Bipolar Disorder Assessment should be done by a professional. Here are some things they should look for and discuss at an assessment:
If you are the person experiencing mood changes, a friend or family member may mention it to you or you might come to the conclusion on your own. Your inquiry oftentimes starts with looking at information on the internet.
This is where the assessing begins. People then usually go to their primary care doctor. If they think they meet the criteria for bipolar disorder, they will refer them to a psychiatrist or some place/person that can better diagnose them.
The assessment usually starts with surveys or questionnaires. However, it should be more thorough and in depth. It should cover the person’s life including their current circumstances, their triggers, the way they view the problem, coping strategies, and where they will get support. An evaluation can result in other diagnoses before the correct one is found and can take 5 years to figure out.
During the evaluation period, the person doing the diagnosis should go over several things including:
Do you have any history with mental illness in your family?
What makes you think you have bipolar disorder?
What is your physical health like?
What are your sources of stress and how do you deal with it?
What are your goals?
What are your currently struggling with?
What are your triggers?
What are the warning signs?
What were all the previous episodes like and what was it like in between the mood changes?
What are you individual strengths?
How do you cope?
What are your support networks?
It can be difficult to make a proper diagnosis for several reasons. That is because the experiences are usually misidentified as unipolar or depression first. The hypomnic mood states are often missed. That is why when be assessed, it is important that it is very thorough.
It can be difficult to figure out what normal behavior is and therefore hard to determine what hypomania would look like for that person.
Also, other things can present like bipolar disorder, but aren’t. For example it could be a head injury, trauma, a tumor, diabetes, thyroid problems, among others. Many times, alcohol or drug abuse masks the bipolar disorder as people will self medicate. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the underlying cause.
If the assessment is done correctly and the person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder then that is just the beginning of a long road the person and their psychiatrist will endure to figure out ways to help them.
I was just reading about some alternative ways to treat bipolar disorder, specifically mania and came across an article that talked about darkness therapy. I decided to do some research and write a blog about it.
In 1996 there was a study that was started that eventually proved that it is helpful to ward off mania if a patient is in darkness from 8pm until 6am. When they can’t be in complete darkness, amber lenses or control clear lenses were used. It was proved that darkness is a mood stabilizer. (This study was completed in 2016)
In February of 2005 there was a study done that proved darkness “can be a useful add-on for the treatment of acute mania”.
In researching darkness therapy, a term that you are probably already familiar with kept coming up-biological clock. “The biological clock controls the timing of our body’s daily cycles including our sleep cycles and research has consistently shown is an imbalance in the biological clock in bipolar brains. This is why sleep cycle disturbances are so common in bipolar syndrome.”
The SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus ) is a part of the that hypothalamus gets signals about how much light there is. It is the main location of the biological clock. In 2001, a retinal photoreceptor was discovered that is sensitive to blue light. These receptors connect to the SCN of the hypothalamus, where the biological clock is.
Amber lenses can block blue wavelengths (the most potent portion) creating a form of physiologic darkness. “Because the timing and quantity of light and darkness both affect sleep, evening use of amber lenses to block blue light might affect sleep quality. Mood is also affected by light and sleep; therefore, mood might be affected by blue light blockade.”
Avoiding blue light is simple and has no side effects and is a free anti-manic treatment. It is something we can incorporate into our daily lives in order to live with bipolar disorder and control mania.
I tried to make this topic as easy as I could. For more in depth information, please read from the following sources. They include the studies that I mentioned.
Pets could play the most important role in your mental health recovery. Researchers of the United Kingdom and all over the world say that pets can be the only active element to their owners in their hard times or depressive situations. In some records, the information found that many of pats were seen as the most central social support and valuable part of their owner’s life.
Human sometimes unable to find the peaceful and secure relationship through human ties. This is happening because of the transforming behavior of human nature. The human can feel their needs and can explain their feelings, they can easily move to others for finding happiness and their welfare. But pets are remains devoted to their owner. They love them and can also chair them up on their offensive situations.
Some studies also say that pet lovers feel less lonely than others and they also remain cheerful for their pets. Pets can help human from being lonely and depressed. Records say that pets are found to be very much effective for the PTSD patients. Also, they are seen to play an effective role to recover the mental health of their owner’s.
Here we are talking about the how pet help PTSD victims and the mentally ill victims. This content will also help you to remind the importance of pets in our life and the society.
What is PTSD?
