How Horses can help Mental Health issues through Equine Therapy: Guest post by Lyle Murphy

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Modern medicine continues to reveal new complementary treatment methods that enhance the health care solutions we rely on every day. Equine assisted therapy is one of the most exciting and versatile treatment methods available. Research published in medical journals support the use of equine assisted therapy as an essential part of holistic mental health treatment for conditions as varied as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and anorexia.

Despite longstanding success in using therapeutic horseback riding and other equine assisted therapy techniques in health care treatment, many people aren’t familiar with the benefits. This information is especially relevant for parents caring for children who have mental health problems. Read on to find out exactly how therapeutic riding can make a huge difference in a patient’s quality of life.

Understanding Equine Assisted Therapy 

Equine assisted therapy actually covers a wide range of activities and therapeutic techniques that leverage the unique dynamics between a patient and a horse. Treatment methods are supervised and directed by a medical professional, differentiated from recreational equine activity through a local ranch or social club.

Horseback riding has been shown to contribute to the development of improved coordination and balance, directly aiding the physical rehabilitation process. Additionally, activities like grooming and feeding can help to improve motor skills and problem solving. More advanced treatments may be performed under the direction of an equine therapy specialist.

Equine Assisted Therapy Treats Several Mental Health Issues 

This list is by no means an exhaustive account of all the medical conditions that can be treated with equine therapy. Instead, it provides a sense of the how broadly the treatment is already being utilized.

Across the country, equine therapy has already been incorporated into mental health treatment plans for adults dealing with:

       

  • Mood and behavioral disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Trauma and grief
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Sex and gambling addictions

Holistic Mental Health Care Through Equine Therapy 

Successful engagement with a horse is a physical, social and emotional challenge. That’s why it’s such an ideal complementary treatment for patients dealing with mental health issues. By working through the demands of horsemanship under the guidance of an experience medical professional, patients are able to work to build better habits and develop strategies for managing their symptoms.

 

Identifying Emotional Triggers 

One of the most important benefits of equine assisted therapy is the relationship between a patient and their horse. Horses are extremely sensitive to human emotions, making it difficult to ride if a person’s emotions are running wild. The plus side is that this sensitivity can also be used to identify emotional triggers and help patients discover the root of their mental health issues.

Building Communication Skills 

Due to their sensitivity to emotion, herd animal social dynamics, and relatively high intelligence, horses are strong communicators. They can also be easily agitated, making it important for patients doing equine assisted therapy to practice keeping their emotions in check. These lessons in self-control help the patient build skills they will likely rely on for the rest of their lives.

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(image: Unsplash.com)

Overcoming Physical Challenges 


Even the act of getting into a saddle requires are certain level of coordination. Unrefined motor skills are a very common symptom of a wide range of mental health problems. As a result, equine assisted therapy puts a focus on refining physical skills.

Gaining Confidence Through Goal Setting 

Ultimately, becoming a good horseback rider requires individuals to master a long list of skills. The step-by-step process of learning to ride also naturally provides a set of goal posts for patients to reach for and overcome. The opportunity to set goals and achieve them is an important part of the emotional development process and a key perk of equine assisted therapy.

Explore More Equine Assisted Therapy Benefits 

Another advantage of equine assisted therapy is that it offers patients an alternative, promoting holistic care. There is a time and place for medication, but  I believe that the current cultural climate pushes for treating most conditions with pills and often fails to take a more holistic approach.

About the Author:
Lyle Murphy is the founder of Alternative to Meds Center, a holistic medication tapering and addiction treatment facility in Sedona, AZ. Lyle has dedicated his life to holistic mental health.

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Social Anxiety: How I stopped feeling nervous about talking to others. Guest blog by David Morin

 

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(image: Yellow Co )

This is my story on how even when things look dark, there might be change just around the corner.

You see, I grew up deep inside the Swedish countryside as an only child. My parents were rather old when they had me, so people often assumed them to be my grandparents.

In school, I was an outcast. Because I had only socialised with adults, I had a hard time bonding with people my own age.

Naturally, this made me socially awkward and anxious in social settings, especially around strangers and large groups.

One time, a friend convinced me to join a party. When I finally showed up, I felt everyone’s eyes on me, like radar-tracking from all directions. I locked myself into the bathroom. Looking at the person in the mirror, I couldn’t help but wonder what was wrong with him.

Later, I learned that my awkwardness and nervousness was much more common than I had first thought. It’s just that everyone hides their chaotic inner under a calm surface (just like I did).

I started studying behavioural science. As it turned out, social anxiety often starts small in life. But when we start avoiding social settings, our anxiety snowballs into a monster.

We can’t overnight break the shackles of social anxiety. But what we CAN do, is take small steps out of what we normally do.

