Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Conquering Fear: Another Stoicism Lesson

"Adversity strengthens not just our particular abilities, but our very soul." (A very good blog post that addresses the practice of conquering personal stressors.)

I'd like to leave behind today's deluge of misery with some discussion on the Stoic/philosophical approach to conquering fear as well as the clinical approach.

I'm typically a believer in experiencing frequent discomfort. A major Stoic principle that I continuously try to employ is the idea of constantly placing yourself in situations of discomfort in order to foster personal growth. Basically, perform self-induced exposure therapy until you are desensitized to nearly everything and not just conquer pain and fear (which I seem to harbor an abundance of) but also conquer yourself. This, however, begs the questions (1) how much is too much? and (2) is it worthwhile to elicit and fully experience fear and pain in every aspect of my life? Short answer is I just don't know. Today I became entrenched in a duel with one of my most deep-seated fears and it seems to have only induced further anxiety and insomnia. Point being: no fearlessness in sight. Yet.

My sentiments are validated by both philosophy and science alike. Epictetus in his Discourses states that "neither a bull nor a noble-spirited man comes to be what he is all at once; he must undertake hard winter training, and prepare himself, and not propel himself rashly into what is not appropriate to him." (I feel a little better.)

I strongly questioned today's shock-exposure (known formally in behavioural therapy as Flooding) from a number of perspectives. Firstly, how important is my success (or rather failure) during this exposure as a predictor of success in my actual career and/or personal life? For me it was probably minor at best. The Stoic ideology that I adopt is that conquering any sort of fear is a victory of both personal and professional growth, so naturally I feel like a bit of a failure. This leads to my next question: how appropriate was the intensity of the situation to stimulate growth instead of retreat and trauma/more fear? A quick literature search yields a study that shows a relapse in individuals treated with flooding versus those with systematic desensitization (gradual exposure.) There's also been some conclusions drawn that Flooding can actually have adverse effects and cause further trauma in an individual which explains my sentiments after the fact. Although I feel a bit defeated, it appears that science is a little on my side too by explaining why I was unable to overcome my fear. Feeling more ok? Maybe.

(Some basic info on exposure therapies which are used to treat anxiety and OCD.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

A few more things for Boston/last week's lessons learned

I paused my segments last week out of respect for Boston. Before I start up again, I would like to use my blog as a forum to reflect.

Whew. What a week.  Last week this city, my city, and its people were robbed of many things: Patriot's day, crossing the finish line of a race some trained months to run through, and for some it came down to the loss of limbs or even their lives. I often wonder about the capacity of human nature: we have an exceptional ability to create goodness for all, but some choose an alternate path that is starkly different. I still believe most people are genuinely good, but I am always perplexed and troubled when things like this happen. Last week was proof that Bostonians are resilient. After being here a little over a year here I must say I love Boston and Boston has rightfully shown the guys who did this to "go fahk yourself."

(A little love from my hometown too)


Onto some lessons learned:
(1) The capacity of a human being to perform acts of good is limitless. Let's work a little harder to employ this a little more.
(2) Resilience 
(3) The best way to start each day is to always ask "how can I be of service to others?"
(4) There are many ways to express grief--none should be judged or even dismissed as apathy.
(5) "Mental toughness is not letting anyone or anything break you"
(6) Sometimes the right thing to do is simply not easy.  
(7) We are lucky to live in America. Really really really lucky. Really.
(8) Never, for a second, believe that you are powerless. In believing so you become so.
(9) We all share a responsibility to be and do good. Own it.
(10) "Boston is probably the only major city that if you f-- with them, they will shut down the whole city...stop everything.. and find you." -Adam Sandler

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Medical Musings

I learned a few things last week:

(1) Contrary to popular belief, a study has found that stents do not in fact provide extra benefit to prevent heart attacks (published literature given within the article.) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/health/stents-show-no-extra-benefits-for-coronary-artery-disease.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(2) As the DSM V approaches release, some interesting commentary on those involved in the field: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/24/opinion/sunday/sunday-dialogue-defining-mental-illness.html?pagewanted=3&_r=2&src=recpb

