Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stress. Show all posts

August 23, 2023

Murders in Milwaukee vs. Murders In The Building: What I'll Be Watching Tonight


By Hal Brown, MSW, Retired psychotherapist and mental health center director

If you know me through this blog or know me personally you know I am passionate about politics. Even as I type this I have "Morning Joe" on TV and I've already reviewed the breaking poltical news on Raw Story, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

I am also very much aware that it is vitally important for my own, and everyone's, mental health to maintain a balance in life and monitor one's stress level and assure you aren't debilitated by worrying about politics.

All of my friends and aquaintances are mostly very liberal Democrats with a few who are old fashioned Republicans who are appalled at what the GOP has become since MAGA became it's mantra. Among them I know people who find that they have to asiduously ignore poltical news about the threat of autocracy should Trump or another authoritarian becomes president.

When I'm with the latter group I know not to broach the subject of politics. Some of them have even told me that they don't want me to talk about it when I am in their company.

I understand this. Everyone does well to understand what level of worry they can handle. I've been told by a few people that even thinking about politics raises their blood pressure. Some of them know. They've checked.

One of the things I hear is the "why worry about something I can't do anything about" question. I'm not about to lecture anybody about finding something to do, whether it's volunteering in a campaign or donating money to a candidate or cause. What I've said is that if you find yourself stressed out about politics is that it often helps to talk about the subject with like-minded friends. 

For me in addition to talking about politics I write about it in my blog and comments to articles.* I talk about it to a those friends who share my interest.  This is stress relief for me. I know sharing my opinions has a minimal impact in the greater scheme of things, but at least I feel I am doing something.

It seems like a no-brainer, and there's even a book Stress Management for Dummies, but a good way to handle stress is to make a list, mental or actually written, of the things you do that provide you the most enjoyment. Then add to the list things that you've considered doing but for whatever reasons haven't done. 

You can divide fun into passive and active fun if this makes sense to you. You can list the things that you enjoy doing in your home and things you have to leave your abode to do. You can rate them by the effort it takes to engage in an activity. Ask yourself if making an extra effort might be worth it.

This is part of dealing with worry stress by compartmentalizing.  This is what I try to do. It's isn't always easy and I know will become exceedingly difficult, but will really be necessary if Trump or another of his ilk get elected president.

I was a Boy Scout and am familiar with their motto:

The Girl Scouts have the same motto:
Be Prepared
These are good words to try to live by.

Here's what my partner and I be doing tonight if you haven't already figured this out. We are into the second season of "Only Murders In The Building" and would rather see how Charles, Oliver, and Mabel figure out whodunnit and how and why they dunnit than watch eight bloviating Republicans only one of whom is entertaining (Chris Christi of course).

Read reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.


* The subscrption New York Times and Washington Post as well as HUFFPOST and Raw Story have active comment sections. HUFFPOST allows you to add images to comments as does Raw Story which use Disquis (as does this blog) which allows one to insert images.

For example this is my comment to the Raw Story article 

Busted: Internal emails show Secret Service agent was in contact with Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes

Click above to enlarge

January 28, 2023

Desperate for uplifting news, look for advances in medicine. Here's one about treating depression.

 Desperate for uplifting news, look for advances in medicine. Here's one about treating depression
By Hal Brown, MSW,
retired psychotherapist and mental health center director

The photo used in the article had a stone wall as a background. I changed it for an illustration used in another article for this blog.

Most, perhaps all, of the readers of my political stories, have to cope with varying levels of anxiety and depression over the future of our country. I don't have to spell out what we are afraid of. 

One article in the website tells us what we already know:

When Chronic Stress Activates These Neurons, Behavioral Problems Like Loss of Pleasure and Depression Result

To use a non-scientific word, this is a bummer.

When there's another revelation that makes you want to scream in outrage or hide your head under a blanket, for just one example, this story from yesterday's HUFFPOST:

Right-Wing Media, Top Republican Team Up To Push Racist Conspiracy Theory About Ex-Biden Aide, if you look for them you will find inspiring news that has nothing to do with politics.

I've been writing about the pleasure in the misfortune of other, or schadenfreude, I feel when MAGA's like Trump, Taylor Greene, Devolder-Santos, and hapless Kevin McCarthy who has to sleep on the spiky mattress bed he's made for himself, and find they've stepped in either a bear-trap or a pile of shit.

