatments: Using supplements and medication wisely

When you’re tossing and turning at night, it can be tempting to turn to sleep aids for relief. However, no sleeping pill will cure the underlying cause of your insomnia, and some can even make the problem worse in the long run. Before taking any sleep aid or medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Dietary supplements for insomnia

There are many dietary and herbal supplements marketed for their sleep-promoting effects. Some remedies, such as lemon balm or chamomile tea, are generally harmless, while others can have side effects and interfere with other medications.
They don't work for everyone, but two of the most popular supplements are:
  • Melatonin – a naturally occurring hormone that your body produces at night. Evidence suggests that melatonin supplements may be effective for short-term use, especially in preventing or reducing jet-lag. However, there are potential side-effects, including next-day drowsiness.
  • Valerian – an herb with mild sedative effects that may help you sleep better. However, the quality of valerian supplements varies widely.

Over the counter (OTC) sleep aids

The main ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills is an antihistamine, generally taken for allergies, hay fever and common cold symptoms. OTC sleep aids are meant to be used for short-term insomnia only. Sleep experts generally advise against their use because of side effects, questions about their effectiveness, and lack of information about their safety over the long term.

Prescription sleeping pills for insomnia

While prescription sleep medications can provide temporary relief, it’s best to use medication only as a last resort, and then, only on a very limited, as-needed basis. First, try changing your sleep habits, your daily routine, and your attitudes about sleep. Evidence shows that lifestyle and behavioral changes make the largest and most lasting difference when it comes to insomnia.

When to consider seeking professional insomnia treatment

If you’ve tried the insomnia cures and treatments listed above and are still having trouble getting the sleep you need, a doctor or sleep disorder specialist may be able to help. Seek professional help for insomnia if:
  • Your insomnia doesn’t respond to self-help strategies
  • Your insomnia is causing major problems at home, work, or school
  • You’re experiencing scary symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Your insomnia occurs almost every night and is getting worse
Bring a sleep diary with you. Your doctor may be able to diagnose an illness or sleep disorder that's causing your insomnia, or refer you to a sleep specialist or cognitive behavioral therapist.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for insomnia

CBT is aimed at breaking the cycle of insomnia. Poor sleep tends to lead to stress and anxious thoughts about not being able to sleep. This in turn leads to stress and tension, which leads to poor sleeping habits, such as the use of sleeping pills or alcohol to sleep or taking daytime naps to make up for lost sleep. This leads to worsening insomnia and so on.
The Vicious Cycle of Insomnia
insomniacycle
As well as improving sleep habits, CBT is aimed at changing thoughts and feelings about sleep that may be causing stress and contributing to your insomnia.
While CBT can be a much safer and more effective insomnia treatment than sleeping pills, it's not an instant remedy but one that requires time and persistence. Your sleep may even get worse at first if your therapist recommends sleep restriction therapy, whereby you initially shorten your sleep time. The idea is that by limiting the time you spend in bed to the number of hours you actually sleep, say from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., you'll spend less time awake and more time asleep. As your sleep efficiency increases you'll gradually start going to bed earlier and getting up later until you reach your optimum sleep schedule.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Can’t Sleep---insomnia..part 1

Can’t Sleep?

Causes of insomnia.....

Insomnia Help
Do you struggle to get to sleep no matter how tired you are? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for hours, anxiously watching the clock? Insomnia is a common problem that takes a toll on your energy, mood, health, and ability to function during the day. Chronic insomnia can even contribute to serious health problems. Simple changes to your lifestyle and daily habits can put a stop to sleepless nights.


Can’t sleep? Understanding insomnia and its symptoms


Although insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, it is not a single sleep disorder. It’s more accurate to think of insomnia as a symptom of another problem, which differs from person to person. It could be something as simple as drinking too much caffeine during the day or a more complex issue like an underlying medical condition or feeling overloaded with responsibilities.Insomnia is the inability to get the amount of sleep you need to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. Because different people need different amounts of sleep, insomnia is defined by the quality of your sleep and how you feel after sleeping—not the number of hours you sleep or how quickly you doze off. Even if you’re spending eight hours a night in bed, if you feel drowsy and fatigued during the day, you may be experiencing insomnia.
The good news is that most cases of insomnia can be cured with changes you can make on your own—without relying on sleep specialists or turning to prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills.

