Coping mechanisms are strategies that people use or develop in order to deal with, or avoid dealing with, difficult and stressful emotions or situations. Whilst some people may use exercise, a healthy diet or meditation as a way to process difficult feelings, it can be very easy to fall into unhealthy habits instead, especially if we have pre-existing mental health conditions.
For example, those who have suffered with eating disorders may automatically fall back into restrictive eating habits or fall into a pattern of binge eating when life gets difficult. Whilst we can easily beat ourselves up for not ‘handling things’ in a healthy and productive manner, it’s important to remember that coping mechanisms serve an instinctive purpose. In times of stress, we seek comfort and safety. On a biochemical level, unhealthy coping mechanisms are serving that purpose.
That doesn’t mean we should allow them to continue, however. Part of overcoming mental illness is learning how to cope in healthy ways that serve a higher purpose for you long term. Here, we will take a closer look at how mental illness can affect our coping mechanisms, and how you can learn to shift your unhealthy coping habits into more helpful ones.
Why mental illness makes us vulnerable
Mental illnesses come in a wide variety, and each person will experience them slightly differently to the next. But essentially, mental illness means that our brains aren’t working exactly how they should. This can warp our perception, and make us feel more anxious, stressed, insecure and prone to depression than we would be otherwise.
When we are stressed, we seek instant comfort. Our brains instinctively drive us to seek the quickest fix and push us to run away from our cause of stress. This is why when you are really, really hungry, all you want to do is eat sugary foods such as chocolate – your body knows that’s the quickest fix for its hunger, even though you know consciously that it’s not the healthiest option.
For people with mental illness, this stress response can trigger a repetition of a familiar pattern of negative behaviour that instantly soothes or avoids the initial problem, but also creates bigger issues long term.
Recognise your behaviour
It’s important to recognise when we are relying on unhelpful coping mechanisms to avoid facing stress, as they can lead to more serious mental and physical problems. If you are fixating on something that is not going to help you long term, such as obsessive cleaning, isolating yourself from family and friends, or abusing alcohol, you need to consciously recognise the signs that your habits are not serving you.
You may find it helpful to write down the root causes of your negative habits, and commit to facing the problems head on instead of allowing them to cause you further problems. Talking to someone you trust can be a massive help and relief, and can help you springboard yourself into a better place mentally.
Make small changes
Often when our mental health is low, we can feel overwhelmed by the thought of fixing everything. Remember, your perception is magnified when you are struggling mentally, so everything will seem worse and harder than it truly is. Being kind to yourself and committing to changing just one small habit at a time can be really helpful in focusing on what you can achieve – one step at a time.
Speaking to a health professional can be an intimidating thought, but sometimes it is necessary in order for us to make profound changes to our health and wellbeing. There is no shame in asking for help, and you are not alone. By recognising when our coping mechanisms are beginning to be less than healthy, we can make the choice to improve them.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress, but sometimes it can become overwhelming and interfere with your daily life. If you’re struggling with anxiety, you don’t have to go it alone. There are many effective strategies for managing anxiety that psychiatrists and mental health professionals use every day. Here are 10 proven strategies for reducing anxiety and taking control of your thoughts and feelings.
Identify Your Triggers
The first step in managing your anxiety is to identify what triggers it in the first place. Is there a specific situation, person, or event that causes you to feel anxious? By recognizing these triggers, you can begin to take steps to avoid them or find ways of coping when they do arise.
Keep a Stress Journal
Keeping track of your thoughts and feelings can be a great way to gain insight into how your body reacts to certain situations and how best to manage them. Write down any physical sensations, emotions, or triggers that contribute to your anxiety so that you can better understand what’s causing it and how best to deal with it.
Exercise is not only a great way to burn off pent-up energy but also helps release endorphins which act as natural mood boosters. Even just a few minutes of exercise each day can help reduce stress levels and improve overall mental wellbeing.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Taking time out of each day for relaxation is essential for keeping your stress levels low. Take up yoga, practice deep breathing exercises, or listen to calming music before bed each night—whatever works for you. Finding activities that bring about relaxation will help reduce the intensity of your anxiety over time and lead towards more peaceful days ahead.
