Ben's Friends Monthly Newsletter - October 2014 Issue

Just the Stats:
Communities: 38
Friends: 43,500+

Connecting to others in a similar circumstance is helpful to decrease depression, anxiety, and stress.

According to Mayo Clinic, "When you're facing a health concern, sometimes what you really need is someone who has already been there."

Also, Psychology Today says that just as nutrition, exercise, and sleep are important to our health, so is social connection.

Network communities like Ben's Friends offer a hub that does just this, plus, Ben's Friends provides many other benefits.

Whether online or face-to-face, there are many benefits to being socially connected.

For example, studies as mentioned in Psychology Today show that being socially connected can decrease anxiety and depression. Social connection also strengthens our immune system, helps us to recover quicker, and can even lengthen our life.

What are other ideas for social connection?

Other communities that you can connect with might include:

  • An exercise group or buddy
  • Spiritual or Religious Communities
  • Common Interest Groups
  • Schools, Colleges, and University Groups
  • 12-Step Groups
  • Caregiver's Facebook Group or Members of Caregiver's Cafe

The possibilities are endless. What other groups can you think of?

There are many ways to decrease anxiety, depression, and stress that happens at some inconvenient times, especially around the holidays.

According to one poll taken by NPR's Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, "49 percent of people dealt with a stressful event in the last year".

Add to this, the stress associated with a rare illness(es), and that percentage rises.

This issue is dedicated to techniques in how we can proactively decrease our anxiety, depression, and stress levels - both for the upcoming holiday season and the every-day.

In this issue

The following are tips to help decrease anxiety, depression, or stress. Of course, just because something works for one person, it may or may not work for you. Also, please check with a medical professional prior to using any of these ideas.

Tips to Help Decrease Anxiety, Depression or Stress

Connect with others - whether online or in-person. Ben's Friends is a perfect example of connecting with others with the same or similar circumstances.

Trish from the AVM community says regarding connection, "I've made lifelong friends since joining the AVM Survivor network, people who completely understand what I've been through because they've been there too. If I can offer a kind word or a helpful piece of advice to another member it helps me so much."

Acupuncture - According to Andres Carvajal in "Causes and Treatment of Depression", acupuncture, homeopathy, and other types of alternative medicine have remedies for depression that show great improvement in a person's quality of life.

Meditation, Focused-Breathing, and/or Prayer - the object is to learn to live in the moment by concentrating on the breath and to increase your awareness of all things through your senses, etc. and/or to believe that there is something in charge that is listening and will fulfill your needs.

Visioning - envisioning how you want things to turn out and actually feeling how you want things to go can both assist you in getting to that end and help to reduce your stress.

Scent Therapy or Aromatherapy - Lavender is known to help you relax. Also, Louisa of the AVM Survivor's site offers the tip of infusing your surroundings with Rosemary.

Vitamin C - try red bell peppers for a super-dose of Vitamin C.

B-12 and Iron.

Save yourself time, money, and hassle by doing your search for a doctor who specializes in your rare illness. Ben's Friends offers this at Ben's Friends Doctors Directory.

Self-talk and Attitude - keep a positive mindset and a "how can I?" focus.

Try a Gluten-free diet.

Moderator Dancermom and Dr. John Evans of Duke University offer this suggestion to help de-stress: take a time-out to simply observe nature, whether it entails bird-watching or watching the tree-leaves or the snow fall.

Also, Lrcjvl offers these tips:

Prioritize and focus on the most important things, and let the smaller things go.

Minimize - focus on doing one thing well, and let others recognize this as your specialty.

Take the path of least resistance: shop online vs. shopping at the stores with a crowd, use gift bags vs. wrapping gifts, buy and use pre-made cookie dough, cook and decorate yourself;

Schedule time to recharge, nap,"down time", etc.;

The Psoriatic Arthritis community offers these tips:

Slow down and be/find patience for yourself, even if other friends or family don't.

Listen to your body and to focus on and appreciate what you have and can do.

"Stick to your routine" - take your Meds, go to sleep at your regular time, etc.

Take baby-steps toward what you want to get done.

Have hand-sanitizer setting out near the door to help combat germs of visitors.

The Living With Ataxia community weighs in with information from Causes and Treatment of Depression, by: Andres Carvajal

Antidepressants and Herbalism- An anti-depressant or getting a medically-recommended over-the-counter supplement from Health Digezt might help.

