Do you have an anxiety disorder?

Everyone gets nervous, anxious or worried from time to time by things like public speaking, major life changes, financial issues, and difficulties with work or home life. For some people, these worries become so bothersome and intrusive that they can take over their lives.

So how do you know if your worries have crossed the line into an anxiety disorder? The distinction between what is normal anxiety and what constitutes a diagnosis isn't always clear.

So how do you know if your worries have crossed the line into an anxiety disorder? The distinction between what is normal anxiety and what constitutes a diagnosis isn’t always clear. Take a look at 9 common symptoms below. If you experience any of them on a regular basis, it may be worth having a conversation with you primary care physician or make an appointment with someone you can speak to.

  1. Excessive Worry
    Worrying too much about everyday things, both large and small.
  2. Sleep Problems
    Trouble getting and/or staying asleep. Chronically lying awake with racing thoughts about something specific or nothing at all.
  3. Irrational Fears
    Fear becomes overwhelming, disruptive, and/or disproportionate to the actual threat.
  4. Muscle Tension
    Clenching your jaw, balling up your fists, constant tension in neck and shoulders.
  5. Digestive Issues
    Stomachaches, cramping, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea.
  6. Self-Consciousness
    Feeling as if all eyes are on you, difficulties eating/drinking around others.
  7. Panic
    Experiencing sudden feelings of helplessness, pounding heart, sweating, difficulty breathing, tingling or numbness in hands, feelings of being choked.
  8. Perfectionism
    Constantly judging yourself, worrying about making mistakes or falling short of expectations or standards.
  9. Self-Doubt
    Constantly second guessing oneself, problems making decisions asking “What if?”.

Mercedes L. Kent, LCSW

Spring Forward With Good Healthy Sleep

It’s that time of year already??? Yes, it’s time for Daylight Savings Time! So spring forward those clocks and get ready  for the dreaded thought that we all “lose an hour of sleep.” While this time change may temporarily affect our sleeping routine, many of us suffer from poor sleeping habits all year round.  Spring-forward-small-new

We all know how important sleep is for optimal health but many of our daytime habits may be affecting the quality of our sleep at night. A good night’s sleep usually will make us feel refreshed, energized and ready to take on the day’s activities. I have a really bad habit of starting my day off in a rotten mood if I didn’t sleep well the night before. Adequate sleep restores us mentally, physically and emotionally. This is certainly true for my husband and me. If we get into a tift before bed (usually exaggerated by the fact we are both tired and cranky), we know its best to just sleep on it and discuss things in the morning. We have also learned that sufficient sleep has a great impact on weight management and decreasing the risk for metabolic disorders.sleep

Since its discovery in 1999, the hormone ghrelin has been investigated regarding its roles in appetite and hunger, and it appears that our sleep cycle plays a role in its regulation. An interesting study conducted at the Mayo Clinic showed that when healthy young adults’ sleep patterns were shortened by one third, they consumed more than 500 extra calories when compared to the control group.1 It was also noted that ghrelin levels slightly decreased in the group that consumed more calories. While this research is still in its infancy, it raises the importance of getting adequate amounts of sleep to control weight and possibly appetite.

This doesn’t just apply to adults either. According to Judith Owens, MD, director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., “Insufficient sleep increases the risk of obesity, affects academic performance and has implications for safety. Chronic sleep restriction affects the immune system, the developing brain and the cardiovascular system.” Two important components that have been found to influence adolescents’ sleep quality are exercise and screen time. It is suggested that exercise earlier in the day can help promote better sleep patterns at night; however, if the only time you have available to work out is in the evening, then you should continue to do so. Remember, any exercise is better than no exercise. Too much screen time can also negatively influence the quality of sleep. Keep in mind that excessive screen time can also be linked with low physical activity levels. Previously, screen time only involved television, video gaming and computers. Today, screen time includes our tablets and smartphones. I know I am very guilty of spending way too much time on my smartphone! sleep_more_and_better_image_title_mostb

What types of food should I eat to sleep better? This is a question I hear quite often. Many people try drinking a warm glass of milk before bed. Others associate a big Thanksgiving dinner with turkey as the best way to catch some zzzs. But is there any truth in all this? Can food actually help you fall asleep or improve the quality of one’s sleep? Are there other factors that influence our sleep?

