Exploring and understanding Anxiety

This week’s subject of focus will be mental illness – specifically the types of mental illness. We will be exploring several of them in depth; however, the first we will be covering is anxiety.

As with all things, we need to define what it is in order to be able to understand it. According to Webster, anxiety is “an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (such as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it”.  This definition in itself is a good explanation of what anxiety is, but it doesn’t explain why people become anxious.

Anxiety is always triggered by a certain stress in an individual’s life. Like all stress, if not dealt with, it can compound upon itself in the subconscious, manifesting into anxiety over time if not recognized and dealt with. When a stress manifests into anxiety, it is an experience quite unlike any other. The symptoms for each individual may vary, and they can be very debilitating. The most common symptoms are: feeling of impending doom/general uneasiness, sleeping issues, heart palpitations, muscle spasms/tension, cold/sweaty extremities and potentially dizziness. Other symptoms may include: feelings of going insane/losing your mind, derealisation (feeling detachment from reality/self or a continued perception of reality being “unreal”), suicidal ideation/tendencies, etc. As one can imagine, these symptoms can be quite terrifying. Usually when an individual experiences anxiety, they are unable to properly communicate their thoughts – they are so focused on the particular anxiety that they’re unable to focus on anything else. The key to combating anxiety is to manage stress efficiently so that it is unable to manifest into something that one cannot cope with.

To help manage anxiety, an individual should be aware of what is stressing them and why. As with all thoughts, anxious thoughts begin with an external stimulus. Being aware of what and why a thought is stressing you allows you to deal with it before it can manifest into something unmanageable. It should be noted that anxiety is never a flaw or personal weakness – it is merely a thought that has lingered too long in the subconscious. In addition to external stimuli inducing anxiety, drugs like alcohol, caffeine, marijuana or cocaine may also exacerbate certain anxious thoughts, bringing them from a dormant to active stage, or amplifying the intensity of a currently active anxiety. This is not to say that all anxiety is bad. Anxiety can help an individual out in dangerous situations, giving adrenaline for intense focus (think near-hit collision while driving).

If one feels like they are suffering from anxiety and unable to cope, awareness is not an immediate cure, but definitely a step in the right direction – please seek help from a medical professional. Medication and other methods have been proven to help treat anxiety. Awareness, although not a cure to anxiety, is a great tool in managing and preventing it. Practicing awareness isn’t a skill one masters over night – it may take months or even years for an individual to effectively utilize.

The science of awkwardness

This week’s final video will be from one of my favorite channels, a YouTuber who calls himself Vsauce. The video delves into understanding awkwardness and it’s relationship to society.

I thank all of those who have followed, liked and read this blog so far. If you have any comments or suggestions, feel free to leave them below.

Have a wonderful weekend and see you all next week.

Exploring the effects of stress on the mind

Today, we will be exploring what stress is and how to identify what is causing stress.

As with all things, to understand it fully, we must be able to define it in a way we can comprehend. Oxford defines stress as “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. By that definition, stress can be anything from an individual’s friend lying to them, leading the individual to doubt the friendship, to the death of a loved one, triggering a strong emotional response in the individual, causing mental anguish in the form of grief. These types of stress are fairly easy to notice because they are potentially major life events.

Stress such as the death of a loved one takes time to get over – the process of grieving cannot be done in a day. It is a unique process that one should experience fully. It allows an individual to fully understand what their connection was with the individual who has passed, allowing one to see the true beauty of the human experience. It gives an individual insight about life, allowing them to fully appreciate how beautiful a relationship between another individual can be, but inversely, it opens one’s eyes to how potentially short life can be.

Given that grieving should be experienced, even though it may feel negative initially, we can then insinuate that there are positive stressors.  These are called “Eustressors”, which can be anything from starting a new job/receiving a promotion to having a child. These types of stress motivate an individual to do well. Negative stressors have the opposite impact. These are called “Distressors”, and there are many more distressors than there are eustressors. Distress can be harmful if left rampant, leading to the torment of an individual.

When an individual is stressed, their emotions are being manipulated by the stressor, quite similar to the state of mind of an individual who is angry. It forces the individual to focus on the stress until there is either a temporary solution, or until the compounding stress of the stressor becomes too much for the individual to cope with. When distress is ignored, it begins to manifest into larger issues over time – namely an individual can become very anxious, depressed or even potentially experience panic attacks. This isn’t all that stress is capable of doing if not dealt with. There are many physical symptoms that may manifest as a result of stress, such as experiencing chest pain randomly, sudden loss in sex drive, loss of appetite, etc. Identifying stress before it manifests into something unmanageable is crucial for an individual’s well-being. With a stress being identified, an individual can maintain equilibrium between eustress and distress.

