Living with an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Sofie

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(image: Pinterest)

This is a first person, brave and honest account by Sofie of her feelings about her eating disorder, which are her personal views. Trigger warning: please be careful as this discusses eating disorders and real emotions around them. We promote healing and recovery, where possible. So here’s Sofie….

    

I miss it every day! My first thought as I wake up in the morning and my last before I drift off for the night. It is a visceral longing. That’s the burden of an eating disorder. It’s an imposter that invites itself into your life and fulfills a need. It seemingly bestows upon you new abilities and strips you of weaknesses. However, with every freedom that it grants, there is a toll to pay.

My story doesn’t begin with a girl unhappy with her body, not many eating disorder stories do. My story starts with a girl lost within her own life. A girl who longed to feel she had a purpose and a direction — a child who yearned to feel an ounce of control. Anorexia gave me that control.

It gave me the power to defy human nature. It gave me a harsh look that proved I was oozing with discipline. Each bone like a spear warding off feelings and disappointments. I was never clueless as to why I starved myself. I never thought I was on a diet gone wrong. I wept many tears over the fact that my death-defying mission for control had made me so susceptible to vanity and left me a slave to the numbers on a scale, but how else was I to measure my discipline?

I miss it every day! I forget the aches, the pains, the fights, the hopelessness. I long for the feeling of achievement and forget the complete and utter sense of THIS IS NOT ENOUGH. STILL, I AM NOT ENOUGH. I long to go back almost every moment. To flee the life I have, to rewind and go back. For me, disappointment is much harder to face without the false comfort of the hunger, without the excuse of the failing body and protective blanket of a hazy mind.

So am I in recovery? I don’t know. I feel a sense of helplessness in my recovery like I have been dragged here by circumstance, and for now, my situation doesn’t sit comfortably with me. However, I know what I have to tell myself when it stings that my body no longer hurts: I can’t be a nice person while starving. I replay in my mind countless occasions where I behaved more like an animal than a human. I so desired to be successful, but I never wished to be a monster.

So, for now, this realisation is the guard I wear against the intrusive longing. It isn’t a bulletproof armour. The thoughts still wound, but for now, I am still standing, and I don’t need to judge the situation further than that.

And so, the greatest gift any therapy has given me is the clarity to place my love of others above my hatred of myself.

I can live a healthier life as a gift to those I love, who don’t deserve to be tortured by my demons. I must try and look after myself for my family and friends.

 

This blog was written by guest blogger Sofie, to discuss the truth around living with an eating disorder. If you are worried someone you love has an eating disorder, you can contact charities including Beat and speak to a GP or psychiatrist.

How to find a way forward and heal when you have an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Lizzie Weakley

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Overcoming and managing an eating disorder is often a challenging process. It requires a lot of self-motivation and determination, as well as a healthy and robust support network. However, it will be worth it in the end because you will be able to heal yourself and move forward. Many people may not know where to start when it comes to moving on, but there are many general tips that will apply to most situations. For example, it can be helpful to create new and healthy habits, maintain a positive mindset, and plan for a better future.

Creating New Habits

Many people find it helpful to create new habits after recovering. You should recognise what your triggers are and try to avoid them or learn new coping mechanisms. You might also want to learn more about proper nutrition and how to properly care for your body.

Often, eating disorders can cause negative health effects, and it can be beneficial to adopt a better lifestyle in order to safeguard your future health. You might want to look into working with a nutritionist who will be able to guide you in the right direction. Also, if you feel yourself losing control at any point, you should speak with your doctor right away and potentially consider inpatient eating disorder treatment before things get out of hand.

Maintaining a Positive Mindset

Many people with eating disorders may think negatively about themselves. It is important to avoid this so that you don’t relapse. Instead of dwelling on things you don’t like, if you are able, you might want to focus on your positive attributes. For example, if you enjoy helping others, you might want to consider doing volunteer work. Working with the elderly, under-privileged, and animals can be an excellent way to show you that you have self-worth and purpose, and you will be making a huge difference in the world.

If you are struggling with your mindset and are too unwell to do this, thats OK. Look after yourself and see your medical team.

 

Planning a Better Future

It can be easy to sometimes get caught up in the past and eating disorder thought patterns. However, you might find it helpful to focus more on the present and the future than the past. You could think about all the things you would like to experience and achieve and make a list of attainable goals. Investing in yourself and your future will give you something to look forward to and will motivate you to push forward.

Also, creating a better life for yourself can help to protect you from relapsing because you won’t want to throw away everything you have worked so hard for.

Overall, moving past an eating disorder can take some time. It is important to be kind to yourself and optimistic. Taking the aforementioned tips into consideration and working with professionals, such as a psychiatrist, therapist and nutritionist can help you along the way. They can provide you with beneficial insight that you need to succeed and can help to ensure you are making positive decisions.

