Going to a Museum = Anxiety relief?

As we navigate through anxiety there are places along the journey that we find respite. Maybe you have a favorite beach location, a park you like to walk in, a game you like to play, a food you like to eat. How about a museum? It never occurred to me that it might be a way to relieve anxiety but according to an article I found here ,it might.

From the article: “Art museums have great potential to positively impact people, including reducing their stress, enhancing positive emotional experiences, and helping people to feel less lonely and more connected,” researcher Katherine Cotter told Hyper allergic. The study, titled “Art Museums As Institutions for Human Flourishing,” was published in the Journal of Positive Psychology by Cotter and James O. Pawelski of the University of Pennsylvania.”

Further: “They discovered that visiting a museum reduced stress levels, frequent visits decreased anxiety, and viewing figurative art lowered blood pressure. They also found that museum visits lowered the intensity of chronic pain, increased a person’s life span, and lessened the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia. And people living with dementia saw mental and physical benefits as well: Spending time in a museum induced more dynamic stress responses, higher cognitive function, and improvements in the symptoms of depression.”

Maybe someday Anxiety will be a thing of the past only found in museums

Those are some serious claims. Honestly it’s hard to make the connection myself but I am not a researcher in the field. That said it is logical to assume the findings are accurate as a museum gives you an opportunity to be in public with others, admiring the same thing. You have a shared experience and want, meaning you are all here to appreciate whatever the museum holds and that in of its self is reassuring.

Anytime you can be in a public venue with like-minded people that is helpful. The clams lowering chronic pain, increasing life span etc.? those seem like stretches to me. I’d like to see a larger sample to prove out the data but I don’t take the article as complete hogwash either. Studies don’t get published unless there is minimally good controls and the researchers are of some merit. Yes, the data is probably being vetted now by other psychologists comparatively with their own research.

That said, as a non-psychologist dealing with anxiety we take any morsel of info we can get to help us along the way. So maybe visit a museum or two this year. Make it an annual rite for yourself, perhaps it will help with anxiety and the many other issues discussed in the article.

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Surviving 2020 & covid

The Stigma’s of Depression – Repost of one of my better articles.

Found a very interesting article with several links to studies that discusses multiple stigma’s for various groups in society.

MDD or Major depressive disorder is an underdiagnosed condition. Often its not the medical professionals that miss the signs, but rather the patients who are covering up and hiding symptoms due to stigmatism. Race as an example is a factor as many minorities are already dealing with accepted social profiles (although this is changing) the mere fact you are a minority (there are less people that look like you) could be an important factor in whether you have depression. Often, we see minority groups that live near each other, there is a reason for that beyond our social constructs. Simply put, humans are social creatures and we want to be around people who we believe are like ourselves.

Then there are men. Some men suffer in silence, but why? “As to why the men did not seek help for depression or sadness, the main themes focused on weakness and loss of masculinity for doing so.” Again, this specific social stigma is changing but not fast enough if you ask me.

College students were also studied. College has become a far more competitive environment than it was. If you are a Gen Xer like me, you went to college in the 90’s. Yes, it was competitive, but we didn’t have the weight of social media hanging around our necks either. When we went to bars and to parties, we weren’t uploading the “perfect pics” to Instagram. Maybe a few to myspace…. (😊) Millennials and now Gen Z are competing with one another for coveted spots in schools, on social media, in sports the list goes on and on. For some depression is a clear outcome for this increased pressure and the stigma attached to it is now not only do you have your inner social circle, but that circle includes individuals who can broadcast your issues to literally millions of people via YouTube, a blog like this, Instagram, twitter…

Social Media = Anxiety

Last let’s discuss older people. What is “old” “it’s just a number its all how you feel” well if that’s true there were somedays last month I felt dam near 80…. Older individuals are usually people, clinically anyway 55 or older, elderly is your 70+. Those are both generalities based on what I have observed and read over the years, you decide for yourself, but I think you get the picture. The issue here is the stigma of “getting old” is in fact reality based. Meaning at this point in our lives we are entering the final phases of our live. Average age for men in women is 80 ish, so a 73-year-old is closer to their ultimate live expectancy.