First of all, many foods contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is found in turkey and coined as a sleep aid. Carbohydrates can make tryptophan more available to the brain and if your family eats like mine on Thanksgiving, then you’re consuming A LOT of carbohydrates. Tryptophan can be found in animal proteins, dairy products, nuts/seeds, beans, bananas, mangos and even chocolate to name a few. It is suggested that bedtime snacks for better snoozing should include a protein (tryptophan source) and carbohydrate source such as an apple with peanut butter.

Be mindful of your caffeine intake. Lack of sleep and caffeine intake can become a vicious cycle. A bad night’s sleep can leave you feeling groggy and sluggish all day leading to higher caffeine/stimulant intakes. Too much caffeine can also disrupt your deep sleep cycle. Since I’ve cut way back on my caffeine intake, I noticed that I sleep much longer and sounder than I have in years!

Another way to fight daytime fatigue with food is to focus on natural foods and limit consumption of processed items. Foods high in salt, unhealthy fats and sugar can leave your body and mind feeling sluggish and dull. Opt for items like berries, apples or nuts as pick-me-up snacks over granola bars, pretzels or sweets.

As you can see, there are several factors in our lives that influence our sleep habits. For more information on sleep problems visit Springfield Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center.

1. Calvin AD, Carter RE, Levine JA, Somers VK. Insufficient sleep increases caloric intake but not energy expenditure. Poster presented at: The American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions; March 13-16, 2012; San Diego, CA.

Sleep: Good for the Mind, Body and Soul

Sweet dreamsSleep has long been thought to be a restorative process, essential to all daily body and brain functions. We all need sleep—it rejuvenates the thought, healing, and bodily processes.

“Good sleep hygiene,” refers to steps that can lead us to a healthy sleep life. Bedtime “rituals” can enhance a good sleep experience and add to one’s own health and well-being.

1.   Don’t go to bed unless you
are sleepy. If you are not sleepy, then do something else—read a book, listen to soft music or browse a magazine. Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to take your mind off worries. This will relax your body and distract your mind.

2.   If you are not asleep in 20 minutes, then get out of bed. Go to another room. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep, it is not a place to lie awake bored. Once you feel tired then go back to the bedroom to sleep.

3.   Don’t stare at the clock. Again, use your internal clock to gauge time. Watching the clock can increase frustration.

4.   Set an alarm to get up at the same time every morning and follow up at the same time even on time off.

5.   Avoid taking naps if you can. Only nap if it has always been part of your lifestyle. If you do nap, keep it less than an hour.

6.   Keep a regular schedule to keep your inner clock running smoothly.

7.   Do not consume caffeine six hours prior to bedtime.

8.   Do not go to bed hungry, but also do not consume a “heavy” meal prior to bed. Milk and turkey products do contain some elements that our conducive to sleep.

9.   Do not perform strenuous activities/exercise four to six hours prior to bed.

10. Create a comfortable sleep environment (cool is better than hot). Keep your room as dark as possible and quiet. Less noise means more sleep. Perhaps, use a fan or soothing music.

11. Do not use your bedroom for work activities. The bedroom should be a stress free zone.

12. Avoid sleeping pills, or use cautiously. Most doctors do not prescribe for more than a period of three weeks. Do not use alcohol while taking sleeping pills.sleep_iStock_000013521696Large

Remember: Sleep does a body GOOD!
For more information about better sleep, visit:

Written By: Sheila Leggett RRT, RPSGT, RST, Springfield Clinic Sleep Disorders Center Manager