PTSD stands for the Post-traumatic stress disorder. It is popular as a serious mental condition of human mind. This condition of human mind generally developed by some people after the terrifying, shocking or dangerous event. This shocking or offensive events are known as trauma. When human brain faces trauma attack, it becomes very much difficult to struggle with anxiety, fear, and sadness. You may face difficulties to sleep as the upsetting memories recall. Human mind naturally gets over from the offensive memories in a certain time and feel better after that. But. If anyone has PTSD, his or her brain won’t let him fade away the trauma or the depressive moment. They can last for years and often more than couples of years. It is also possible to get worse for the serious patients because they would not able to forget the pain in their whole lifetime. The effects of PTSD in your daily life can be dangerous. It can naturally harm your work life and also your relationships. It can easily make a troll not only for your mental health but also your physical health.
Effects of PTSD
Post-trauma stress disorder can easily stick your brain in a dangerous mood. Even if you are no more in danger of not even facing any of offensive situation, it would hold your mind on the fear and give a high alert. Your body won’t be your controls and continues to give you stress signals. The PTSD syndromes shoot the part of your brain which handles emotions and fear. And this part of the human brain which calls the amygdala is the most active part of the PTSD victims. Over time PTSD can make a dangerous change to your brain. The area of your brain which usually saves memories becomes smaller. And your memory would only force you to save the offensive memories only.
How can pets help PTSD victims?
Though there are lots of ways to treat the PTSD victims to recover their mental health, the study says that the pets can be the most effective element for their mental health recovery. Pets can be the significant value for treating those patients who are fighting against serious mental illness. They can easily consider a mainstay more than other marginal sources to treat the patients. Pets can help to build a close and quite stable relationship which are very difficult to found nowadays. Especially for those people who have very limited human contracts and mostly stay at home lonely. Pets are even found to rescue their owners from suicidal attempts which they had taken for their sick mental condition. Pets who have spent a quality time with their owner can read their minds and can observe what will their owner attempting to do next. So they can even rescue them from making wrong decisions.
What are the emotional benefits of having a pet?
Pets can bring many of emotional benefits to you. Examples:
Help to feel the emotions of love.
Pets are best companions.
You can even train them to follow your orders. People who take dogs as a pet can enjoy this opportunity the most. They can feel like service member who used to give orders.
They can easily reduce stress and make you have fun.
Pets can give you reasons to get out of the house for a walk and enjoy the nature. You can enjoy the outdoors and spend some time in nature and can also meet new people.
Pets can make you busy sometimes. Your time will easily pass by taking proper care of them. So that, you won’t feel lonely anymore.
You will definitely feel a mental peace by serving them and taking proper care of your pets. This feeling can even give you a new motive to lead the life in a new way.
You can make many joyful memories with your pet and they might help your brain to fed away from the depressive and sad memories and allow you to forget them easily.
Conclusion: Pets are always bringing happiness to our life. They are innocent, sweet and friendly. Even they are sometimes very much responsible and devoted to their owners. They can support us without having any benefits and can easily make a strong and secure relationship with us. They are not only effective for the mental health of the victims who are facing serious mental illness but also the people who are leading a normal mental condition. They are the way to gather peacefully. We should have them and take care of them.
How do I get my ideas in your paper or other outlets? It would be in regards to how the Parkland survivors would be better to spend time on mental health reform that attacking the NRA. It would not be about my opinion about gun control. It just would be about how more time needs to be spent coming up with solutions to the mental health crisis and not just after mass shootings.
I have written to politicians, media, famous people via email, social media posts, letters, and phone calls with litttle to no response.
I, along with the other mental health advocates have a lot of things to say that would be valuable to the national dialog and are almost denied a voice.
It is time that we are given a chance. We are in the trenches just like the Parkland Survivors were in the trenches.
I founded a FB group called Advocates for People with Mental Illnessses/with over 20,000 people worldwide. (largest of its kind) I also run a page called Mental Health Advocates United that also helps to join people together by using quotes and educating people about the various mental illnesses.
In addition, I have several other social media sites on Twitter and PInterest. I also blog under the pseudonym Bipolar Bandit where you will find advocacy work in addition to articles on various mental illnesses.
It’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around the events of the past few weeks and perhaps that is why I struggle to find the words to yet again tell this story. But it’s a story that needs to be told, the kind of story that opens your eyes and perhaps prepares a better way of doing things in the future that will prevent this sort of tragedy from ever befalling a family again.
