Lockdown and Dealing with Mental Health: Guest blog by author Graham Morgan MBE

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(image of Ardmore, Scotland by http://scotlandwildlife.blogspot.com/2011/07/tobermory-to-ardmore-bay-isle-of-mull.html )

My name is Graham Morgan. This is my story of how I’m coping under lockdown.

I have just got back from walking Dash the dog round Ardmore. There was not a person in sight; just the sound of the curlews and the crows, the roar of the cold wind in the trees and the sound of the waves on the seashore. It gave me a chance to think and ponder on this first day of lockdown. It blew my tiredness away. As I reached the point; I looked along the Clyde to Dunoon; where my sister works as a midwife and hoped she was ok and thought about my brother, a medical director and psychiatrist;  having to make decisions about the future that no one should have to make.

Driving the two minute journey home I passed the post office van ; strange to see the postie with his mask and blue gloves. I felt slightly guilty for being out and had to remind myself that we are allowed one exercise session a day; that walking the dog counts as that.

I am so lucky compared to others. My friend phoned last night to say he had just managed to get home after breaking the news to his friend’s sister that that friend had killed himself days ago. Back to an email saying he was sacked from his job and that his tenant. who he shares his house with, was leaving the house as London, feels too unsafe. To deal with that?

I found out recently a Twitter friend was passing round my book on a psychiatric ward. The thought of being back in hospital but with no visitors and all the restrictions that happen now, fills me with horror; makes my last hospital stay feel pleasant. 

Yesterday a young man contacted me on Facebook to say how much he enjoyed my book START and how he was now in self isolation. I remembered he had been in hospital for months and months; was just getting used to his first flat; getting back to education, finding joy in his creativity. I remembered the loneliness I felt when I lived alone; those days when there was no one to speak to, to share a smile with. How it tore at me! Slapped me to the ground with sadness. I think of so many friends who are already lonely; lost in their lives, lacking the energy to even make a cup of tea.

I am indeed lucky. So far in our tiny household we have got over the twin’s meltdowns when we took them out of school last Monday. How frightened they were and how much they miss their friends. Home schooling for the moment is fun, I imagine, as the weeks go, by it will get harder. We are lucky we still have perspective; not to get angry and argue because of our own anxiety.

I am used to being awake in the early hours, yet somehow I am sleeping OK at the moment and have decreased my drinking. 

My understanding of the world (due to my beliefs at the moment) is that I am evil and bringing about its destruction; I think I am partly responsible for the fires and floods; the wars but, for some reason, coronavirus seems to have nothing to do with me. I have no idea why, but it is a relief.

I have more realistic worries, like the special care my Mum made to get a long tight hug when I left her in England to go back up to Scotland. 

We have been working from home and have been more or less self- isolated since Monday because my partner has asthma and yet her separated husband is a key worker  and looks after the kids too. There is relief that these are ‘real’ worries that I can grasp; not my usual ones.

The most pressing concerns are how to work from home as well as home schooling the children; how to get bread and eggs. The biggest inconvenience has been having to queue outside the chemist for my anti depressants; thankful that my GP realised I was taking them too infrequently and that now I am back up to the required dose I feel so much more relaxed.

I have one quandary; a minor one. I went to get my jag (injection) yesterday for my mental illness. The CPN (community psychiatric nurse) who gave me it had no more protection than normal. It was quick and painless.

He said he didn’t know where the community mental health team would be soon; they may be based with another more urban one by my next appointment. He said that if I, or anyone else near me, got any symptoms I was to phone in but that he had no idea what they would do if I did; that I might have to take oral medication.

At that I was lost because, of course I would have to;  not doing so at such a time would cause so much trouble but, at the same time; I am on a community section because I cannot make myself take medication, how can I agree to that, if it happens?

I have my work, I have food, my lovely family and Dash the dog who cuddles tightly up to me every night. I have my writing, my books, my music. So many people I know have nothing approaching that. 

