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Brain and Behavior

The Fear of Flying Mindset

In my fear of flying program, Fear of Flying?... Not Anymore!™, I address the key psychological factors that contribute to this phobia (which I've also discussed in two other articles here: Why Do We Fear Flying?, and Fear of Flying -- How to Overcome).

One focus is on the concept of "normalization." Our brains can be trained, through various exercises created for this process, to understand that flying is a normal, routine activity. Our brains can normalize routine situations, even if these routine situations involve risk.

For example, we likely don't ruminate over the possibility of slipping every time we shower because our brains have become trained to expect that we will safely take our showers, based on many years of successfully completing this task.

But since most of us only experience flying on an occasional basis, if at all, our brains automatically go on alert when we think of flying.

Whereas showers are routine, flying is not.

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Best of Our Blogs: August 31, 2012

Old wounds are the hardest to heal. They crop up unexpectedly, triggering us when someone unknowingly pokes at them. And unlike grief, time doesn't necessarily diminish it.

This was apparent to me after I ran into someone from my past. Afraid that this person's view of me might be tainted from long ago, I grew fearful. I remembered what it was like to be a kid again, being bullied and rejected. It's been more than a decade, but I can viscerally feel the pain of being alone and so disliked.

Old wounds run deep. It's lodged into every fiber of your being, so that whenever something or someone triggers it, all the memories come flooding back. Why is that you can't remember the details of a fun family trip, but the memory of being rejected or hurt feels as new as if it just occurred yesterday?

However you deal with what ails you in this moment: a past wound, a bully at work, loneliness... I hope you will find what you need in this week's post. What I've garnered by reading them is that there are always answers and solutions to what you're going through. Sometimes it's simply accepting the situation you're in and discovering peace, gratitude and even joy through the process.
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Coping with Being a Student & College Life

There's nothing quite as fun as college can be, as long as you approach it with the right attitude and remember that this is indeed your life. You don't get to go to college twice (well, unless you become one of those endless students).

Being a student -- while potentially fun -- also brings with it a bunch of not-so-fun stuff. College students often experience their first serious romantic relationship. They can also grapple with their first battle with a mental health concern -- like depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or anxiety (like social anxiety or test anxiety).

The good news is that there's a lot of free resources available to the savvy college student. Which includes you, since you're reading this article.

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Why ‘Having It All’ Doesn’t Have To Mean Having Kids

This guest article from YourTango was written by Lisa Steadman.

Ever since Anne-Marie Slaughter's article Why Women Still Can't Have It All appeared in The Atlantic last month, I've been fired up and pissed off ... because she's absolutely right.

First, let's define what Slaughter means by "having it all." She's referring to that constant juggling act of having a thriving and high-powered professional career outside the home and a loving, supportive husband and children at home. Again, by that definition, I agree with her. But here's what rattled my cage about her article: Slaughter's definition of having it all assumes that all women want the same thing.

And it's not just Slaughter. With all of the advances to women's rights in the 20th and 21st centuries, including our new normal of out earning men, it seems as though society and the author has decided that women all want and choose the same life path. First comes career, then comes love, then comes baby.

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Anxiety and Panic

How to Break Out of the Comparison Trap

Many of us regularly fall into the bleak, bottomless pit of the comparison trap. Maybe you even compare yourself to others in a whole lot of areas: profession, school performance, parenthood, money, looks.

It’s hard not to. Making comparisons is often how we gauge our progress. It’s how we figure out the bar in the first place.

“Without others, we have no way of knowing how we ‘measure up,’” according to Christina G. Hibbert, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and expert in postpartum mental health.

So how do we break out of comparing ourselves to others?

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First New State Hospital for Mental Health, Recovery Opens

A few weeks ago, Massachusetts celebrated the opening of its first state-of-the-art treatment facility for mental health concerns in over 60 years. The 320-bed state hospital was opened at a cost of over $300 million, and demonstrates the state's commitment to the severely mentally ill -- and help them better integrate back into their local communities.

The hospital is located in Worcester, Mass. and is called the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital. Notice that "recovery center" is placed in the name before the word "hospital," emphasizing the change in focus of this facility. According to the state's Department of Mental Health, it is the largest non-transportation construction project ever completed in Massachusetts.

But it's unlike any state mental hospital you've ever seen before.

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3 Myths about Vulnerability

Vulnerability is scary. But it’s also a powerful and authentic way to live. According to author Brené Brown, Ph.D, LMSW, in her latest book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences.”

She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Think about the vulnerability it takes to love someone – whether it’s your parents, siblings, spouse or close friends. Love is filled with uncertainties and risks. As Brown notes, the person you love might or might not love you back. They might be in your life for a long time or they might not. They might be terrifically loyal or they might stab you in the back.