First, I need to tell you about my son, Elliott. At the time this story starts he was 21 and recently engaged. He and his fiancé had recently adopted a dog from the humane society and he was excited about their future together. Elliott was a fun loving, always moving, bundle of positive energy. His smile was contagious and his heart enormous. He donated and partook in many different humanitarian charities and his compassion for people and animals was unparalleled. At 21 years of age I have never heard my son say a curse word, his respect was inspiring. He enjoyed caring for various plants in his grandmas backyard in particularly papaya and avocado trees I had started for him. He also had coconut trees and many varieties of palms he had started on his own. He was a happy, nature loving, young man with a kind heart and a bright future who loved fishing and his family.
But then things started to change…
Little things that may go unnoticed at first…he stopped brushing his teeth. This was strange because his teeth were his pride and joy. He withdrew emotionally, getting him on the phone or to return a message was impossible. He stopped watering his plants or even tending them. The guy who couldn’t stand to stay home now didn’t want to leave the house.
And then it just got worse…
Elliott began to hear the radio and television talking to him. He believed the flashing red dot on the DVR was a sign the government was recording him. He became convinced that Jesus Christ had returned, that the rapture had taken place and that the government was going to start “purging” citizens. His girlfriend and sister actually drove him to a church to prove to him that the government wasn’t there with buses as he believed and that the congregations were safe. He became obsessed with his salvation and believed he was unredeemable that all hope for him was gone. He had missed the rapture. Everything became a sign, pictures on the covers of books, words or images all held hidden meanings to his mind that began to rob him of sleep. He would pace back and forth with his racing thoughts trying to piece together the plot he was now convinced had been hatched to kill him personally. He wanted to clean out the refrigerator to hide in it for protection from what he referred to as the purge. He told his girlfriend he needed to get a gun to protect the family.
And then he became increasingly agitated and started to hurt himself by punching himself in the chest with a lighter so his girlfriend called 911 and reported him as hurting himself. She expressed her and the families fears that he may hurt himself or accidentally hurt someone else. They needed help that they hoped the police would provide. The police came and assessed that Elliott needed to be Baker Acted so he was removed from the home. This was Elliott’s worse nightmare come to fruition, the government had succeeded in getting him. His last words as he left the house was in the form of a question “Why did you do this? Now they are going to kill me?”
Our family did the right thing. Everything should get better now….right? We couldn’t have been more wrong.
Elliott was taken to a Medical Center on a Baker Act. He was admitted early Wednesday morning well before dawn. He had to be sedated to be moved from the ER to the mental health ward. On Thursday family went to visit him but no doctor had evaluated him at that time. I held an hour long phone conversation with him trying to assure him he had not committed the unforgivable sin. He expressed an extreme nervousness as to why the nurses needed to take his blood pressure so often and I told him they needed to make sure he was ok. He was set to be released on Friday at 2pm if the morning doctor said he was well enough to leave. We still had no idea why he was seeing or hearing things that weren’t there or why he had this plot about the purge.
He never got to see the doctor in the morning, instead I got a phone call from the local jail my son had been arrested and charged with a felony. The hospital had placed my son in a room with another man and in the middle of the night my son hurt the man. Why a hospital would place a man in the middle of a psychosis in the room with another patient I am not sure, especially when he had been admitted for being a danger to himself and others. Elliott was seeing and hearing things that weren’t there, and Elliott has no real recollection of what happened. He admits to blacking out and seeing bits and pieces of what happened.
The police then take Elliott to jail, question him and imprison him. Elliott had received no anti-psychotic drugs of any kinds at this point. He is still in the middle of a full blown psychosis that centers around the government killing him. On Friday night in that jail cell my son tried to kill himself twice. On Saturday he had a bond hearing and the family was able to bail him out but Elliott had to be remanded to a mental health facility to be evaluated for his suicide attempts. On his intake I was able to talk to him. He said “ Mom did you hear what happened?” I replied “ Yes honey I did.” Thinking he is talking about trying to hang himself. He goes on “ Michelle called the police on me I was hurting myself mom”. He had lost two or three days of his life. My hour long phone call on Thursday was gone. This hospitalization did allow him to be started on anti-psychotic drugs but the paranoia and suicide attempts continued. The new hospital made me his proxy on a Monday of that week. His paranoia prompted him to call me screaming about how they were evil and they didn’t care about him they had me fooled he said as he dropped the phone and ran down the hallway I could hear him screaming they are doing experiments on him. A nurse picks up the phone and asks if they could sedate him and I agreed.
