On Turning Thirty. My Bucket List and dreams

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(image: picturequotes.com)

As many of you know. I entered my fourth decade (!) on 1st July. I am now 30! This is weird because I don’t feel it at all. I remember turning 20 on holiday with my friends in India in 2008 and feeling like I didn’t feel ready to be in my twenties. I even felt old back then. (What was I thinking?)

Turning thirty has been bittersweet. Its been amazing and I am grateful to have made it here, older, wiser and still with hope intact. I have an incredible fiance, family and wonderful friends. But truthfully this has been one of the hardest months of my life- with my Grandma passing away and illness in the family. I have had to focus on some very sad and challenging situations in the past few weeks and spent the morning of my birthday visiting a family member in hospital- which was hard but important.

I did get spoiled with presents and cards and spent the majority of the day with my fiance, so that was lovely and he got me a chocolate cheesecake yum.

I am going to celebrate with friends at a later date too. Hoping to escape on holiday to Israel also with my fiance and just see family and friends, go to the beach and pool, see the Old City and have a much needed break in the Holy land! My best friend has just had a baby so will be good to see her too and meet the baby.

When  I turned 20, I could never have foreseen that I would achieve so much personally – my degrees, travelling, new jobs, making new friends, dating and meeting my one, fundraising and volunteering- but also that there would be many years of heartache due to ill health.

The past decade, my mental health and heart were ripped in two and I had to piece myself back together after being in hospital and suffering from the worst depression (and mania) that I had ever faced. It is frightening because you never know when you will get ill as bipolar is chronic, but being on good medication to hold moods as well as extensive therapy really helps.

I have been learning to seize the day and embrace a positive mindset. As I am typing this, James Arthur is singing on youtube and the lyrics ‘The sun will rise, thank the lucky stars that you’re alive.. beautiful life ‘ just played.
The sun rises after darkness and will continue to again. I know as long as I have my support network and team around me, I will be OK.

This decade I want to achieve- my bucket list:

  1. Be a published author and have a successful book which helps me become a speaker and advocate on mental health
  2. Travel to the USA, Maldives, Thailand and Vietnam, more countries in Europe- islands, Croatia and go back to Madeira! Also go on safari in Southern Africa and see Zimbabwe
  3. I would love to become a mother, with my husband
  4. Get on the property ladder if possible
  5. Write for the BBC, Cosmopolitan and other newspapers and continue my freelance writing career
  6. Meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge re mental health work
  7.  Be happy, live well and live fearlessly. Seize and love each day
  8. Study more Jewishly and deepen spirituality
  9.  Finally pass my driving test!!

(image:  favim.com)

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Heres to a new decade, with dreams manifesting and love abounding. I hope G-d blesses me and some or all of the dreams come true! We make plans and He laughs… but I think its important to clarify vision.

Thank you to all who raised money for Gigdev Ghana for my birthday and raised £520. It will help women there so much.

How am I 30?!  I still feel 18 in my heart :),

 Eleanor x

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Why you can overcome mental health challenges and anxiety to succeed in life: Guest post by James Kenneth

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(image: OMG Quotes)

Hi, I’m James. I’m 25. I’m a regular person just like you.

I suffer from clinical anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I’ll take you on a journey through my life experience and perhaps this, in turn, will help you on your life path.

As a child, I was rather timid – not the most sociable. I spent a lot of my time reading (which I still do). And, I was rather anxious too.

Every week, several times a week, I would wet my underwear at school because I was scared to tell the teacher that I needed the toilet. Every week without fail, several times a week, I would wet the bed at night because I was afraid to go to the toilet by myself in the night-time. All this wetting myself only stopped when I reached the age of 11, and boy was that a relief. Not just for me, but for my Mum as well – the laundry pile reduced massively.

By the time I went to secondary school, it was clear that something really wasn’t right. I wasn’t making friends, and I just felt downright awful.

My Mum, to whom I am eternally grateful, decided to put me in talking therapy. And it helped. I actually ended up being in therapy, on and off, for ten years. I’ll talk more about my experience with therapy a bit later.

At aged 14, I had a major positive breakthrough. I was on a school trip with 30 other teens. We were outside the country, in a totally different environment, away from home.

