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A Guide to Winter Beauty and Self-Care

With winter comes the holiday season, snow, frigid temperatures, and less daylight. To battle the cold winter months, many of us reach for an extra layer or two to keep warm, while also cranking the thermostat up. However, studies show that seasonal shifts, and what we do to combat them, can affect our skin, emotions, sleep cycles, and more. In this blog, we’ll cover how winter can change your skin and mental health, along with tips to help you lean into self-care given these changes.

Winter and Your Skin

Your skin loves consistency, so when the weather changes, it’s basically like a shock to the system. “Rapid fluctuations in weather can take its toll on our skin as it adjusts to the new environment,” explains dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. “For example, as we shift to winter, temperatures and humidity will drop quickly, so the skin will have to work harder to maintain adequate hydration as cold weather and wind start to kick in.”1

Zeichner also says, “This can lead to cracks in the outer skin layer, loss of hydration, and inflammation — all of which can seriously impact the overall state of your skin health. These symptoms commonly occur due to the skin barrier becoming disturbed during the winter months, which may make your skin more susceptible to irritation and inflammation.”2

Shari Marchbein, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, mentions that, “It’s the sudden switch in weather, coupled with subsequent lifestyle changes people make as it gets cooler, such as taking hot showers and using central heat in homes, that contributes to the aforementioned dryness and inflammation associated with this transitional period.”3

Winter and Your Well-Being

Considering that there’s less daylight during winter, your circadian rhythm may be affected. Your circadian rhythm moderates your sleep and is affected by light. “Typically, it’s easier for people to ‘fall back’ than ‘spring forward’ as we gain an extra hour of sleep. However, that doesn’t mean that the end of daylight savings time is harmless. It can take a week or more for the body to adjust,” says Dr. Camelia Musleh, a neurologist at Sleep Medicine.4

Winter can also cause a sense of dread for many, which could be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). “Almost a fourth of the population deals with an increase in depression during the colder and darker months,” mentions Dr. Matt VanDusen, a clinical director for Delphi Behavioral Health Group. He notes that SAD has been linked to decreases in exposure to natural light and lower levels of vitamin D due to shorter days.5

SAD is commonly characterized by recurrent episodes of depression that mostly occur during the fall and winter months. A few documented symptoms of SAD may include oversleeping, daytime fatigue, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating.6 It’s recommended that people who experience SAD talk with their healthcare provider to figure out their next steps.

SAD Information

Pictured: Symptoms and causes of SAD    Source: Priory

Tips to Keep You Looking and Feeling Your Best During Winter

The winter months can be tough on both your skin and mental health. Cold temperatures and low humidity levels result in dry air that draws moisture away from the skin, while harsh winter winds and dry indoor heat can lead to cracked and even bleeding skin. Disruptions in your circadian rhythm and symptoms of SAD can make the cold months even more complicated. Here are some tips to keep you looking and feeling your best during winter:

Avoid Hot Showers

A nice steamy shower in cold temperatures sounds like a great idea on the surface, but it can come at a cost. “Taking a long, hot shower can dry out our skin and lead to itchiness,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist. “Try to limit your shower time to five to seven minutes and keep the temperature below 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything higher can strip the skin of its essential moisture and deplete the natural protective barrier of your skin.”7

Product Spotlight: ATTITUDE Natural Moisturizing Body Wash

Attitude Natural Moisturizing Body WashCrafted with the power of plants, the ATTITUDE Natural Moisturizing Body Wash bears the EWG Verified mark for the safest ingredients. It’s formulated with orange leaves that are known to restore the skin and give it a luminous glow, as well as moringa seed extract to help decrease the adhesion of pollutants. It’s the perfect moisturizing shower gel to keep your skin nourished all throughout winter.

You can shop the ATTITUDE Natural Moisturizing Body Wash here.

SPF Is Your BFF (Even In the Winter)

While you likely associate the sun’s damaging rays with summer, the sun comes out even when it’s winter. Beyond that, the sun can also damage your skin when it’s snowing. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s UV light, meaning that those rays have the potential for double the damage.8

Product Spotlight: Biossance Broad-Spectrum SPF 30

Biossance Broad-Spectrum SPF 30The Biossance Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 is an EWG Verified nontoxic zinc mineral sunscreen that provides invisible, broad-spectrum coverage. Zinc oxide protects the skin’s outer barrier to reflect damaging UVA/UVB rays, while squalane provides deep and fast-absorbing moisture.

To shop the Biossance Broad-Spectrum SPF 30, click here

Add Moisturizing and Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Products to Your Routine

Cooler temperatures can zap the moisture right out of your skin, but eye creams and facial oils are a fantastic remedy to this common cold weather issue. The delicate area under your eyes can suffer during this time of year. Since this area doesn’t contain oil glands, we need eye creams, which are made with vitamins, peptides, and other rescuers; these all help penetrate this thin layer, hydrating and soothing the skin underneath.

Facial oils are a huge help during the colder months, too. “Hydration is really a function of water balance; oils help hold water in and prevent the environment from stripping water out,” Tyler Hollmig, a dermatologist at Stanford Health Care, says. “Oils have also been shown to exhibit significant anti-inflammatory properties which help to soothe irritated skin during winter.”9

Product Spotlight: Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil and Eye Cream

Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil and Eye CreamThe Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil and Eye Cream are EWG Verified powerful skin treatments fusing clean plant nutrients rich in antioxidant, adaptogenic, rejuvenating, and moisturizing properties. They both feature the ultra-moisturizing ingredient squalane, which has been proven to help with inflammation, along with many other natural ingredients that can offer your skin exceptional benefits. The Herban Wisdom Facial Oil and Eye Cream are perfect for your skin all year round. Plus, they make wonderful gifts!

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom® Facial Oil and Eye Cream here

Get Plenty of Rest

While you can’t crawl into a den and hibernate the winter away like a bear, it’s vitally important to get plenty of rest to keep you feeling rejuvenated during the winter months, and it’ll help keep your circadian rhythm in check. Sleep is also the best way to repair and reset the mind.10 You can learn more about better sleep hygiene here.

Product Spotlight: BetterYou Natural Sleep Spray

BetterYou Sleep SprayThe EWG Verified BetterYou Natural Sleep Spray is a mixture of transdermal magnesium with blended essential oils. It commences absorption immediately when massaged into the skin, helping to promote an overall feeling of well-being and natural relaxation.

You can shop the BetterYou Natural Sleep Spray here

Try Aromatherapy

If you’re dealing with symptoms of SAD or having trouble sleeping, aromatherapy may help. Essential oils can influence the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite. You can also combine aromatherapy with other complementary therapies, such as massage and meditation, for extra relaxation and a feeling of serenity.11 

Product Spotlight: Laguna Moon Lavender Essential Oil

Laguna Moon Lavender Essential OilResearch in recent years has found that lavender essential oil can help lower blood pressure and ease anxiety, while also regulating hormones to reduce mood swings, sadness, and depression. Laguna Moon’s Lavender Essential Oil is 100% pure and ideal for calming aromatherapy blends, diffusers, and so much more.