Symptoms of insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep despite being tired
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Trouble getting back to sleep when awakened
  • Exhausting sleep
  • Relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to fall asleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Daytime drowsiness, fatigue, or irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day

Causes of insomnia: Figuring out why you can’t sleep

In order to properly treat and cure your insomnia, you need to become a sleep detective. Emotional issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression cause half of all insomnia cases. But your daytime habits, sleep routine, and physical health may also play a role. Try to identify all possible causes of your insomnia. Once you figure out the root cause, you can tailor treatment accordingly.
  • Are you under a lot of stress?
  • Are you depressed or feel emotionally flat or hopeless?
  • Do you struggle with chronic feelings of anxiety or worry?
  • Have you recently gone through a traumatic experience?
  • Are you taking any medications that might be affecting your sleep?
  • Do you have any health problems that may be interfering with sleep?
  • Is your sleep environment quiet and comfortable?
  • Are you spending enough time in sunlight during the day and in darkness at night?
  • Do you try to go to bed and get up around the same time every day?

Common mental and physical causes of insomnia:

Sometimes, insomnia only lasts a few days and goes away on its own, especially when the insomnia is tied to an obvious temporary cause, such as stress over an upcoming presentation, a painful breakup, or jet lag. Other times, insomnia is stubbornly persistent. Chronic insomnia is usually tied to an underlying mental or physical issue.
  • Psychological problems that can cause insomnia: depression, anxiety, chronic stress, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder. 
  • Medications that can cause insomnia: antidepressants; cold and flu medications that contain alcohol; pain relievers that contain caffeine (Midol, Excedrin); diuretics, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, high blood pressure medications.
  • Medical problems that can cause insomnia: asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, cancer, chronic pain.
  • Sleep disorders that can cause insomnia: sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome.

Anxiety and depression: Two of the most common causes of chronic insomnia

Most people suffering from an anxiety disorder or depression have trouble sleeping. What’s more, the sleep deprivation can make the symptoms of anxiety or depression worse. Treating the underlying psychological issue is the key to curing insomnia

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Emotional Eating

                           Emotional Eating


                 How to Recognize and Stop Emotional Eating

Healthy Eating: Guide to New Food Pyramids and Tips for a Healthy Diet
We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. We also turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward. Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn’t fix emotional problems. It usually makes you feel worse. Afterward, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you also feel guilty for overeating. Learning to recognize your emotional eating triggers is the first step to breaking free from food cravings and compulsive overeating, and changing the habits that have sabotaged your diets in the past.

If you’ve ever make room for dessert even though you’re already full or dove into a pint of ice cream when you’re feeling down, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better—eating to fill emotional needs, rather than to fill your stomach.
Using food from time to time as a pick me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted, or bored—you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.
Emotional hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the feelings that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you consumed. You beat yourself for messing up and not having more willpower. Compounding the problem, you stop learning healthier ways to deal with your emotions, you have a harder and harder time controlling your weight, and you feel increasingly powerless over both food and your feelings.

Are you an emotional eater?

  • Do you eat more when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Do you eat when you’re not hungry or when you’re full?
  • Do you eat to feel better (to calm and soothe yourself when you’re sad, mad, bored, anxious, etc.)?
  • Do you reward yourself with food?
  • Do you regularly eat until you’ve stuffed yourself?
  • Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel like food is a friend?
  • Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

The difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger

Before you can break free from the cycle of emotional eating, you first need to learn how to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. This can be trickier than it sounds, especially if you regularly use food to deal with your feelings.
Emotional hunger can be powerful. As a result, it’s easy to mistake it for physical hunger. But there are clues you can look for that can help you tell physical and emotional hunger apart.
  • Emotional hunger comes on suddenly. It hits you in an instant and feels overwhelming and urgent. Physical hunger, on the other hand, comes on more gradually. The urge to eat doesn’t feel as dire or demand instant satisfaction (unless you haven’t eaten for a very long time).
  • Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods. When you’re physically hungry, almost anything sounds good—including healthy stuff like vegetables. But emotional hunger craves fatty foods or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush. You feel like you need cheesecake or pizza, and nothing else will do.
  • Emotional hunger often leads to mindless eating. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream without really paying attention or fully enjoying it. When you’re eating in response to physical hunger, you’re typically more aware of what you’re doing.
  • Emotional hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full. You keep wanting more and more, often eating until you’re uncomfortably stuffed. Physical hunger, on the other hand, doesn't need to be stuffed. You feel satisfied when your stomach is full.
  • Emotional hunger isn’t located in the stomach. Rather than a growling belly or a pang in your stomach, you feel your hunger as a craving you can’t get out of your head. You’re focused on specific textures, tastes, and smells.
  • Emotional hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame. When you eat to satisfy physical hunger, you’re unlikely to feel guilty or ashamed because you’re simply giving your body what it needs. If you feel guilty after you eat, it's likely because you know deep down that you’re not eating for nutritional reasons.
Emotional hunger vs. Physical hunger
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly.
Physical hunger comes on gradually.
Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly.
Physical hunger can wait.
Emotional hunger craves specific comfort foods.
Physical hunger is open to options–lots of things sound good.
Emotional hunger isn't satisfied with a full stomach.
Physical hunger stops when you're full.
Emotional eating triggers feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and shame.
Eating to satisfy physical hunger doesn't make you feel bad about yourself.

Stop emotional eating tip 1: Identify your triggers

People eat for many different reasons. The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food?
Keep in mind that while most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event.

Common causes of emotional eating

  • Stress – Ever notice how stress makes you hungry? It’s not just in your mind. When stress is chronic, as it so often is in our chaotic, fast-paced world, it leads to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and high-fat foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure. The more uncontrolled stress in your life, the more likely you are to turn to food for emotional relief.
  • Stuffing emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame. While you’re numbing yourself with food, you can avoid the emotions you’d rather not feel.
  • Boredom or feelings of emptiness – Do you ever eat simply to give yourself something to do, to relieve boredom, or as a way to fill a void in your life? You feel unfulfilled and empty, and food is a way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.
  • Childhood habits – Think back to your childhood memories of food. Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream, take you out for pizza when you got a good report card, or serve you sweets when you were feeling sad? These emotionally-based childhood eating habits often carry over into adulthood. Or perhaps some of your eating is driven by nostalgia—for cherishes memories of grilling burgers in the backyard with your dad, baking and eating cookies with your mom, or gathering around the table with your extended family for a home-cooked pasta dinner.
  • Social influences – Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but it can also lead to overeating. It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating. You may also overeat in social situations out of nervousness. Or perhaps your family or circle of friends encourages you to overeat, and it’s easier to go along with the group.

Keep an emotional eating diary

You probably recognized yourself in at least a few of the previous descriptions. But even so, you’ll want to get even more specific. One of the best ways to identify the patterns behind your emotional eating is to keep track with a food and mood diary.
Every time you overeat or feel compelled to reach for your version of comfort food Kryptonite, take a moment to figure out what triggered the urge. If you backtrack, you’ll usually find an upsetting event that kicked of the emotional eating cycle. Write it all down in your food and mood diary: what you ate (or wanted to eat), what happened to upset you, how you felt before you ate, what you felt as you were eating, and how you felt afterward.
Over time, you’ll see a pattern emerge. Maybe you always end up gorging yourself after spending time with a critical friend. Or perhaps you stress eat whenever you’re on a deadline or when you attend family functions. Once you identify your emotional eating triggers, the next step is identifying healthier ways to feed your feelings.