Talk To Someone
Talking about the things that are causing you anxiety is often the first step in taking control of it again; whether it be with family members, friends, or even professional psychiatric services, like New Tele Doc, if needed. Having someone else who you trust to talk through issues with can help put problems into perspective and provide clarity on potential solutions going forward—something we often need when dealing with our own anxieties.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can exacerbate existing anxieties so make sure you get at least 7-8 hours per night whenever possible; if not more depending on personal circumstances. If insomnia is an issue then try getting outside during daytime hours (weather permitting) as exposure to sunlight helps regulate the body’s natural circadian rhythm which aids in quality sleep later at night.
Eat Well and Drink Water
Eating well balanced meals throughout the day helps keep energy levels high while avoiding unhealthy snacks or sugary drinks which can cause blood sugar spikes/drops leading towards feelings of fatigue/anxiousness respectively. Similarly drinking lots of water helps ensure good hydration levels which makes us feel more alert mentally whilst providing physical benefits too.
Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation involves focusing on one’s thoughts without judgment in order to allow yourself some time away from any negative self-talk or worrying thoughts; allowing yourself time away from such things has been proven beneficial for those struggling with anxiety issues. It’s important however not to focus solely on this technique as other methods should always be employed alongside mindful meditation too when tackling any difficult issue such as this one.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol are known stimulants which if consumed regularly can increase adrenal hormones leading towards heightened states of fear, anxiety, and nervousness. Try replacing coffee/tea based beverages (which contain caffeine) instead with green tea or fruit juices (which don’t!) as these are far healthier options overall particularly when trying to combat any pre-existing anxieties already present within oneself.
Break Negative Thinking Patterns
Lastly breaking negative thinking patterns involves challenging any irrational beliefs we may have about ourselves by looking at evidence objectively. This could involve writing down pros and cons for certain decisions we make before acting upon them so we have an understanding of why certain actions should be taken based upon factual evidence rather than assumptions made from our own potentially skewed perspectives.
Everyone experiences periods of worry from time-to-time but learning how best to manage those worries will increase your confidence in being able handle similar situations better next time they arise. By following the above 10 steps anyone suffering from regular bouts of anxiety will likely find their overall quality of life improving dramatically once proper management techniques become part of their daily routine! Psychiatric services such as therapy sessions/medication may also be necessary depending upon individual circumstances. Seeking medical advice should never be seen as a sign of weakness but rather strength instead because ultimately tackling problems head-on is better than running away from them indefinitely.
Today is World Bipolar Day and for those of us living with bipolar disorder we know that living with it every day, year round is more accurate. However today is our day to talk about life with mental illness and to try and eradicate the stigma around the illness… ‘crazy lady’ ‘nuts’ ‘drama queen’.
World Bipolar Day is designed to raise awareness worldwide of bipolar conditions and to work to eliminate social stigma whilst providing information to educate and help people understand the condition.
Even though I live in remission/recovery with the illness, I am medicated daily to be this way, and I have undergone years of therapy and learnt coping methods too, with support from family.
Well, before I found medication that stabilises my bipolar highs and lows, life looked very different.
There were times I couldn’t work. I was so depressed I lay in bed in all day, only getting up to eat. I was scared to have a shower and wash my hair.
Life looked bleak. All I wanted was my duvet and oblivion. I had intrusive thoughts about ending my life, I was in a lot of emotional pain and this would last for weeks, sometimes months on end.
Bipolar isn’t just a bit high or a bit low…. its depression and mania, suicidal ideation and psychosis, self harm thoughts, hypersexuality, hyper activity, believing delusions that aren’t real…..SO much. Its episodic but it can ruin your life. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, sex to cope. Some hear voices too.
I have been in hospital twice for fairly long stays. I have been sectioned under the mental health act and held in a hospital unit against my will. I have been injected with sedatives to calm my mind and body when I couldn’t consent. I have met people in hospital who were suicidal, anxious, depressed, high on drugs, in psychosis. I lived on a ward where I heard people being restrained.
So, not much fun really. Luckily this month I am celebrating 9 years of remission out of hospital! I also came out of hospital as a nervous wreck and thankfully, therapy has helped.