I started doing things slightly out of the ordinary. Instead of looking down the ground, I forced myself to hold eye contact with people I walked by on the street, if only for a split second. After a few weeks, when that felt normal, I tried to hold it a bit longer, and maybe even smile.

My smiles were forced and awkward, and I probably looked like a weirdo. But over time, I could interact with people in a warm and relaxed manner.

Thanks to taking small steps and challenging myself a little every day, I became more confident as the years went by. Not just with other people but in life in general.

7 years ago, I started a blog where I teach people how to stop being nervous. That confirmed to me that I wasn’t lonely. We’re one big nervous family all in this together. So why not help each other?

I recently got the opportunity to leave all my friends and family in Sweden and move to New York City – a place where I knew no one. If I hadn’t had the confidence I have today, I would never have dared to do it.

Challenging my anxiety was my key to living life to the fullest.

But back then, in that Swedish forest, things looked dark. Thinking back to that time taught me a lesson:

Just because things are hard at the moment, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. Life is ever-changing, and that’s what makes it so exciting.  

 

This blog was written by writer David Morin who used exposure therapy to help his own social anxiety and find recovery.

 

World Bipolar Day is Tomorrow!

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Tomorrow, join in and learn what you can about bipolar disorder.

As many of you know, I have bipolar 1 disorder and when not on medication, have episodes of high mood- mania/ psychosis and low mood- severe depression. Thankfully I am in recovery but it affects so many people and is thought to run in families.

Remember you are not alone.

Bipolar UK-  https://www.bipolaruk.org/

Bipolar in USA: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/bipolar-disorder

How Walking and Audiobooks have helped my Anxiety and Depression: Guest blog by Tan at BooknerdTan

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(image: BetaNews)

For most of my life I have had relatively good mental health and considering the rather…’turbulent’ upbringing I had I’d say that was pretty much a miracle. All came to a head in June 2018.

I was in a job that was incredibly stressful for minimum wage, I had a toxic boyfriend who did nothing but make me feel worse about myself and I had an abuser resurface into my life completely unexpectedly. All this happening at once lead to some kind of mental breakdown and I couldn’t function for around 4 months. I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t go to work – I could barely eat or string a sentence together. Everything I heard was white noise, everything I saw was in slow motion and I was just completely numb.

I went to seek help with my doctor and was prescribed medication (which I am not currently taking as of the New Year) and was referred to Birmingham Healthy Minds service. This is a service which I cannot recommend enough – I was really scared of counselling after previously having a bad experience when I was younger, however I’m really glad I went ahead and gave this a go.

The best thing about this was that my counsellor was not passive (unlike my previous experience), in fact he gave me so much advice that will stay with me forever. I relied heavily on my friends during this time and they were an amazing help, but sometimes it is nice to offload some of your worries on to someone who is essentially a stranger. It allowed me to say things which I may not necessarily feel comfortable telling my family or friends.

Ever since I went and spoke to someone about my condition, I have been looking for the best ways in which to cope on a daily basis. The main way I keep my anxiety at bay is with a combination of walking and audiobooks. This has done wonders for my anxiety. I have always been a big book nerd; I read every day, manage to polish off on average 100 books a year and run my own book blog so it’s safe to say that I am a major bookworm!

I’ve constantly heard and read about exercise being an amazing coping mechanism for people dealing with depression. I have close family members who also suffer with depression and confirmed to me that exercise is one of the main things that relieves some of their symptoms. Having this information only told me one thing – get to exercising!

I live in a really pretty village so I decided to put my headphones in, pick an audiobook and walk. Walk until I couldn’t feel my legs. 3 hours later I came home and was elated. Body numb, blood pumping and feeling a tiny bit more positive than when I left the house.

My anxiety got to such a point that I wasn’t able to breathe properly. I was always taking short, sharp breaths and it never felt like I was in control which exacerbated my anxiety. Walking allowed me to think about and control my breathing therefore lowering my anxiety somewhat. Combining walking and my favourite hobby (devouring books) helped me so much more than I ever expected and am so thankful for it.

I recently wrote a blog post about how audiobooks helped me control my anxiety and was overwhelmed by the response it got when I shared it on my blog. Not only by the amount of people who are dealing with anxiety themselves, but how happy they were that they found the post and are willing to try it out to see if it helps them too. It’s that kind of response that reminds me of why I love blogging and sharing my experience! I hope someone read about my experience and it was able to help them.

Every day is still a learning curve but I’m definitely getting there. Going forward, I hope that everything I have learned in the past 9 months will aid me in keeping my anxiety and depression at bay and be able to handle it as best possible when/if it arises again with a vengeance.