You can shop the Laguna Moon Lavender Essential Oil here

In Conclusion

With colder weather comes changes to your skin and mental health. Symptoms like eczema flare-ups and reddened skin are the tell-tale signs that your skin microbiome is being affected by the winter weather, while feeling anxious, depressed, and fatigued can mean that you may be suffering from SAD or a change in your circadian rhythm. If you’re having trouble with your skin and/or well-being during the winter months, it’s always recommended to try seeing a dermatologist or your local healthcare provider.

Do you have any winter self-care tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

References:

https://www.allure.com/story/how-seasons-weather-affect-skin [1][2][3]

https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/is-the-winter-weather-negatively-affecting-your-mood-and-sleep/ [4]

https://www.bustle.com/p/how-cold-weather-affects-your-brain-according-to-experts-19367014 [5]

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651 [6]

https://www.thehealthy.com/beauty/face-body-care/winter-shower-tips/  [7]

https://www.skincancer.org/press/winter-sun-safety/#:~:text=However%2C%20UVB%20rays%20can%20burn,skin%20cancer%20and%20premature%20aging.[8]

https://www.drwangskincare.com/blogs/news/3-reasons-to-start-using-facial-oils-in-the-fall-winter#:~:text=They’re%20Hydrating&text=Oils%20are%20a%20great%20remedy,skin%20looking%20nice%20and%20hydrated. [9]

https://www.thegoodnightco.com.au/blogs/the-journal/why-a-winter-sleep-routine-is-important [10]

https://www.northshore.org/healthy-you/is-the-winter-weather-negatively-affecting-your-mood-and-sleep/ [11]

What It Means to Be Manly Today

What does it really mean to be “manly”? According to the stereotype, a real man is “unemotional, strong, and stoic;” he’s a protector that doesn’t ask for help and never shows vulnerability. A “real man” wears clothes designated to him by gender norms, and his hairstyle matches the role placed on him, as well. However, research proves that these traditional expectations of masculinity can have harmful consequences on men. In this blog, we will explore the role of masculinity throughout history, its effects on mental health, and how ‘toxic masculinity’ is being dismantled in modern culture.

Changing Gender Roles in History

Ideals of masculinity have changed dramatically over time. As men have adapted to changing conditions, fashions, and shifting views about sexuality, the boundaries of manhood have also changed. It might be argued that men have long competed with themselves, encouraged to measure their behavior against that of a perfect model of masculinity.

Here’s a brief exploration of male gender roles throughout history:

Ancient Egypt

Egyptians Wearing Shentis

Pictured: Ancient Egyptian men wearing shentis, which are similar to skirts    Source: Fashion History

In Egypt, gender roles were fluid in terms of fashion, self-care, and makeup. Egyptian men often wore knee-length shirts, loincloths, or kilts made of linen. Both sexes also wore eye make-up, most often outlining their lids with a line of black kohl.1

Ancient Egyptian men had certain privileges similar to most traditional societies. However, there was not a huge disparity between the status of Egyptian men and Egyptian women. Both the men and women worked and earned wages regardless of their sex.2

Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman Men Wearing More Feminine Clothing

Pictured: Ancient Roman men wearing tunicas     Source: Pinterest

Fast-forward to the 1st century AD when Roman men were known to apply red pigment to their cheeks and paint their nails using an elixir of pig fat and blood. The basic garment for both genders was the tunica, with pants not being popular as they were considered impractical.3

Unlike Ancient Egypt, though, the social infrastructure of Ancient Rome allowed for men and women to be different socially, politically, and physically. Roman men were the most important in the household. They had more rights, more education, and more opportunities for outside jobs.4 

The Middle Ages

Men in the Middle Ages Wearing Tights

Pictured: Men in the Middle Ages wearing stocking undergarments with short hemlines   Source: Pinterest

In the Middle Ages, both men and women continued to wear very similar clothing. Male attire during this time was dominated by short hemlines paired with stockings worn as outer leg wear. Cosmetics were also still worn by men to stave off the appearance of old age.5

Men in the Middle Ages were known to be active, martial, and violent, and were considered the breadwinners and the most important people in the family unit. Women endeavored to please the men around them and were often subservient to their needs.6

The Victorian Era

Men in the Victorian Era wearing jackets and trousers

Pictured: Victorian men wearing jackets and trousers    Source: Vintage Fashions 

In the Victorian era, the clothing divide between genders really took off. Men commonly wore waistcoats, vests, and trousers, while women donned corsets and gowns. Makeup was also frowned upon for both genders as Queen Victoria associated makeup with the devil and declared it a horrible invention.7

The Victorians saw manliness as good, a form of control over maleness, which was brutish. Work was crucial to achieving this ideal masculine status, along with being spiritual and a faithful believer. As the head of the household, the ideal Victorian man was not only to rule but also to protect his wife and children.8

The 1960s to the 1990s

Freddie Mercury

Pictured: Freddie Mercury’s eccentric outfits    Source: Glam Rock

Celebrity culture and the media were incredibly influential in defying Western gender norms when it came to fashion throughout the 1960s to the 1990s. Freddie Mercury, for example, charmed the crown with his various eccentric on-stage costumes, while David Bowie confidently showed up in head-turning androgynous wear for red carpet and casual events.9

However, in the 1960s, men were still expected to be providers, fully engaged in the rat race while remaining upstanding citizens, fathers, and husbands. While women did work, men were still known to be the head of the household well into the 1990s.10

Today

Men in Gender Fluid Fashion

Pictured: Gender fluid fashion is on the rise    Source: Twitter

In the past decade, fashion brands have increasingly produced gender-fluid collections to meet consumer demand. In fact, in 2019, 56% of Gen Z consumers shopped “outside their assigned gendered area.”11 In addition, many of the most popular online makeup artists are male, such as Manny Mua and Bretman Rock.

Today, perhaps more than ever, a man can be whomever he wants to be. He has the choice to become more than a caricature of what a man is “supposed” to be. We are also seeing men take on roles that were once designated solely for women. For example, the US now has its first-ever Second Gentleman in Douglas Emhoff.

But while we’ve come a long way in dismantling gender norms, the perils of the age-old gender roles still have a firm grasp on many modern men.

The Pressures of Being Manly Today

As well as being PRIDE month, June marks Men’s Mental Health Awareness month, a time to bring representation to the issues that men face in terms of their emotional and mental wellbeing. According to a 2015 survey, around 10% of men in the United States navigate depression, but less than half have sought out treatment or support.12 This may be due to the ingrained idea that having feelings or symptoms of mental health conditions and asking for support is less masculine.