At first, I was how I’d always been – shy, worried, quiet. But then something big happened. I opened my mouth. Not only that, but people liked what I had to say. People found me fun and humorous, and  liked me. That gave me a major confidence boost. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

It’s all because I was determined to change, to grow. I, of my own volition, opened my mouth, took a leap, and overcame a big emotional obstacle.It wasn’t easy but it was needed.

When I was 19, I moved to a different country. Was I ready to? I was still an emotional wreck to be honest. Much more mentally healthy than I had been at age 11, but an emotional wreck nonetheless. But, thank G-d, really big positive transformation began from this point on.

The main reason – because I am, and always have been, 100% determined to totally manage and overcome my anxiety and I know I will. I was ready to make big changes.

With G-d’s grace, I searched for and acquired some fabulous mentors to help me. They aided me to deepen my self-awareness and hence overcome more emotional obstacles. It is known that awareness is often the first step towards change.

At age 21, I decided it would be a good idea to see a doctor. I was prescibed with Venlafaxine. It took 6 weeks to kick in and then wow – life changed dramatically. I was still James Kenneth, but I was calmer, more content, and level-headed. I’m not saying the medicine totally removed the anxiety, but it helped – big time.

While on the Venlafaxine, since I had a calmer mind, I was able to work even more on overcoming my emotional obstacles. And I did. I was on that medicine for a total of three years and it worked me wonders. And then I came off it when I no longer needed it.

Let’s talk more about my therapy. As the many years of therapy went by, I spoke out what was on my mind and I became increasingly self-aware. With the new self-awareness I had and the support, I was able to gradually change my way of thinking to a healthier one.

It’s funny, the reason I actually stopped therapy after 10 years of it, was because I now understood myself and what I had to work on, far better than the therapist did. It definitely gave me more insight.

Another thing that’s help me in more recent years is reading self-help books. Some of these books have really helped me on my journey of growth. I very much recommend. “The Road Less Travelled” by Dr. Scott Peck, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” co-written by Richard Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I recommend having a browse online and finding out more. I think they’re great!

To end, I’d like to tell you how things are now, in my current life situation. Not only am I no longer an emotional wreck – I’m a happy, self-aware individual who lives a great life. I’ve been happily married now for a year and a half. I’m not saying I no longer have any anxiety. I do. But I’m not the same person I was at age 11.

Heck, I’m not the same person I was even one year ago.

Every year I’m making leaps and bounds in managing my mental illness because I am determined to overcome it and live my best life. I believe that you can get better to, just reach out for help from others- be it medical teams, mentors, doctors or counsellors . With this help, we can recover and it is ESSENTIAL to reach for help and practise self care, kindness and compassion.

James Kenneth is a writer who has had  clinical anxiety and writes on self help. 

How to Manage Insomnia when you’re planning a Wedding- (blog extract) for Metro.co.uk by Eleanor

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(image: Irish Wedding Blog)

Last month, my fiancé proposed to me at the Shard with a beautiful London sunset as the backdrop. We had been dating for 18 months and had talked about marriage and future plans, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. But it was still very exciting when he went down on one knee. As I accepted his proposal, we both felt huge excitement as we started this new chapter.

We were buzzing to share the news with our nearest and dearest. In the days following, I had so much adrenaline that I found it hard to sleep. I was regularly lying awake at 4am reading messages or trying to absorb the occasion. I found it hard to switch off. I wondered whether others had gone through something similar following their engagement, and how best to deal with the stress.

Alison Gardner, a psychologist and sleep expert at Sleep Station, which provides cognitive behavioural therapy and has been commissioned and approved by the NHS, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Insomnia varies in how long it lasts and how often. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks.’

Insomnia is defined as chronic when a person has trouble sleeping at least three nights a week, for a month or longer. For many people, a stressful event could be the trigger that stops them sleeping. This is normal, until insomnia becomes chronic.

Mental health problems and insomnia often come together. It’s been estimated that 60% of people who meet the criteria for major depressive disorders complain of insomnia. But life events, such as the stress of an engagement and planning a wedding, can lead to missed or poor sleep.

Cat Phillips, a blogger and writer, says: ‘I had sleep issues when planning my wedding. I had months of bad anxiety dreams about everything going wrong, and a reccurring dream where I needed to go to the church but one drama after another kept stopping me.

Cat says she was keen to make sure everything was thoroughly planned and set up so that the day would run smoothly. The stress was heightened by a recent addition to the family.