I think I am glad I don’t have the imagination to see the scale of what is happening and am not torturing myself with the ‘what ifs’. Good luck to all of you who may not be in such a good place. Let us all help each other as best we can over the coming weeks.

 

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health and is the Author of START (by Fledgling Press) a memoir of compulsory treatment, love and the natural world. Available from Amazon and Waterstones on line.

He can be found at @GrahamM23694298 on twitter and at Graham Morgan – author; on facebook or at the Scottish Booktrust Live Literature database at https://www.scottishbooktrust.com/authors/graham-morgan

 

Mental Health Tips to get you through Coronavirus Lockdown: Guest blog by Chantal Shaw

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(image: Self Care Pursuit)

If you’re stuck at home during the Coronavirus outbreak and need some tips to help with your mental health, you have come to the right place.

Being on lockdown can make us all feel depressed and more anxious. Self care for ourselves and our families are more important than ever.

Here are some suggestions of things to do to help your mental health and self care at the moment:

– Follow an exercise video- Listen to guided relaxation (I recommend channels ‘Relax for a while’ and ‘Michael Sealey’ on Youtube).

– Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal- this helps to clear your mind.

– Nourish your body with healthy food and stay hydrated, so important to get help with groceries if possible and drink lots of water.

– Have a bath to help relax you and keep you feeling good.

– Watch stand up comedy on Netflix, Amazon Prime or on TV. 

– Do a puzzle, if you enjoy them.

– Play a board or card game.

– Limit your exposure to the news to once a day if you are able to stop anxious thoughts. 

– Bake/ cook – good for being mindful and creating something delicious, with a sense of achievement.

– Read a book and let your mind imagine.

– Go for a walk in nature (responsibly and if your country’s guidelines allow you to!).

– When you get up- make your bed and don’t stay in pyjamas all day, to get you into a good routine and positive mindset.

– Have a phone or zoom chat with positive influences in your life.

– Tidy your home as best you can.

– Play upbeat music (and dance or sing).

– A few drops of pure lavender oil in your bath or a lavender pillow spray to help you fall off to sleep and help reduce anxiety.

– Learn a new skill- many online courses are being offered.

– Break down the tasks that are overwhelming you in to small achievable chunks.

 

If you are having persistent overwhelming negative thoughts or feelings please tell someone- speak to a trusted friend or family member, your GP, the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK- you can also email them if you prefer), a counsellor.

Things can and will get better.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health, look after it.

 

Chantal Shaw is a guest writer from the UK and the sister of our founder Eleanor.

Living with an Eating Disorder: Guest blog by Sofie

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(image: Pinterest)

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

    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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(image: Thought Clothing)

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

What is normal?

Sometimes I think I remember it.

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

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

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

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

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

“You should know better!” They would shout

“But she started it!” I would pout.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe our normal was what came next.

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

One next to the other.

Sitting in silence.

Neither speaking.

Neither bothering to reach out first.

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

Was I angry with you?

Yes.

Was I angry with myself?

Yes.

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

So we made this our new normal.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care.

I don’t.

I care.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is normal?

I looked it up for you.

 

NORMAL:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About:

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

 

 

 

Expressing Social Anxiety through Songwriting: Alive: Guest blog by Rachel Leycroft

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(image: Rachel Leycroft)

Rachel experienced severe social anxiety in many forms for the majority of her life. Like many others, she felt it was crucial to hide this at all costs, despite the paralysing pain it often caused. Her therapeutic form of expression was always through songwriting, & she wrote “Alive” at 19-years-old while in college.

It was a time when she went to extremes to uphold an image of fearless confidence, regardless of the toll it took on her well-being. Rachel didn’t realize how many others suffered from similar experiences until a number of years later. With this realisation, she started a project called #lovethroughlyrics where she shares her songs in hopes of reminding others that they are not alone in their struggles.