This blog is inspired by one of my followers who asked me what was my ‘Aha’ moment in recovery.
As well as finding the medicine Lithium, a salt that controls the mood fluctuations, the biggest thing I did for my own healing was go through therapy for my panic attacks and PTSD like symptoms. This was done with the support of my husband and family and because I has been on an NHS waiting list for 2 years, I needed help. My therapist and I have done EMDR trauma therapy which has helped me to process things.
In fact, I still do get anxiety attacks – just less. I have been in a very good place generally in the past year. Finding support at home, at work and from friends and family has been the most stabilising part.
I have had bipolar since I was 15, I am 34 and can tell you that this has not always been the case and my mental health has and will fluctuate.
I learnt recently that bipolar brains are neurodiverse, meaning our brain chemicals act differently to a neurotypical brain. Always good to understand the biology behind it too as this illness can be inherited and run in families- my Dad and I and other relatives have it.
On World Bipolar Day I hope:
-Employers adhere to the disability act and make reasonable adjustments to help those of us with bipolar to work in a better way for them, including hybrid working.
-People with mental illness aren’t fired because they can’t get to a physical workplace.
-Mental health services need better funding, so that people with bipolar can get a correct diagnosis sooner and get the help they need.
-People not in the Western world will get access to mental health medication and therapies that they desperately need.
Living with a disability can be difficult, but with the right services and resources, it doesn’t have to be. There are a variety of services available that can help people with disabilities live more comfortable and independent lives. Here are five services you should consider if you have a disability.
Medical Equipment Loan Closets
Many organisations throughout the world offer loan closets for medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches. These organisations often partner with hospitals or healthcare providers in order to provide loaner equipment at no cost to those who need it. This is especially helpful for those who do not have insurance coverage for medical equipment or cannot afford to purchase their own.
Respite Care Services
Respite care services provide temporary relief for those caring for someone with a disability. Respite care can range from in-home care and overnight stays to extended vacation stays. This type of service allows caregivers to take a break while still knowing their loved one is being taken care of by qualified professionals.
Finding respite care services near you is easier than ever. There are a variety of online resources, such as websites and telephone help lines, that provide information about local respite care programs. Additionally, many local organizations, churches, and faith-based groups offer respite care services for free or at a reduced cost. Contacting the nearest healthcare provider may also provide helpful information about respite care options in the area. Taking advantage of these services can be a great way to relieve stress, get some much-needed rest and relaxation, and ensure that your loved one is receiving quality care.
Many cities have transportation services specifically designed for those with disabilities. These services provide door-to-door pick up and drop off so that individuals can get where they need to go safely and on time. They also typically accommodate any special needs the individual may have, such as wheelchair access or assistance transferring between vehicles.
Rideshare and taxi services are increasingly becoming popular among those with disabilities as they allow users to book transportation at any time, from anywhere. These services offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles and other flexible options that make it easier for people with disabilities to get around. Additionally, many rideshare companies provide special discounts or programs specifically designed for those with disabilities or limited incomes. Utilizing rideshare services can help you stay independent, get around efficiently, and save money in the process.
Social Security & Disability Attorneys
If you happen to be in the United States of America, social security and disability attorneys are available to you for help with navigating the complex laws surrounding disability benefits. They can assist with filing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as well as any appeals that may be needed. An experienced social security disability law attorney can help ensure you get the benefits you’re entitled to, saving time and money.
Finding a great social security and disability attorney can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. The first step is researching your local area for attorneys who specialise in this area of law. Word of mouth can also be helpful; ask friends or family members if they have any recommendations or experience working with an attorney who specialises in disability law. Additionally, many organisations provide free or low-cost legal assistance to those with disabilities. Contacting these organisations can help you find a lawyer who is experienced and knowledgeable in this field. Lastly, it’s important to do your due diligence when researching lawyers; read reviews online and make sure the attorney is highly qualified before committing to any legal representation.