‘I also had a newborn baby while organising the wedding, so I desperately needed sleep all the time,’ she explains. Starting a fitness routine proved to be a positive step. An exercise plan can help to ease the stress of wedding planning.

Exercise really helped with my baby blues, it was great for relieving depression. Most important to remember, for me, was that its not about the wedding, but about the marriage.’

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/30/i-had-months-of-anxiety-dreams-how-to-manage-insomnia-when-youre-planning-a-wedding-7587582/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Why I am fundraising for women in Ghana at Gigdev for my 30th Birthday.

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(image: E Segall)
In 2010, I set off for Tamale, Northern Ghana in West Africa, with the Jewish development charity Tzedek. There were 8 of us volunteers including three of my best friends from school- Anna, Katie and Hannah- and we were all placed at different NGOs and organisations to learn about sustainable development- and make a small impact on the communities we volunteered with.

My fellow volunteers were placed at Morning Star primary School, NGOs working in rural communities- some went into villages or wrote funding applications and I and my fellow volunteer Rachel were sent to Girls Growth and Development NGO known as GIGDEV.

Girls Growth and Development was set up by the mother of Ms Selina Iddi Abdulai, in order to help combat the poverty and disadvantages that are often found in the Northern region of Ghana- and to focus on women aged 15-25 who are at risk of abuse and exploitation. Many women leave the Northern region to go to the more prosperous Southern capital of Accra in search of work- known as ‘Kayaye girls’.

However, they often become homeless, do not find work to financially support them and are at risk of exploitation by others. A lot of the women at Gigdev fall pregnant in their teens and are ill treated by men (and family members).

‘ GIGDEV offers an integrated approach towards achieving self reliance for adolescent girls at risk for exploitation by offering lessons financial literacy, leadership, and health into their vocational training program. In addition to their vocational training program, GIGDEV also runs an early childhood education program as well as an advocacy and mobile outreach program on reproductive health, good governance, and human rights.’

Gigdev gives these women hope by teaching them a trade such as dressmaking, giving them education, shelter, food and child care.

I arrived in Tamale in July 2010, after a six hour journey across potholed roads feeling very sick, but amazed by the beauty of Ghana- lush green palm trees, cities, street sellers and the women selling food and cosmetics on their heads. A totally different culture- yet so incredibly beautiful.

We were staying in a village outside Tamale called Fuo, which has mud huts and goats roaming free. I and Rachel started volunteering at Gigdev, teaching basic literacy and grasp of English and Maths to groups of women. We used Ghanaian textbooks but also used our own knowledge to help. We also taught the women basic ICT skills so they could prosper in the future and we played with their children in the nursery, while they were studying dressmaking and hairdressing.

As I began to teach the women spellings, verbs, numbers, multiplication, division, English phrases and songs- we all began to bond. Some women would sit in my classes with their babies, others would compete to see who could get their sums right the quickest and there was a lot of laughter and jokes between us all.

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(image: E Segall)

All the women were so different and I got close to them – and didn’t want to leave them by the end of my 7 weeks of volunteering. I remember two particular girls- one called Zubaida and another very cheeky one whose name escapes me (in photo above) and her friend Mama.

Zubaida loved to learn and was exceptionally bright, top of all my classes and had a real thirst for knowledge. She was especially good at Maths. A lot of the women found Maths easier to contend with than English, even though English is one of Ghanas official languages, a lot of them spoke in the local dialect Dagbani or in Twi.

I had been teaching Zubaida for weeks and we formed such a bond. I never fully knew her full story- but she was bright and kind and eager to learn. When I had to leave, we were both so sad.

I was so honoured to know this woman and all the other incredible bright lights of women I met. I had several very funny and cheeky women in my class (as you can see by the photos) who used to crack me up with their jokes and fun nature. The woman in the photo above would joke around with me and her friends- I have so many pictures of them all laughing. They loved taking photos on my camera too.

I think this is what touched me so much about these so called ‘Kayaye girls’ who had been at risk but who Gigdev was looking after. That they had hope. They had passion. They had joy. And they embraced me as a privileged white woman- I feel like they didn’t see colour and neither did I.

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(image: E Segall)

I remember them plaiting each others hair and putting new weaves in.  I remember them singing and dancing and laughing. One day at the end of the class I taught them the penguin dance – ‘Have you ever seen a penguin come to tea?’, which they loved and we all stood in a massive circle and did the actions. They found it brilliant because it  was new to them and they could just spend time laughing with their friends.