 

This guest post was written by freelance writer Lizzie Weakley,

 

How CBT helps Children deal with Anxiety: Guest blog by Leigh Adley, therapist at Set Your Mind Free

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(image: Pinterest)

As we know, children are also vulnerable to anxiety. Unfortunately, many parents believe that this type of mental health problem will only be temporary in nature. For example, they may think that their child’s shyness will disappear as they grow older. However, if this shyness is increasingly interfering with the child’s life as well as their family’s, then obtaining help is of paramount importance. If left untreated, a child’s severe anxiety will in all likelihood deteriorate as they will choose to avoid situations that make them anxious.   

People suffering from anxiety, including children, are often treated with medication, particularly antidepressants. However, there are alternatives available, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help children deal with stress.  

Two decades of research has shown that CBT has been successful in reducing the symptoms of severe anxiety. This therapy also provides children with the tools to identify situations that trigger their anxiety. It also helps them manage the symptoms themselves.

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy is used to help people manage their way of thinking and feeling. For example, it can help change distorted thoughts and dysfunctional behavior in order to alter an individual’s emotions. For children, therapists will often focus on getting them to unlearn their undesirable behaviour.     

 

Exposure and response prevention

This is the technique most therapists use for children with anxiety. It is a basic idea whereby a child is exposed to the situations that make them anxious. However, this exposure is structured and incremental and takes place in a safe environment. The goal is to make them accustomed to the triggers so their anxiety response is reduced. 

Exposure therapy has little in common with traditional talking therapy. CBT sessions generally involve talking to the patient to explore the root causes of their anxiety, and they then use this knowledge to alter their behaviour. Once they modify or change their response, the fear also disappears.

Exposure therapy is used for various types of anxiety, such as:

 

Treating anxiety as a person

It is helpful to go to a cognitive behavioral therapist as they will enable a child and their parents to think of the anxiety as an entity that is separate from their identity. The child may consider his or her anxiety to be a bully. To treat the anxiety as a person, the patient may give this bully a name, such as ‘Bossy’. Once the anxiety has been given a form, the CBT therapist can then teach the child how to control this ‘bully’. 

Children are also taught to recognize that anxiety can negatively affect their lives. By letting their fears control them, they miss important events such as:    

  • Sleeping in their own bed
  • Visiting their friends’ homes or going to a restaurant
  • Sharing meals with family or friends

It is also essential that the therapist gains the child’s trust so they can encourage them to face their fears.

 

Steps involved in exposure therapy 

The CBT therapist will firstly identify the triggers. The child will then confront a “pyramid of fears”, namely a sequence of incremental challenges. Every test that the child successfully accomplishes will help build their tolerance to the anxiety.

Before taking the challenges, the child will be asked to consider the degree of difficulty when encountering an uncomfortable situation. For example, a child who is afraid of touching dirt will be asked how difficult it would be (on a scale of 1–10) to write the word ‘dirt’. If they say ‘3’, then saying ‘I will touch dirt today’ could be a ‘5’, seeing a cartoon where a character picks up dirt may merit a ‘7’ and seeing an actual person touch dirt may go up to a ‘9’ on their difficulty scale.

By letting the child rate the scale of difficulty for their various fears, they can distinguish between the easy and extreme levels.

The first exposure trigger should come in its mildest form until the child’s anxiousness subsides. Fear is similar to any sensation; it decreases over time and the child will soon gain some control as the anxiety they feel goes away.

Depending on the severity of the child’s anxiety, a CBT session can take place several times a week, lasting several hours. The exposure often takes place in the CBT office, and then once the child feels comfortable, in an outside environment. For example, children with social anxiety may go outside wearing a funny hat. If they are afraid of germs, the exposure may involve:

  • Riding a bus or train
  • Shaking hands with strangers
  • Eating food without washing their hands

Once they have undergone several vulnerable situations and are feeling more confident, they can try some of the exposure sessions on their own. Parents have a vital role to play in this process. They should encourage their child to tolerate their anxious feelings rather than shielding them.

 

Duration of CBT sessions

It can take 8 to 12 sessions for a child to handle mild to moderate levels of anxiety. In addition, medication can help them reduce their stress while enabling them to engage in the CBT sessions.

 

Conclusion

CBT is a good way of helping children deal with their anxiety. CBT utilises various methods to overcome anxiety, and the exposure and response prevention techniques are particularly suitable for children. The child will confront their fears in increments until they can handle the stress on their own.

However, both the child and their parents need to understand that exposure therapy can be difficult. Nevertheless, once their fears diminish, the family can participate in activities that they previously found difficult.  

 

Author’s bio:

This blog was written by Leigh Adley, Hypnotherapist/Psychotherapist at Set Your Mind Free, based in the UK.

Living with PCOS and Managing Mental Health: Guest blog by Jasveer Atwal

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(image: Jasveer A)

I have lived for over 2 decades with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), yet I had not been diagnosed until in my 30’s. PCOS means you have many follicles on your ovaries, which are underdeveloped sacs. These sacs are unable to release eggs and so ovulation does not occur. There is no medication to cure PCOS but there are alterations, you can make to your life, to make it somewhat manageable.