James Rodriguez, LCSW and Director of Trauma-Informed Services at the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, says, “It’s difficult for some of my male clients to just relax, breathe, and be calm. Traditional masculinity can lead to bottling things up. Some even directly express the belief that they cannot let their guard down for fear of losing their edge.” 

Many therapists are combating this view, encouraging men and masculine folks to center their mental health. For example, James Harris, LCSW and founder of the movement “Men to Heal,” tries to break down the stigma surrounding mental health through clinical work in his book, Man, Just Express Yourself: An Interactive Planner Guide for MEN, Young and Old.

Still, mental health professionals and advocates stress that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and that every person comes with a different set of experiences and backgrounds.

“When we talk about traditional masculinity or harmful masculinity, it’s important to do so without stereotyping men. We must recognize that masculine identity intersects with race, class, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, and a host of other identities that vary by each individual,” says Rodriguez.

Because of this, it can be useful for intentional conversations around healthy masculinity to be culturally competent and specific. One prominent example is Jayson K. Jones, social worker and assistant director of the McSilver Institute’s Clinical Education and Innovation Department at NYU.

Jones founded and hosts a podcast called Black Boys & Men: Changing the Narrative, in which he discusses with others the copious stereotypes and expectations placed on Black boys and men, including those around masculinity. 

Like Jones, advocates often highlight the importance of reaching young men and helping them redefine what masculinity means.

“With young men, in particular, traditional masculine ideology may lead them to engage in riskier health behaviors, such as alcohol or drug misuse, driving at high speeds, or engaging in violence,” says Rodriguez. “It can also result in eating poorly, avoiding doctors, or otherwise not attending to their own health needs or seeking help when something is wrong.”

Brands Challenging Perceptions of Masculinity

Major brands have launched campaigns reflecting the nuanced uniqueness, sensitivities, and vulnerabilities of ‘the everyman’. Here are examples of male brand campaigns that have challenged previous perceptions of masculinity:

Schick’s “Be You. No One Else Can.” Campaign

Schick Be You No One Else Can Campaign

Pictured: Schick’s “Be You. No One Else Can.” Campaign   Source: Forbes

Schick launched the “Be You. No One Else Can.,” campaign to combat the fact that research showed that 2 out of 3 men felt pressure to “act like a man” and don’t believe the media shows an accurate depiction of men.  Schick is implementing the campaign as part of a major rebrand, which focuses on men’s individuality and self-expression.

Schick commissioned a study showing that 8 in 10 men don’t want brands telling them how to be an individual, while 85% report that they prefer to see real, ordinary men in ads. Moreover, Schick’s new positioning is informed by its finding that 81% of men would prefer brands to celebrate them for who they are instead of asking them to change.

You can check out the campaign here

Dove Men + Care’s “#DearFutureDads” Campaign

Dove Men + Care’s “#DearFutureDads” Campaign

Pictured: Dove Men + Care’s “#DearFutureDads” Campaign    Source: Ethical Marketing News

Dove Men + Care launched a campaign called “#DearFutureDads” that frames modern masculinity by the way men care. Within the campaign, Dove Men + Care championed paternity leave for all dads. 

Societal stigmas around taking leave, fear of repercussions at work, and lack of paid leave often prevent many dads from staying at home. This campaign sought to change the conversation and demonstrate how paternity leave is important for all: children, men, women, families, and society.

The campaign also encourages dads to visit the brand’s website for information and resources for those considering taking paternity leave, which can be found here.

You can check out the campaign here.

Philips “Makes Life Better” Campaign

Phillips Makes Life Better Campaign

Pictured: Philips “Makes Life Better” Campaign   Source: Ogilvy

Targeting men in the male grooming category, the new Philips campaign, “Makes Life Better,” features the Mieskuoro Huutajat (“Shouting Men”) of Oulu, Finland in a performance of orchestrated shouting (in Finnish with English subtitles). 

The “Makes Life Better” campaign is unique as it creates a contrasting image between the seemingly aggressive act of shouting and the calming, reassuring words that reveal a multi-dimensional modern man. In a press release, Philips says the campaign is themed around making life better for men by creating an environment for them to be true to themselves.

You can check out the campaign here

Celebrities Flipping the Script on Masculinity

Though the healthy masculinity and gender fluid bandwagon has been slow to start, there are quite a few celebrities who are starting to get the ball rolling, such as:

Harry Styles

Harry Styles

Pictured: Harry Styles for Vogue    Source: Carbon Magazine

Harry Styles is all about breaking gender barriers when it comes to fashion; he loves to experiment with his look. In November 2020, Harry made fashion history when he fronted Vogue as the publication’s first solo male cover star, in a Gucci gown no less. Before that, he turned heads when he freed the nipple at the 2019 Met Gala. 

In an interview with L’Officiel, Harry said, “Many gender borders are falling – in fashion, but also in music, films, and art. We no longer need to be this or that; these parameters are no longer as strict as before, and it gives rise to great freedom. It’s stimulating.”

Jaden Smith

Jaden Smith

Pictured: Jaden Smith    Source: BUNow

Having grown up under the scrutiny of the public eye, Jaden Smith hasn’t been afraid to experiment with his identity or style, and when asked about his often gender fluid clothing preferences, Smith told GQ, “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it.”

Jaden utilizes his platform as a public figure to effect social change and deconstruct ideas of toxic masculinity so that, as he explained in an interview with Nylon Magazine, “In five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won’t get beat up and kids won’t get mad at him.” 

Terry Crews

Terry Crews

Pictured: Terry Crews    Source: Dame Magazine

Terry Crews has been a constant advocate for healthy masculinity, whether it’s as his current character Terry Jeffords on NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where he plays a sensitive, emotional police sergeant and father of two girls, or through his prominent presence in the #MeToo movement. He sets a great example for men, showing that it’s completely okay to be hard on the outside and soft on the inside.

Jonathan Van Ness

JVN

Pictured: Jonathan Van Ness    Source: Hears Tapps

Jonathan Van Ness, The Queer Eye breakout star, captured everyone’s hearts with his hilarious one-liners and that iconic mustache, but he’s also been on a public self-love journey. Along the way, he’s upped his fashion game by donning a plethora of gowns and skirts at industry red carpet events, such as this look, which he said was intended to “f**k a gender norm.” 

PRIDE and the Beauty of Fluidity 

Culture had previously been slow to change, but today, with our non-stop news cycle, social media feeds, and celebrations like PRIDE, minds are changing faster than ever before. PRIDE month, especially, has shown that masculinity is a spectrum that no one can characterize.