Home Modification Funds
Many states, provinces, cities, and townships have some type of funding program in place that helps people pay for home modifications that make their homes more accessible for someone with a disability. These funds may cover costs associated with adding ramps, widening doorways, or installing grab bars in bathrooms. It’s important to research your area’s specific program so you know what types of modifications are eligible for funding.
Financial Assistance Programs
For those living on a fixed income, financial assistance programs can be invaluable when it comes to covering costs associated with living with a disability. These programs provide money toward rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, food costs, and other necessities that may not be covered by other forms of assistance.
Mental Health Services
Living with a disability can be emotionally taxing, so it’s important to have access to mental health services for support. Mental health services are available in both in-person and online formats, and offer individual counselling, group therapy, or other specialised treatments such as music therapy or art therapy. These services provide an outlet for individuals to talk about their feelings and find ways to manage their emotions in a healthy way. Counselling can also help people set goals and plan for the future, giving them a sense of purpose and hope.
No matter what type of disability you have, there are services available to help make your life easier and safer. From medical equipment loan closets to financial assistance programs, there are numerous resources available specifically tailored towards individuals living with disabilities—all of which can help make living independently easier and more manageable than ever before!
Considering the wellbeing of employees has never been more important, or more timely. With world events like the coronavirus pandemic having a serious impact on global mental health, more and more employers have begun to more seriously consider the overall wellbeing of their employees, not simply their productivity in the workplace.
It is therefore important for companies to consider ways to improve employee wellbeing. Below is a list of tips for improving the wellbeing of your employees.
Training and Long-Term Goals
The reason that many employees are unhappy at work is that they feel they have stagnated, spending years in a particular position without any opportunity for growth or new responsibilities.
It is therefore important to understand the individual professional goals of your employees and how you might deploy training and development schemes to help them achieve those goals. An employee is much happier if they feel they are working towards a goal or new opportunity, not simply stuck in a 9-5 grind.
It is well worth investing in personal development schemes to help employees recognise and develop their individual talents. These schemes can come in the form of lecture series or workshops, training schemes or bootcamps.
It has been reported by several studies that allowing employees greater flexibility regarding when and where they work can greatly improve mental health. Allowing flexible working hours and locations can help employees feel a greater sense of autonomy over their personal and professional lives.
Obviously this involves a degree of coordination, since employees must still be able to work collaboratively throughout the day, but studies have shown that more flexible scheduling can lead to greater wellbeing and productivity.
(image: Stefan Stefanovic: Unsplash)
It is important for the wellbeing of employees to work in a friendly and collaborative workplace environment. Creating opportunities for social, non-work engagements for your employees is not just a chance for them to let off steam, it can be a vital way of helping employees build meaningful and productive social relationships with their colleagues.
If staff are on friendly terms, they are more likely to look forward to coming into work, as well as more likely to collaborate successfully with their colleagues on work-related tasks. A social and amicable work environment almost always leads to a happier and more productive workforce.
Creating a healthy office environment, full of friendly social links, can be achieved in several ways. One way is the more informal route of arranging after-work social engagements (or weekend trips) for your employees. Or you could go the more formal route of arranging dedicated team-building days or afternoons.
There are a myriad of ways of creating a friendly workplace environment, but it is inarguable that doing so will lead to greater wellbeing among all employees.
Strategize and Focus on Mental health
Many people believe that their mental health issues can at least partly be attributed to the pressures and strains of their professional lives or because they require financial assistance. It is therefore essential for employers to focus on creating an inclusive environment where mental health issues can be discussed and tackled in an open, honest and compassionate way.
There are many ways in which employees can address mental health issues in the workplace. One is to create, and follow, a comprehensive wellbeing policy. The policy should signpost ways in which the company works to address mental health issues as well as the resources that the company provides for employees in regards to mental health management.
Creating a workplace environment in which mental health is clearly seen to be a priority will foster a greater sense of emotional security and wellness for your employees.
On the 1st March 2016, I started this blog as a way to provide therapy for myself- as I was going through panic attacks, (caused by trauma). Can you believe that was 7 years ago?! I can’t! Since then I have had several years of therapy and my life changed so much too for the better- I met my husband, we got married and moved to our first home.