Stop emotional eating tip 2: Find other ways to feed your feelings

CloseFeeling Loved Book Cover
“An easy-to-follow recipe for feeling safe, resolving conflicts, and staying connected to ourselves and others. ”
If you don’t know how to manage your emotions in a way that doesn’t involve food, you won’t be able to control your eating habits for very long. Diets so often fail because they offer logical nutritional advice, as if the only thing keeping you from eating right is knowledge. But that kind of advice only works if you have conscious control over your eating habits. It doesn’t work when emotions hijack the process, demanding an immediate payoff with food.
In order to stop emotional eating, you have to find other ways to fulfill yourself emotionally. It’s not enough to understand the cycle of emotional eating or even to understand your triggers, although that’s a huge first step. You need alternatives to food that you can turn to for emotional fulfillment.

Alternatives to emotional eating

  • If you’re depressed or lonely, call someone who always makes you feel better, play with your dog or cat, or look at a favorite photo or cherished memento.
  • If you’re anxious, expend your nervous energy by dancing to your favorite song, squeezing a stress ball, or taking a brisk walk.
  • If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of tea, take a bath, light some scented candles, or wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  • If you’re bored, read a good book, watch a comedy show, explore the outdoors, or turn to an activity you enjoy (woodworking, playing the guitar, shooting hoops, scrapbooking, etc.).

Stop emotional eating tip 3: Pause when cravings hit

Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. You feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now! Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.

Take 5 before you give in to a craving

As mentioned earlier, emotional eating tends to be automatic and virtually mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a moment to pause and reflect when you’re hit with a craving, you give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision.
All you have to do is put off eating for five minutes, or if five minutes seems unmanageable, start with one minute. Don’t tell yourself you can’t give in to the craving; remember, the forbidden is extremely tempting. Just tell yourself to wait. While you’re waiting, check in with yourself. How are you feeling? What’s going on emotionally? Even if you end up eating, you’ll have a better understanding of why you did it. This can help you set yourself up for a different response next time.

Learn to accept your feelings—even the bad ones

While it may seem that the core problem is that you’re powerless over food, emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions. You don’t feel capable of dealing with your feelings head on, so you avoid them with food.
Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. You may fear that, like Pandora’s box, once you open the door you won’t be able to shut it. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and lose their power to control our attention. To do this you need to become mindful and learn how to stay connected to your moment-to-moment emotional experience. This can enable you to rein in stress and repair emotional problems that often trigger emotional eating.
What’s more, your life will be richer when you open yourself up emotionally. Our feelings are a window into our interior world. They help us understand and discover our deepest desires and fears, our current frustrations, and the things that will make us happy.

Stop emotional eating tip 4: Support yourself with healthy lifestyle habits

When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. But when you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed, any little hiccup has the potential to send you off the rails and straight toward the refrigerator. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.
  • Make daily exercise a priority. Physical activity does wonders for your mood and your energy levels, and it’s also a powerful stress reducer.
  • Make time for relaxation. Give yourself permission to take at least 30 minutes every day to relax, decompress, and unwind. This is your time to take a break from your responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
  • Connect with others. Don’t underestimate the importance of close relationships and social activities. Spending time with positive people who enhance your life will help protect you from the negative effects of stress
    .

Monday, 17 February 2014

Cutting & Self-Harm......

Cutting & Self-Harm

Self-Injury Help, Support, and Treatment


Self-Injury: Types, Causes and Treatment
Self-harm can be a way of coping with problems. It may help you express feelings you can’t put into words, distract you from your life, or release emotional pain. Afterwards, you probably feel better—at least for a little while. But then the painful feelings return, and you feel the urge to hurt yourself again. If you want to stop but don’t know how, remember this: you deserve to feel better, and you can get there without hurting yourself.

Self-harm is a way of expressing and dealing with deep distress and emotional pain. As counterintuitive as it may sound to those on the outside, hurting yourself makes you feel better. In fact, you may feel like you have no choice. Injuring yourself is the only way you know how to cope with feelings like sadness, self-loathing, emptiness, guilt, and rage.
The problem is that the relief that comes from self-harming doesn’t last very long. It’s like slapping on a Band-Aid when what you really need are stitches. It may temporarily stop the bleeding, but it doesn’t fix the underlying injury. And it also creates its own problems.
If you’re like most people who self-injure, you try to keep what you’re doing secret. Maybe you feel ashamed or maybe you just think that no one would understand. But hiding who you are and what you feel is a heavy burden. Ultimately, the secrecy and guilt affects your relationships with your friends and family members and the way you feel about yourself. It can make you feel even more lonely, worthless, and trapped.

