Miss Migraine: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety by Tamar E. Chansky

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on September 4, 2012.

Freeing Yourself From Anxiety, Tamar ChanskyTitle: Freeing Yourself From Anxiety
Author: Tamar E. Chansky, Ph.D.
Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0738214832
List Price: $16.00

Freeing Yourself From Anxiety isn’t the kind of book I look for (as the possibility of it featuring explosions in space is right around zero). But my library, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, recently released a smart phone app that lets you download and listen to electronic audio books on your phone, among other cool features. As an unabashed book junkie, I have been, pardon my French, using the shit out of this app.

The app’s only flaw is that it presents you with a list of every audio book currently available for check out and download (2018 update: This is now fixed). You can search for a specific book, but can’t, say, browse for science fiction books. So one day, Dr. Tamar E. Chansky‘s book came up on the first page of the long list of books available for download, and I thought, what the hell, stress is a huge migraine trigger for me, maybe this will help.

Although I felt the book could have been organized better, the information and strategies for dealing with anxiety, stress, and “negative” emotions more than made up for that shortcoming. At the book’s heart are four steps to help the reader overcome anxiety. These steps work both in the moment of anxiety and as a daily practice to help reduce the overall incidence of anxiety.

And here is the book’s real strength: Chansky doesn’t simply provide direction for calming the mind and body down when anxiety grips both, but direction and ideas for daily practice to train the body not to overreact to ordinary stressors and stimuli. Examples include instituting a time for regular, deep breathing to calm the body, keeping a gratitude journal to remind us of good things, and creating positive moments of joy (like playing with a pet) instead of waiting for them to simply happen.

Throughout the book, Chansky focuses on “possible thinking.” She actually advocates against false positive thinking, because studies have shown that telling yourself things are okay when they are not is just as bad as thinking negatively. Instead, she suggests re-focusing on reality: What is the actual situation? What do you truly believe will happen? Then, we can prepare ourselves for that situation instead of becoming stressed about out unlikely possibilities.

Admittedly, I haven’t been as dedicated in applying these strategies to my life as I should be (again, because stress is a huge migraine trigger for me), but even in my casual application I’ve seen a reduction in my stress and anxiety levels, at least in the moment. Just making myself pause and ask, “Kelly, do you really think that will happen?” is enough to calm me down. This book is overflowing with strategies, so I imagine almost every reader could find several that would work for him or her.

If you suffer from migraine or another chronic illness, and stress or anxiety trigger symptoms — or if you suffer from an anxiety disorder or simple depression — this book will provide you with something to fall back on when it feels like the world is slipping away from you, fast. I would, however, suggest reading a paper copy, because I often found myself wishing I could go back and re-read sections that I liked, and that’s a little more difficult with an audio book. This is an unpaid, unsponsored review.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety?

Miss Migraine: Migraine sun vs. migraine moon

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. This post appeared first on my blog of the same name on August 11, 2012.

Migraine moon revolving around Person earth

Sketch by Kelly Lynn Thomas, 8/2012

I’ve hung this sketch on my wall, right next to my computer, to remind me that migraines don’t control my life: I do. If you’d like to repost or share it, feel free to. I only ask that you give me credit as the “artist” and post a link back to this site. And of course, if you’d like to print it out and hang it on your wall, I’d be completely flattered.

Miss Migraine: A list of all my problems, in order of their interference with my life

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The Adventures of Miss Migraine is an ongoing column about my life with chronic migraine. A version of this post appeared first on August 9, 2012, on my blog of the same name.

On days when I don’t feel quite awful enough to lie on the couch feeling miserable, but too awful to accomplish anything beyond the most basic necessities, I like to make lists. This is one I made today.

A List of All My Problems, In Order of Their Interference With My Life

  1. My head hurts, to a greater or lesser degree, every single moment I am awake.
  2. The medication I take for Problem One prevents me from sleeping well.
  3. I have only one pair of jeans that fit me, and zero pairs of shorts that fit me (and only two pairs of shorts at all). Because of Problems One and Two, plus the fact that girl pants are made for people with stick-thin legs and no butts, shopping is a painful, exhausting, frustrating experience. And I’ve never liked it much anyway. Unless it’s for books.
  4. Sometimes, partially because of Problem One, but also because of Problem Five and general anxiety and insecurity about my place in the world, I feel overwhelmingly depressed.
  5. The book I wrote isn’t published yet, and it makes me feel insecure and depressed sometimes. I’ve been trying to get it published for two years. I know it’s good enough. But believing in myself is hard, when no one else but my closest friends, family, and mentors seem to. (Note from 2018: Never got this book published, and 2018 Kelly thinks this is probably a blessing in disguise.)
  6. Zombies terrify me. Why do zombies have to be so popular? They’re everywhere. I can’t avoid them. They give me nightmares and make me think about a future (or a present) where no one is able to think for herself. Where everyone stumbles around, infecting everyone else with something incurable, something worse than death, something that will finally lead the planet to utter devastation. (Note from 2018: Yeah, this is still 100% true, though it might be worse, because my board game crew freaking loves zombie board games. WHY.)

What are your biggest problems and worst fears?