Today, we have the opportunity to consider individual differences and the growth we’ve shown in dismantling age-old definitions of masculinity and femininity. It’s more acceptable for men to feel unashamed when showing emotions and vulnerability; they can have pride in being themselves, including their own version of “manly.”

Gender roles aren’t set in stone and are as adaptable as culture; ever-changing and always progressing. While gender roles have always had a seat at history’s table, the time for a change is finally upon us. Your gender doesn’t define you; you do.

What are your thoughts on the evolution of gender roles, especially those relating to masculinity? Let us know in the comments.

 

References:

https://eharneyegypt.weebly.com/blog/gender-roles-of-men-and-women#:~:text=Ancient%20Egyptian%20men%20were%20seen,women%20were%20rarely%20involved%20in. [1][2]

https://www.legendsandchronicles.com/ancient-civilizations/ancient-rome/men-of-ancient-rome/ [3][4]

https://www.medievalgender.org.uk/masculinity-in-medieval-times/#:~:text=Men%20were%20considered%20the%20breadwinners,treated%20with%20respect%20and%20admiration. [5][6]

https://hair-and-makeup-artist.com/womens-victorian-makeup/#:~:text=The%20Queen%20had%20dignity%2C%20decorum,morals%20would%20wear%20obvious%20makeup. [7]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_masculinity [8]

https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/his1005fall2010/2010/12/07/popular-fashion-trends-through-the-decades-1960s-1980s/ [9][10]

https://www.nbcnews.com/select/shopping/gender-fluid-clothing-ncna1270831#:~:text=In%20the%20past%20decade%2C%20fashion,free%20fashion%E2%80%9D%20brand%20Phluid%20Project. [11]

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db206.htm [12]

All About Psychedelics

Psychedelics, also known as hallucinogens, are a group of substances that are commonly used to change and enhance sensory perceptions, thought processes, and energy levels, and to facilitate spiritual experiences. They include chemicals, such as LSD, and plants, such as peyote. The use of psychedelics goes back centuries in many cultures with some still being used today in religious ceremonies to experience spiritual or heightened states of awareness. In this blog, we’ll dive into what psychedelics are, how they work on the brain, and why the page is turning on using psychedelics for medical conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Types of Psychedelics

While psychedelics are loosely described under a general rubric, there are big differences between them. The following are some of the most commonly used psychedelic substances:

Acid (LSD)

LSD and Acid Sheets

Pictured: Acid and LSD sheets     Source: FRANK 

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a chemically synthesized hallucinogen, developed from ergot, a kind of mold that grows on the rye grain. Also known simply as acid, LSD was widely used in the 1960s until it was made illegal in 1968.1 The use of LSD has continued, despite being a controlled substance, although its use has gone through phases of greater or lesser popularity.

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT)

DMT

Pictured: DMT    Source: Elephantos

N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a simple and potent psychedelic molecule found in many plants, such as psychotria viridis (chacruna) and diplopterys cabrerana (chaliponga), as well as animals. While DMT is naturally produced in the human brain, researchers are still working to understand the purpose of the molecule.

DMT can cause intense perceptual, cognitive, and emotional changes.2 However, the effects of DMT are much shorter than those of other psychedelics, typically lasting only an hour. This has led to DMT trips being referred to as the “businessman’s trip” or “businessman’s lunch.”

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca

Pictured: Ayahuasca    Source: The Guardian

Ayahuasca is a brew of two plants, one of which contains DMT, while the ayahuasca vine contains harmala alkaloids or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Therefore, ayahuasca may be chemically reduced to DMT + MAOIs taken by mouth, while DMT is typically used via inhalation without MAOIs.3

Indigenous people in countries like Colombia and Peru have been using ayahuasca for hundreds of years as medicine and for religious worship. Compared to the intense and short-lived experience of pure DMT, an ayahuasca trip lasts for a few hours. 

Many Westerners seeking psychedelic medicine travel to countries such as Brazil or Peru where ayahuasca is legally available. In this setting, ritual experiences are often embedded within a longer retreat. For example, the tea is often consumed on multiple nights with healing and integration work done during the day.

Ketamine

Ketamine

Pictured: Ketamine    Source: Drug Target Review

Ketamine is a well-known medication that was originally used as an anesthetic during minor surgical procedures. Over time, ketamine has grown in popularity recreationally due to its sedative and muscle-relaxing properties. Ketamine is a dissociative substance, which means it acts on different chemicals in the brain to produce visual and auditory distortion and a detachment from reality.

Mescaline

Mescaline

Pictured: Peyote    Source: NZ Drug Foundation

Mescaline is a naturally occurring psychedelic substance found in certain species of cactus, the most well-known being the peyote cactus. The effects of mescaline, which are similar to those of LSD, were well documented in the classic text on hallucinogens, The Door of Perception by Aldous Huxley.

Although peyote is a Schedule I drug and is therefore illegal, the listing of peyote as a controlled substance does not apply to the use of peyote in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church. Any person who manufactures peyote for or distributes peyote to the Native American Church, however, is required to obtain registration annually and to comply with all other requirements of law.4

Ololiuqui

Ololiuque

Pictured: Ololiuqui seeds    Source: Magic Mushrooms Shop

Ololiuqui is a naturally occurring psychedelic that is found in the seeds of the morning glory flower, which grows in Central and South America. Like mescaline, ololiuqui has a long history of use in spiritual rituals among indigenous groups where the plant grows but unlike mescaline, it’s not a controlled substance in the U.S. leading some to consider it a free “herbal high.”

Psilocybin

Magic Mushrooms

Pictured: Magic mushrooms     Source: Healthline

Magic mushrooms contain a naturally occurring type of hallucinogen called psilocybin, which is found in certain fungi. There is a wide variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms, and their legal status is somewhat ambiguous, as they can be found growing wild in many parts of the world.

Their natural origins can make them appealing to young people, keen to experiment with these “free drugs.” But mushrooms carry particularly high risks given the toxicity of some varieties, which can even be lethal.5 

MDMA

MDMA

Pictured: MDMA   Source: La Hacienda Treatment Center

MDMA, also referred to as ecstasy or molly, is more difficult to categorize as a psychedelic as the hallucinogenic effects are less pronounced, and the mood-enhancing and stimulant effects are more noticeable to the user than some other psychedelics. However, it can induce hallucinations and delusions.

It’s possible to have a bad trip on ecstasy, although this is not as common as bad trips on LSD or mushrooms. Ecstasy has also been associated with increased risks of health problems arising from overheating, dehydration, and water intoxication.6

How Psychedelics Work On the Brain

Psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, are chemically similar to the neurotransmitter serotonin produced by the brain. Serotonin is involved in many neural functions including mood and perception. By mimicking this chemical’s effects, the substances exert their profound effects on subjective experience.

