Coffee Challenge - How to Deal with Caffeine and OCPD

When I  first told my doctor about feeling anxious, he asked a ton of questions. But one of the first was – Do you drink coffee?

Well yes, of course I do! Doesn’t everyone? He asked me how much. Then proceeded to tell me that even with mild anxiety I should lay off the caffeine. For a long time I thought the coffee jitters were just physical, keeping me wired. Turns out the effects of caffeine are a bit deeper than that.  He said to avoid coffee if possible – but I live in the real world. I couldn’t just give it up! So I turned to the internet, where lots of scientific studies are made public. Here is one quote:

Dr James Lee, a psychiatrist at Duke University, North Carolina in the USA, said of caffeine and anxiety, "Moderate caffeine consumption makes a person react like he/she is having a very stressful day. If you combine the effects of real stress with the artificial boost in stress hormones that comes from caffeine then you have compounded the effects considerably." During his study the volunteers produced 32% more adrenaline, their blood pressure was raised and their heart rates were faster. 

Well ok, so no double espresso. But what if I want to try to have my coffee, and just use moderation? I found some great tips – and through my own personal experience – here are some things to keep in mind:

Don’t drink coffee without eating any protein. The caffeine goes straight into your bloodstream, and spikes quickly. Combined with low blood sugar, this can really affect your mood.

Dilute it if you can. I started drinking ice coffee with lots of ice rather than a double espresso. It took some getting used to the less sharp flavor, but I’m consuming my caffeine a lot more slowly.

Think about timing. I never drink coffee or tea after 5:30 pm – because I know I won’t sleep! Find you own cut off.

Monitor the stress. Finally, if you know you are going into a stressful situation, take it easy on the coffee. You big meeting is not the time to down 2 cups of joe!

As always, be mindful and find the moderate balance that works for you! 


Brain Priming - Positive Affirmation and OCPD

I love the blog Lifehacker!

They have a great post on how to “hack” your brain.   It’s all about understanding your neurology and then using it to be the way you want. Having knowledge of the brain gives you control over it!

They write:
You are not who you are, but rather the product of many influences. The saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" exists for a reason: the longer you've been the person you think you are, the harder it becomes to change. The thing is, you can dramatically change who you are.
Very comforting to anyone who get frustrated with themselves!

They are some very specific tips, but one important on is on "Priming". This is basically a mantra, or a positive group of affirmations, that create good feelings in your brain though their associations. These good associations them prime your brain to feel calm and happy. For example, you can prime yourself to be relaxed by focusing on a list of words like "calm", " sweet",  "pastel", "slow swings" and other words that comfort you. You can make a sentence, write them down, or meditate on them. You can choose or create a word list for any emotion, and then all it takes is finding the right way to get yourself to really focus on them and the feelings they inspire.

Try it! Let me know how your "brain priming" goes in the comments .


A Smile a Day... - Expressions and OCPD

How often do you smile? I know it sounds cheesy, but bear with me!

Even when I am alone, I find my stress and emotions have a habit of cementing themselves onto my face. When I read something upsetting, I glare at my screen. When I hear a horn honk loudly, I can’t seem to help myself from frowning.

No one likes to be frowning or scowling, so why do I keep up these reactions? They cause wrinkles, make onlookers think I’m unfriendly and sometimes, I think it even gives me a headache!

I do them because they are unconscious, simply reactions. Yes, they are movements entirely inside of my control. I can frown or smile right now, on cue. But most of the time, I’m not tuned in. I don’t know what my face is doing.

Imagine if instead of a frown when you are upset, you make an effort to smile. Too much to ask, especially in the face of stress? You might be supprised at how a change in facial expression can actually change your thoughts.

And, if you are around someone else, a smile certainly can’t hurt the situation! ( Well, unless they think you are sarcastic!)

So maybe you tune in, and control your face a bit more, and see if it controls your thoughts? I happened to think a forced smile is better than a unconscious frown. At least the wrinkle lines will get a little lessened!

Here is a nice post about how to "use" your smile in situations. Check it out for some inspiration! 


Missing the Text - Focus and OCPD

Sometimes at my job, we edit photos that have a caption given. Before they go live on a website, each photo setup goes through a review process. And thank god!

Yesterday, the photo I was working on needed... well... work. Retouching, lightening and then putting on the graphics. It all took some time.

When it was finally done, I uploaded the image and inserted the text it had been assigned. Then, it went to the proofreader.

He called me over "Umm… This image is great, but you realize this caption has nothing to do with the photo?"

He was right! The client had sent us the wrong text and, after a few emails, we matched the right story.

But I was left thinking about what happened. I spend a good hour on the photo – but didn’t even look at the text! I got so foucsed on one detail, I missed how everything  fit together.