The stigma is the fight against aging and the omission of being old. You see it over and over in TV commercials. Product A offers healthier skin, Product B relieves joint pain, Product C lowers cholesterol so you can play with the grand kids…. Point here is we have built marketing around combating aging and taking products to help what ails us. This creates the conditions by which many don’t want to talk about getting old, which can lead to masking of serious depression issues for older citizens. Loss of spouses, friends passing, Parents and siblings facing medical issues… all of these contribute to the mortality mindset. You begin to think about your own, and many enter depression as a result.

“The paradox of depression treatment is that patients who most need it are often the ones who have difficulty accessing care due to stigma, attitudes toward mental health, and lack of access. Healthcare professionals need to adapt their approaches with different populations to ensure access to care.”

If you are depressed or just don’t feel right your age is irrelevant. You should tell your Dr. who can help you. The goal is to live the best life you can with the time you have, living in depression doesn’t have to be a life sentence.

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Ancient Wisdom - Confucius

Ancient Wisdom – Confucius

Many of us have heard of Confucius, we know that he was a Chinese philosopher who through his years of writing, observation and work in government created a philosophy of personal morality. This isn’t a political piece or a religious piece. As individuals with anxiety we can use wisdom of the past to help us in the present.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
—Confucius

How many times have we been faced with an issue that looks like a mountain? We get overwhelmed and we fall into the pit of woe that is anxiety and mental health issues. Is one little saying going to help us? Maybe a little, maybe not at all.

How to move mountains
When you have Anxiety, Mountains appear often.

That said at the end of the day events happen to us, mountains appear. We have to deal with them. The beauty of this wisdom is it illustrates literally and figuratively how to deal with a problem that becomes a mountain.

You have to start, and you work the problem one small step (stone) at a time. Look we all have obstacles that pop up in our lives and some of them are extreme. You can move that mountain, be calm, and be methodical… Take one step at a time, one stone at a time and in no time the mountain will be moved and you will be right back on your chosen path.

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Physical stress leads to cognitive decline later(Repost)

Cognitive decline is no joke, many of us have someone in their life or know someone by extension who has or is dealing with someone with a mental illness in later life. Imagine for a moment not remembering the people you love? I’ve had some personal experience with someone in my family who had Alzheimer’s. It was devastating for the immediate family (it was my aunt) and it was just very sad.

I found a good article here about how physical stress can lead to cognitive decline.

From the article: “The research team studied 99 adults between the ages of 60 and 79 who were cognitively healthy – clear of psychiatric and neurologic illness, plus no history of stroke; transient ischemic attack, also known as a “mini-stroke”; or head trauma. By using brain images of the participants and an occupational survey about their most recent job, the researchers found that those who reported high levels of physical stress on the job had a smaller hippocampus – the region of the brain associated with memory – and performed worse on memory-related tasks. Examples of physically demanding work included excessive reaching or lifting of boxes onto shelves.”

No matter what job you do, sleep is critical !

Now this is by no means an extensive study but it still very telling. Those with “physical stress” had a smaller hippocampus. This can be associated with many jobs what we in the west traditionally call “blue collar” jobs. FedEx delivery, Coal Miners, Landscapers, Roofers on and on. The article talks about how stress accelerates the aging process, we knew that.

We now know through this limited study that physical stress can also accelerate the aging process. I don’t think this is a revelation to most but the association of physical stress at work to a decreased hippocampus later in life is very revealing. Some people work hard all their lives to enjoy retirement and a year or two in health problems start to appear.

Hard work is good for the soul, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and there is a certain satisfaction to it. When I was young I worked on my grandparent’s farm, we worked hard every day and by night fall I was out. The food tasted better, breaks were more enjoyable, and sleep was pure.

For those of you out there busting your hump in a physically demanding job make sure you are taking care of your body and mind. Adequate rest is critical and if you are “feeling it” get help ASAP. There is no shame in asking for help if you feel stress or anxiety.