DMT too acts via serotonergic pathways, but also through other routes – for instance, DMT binds with sigma-1 receptors that are involved in the communication between neurons.7 Meanwhile, ketamine – among many other effects – blocks NMDA receptors that are involved in the functioning of the neurotransmitter glutamate.8

A key brain area for the effects of psychedelic substances appears to be the temporal lobe, the location of much of the emotional and memory functioning. For instance, removal of the front part of the temporal lobe as a radical treatment for epilepsy has been shown to prevent the psychological effects of taking LSD.9

Interestingly, abnormal activity in the temporal lobe, such as during seizures, can lead to events similar to near-death experiences. An effect shared by different psychedelic substances is that they increase the amount of disorganized activity across the brain – a state that neuroscientists describe as being “higher in entropy.”10

A consequence of this is a reduction in the activation of a group of brain structures known collectively as the “default mode network,” which is associated with self-conscious and self-focused thought. One theory, then, is that psychedelics provoke a spiritual state of oneness with the world by increasing the brain’s entropy and suppressing the ego-sustaining activity of the default mode network.11

Psychedelics For Medical Conditions

Psychedelics were used in psychotherapy in the 1960s, but this was halted for mainly political reasons until quite recently. Psychological research has since revived the use of psychedelics in experimental psychological treatment.

However, regulated treatments are currently experimental and not accessible to many people. While the research on psychedelic medicine for mental illness is still considered new and emerging, some studies have shown compelling results:

Psilocybin

A 2021 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that high-dose psilocybin improved symptoms and quality of life when given with psychological support. After six months, about 80% of participants continued to show clinically significant decreases in anxiety and depressed mood.12

Another 2021 study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients with moderate to severe major depressive disorder who received two doses of psilocybin did just as well — if not better — at six weeks than patients who received daily doses of escitalopram, which is an antidepressant medication.13

Psilocybin may also be an effective addition to current treatments for quitting smoking, according to a pilot study.14

Brain on Magic Mushrooms

Pictured: An fMRI of patients undergoing psilocybin treatment for depression with their brain regions appearing to be more interconnected than before the treatment   Source: DW

LSD

LSD-assisted psychotherapy — meaning a combined intervention of therapy and medication — may lessen feelings of anxiety among people with life-threatening illnesses who are anxious about their illnesses, according to a small study with 12 participants. Follow-up research with participants one year after treatment found that those decreases in anxiety had lasted.15

A review of six clinical trials with 536 participants linked a single dose of LSD administered within treatment programs for alcohol use disorder to a decrease in alcohol misuse.16

Brain on LSD

Pictured: The brain on LSD shows higher resting-state functional connectivity between the visual cortex and the rest of the brain   Source: Inverse

MDMA

Some of the most compelling results for MDMA as a treatment for mental illness have come from clinical trials involving people with PTSD. In a study with 90 participants, investigators found that 67% of people treated with MDMA-assisted therapy no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD 18 weeks after starting treatment.

The authors of the study concluded that “MDMA-assisted therapy represents a potential breakthrough treatment that merits expedited clinical evaluation.”17

Brain on MDMA

Pictured: MDMA amps up the good feelings of happy memories and dulls the pain of bad ones as shown in brain scans    Source: Inverse

Ketamine and Esketamine

Intranasal esketamine, also known as-ketamine or S-ketamine, is the S enantiomer of ketamine. Administered together with standard antidepressant treatment, it was found to significantly reduce depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts among patients with depression and high suicide risk, a small 2018 study found.18, 19

And in a March 2022 study, researchers found that among 537 people who received intravenous ketamine therapy in a clinical setting between 2016 and 2020, more than half of the patients experienced an improvement in their symptoms, and nearly 30% achieved remission.20

Ketamine Pre and Post Usage

Pictured: Ketamine appears to strengthen connections between neural networks in people with severe depression. In a study comparing neural activity prior to a ketamine infusion (left) and six to nine hours after an infusion (right), a single dose made the brain more responsive to a simple sensory stimulus, the light stroking of a finger.    Source: Brain Facts

A Nod to Ram Dass

Ram Dass

Pictured: Ram Dass   Source: GQ

Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert on April 6, 1931, to a successful Jewish family in Newton, Massachusetts. Though he was Bar Mitzvahed and grew up in a traditional house, he considered himself an atheist. “I didn’t have one whiff of God until I took psychedelics,” he said. 

On March 5, 1961, Alpert had his first psychedelic experience with psilocybin. As the layers of his identity melted away, he went into a panic. The young professor was now able to see a wider vision of his place in the universe. 

Interested in exploring consciousness, this expansive experience ignited his curiosity and would color his brief but memorable tenure at Harvard. Realizing the enormous potential of psychedelics, Alpert and Timothy Leary, a fellow Harvard professor, launched the Harvard Psilocybin Project in 1960. 

Experiments ranged from scientifically rigorous to personal use and exploration. The Concord Prison Experiment (1961-1963) is an example of a more academically sound study and helped set the stage for psychedelic clinical trials today. 

Another famous experiment, the 1962 Good Friday Experiment, was the first controlled double-blind study of psychedelics. The goal was to assess whether ingesting psilocybin could induce a mystical experience in the religiously predisposed. 

Ten divinity students were given psilocybin, and ten took a placebo. The results were immediately clear.  “It was absurd,” Alpert said, “because, in a short time, it was obvious who had taken the psilocybin. . . . They would stagger out of the chapel and say, ‘I see God! I see God!’”21

In 1963, Alpert was formally dismissed from Harvard. Along with Leary and other colleagues, he moved to the Millbrook Estate in New York where they continued to experiment with psychedelics. Their goal was to uncover a permanent path to higher consciousness. 

During his four-year stay at Millbrook, he maintained professional relationships with those in the medical, psychiatric, and academic fields. He co-authored a number of books, including The Psychedelic Experience with Ralph Metzner.

After traveling to India and spending eight months with the guru, Neem Karoli Baba, at a temple in the Himalayas, the newly-named Ram Dass returned to America. In an effort to reach more people, he started many foundations, the most famous of which is the Living/Dying Project.

To Ram Dass, conscious living includes conscious dying. This is a major theme in today’s renaissance of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Compassionate use of psychedelics for terminal patients focuses on accepting one’s own mortality and living each day to the fullest.

He was involved in countless other foundations and movements, all aimed at improving people’s spiritual wellbeing. Ram Dass passed peacefully on December 22, 2019, and his powerful legacy continues to shape the world of psychedelic medicine.

To learn more about Ram Dass, click here.

Which Psychedelics Are FDA-Approved for Use?

Currently, Spravato (esketamine) is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression. It’s administered as a nasal spray by a health professional.22 Though esketamine is a psychedelic medicine, its prescribing information lists hallucinogenic experiences as a side effect rather than a mechanism of action, or how the substance works.