The blog has turned into a book Bring me to Light (with Trigger), writing for Metro.co.uk, Glamour, the Telegraph, Happiful, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and other incredible organisations, I have partnered with large and small brands, charities, businesses, writers to create content that battles stigma on mental health. We have been awarded as a Top 10 UK blog by Vuelio since 2018 (thank you) and I love to share my story to help others and educate people about bipolar, anxiety, panic disorders, psychosis, mania and mental health in the workplace (amongst other mental health topics!). I have also recorded podcasts and have begun speaking in the community about bipolar with my Dad.
I cannot believe it has been 7 years since I opened up my computer to write- I was struggling. a lot. Writing has been such a therapy and a saviour to me.. and I hope this blog helps you too!
As always, I want to thank all my contributors and brands (sponsored or not), as well as the digital agencies and freelance writers who provide content too.
This year March 22- 23 we have featured (where it says my name, I wrote it!)
Most of us have bad habits that we’re aware of, whether it’s smoking, excessive drinking, or eating unhealthy foods. We may think that the only consequence of these habits is the occasional guilty feeling or a bit of embarrassment. Still, bad habits have far-reaching and unseen repercussions that can significantly affect our health. In fact, poor habits such as these can lead to various physical and mental health issues, such as depression, insomnia, and heart disease. The good news is that we can make changes to improve our health and overall well-being by understanding the unseen consequences of our bad habits.
Premature ageing is one of the most significant and often unseen consequences of bad habits. Smoking, for example, has been linked to premature wrinkles, age spots, and an overall aged appearance. The same applies to excessive drinking and unhealthy eating habits, contributing to poor skin health and general ageing.
Research has shown that bad habits can also contribute to accelerated ageing of the brain. Studies have found that excessive drinking, smoking, and other unhealthy habits can increase the risk of developing dementia and other age-related cognitive issues.
Decreased Mental Health
Bad habits can also have a negative impact on our mental health. Studies have found that smoking, excessive drinking, and unhealthy eating habits can all increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety. Additionally, poor habits can lead to an increased risk of developing insomnia, which can harm our mental health.
Additionally, unhealthy habits can also lead to an increased risk of developing stress and other negative emotions. Studies have found that smokers and excessive drinkers are more likely to experience emotions such as anger and frustration, which can lead to further mental health issues.
Bad habits can also have a negative effect on our motivation levels. People with unhealthy habits often feel lethargic and lack the energy and drive to complete tasks or take on new challenges. This can sometimes be attributed to poor nutrition, as unhealthy foods leave us feeling sluggish and unmotivated. Similarly, those who smoke often feel tired and lack the energy to exercise, which can further decrease motivation levels.
Bad habits can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. These conditions can cause fatigue, which can further reduce our motivation levels. Additionally, those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol are more likely to experience difficulty concentrating, which can decrease motivation and mental health.
Increased Risk of Health Conditions and Diseases
Finally, bad habits can increase the risk of developing severe health conditions and diseases. Those who smoke are more likely to experience a stroke, lung cancer, heart disease, and an increased risk of developing COPD and other respiratory conditions. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.
Furthermore, those who engage in unhealthy habits are more likely to develop obesity and type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These conditions can lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack and even reduce our life expectancy.
In conclusion, ‘bad habits’ can have far-reaching and unseen consequences that significantly affect our health and overall wellbeing. However, by understanding the unseen effects of our bad habits, we can make changes to improve our health and wellness for good.
This article was written by a freelance writer. If you need help for addictions or eating disorders, please reach for help from qualified professionals.
No one’s life is perfect. At some point, we all face difficult challenges and struggles that can leave us feeling lost, powerless, and alone. If you’re currently dealing with a big life change, know that you’re not alone. Here are some tips for how to cope with the big changes life throws at us.
Acknowledge that change is hard, and give yourself time to grieve the loss of what was
Acknowledging the difficulty of coping with emotional hardships in life can be the first step toward healing. Change is never easy and it is natural to experience grief or sorrow over losing something familiar or safe. Taking the time to sit with those feelings will help give space for understanding rather than running away and pretending like everything is fine. Being compassionate to yourself throughout this process can allow you to accept the struggles you are facing, ultimately helping you venture forward.