“Alive” is a metaphorical view of the wish to escape social anxiety. In the song, Rachel relates social anxiety to the feeling of being weighted down and asks to give up aspects of herself that are not being represented with authenticity. Ultimately, she asks to give enough away to free herself & escape the burdensome fear of others’ judgments. “Falling into the horizon” represents the weights of our insecurities being lifted; it’s a moment that lights our souls alive, reminding us that our authentic selves are timeless. They have always been within us, but are often masked by our fears and our desire to be accepted.

Rachel hopes to encourage others to reconnect with their true selves again, no matter how many years they have been hidden. Her greatest wish is to evoke compassion toward ourselves & one another by giving mental health a voice through music.

You can read the lyrics to “Alive” below & listen to the song (original & acoustic) on any music platform by going here: https://fanlink.to/rachelleycroft_alive-acoustic 

Rachel would be happy to connect with you via Instagram as well: https://www.instagram.com/rachelleycroft/

 

How to Deal With Social Anxiety, Social Phobia and Depression: Guest post by CBT Toronto

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(image: the Funny Beaver)

Millions of people around the world suffer from social anxiety, social phobia, and depression. Unfortunately, due to the stigma that is still associated with mental illness around the world, many people try to hide their problems and suffer in silence. Left untreated, social anxiety, social phobia, and depression can lead to isolation, physical health problems, and even suicide. 

Fortunately, there are many treatment modalities available,. This can help sufferers obtain the support and relief that they need and deserve. Here, we will focus on some simple yet effective ways that you, or someone that you love, can alleviate social anxiety, social phobia, and depressive symptoms with tact, integrity, and verve.

 

Risks of Having Social Anxiety Disorder and Depression

Certain individuals may be genetically predisposed to social anxiety disorders or clinical depression, as well as seasonal affective disorder, chronic stress, anger, and generalized anxiety disorder. However, other non-genetic factors may influence whether or not a person develops a social anxiety disorder or depression in their lifetime.

For instance, if you are currently dealing with substance abuse issues, such as excess consumption of alcohol or narcotics, then you may be at an increased risk of developing a social anxiety disorder or chronic depression. Unfortunately, many people will turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to numb their pain. This puts their bodies at risk of developing a tolerance or resistance to such illicit substances; which can lead those individuals down a path of destruction.

If you are having trouble communicating with others, whether at home or work or are having trouble being productive in your day-to-day life, then you may be suffering from a cognitive impairment or mental health disorder. If you notice that you are not responding to the treatment that your doctor or mental health care professional has prescribed, whether it be cognitive behavioural therapy, psychotherapy, or medication. 

If so, please speak to your doctor, as they may need to adjust your treatment or try a new treatment method. Suicidal ideation is also a serious red flag, and if you have suddenly developed severe thoughts of harming yourself, please seek immediate medical attention.  

What Prevents Social Anxiety Disorder Patients From Accessing Mental Health Care?

Many people who suffer from social anxiety ,blame themselves for their issues. As such, they may refuse to seek outside help to address and rectify their health problems. Furthermore, many people who suffer from SAD are actually unaware that such a condition exists, or may not know who to turn to in order to receive the necessary treatment. 

In fact, it can be argued that many doctors, and most of the general public, are unaware of SAD or how to best tackle the matter. As such, there may be very little help available to those who suffer from the disorder; whether it be medical, moral, or emotional.

 

Does Social Phobia Run in Families?

There have been studies conducted indicating that a person’s risk of developing a social phobia disorder may be elevated if someone in their family has or had the same issue. Moreover, the correlation vs causation interplay between psychiatric and serotonin disorders is also something that many medical experts in the field are aware of. 

That is, while most agree that there is a marked connection between SAD, depression, and serotonin, medical experts are uncertain about which comes first in terms of driving said correlation between the disorders.

 

How to Deal With Social Anxiety Disorder

SAD can often be overcome by getting moral support from friends and family. The key is to interact with loved ones in a respectful and supportive environment so that the person can overcome their problem. Also, it should be noted that many people who suffer from chronic depression do not actually understand why they feel the way they do. 