Think about the vulnerability it takes to share your ideas with the world, not knowing how your work will be perceived. You might be appreciated, laughed at or downright skewered.

Vulnerability is hard. But what can make it even harder -- needlessly so -- are the inaccurate assumptions we hold about it.

Brown shatters the following three myths in Daring Greatly.

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12 Depression Busters for Seniors

Roughly a quarter of people age 65 or older suffer from depression. More than half of doctor's visits by the elderly involve complaints of emotional distress. Twenty percent of suicides in this country are committed by seniors, with the highest success rate belonging to older, white men.

According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, depression is one of the major causes of decline in the health-related quality of life for senior citizens.

Why all the depression?

Rafi Kevorkian, M.D. calls them the five D's: disability, decline, diminished quality of life, demand on caregivers, and dementia. To combat senior depression, then, requires coming up with creative methods to counter the five D's.

Here are 12 strategies to do just that: help people break free from the prison of depression and anxiety in their senior years.

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Best of Our Blogs: August 28, 2012

I don't know if you've had this experience, but sometimes, when I crave chocolate, don't understand something or am waiting to hear back about a decision, there's a two-year-old part of me that screams, "now! I want it now!" If I am not aware of it, I make hasty decisions, act irrationally and react in impatience instead of empathy.

At the heart of all impatience is fear. When we react from that place, what comes out is desperation and anxiety that our needs will not get met. The empty milk carton or the tank of gas that hasn't been filled up may cause you to yell at your partner, for example, because the emptiness is symbolic of what you want and still do not have.

Often we grasp immediately for things we desire. We search for it online. We read books, attend workshops, listen to lectures to wash away what feels uncomfortable, not right. Yet sometimes the path of healing asks us to be patient, listen and wait. Not all situations require our immediate attention (like Tropical Storm Isaac discussed in our post below). Maybe it's being able to identify the difference that can generate the most peace and happiness.

This week our posts are all about learning to accept yourself. Maybe you're impatient, or you have difficulty recognizing your emotions or maybe you're infamous procrastinator. As you'll read below, true acceptance and awareness of all your so-called flaws will give you the ability to heal and help others and yourself. 
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James Holmes: Portrait of an Alleged Murderer

Black coat, white shoes, black hat, Cadillac
Yeah, the boy's a time bomb.

~ Rancid

Who is James Holmes and why should you care? He's the 24-year-old guy in Colorado who allegedly shot and killed 12 people in a movie theater more than a month ago, and left 58 wounded.

News media have been desperately trying to piece together information about Mr. Holmes' life, because he had so little of a digital footprint. And because the neuroscience graduate program he attended at the University of Colorado, Denver has been tight-lipped about his short time there.

So the New York Times did some good old-fashioned reporting, digging into his friends, social life, and even talking to a few of his professors to cobble together a glimpse of the life and personality of James Holmes.

What emerges is a list of traits that -- while they could be associated with a mass-murderer -- could just as easily be associated with any introspective, quiet person in America. And that's what makes such arm-chair psychologist profiling especially dangerous.

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The Right Mindset Matters for Managing ADHD

Managing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) effectively isn’t just about finding good tools and techniques. Your attitude also plays a significant role in your success.

For starters, if you have a positive mindset, you’ll be more apt to learn and practice the necessary skills, according to Jennifer Koretsky, a senior certified ADHD coach and author of Odd One Out: The Maverick’s Guide to Adult ADD. “It’s very hard to make positive changes in your life when you’re stuck in a negative mindset,” she said.

Your attitude also affects how much effort you exert and what you do when setbacks strike, said Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and author of Understand Your Brain, Get More Done: The ADHD Executive Functions Workbook. “A positive mindset keeps setbacks in perspective -- this is one situation and one experience,” he said.

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Why Assisted Suicide is The Right Answer, For Some

Tom Keane, writing in this Sunday's Boston Globe, trots out all of the old fears and misconceptions about assisted suicide to scare people in Massachusetts to believe it is not an option that should be available to those who might opt for it. Keane believes that others -- not you -- know what's best for you. Even when you're dying of a terminal disease.

That's too bad. Because we now have a couple of years of evidence from Washington state and nearly 15 years of evidence from Oregon -- who have allowed for assisted suicide -- that demonstrate fears about allowing assisted suicide are based largely in irrationality, not data.

Assisted suicide for those who are at the end of their lives, often in unbearable pain, is an option that should be available for all Americans. It is unconscionable that Keane believes he knows what's best for you and I when it comes to our end-of-life decisions. It's my life, and it should be my choice to die with dignity.

I don't want Keane -- or the government -- telling me I have to suffer just because medicine or some random doctor says I have to. I want to die on my terms -- in peace, not in pain.

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