They supported each other and loved each other. I saw their strength. And their desire to have better lives.

Because of them and their positivity and the amazing staff at Gigdev- I became a better and more informed person.

They taught me far more than I could ever teach them.

And this is why for my 30th birthday, as I enter a new decade- I want to help new women to have the same opportunities, care and help that Selina and the Gigdev team provide.

Please give whatever you can towards building a shop which will sustain the GIGDEV project. The women will sew clothes to sell and sell water bottles too- as an Income Generator for the NGO.

You can donate here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fundraising-gigdev-ghana-shop-for-girls-education

Here is a snap shot of of Ghana experience from my diary back in 2010:

‘I am working at Gigdev as a literacy, numeracy and IT teacher for women aged between 15 and 25. I also worked in the nursery for the womens children ‘Kiddicare’ for three weeks until it closed for the summer, assisting the teachers and looking after the children. 

I am finding teaching the women at Gigdev so rewarding, and I hope they are benefiting even on a small level. To be able to teach and build relationships with women around my age (i am 22!) and of a different culture, is very special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life. It is so interesting to see their reaction to what I teach them, whether that be a song as it was today, or reading, english verbs, to fractions…. which confused them at first but they soon picked up. I wish however I had more time to teach them and not only one hour a day!

I learnt that the education I have recieved is a luxury…that I can use a computer to communicate, that I am literate and numerate and can read books (let alone buy books) . I learnt that despite not having much and gone through so much, the human spirit in the women I worked with was strong, and BRIGHT and incredible……..and I hope that they go on to live good lives

Coming home from Ghana has been a very odd (and nice!) experience. At first it was so hard to acclimatise back to a culture so alien to African life, particularly in a fairly rural village surrounded by mud huts and goats where people get up with the sunrise and go to bed when it gets dark (6pm there). I found myself being confronted with contrasting lifestyles. It is hard to explain but I found a simplicity of life in Africa- without gadgets or material influence… people spend more time face to face talking together and there is a huge emphasis on community. ‘

 

ellieghana

 

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/fundraising-gigdev-ghana-shop-for-girls-education

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

On Selfie Day: Is social media bad for our health? Guest post by AXA PPP Healthcare

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(image: https://www.designweek.co.uk)

Today’s world is dominated by social media and it seems to be playing an ever increasing role in our lives.

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare acknowledges that social media can give young adults a certain perception of life, that isn’t always reality.

 “Social media is a window where people choose what they want to present to the world – whether this real or altered – and in many ways it can be a ‘false reality’.

 It’s natural for an onlooker to make assumptions about others based on what they see online, but often those who are vulnerable cannot make this distinction, which can have a negative affect both on their mental health and their body image.” comments Dr Winwood.

For some, being online is their main source of social interaction and, over time, this can turn out to be an isolating and lonely experience. And, whilst the ‘rewards’ of communicating online are instantaneous, this isn’t necessarily a good thing” he says.

Social media website Instagram has been rated as having the worst effects on teenagers’ sleep, body image and fear of missing out.

 Ultimately with four of the five most popular forms of social media found to be harming young people’s mental health, it is important for young adults to realise that there is a world outside of the screen.

In 2016, seven young people who switched off from social media told the Guardian about the positive results they experienced. One said “I can live my life instead of trying to shape it into one that looks good online. I also have a lot more time now, and it’s easy enough to keep in touch with my friends in other ways.

If you decide to have a social media holiday, here are Dr Winwood’s observations:

 Suspend your accounts – suspending them for a week means you can take a break without the temptation to check for any new notifications.

Make an effort to meet up with friends face to face – you may find that cutting down on your social media time leaves a temporary void, so arrange to see friends and family personally and you’ll feel in touch when you’re off-line.

Enjoy the gift of renewed focus – think of all the occasions when your attention was split between checking social media and having a conversation or watching TV or walking along and just tune in to the moment of what you’re doing without the distraction.

Get an alarm clock – using your phone as an alarm can make it tempting to automatically check the online scene the minute you’re getting up. Having a separate alarm clock removes that temptation from arm’s reach.

If you find you crave social media try checking out apps designed to block certain sites at certain times of the day. This approach helps avoid that mindless checking and re-checking we all fall victim too.