The indicators for PCOS normally follow the lines of acne, excess hair and irregular periods. All of which I have had since my teenage years (quite obviously). These symptoms were considered separately and the dots were not connected until I went to India to see a dermatologist. As soon as I discussed the aforementioned symptoms, she asked me whether I had been diagnosed with PCOS to which I said no and looked completely dumbfoundedShe asked me to get this checked out and to cut out dairy and sugar, as this was part of the cause of my acne and also helped in my diet. Luckily, I don’t like cheese anyway (how could I not? I know) and so this wasn’t too taxing on me.

Diagnosis

I, then returned to the UK and insisted on having an ultrasound and within 30 seconds it was quite clear I had PCOS. I didn’t really look into it much further, as I was told the only way to look into managing it was with birth control and being active. I didn’t want to use any medication and I was already considering going to the gym. There wasn’t much around PCOS at the time except for the NHS diagnosis.

Little did I know that there was more to PCOS, than the anxiety inducing symptoms of acne and excess hair. For years, I had always had trouble losing weight from my belly and this was after changing my diet to include more wholegrains and less sugar.  But, even after making these changes I had always found that it was really easy for me to put on weight and then extremely hard to lose it. Which I know, is a common problem for most but I found this, even when I was really conscious of what I was eating.

Management and Mental Health

I started going to the gym but this was really hit and miss, as I found it really hard to be consistently active. There would be some points where there wouldn’t be much difference to my weight that just led me to give up. But after some time I decided, I wanted to strengthen my body and started going to the gym to work on my strength.

Working on my strength meant, I was also losing weight as I was more active, however I have still not been able to shift the belly fat. This started becoming extremely frustrating and after looking into it more, PCOS also impacts weight because another symptom is insulin resistance. In short, this means that the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin it makes. Which in turn raises your blood sugar levels and your weight is then affected. It is more common that PCOS sufferer’s bellies, want to hold onto the fat more dearly!

I am now on a mission to get those highly coveted abs. It is a tougher journey than someone without PCOS but it’s about figuring out what works well for your body. I have found that overall exercise is an integral part of my everyday life.

I currently exercise many times a week, which is excessive for some but I find that I need it to manage my mental health and weight. I am finding this difficult at the moment for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s the winter and I suffer from SAD
  2. PCOS also means I have anxiety, low mood and fatigue
  3. Its cold outside and sometimes have to spend 10 minutes scraping my car

So I am trying to battle through these hindrances by going as much as I am able because the exercise helps with my low mood. Trying to be consistent is the best thing for me, otherwise I become entangled in a catch 22 situation which derails the work I have put in place to manage my PCOS.

However, I have also realised that listening to my body and taking a break now and again may be all I need to ease the impact on my mood/anxiety. You constantly have to be aware of how you are feeling which I have found difficult as, I don’t always want to give into the low moods. But sometimes staying in the duvet longer in the morning, may help my mood more than dragging myself to the gym.

Living

Though I am able to manage the effects of PCOS on my body, changing my diet made changes to my body and skin. With my hair I have had to resort to laser treatment. I have recently started to look more into managing my stress, a lot of the stress when I was younger was due to the acne and excess hair.

There were days my acne would cause me not to go out or really dread it. Constantly having to get rid of hair which is conventionally not seen as ‘ladylike’ became tiring. And there were many days, which turned into weeks where I didn’t want to have to manage this anymore. I slowly started making changes and started to see some results. My acne reduced and I was able to work off the weight. However, my anxiety and low mood remained.

For this, I realise I need to manage my stress more intentionally and work on what affects me, my triggers and how I can reduce stress and anxiety. It’s different for each individual. I have found it is something you can manage and I have become more persistent and resilient as a result of having anxiety and low mood related to PCOS.

 

This guest blog was written by blogger Jasveer Atwal, who lives in the UK. She blogs at https://shelved.blog/ and you can find her on Instagram  @shelvedblog .

9 Years Undiagnosed: My Life with Bipolar Disorder, for Time to Talk Day: Guest blog by Mike Segall

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(image: Time to Change)

*Trigger warning: discusses thoughts of suicide and mania, please read with care *

This blog has been courageously written by my Dad, Mike, about his journey with bipolar disorder and the hurdles he faced in getting a diagnosis. For those of you who have read my book, you’ll know some of this. This is the first blog that Mike has written for us and I want to share it on today, Time to Talk Day by the charity Time to Change.  So here is Mike’s story….

 

My experience of Bipolar 1 Disorder was that I was undiagnosed for 9 years. I was never sent to a psychiatrist and was put on the wrong medication (I hadn’t heard of mood stabilisers and seemingly neither had my doctor).