There is perverse pleasure in following the misfortune of these despicable characters. The German word for this experience is schadenfreude. I've used this word in two recent blogs: More Schadenfreude: John Bolton, Trump, and DeSantis for President and  Santos leads the GOP in eliciting Schadenfreude, no doubt more to come.

There's all kinds of good news in addition to political news eliciting a feeling of schadenfreude. I follow news about advances in other kinds of science besides medicine. Our knowledge of psychics and the cosmos is increasing at a furious rate but while this often fascinates it doesn't directly effect my life or the lives of the people I care about.

It is what we are learning about medicine that affects each of us most directly. We all know about the advances which hopefully be coming within a year for developing better vaccines and treatments to fight against Covid, a disease those lucky enough not have had it know any day we could have a symptom that prompts us to take the test and discover we have been infected. 

Those of us who follow medical news closely know advances are being made treating or slowing the progress of demential and Alzheimer's. There are early promising clinical trials being started for cancer treatments.

The ailment that is the most closely related to politics is depression, often associated with anxiety. 

If someone already has clinical depression they could be living in the glory days of the Obama administration or JFK's Camelot and they'd still be depressed.
For someone who already struggles with depression dealing with the news about what the GOP is hellbent of turning the government and the country into causes anxiety. Anxiety is always stressful. It leads to worry and worry easily worsens existing clinical depression and for those not already clinically depressed it can be the cause of clinical depression.

There are a number of old treatments for depression that have proved effective including a number of anti-depressant medications, newer medications, and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. A treatment that has gained in popularity since it was introduced in 2008 is Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Studies show that almost 15 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from severe depression. I don't have numbers for how many suffer from mild to moderate depression but even periods of mild depression can lead to a drastic change in how someone experiences their life.

Consider the dates on the following chart and note that happened in 2016 when Trump was elected:

Now for the good news that led me to write this.
You can say this isn't breaking news in that it comes from October, 2022. However, it is really new news because I haven't seen it reported in the mainstream media. It tells us that a promising avenue of research has been opened. It is also new news if it is new to you.

A Drug That Increases Dopamine Can Reverse the Effects of Inflammation on the Brain in Depression - Neuroscience News

The drug being studied for depression in Levodopa, often called L-DOPA. To say it has been around for a long time is an understatement. If you saw the Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro movie "Awakenings" (based on a 1970 book with the same name by Oliver Sacks) this was the drug used to "awaken" the patient played by DeNiro.

The drug was first studied in the 1950's. Two Nobel Prizes were awarded to the scientists who developed it. (Read more on Wiki)

There are lots of ways to deal with our anxiety and depression and the tole it takes on our quality of life. Recognizing that there is help available and not feeling stigma if you consider seeking it is certainly crucial. Since you're reading this blog you're not likely to be a macho MAGA asswipe who calls liberals who get counseling and therapy snowflakes

If liberals are snowflakes, or overly sensitive, the MAGA's who call them that are insensitive bullies throwing iceballs with rocks in them. (I remember one snowball fight at the school playground where some kids who thought they were tough guys put rocks in their snowballs.)

Dear fellow snowflakes, please be proud that you have feelings and empathy and all the other traits that make you a decent person. Take care of yourself. And when things are really looking dismal - whether from the world of politics to mass shootings to police violence, do what works for you to lessen your stress.

If taking a time out from the news words, do that. Take time to appreciate your family, nature, and indulge yourself in uplifting streaming video like one of our favorites, the Canadian series Heartland. Try something new that you've been putting off doing like joining a yoga group or exercising more. I'm lucky enough to have a pool where I live so I am trying to get into a swimming routine.

Try to remember that there are talented dedicated people, heroes really, who are working their damnedest to help us make our lives better. Those who come to mind most frequently make the news. 

While a few scientists like Dr. Fauci make the news there are countless researchers like those referenced in the article about L-DOPA who also are working tirelessly to benefit not only us, but humanity.

You can following breaking news in various areas in medicine by subscribing to or looking at Neuroscience News, Medscape, Psychiatric Times, and PLOS.

Some of these articles have technical titles like

Functional connectivity in reward circuitry and symptoms of anhedonia as therapeutic targets in depression with high inflammation: evidence from a dopamine challenge study. This may account for the reason that the mainstream media doesn't report on them. They may include terms like anhedonia which basically means reduced motivation, reduced anticipatory pleasure (wanting), reduced consummatory pleasure (liking).  This includes eating, touching a loved one, and engaging in sexual interactions. It happens to be the name of a movie.

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