Myths and facts about cutting and self-harm

Because cutting and other means of self-harm tend to be taboo subjects, the people around you—and possibly even you—may harbor serious misconceptions about your motivations and state of mind. Don’t let these myths get in the way of getting help or helping someone you care about.
Myth: People who cut and self-injure are trying to get attention. 
Fact: The painful truth is that people who self-harm generally do so in secret. They aren’t trying to manipulate others or draw attention to themselves. In fact, shame and fear can make it very difficult to come forward and ask for help.
Myth: People who self-injure are crazy and/or dangerous. 
Fact: It is true that many people who self-harm suffer from anxiety, depression, or a previous trauma—just like millions of others in the general population. Self-injury is how they cope. Slapping them with a “crazy” or “dangerous” label isn’t accurate or helpful.
Myth: People who self-injure want to die. 
Fact: Self-injurers usually do not want to die. When they self-harm, they are not trying to kill themselves—they are trying to cope with their pain. In fact, self-injury may be a way of helping themselves go on living. However, in the long-term, people who self-injure have a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it’s so important to seek help.
Myth: If the wounds aren’t bad, it’s not that serious.
Fact: The severity of a person’s wounds has very little to do with how much he or she may be suffering. Don’t assume that because the wounds or injuries are minor, there’s nothing to worry about.

Signs and symptoms of cutting and self-harm

Self-harm includes anything you do to intentionally injure yourself. Some of the more common ways include:
  • cutting or severely scratching your skin
  • burning or scalding yourself
  • hitting yourself or banging your head
  • punching things or throwing your body against walls and hard objects
  • sticking objects into your skin
  • intentionally preventing wounds from healing
  • swallowing poisonous substances or inappropriate objects
Self-harm can also include less obvious ways of hurting yourself or putting yourself in danger, such as driving recklessly, binge drinking, taking too many drugs, and having unsafe sex.

Warning signs that a family member or friend is cutting or self-injuring

Because clothing can hide physical injuries, and inner turmoil can be covered up by a seemingly calm disposition, self-injury can be hard to detect. However, there are red flags you can look for (but remember—you don’t have to be sure that you know what’s going on in order to reach out to someone you’re worried about):
  • Unexplained wounds or scars from cuts, bruises, or burns, usually on the wrists, arms, thighs, or chest.
  • Blood stains on clothing, towels, or bedding; blood-soaked tissues.
  • Sharp objects or cutting instruments, such as razors, knives, needles, glass shards, or bottle caps, in the person’s belongings.
  • Frequent “accidents.” Someone who self-harms may claim to be clumsy or have many mishaps, in order to explain away injuries.
  • Covering up. A person who self-injures may insist on wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot weather.
  • Needing to be alone for long periods of time, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
  • Isolation and irritability. 

How does cutting and self-harm help?

In your own words

  • It expresses emotional pain or feelings that I’m unable to put into words. It puts a punctuation mark on what I’m feeling on the inside!”
  • It’s a way to have control over my bodybecause I can’t control anything else in my life.”
  • “I usually feel like I have a black hole in the pit of my stomach, at least if I feel pain it’s better than feeling nothing.
  • I feel relieved and less anxious after I cut.The emotional pain slowly slips away into the physical pain.”
It’s important to acknowledge that self-harm helps you—otherwise you wouldn’t do it. Some of the ways cutting and self-harming can help include:
  • Expressing feelings you can’t put into words
  • Releasing the pain and tension you feel inside
  • Helping you feel in control
  • Distracting you from overwhelming emotions or difficult life circumstances
  • Relieving guilt and punishing yourself
  • Making you feel alive, or simply feelsomething, instead of feeling numb
Once you better understand why you self-harm, you can learn ways to stop self-harming, and find resources that can support you through this struggle.

