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

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(image: https://www.designweek.co.uk)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Dealing with Loss: Losing Grandma

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(image of Lady of Shalott Roses : Pinterest)

This blog post is really hard for me to write.

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

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

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

I know part of her will always lie within me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

How Love Island helps my mental health.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve won awards- Top 10 UK Depression Blog and Top 10 UK Anxiety Blog from Feedspot.com

We are delighted to have won some more awards from Anuj and his team at Feedspot.com!

Be Ur Own Light has been named as a Top 10 UK Depression Blog and Top 10 UK Anxiety blog alongside some amazing mental health bloggers and charities. It is a true honour.

Anuj has said: CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top UK Anxiety Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best UK Anxiety and Depression blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

You can see us in the lists here. Thank you Feedspot!

awardanx

https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_anxiety_blogs/

 

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https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_depression_blogs/

 

Taking a Mental Health Day: Retriggering the Anxiety Cycle by Eleanor

‘Sometimes you’ve got to face the darkness to step into the Light again’– James Arthur ‘Sermon’

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(image: rockonruby.co.uk)
I just want to start this post by saying that I am doing alright- I just have moments of bad anxiety or panic when triggered by specific issues. This week, I have been feeling more anxious than normal and when this happens I often have to take a step back, take a mental health day to rest and relax and recover.

As many of you know, I have social anxiety and this manifests in various ways. At the moment, I have issues with body image as I have put on a lot of weight over the past 5 years- partly due to medication and partly to lifestyle (I love sugar and don’t move as much). However, this means that in some situations,  my anxiety gets a bit heightened.

Early mornings are also the worst time for me in terms of anxiety so I try and do things later in the day now.

So what do my mental health days look like?

Sometimes they can involve:

– Sleeping or resting if needed for a few hours
– Watching something funny- today I watched the Windsors Royal Wedding special
– Speaking to a friend
– Eat something healthy that I love (and sometimes eating chocolate.. which I am trying to stop)
– Taking space and time from work to breathe. As I am self employed, I make my own hours so I know this isn’t the same for everyone.

Listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, doing something mindful eg colouring or going for a walk if I feel able are also good.

I am looking forward to a more restful weekend and taking care of my mental health. Once I’ve had a mental health day I usually feel better, more rested, calmer and centred.

Overwhelm is hard but it doesnt have to rule everything.

I’d love to hear about what you do when overwhelm sets in, to help ease the tension?

Love,

Eleanor x 

Can Alcohol raise stress levels and affect our mental health?: Guest post by Tomas Sanchez

This guest post was written by Tomas Sanchez and talks about Drinkaware, the UKs top alcohol education charity. For more and help and support, view their website at : https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/

Highly demanding jobs, family duties, money worries, relationships issues, they can all add up to make our stress levels go through the roof. The truth is, it can sometimes feel like we’re sat on a roller coaster, led by a high-pressure lifestyle that is ruining our health and happiness.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year, and stress is a key factor in this. Which is why this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focused on understanding the impact stress has on our lives and how to tackle it effectively. The week took place last week between 14th and 20th May.

When it comes to coping with stress, reaching for booze might seem like a good idea to help you lift your spirits and relax. However, in the long run, alcohol can have the opposite effect and contribute towards raising your stress, affecting your mental health and wellbeing.

Wine, beer, cider or spirits, whatever your tipple of choice, the alcohol in your drink is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals your brain relies on for good mental health – especially when you drink above the alcohol unit guidelines.

In fact, while a pint or two may cheer you up, this is only a short-lived effect that will quickly wear off. But, in the long run, drinking too much too often can exacerbate your stress and contribute towards the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Alcohol can also impact your sleep. You might think that drinking can help you nod off a stressful day at work, but in reality, alcohol can alter your sleep cycle and make it harder for you to get the rest you need to tackle the stress in your life.

If you’re struggling to deal with stress, there are more effective ways to cope with it than reaching for alcohol, such as:

Exercise, a great way to de-stress. Go for a run, swim or to a yoga class – or even a brisk walk can help clear your head of the day’s worries.

Talk to a friend about what’s worrying you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends or family, look for professional help – talk to your GP or an accredited counsellor. They will be able to help you manage your feelings and point you to the right resources to help you restore your wellbeing.

Take a hot bath or do some gentle stretches to relieve tension from your body.

If you do decide to have a drink, follow the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) advice – it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and spread your drinking evenly over three or more days.

If you’re drinking too much too often, cut back on it by:

 

  • Keeping track of what you’re drinking – use Drinkaware’s App to help you monitor your alcohol intake and change the way you drink.

 

  • Choosing low-alcohol drinks or mocktails.

 

  • Giving alcohol-free days a go. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become dependent on alcohol.

Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

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Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.

5 Tips to Manage Stress: Guest post by Cloe Matheson

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(image: Healthy Today Club)

With research increasingly demonstrating the correlation between prolonged stress and a shorter lifespan, we would all like to avoid the spectres of stress and anxiety.  But since chances are the vast majority of us have been confronted with both at some point and will be again in the future, what does it take to manage pressure yourself – or even better, to build a lifestyle which doesn’t allow stress a look in?

Check out our 5 simple tips to get started on your journey to calm.

 

  • Avoid triggering substances or habits

 

We hear it all the time, but it’s true: the things you fuel your body with significantly affect how you feel. Particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with a gut condition such as IBS (which has been shown to worsen in times of stress), you’ll want to ensure your diet is full of colourful, digestible wholefoods. In times of stress, a salad is often the last thing most of us want to reach for – but even if your current best move is reducing your caffeine intake, that is a step in the right direction.