Lean on your support system – friends, family, therapist, etc.
When grappling with emotional struggles in life, it is helpful to remember that you are never alone. Caring and reliable support systems of friends, family, and therapists can make a significant difference in your journey of healing. A strong foundation of accepting people will lift your spirits and provide valuable perspectives on your situation. You might find this through your community at school, going to a local group therapy meeting, or through a religious or other network. Every individual has different needs when it comes to dealing with emotional difficulties; leaning on those around you as a source of comfort can be an extremely supportive outlet, as you navigate through trying times.
Find healthy coping mechanisms that work for you
When dealing with difficult emotions, it is essential to find healthy ways to cope. Each person has different needs and preferences when it comes to finding relief from emotional hardships. Luckily, there is an abundance of coping mechanisms available. Whether it’s exercise, journaling, painting, or something else entirely, identifying which coping activities work best for you can help reduce stress in your life and give you an outlet for negative emotions. Being proactive in finding techniques that bring relief is the foundation for healing.
Create a new routine or structure for yourself to help with the transition
When dealing with emotional struggles in life, creating a new routine or structure for yourself can provide much-needed comfort and stability. This can range from something as simple as coming up with a plan for your daily tasks or an overarching chart that breaks down what you want to accomplish each week. Furthermore, it may be beneficial to set aside time where you can focus on self-care or just unplug and take a breather from the world around you. Though this type of change may seem daunting at first, having an established plan can give us control, which is often otherwise lacking during hard times. By putting confidence in yourself and investing effort in your goals, you can take strides on the path toward healing.
Be patient with yourself
Making a major change in life can be traumatic, and it is important to be patient with yourself as you adjust. Healing often happens one step at a time, so allow yourself the time and space to take whatever baby steps are necessary to feel better. Finding people who understand and can offer meaningful support along your journey is important, but make sure that the people you turn to also help you focus on your sense of strength and purpose rather than simply engaging in a pity party. With patience, you will eventually discover that you’ve healed enough that growth can start to occur.
Going through tough changes in life is never easy, but there are ways to make it more manageable. Acknowledge your feelings, reach out for support, find healthy coping mechanisms, and be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to grieve and adjust, and eventually, things will start getting better. Remember that you’re not alone – Lean on your loved ones and professionals for help when needed. You’re worth it.
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being outdoors and researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.
It’s a day like every other day before, but you can’t find the motivation to follow your typical routine. On average, you’d jump out of bed, drink a hot cup of coffee, and catch up with morning shows and podcasts before hitting the gym or work. But you somehow don’t feel like doing anything today; this happens at a particular time of year.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is depression associated with seasonal changes, e.g., winter, fall (autumn), or summer. People tend to associate seasonal depression with “winter blues,” but it also appears in other seasons, and how to differentiate it from sadness is that SAD occurs in the same season every year for you.
Symptoms of seasonal depression
The symptoms of seasonal depression are divided into three categories:
● Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
● Sluggishness or hyperactivity
● Low moods that last all day, every day
● Insomnia or oversleeping
● Increased carbohydrate craving
● Loss of focus
● Low energy
● Suicidal ideation
Fall and winter SAD
Seasonal depression in the winter typically starts in the fall and lasts until after the winter, and these are the symptoms:
● Craving foods high in carbohydrates
● Weight gain
Spring and summer SAD
Summer depression is more common during spring until summer, and the symptoms include:
● Weight loss
● Increased irritability
Are you slipping into seasonal depression?
As somebody who experiences seasonal depression in the winter, I can subjectively say there’s no ultimate method to cure or treat SAD, but there are tips to help you navigate it.
Tip #1: Identify the events that lead up to the seasonal depression
Are you in college and anxious about going home for winter break? Or you’re a mom about to spend her entire summer with extended family and it’s sapping your energy? It’s best to understand what happens when you experience seasonal depression so you understand the major problem and how to tackle it.
Tip #2: Don’t spend time alone
I understand how tempting it is to avoid people when you’re in a low mood, but spending time alone can make you brood over your intrusive thoughts, keeping you in a more depressed state. It’s best to invite your friends over if you don’t have the energy to see them and feel able to have them round. You don’t have to go too far out of the house or your comfort zone as long as you don’t spend too much time isolated.