The next day he took a colored pencil, placed it against a block wall and tried to ram it through his temple as he smashed his head into it. It has been this sickening feeling of a race between him killing himself and his medicine finally working. He was trapped in a nightmare in his mind by people who were trying to poison him through the water, keep him over medicated, and do experiments on him. He was still hearing voices and seeing hallucinations. Then I got another phone call, the police came into to the new hospital and removed him back to the jail almost one week later on a new charge. Anti-psychotic drugs can take weeks to work, all this while my son is confused and still completely delusional and extremely suicidal.
I made frantic phone calls in the middle of the night to anyone that would listen trying to get ahead of his arrival at the jail. I am a mother pleading for the safety of her son from 1100 miles away. I talked to the people in booking and was given the number for the medical ward of the jail. I explained that only hours early he had stabbed himself in the head with a pencil. He was highly suicidal and was on active suicide watch at the prior facility. They assured me he would be safe. His bond was set the following day at $100,000 and I have not heard from my son. He gets no visitors, no mail and no phone calls. It’s been a week. I call everyday and ask if he is safe. They will tell me nothing more. He has been in paper clothes sleeping on a mat for a week. He does receive medication and gets to see a doctor.
We did everything right and my son is suffering. Our family is suffering. This is the hardest thing I have ever gone through and it’s NOTHING compared to what he must be enduring.
I’ve spent many hours in prayer. I’ve called NAMI and gotten resources through them. I’ve read article after article on paranoid schizophrenia and I’ve learned that Elliott’s story is not unique. Most first time diagnosis comes after some run in with the law or after the person hurts themselves or others. In Elliott’s situation it could have been worse, he could have killed the roommate. We could have waited to call and he could have hurt himself or his family. Or any of his dozen or more suicide attempts in treatment or jail could have been successful. The sad thing is we did everything right to get him help and to prevent a problem and it wasn’t good enough. The system is broke, people are getting hurt when it is absolutely avoidable.
At the end of June we had all attended a family reunion in Kentucky to celebrate the 4th of July. We had crept across the road to look for crawfish, arrowheads, and minnows in a little stream. My son sat down on a rock next to his girlfriend and told me he had heard the audible voice of God. Being involved in Ministry I thought this had been a supernatural spiritual experience, but unfortunately I know now that it was probably the first voice to show up for my son.
My son is still in jail and we have had no contact with him. He needs to hear his family loves him but we have been denied that. It is December 22 and Christmas is only three days away. He spent his 22nd birthday (December 9th) in a mental health facility this year on suicide watch. Mental illness is no respecter of persons. I have an uncle and a cousin who both are paranoid schizophrenics. There have been Nobel Peace Prize winners with it, there have been black and white, rich and poor paranoid schizophrenics. They say with proper medication and a good therapist he can live a normal life. I am beyond thankful my son is alive and that we have hope. I am dedicating my life to telling this story to anyone who will listen to me until the system changes. It is unacceptable that a very vulnerable part of our society is absolutely unprotected.
My son’s name is Elliott. I am Elliott’s mom. I am and always will be proud of my son he is the bravest person I have ever met.
My name is Tamara my phone number is 1-304-684-9550 please feel free to contact me if you know of any information or resources we should be looking into this story is a plea for help and solidarity.
UPDATE: January 29, 2018
Elliott is still incarcerated. We have had only three family visits with him, each lasting an hour. His visitations are often revoked, sometimes at the last minute even. He has been in and out of the medical and the behavioral unit for this entire month swinging between stability and suicidal thoughts and actions. I can only call the jail each day and ask if he is alive, via guards, i am not allowed to speak to my son. That is the only information I am given and where he is housed. We did start a gofund me account in order to raise the 10,000 bail we need to get him moved from jail into an actual in patient treatment center until he stands trial which a date has yet to be set. If we are unable to remove him from jail, he will continue to live in 23-24 hour isolation which is not helping his illness at all. If you can help PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING ANY AMOUNT. ALL ARE APPRECIATED BE IT $5-$10 WE ARE FOREVER GRATEFUL! THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS!
Update: February 12th 2018
Through the GoFund Me and the church and family pulling together we raised enough to bail him out. He was remanded to a mental health facility until February 17th when he was able to come home. He finally received proper treatment and started on an Invega monthly shot along with respidone and that seemed to be working well for him. He was officially diagnosed as Schizophrenic.