This guest post was written by AXA PPP Healthcare.  If you think you might be addicted to social media, find more tips and advice at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre or speak to one of its help at hand nurses online.

Metro article extract by Eleanor: ‘My Dad and I have helped each other through our Bipolar disorder’

Our founder Eleanor and her Dad shared their story with Metro.co.uk for Fathers Day and Dads Mental Health Day. Here is an extract:

I am the child of a father with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with the same condition aged 16 in 2004 – this was only four years after my dad was diagnosed at the age of 44. Our story is a special and unique one, and dad and I have a strong bond as a result.

However, it has not always been easy for me and my family.  Growing up with my mum, dad and younger sister in Hertfordshire, I didn’t fully know that my dad had serious mental health issues until my teenage years. I was largely sheltered from it by my mum and my loving grandparents as a child. My grandparents would look after us when dad was ill with depression and mum had to work.

I am the eldest, and being the child of someone with a mental illness did bring its own challenges. I have always felt a sense of duty and responsibility to look after my sister and both my parents, despite receiving a lot of love and care. This sentiment has meant that I have always felt a need to look after those around me, and make sure my dad is stable with his health.

Many children of those with serious mental health issues are exposed to a lot more than I was. My childhood was largely happy. My dad was never sectioned or hospitalised and never experienced the psychosis that I have experienced with my own bipolar. There were no alcohol or drug issues in my home but dad did experience mood fluctuations with both mania and depression.

He also experienced panic attacks that stopped him from working. Dad remembers having these when I was just four-years-old. In 1996, he had his first bout of severe depression and anxiety. His panic attacks meant that he had to stop working at his job in finance after collapsing there.

Mum became the breadwinner, with two children under seven. My sister was only five-years-old. I know this wasn’t easy for anyone though I don’t fully remember it. I have been told that dad was often not around during the day due to his depression. He would retreat into his bed and sleep, but would come and see us in the evenings, once we came home from school.

I do remember visiting him in hospital one time after his severe panic made him collapse in the street. He was having his heart monitored to rule out a heart attack and was eventually discharged home.

Dad was never referred to a psychiatrist and he believes this is why his bipolar was undiagnosed for so long. He gradually recovered with antidepressant medication and support from the GP and my mum.

He slowly coaxed himself out of bed and out the house to walk down the road to buy a paper. This would take several hours. His depression lifted and he eventually went back to work. Life was easier for our family for a while, although financially, things were tight and there was always a risk my dad might not be able to work.

 

 

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/17/my-dad-and-i-have-helped-each-other-through-bipolar-disorder-heres-our-story-7627817/?ito=cbshare

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Dealing with Loss: Losing Grandma

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(image of Lady of Shalott Roses : Pinterest)

This blog post is really hard for me to write.

Many of you know, that my beloved Grandma passed away last week after a long battle with Parkinsons disease and dementia. Both are horrible conditions and it was very difficult to see her suffering.

I am happy that she is free from the severe symptoms she experienced. Grandma was bedbound for over a year and her mind was taken over by the dementia too.

I have such wonderful memories of my Grandma- she was kind, caring, loving, beautiful, glamourous, with a huge heart. She gave so much love to her friends and family and to us grandchildren. She believed in us, motivated us and was a second mother.

I know part of her will always lie within me.

We are Jewish and have just come out of the week of mourning. This is called shiva and friends and family come to support the family.

It was very helpful but I still can’t believe shes not here any more. Grandma was a light in my world and I will always, always miss her. The only comfort is that she is at peace and has relief from suffering.

The above picture is of the Lady of Shalott rose. The poem by Tennyson-  The Lady of Shalott- was one of my Grandmas favourites that we read to her in hospital. I am named after my Grandmas Mum, Rose. Our family found these Lady of Shalott roses at Kenwood, when they got up from their week of mourning during a walk there- a special and comforting sign.

I will love my Grandma always and I know she will be there with me on my wedding day next year. I take comfort from the fact she knew I was happy and settled and my last conversation with her was about my engagement.

We are still grieving for her. It takes time. We are trying to be there for my Grandpa too- they were married for 66 years.

Grandma- I will love you always and forever. You will be in my heart and never forgotten.