Obsession - with image perfection, or life perfection - does that. We see one little part, and spend all our time on it. And we overlook what matters.

So maybe it’s time to take a step back from any singular focus, and take in the whole picture!


Sitting on the Bench - Giving up Control and OCPD

At my office, we have a fairly set chain-of-command, and I land somewhere in the middle. Being the over-achieving perfectionist that I am, I find myself wanting to scoop up task that should go to someone below me, or any intern.

Even at home, I always want to do it all, and do it all right now. Laundry? I'll do it. Dishes? Done. Dog washing? Seriously, if my boyfriend tries to wash the dog I will pull the soapy little critter out of his hands!

But.. I have a feeling this has more to do with OCPD than some kind of super-work ethic.

BBC- Science offers an article about Perfectionism , that has a lot of information. There, at the bottom it notes a symptom:
Doubting of actions:
Feeling uncertain when a job is finished is a common feature of perfectionism. As a result, these people are often reluctant to give up on tasks and sometimes need to be told to 'leave it alone now'. Doubting can also make perfectionists very indecisive.
Maybe, my desire to do it all, and keep doing things past the point of completion, is hurting my mental state. After all, no one wants to spend all their time on repeating simple tasks. And the nagging self-doubt, and doubt of others, undermines my own happiness.

Giving up control and walking away from a project or chore is hard. It's like a athlete sitting on the sidelines, yelling at the coach and the playing teammates. But he or she knows at some point, everyone has to ride the bench, and take a breather. You can't play all 4 quarters, as athletes know, injury and pain are sure to hit an exhausted body.

You realize - I can't be in the game all the time, I can't keep re-running plays again and again. I have to trust my team, and myself, that what is getting done is good enough.

I can't control it all, and I can't always be in the mix, doing a job again and again until its right. So maybe the best thing  I can do is sit back, and let someone else call the plays.


Worry Wart - Anxiety and OCPD

I found this great article in Good Housekeeping ( like housekeeping alone doesn't cause some worrying!). For anyone with obsessive tendencies, worry is an arch-enemy, but also acts like a comfort. How can worry be comforting? This quote from the article puts it well:
"When you worry, you think you're doing something productive," says Keck, "but you're not; you're just spinning your wheels."
That means, when I'm worrying, I'm not doing anything to fix what I am worried about. The catch-22 is, to me, fixating on a problem and obsessing over it makes me motivated to fix it. Sometimes I feel the only way I ever can get anything done is to beat myself up over it, or worry myself into a frenzy.

But the truth is, the worry is a stop-gap for action. So why not check the real reason behind your worry, and realize maybe behind the curtain of anxiety is an action you don't want to take! You can spin your wheels until you run out of gas... but then you miss out on the journey!


Changing the Routine - Resolutions and OCPD

For New Years, so many people decide on drastic resolutions: Eat only fresh food, stop buying so many clothes, work out every day or even organize a whole house!

These are all good intentions, and while its always good to reach for the stars, setting high goals can have a downside.

Resolving to do Bikram Yoga every day in 2011 is nice in theory, but our best resolutions have a way of getting altered in the day to day. Sometimes, with a really tough goal, knowing how hard it is can keep you from really trying.

If deep down, you know that it is too much, too soon - will you be able to even make a good effort? Or will you punk out at the first missing class, the first diet breaking dessert or the first missed yoga class?

With hard goals, there is no need to say its all or nothing. In fact, think of the odds of ending up on the "nothing" side!

You don't sprint a marathon. So why do something difficult and drastic all at once, when the goal is over the long term?

Isn't it better to cut some slack, take it slow, and stick it out for the long haul than burn out after a grueling week?

So next time you get frustrated with a botched resolution or when a goal doesn't get met, remember that doesn't mean its time to give up.

But maybe it is time to slow down, if only because that means you can pick up the pace later!


Regime and Ritual - Positive Habits and OCPD

I was watching the movie Julie and Julia last night on TV and this quote stuck in my head. Julie is describing her decision to cook and blog everyday for a year: "It gives me something to do everyday. It's a regime, Mom. Like sit ups."

It's her purpose, what centers her. What makes a regime different from a ritual? A lot of OCPD and OCD people struggle with ritualized behavior, having to do things a certain way at a certain time - regardless of the consequences. A regime, to me, is something you choose to do. Something that improves your inner self, you mental self or your physical self. Something that builds you up.

It's a choice that you feel proud of afterwards.

How many things in my life are a "regime"? Blogging certainly! (once a week... mostly). I try to keep a writing regime (fiction!). Reading for me doesn't count - I do that for fun, so its not exactly a challenge! My biggest challenge of a regime is meditation. When I do it I love it – but taking time to sit still is hard!

So what can you make a regime for the New Year? Hopefully you are up to a  positive challenge!