UPDATE : March 5th
Elliott was rearrested on an additional charge “Attempted Murder With A Weapon” a comb found at the scene of the original crime. He is currently being held without bond at The St. Lucie County Jail in Fort Pierce Florida. This can carry a sentence of LIFE IN PRISON! ALL BECAUSE WE SENT HIM TO THE HOSPITAL WITH POLICE TO GET HELP! And we haven’t heard from him since.
Elliott and I in Kingwood
Elliott Graduating Kindergarten and High School
Elliott & Jacob
Elliott out on a date with Michelle shortly before his episode
Elliott with me as a baby
I recently posted on my FB page this and I truly believe it. It feels like an uphill battle. I have so many good things to offer if I could just get ONE person with influence to hear me. I feel defeated oftentimes and will take months off at a time thinking there is no way I am going to make a difference and then one day I have another idea that might just go “viral” only to be knocked down again.
Excerpt from my FB post:
I have called, written emails, filled out forms, tweeted, and sent FB messages about a topic dealing with mental illness and Parkland Shooting to everyone i can think of. (media, parkland survivors, politicians, local media, etc.) and have not heard from anyone.
I keep saying that this is going to be the last time I am going to try and fight stigma and do something about the mental illness problem and then for “stupid” reason, I start back up again and get frustrated again.
I have heard your frustrations about the politicians not listening to you in regards to gun control. I am not going to get into how I feel about gun control. What I do want to talk about my frustrations regarding mental health.
Many of you have been having your voices heard via social media, the news channels, a town hall, and even a visit to the Oval Office.
I, unlike you, can not get my voice heard. I have a mental illness and a well known mental health advocate online. I have written numerous letters, emails, made phone calls and even met a few visits in person to our legislators. Although, I have heard back from President Clinton (after he was out of office), some governors, and a few local politicians, and two Congressman, all in all, I have not gotten my voice heard.
I commend you for not giving up. I have not given up either. I just can’t get my voice heard like you and am wondering why.
Every time there is a mass shooting, the media likes to talk about gun control and mental health as the main two topics as to the cause. Too quickly the main focus goes to gun control and that is probably because it is so bipartisan. However, mental health reform does not have to be something that needs to be fought over.
There have been laws brought up on the floor of Congress and a few even passed that have dealt with mental health. However, none of them really have helped much obviously.
The thing that bothers me the most is that when they convene study groups, they do not include people who are mentally ill. They will include psychiatrists, politicians, physicians,some advocates, but rarely do they include people who are dealing with the mental illnesses. We, the mentally ill, should be the first line of defense and should get our voices heard. Just like you, Parkland High students, who have dealt with the issue at hand, we, the mentally ill, have dealt with mental illness firsthand.
You have lost 17 valuable lives and in no way am I belittling that, but do you know how many people are lost due to mental illness? Every 62 minutes at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder Source1 , 20 veterans commit suicide each day, Source2 About 13% of those suffering from Schizophrenia die from suicide. Source3
Due to the misconceptions in the media oftentimes, I do want to point out that less than 2% of people with mental illness are violent and therefore are not any more likely to carry out a mass shooting than any other evil person.
To the Victims/Survivors of Stoneman Douglas High School: You have a voice and now I hope you can help mental health advocates, like me get a voice too. I have written to numerous media outlets and as previously stated many politicians to no avail. You obviously have gotten your word out. What can I do to get heard? I have written many blogs under the pseudonym “Bipolar Bandit” many of which deal with mental health advocacy. I also started a FB group and FB page dealing with mental health advocacy that have approximately 45,000 members worldwide. My blogs are read by hundreds every day and my groups and pages are very active. My main purpose of the group and page is to unite those with mental illness for change. I also am on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as Bipolar Bandit and the advocacy page also has a Twitter and Pinterest page.
I hope this does not fall on deaf ears and you can help me. Mental illness played a part in the Parkland shooting and many other mass killings lately and it gets talked about after the shooting, but fades away shortly thereafter. Let’s put a change to that! You are the future! I hope that you can change the way people with mental illnesses are handled and help to erase the stigma.
I have written several blogs that I would like for you to read to give you an idea of the things I have attempted to do including letters I have written to politicians.