Tip #3: Say NO to plans that make you feel uncomfortable
When you’re experiencing seasonal depression, you could be inclined to accept invitations just to escape the feeling of sadness, guilt and worthlessness. But you will only feel more drained by going to places you don’t want to be. Look after yourself.
The ultimate hack that works for me during seasonal depression is being open about my suicidal ideation. Whether it’s second-hand suicidal or intrusive thoughts, I have a friend I can be vulnerable around, and I tell them everything that goes on in my mind during that period.
“What if they get tired of listening to me complain?”
It’s normal to feel guilty when you constantly complain to one person about your problems – you could feel like a burden and want to step back. But if that trusted friend or family member has never told you to stop talking or coming to them, you should keep going to them. And if that friend ever tells you that they are tired of hearing you complain, it doesn’t mean they hate you – your friends have probably internalised your problems too much and need a step back before continuing to be there for you.
In all, don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel when you experience seasonal depression, and remember, it will pass, so don’t make permanent decisions during that period.
I’m rooting for you and believe you’ll see better mental health days this year and beyond.
Obehi Iyobhebhe is a freelance writer in the business and psychology space. She’s passionate about helping people improve their life’s quality by paying attention to their mental health.
Obehi is also interested in helping entrepreneurs hit their business goals by creating blogs and email campaigns to generate leads.
Happy new year everyone! Gosh its nearly the end of January and I havn’t written a blog for a while so thought I would share some things that have been happening here and talk a bit about mental health stuff too.
Firstly, my mental health is fairly stable at the moment, as has been the case for a number of years. I don’t get typical bipolar depressive or manic episodes on my medications and this year is my 9th year out of hospital , which is always a positive. However, I still suffer with anxiety and stress and get overwhelmed so have to pace myself! I have bad days too where things feel too much but thankfully they don’t escalate into a depression.
So for the positives- I have achieved some huge anxiety wins for me. Since November, I have been on the tube (first time in 3 years), I have gone up to the West End with Rob to the theatre using public transport, my panic attacks have been lessening, I have been able to see more people in person and I also passed my probation at work and have been made permanent (huge win!). I am someone who struggles with agarophobia when I feel more anxious and stressed and going out alone can still be a challenge.
I have been allowing myself to venture into previously anxiety provoking situations- for example, I get cabs alone home from work. I had to start doing this last year and it helped me get back into the world again. It wasn’t easy due to many fears I had but I have been able to do it, slowly. My job is also hybrid so I can work from home too- but getting back out into the world and having kind work colleagues at an office has been such a vital part of my recovery too. My therapist has been so helpful in dealing with the panic attacks and anxiety and I do still get triggered but at the moment on a lesser scale. I still find blood tests, hospitals and general health stuff scary because of what I have been through. I really recommend therapy.
I sometimes do have to cancel arrangements when things feel too much so am sorry to anyone I have had to postpone… its not easy and I hate doing it as I feel bad… but I am learning the balance of looking after me and socialising too. I don’t always get it right but I am trying.
Then, my friend in Bushey, Lee, texted me a few weeks back and asked if I would like to speak in my childhood community for the Jami (Jewish charity) Mental Health Awareness Shabbat. I hadn’t done public speaking about my story since before Covid in 2019, when I spoke with my Dad Mike at Limmud and at Chigwell shul (synagogue, my husbands community). I have had drama training so for me speaking publicly as someone else is OK, but when I have to stand up and share my own story, I get nervous as its so personal. The first time I was asked to speak in a shul at Belsize Square, I made it to the community but my Dad had to give the talk by himself as i was too panicked to attend the service. I managed in time to dip my toe in slowly, always with the support of my Dad and my therapist.
This talk in Bushey felt significant. It’s the Jewish community I grew up in and was a part of until I was 23. I felt like I was going home. The Bushey team told me they had two other speakers, but would I like to speak and share my story with bipolar disorder?