If self-harm helps, why stop?

  • Although self-harm and cutting can give you temporary relief, it comes at a cost. In the long term, it causes far more problems than it solves.
  • The relief is short lived, and is quickly followed by other feelings like shame and guilt. Meanwhile, it keeps you from learning more effective strategies for feeling better.
  • Keeping the secret from friends and family members is difficult and lonely.
  • You can hurt yourself badly, even if you don’t mean to. It’s easy to misjudge the depth of a cut or end up with an infected wound.
  • If you don’t learn other ways to deal with emotional pain, it puts you at risk for bigger problems down the line, including major depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide.
  • Self-harm can become addictive. It may start off as an impulse or something you do to feel more in control, but soon it feels like the cutting or self-harming is controlling you. It often turns into a compulsive behavior that seems impossible to stop.
The bottom line: self-harm and cutting don’t help you with the issues that made you want to hurt yourself in the first place.

Help for cutting and self-harm step 1: Confide in someone


Deciding whom you can trust with such personal information can be difficult. Choose someone who isn’t going to gossip or try to take control of your recovery. Ask yourself who in your life makes you feel accepted and supported. It could be a friend, teacher, religious leader, counselor, or relative. But you don’t necessarily have to choose someone you are close to.If you’re ready to get help for cutting or self-harm, the first step is to confide in another person. It can be scary to talk about the very thing you have worked so hard to hide, but it can also be a huge relief to finally let go of your secret and share what you’re going through.
Eventually, you’ll want to open up to your inner circle of friends and family members, but sometimes it’s easier to start by talking to an adult who you respect—such as a teacher, religious leader, or counselor - who has a little more distance from the situation and won’t find it as difficult to be objective.

Tips for talking about cutting and self-harm

  • Focus on your feelings. Instead of sharing sensational details of your self-harm behavior—what specifically you do to hurt yourself—focus on the feelings or situations that lead to it. This can help the person you’re confiding in better understand where you’re coming from. It also helps to let the person know why you’re telling them. Do you want help or advice from them? Do you simply want another person to know so you can let go of the secret?
  • Communicate in whatever way you feel most comfortable. If you’re too nervous to talk in person, consider starting off the conversation with an email or letter (although it’s important to eventually follow-up with a face-to-face conversation). Don’t feel pressured into sharing things you’re not ready to talk about. You don’t have to show the person your injuries or answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable answering.  
  • Give the person time to process what you tell them. As difficult as it is for you to open up, it may also be difficult for the person you tell—especially if it’s a close friend or family member. Sometimes, you may not like the way the person reacts. Try to remember that reactions such as shock, anger, and fear come out of concern for you. It may help to print out this article for the people you choose to tell. The better they understand self-harm, the better able they’ll be to support you.
Talking about self-harm can be very stressful and bring up a lot of emotions. Don’t be discouraged if the situation feels worse for a short time right after sharing your secret. It’s uncomfortable to confront and change long-standing habits. But once you get past these initial challenges, you’ll start to feel better.

Help for cutting and self-harm step 2: Figure out why you cut

Learn to manage overwhelming stress and emotions

Understanding why you cut or self-harm is a vital first step toward your recovery. If you can figure out what function your self-injury serves, you can learn other ways to get those needs met—which in turn can reduce your desire to hurt yourself.

Identify your self-harm triggers

Remember, self-harm is most often a way of dealing with emotional pain. What feelings make you want to cut or hurt yourself? Sadness? Anger? Shame? Loneliness? Guilt? Emptiness?
Once you learn to recognize the feelings that trigger your need to self-injure, you can start developing healthier alternatives.

Get in touch with your feelings

If you’re having a hard time pinpointing the feelings that trigger your urge to cut, you may need to work on your emotional awareness. Emotional awareness means knowing what you are feeling and why. It’s the ability to identify and express what you are feeling from moment to moment and to understand the connection between your feelings and your actions.
The idea of paying attention to your feelings—rather than numbing them or releasing them through self-harm—may sound frightening to you. You may be afraid that you’ll get overwhelmed or be stuck with the pain. But the truth is that emotions quickly come and go if you let them. If you don’t try to fight, judge, or beat yourself up over the feeling, you’ll find that it soon fades, replaced by another emotion. It’s only when you obsess over the feeling that it persists.