Thanks for your time. If you have read this, I hope that you pass it on to your followers via retweeting the link or sharing on your FB page or talking to your legislators. I also would like to hear from you. My email address is Mickey3333NC@gmail.com or you can contact me via FB at: https://www.facebook.com/Mickey3333
I would be happy to do the same for you to better your cause. Let’s work together and make a difference so things like this don’t keep happening.
Amy Gamble is a Mental Health Speaker, Coach & Advocate. Olympian and Bipolar survivor. Find out more about her and her cause and fight at amygamble.com.
Amy Gamble is the Executive Director of NAMI Greater Wheeling. She’s been speaking for the past two years and has reached over 4000 people. From conferences to commencement speeches, Amy has given over 100 talks in two years. She’s well know for her inspiring and educational talks. Amy has a unique pathway to becoming a speaker.
Some more information about her Olympic Career: She graduated from John Marshall High School in 1982) and is one of the Ohio Valley’s greatest female athletes of all time. Gamble excelled in three sports – basketball, track and women’s handball.
She became Marshall County’s first Olympian when she competed with the U.S. Women’s Handball Team in the 1988 Games held in Seoul, Korea. Earlier, the U.S. Women were crowned as champions of the Pan American Games.
Gamble was selected as the West Virginia Women’s Basketball Player of the Year in 1982 after leading John Marshall to the state Class AAA championship. She averaged 23 points and 18 rebounds on a 22-1 record team which avenged its only loss by defeating Elkins in the state finals. Captain of the All-State Team, Gamble was a two-time Class AAA first-team honoree. She was chosen All-OVAC and All-Valley three straight years.
She was the first JMHS girls’ basketball performer to score more than 1,000 points and the initial Monarch athlete to have her jersey retired. She scored 1,498 career points. Gamble was ranked as the No. 4 girls’ basketballplayer in the country her senior season when was named to the Parade, Street & Smith and USA Today All-American teams.
Recruited by Tennessee, she played as a backup on the 1983 Lady Vols’ squad that finished as the NCAA tournament runners-up, losing to the Cheryl Miller-led Southern Cal powerhouse. She left Tennessee at the end of that season and transferred to West Virginia University but played just one season before deciding to try team handball.
After her appearance in the Olympics, Gamble returned to basketball and enrolled at the University of Arizona. Despite having just one season of eligibility remaining, Gamble was the team’s leading scorer and she earned Pacific-10 Conference player of the week laurels.
Her high school track career was also brilliant, as Gamble set numerous invitational meet and OVAC records in the shot put and the discus. She established all-time OVAC standards in both events and was a West Virginia state champion in both events. She was a three-time All-Valley honoree.
Here are some of the days/weeks/months set aside for the various mental illnesses and/or mental health topics. Take some time to click on the source link to learn how you can help to raise awareness on the topic. If you own a social media site or write a blog, share information about the topic during that time period and encourage others to share it too. Let’s spread the word about the various mental illnesses together.
Do you ever find it difficult to slow down your mind? For some of us, a racing mind is a serious problem. When we’re agitated, we have no control over our mind, and it becomes extremely difficult to meditate.
An agitated mind leads to stress and a whole host of health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. It even disrupts our relationships and sleep.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to this problem. No matter how fast your mind is racing, you can learn how to cultivate a calm and serene mind, and the good news is that it’s a lot easier than you might think. The only catch is that you have to be willing to take a few simple suggestions.
Sources of Mental Agitation
Some people have the misconception that they need to calm their minds before they start meditating. They often think that they’re “the type of person” who just can’t sit still. Having a calm mind is not a matter of who you are, but rather what you do.
To understand why our minds get so agitated, it would help to understand a little about how they work. The primary mechanism by which we perceive the world is through our five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell). These are our receptors. They are connected to our brains and send us raw information about what is taking place around us at any given moment.
Each time our senses are stimulated, our brain reacts by trying to interpret the signals it receives and tries to determine the proper response. In other words, each stimulus triggers a thought, either conscious or unconscious.
There are four main sources of mental agitation: 1) Too many commitments, 2) background noise, 3) painful memories, and 4) worrying. There are short-term solutions for dealing with too many commitments and background noise. Painful memories and worrying will take more time to overcome, but they will resolve themselves through a regular meditation practice.
Too Many Commitments
Most of us are unaware that our daily activities are the primary sources of our mental agitation. Once we become aware of these sources, we can do something about them. So when people ask me how to stop their minds from racing, I tell them to start by taking their foot off the accelerator.
