5 Ways to Beat Nighttime Anxiety

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the most challenging times of the day for people with anxiety is the time right before bed. After a long, stressful day, a person with anxiety may struggle to decompress, which can often lead to sleepless nights, which only contributes to the anxiety and stress felt the following days. Finding ways to relax before bed is the key to getting to bed in a timely manner. Here are a few ways to combat nighttime anxiety and fully relax before bed time.

1. Stretching – We hold so much tension in our bodies, especially at the end of a long, stressful day. Doing some simple, light stretches can help release some of this tension, which will help the body relax overall. Many people with anxiety also have issues with soreness and even bruxism (teeth grinding), so getting some stretches in before bed helps to prevent both of these things so you can wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, not sore!

2. Meditation – Meditating before bed helps you find peace and quiet in your mind so you can drift off to sleep with ease. Find some peace and quiet in your own home and meditate for a little while before going to bed. If quiet is hard to come by in your home, lie down and listen to a guided meditation through headphones. You can find many free guided meditations on YouTube to help you get ready to drift off to sleep. Try this one!

3. Essential Oil Diffuser – Many studies have shown the benefits of using essential oils for those struggling anxiety, depression, physical pain, stress, and more! There are particular oils that have been proven to benefit anxiety in particular. These include lavender, rose, chamomile, bergamot, ylang ylang, vetiver, and frankincense. Choose your favorite scent, put it in an oil diffuser, and turn it on when you are beginning your relaxing process before bed. Find essential oils and diffusers on Amazon.

4. Coloring – Adult coloring books have become the newest trend, however, did you know that they can help improve anxiety and sleep? Coloring is a relaxing, soothing activity that help with a number of mental and emotional issues. Focusing on coloring actually turns down the brain’s response to stress. Additionally, it is an activity before bedtime that does not require you to sit in front of a screen. Watching TV, playing on a cell phone, and other activities where one must stare at a screen have actually been proven to deter people’s ability to fall asleep. However, coloring still keeps a person actively engaged while also relaxing the mind.

5. Journaling – Many people know the feeling of lying awake in bed at night ruminating on all of the problems of the day, month, and/or year. However, writing a journal entry right before bed time gives us a chance to let out all our anxieties, worries, and fears. We can put the journal away right before bed along with all of these stressful emotions so that we can fall asleep easier, having already expressed the emotions that would normally be in our minds when we’re trying to sleep.

 

If you struggle with anxiety, stress-management, or sleep issues, schedule a free consultation with our director Dr. Ross to develop a wellness plan unique to your needs. Call 781-444-9115 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Benefits of Exercise for the Brain

Image courtesy of Madrolli at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Madrolli at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

The importance of exercise for the body is emphasized by every health professional in the United States, but did you know that exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, also benefits the brain? Here is a list of ways exercise benefits the brain.

 

1. Exercise increases your heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. The brain cannot actually store oxygen, so the brain always needs a constant supply.

2. Exercise acts as an antidepressant for the brain, proven to reduce stress hormones and feelings of anxiety. Exercise also contributes to more cell growth in the hippocampus, increasing cognitive ability in the part of the brain that controls memory and learning ability. Those who exercise have the ability to learn at a faster rate than those who do not according to studies. Exercise also releases endorphins, which are proven to improve mood.

3. Exercise stimulates brain plasticity, which is the brain’s extraordinary way of changing it’s own functioning and structure. It is a reorganization of the brain’s neuropathways by creating new neural connections. Excerise actually makes it easier to create new neural connections.

4. Exercise improves cognitive performance across a person’s lifespan, and can reduce cognitive decline associated with aging. Naturally, the brain starts to function differently as a person ages, but exercise helps keep the brain sharp and fresh, even in older ages.

5. Exercise reduces inflammation in the brain. This allows the brain to function more healthily, calmly, and effectively.

6. Exercise helps people sleep better at night. Expending so much energy working out helps the body regulate sleep patterns. However, exercising at night may stimulate the brain if it’s too high of an intensity, which can keep a person up at night. This is why yoga is an excellent choice for night exercise, as it works to calm the brain as well.

7. Exercising regularly can benefit those struggling with ADHD because it releases serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are all hormones associated with the ability to motivate and concentrate, affecting attention and focus. It works as a natural stimulant for the brain without the unwanted side effects of stimulant medication.

 

 

5 Sneaky Symptoms of Stress

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The average person commonly experiences high levels of stress at any given time, especially if work or school starts increasing demands on performance. The body processes stress in mysterious ways. It is important to listen to what your body is telling you. Read this list of five sneaky symptoms of stress.

1. Difficulty Concentrating – There is so much to do, yet you have completely lost your ability to sit down and focus on the project at hand? Emotional stress can actually cause concentration problems. Your brain is feeling overwhelmed to the point where you begin thinking about other issues and not the task right in front of you. Not being able to focus will in turn cause more stress because you are unable to finish the work you need to accomplish.