Although some anti-depressants have side effects like weight gain, diarrhea, increased anxiety, suicidal ideation, addiction and/or sexual dysfunction, they allow a greater amount of serotonin to flood the brain.

If natural herbs, like St. Johns Wort, Gingko Biloba, and Passiflora, are more your speed, consult with a medical professional to inquire about possible drug interactions, etc.

Psychotherapy- Cognitive behavioral, psychoanalytic, humanistic, and transpersonal approaches provide emotional support, improve consciousness, and identify conflicts, unresolved issues, and negative patterns of behavior. Therapy can be expensive but effective, it can help any person to develop psychological and emotional growth, without side effects.

Prevention- Exercise, healthy relationships, yoga, meditation, spending quality time with others, proper nutrition, avoidance of toxins, and life planning may help prevent depression.

The Lyme Group offer these valuable tips:

Only do one thing at a time.

Delegate tasks.

Make lists and stay organized.

Make a chore schedule for kids.

Take a nap when needed.

Communication formula- Keep lines of open communication to help reduce stress. Thanks Ron from AVM Survivors for providing this:
"I feel ___ when you _____. I would like you to ______."

Journaling: Of course, another benefit of Ben's Friends Online Communities is to de-stress a bit by community journaling, venting, and blogging.

Prepare food in advance or make crock-pot foods - You might try Piggy-Mac - Mac-n-cheese with pulled pork or chicken - sure to be a meat-eating-crowd- and a kid-pleaser. You might also want to make a crock-dish that's vegetarian, Gluten-free, etc.

Help others. Oxytocin, a hormone that reduces the feelings of stress, is released and raised when you help others. According to a study in the "American Journal of Public Health", people who routinely help others were less likely to die after a stressful event.

So many great ideas. Thank you for offering these. There are more great thoughts, and these ideas will be a great springboard for you to develop your own ideas!

Severe Depression and Suicide Hotline

There is a problem with the word, depression. The same word, depression, is used whether a person has a "mild paper-cut"-level of depression or a "loss of a limb"-level of depression.

If you're feeling severely depressed or suicidal, please reach out to the experts. Professionals are standing by:

Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Picture of the Month

Ben's Friends Operations Manager Rose A.
Thank you, Rose, for all that you do.
You keep us all connected. Thank you, again.

Shop and Help Ben's Friends at No Cost To You

Want to help financially, but are strapped for cash?

Now, you can contribute to Ben's Friends at no cost to you when you order your holiday gifts this season with the Amazon Smile program.

It's easy. Just do these simple steps on your next Amazon order and help a great cause and pass over the shopping crowds and traffic.

  1. Click on Amazon Smile
  2. Choose Bens Friends as your charity of choice (listed as in Houston, TX). If needed – go to My Account / scroll to Settings / find Change Your Charity.
  3. For more info/FAQ, visit
  4. Then when you want to shop on Amazon, go to (same products as on Amazon) and Ben’s Friends gets a little extra funding at no cost to you, thereby helping 1,000s of rare disease patients!

Art of the Month

Many members at Ben's Friends choose to turn their traumatic experience and/or rare illness into a piece of art.
Leslye of the AVM Survivors site, did just that...and just in time for AVM Awareness Month.

Butterfly, Broken Butterfly

Butterfly, broken butterfly

Once on your way to fly so high

A broken wing now your plight

The chance to soar now seems denied

Butterfly with the broken wing

Feels so lost not sure where you're going

That lost feeling such pain that stings

But the hope to soar your heart still clings.

Butterfly, broken yet still beautiful

The beauty you still have do you know?

Your wing may be broken, its there still

Your dream to fly will one day be real

Butterfly, do you see how far you've come?

Though your journey is not yet done

You may still have a long way to go

The course may be bothersome, often slow

But once you get off of the ground

With thriving strength that now abounds

You'll fly twice as higher than before

May you soar, butterfly, may you soar.

Network Stats:
Members: 43,660
Unique Visitors: 109,520
Twitter Followers : 4,315
Facebook Followers : 48,560

Have You Heard?

"Living with a facial AVM for my entire life I had never been able to find a sense of community and understanding until The opportunity to network, share information, ask questions, and provide answers was exactly what I had been missing and so desperately wanted. I’ve seen first hand the true benefit of a support site like this. AVMSN has become a part of my everyday." -Shalon W.

Ben’s Friends Team