So- What is Bipolar Disorder? (formerly known as Manic Depression)

To me, Bipolar symbolises the two extreme poles of mood- mania and depression. The North Pole is Mania. Mania is wonderful for me- you think you can be anyone, you think you can do anything, achieve anything, You are flying. You think ‘why can’t everyone be like this and experience everything?’. You are much more uninhibited. You may shop more, you spend more money, You think you can FLY!

But you can’t fly and you fall, you fall off a cliff into varying degrees of  deep, dark depression, which can last for months.

Bipolar disorder is  a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes periods of depression and periods of abnormally elevated mood, mania. The elevated mood is significant, known as mania or hypomania depending on its severity and whether symptoms of psychosis are present. Psychosis means when your mind lose touch with reality, with delusions or hallucinations.

During mania, someone feels abnormally, happy, energetic, irritable and not requiring sleep they often appear to be bouncing off the walls, starting new projects, trying to achieve too much. In some cases, addictions during mania may also present.

During depression, someone with bipolar disorder may be crying, experiencing negative thoughts and giving poor eye contact. You will notice this if you ever have a conversation with someone who is depressed. They may also be suicidal or talk about self harm.

My Story:

My first manic episode occurred in 1991 and I went to the doctor and was prescribed Valium (an anti anxiety calming medication), which was handed out like sweets in those days.

The Valium didn’t do me any harm but they certainly didn’t do me any good. In the next 9 years, I had three manic episodes followed by three increasingly devastating depressive and suicidal episodes, the last of which lasted 5 months.

In my first manic episode I was going out a lot late at night to clubs and bars and spending too much money. My second and third manic episodes were much more controlled as I recognized what was going on but I was still much more outgoing than usual and spending too much money.

My depressive episodes were serious and eventually suicidal and lasted 3, 4 and 5 months respectively. I often stood on the edge of a London Tube platform thinking about ending it all. I would drive down the motorway at speed not turning the corners until the last possible moment. I would stand in the bathroom with hands full of tablets thinking about overdosing and ending my life. Mostly, I was at home in bed doing nothing but sleeping , eating and surviving.

The person you would meet today is not the person you would have come across at that time.

Looking back there was no real connection made between these episodes and I wonder 1. Why I was never hospitalised and 2. Why I wasn’t diagnosed more quickly.

First of all, 30 years ago far less was known about Bipolar Disorder so the doctors weren’t quick to diagnose it. Secondly, it was only after 9 years that my GP reviewed my file and noticed that I had never been referred to a psychiatrist.

This was the breakthrough that changed and saved my life.

I went to The Priory hospital to see a psychiatrist, describing my episodes. Within 45 minutes I had a diagnosis,

”You have a mental illness. It has a name, It is Bipolar 1 Affective Disorder. You have it for life and it is treatable with the drug Lithium.”

Lithium balances out the chemical imbalance so you end up between the poles and mood is then stabilised. I am pleased to say that in the past 20 years, the medication has worked for me and has stabilised my bipolar disorder, so I no longer get episodes of mania or depression.

I am also pleased to say that as quite an emotional person I still experience the normal feelings and emotions that come with everyday life.

Starting on Lithium is not easy as you have to be weaned onto it. There are side effects, the most common being weight gain and you have to have regular blood tests to make sure the level of Lithium in your bloodstream is correct (non toxic) and it is not affecting your kidneys.

I do wish that I had been diagnosed earlier and not had to suffer manic and depressive episodes as I did.

These are the 4 takeaways I would like you to have from reading this, this Time to Talk Day:

1. With mental health it’s good to talk about it , It’s good to fight stigma and it’s good for your own healing.

My journey started in 1991 and I would hear things like ”you’ve got a weakness. Why don’t you pull yourself together?”, which were unhelpful

2. Think about how you can help people in your community by recognizing the signs that someone has depression or mania.

3.  Live a positive life- I am an example of a bipolar sufferer who can maintain a positive life. Bipolar is an illness that needs treating. It is treated with medication but it can take time for the medication to be right as each person has individual brain chemistry.

4. Listen to those who are struggling. Most of us listen to reply. If you watch two people deep in a conversation or you are in one yourself your focus will be very much on the other person and you will be listening at 90%.

But if you are listening to understand and you are feeling and sharing their emotions then you are truly listening at 100%. Check out the Samaritans help line too.

 

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(image: Mike Segall)

Mike Segall is a professional speaker and mental health advocate, sharing his lived experience with bipolar disorder to groups in the UK. He is also the father of the founder of this blog, Eleanor.

Talking for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 by Eleanor

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As some of you will be aware, back in 2017-2018, I helped as a volunteer with fellow volunteers (Lisa Coffman and others) to found the Mental Health Awareness Shabbat (Jewish sabbath) in our communities across the country here in the UK. The initiative, led by the mental health charity Jami and conceived by Rabbi Daniel Epstein, now runs in 150 Jewish communities.

This year, my dad Mike and I were delighted to be asked to share our father and daughter journey with bipolar disorder to Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue.