If you’re currently using other substances to self-medicate during or after a long day – we’re talking nicotine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant) – then let this be the push you need to give up those bad habits.

 

  • Anticipate and respond

 

Particularly for perfectionists and people who experience social anxiety, stress is unavoidable in daily life.  Although easier said than done, try to embrace this inevitability as best you can – as our fears often lose their power if we are prepared for them to manifest.  When you are in the midst of responding to stress directly, keep these coping mechanisms in mind:

  • Exercise – put those fight-or-flight hormones to good use and have a workout while restoring yourself to calm. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long run at peak intensity: it can be as simple as walking around your office block when you need a workload break.

 

  • Breathe – if you’re delayed in a waiting room or have just received challenging news, don’t panic.  Sit or stand somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, visualise a serene place in your mind, slowly breathe in and out, and relax to the sound of your exhalations until your heartbeat slows and you can figure out your next step.

 

  • Sleep

 

Even for those of us who believe we need no more than 5 hours of sleep per night, humans just aren’t built to withstand such short stints of shut-eye on a regular basis.  

The proper functioning of both body and mind rely on essential processes that occur during sleep, including the renewal of skin cells and the retention of information in the hippocampus – the main memory-processing section of the brain.  Since these processes can only be completed in a state of sleep, it’s best to take your zzz’s seriously.

 

But since stress may be the exact thing keeping you up at night, here are some rituals to build into your bedtime routine:

  • Stop work at least an hour before bed
  • Have a warm bath or shower at night
  • Put some lavender oil on your pillow
  • Read (a book, rather than a screen!) before you turn off the light
  • In the dark, focus on relaxing every separate limb and muscle of your body before going to sleep.

 

 

  • Get talking

 

John Donne was right: no man is an island. Bottling up your stress and trying to manage alone may work in the short-term, but not forever. To avoid building up pressure that leads to breakdowns, consider chatting to a counsellor or a grounded friend about how you’re feeling, or join a club or society which will allow you to talk with like-minded people who may struggle with similar problems. If you are internet savvy, even online discussion boards and forums can be a safe place to air your woes.

 

  • Prioritise and identify

 

Are you staring down a hectic month of appointments, task-juggling, and trying to perfectly fulfil a different role for everyone in your life?  Compartmentalise to deal with the mayhem.

What do you need to prepare for your next move?  Tackle your tasks individually and avoid thinking about your myriad other tasks until you are finished working on each one.  Stress often peaks when we consider all our problems or tasks in their monstrous sum, whereas they are much more manageable taken alone.

If you struggle through every month, you need to identify what causes your stress. No one can do everything, and you may find that you have overcommitted to tasks. What can you say No to? At times like this, it’s worth remembering that you are the only person in control of your life: so put your wellbeing first.

Cloe Matheson, the author of this article is a writer and blogger. She can be contacted here:  https://cloewrites.tumblr.com/

Fitness and how it can help Depression: Guest Post by Paul Matthews

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(image: Fortaleza Fitness Center)

Dark times can come. When you reach your darkest days, the ones in which your thoughts are controlling you and you can barely do anything, you should try and keep yourself busy, if this is possible. Its not always possible for people who are unwell- but distractions and exercise are always helpful, especially if they benefit your overall health.

These are the top 3 reasons why taking exercise could help you if you’re suffering from depression:

1: Engage your mind and keep it busy

Last year was one of the worst periods of my life: I broke up with my girlfriend, changed my job and lost one of my best friends. I was that sad and my mind was not properly functioning, all my thoughts were invading me all day and I was barely able to do anything.

One day, I went for a 5 mile run, because it was sunny, right after work. During this time, no negative thought hit me. That was when I opened my eyes: if you don’t dwell on depressive thoughts, then you will be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to get a gym membership and I started working out for an hour after work. It has really helped me manage my depression. I am happy right now: my life is busy, but I have plenty of energy every day and less dark clouds.

Keep active and you should hopefully see the benefit!

 

2: Your lifestyle can affect your mental health

One of my friends who had depression loved junk food. He was constantly sad and depressed. He also did hardly any exercise. I encouraged him to exercise more and go to the gym if possible. The exercise helped him feel more positive and like he was taking good steps back to wellness. 
3. Help Your Self Esteem and Do it for you 

Many people told me that they were embarrassed to do exercise and particularly going to the gym as they felt “ugly, insecure, overweight and not fit” and so on. The best advice I can give is: get yourself some good fitness clothing you feel comfortable in. This might sound a bit weird, but properly fitting exercise wear can boost confidence and promote positive mental health.

Its also important to note that you aren’t the only one feeling this way and most people feel the same about themselves. Take that leap today.

When you are approaching fitness, whether if it’s in the gym or outside, or even at home, you must not forget about why you are doing it, why it’s important for you and how this could help you with your mindset.

Gentle exercise includes swimming, walking and yoga. There is something for everyone.

Try and see over the wall and remember: after the storm, the sun will rise again. Keep it up!

 

paulm

Paul Matthews is a freelance business writer in Manchester, who has headed up several campaigns. His aim is to better inform business owners and professionals on the hidden dangers of the workplace. You can often find him mountain biking or at the local library.

You can contact him at : https://twitter.com/paulwritesalot