 

 

How Baths, Saunas and Spas benefit mental health and relaxation: Guest post by Lori Longoria

Anything that takes care of your mental health and relaxation needs is something to give top priority in life. We are often overwhelmed by everything we have to do each day. There are deadlines at work, your family that needs attention and other commitments that can trigger stress. Therefore, it is important to be good to ourselves and do things that rejuvenate the mind and body often.

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(image: walkinshowers.org)


There are a lot of things you can do to relax the body and mind. You pick these things by looking at what makes you happy or brings you peace. These are things that help you defeat physical and mental fatigue. For some it is taking a walk, others love to run when they are stressed while others prefer to have a nice meal and a glass of wine. Whatever the case, everyone needs something they can do to help alleviate stress otherwise there is a risk of having a nervous breakdown.

Some good activities that promote mental health and relaxation are spa treatments, taking a bath or spending time in a sauna. These three options allow you to pamper your body and spend some quality time alone or with friends relaxing. Apart from the benefits they provide to your body, they are also excellent for mental rejuvenation and can help you improve your mental health.

What are the benefits of having a bath?

Soaking in a bathtub is a great way to treat your body. The sensation is entirely different from taking a shower. It is important to take a bath at least once a week. There are so many great things it does for your body.

–  Beat mental fatigue with a bath

Apart from cleansing and relaxing the body, a bath also helps relax the mind. It feels amazing to soak in the warm water and just let your mind go blank. Water has healing properties especially when it flows over your body, or you soak in it. As the water massages your tension away, it sends a feel-good message to the brain that causes you to let go of all anxiety. It also helps get rid of any mental stress that is caused by fatigue.

You can improve the mental benefits of your bath time by using essential oils, aromatic candles and lighting incense. There are essential oils that are great for mental relaxation such as lavender, ylang-ylang, and bergamot. Also, some aromatic candles made of citrus; rosemary and cinnamon are great for boosting your mood.

–  Clear migraines, anxiety, and depression

If you suffer from anxiety or depression and have problems with sleeping, then a warm bath is one of the solutions you need to explore. A soak in a nice, fragrant, warm bath will help you relax before you go to bed such that you will have no problem falling asleep.

If stress or anxiety is causing you to have a migraine, then you know how hard it is to go to sleep with a pounding head.

Taking a warm bath will help improve your circulation which is great for easing headaches. You can do it anytime to deal with tension headaches. All you need is to fill the bath with some warm water, pour in some relaxing bath oil and soak your tension away.

 

–  Baths for pain relief

If your body is in pain, then it will affect your mental state. For example when you are exhausted there are high chances that you will feel sad, stressed and in extreme cases depressed. However, when you take a relaxing bath it takes all the aches away and in many cases makes you feel like a new person. It means that your mind will  hopefully also respond well to you having a bath and washing all the fatigue away. So anytime you are feeling down consider taking a warm or cold bath to kick away the blues.

If you don’t feel able to do this, be kind to yourself.

Can time in a sauna help with depression?

Saunas are another way to pamper your body and improve your mood. It involves having a steam bath which helps you sweat out toxins. Apart from detoxing the body by opening the pores and promoting sweating, saunas can be good for your mind.

When you are in the sauna, it causes your blood circulation to improve which promotes sweating. The increase in blood circulation can invigorate you and help you feel refreshed so that if you are feeling tired or low, you come out feeling fresh and recharged. After a day of having a steam bath, you can be sure that you will sleep well.

Why do spas help with stress?

One place you can go to for a leisurely bath or time in the sauna is the spa. A spa is a great place to visit for mental health and relaxation. It’s created to make sure that your body and mind get pampered in all ways possible.

–  Great treatments for the body and mind

There are so many treatments to choose from in a spa such as massages, body scrubs, body wraps, aromatherapy, and others. It’s a great place to take someone dealing with fatigue and low mood and even chronic ailments- if they are able.  

–  Get away from all the pressure

One good reason that the spa is good for rest and rejuvenation, as well as mental relaxation. You get to take some time away from your regular life to go somewhere for  quality rest time. Most of these places are tucked away in quiet areas far away from the hassle and bustle of our daily lives.

Just the act of getting away from your work, family and other stressful commitments and going away to this place where you can rest can help to calm an anxious mind.

 

–  Expert therapists

The therapists in spas are trained to handle their clients in a way that will help them overcome stress or exhaustion. When giving a massage, they know just how to do it so that your fatigue goes away and your whole body gets relaxed. If you tell them you have a migraine or a tension headache, they know the pressure points in the body to manouvre so that you get relief.