I have social anxiety- which includes at times a fear of public speaking. In December, I had a breakthrough, where I spoke for a short time at a conference called Limmud alongside my Dad and read from my book Bring me to Light. So, when we were asked to do this talk at Chigwell, I felt it could be possible.

I armed myself with the fact that I knew kind people in the community including the Rabbi and his wife and friends of my husband Rob (its the community he grew up in). I also wanted to share my story to help other people.

So, we stayed with a lovely lady in the community and had friday night dinner with the Rabbi and his family. On Saturday morning, I woke up feeling a little nervous but took my trusted anxiety medication for when I need it- Propranolol, and walked to the synagogue with Dad.

I managed not to have a panic attack and the thought of speaking to help others got me through (as did distraction, deep breathing and drinking a glass of water).

So, at the end of the service, we were called up to speak. Dad went first and talked about his journey with bipolar disorder from when it started for him in 1991 to finding recovery. Then, it was my turn.

I stood up there in the pulpit speaking to a packed audience with a prepared speech. I felt scared but also empowered and began to relax into the talk. I knew that by sharing what happened to me, being sectioned and so ill and talking openly, that I could break stigma and touch others. I was also so proud of my Dad for speaking so openly.

It was only after, when talking to people after the service, that we realised that about 150 people came to listen to our talk! We had some important conversations with people after our talk including someone very newly diagnosed and someone else whose niece had bipolar and is currently very ill.

I couldn’t and still can’t believe I was able to do that. However, since I have been very tired so trying to de-stress and rest as much as I can!

We just want to thank everyone who came to hear our talk and supported us, to every person who thanked us for coming and shared their stories with us. We are so grateful for such a positive reception and thank Rabbi Davis and the Chigwell community for having us.

The Mental Health Awareness Shabbat has had events in communities all across the country. It runs yearly and you can find out more here 

When Therapy Isn’t Enough–How to Handle Physical and Mental Health Issues: Guest post by Brooke Chaplan

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(Image: Pinterest)

Therapy is the first line option that most people choose when they are dealing with a mental health issue. While therapy is undeniably important, many people struggle with it, even giving up if they feel it isn’t meeting their needs. This isn’t because therapy isn’t important, but because therapy can only do so much when you are physically and financially in situations where you have no power to make lasting change in your life. Dealing with chronic pain and other physical issues can leave you worn out mentally as well, and learning how to deal with both physical and mental issues at the same time is the best way to find relief. True wellness must come from understanding and addressing physical and mental concerns together.

Understand the Connection Between Physical and Mental Health Issues

Chronic pain is exhausting to deal with on a daily basis. Over time, dealing with your pain and the loss of your normal activities can cause you to feel depressed and even anxious about your future. People often develop anxiety about their pain, especially when it seems to worsen without warning and at the worst possible times. Your mental health can also make pain worse. For instance, dealing with PTSD or anxiety causes tension within your body that affects the muscles. It is the same reason why people find that their shoulders ache after a long and stressful day. Understanding this connection will help you to articulate just why you are feeling the way you are, and allow you to talk to both mental health and physical therapists about your unique situation in ways that will let them best help you.

Choose a Program That Focuses on Your Mind and Body

Injuries that leave you unable to do many physical activities, such as spinal or leg injuries, have an impact both on your body and your mind. The best type of back pain treatment involves helping both your mind and body to heal. While you may participate in special exercises and other forms of therapy for your back, you’ll also receive counseling and support that helps you to feel better mentally. For instance, identifying mental health issues that require treatment can help you to learn techniques that help you to avoid focusing on the pain. Meditation and mindfulness are two solutions that often work well with traditional back pain strategies.

Commit to Following the Program

As with any type of therapy, your involvement makes a big difference in the outcome. Although you may feel depressed and in pain, you need to commit to working through it all. Choosing to show up for your treatment even on a bad day helps you to make continuous progress. It might not happen all at once, but you’ll soon begin to see how your treatment plan is working. Committing to physical (physio) therapy programs has also been shown to have positive impact on your ability to handle mental challenges. Remember, you may see your body and mind as two separate things, but your body interprets them both together.

Take Steps to Reduce Stress in Your Life

This is the time to take care of yourself. Take a time out from stressful activities so that you can focus on the treatment. You can also use relaxation strategies to help stop stress from affecting your physical health such as using deep breathing to work through an anxiety attack.

Your mind and body are connected, and you’ll find that each one influences the other. When one type of therapy isn’t enough, it is time to explore new options. Continuing to work on improving both your physical and mental health helps you manage pain and regain control over your life.

 

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan

5 Steps to help your Mental Health, Depression and Anxiety: Sponsored by Core Wellness Maryland

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(Image: Pexels)

Depression and anxiety can feel totally overpowering and overwhelming. It can consume you in ways in which it controls you. Your thought patterns, emotional responses, physical energy, and even your short term memory are all affected by depression and anxiety. And because it can feel so dominating, it is vital that you do not try to deal with it alone. Therapy, counselling and all the help that you can possibly get, should always be your first plan of action.