(3) Anyone else notice the anti-smoking ads? Finally something that might resonate with more people to just QUIT:  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/using-former-smokers-to-spur-others-to-quit/

(4)  Let's ease brain fatigue! http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/easing-brain-fatigue-with-a-walk-in-the-park/ and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467965

(5) Ok, sorry but who actually thought doing this with your teeth was a good idea?!?! http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/12/08/cdc-castrating-lambs-with-your-teeth-may-make-you-sick/?Mod=WSJ_blogs_mostpop_read

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Etiquette Wednesday: MBTA Etiquette


On numerous occasions I sense that there is something about the T that brings the Masshole out of people. I'd like to offer a few pieces of etiquette for the T:

1. Don't jump on the train right when the doors open. Be considerate and move out of the way for people to get off the train first. (I once received a thank you from a woman strictly because I let her get off the train first.) The conductor usually checks to see the doors are clear before he/she closes it. Relax-you'll make the train if you're standing right in front of it.

2. As a small female I don't think I've ever had the luxury of a gentleman allowing me to board first. Whatever happened to women and children first? Furthermore if anyone would let me board first I wouldn't be taking their seat since it's far healthier to stand (plus it's inane to race for a seat for a 5 min ride on the T.) Let's all take a stand to stand on the T and be healthier! Even in little instances every bit helps.

3. Please don't sit in the priority seat. You're sort of a schmuck if you're an able-bodied individual sitting in the designated priority seat when there's old people forced to stand. I find that as offensive as parking in handicapped parking.

4. If you are sitting, please be mindful of your surroundings. If there's an empty seat next to you and people are boarding the train at least make some kind of effort to keep to yourself so another person can sit.

5. I try to do this on the trains, but it's easier on the buses. When departing always say "Thank You" to the person driving the bus or (conducting?) the T. These kind people of the MBTA are doing a service for us so we can get to where we need to go and a little thanks is more than well-deserved. Speaking of, THANK YOU MBTA for your hours of efficient service and hardwork!

6. When exiting the T station, please get out of the way of the entrance gates. Nothing is more annoying than missing a train just because people are loitering in front of the gates and you can't tap your card to get into the station when a train is sitting right there. (The worst is when the doors do close right as you get through the gates.)

7. This has only been an issue at Park Street because it's so busy, but when rushing to board a train please be careful so that you don't knock someone down the stairs or off the platform. I've been pushed to the side because someone was trying to descend stairs to catch a train while I was ascending. Getting thrown back is actually one of my biggest fears. Most of us are cognizant of this and veer to the railing so others can descend--there's no need to push. Here's a good Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/04/nyregion/subway-deaths-haunt-those-at-trains-controls.html?_r=0

8. On standing: On a packed train, please be considerate to those around you so that everyone who is standing has access to grab on to a handle of some sort and that you clear the exits. Some people just don't move and others are left trying to balance which is hard if the train is making hard stops/starts.

Final note: Our public behaviour impacts everyone involved. Let's be courteous citizens and make sure we are all being safe while enjoying our rides on the T.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Five more things

Timeflies-I Choose You

Haven't posted any in a while here-goes:

(1) As a child I was obsessed with pandas. I still really really want a panda, but I'll settle for hanging out at a sanctuary.
(2) I wish I knew more about economic theory. Challenge accepted.
(3) I'm fascinated by the human mind. One of the many reasons I want to go into medicine is that I think the human brain is simply amazing and yet so little is known/understood.
(4) As a child I used to ride my tricycle indoors since we didn't want it to get dirty by riding it outside. Riding down my corridor was probably one of my most favorite pastimes.
(5) I really like tents and forts. Also as a kid I loved the idea of having an enclosed space within the house where only I could fit into (I was teeny back then too.) Thus I used to build forts out of boxes and umbrellas just to have my own space. As I write this I realize this might mean I'm territorial--but who isn't?