I am always hopeful that if I ever feel the same way again, I will be able to see the signs a lot earlier, implement the coping mechanisms I’ve acquired and nip it in the bud before it manifests even further. I hope that somehow my experience can help someone else out there cope a little better and make them realise that it is possible to come out the other end even when you’re at your darkest.

 

This guest blog was written by UK book blogger and writer Tan at https://booknerdtan.wordpress.com/

The Anxiety Rollercoaster : Going beyond my Comfort Zone. by Eleanor

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(image: Pinterest)

I don’t really know where to start with this blog except I have needed to write this one  for several weeks. As many of you know, I struggle with an anxiety disorder (alongside/ part of the bipolar) which when triggered can make life quite difficult. This includes things that anyone would find anxiety provoking, such as job interviews.

I have had to dig deep, leave the house and use every ounce of strength to attend face to face job interviews in the past few weeks. This is not an exaggeration. My body floods with adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) and I feel overwhelmed. All my energy becomes consumed around preparing for the interview, attending the interview or NOT attending the interview because I wake up in a panic not wanting to go out- and having to try and reschedule it. Which just adds more stress as I fear I will lose the chance to interview.

This is really hard for me. There is still such a stigma to mental health issues that disclosing it early on without someone knowing you fully, means you are still less likely to be hired. Having to reschedule an interview also floods me with fear that the employers will think I am just flaky, even if I say I am unwell.

I am very proud of my achievements in the past month. Last week, I went to an interview and did well- travelled alone, was fine throughout. I even got a second interview. However, I woke this morning at 7am in anxiety and am seeing if I can reschedule it.

Essentially, this is one big test of exposure therapy. Reaching outside my comfort zone and going out into the world to use my skills. Its scary and exhausting. But it can also be validating and exhilarating too.

Today I feel a bit of an exhausted, worried mess. However, I refuse to let my panic disorder beat me. Next week, I have some positive things happening too re work.

For anyone else going through this- you aren’t alone. I take medication on time, I have had years of therapy and I still have panic attacks at times and struggle with the debilitating anxiety. I am searching for a new form of therapy (maybe EMDR- rapid eye movement) as I am concerned that my disorder mimics some PTSD symptoms, although that will need to be determined by a psychiatrist . I went through a lot in 2014 when in hospital and just before in a manic state and when I came home after and got back to work.  I wonder if this is what is behind the panic.

This is an honest assessment of whats going on. Despite the anxiety attacks, I have been able to see some friends. I am also still writing my book – deadline fast approaching.

Thank you to all my online twitter ‘cheerleader’ friends who sent me so many messages of love and support, of cute animals and inspiring quotes. You helped give me the strength to go to my interview and be ok. And to my friends and family in ‘real life’ too.  

If you are also struggling, keep fighting. I am always here for you to talk too.

Love,

Eleanor x

 

4 Helpful Treatment Options for those who suffer from PTSD- Guest post by Rachelle Wilber

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that affects people who’ve experienced major trauma events. Common among military service members who’ve fought in combat zones, PTSD can also affect people who’ve lived through other terrifying episodes that have resulted in physical and/or mental harm. If you believe that you suffer from PTSD, you can work with a therapist and try any of these four different treatment methods to overcome the condition.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

This type of therapy works to alter thought patterns that often cause people to relive the traumatic events in their minds. As Mayo Clinic states, the goal of cognitive behavioural therapy is to make you more aware of negative or inaccurate thoughts so that you can adopt a healthier perspective of challenging situations and respond in a better way. Undergoing this therapy may also help prevent relapses that could jeopardise your mental health.

Exposure Therapy

Your therapist may also try exposing you to things that trigger traumatic thoughts as a way to alleviate them. This is done in a safe way, and your mental health care provider will be there to help you process your thoughts and feelings and give you tools to overcome your anguish. You may be shown pictures, see writings or even revisit a place where the traumatic episode occurred. Gradually, these negative thoughts should lose their power and cause you less mental grief the more that you’re exposed to them.

Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Also known as EMDR therapy, this treatment method involves recalling distressing thoughts while a therapist’s fingers move in front of your face. You’ll be asked to follow these finger movements with your eyes while discussing your feelings, however, you generally won’t be required to talk about your thoughts in great detail.

Some therapists use foot or hand tapping or musical notes instead of finger movements in front of the face. This more active approach to therapy is intended to minimise the effects of bad thoughts.

Medication

Medication is sometimes prescribed by mental health professionals to work in conjunction with other types of therapy. Prozac, Zoloft and similar antidepressant medications are formulated to boost serotonin levels in the brain to alleviate negative thoughts and emotions. Your doctor may also prescribe Depakote to stabilize your moods. Prazosin often works well in stopping nightmares.

You don’t have to continue letting PTSD dominate a large part of your life. Seeking professional help and undergoing any of these therapies will likely give you positive results.

 

This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber from San Diego, California