Keeping with the trend from the previous day’s post, I’m going to show a video pertaining to the subject at hand. This video is from BBC’s YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Exploring context by metaphor

In today’s post, we’re going to explore what a metaphor is, and how they are used to pass on an abstract idea or concept to an individual by reference.

In order to first understand what a metaphor is, we have to define it. According to Dictionary.com, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance, for example: he is a lion in battle.” Let’s break that down. Metaphors allow an individual to pass on an idea or concept through language via contextual reference. You’re contextually representing an idea or concept and relaying it to the individual listening/reading, allowing them to reference it in their own unique way based upon their understanding. Therefore, if we have the metaphor “he is a lion in battle”, it could mean a myriad of things, depending on how the individual perceives in. It is a contextual reference to a concept. The individual is not literally a lion in battle. The metaphor is comparing the individual’s combat style to that of a lion in battle. That could mean that the person is very aggressive in combat, or it could mean that they fight until there is nothing left in them to fight. Metaphors are very unique in this way. They live through language, allowing them to be temporal, giving individuals a contextual reference to a concept or idea. Understanding what a metaphor is representing allows a metaphor to refer to but not teach a concept or idea. It allows the individual to think about what is being represented in a way that is relative to them.

There are different ways that metaphors can function. Metaphors can work with music, giving a listener contextual empathy – a sad sounding song will infer that the mood or theme is solemn, or sorrowful, but the slightest change in a succeeding note can completely change that empathetic response. Music is very powerful in this regard – not only can we add lyrics to accompany the inferred empathy associated with a certain musical arrangement; we can amplify that empathy by adding metaphor through lyrics. Adding metaphors via lyrics gives a song a human contextual reference, allowing the song to resonate personally within an individual.

One of the most prominent ways we are taught metaphors growing up is through poetry. Poetry is rich with literary device manipulation: alliteration, similes, hyperboles, etc. The one that seems to be lost upon most individuals while growing up is metaphors. In order to fully appreciate what a metaphor is referencing, one must have experienced something akin to what is being referenced. Let’s take apart a simple metaphor: “He drowned in a sea of grief”. At a first glance, without relating anything, it would appear that this man had drowned in a “sea of grief”. Well, that is impossible. Nobody can drown in a sea of something that is “invisible”. Let’s put a human element to it. What is grief? Grief is, according to Dictionary.com, “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret”. So this wonderful metaphor, “sea of grief”, is stating that this man was wrought with sorrow, a much more elegant way of relating to an individual that “this man was really sad”. Using metaphor in this way allows individuals to relate on a personal level. When they understand what a metaphor is inferring, they can successful understand what an individual is relating, making the metaphor more meaningful to the reader. It allows the reader to experience the contextual reference in their own, unique way.

Akin to yesterday, I will be ending here with another video. This video is from the TED-Education channel, and is a great explanation of metaphors:

What are intrusive thoughts?

Today we’re going to expand upon from where we left off last post: intrusive thoughts.

According to Wikipedia, an intrusive thought can be defined as “an unwelcome involuntary thought, image, or unpleasant idea that may become an obsession, is upsetting or distressing, and can feel difficult to manage or eliminate. When such thoughts are associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and sometimes attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the thoughts may become paralyzing, anxiety-provoking, or persistent”. First and foremost – everyone experiences intrusive thoughts at one point in their lives. Intrusive thoughts can be very mild in nature, something one wouldn’t really be alarmed by, like walking on a path and having a sudden idea to kick a rock on the sidewalk, or they can be quite aggressive.

Aggressive intrusive thoughts can be quite intense. For example, a man is laying in his bed with his wife and has a sudden thought: “I could put my arms around her neck and end her life right now”. These intrusive thoughts can be absolutely terrifying for an individual who has never before analyzed what their thoughts mean, or why they are having them (see: what are active and passive thoughts). Recognizing what intrusive thoughts are can help bring awareness to individuals and help remedy the problem early on, rather than let them suffer in silence.

As with all thoughts, intrusive thoughts begin at the passive thought level: a piece of information projected on to an individual from an external stimulus. Where they become unique is in the subconscious. Intrusive thoughts are particularly alarming because they are thoughts that essentially expose a person’s emotional weaknesses. They then manifest in one’s subconscious until a particular stimulus triggers the thoughts to become active. As with all thoughts, intrusive thoughts, if caught early, can be manipulated by individuals who are well versed in active thinking.

We’re going to end today’s post with a video I’ve seen recently from a channel I enjoy called “CGP Grey”. This video is a great representation of how thoughts spread:

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, comments or otherwise, please feel free to leave them below.