You are doing awesome, one day at a time. 

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What is the U.S. holiday “Memorial Day?”

Like many blogs I get traffic from all over the world. Russia, China, India, UK, Australia, Italy, Brazil and everywhere in between. I’ve learned a lot in my travels around WordPress. The diversity of cultures is great and it interests me a great deal. I often wonder about holidays in other countries, what event inspired it etc. Today in the U.S. is Memorial Day and its one of our most revered national holidays.

What is it? :  

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Source:

To understand Memorial Day today and what Decoration Day in the past was it’s important to illustrate how profoundly the civil war changed American culture. It wasn’t just resolving the issue of slavery, it was in effect how we became one country instead of a group of states acting as one country. The social and economic ramifications of a strong central government are still reverberating today, prior most states enjoyed near complete autonomy from the federal government.

Moreover the death toll from the Civil War was staggering and it impacted nearly every American in some way at the time. It isn’t some event that is held in the abstract, most Americans have someone in their family tree who fought in this conflict. Even new Americans who have recently migrated to the U.S. see the statues in their towns, see the culture references still present today. I was in Alabama 3 years ago on business, one of the people I met with introduced me as “his Yankee friend from New England”.

Like most holidays its meaning and application have changed over time. As an example, this year there will not be many parades due to covid. Most Americans have this day off from work paid. Most of us will have a party or attend one. Many more of us will go to the cemetery and visit the graves of those we lost.

And of course there is the national wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington national cemetery. This is to honor those who fought and died for the U.S. whom we could not identify or who never came home.

Memorial Day in the U.S. is important to us on so many levels. Kids can begin to plan their summer vacations, warm weather begins to take hold across the country, and we get a day to reflect on why we are proud to be American.

I know the later sentiment isn’t a popular one these days. Any hint of nationalism is often met with a skeptical eye. For me, I’m glad I live in the U.S. and I am proud of my heritage and my country, as I am sure you are as proud of yours.

Historic Inflation – The most important # you need to know is 3.22%

So another finance piece today. I am not going to go through my normal disclaimer hopefully by now you understand you should be diligent about your finances and obtain information from multiple sources. I’m thankful you consider me one, today we are going to talk about inflation. Yes, its real, and it isn’t exclusive to one region we have global inflation. The numbers I will use in this post will be U.S. numbers but in my research it tracks, mostly, globally.

You are probably wondering what the 3.22% is, that is the historic average inflation rate over the last 108 years. That’s ON AVERAGE, which is important. We have years in there where we have 13.5% inflation (1980) so it’s really important to have good perspective here. Historic inflation isn’t as important as “life time” inflation. That metric is the inflation rate in YOUR life time. For me? Its 3.95%. None of the numbers I am throwing at you include 2022 which right now is approx. 8.5% (give or take). As it isn’t a full year of data we can’t use it for these purposes.

Here is a link to the historic chart I am using. So a few important things to remember.

  1. The distinction between historic and life time inflation rates.
  2. The likelihood of sustained inflation.
  3. Globalization

I distinguished the 1st item already, but items 2-3 are intertwined. We had a sustained period of high inflation in the U.S. from 1973 – 1983 (roughly) that’s a long time. That was in my life time, it might be yours too. What normally happens, and is happening now is wages increase as inflation increases but rarely at the same rate. As an example, it’s likely that in 2022 we will come in between 6-10% inflation for the year, it’s unlikely that your income increased by that same amount. The thing that is a killer about sustained inflation is multiple years where your income doesn’t match or exceed inflation = less wealth overall.

Inflation decreases your purchasing power.

You may make more but it doesn’t buy as much, basically. Globalization is a fairly new phenomenon in the inflation equation. In the 70-80’s it was far less then it is now. So what happens in one major country affects the global consumption and production metrics. If China can’t produce as much of X as it normally does, the price of X goes up, or inflates. Add in a pandemic here and there and well you get the picture.