I thought to myself… I am ready, my panic attacks and social anxiety are more under control. To me being asked to come home to Bushey shul was a sign. My Grandpa Harry passed away in 2021 from Covid- and he and Grandma had lived in Bushey since the 1990s, when we were little. Our family lived in both Bushey and Bushey Heath and I studied at Immanuel College, across the road from our home and my grandparents. The area contains so many happy memories for me. I knew the new senior Rabbi and Rebbetzen, as he had officiated at my grandparents funerals and was so kind to our family. My Dad is also still a member of the shul and I still know a lot of people who live in the community too. Its a very special community and one I am proud to be from (and still feel.a small part of despite not being a local anymore).
So, I decided, with my Dad and Rob’s support on the day (and anxiety meds), that I could stand up in shul and speak with the other two speakers on the Shabbat (sabbath) morning. My Mum and step dad were supporting from afar and looking after our guineapigs.
The senior Rabbi and Rebbetzen hosted us for the Friday night which was wonderful as we got to meet lots of new couples and see the Ketts, the other Rabbi and Rebbetzen! For lunch after the service, we went to Lee’s house, which was very special as she was my batmitzvah teacher and is a good family friend.
I was initially told the talk was going to be in a break out room- but on the day it was decided that it would be from the pulpit. Last time I ventured to that pulpit and stood up there was when I was 12 years old, sharing my batmitzva portion of the Torah. The year my Dad was very ill and diagnosed with bipolar. I became ill just 3 years later.
Now, here I was back as a married woman of 34, revealing about the mental illness that had found its way into my family and caused a lot of devastation. However, the main reasons I wanted to stand up and talk about bipolar disorder are because I know that this illness runs in families, many Jewish families struggle with it. I wanted to give the message that you can live with this illness but you can have periods of remission, recovery, you can find hope.
And as I spoke to the audience of people – many of whom I had known since my childhood, who saw me grow up and saw my family eventually leave Bushey for Edgware, I felt humbled. I felt honoured to be asked to speak and I hoped that by sharing my own journey with bipolar (being diagnosed at 16, in hospital twice, the last time in 2014 for a very serious manic episode), that I could touch someone who needed to hear it. My Dad gave me permission to tell his story too.
When I grew up in. the early 2000s, talking about mental illness and particularly in Jewish spaces, was not the norm. I hope that through sharing my own journey and my Dads (he was undiagnosed for 9 years until he was 44), that I will have helped someone.
Most importantly, I felt I had come home. The kindness and warmth shown to me by the members of the Bushey community who I have known since I was a little girl was something so incredibly special and touching. People confided in me after the service about their own struggles. Others thanked me for sharing my story. I was hugely touched by the other two speakers who spoke after me about their own journeys with mental health and their children’s. I won’t name them here in case they want to be anonymous but I learnt so much from them and their experiences.
So I want to say a huge thank you to Lee, to the Rabbis and Rebbetzens and to everyone in Bushey who I have known for years and have loved- for hosting us, for inviting me to talk about something so personal in such a special community. It touched my heart. I really hope it helps.
I genuinely did not know how I stood up there to speak to 90 odd people- what kept me going is knowing I was doing this to help eradicate the stigma of mental illness but also I hope that the words I spoke gave comfort to anyone going through mental illness, that it does get better. It can improve. You won’t be ill forever.
When I was unwell in 2014, Jonny Benjamin MBE was speaking and sharing about mental illness. He taught me that sharing your story to help others is vital. So thanks Jonny for all your support too (whether you knew you gave me the courage or not :).
I also want to thank Jami charity, Laura Bahar and Rabbi Daniel Epstein. I was part of the volunteering team that helped set up the first mental health awareness shabbat. The project has blossomed and is now annual and it is truly wonderful to see.
What I want to clarify is that although I am currently a lot better with my anxiety, it is very much a grey area, day by day thing. That can be hard for people to understand- how one day you can be great with loads of energy and the next you have to stay home and recuperate- self care. But I think knowledge of mental health is increasing now, so do check in with your friends and family and offer a safe space without judgement- its so helpful.
Thank you again for reading this if you got this far. You can do whatever you put your mind too- reach for help from medical teams, medication, therapists and never give up.