“With the typical way esketamine is used, folks are told to ignore the psychedelic effects as a side effect, which is the opposite of true psychedelic therapy where one is encouraged to pay attention to the altered state of consciousness and try to learn from it,” says Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D., a professor of psychedelics and consciousness research in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.23

Some doctors prescribe ketamine — which is FDA-approved as a general anesthetic — “off-label” for depression. This means it’s not yet FDA-approved for depression, but some health professionals deem the medication appropriate for certain patients. Some physicians provide ketamine for depression at specialized clinics throughout the United States.24

Additionally, the FDA has granted breakthrough therapy designations to psilocybin for depression and MDMA for PTSD. This designation accelerates their pathway to FDA approval.25 But these medicines aren’t legally available to the public yet and can only be used as part of a clinical trial.26

In Conclusion

Considering the most recent scientific and clinical developments in understanding the actions of psychedelics, a statement made in 1980 by Dr. Stanislav Grof seems particularly relevant today: 

“It does not seem to be an exaggeration to say that psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy. These tools make it possible to study important processes that under normal circumstances are not available for direct observation.”

Although studies are showing positive results, there are still many unknowns, such as the ways these drugs will be administered if they become FDA-approved. However, the popularity surge in psychedelics research will likely continue gaining steam.

What are your thoughts on psychedelics being used medicinally? Let us know in the comments!

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysergic_acid_diethylamide#:~:text=On%20October%2024%2C%201968%2C%20possession,continued%20in%20Switzerland%20until%201993. [1]

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/306889 [2]

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ayahuasca [3]

https://www.britannica.com/plant/Lophophora-williamsii [4]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psilocybin_mushroom [5]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5008716/ [6]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947205/#:~:text=The%20sigma%2D1%20receptor%20is,currently%20considered%20an%20orphan%20receptor. [7]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5148235/ [8]

http://9.g00gleweb.com/heiwu.php [9]

https://www.payam.com/s/Psychedelic-Assisted-Psychotherapy-for-Trauma-and-Chronic-Pain.pdf [10]

https://www.payam.com/s/Psychedelic-Assisted-Psychotherapy-for-Trauma-and-Chronic-Pain.pdf [11]

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5367557/ [12]

https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa2032994 [13]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25213996/ [14]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24594678/ [15]

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0269881112439253 [16]

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-021-01336-3 [17]

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29656663/ [18]

https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17060647 [19]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032721014142?via%3Dihub [20]

https://news.tufts.edu/magazine/fall2006/features/ultimate-trip.html [21]

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/esketamine-for-treatment-resistant-depression [22]

https://www.janssenlabels.com/package-insert/product-monograph/prescribing-information/SPRAVATO-pi.pdf [23]

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/from-street-drug-to-depression-therapy [24]

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20191122005452/en/FDA-grants-Breakthrough-Therapy-Designation-Usona-Institutes [25]

https://maps.org/news/media/press-release-fda-grants-breakthrough-therapy-designation-for-mdma-assisted-psychotherapy-for-ptsd-agrees-on-special-protocol-assessment-for-phase-3-trials/ [26]

What Is Mirror Gazing?

We often associate staring into a mirror for long periods of time with vanity and narcissism or flaw-finding and self-criticism. But learning how to get comfortable with your reflection can actually be good for you. Mirror gazing, a form of meditation, is a simple concept that involves spending purposeful time in front of a mirror to literally self-reflect. Though simple in concept, mirror gazing is a powerful health and wellness tool that can renew one’s sense of self and improve self-image.

Mirror Gazing Differs From Other Meditative Practices

As a meditative practice, mirror gazing is not far removed from other mindfulness exercises. Like other meditations, it can guide you to be more conscious of the present moment, enhance relaxation, and ground you in calmness amid the various stressors of the day. The main differences that set mirror gazing apart from other meditation practices are the use of a mirror and the focus on outer self as a portal of better awareness to your inner thoughts and feelings. Your gaze becomes the focus of your practice.

The Benefits of Mirror Gazing

Mirror gazing isn’t just checking your reflection to see how you look. It’s an opportunity to build a spiritual connection with the person you see in the mirror. The practice can at first be quite uncomfortable, particularly if self-esteem has been tied to aspects of your physical being. But as a new form of healing, over time, mirror gazing can help mend misconceptions you may hold deep within. This simple yet powerful practice has been shown to offer a multitude of benefits including increased confidence, improved mental health, healthier self-image, increased compassion, better stress management, improved relationships, and enhanced emotional resilience.

Increased Confidence

Mirror gazing engages you to look past mere surface flaws to recognize the profound beauty and true miracle that is your whole embodiment. Focusing solely on yourself quietly with no distractions for a few intimate moments helps you notice your inner voice more clearly. Noticing any negative self-talk and mindfully transitioning toward more positive self-talk each day is a significant step toward greater self-confidence.

Similarly, when you sit with yourself as your own best friend during a mirror gazing meditation, you can single out your favorite features, traits, and attributes and show them love and appreciation. By acknowledging yourself, complimenting yourself, and cherishing yourself, you can begin to grow more confident in your own skin.

Authenticity and Emotional Awareness

Emotions commonly show themselves on your face, but research shows that you also carry emotions elsewhere in your body. For example, distress may be evident by the slouch of your shoulders. Insecurity may be revealed by your inability to meet your gaze in the mirror. Looking at yourself intentionally, though, helps you to practice authenticity and emotional awareness. You can’t run away from the things that are troubling you, so mirror gazing offers a chance to confront them instead.

Noting how emotions shift across your face and show with your body language can help you take stock of your present state of mind, especially those hiding behind false fronts of cheer and calmness. As you fully open yourself up to what comes, find relaxation in the experience instead of fighting it. You may find that sitting with your reflection can help dull the edges of the sharpest pains that accompany distress, making them easier to bear. Learning to understand and accept all your emotions can also facilitate better communication with others.

Greater Self Compassion and Love

Looking at yourself in the mirror might make you feel uncomfortable when your reflection reminds you of imperfections and weaknesses. Mirror gazing, though, can help you embrace a more realistic, forgiving perspective. Sure, you have a few flaws, but who doesn’t? These characteristics that you perceive as less-than-perfect may make you feel like they are staring back at you with disdain. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of love – especially your own love.

People often avoid thinking about mistakes they’ve made or wish they could alter aspects of themselves that they consider flawed. But in the mirror, you can’t turn away from the parts of yourself and your reflection that you view as imperfect; instead, you have to acknowledge them. The compassionate acknowledgment of your unique self can help disrupt feelings of shame or your own unworthiness. Pushing back negative thoughts that spring up like weeds can, in turn, allow self-acceptance and self-love to bloom.