There is only one sure fire way to combat inflation for you personally and that is increase your income by more than the current inflation rate. The problem is most can’t do that. So the second best way to combat inflation is to ensure your income and investments are increasing more than the average inflation rate in your life time. So for me, that means I need to increase my income and investments every year by 3.95%. Now that is just to remain as is, if I want to improve my financial situation (my ability to consume more) I need to increase my return by MORE THAN 3.95%.

Take a look at the link above and see what your life time inflation rate is. This is the minimum target you should be striving for in all of your investments and your income. Trying to figure it out monthly or on an annual is probably not going to work, but hey if you can make 8.5% in these markets I tip my hat to you. For now, shoot for 4% minimum, 6-8% would be ideal and reasonably attainable if you have investments.

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How to improve as a man – Accepting an unpleasant reality

Society has come a long way in terms of equality. It is true that at many points in the past there was gross inequality in nearly all aspects of life. Are things perfect? No, are they better? Yes. As a man you have a very unpleasant reality staring you in the face. At one time men enjoyed the fruits if in-equality. Maybe you were alive for that, so you think it doesn’t apply and that’s largely true but society has evolved to the point where it is now common place to shame/cancel people for things that happened decades prior.

That’s an unpleasant reality for everyone. What is the unpleasant reality for men that we have to accept? That Women, Pets, and Kids are loved unconditionally, and a man is loved only when he provides something. Of course this isn’t an absolute, it’s not 100% of the time but you look at the current cultural and social norms and this is a truism. Is it right, wrong? I’m not here to debate that or get into an argument over men’s rights or feminism. I am here to help men improve and for today’s lesson on improvement, men have to accept this reality.

There are organizations all over the world that help women, children, pets. When was the last time you saw an organization that was dedicated to helping men exclusively? I’m betting it’s not often at all, and are you a white heterosexual male? LOL good luck…

Don’t fight battles you know going in you can’t win.

How we improve here is by accepting this social dynamic reality. Fighting against it is wasted energy at this point you will be overcome by wave after wave of individuals whom want you silenced. I’m not here to discuss their motivations or why we are where we are but to offer you a way to excel in this reality. Embrace the notion that your value will be based on what you can provide to others. It is not and never will be unconditional like women, pets and children. As a man you will be measured by what you offer, for now anyway.

If you can accept that, then you can begin the process of building the basis by which what you are offering is in demand. That is the secret here, understanding the social dynamic and creating the conditions by which you “fill the bill”. Maybe you want to fight against this and find it hypocritical and detrimental? I would recommend you research MGTOW if that is the case. If you want to prosper as a man in the 2020’s what you offer to others will dramatically increase your value.

Examples of “offerings”

  1. Financial stability
  2. Good moral compass
  3. Physically fit
  4. Great hygiene
  5. Leadership
  6. Willingness to do the work others wont
  7. Honesty

I am not suggesting this is a great situation at all, its problematic for everyone because in the end what happens is resentment. Resentment is the poison that kills relationships. You’re going to resent people because you have to deal with this reality. Meantime something happens to a female and there are 800 different resources for them to draw from to recover. You? You’re on your own. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you will become stronger and have more to offer.

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How to turn your anxiety into a super power

For years now I have been doing posts on anxiety where I seek out articles and cite them for the purpose of giving people information. Inevitably many of these articles come boil down to a very simple proposition: change the way you think. I mean anyone with anxiety will tell you If they could do that they would. We get these over simplifications in many areas of life and its tiring. I found an article here that somewhat does this, but gets to the critical aspect of the identification process.

From the article: “Suzuki talks about “the superpower of productivity,” which you can tap into simply by listening carefully to the actual content of your worries. “A very, very common manifestation of anxiety is that ‘what if’ list that comes in your head: What if I get sick with Covid, what if I don’t get an A, what if I can’t remember what the professor said on this part of the test? The superpower that comes with that anxiety-induced what-if list is shifting that into a to-do list,” she explains to Newman. “ 

Chronic Anxiety is like having an itch that you can never scratch.