Some of us have too many commitments in our lives. Every waking moment of our day is packed with activities, and we never have time to rest. We all want to be productive because it gives us a sense of accomplishment and purpose. The problem with having too many commitments is that all the activities agitate our minds so much that it becomes increasingly harder to slow it down. This makes it harder to think clearly, therefore, lowering our effectiveness and productivity.
To address this problem, I suggest making a list of all your activities and commitments, including meditation. Remember that your spiritual development is important to your family’s happiness, because it will enable you to truly be there for them. Then prioritize your commitments according to how much they contribute to your and your family’s happiness, and give up the least important ones to make time for your personal needs, such as rest and meditation.
With many of our commitments, we have no choice in the short-run. We can’t quit our jobs or abandon our families, but we can consider more carefully what we truly need to survive and be happy. For example, do all our material possessions really make our family happier, or do they take us away from our loved ones? With mindfulness, we can determine the real sources of happiness and strive to incorporate them into our lives.
Background noise is another major source of mental agitation, and much of it is unnecessary. Often when we’re driving home after a busy day at work, we’ll turn on the radio in our car to help us unwind—all the while, still thinking about work or things we need to do at home, such as checking on the kids or making dinner.
When we get home, we might turn on the television while we settle in, not really paying attention to what’s on. We usually do this unconsciously to drown out the constant chatter in our mind. What we may not realize is that this background noise is agitating our mind even more, and when it becomes too much, we might pour ourselves a drink to help us relax.
Some people play the radio or television while they work, thinking this will help them concentrate. The reason this seems to help is because the extra noise prevents uncomfortable thoughts from rising to the surface, but the background noise only creates more agitation.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with watching TV or listening to the radio. The problem arises when we simply use them as background noise. Of course, we should also use some discretion concerning what we watch or listen to. Remember, whichever seeds in your mind you water, those will be the ones that grow.
I would suggest turning off the radio or television (or any other entertainment device) when you’re doing something else. This will help you concentrate on what you’re doing. Try it for a week. I think you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.
The Calming Power of Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is a simple tool for keeping your mind from racing out of control. Practicing mindful breathing is very easy and doesn’t take long, and it will interrupt the acceleration of your mind. This will enable you to think with greater clarity, since you’ll have less mental agitation.
All you have to do is stop occasionally and take three to five mindful breaths. You don’t have to strain to concentrate on your breathing, but rather just pay attention to it.
Mindful breathing also has other benefits. It reminds us of what we’re trying to accomplish through our meditation practice, and it brings us back to the present moment, which is where reality is always taking place. You may want to post a reminder note somewhere you’ll see it throughout the day because it’s easy to forget.
Practicing mindful walking is also very easy. Most of us do a great deal of walking through our daily activities: at home, work, school, or when tending to our family’s needs. These are all wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness, instead of allowing ourselves to get lost in our thoughts, many of which are either worrying or simply rehashing the same thoughts repeatedly.
When doing mindful walking, we generally walk more slowly than usual. Make your walking a smooth and continuous movement, while being mindful of each step. This can have a tremendous calming effect because it forces your mind to slow down.
As with mindful breathing, simply pay attention to your walking. With each mindful step, observe the sensation on your feet, the contraction of the muscles in your legs, or even the sensations of your clothes against your skin. Not only will this calm your mind, but it will also help you return to the present moment.
One of the best opportunities to practice mindful walking is to and from our vehicles. This is usually a time when we let our minds drift, or we get on our cell phones. Instead, why not use that time to practice mindful walking? You can even do a walking meditation session for a few minutes in a park or another quiet place.
An agitated mind can make it extremely difficult to sit and meditate for any length of time. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions. Once we become aware of the sources of our agitation, we can take measures to eliminate them. The main sources of mental agitation are: too many commitments, background noise, painful memories, and worrying.
To reduce some of the activities that are over-stimulating your mind, you can make a list of them and prioritize them according to how much they truly contribute to your and your family’s happiness and well-being. Then eliminate those activities that have low priority. Remember that your presence is important to your loved ones’ happiness, and you cannot be fully present if your mind is agitated.
When you incorporate mindful breathing and mindful walking into your daily routine, it will be a major step toward taking control of your mind by improving your ability to concentrate and staying in the present moment. There are also some powerful relaxation techniques to help your mind relax even further. Your life will become much more enjoyable because you will stop the mental agitation that is robbing you of your peace and serenity, and the harmony in your relationships.