2. Weight Gain – As if being stressed doesn’t cause enough emotional turmoil, suddenly your belt is feeling tighter than usual. Weight gain is commonly associated with stress for a couple of reasons. Impulsive eating goes hand in hand with feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, is produced, slowing down the metabolism and making a person crave fatty, sugary foods.

3. Digestive Issues – Stress can directly impact the functioning of a person’s gastrointestinal tract. People experience high levels of stress often experience stomach aches, diarrhea and/or constipation, nausea, and even vomiting. Combine this experience with out of control cortisol levels causing cravings for unhealthy foods, and the body becomes very overwhelmed. This is why, despite all of the unhealthy cravings you may be experiencing, eating a healthy diet is crucial to combatting stress.

Image courtesy of marin at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marin at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4. Being Sick – You are overwhelmed and now to top it off, you seem to have caught some kind of viral sickness that you just can’t fight? Stress actually compromises your immune system making it very easy to get sick and quite difficult to get over a sickness. Getting sick ultimately contributes to your stress level as you are not able to accomplish what was making you stressed to begin with.

 5. Trouble Sleeping – Sleep is supposed to be a period of time for your body and brain to rest, rejuvenate, and ready itself for the following day. However, when stress levels are out of control, getting the kind of rest you need becomes very difficult. Falling asleep or staying asleep becomes challenging, as the brain continues to ruminate on the various causes of stress. Additionally, if you are exhausted throughout the day, it becomes nearly impossible to focus and your body craves high-calorie, fatty foods to compensate for the lack of energy, feeding into the vicious cycle of stress reactions contributing to the overall state.

Good news! Neurofeedback teaches the brain to function healthily, reducing and/or eliminating all of these symptoms of stress! Put an end to the cycle! Read our blog 5 Healthy and Natural Stress Management Tips! To learn more about how neurofeedback can help reduce stress levels and symptoms, call our office for a free consultation with our director Dr. Jolene Ross! 781-444-9115

Mood Disorders and Neurofeedback

Photo courtesy of stockimages at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo courtesy of stockimages at www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mood disorders are a category of mental illness that cause a significant change in a person’s mood. Depression is a common feature of mental illness with 20% of the US population reports at least one symptom of depression a month. Various types of mood disorders identify depression as the main issue, can hinder a person’s normal function in day to day life. Read our blog “10 Types of Depression” where we discuss different types of depression and how neurofeedback can be used to calm symptoms to improve quality of life.

Emotional symptoms of mood disorders include:

  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Physical symptoms of mood disorders include:

  • Excessive sleeping or insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Body aches and pains
  • Digestive problems

There are many factors that may contribute to the development of mood disorders. Genetics and biological factors have been connected to a person’s predisposition to developing mood disorders in addition to other factors including environmental factors and nutrition. Combinations of these factors affect how neurotransmitters, or chemicals in the brain, interact, causing a brain imbalance responsible for the mood disorder.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Physical illness is greatly associated with mood disorders, with 25% of hospitalized medical patients exhibiting signs of depression. Chronic medical conditions often involve a level of stress that can change brain chemistry, resulting in mood disorders. Coexisting mental health conditions have a high likelihood of developing with mood disorders. For example, anxiety is a common occurrence with depressive disorders. Studies show 15%-30% of people suffering from major depression also experience panic attacks.

The relationship between substance abuse and mood disorders is a very serious psychiatric concern. Substance abuse can be partly responsible for someone developing a mood disorder. In fact, sometimes the symptoms of major depression in an addiction case will disappear when the substance abuse has stopped. On the other hand, mood disorders can also be responsible for a person developing dependence on a substance, such as alcohol or drugs, in an effort to cope with the mood disorder.

Neurofeedback aims to retrain the brain to function healthily and normally so a person is able to live life without the heavy burden of suffering from a mood disorder. As mentioned, mood disorders are related to brain chemistry. If parts of the brain are not functioning optimally, symptoms will appear. An EEG brain map identifies exactly where the brain is struggling, and neurofeedback sessions target these areas to teach the brain how to function better. The brain is then able to function calmly and the symptoms of mood disorders are eliminated.

For more information about neurofeedback, please contact us or call our office at 781-444-9115

Anxiety and Neurofeedback – By Dr. Jolene Ross

drross

Over the past nearly 20 years, I have worked successfully with children, adolescents, and adults with anxiety disorders using neurofeedback. There are times when anxiety is secondary to a learning or social problem. If a person has a problem with their brain, they cannot trust their brain function and conclusions, which is very anxiety provoking. This is especially true if these challenges have been happening for a long time. In this case, it is necessary to address the neurological underpinnings of the learning problems as well as the anxiety.

It is also possible that anxiety is related to repeated attempts at social interaction that resulted in rejection. In this case, the problems that need to be addressed with neurofeedback include anxiety itself as well as social competence.

Anxiety can be the result of a language-based learning disability where the person may have difficulty either understanding what people are saying or forming a response. In either case, language is not working as an effective communication vehicle resulting in anxiety. Of course, in this case, we address the language and/or auditory processing challenges.