In other words, many of the feelings or behaviours that they exhibit are automatic and deeply ingrained into their thought process and psyche. It is the responsibility of their loved ones to care and support them by sympathizing with their condition and helping them process their emotions in a safe and healthy manner.

In addition, many studies have found that patients with SAD who undergo cognitive behaviour therapy report a significant improvement in their anxious or depressive symptoms. In some cases, patients may be treated with a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy and medications. This could include Busperione, Remeron, Paxil, Celexa, Trintalex, or other medicines that are commonly used to help those who suffer from anxiety or depressive disorders.

Also, if your symptoms are relatively minor, then there are techniques that you can implement yourself to obtain near-immediate relief. For instance, if you find yourself in a situation that elevates your stress and anxiety levels, then you can practice deep-breathing exercises before the situation escalates.  

If you suffer from social anxiety, then you should try to slowly cultivate your social connections. Doing so can not only help you eventually overcome your social anxiety but may also help alleviate feelings of depression that often result from social isolation. This is known as exposure therapy and can be helpful.

There are other ways to help deal with anxiety and depression. For instance, studies have found that listening to music that you enjoy releases hormones that help promote relaxation. Exercise has many mental as well as physical health benefits. The release of oxytocin and endorphins can help counteract the release of cortisol and other harmful hormones that can exacerbate anxiety and depression.  A healthy and balanced diet can help rectify certain hormonal balances and nutritional deficiencies that can cause lethargy, depression, irritability, and anxiety in some people.

Most importantly get help from a GP doctor or therapist if things are getting too much. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

This guest post is by CBT Toronto, based in Canada.

If you would like to learn more about social anxiety treatments in Toronto or would like to obtain social anxiety treatments in Toronto, then please visit our website or give us a call at 416-817-8925. We specialize in PTSD, OCD, BDD, depression, couples therapy, and anxiety disorders.

 

Taking care of your child’s mental health: Guest blog by Chloe Walker

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(image: Power of Positivity)

Mental health is extremely important and has a significant impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. According to a recent survey by the NHS, one in eight 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed. As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child’s mental health. Fortunately, you can help improve your child’s mental health by creating a supportive family environment at home and learning the early warning signs of common mental health disorders, for example. With this in mind, here are some top ways to care for your child’s mental health. 

Develop a good bedtime routine 

Sleep plays a vital role in a child’s mental health. Research shows that there is a strong link between sleep problems and an increased risk of developing certain mental illnesses. In fact, one study found that four-year olds with sleep disorders have a much higher risk of developing symptoms of mental health conditions as six-year olds, when compared with children without sleep problems. Experts at Little Lucy Willow add – “Sleep keeps you calm, your mind alert, and recharges your body to enable you to get up and face each day.” For that reason, you must try and get your child into a good bedtime routine from a young age. Here are some top tips to help your child sleep better:

  • Create an ideal sleeping space by providing a comfortable bed, installing blackout curtains, and minimising any outdoor noise. 
  • Encourage your child not to use electronics like smartphones before bed. 
  • Get your child into a consistent routine where they go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Try to keep this the same on school days and weekends. 
  • Make sure that your child avoids any caffeine in the afternoon or evenings. 
  • Visit your GP if your child has been experiencing sleep problems for more than two weeks, or if the symptoms are interfering with their daily life. 

Exercise as a family 

Exercise plays an important role in a child’s overall health. Along with the physical benefits, regular exercise can greatly improve mental wellbeing. This is because physical activity releases endorphins in the brain which creates feelings of happiness and alleviates stress and anxiety. According to advice on the NHS website, children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day.

To give you an idea, examples of moderate intensity exercise include walking to school, riding a bicycle, and playground activities. Exercising as a family is an excellent way to encourage your child to be active. It also allows you to spend quality time together as a family and build closer bonds. Playing games in the garden, going for a walk in the park, or going on a bike ride, are all fun ways to exercise together as a family. You could also encourage your child to start playing a team sport they’re interested in, such as football, rugby, or hockey. 