Studies on Mirror Gazing

Mirror gazing is a relatively new meditative technique that is gaining broader awareness due to research showing benefits of improved mental well-being. Here is a glimpse at two studies that have been conducted to show the incredible power that mirror gazing wields.

Professor Tara Well of Columbia University

Professor Tara Well, a research scientist at Barnard College, Columbia University, discovered mirror gazing for herself before she developed research in the mirror gazing field and began spreading the word through lectures, courses, and Ted Talks. She conducted an experiment where participants were simply asked to mirror gaze for a length of time.

The results were clear on one thing: all participants benefited in one way or another. Many found reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. She also found that the women in the study started to focus less on appearance and more on how they were feeling. This led to self-resilience and a better connection with themselves. 1,2

You can view one of Tara’s Ted Talks here to learn more about her research and what mirror gazing can teach you.

Professor Nicola Petrocchi of La Sapienza University

A 2016 study conducted by Nicola Petrocchi from La Sapienza University in Rome focused on self-soothing while looking at oneself in the mirror. 86 participants were asked to write down words they’d use to console a friend in despair. Afterward, they were invited to apply these very phrases on themselves while looking at their reflection in a mirror. Nicola found that the heart frequency observed under these conditions was similar to the frequency found when we’re feeling compassion toward others.3

This experiment shows that a mirror is a prop that possesses the power to make us feel genuine empathy towards ourselves in the same way we do for others. Our physical response moves us to love ourselves and practicing mirror gazing can unlock great potential for all-around good health and positivity.

A Mirror Gazing Meditation Technique

If you’ve grown up with an inner voice that’s been less than kind, mirror gazing meditation can help release self-criticism, serving to replace it with self-love, self-compassion, and self-confidence. Practicing just 5-10 minutes a day of self-reflection (figuratively and literally) can be a therapeutic outlet to support mental and emotional well-being.

Here’s how to practice mirror gazing meditation:

  1. Set the Space and Intention
    Choose a quiet, well-lit, private place. Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion. Position your mirror so you can see directly into your eyes. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Have no goal other than to sit with yourself in peace.
  2. Tune Into Your Breathing
    Close your eyes and slow your breathing. Take several deep belly breaths, allowing yourself to inhale, hold, and then slowly exhale. As your body relaxes, let yourself breathe naturally. Turn your attention to any tense spots in your body. Visualize that tension slowly dissolving with each breath.
  3. Begin to Gaze Into Your Eyes
    Open your eyes and look into the mirror. Notice if your breathing changes when your first look at yourself. Come back to full steady breathing. Consider the message in your eyes. Is it judgmental or kind? Do you immediately focus on something specific you dislike about yourself? Visualize each slow breath dissolving any dislike that arises.
  4. Observe Your Inner Critic
    Notice your thoughts as you continue to gaze. What comes to mind? Do flaws come more readily into focus than praise? Do you feel emotions, self-disdain, or self-adoration? As every thought comes up, observe it, and breathe it away. Notice how emotions move across your face. What does judgment look like? Anger? Fear? Acceptance? Love?
  5. Notice Where Your Attention Flows
    Continue gazing at your reflection, staying open to whatever arises. Notice any sensations or emotions that come up and allow them to simply be there without judgment. Let your feelings and thoughts simply pass by as you breathe, relax your body, and gaze at yourself.
  6. Practice Self-Kindness
    Close with affirmations of kindness and set an intention to fall in love with yourself a little more each day. Breathe into the energy of your light, that inner beauty that shines so brightly for the world to see. Exhale, and thank yourself for spending precious moments of self-care with your reflection.

The Humanist Beauty Self Reflecting Mirror

Every time you glance at your reflection, be greeted with a friendly reminder that you are a beautiful human. The new Humanist Beauty Self Reflecting Mirror is perfect for your mirror gazing meditation practice. The mirror measures 5w” x 7h” and comes with a double-sided engraved wooden base. Perfect for your desktop, tabletop, bookshelf, or windowsill, so you can mirror gaze anytime, anywhere. It makes a great gift and is made in the USA.

Self Reflecting Mirror

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Self Reflecting Mirror here.

 

References:

https://barnard.edu/news/prof-tara-well-shares-expertise-mirror-meditation [1]

https://www.deansignori.com/mirror-gazing/ [2]

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/305317589_Compassion_at_the_mirror_Exposure_to_a_mirror_increases_the_efficacy_of_a_self-compassion_manipulation_in_enhancing_soothing_positive_affect_and_heart_rate_variability [3]

The Secret World of an Anxiety Disorder

Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in their life. It’s a normal human reaction to any circumstance that seems scary or out of our control. Stress is 100% natural; sometimes, it can even serve a purpose, such as pushing you to finish an assignment or prepare for a daunting performance. But many people fail to understand just how intricate an anxiety disorder can be.

It’s important to acknowledge that an anxiety disorder and everyday anxiety are not the same. Worry that sprouts up out of nowhere and causes you to cancel that job interview you’ve been dreading or decide against going to the grocery store because you might have to talk to people is an anxiety disorder. However, fleeting stress is associated with the type of anxiety that everyone deals with. The line between the two is fine, but still very prominent.

Living life in the company of an anxiety disorder is no easy feat. It’s waking up early because your mind simply can’t stand to be at ease any longer. It’s going through the everyday motions, but feeling a constant fear that you could get in trouble or mess up at any time. And, most importantly, it’s sensing that your life and your mind aren’t yours anymore.

Anxiety disorders aren’t black and white, and they aren’t “just in your head.” Anxiety disorders are as unique as snowflakes, and they present themselves physically as well as mentally. Educating others and knowing the facts about anxiety disorders can save the sufferers a ton of unwanted stress, so here’s the inside scoop:

Anxiety Disorders Present Themselves Differently to Everyone

Anxiety, triggers, and coping mechanisms, oh my!

Just like Dorothy realized in the whimsical city of Oz, we are all dealing with our own issues. And each of our problems is insanely different, but knowing that everyone deserves to be understood is the true key to the universe.

Triggers

Anxiety triggers can range from a thought as small as an atom to an emotion that seems to sweep through all of Earth. According to Calm Clinic, loss of coping, listening to the news, lack of goal setting, and having too much time to think are the most common triggers for those dealing with an anxiety disorder.

Triggers can also stem from past experiences. For example, if you grew up believing that snacking at night led to health problems down the road then you would most likely feel your cheeks warming in worry at the thought of having a small bite of a brownie at 9 PM. Or if you grew up with parents that were barely home, you might have a fear of people leaving.

Triggers range from person to person. But by using the power of your body, you can ultimately beat any trigger that comes your way.

Here are a few ways to overcome your triggers:

  • Grab a yoga mat and learn some new poses to combat your anxiety.
  • You know that trail you’ve been dying to hike? Go do it!
  • Dancing the worry away is always a great option.
  • Running normalizes your heart rate and breathing pattern, which we all need during those pesky anxiety attacks.