However, there are small yet effective steps that you can practice to cope and manage the severity of your depression and anxiety. Below I’ve listed 5 actions and activities that you should implement into your life daily, while also sticking to an action plan as explained above.

  1. Do something spontaneous, random and out of your usual routine. Depression can make life feel monotonous and mundane to say the least. You do the same things again and again, every day. Or you literally do nothing at all. Duvet days are no longer a Sunday treat, but a compulsion of the mind as you lack the motivation or energy to even leave the bed. That is why forcing yourself to do something spontaneous and different can feel like a breeze of fresh air. And it absolutely does not need to be a demanding task. Keep it simple, keep it easy, and then slowly build up on it on days you feel slightly better. Some ideas are:
  • A quick walk in the morning around the block.
  • Cooking an easy meal.
  • Tidying up something you’ve been procrastinating on.
  • Playing with your pet.
  • Doing easy home diys or even a bit of gardening.

The choices are endless, so feel free to add your own ideas. But just bare in mind that you should start off by keeping it simple and easy so that it doesn’t burn you out or mentally drain you. The feeling of doing something out of your routine, mixed with the feeling of satisfaction of completing a motive, can be a powerful and revitalising feeling.

 

2. Practice gratitude. Make a list.

Grab a pen and paper and write down all the things you own, love and appreciate. All the good things that you have experienced. All the happy memories. The good nostalgia. Things you find beautiful. Add the weirdest or silliest of things – if they make you smile then they should be on this list! Do this daily, even if you don’t feel like it, or even if you can only think of one thing on some days. Trust me, it all counts when you look back on your list a week later, a month later, 6 months later and so on.

 

3. Hold on to that pen and paper because I want you to play a game.

Write the first word that comes to your mind without thinking about it. Then write another word, and then another. Carry on adding to this list for a minute or two. No matter how random, or weirdly nonsensical the words that pop up in your mind are, just carry on writing it and adding it to your list. Once you’re done, analyse your list. Some might actually have absolutely no meaning or weight to your emotional state, but you will definitely find a good bunch that will shed some light to two things: feelings and thoughts that are hidden in your subconscious mind. Additonally,  feelings that you have been suppressing.

If you try to do this daily, you should begin to notice a pattern. Same words might pop up. Or similar words. Or words that are more negative/positive then the days before. It’s a good and unique way of tracking your thought patterns and emotions, while releasing pent up thoughts and feeling that you might’ve not even realised are there. Plus it’s fun!

 

4. Create a positivity board.

Get yourself a board and pin up things that signify your dreams and goals, things that you love and that make you happy. Photos, newspaper or magazine cut outs – anything and everything that defines you or who you want to be. Keep adding to it, and every time you feel your worst, look at this board and think of each thing you have included on it. And remind yourself why.

 

5. Train yourself to be more aware of your surroundings.

Use your 5 senses to their potential. This is practicing mindfulness. Depression can  numb our senses down. Noise can feel like just noise. When really it could be laughter, trees rustling, birds chirping, baby’s cooing, rain tapping, and so many other beautiful things. Depression tells us it’s noise and chaos.

Be more mindful no matter where you are, and you’ll begin to notice things you otherwise wouldn’t have, you’ll see the beauty and peace where you normally see chaos and mental exhaustion. Listen to the rain, notice the beautifully formed clouds above you, look how the trees sway with the wind, feel the rain on your skin. It’s the little things that are the most impactful. And being mindful can calm the heart and soul.

That’s my 5 steps for you. Remember no one and nothing can define you except yourself. Not even depression, not even anxiety. Celebrate this day, and use these steps to improve the quality of your life, even if you don’t suffer from a mental health disorder. If you have any steps of your own, then comment below! 

 

This sponsored post was written for you by Core Wellness Maryland CEU, who can be found at https://corewellceu.com/

10 Signs that you may have an Anxiety Disorder: Guest post by Capillus

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(image: Psych Central)

You might feel like a worrier—someone who is unable to let the little things slide, who becomes agitated by small shifts in your schedule, who is kept up at night at the thought of something you said earlier in the day. We all feel worry now and then, but there are people who have an inclination to feel concern and apprehension more than others. If you’re someone who often finds yourself feeling uneasy, fearful, stressed-out, and tense, you might have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Worrying over the Small Things 

Are the most basic daily tasks—brushing your teeth, taking out the garbage, commuting to work—stressing you out on a regular basis? Do you find that your usual routine is becoming burdensome, making you feel short of breath and unable to focus elsewhere? If so, it’s likely that you’re undergoing some form of GAD. This is a common symptom of GAD, in that people will become overwhelmed by activities that once were normal, leading them to feel stressed and burdened in the face of small tasks.   

