Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to Be a Supportive Partner to a Person with a Mood Disorder

Jon (whose wife Heather writes the very popular "Dooce" blog) wrote an insightful post about how he's learned to care for himself and his family when depression tries to get the best of Heather (and in turn, the rest of their family). His story is a must-read for partners who want to be supportive but aren't sure how best to go about it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mantras for Financial Anxiety

Here it is, months after I first wrote about financial anxiety, and yet the topic is still much at the fore. The U.S. presidential debates covered the subject at length last night. The lead story of every major newspaper tells of more terrible financial news. Personally, I can name several people who have lost jobs amidst this crisis.

Now, financial anxiety, like all other forms of anxiety, can have its benefits, too. Financial anxiety can get us to plan for the future, start a "rainy day" fund, update the resume, or work on increasing our education and skills in our chosen fields. Financial anxiety can goad us into finishing today what we might prefer to put off for later. That's anxiety at its most helpful.

What's unhelpful about anxiety is the constant worry, dread, that heaviness in your stomach or chest that says, "All is not right with the world." This type of financial anxiety is paralyzing because it is not actionable. As individuals, we cannot fix the world's financial crisis. When this type of anxiety rears its head, it's often helpful to have a mantra to remind ourselves to put it in its proper place. My friend Marla likes to say, "Sometimes, it's just money," meaning, money can't make us happier, or healthier, more loved, or less stressed. Sometimes, money is just money. I also like my mother-in-law's mantra: "A problem that can be fixed with money is not really a problem." In the hierarchy of problems, financial ones fall far below other issues, like losing loved ones or living with declining health.

It's important to remember that anxiety often wants us to lose sight of what we can be grateful for, and leave us to dwell on our concerns. By using a mantra, hopefully we can keep sight of the light in the corners, and put the bleak economic news in its proper place.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Alternative Treatments for Mood Disorders

With the days growing shorter here in Seattle, it's hard not to notice the way the changing seasons can affect one's mood. Coupled with the recent terrible financial crisis news, there's lots of grist out there for anxiety's and depression's mill.

I've also been thinking about the growing numbers of people who have been laid off (or are due to be laid off) from their jobs, and will be going without health insurance. Without such insurance, the cost of psychopharmacological interventions can be prohibitive. With that in mind, here are a few ideas for (potentially) lower cost alternatives:

Light Therapy: Long recommended as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), there is growing evidence (as in this meta-analysis by Gjerdingen) that it can be effective for treating antenatal and postpartum mood disorders. And while phototherapy equipment isn't cheap (I think they go for $250, or thereabouts), it's still less expensive than a month-long trip to Hawaii (which, in my opinion, the government should subsidize for us in the far northern reaches of the U.S., don't you agree?)

Massage Therapy: Gjerdingen also points out that massage therapy has been effective in reducing stress and anxiety symptoms in teenage mothers (a notoriously stressed-out group). Yes, massage therapy can become pricey quickly. It's worth asking at your local massage school or community college about their rates for student massages. (Many charge little or nothing at all in exchange for helping out a massage student.)

Yoga: I've written lots about yoga's beneficial effects on anxiety and depression in this blog. Please see my previous posts for evidence of its efficacy, and particular poses to try for various mood problems.

I'm sure lots of you have ideas about inexpensive ways of coping when mood problems set in. You are welcome to post them in the comments section, so we may all learn from each other's experience and wisdom.