Coping Mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are our body’s form of defense. They act as a shield to protect those with anxiety disorders from problems and issues that are constantly knocking at their doors.

Unfortunately, our minds have been tainted with stereotypes of anxiety disorders from television shows and movies. We’ve all seen characters binge on ice cream and drink a little too much to deal with their triggers. But the reality is that, once again, we are all so vastly different that it’s futile to put everyone’s coping mechanisms into a tightly wrapped box.

While it’s impossible to pinpoint every coping mechanism, Very Well Mind mentions that the most commonly used mechanisms by those suffering from an anxiety disorder are denial, repression, rationalization, intellectualization, projection, sublimation, and displacement.

On the flip side, coping mechanisms can often protect your ego, which is great. But they can also be overused. In this situation, you must seek out answers from a mental health physician.

However, there are healthy coping mechanisms out there, and they can help you get out of any tough spot.

Let’s dive into some healthy coping mechanisms:

  • Meditation can help bring the focus back to your mind and body.
  • Weighing the pros and cons can be a helpful way to dissect the problem. Plus, who doesn’t love a good list?
  • Be proactive and learn a new skill.
  • Talk to your friends and family or start a journal.

Both Mentally and Physically, Anxiety Disorders are Draining

Living with an anxiety disorder feels like going to battle every day of the week. Minutes from your day fly by while your triggers dance around them like arrows ready to attack. It’s a constant cycle that drones on and on.

Most people believe that anxiety disorders reside in your mind and thoughts only. But anxiety disorders present themselves physically, as well.

A few mental signs of an anxiety disorder are:

  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling a constant sense of dread
  • Irrationality
  • Expecting the worst outcome in any situation

Here are some physical symptoms caused by an anxiety disorder:

  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Insomnia
  • Sharp chest pain when breathing
  • Difficulties getting deep breaths
  • Twitches
  • Sweating
  • Pounding heart

Essentially, anxiety disorders awaken your body’s natural flight-or-fight response, which can be a bit of a nuisance when it happens daily. Normally, this response would only pop in to fend off a threat or escape a dangerous situation. But with an anxiety disorder, you’re in a constant state of worry and stress, which is a dangerous threat. So your body does what it needs to do by triggering and unleashing a multitude of physical symptoms.

It’s important to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. These symptoms can be extremely scary, but by seeking professional help, you can rid your body of the physical signs of anxiety. And along with that, the mental symptoms will dwindle away, too.

But in the meantime, try deep breathing exercises when those vexing symptoms make their presence known. Other unique and natural remedies can also ease the mental and physical symptoms of an anxiety disorder, such as a sound bath.

Knowledge and Understanding is Power

Anxiety disorders are way more complex than most people give them credit for. They are a powerhouse of symptoms that can cause so much distress and sickness in a person. But knowing, accepting, and understanding the truth behind an anxiety disorder is the one way to bring awareness to this serious illness.

Let’s leave the anxiety disorder stereotypes at the door and kick off our shoes to the fact that we are all different and unique. And no one will ever fit into the mold that society wants us to melt into.

You Good?

Growing up in New York, I heard the phrase ‘you good’ quite a lot. Thinking back on it, there were so many ways to interpret this casual question or statement. The most obvious meaning of ‘you good’ has for me always been ‘are you ok?’ when asked as a simple question. Beyond that, I came to realize that the ‘you good’ colloquialism could also mean ‘yes, you are in fact ok,’ ‘thanks, that’s enough for me,’ ‘no need to apologize,’ ‘wow, you’re really smart,’ ‘I wonder if everything is okay with you financially,’ and many other things depending on the inflection, the tone, and the situation in which it was asked or stated.

Similarly, in response to ‘you good,’ a person could say ‘it’s good, ‘I’m good,’ ‘all good’ and really mean a variety of different things. It could be a quick way to say ‘yeah, everything is ok’, it could be a polite brushoff to avoid deeper conversation, or it could be a complete masking of true emotions. When we boil our conversations down to these kinds of exchanges, it becomes really clear how miscommunication, misinterpretation and misdiagnosis can easily occur. 

NYC definitions of you good

Dig Deeper

In this time when emotions are running high, fuses are running short, and people are running ragged, it’s important to dig deeper. The power of meaningful conversation happens when you don’t take ‘I’m good’ as a final answer. Try moving on to some follow up questions (without being too annoying of course) if you suspect that a friend or a loved one could use some extra support. The same would also hold true if as a parent you hear your kid say ‘I’m fine,’ ‘everything’s fine,’ or ‘nothing’s wrong’ when their mood, demeanor or actions tell you otherwise.

Words like ‘good’ and ‘fine’ and ‘okay’ are so overused in our society. Yet I would venture to say that many of us are not ‘good,’ ‘fine’ or ‘okay’ right now. If you find yourself feeling less than good or fine, put that ego aside and talk it out with someone – a relative, a friend, or a professional. The important thing is to connect and get help if and when you need it.

Bruce Lee Quote

A Time for Compassion

Lately I’ve come across various social media posts declaring that COVID’s impact on collective mental health has been way overblown. Perhaps those social media post authors should be congratulated for being impervious to and unscathed by the brunt of COVID’s impact. To me, it is truly difficult to fathom how the unquestionable loss of life, loss of income and loss of social connectivity as a direct result of COVID would not cause an increase in stress, anxiety or mental hardship on a widspread scale. Adapting and adjusting to major change is not as easy for some as for others. At this time when so many are in crisis, empathy, kindness and compassion are more important than ever.

I'm good I'm done

In-Habiting Self Care

In a Thrive Global article, Arianna Huffington wrote about microsteps, or very small changes, that we can take to course-correct stress and mental well-being. These are healthy new habits that can literally change your life. Given that up to 45% of our daily behavior is made up of small, habitual activities, it stands to reason that even deciding to change a few of them can have a ripple effect on leading to positive change. Some of her favorites:

For better sleep

  • Pick a time at night when you turn off your devices — and gently escort them out of your bedroom!
  • Make an appointment to get to sleep by setting an alarm 30 minutes before your bedtime.

For better nutrition

  • Sit down when you eat, even for a few minutes.

For more movement

  • Try a walking meeting (Zoom makes it easier!).

For more focus

  • Turn off all your notifications, except those from people who might need to get your attention.

For a healthier relationship with technology

  • Do an audit of your phone’s home screen to reduce time-sapping distractions.

To be more creative

  • Take a planned detour.

To prioritize your time more productively

  • Block time on your calendar to manage your email.

To help integrate work and life

  • Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed your to-do list.

Sharing is caring! Tell us about your favorite positive microstep habits that have helped transform your mind and emotions for the better. Thanks for reading.