Anxiety can have it’s own life in the brain. It can show up as problems in the midline of the brain, somewhere from the middle of the forehead to the middle of the back of the head. This is over the cingulate gyrus, which, when not working properly, can result in anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. We see these problems on our brain maps and address them with neurofeedback.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are times when anxiety appears as over suppression, meaning the brain waves are too small  in the prefrontal region, the forehead. This is associated with a style of hyper vigilance and is seen in anxiety in addition to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is related to a person never feeling quite safe. Teaching the brain to increase the size of these brain waves is very helpful in relieving the distress of anxiety.

Feelings of anxiety can also be related to the orbital frontal portion of the cingulate gyrus. This is the portion of the brain that is responsible for scanning the universe to see if everything is okay. If not, the person feels either anxious and/or the need to “fix it”, leading to repetitive behaviors such as those seen in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

People on the autistic spectrum are typically very anxious. This anxiety can show up on our brain maps over the cingulate gyrus or can show up as very large slow brain waves, especially in the front of the brain. This problem is associated with a lack of frontal lobe controls including emotional control and state control. It is also true that if a person is on the autistic spectrum, the world is very bewildering. I can remember working with a child who used to climb up on the garage roof, having no idea that it was dangerous. He also thought he could walk through walls and could not understand that this did not work. You can imagine how anxiety provoking it is for a person with autism to try to figure out the day-to-day and moment-to-moment demands and expectations placed on him or her. With neurofeedback, we can address the frontal lobe control issues, the cingulate gyrus if it is an issue, and challenges reading social cues. Strengthening frontal lobes increases emotional control, frustration tolerance and cause and effect thinking.

It can also be very upsetting and therefore anxiety provoking to have no language or insufficient language to either understand or communicate ones needs effectively. Frustration, explosiveness, apparent lack of cooperation, and agitation can result. Neurofeedback is wonderful at helping improve vocabulary, language expression, comprehension, and social pragmatics. Combine this with targeting the anxiety itself helps to establish a calmer demeanor.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many challenges are stress activated or stress enhanced. These include slow processing speed, attention, focus, Tourette’s and tick behaviors, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and anxiety disorders. Strengthening the brain and the brain’s ability to control it’s own state strengthens stress resilience. This in itself reduces the effect of these types of challenges.

Anxiety can also manifest itself in the brain in the right central area, about three to four inches above the right ear. This is on the sensory motor strip, and area that goes from ear to ear like a headband. This location is where information goes from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain. The right side of the brain is related to self-soothing and self-calming. If this particular area is not working effectively, the signals from the body are danger, agitation, and over arousal. This is particularly important if the problem manifests itself in the alpha wave band, which is a meditative, calming brain wave.

Improving anxiety improves not just the comfort and quality of life but enhances many cognitive functions as well such as memory, attention, focus, word finding, and processing speed. Anxiety can create a ‘brain freeze’ feeling, where a person has trouble accessing their good brain. How many people have been in front of a group and couldn’t think what they were going to say or raised their hand in class and lost the answer they were so eager to share. This is the result of anxiety.

A young man, age 17, just beginning his senior year of high school, came to my office for help with his anxiety. He had spent the summer traveling internationally and came home terribly anxious. His mother, who was hoping to avoid medication, brought him to see me. By the time he completed neurofeedback, his anxiety was completely under control and it has not returned.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A high school freshman came in for help with his anxiety. As a child he had been diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay, Not Otherwise Specified, also known as PDD, NOS, which is an autistic spectrum disorder. His main problem had been a language delay. He was extremely anxious about doing any kind of class presentation. Fear of public speaking is the most common psychological problem in the United States. He was required to give a presentation to the class and ended up having a panic attack. Ultimately, his teacher allowed him to do the presentation in private, not in front of the class. The following year, as a result of neurofeedback, he was able to present his sophomore speech in front of the class, a major victory!

An adult professional male in his early 50”s came to Advanced Neurotherapy with a tendency to get angry at his clients. He became frustrated when clients would not take his advise, which he interpreted as not trusting his expertise and judgment. He had struggled with sleep problems for years partly due to his anxiety and in part to his difficulty “shutting down” his brain for sleep. He had struggled with fear of rejection and not being good enough for most of his life. His brain map showed a signature of over-arousal and hyper-vigilance. Neurofeedback and some psychotherapy has helped tremendously, resulting in less reaction to his clients on such a personal level, no longer getting angry at clients, an improved relationship with his clients (and his wife), and improved sleep with a major reduction in dose of sleep medication.

An eleven-year-old girl was incredibly anxious when she came in for her brain map. She needed to be reassured at absolutely every step that this was safe. Now, at about half way through her neurofeedback sessions, her mother reports that she is much less anxious and has had a 40% improvement in her obsessive-compulsive behaviors. We all look forward to seeing how much more improvement she experiences before she completes treatment. She came with behaviors consistent with ADD inattentive, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and anxiety disorder. Our office assistant now describes her as very sweet and talkative. Her behavior no longer reflects an anxiety disorder.

In summary, a QEEG brain map is very effective in determining the neurological underpinnings of anxiety, making it possible to effectively relieve anxiety.