Insomnia and Sleep Issues 

Whether it’s due to obsessive cyclical thinking or worrying about things that might have happened earlier in the day, there are many people who are kept awake, either unable to sleep at all or regularly disturbed from their sleep during the night. Insomnia can be brought on by various factors, either by an inability to quell your mind prior to going to sleep or increased cortisol levels, which will leave your body in its “fight or flight” mode even at night. 

Daily Fatigue 

Often as a result of insomnia or poor sleep, daily fatigue can be another symptom found in people with GAD. Without enough rest in the evening, the body and mind will feel sluggish during the day, leaving you exhausted and unable to focus.

Other factors can lead to such fatigue, but they might be wrapped up in other factors of anxiety, whether you are using stimulants such as coffee or alcohol to mentally balance yourself during the day or you are stress-eating unhealthy food as a reaction to increases in overall anxiety. 

Upset Stomach and Indigestion

GAD manifests itself in many different symptoms, and some of the most common ones are physical. A common side effect people have when struggling with GAD is stomach distress, including indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, and more. Anxiety itself can lead to stomach issues, but, as said above, other lifestyle decisions made while struggling with anxiety can further exacerbate digestion issues, including poor diet, increased alcohol consumption, poor sleep, etc.

Difficulty Concentrating

A common side effect found in people dealing with GAD is the inability to focus during the day. Laboured by concerns, fears, and fatigue, those with GAD will sometimes find it difficult to completely focus on a task without being derailed by some other worrying quality or event. 

General Agitation and Discomfort

Quick to become aggravated by general unease and things not going your way? Do you feel ill when attempting to talk in public or in under-populated social scenarios? Are shifts in your daily routine cause for unease and panic? These can all be signs of GAD, as the mind becomes easily perturbed by occurrences and situations it might not expect or want. It’s a struggle to deal with such responses, and it can be difficult to break yourself out of such negative cyclical thinking under such circumstances, but you should do your best to be aware of when such thinking crops up. 

Muscle Pain and Discomfort 

One side effect of anxiety often not discussed is that of physical pain. Whether it’s muscle tension, tension headaches, hand tremors, chest tightness, or feeling as if you’re unable to breathe, anxiety can lead to detrimental physical responses that might be cause for concern. 

Hair Loss and Thinning 

Along with other physical effects that anxiety can bring about, one of the more common ones is an effect on hair. GAD can lead to hair becoming thin, brittle, and falling out, both on the head and around the body. For some people already struggling with genetic hair loss, anxiety can lead to hair loss and thinning becoming increasingly worse. Thankfully, there are treatment methods available to facilitate hair regrowth, so you shouldn’t be too worried if you notice the first signs of thinning. 

Panic Attacks

You’re likely to know a panic attack if you’ve ever experienced one. Brought about by an intense feeling of fear, unease, and physical symptoms, panic attacks can be a debilitating response to extreme anxiety. The level of response will depend on the person and the level of anxiety, but they are serious reactions to the feeling of a perceived threat. Please reach for medical support from a doctor, if you need it.

Self-Deprecation

If you are regularly feeling down on yourself, feeling as if you cannot meet the standards of perfection or do not match the image you have of yourself, you might be struggling with anxiety. GAD can often leave people obsessed with a self-described definition of who they should be, and anything beneath that can be a never-ending cause of compounding insecurity. If you feel as if you don’t look good enough, aren’t performing as well as you should, or are unsure of your general abilities at work, school, or elsewhere, these underlying feelings might be brought on by anxiety. 

While some of these signs can be symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, it is important to remember that we shouldn’t self-diagnose ourselves with general mood disorders. If you’re concerned that you might have GAD, you should meet and discuss these symptoms with your primary care physician (in the UK, GP) or a therapist—someone who can provide you with a diagnosis and thus help you alleviate said symptoms for the betterment of your mental health.  

 

This unsponsored guest blog was written by Capillus at www.capillus.com , a hair loss treatment brand with medical expertise.

 

‘The Meaning of Normal’: Living with a sibling with mental illness : Guest post by Shira

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(image: Thought Clothing)

It hasn’t been normal for so long that sometimes I forget what normal should feel like. When I try to think about it, it feels like a glimpse into someone else’s life, and I am an invasive stranger, trying to reach something that doesn’t belong to me.

What is normal?

Sometimes I think I remember it.

Sometimes I think that normal is that time when I was six and you were three and we didn’t fight. When we played hand in hand like every other child, and our entire world was pink and purple, and the most important thing to us was that our dolls had shiny blonde hair.

And we would play every game under the sun, from barbies to dollhouse to the convoluted imaginary ones that only we knew the rules to, and even then did we ever really know the rules?

I was a witch and you were the princess. We were both witches. We were both princesses. I stole your magic time machine but you found another one, and our living room became the entire universe as we ran through it, believing wholly in the pictures we created, the way that only children can.

But did we ever really exist like that? Were we ever those idyllic children, the children that every parent wishes to have?