Help for cutting and self-harm step 3: Find new coping techniques

Self-harm is your way of dealing with feelings and difficult situations. So if you’re going to stop, you need to have alternative ways of coping in place so you can respond differently when you start to feel like cutting or hurting yourself.

If you cut to express pain and intense emotions

  • Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint
  • Express your feelings in a journal
  • Compose a poem or song to say what you feel
  • Write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up
  • Listen to music that expresses what you’re feeling

If you cut to calm and soothe yourself

  • Take a bath or hot shower
  • Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat
  • Wrap yourself in a warm blanket
  • Massage your neck, hands, and feet
  • Listen to calming music

If you cut because you feel disconnected and numb

  • Call a friend (you don’t have to talk about self-harm)
  • Take a cold shower
  • Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg
  • Chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel.
  • Go online to a self-help website, chat room, or message board

If you cut to release tension or vent anger

  • Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag
  • Punch a cushion or mattress or scream into your pillow
  • Squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay
  • Rip something up (sheets of paper, a magazine)
  • Make some noise (play an instrument, bang on pots and pans)

Substitutes for the cutting sensation

  • Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut
  • Rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut
  • Put rubber bands on wrists, arms, or legs and snap them instead of cutting or hitting
Source: The Mental Health Foundation, UK

Professional treatment for cutting and self-harm

You may also need the help and support of a trained professional as you work to overcome the self-harm habit, so consider talking to a therapist. A therapist can help you develop new coping techniques and strategies to stop self-harming, while also helping you get to the root of why you cut or hurt yourself.
Remember, self-harm doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s an outward expression of inner pain—pain that often has its roots in early life. There is often a connection between self-harm and childhood trauma.
Self-harm may be your way of coping with feelings related to past abuse, flashbacks, negative feelings about your body, or other traumatic memories. This may be the case even if you’re not consciously aware of the connection.

Finding the right therapist

Finding the right therapist may take some time. It’s very important that the therapist you choose has experience treating both trauma and self-injury. But the quality of the relationship with your therapist is equally important. Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel safe, respected, or understood, find another therapist.
There should be a sense of trust and warmth between you and your therapist. This therapist should be someone who accepts self-harm without condoning it, and who is willing to help you work toward stopping it at your own pace. You should feel at ease with him or her, even while talking through your most personal issues.

Helping a friend or family member who cuts or self-harms

Perhaps you’ve noticed suspicious injuries on someone close to you, or that person has confided to you that he or she is cutting. Whatever the case may be, you may be feeling unsure of yourself. What should you say? How can you help?
  • Deal with your own feelings. You may feel shocked, confused, or even disgusted by self-harming behaviors—and guilty about admitting these feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is an important first step toward helping your loved one.
  • Learn about the problem. The best way to overcome any discomfort or distaste you feel about self-harm is by learning about it. Understanding why your friend or family member is self-injuring can help you see the world from his or her eyes.
  • Don’t judge. Avoid judgmental comments and criticism—they’ll only make things worse. The first two tips will go a long way in helping you with this. Remember, the self-harming person already feels ashamed and alone.
  • Offer support, not ultimatums. It’s only natural to want to help, but threats, punishments, and ultimatums are counterproductive. Express your concern and let the person know that you’re available whenever he or she wants to talk or needs support.
  • Encourage communication. Encourage your loved one to express whatever he or she is feeling, even if it’s something you might be uncomfortable with. If the person hasn’t told you about the self-harm, bring up the subject in a caring, non-confrontational way: “I’ve noticed injuries on your body, and I want to understand what you’re going through.”
If the self-harmer is a family member, especially if it is your child, prepare yourself to address difficulties in the family. This is not about blame, but rather about learning ways of dealing with problems and communicating better that can help the whole family.