Taking a bath, having a steam bath or visiting the sauna are great ways to pamper your body. However, the best thing about doing these things is the positive effect on your mental health. It’s important to invest in activities that promote mental health and relaxation often to avoid burnout.

The next time you feel stressed why not take a bath, visit a spa or spend time in the sauna to promote relaxation!

This post was written by Lori Longoria of walkinshowers.org

How Love Island helps my mental health.

I first discovered the reality dating show Love Island back in 2016, when it returned for its second series.

At first, I didn’t expect a great amount of entertainment, but what I found is that among the frivolity and fake tans, there’s a wonderful exploration of human relationships. Each night at 9pm, you can lose yourself in the dating lives of others.

I suffer from anxiety and have bipolar disorder, and this element of escapism has helped with my mental health issues.

In the past I’ve suffered from panic attacks linked to social anxiety and, at times, stress in the workplace. A distracting outlet like Love Island allows me to shake off the adrenaline highs and the depressive lows that follow.

Instead of feeling anxious or having negative thoughts swirling around in my brain, I can watch Love Island and occupy my mind, while also connecting with other fans online.

Whether its watching someone get ‘pied off’ (rejected) or couples getting together, there is always something going on.

That’s what makes Love Island so addictive and calming, I often feel less anxious once I’ve watched an episode.

There are many humourous elements on the show including bromances (last years one between Kem and Chris and their rapping was a sight to behold) and people form tight friendship groups and attachments very quickly.

Instead of thinking about my daily worries, I’m wondering what’s going on in the contestants’ lives. Whether like last year we followed the ups and downs of Chris and Olivia, or Camilla finally finding her man, watching them build relationships, go on dates and play games is truly fascinating.

Of course, escapism doesn’t replace the support you get from a doctor, counsellor or family and friends.

While personally I’ve had a positive experience watching Love Island, the show has been criticised for exacerbating mental health issues for viewers and for its contestants, too.

Where vulnerability is concerned, all reality TV can influence people, for good or for bad,’ explains Jo Hemmings, a behavioural media and celebrity psychologist.

While it is very often real people in real time, it isn’t in fact a reflection of true reality at all and so it’s important to distinguish that what we are watching is a made-for-entertainment TV series, which may or may not bear any similarity to real life as we live it.

‘My advice would be if it brings you pleasure, enjoy it – but if it makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, it’s best to watch something else.

‘The Love Island contestants are well-cared for psychologically – assessed before the show and supported throughout. As a reality TV series, it is known for a few enduring relationships and friendships, so again I think they are treated with care and compassion off screen.’

At times, the show promotes a body image that can feel unrealistic, especially for someone like myself, having had a lot of therapy to improve my self-esteem.

Due to the perfect body image presented in can impact peoples self esteem especially if they have an eating disorder.

I asked my Twitter followers whether Love Island was good for our mental health? The most striking issue they presented to me was body image.

Edward Clements  ‘ I can see how it will maybe affect people who are less confident with their body image and cause them to feel worse. This is mainly because most of the men are always shirt less and very fit’.

Sarah TDefinitely makes me body check & compare myself to girls on programme. I wouldnt want to eat whilst watching. I am in a good place at the moment in terms of my eating disorder but if I wasn’t could be triggering. The show encourages placing value of the person in the way they look rather than their personality values too.’

So, body image is a real concern for many watching the show. This state of perfection promotes a negative body image and could harm self esteem.

Ben Edwards, relationship coach and self confidence expert agrees with this,

Reality TV shows like Love Island can of course affect our mental health both positively or negatively. Some people may find that this reignites their belief in love as unlikely couples find romance on screen, providing hope. Reality TV does not always reflect reality. It  might seem like harmless, light entertainment, we often compare ourselves because we feel something is missing. Confide in a loved one or seek professional advice if needed.’

The Love Island team said to us in a statement,
The duty of care towards all of our Islanders is always of paramount importance. Our islanders have ongoing access to an on site psychologist as well as show producers should they need it.’

I can’t wait for the next eight weeks of Love Island 2018.

It brings me joy each summer and I hope it will for you, too.

With thanks to Jo Hemmings, Ben Edwards, Love Island Press Team, Edward Clements and Sarah Tayleur for their expert comments.