Your Mind Matters: Episode 8 – Anxiety, College, Brain Fog, and Cannabis

Your Mind Matters: Episode 8 – Anxiety, College, Brain Fog, and Cannabis

In this week’s episode of the “Your Mind Matters” podcast, we discuss what to do when our anxiety tells us we aren’t good enough, coping with social challenges in college, getting through brain fog, and cannabis.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553.

Warning: this episode discusses suicide. If you are not in a place where you are comfortable hearing about this topic right now, it’s OK to not listen/read.

Introduction

Dr. Christine and Chris discuss the recent deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, both of who died by suicide. They discuss how we can’t always know the pain that others are experiencing, and that while it is great to ensure people are aware of resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), it’s also important to reach out to those around us proactively and see how they’re doing. Having open and warm conversations can be very helpful. Often simply feeling heard is a big boost for people who are struggling. Dr. Christine also makes the point that we won’t make people feel suicidal by asking if they have suicidal thoughts, so you don’t need to shy away from that topic for that reason. Suicide is often an impulsive decision made as a result of fleeting thoughts, so helping people get through difficult moments is important.

Question 1: I started using your app not too long ago, and I’m finding it really useful. I have a question regarding confidence and adequacy.  I’m always finding myself thinking that I’m not good enough, and then I experience a lot of extreme anxiety because of these thoughts. It usually happens when I am faced with hard tasks at work or at school, and I know I can get through with it and I can do it, and I usually do, it’s just there’s this extreme guilt that I feel, that I know that I could be doing better. So overall my question is, how can I regain a sense of control or find confidence in myself during these high times of anxiety?

  • Chris describes that his very intense work ethic might come from holding himself to a very high standard, so he is sympathetic to the caller’s experience. He now knows that his thoughts aren’t always accurate. He might have a thought that he’s not good enough, but that doesn’t mean that he actually isn’t good enough. He then can do what he wants with that thought.
  • You can practice slow breathing to get yourself through difficult moments of extreme anxiety. This can enable you to think more rationally and address your thoughts as Chris described.
  • Acknowledge that it’s your anxiety talking. It can be helpful to externalize your anxiety and think of it as separate from you.
  • You can try an “evidence” thought record in Pacifica to really look at whether your self-statements about not being good enough are true. You may find that in fact they are not.
  • Being “good enough” might be impossible and could lead you to perfectionism. We can only do our best. Imagine that someone else is coming to you with these concerns. Would you be as harsh in your judgments of them as you are of yourself? Changing your perspective can be helpful.
  • Positive affirmations can be helpful to remind yourself that you can handle it.
  • For big tasks, breaking them down into smaller, bite-size chunks can help you feel a sense of control. Take it one step at time and check off each box as you go.
  • Remember you started out by saying that you know you can do it. The more you do this, in spite of your anxiety, the more you will realize that you really can handle it, and you are capable.

Question 2: I just finished my first year of college and I spent a lot of it pretty depressed and so I didn’t have as much fun and didn’t make as any memories as I wish I had. I am working on this summer to work on my mental health and just do an overall better job for my sophomore year, but I’m worried that once I get back for my sophomore year I am going to fall back into a bad place just seeing everyone having friends and doing all these things that I don’t have yet. Do you have any tips for just staying on top of it and not getting discouraged trying to go in with a positive mindset for my sophomore year?

  • Freshman year is hard for everyone. It’s a huge transition to go from living at home with parents into the adult world. Taking a moment to step back and evaluate how you’re doing and then resolving to make positive improvements is a step in the right direction.
  • Dr. Christine described that, for her, transitions between home and school were often hard, getting into new routines and adjusting between campus and home life was a challenge. She found it helpful to expect that rough transition and not be surprised when it happened.
  • Give yourself a clean slate to start with. Don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to others. Focus on yourself and what you want to be and what you want to achieve rather than comparing yourself to others and what they’re doing. It will be more effective to step away from social media and let go of those comparisons than to focus on that.
  • Joining clubs, participating in activities or sports can be a good way to find like-minded friends and find your niche. Having something other than just socializing to focus on can take off some of the pressure when making new friends.
  • Taking it one week at a time, breaking down your overall goals, and identifying what you want to accomplish socially week-by-week can be more manageable. Building momentum will help you to feel more confident.
  • Dr. Christine commented that college is still a challenging time as you figure out who you are and what you want to be in life. She feels that things have been easier in her 30s. Chris moved to San Diego at age 30 and realized he wouldn’t have a whole group of friends overnight. So he tried to just make one friend at time by going to meet-ups and talking to people. Just making each day better than the last was an effective approach.

Question 3: I’m dealing with issues with OCD due to stress. So it’s like situational, the symptoms are are really bad, I have bad brain fog and if that was something you could address on a podcast, it’d be really really helpful. Anything holistic or otherwise on how to deal with bad brain fog, especially while trying to go to grad school and work and the fear of not being able to finish so I don’t know how you could work that into a question, but I’d very much appreciate any kind of feedback or content on that.

  • Brain fog is the sense of confusion, trouble concentrating, keeping track of things, or feeling unclear or spacey.
  • Good basic self-care could help. Eating regularly, getting exercise, getting sleep, and making time for relaxation.
  • Calendars, notebooks, reminders and alarms can help with organization and appointment making.
  • OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by the presence of repetitive, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), and repeated, compulsive behaviors (compulsions) that are done in response the obsessive thoughts. Examples include repeated handwashing in response to obsessive thoughts about or fears of contamination or germs.
  • OCD can be treated with medications or through psychotherapy using Exposure and Response Prevention. Behavioral hierarchies may be used to help individuals face and overcome their fears and phobias.
  • Some meditations or relaxation activities may be more helpful than others for people coping with OCD. Those which are aimed at broadening your attention may be more helpful than those which focus in on your thoughts.
  • Identify what you want to accomplish in 6 months/1 year/2 years and then focus on taking it one day at a time to reach those goals. It can be overwhelming to think about your long term plan all at once.

Grab Bag: On the app when one selects cannabis and select just one entry, it’s showing up as a negative. I was wondering why alcohol is allowed up to 2 entries and it’s still considered the green status, which is considered positive. Even coffee is allowed up to 2 cups of coffee, and it’s still consider positive, but with cannabis even one entry it’s considered negative. So I was wondering why cannabis was considered negative.

  • This may be an oversight on our part. We had some internal debate about putting cannabis in and what the defaults should be. Attitudes toward cannabis really vary depending on where you are, and may be more liberal in places like California than other places in the U.S. or in other countries. We wanted to enable people to track cannabis if they would like to.
  • You can customize your goal to be 0, 1, 10, whatever works for you.
  • Cannabis may very well fall into the same category as caffeine or alcohol in that for most people, a little is OK, a lot is probably not good. And for some people, they are better off with 0 as their goal. This is a personal decision.
  • Our default settings are not intended as a political statement or judgement. We encourage you to adjust the goals to what’s best for you and what you’re targeting.
  • One of the main purposes of Pacifica is to help you identify which health behaviors affect your mood so that you can make positive changes and achieve your long-term goals, so we hope that using the mood and health trackers helps you figure out what’s best for you.
  • Some research has shown that coffee consumption can reduce depression. Christine isn’t sure who funded this research or how good it is but she defends her coffee consumption levels as being good for her mental health.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Our next themed episode is about introversion and extraversion. Call and leave us a message: 415-855-0553.