Maybe our normal is all the times when I was ten and you were seven and we would push and shove and slap. You were my younger sister who could do no wrong and I was the older one, always blamed for both our shares of misdemeanours.

“You should know better!” They would shout

“But she started it!” I would pout.

“It’s not true!” your bottom lip would stick out.

I think we all know that I probably did start it.

We would fight and yell and cry and shout, never giving in, never admitting that we were wrong. Because we weren’t wrong. We were both right, all the time, every time, and the other was always painfully mistaken. And we roared and yelled and scratched each other, but knew only to cry when a parent was looking. And if nobody was looking, well then nobody would see if we punched back just one more time.

But were we ever really like this? Two demonic screaming children who were never silent and never content with just each other? Were we really the children that every parent dreads to have?

Maybe our normal is the way we grew apart as we grew older. When I was 15 and you were 12 and I would pretend not to know you as I walked past you in school. And maybe our normal is the way we would come home from the same school at the same time separately, both of us walking different routes from the bus because being seen with one another would be unacceptable. Maybe that’s what all teenagers do. Maybe that really was our normal.

Maybe our normal was what came next.

Maybe the years we didn’t talk to each other was what we were always heading towards. Because one day we would put down the dolls, and one day we would run out of things to fight about and we would just…exist.

One next to the other.

Sitting in silence.

Neither speaking.

Neither bothering to reach out first.

Because now I’m 18 and you’re 15 and I don’t remember the last time I spoke to you. The house is thick with anger, so thick that it poisons every interaction, and I couldn’t even tell you what I’m angry about. Because the sister I played with, the sister I happily fought with but would jump on anyone else who dared fight with her is in pain. So much palpable pain, and for the first time I couldn’t just make it go away.

Was I angry with you?

Yes.

Was I angry with myself?

Yes.

And so I let this become our normal. A normal where two siblings exist side by side, but don’t even know how to speak without offending. Where everything I say hurts you and everything you say angers me.

So we made this our new normal.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care.

I don’t.

I care.

And now I’m 20 and you’re 17 and I’m 3000 miles away. But this is our normal now. We don’t speak. We can’t speak. But it doesn’t even matter because there’s nothing to speak about anymore. How can I ask how you are when I already know the answer, and I know it’s not an answer I want to hear. How can you ask how I am when you’re too focused on making it through your own day without worrying about mine?

And anyway, it’s been a long time since we told each other how our day was. Not since I was 14 and you were 11 and we would awkwardly walk home from the bus stop together, backpacks moving up and down and up and down as we compared notes about school, neither of us loving it, neither of us willing to admit that out loud.

But we are not those children anymore, and we don’t have any shared experiences to talk about anymore.

I wonder if you miss me like I miss you. I wonder if you count down the days to my birthday too, hoping that we will both make it past 17 and 20, willing time to hurry up even though maybe all I really want to do is turn back the clock.

And then you are 18, and it’s been 18 years since I sat by your tiny cradle in the hospital and cried when we left, maybe because I wanted another chocolate bar from the hospital vending machine, or maybe because secretly I don’t want to leave my baby sister in a cold hospital far far away.

But now you are 18 and I’ve still left you in a hospital far away and it’s still just as hard to leave you there as it was all those years ago. But a 21 year old can’t lie down on the floor and have a tantrum so I keep going and keep going and this is our normal now.

A normal where you’re there and I’m here. A normal where we won’t speak for months on end but then I text you and tell you I miss you and now you answer me too, and I think you miss me too. A normal where we joke and laugh at stupid posts we see on Instagram,  tentatively, both of us till remembering when you were 14 and I was 17 and we ripped each other apart with words until neither of us said anything at all. Is this our normal now?

What is normal?

I looked it up for you.

 

NORMAL:

  • Conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected

 

But who gets to decide what that standard is? How do we know when something that once wasn’t normal now is, and if what was once normal is now anything but? Do we decide that? Or do others who stand by and watch get to decide that for us?

I’m sure someone could tell you the scientific answer. I’m sure there is a video out there with a detailed and meticulous answer laid out for us to study.

I’m sure somebody could tell us the answer. Maybe we haven’t even been normal, maybe we always were.

Maybe the imaginary games of our childhood were always meant to turn into imagined grievances causing real rifts. Maybe we were meant to grow apart and then come back together again, a little rougher but a little kinder. Maybe none of it was normal, or maybe all of it was.

Sometimes I wish I could change all of it. If I hadn’t said what I said that one day, or if I hadn’t slammed my door that one time, or if you hadn’t called me that name under your breath, things would all be different now.

But sometimes I know I can change none of it. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe if we hadn’t played all those games as children, if we had never walked down the road together from school, if I had never sent the texts you eventually answered, things would all be different now.

Normal isn’t for us to decide, it isn’t for me to determine. All I know is our normal is all we have, and I wouldn’t change us for the world.

About:

Shira is a writer living in Israel, drawing on every day life experiences. Her sibling lives with a diagnosed mental illness and she has bravely shared their story here.