So the critical point here is identifying the source of the anxiety. Worried about an exam? Study more. I know simple right? The point here is identifying sources of anxiety and attempting to address them directly. This action begins the process of the infamous “change how you think” narrative and why this article is so valuable. You are likely never going to escape anxiety completely but if there are reoccurring issues that create anxiety, identifying them and working toward addressing them directly is going to bare a lot of fruit for your mental state.

Many of us, myself included have a multifaceted issue. Meaning it’s never just one thing, it’s an accumulation of many small issues that converge and lead to intrusive thoughts and debilitating mood swings. Take one issue at a time, if its work, well what part of work specifically? Try and drill down here, get into the weed and really figure out what is driving your anxiety. When you do this you create the conditions by which you can recover faster as you can in many cases address the issue directly and resolve it.

One down, hundreds more to go but its progress….

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How to move mountains

Time – The most valuable commodity in the world

I haven’t done a piece on time recently. As I contend in several of my blog posts over the years, Time is the most valuable commodity in the world. How you spend it largely determines how happy you are. Today’s lesson is relative to “years”. I am going to give you a popular phrase below, you’ve probably uttered it yourself or know someone who has.

“They (you determine who the they are) just turned (you fill in the year) so I have a good “X” amount of years left with them”

Let’s hone this a bit……

“My dad just turned 72, so I probably have a good 10 years left with him”

We usually end there. There is another question we rarely propose and to truly value our time we have to start asking it. With my example above that question is “how many times a year do you see your dad?”

Maybe you see him every day, that’s cool move on to the next person. Maybe he lives across the country and you see him twice a year. That would mean that, by our logic above that you have “a good 10 years left with him” then you are only going to see him 20 more times. Could be less, could be more. That’s not so many is it?

Time is the most valuable commodity in the world and every day we lose more of it.

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Anxiety: Back to Basics

Let me start this post off with a link to a great resource the Anxiety and Depression Association of America . This site has excellent information for anyone who thinks they have an anxiety disorder or knows they do and you just need more information. This website has a lot of information and resources and can assist with a multitude of issues. I strongly recommend taking a look at the site and the reference material it offers.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is essentially a catch all for nonspecific anxiety triggers most of us call them phobias. “GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms” . When I read this I realized that at several points in my life this applied to me. GAD isn’t a constant condition it can come and go but I’ve found in my travels that more often than not it is always present just to varying degrees.

From the Website: “GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected. The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.”

stressed-out-woman
Anxiety doesn’t care about your ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

I thought this excerpt from the site was particularly potent. 6.8 million adults… Ya we aren’t alone. I found it very interesting that they claim women are twice as likely to be affected. I can logically extrapolate some instances why, pregnancy, physical appearance and family pressures come to mind. The worse part though is the multitude of factors and the lack of specificity as to why this occurs.

Essentially anything can trigger this, maybe you went to a concert Saturday and your ears were ringing when you got up the next day “am I going to go deaf?” you ask yourself. A common seemingly sterile situation right? So the next time you don’t hear something correctly are you now delving back into anxiety? Technically yes, again its degree’s but you are anxious about a future outcome based on an example of the past. You can’t absolutely say that your past experience will be identical to your future outcome but it’s your best gauge.

Then you begin to think “god if I just didn’t go to that concert I wouldn’t have this issue” and on and on it goes. That’s just one very simple example but it’s a prelude to Generalized Anxiety Disorder. There is no definitive moment as to when it begins for anyone, but when you are “in the moments” of anxiety you know it. The sensations are unique to everyone but if you’ve had panic attacks you know the gambit it can run. You can be highly functional and then for days struggle to get out of bed because you can’t overcome the anxiety.

Then, one day you feel good. Not perfect, not “wow that was silly I am free and clear” but the fog clears for you and you go on without worrying about it at all. This is GAD and it can flip day to day, week to week for your entire life. Knowledge is power and remember you aren’t alone. There are millions of people all over the world that have anxiety and deal with it sometimes daily, sometimes randomly sometimes just situationally with specific phobias. Hang in there, one day at a time.

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