Encourage open communication

You must create a welcoming family environment that is built around trust and understanding. This will help your child feel comfortable telling you about any issues surrounding their mental health. Encourage open communication in your family and make sure you check on your child if you notice any changes in their behaviour i.e. they become distant or their eating habits change.

Remember that children tell people how they are feeling in several ways, not always verbally. A sudden change in behaviour may signal that your child is struggling and needs support. Always listen to your child and empathise with their feelings. Let them know that it’s natural to feel down from time to time and offer support in any way you can.

If you’re still worried about your child’s mental health, then speak with your GP or contact a mental health specialist for further advice. 

Final thoughts 

Mental health illnesses in children are becoming increasingly common and can lead to several serious long-term effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for you to care for your child’s mental health. Encouraging healthy habits is a simple yet effective way to improve your child’s mental well-being. This should include exercising regularly, getting enough quality sleep, and following a nutritious diet. Along with this, you should also educate yourself on the symptoms of common mental health conditions in children and create a warm, trusting home environment that encourages open communication. Speak to a medical professional if you need to.

This guest blog was written by professional writer Chloe Walker.

 

How Floatation Tanks can help those with Anxiety: Sponsored by I-Sopod

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(image: I-Sopod)

What is Floatation?

Floatation, also known as Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) and sensory deprivation, is the act of relaxing in a floatation tank – a lightless, soundless tank filled with highly concentrated Epsom saltwater heated to skin temperature.

In a floatation tank, you are deprived of all external environmental stimuli – you are completely isolated from sound, sight, smell and touch. You lie in a large soundless, lightless egg-shaped pod filled with around 10 inches of water and 850lbs of Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate), which causes you to float without effort or discomfort, creating a sense of weightlessness as your body feels free from gravity. The water is heated to the same temperature as your skin, so you lose where the body ends and the water begins.

 

History of Floatation Tanks

The floatation tank was originally invented in the 1950s by John C Lilly, a neuroscientist who liked to experiment with states of consciousness. However, he did not conduct any scientific research and mainly wrote about his experiences of taking hallucinogens whilst in the tank.

In the 1970s, commercial float tanks were created and were starting to be studied for health benefits.

Today, commercial floatation tanks are gaining in popularity and many float centres and spas offering float therapy are popping up across the country. This is in part due to an increase in scientific evidence to the psychological and physiological benefits of floating.

 

What to Expect During a Float Session

During your floatation session, you will remove all clothing or change into your swim gear then shower to ensure you are clean before entering the pod. You will then enter the pod, close the lid, and press a button to turn off the light. Some pods allow you to adjust the height of the roof if you feel claustrophobic. Once in the pod, try to find a way to lie comfortably – this can take some getting used to. Music may play for the first couple of minutes to help you relax and then will fade out to complete silence. You will then float for an hour before getting out and getting dressed.

Whilst in the floatation tank, all external stimuli is eliminated. You can’t see anything or feel anything. You feel weightless and free from the strains of gravity. Everything is silent, still, and peaceful in the darkness. You have shut off the world. You’ve lost all sense of time. You feel calm as you start to enter a liminal, half-sleep state. Your heart rate slows and your conscious mind switches off. Your brain reaches its Alpha State – you are lucid, not thinking. You then reach the Theta State, a deep state of relaxation reached just before drifting to sleep or waking up. Your overactive mind slows down and your racing, stressful, anxious thoughts dissipate.

Floatation eases anxiety by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and decreasing the sympathetic nervous system, which slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and cortisol, and lets you enter relaxation mode.

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(image: I-Sopod)

How Floatation Can Help Ease Anxiety

There are many studies that demonstrate how floatation can help with anxiety.

Feinstein is a clinical neuropsychologist studying the impact of floatation on anxiety with the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In Feinstein’s study, he scanned the brains of healthy people using an MRI. He then split the subjects into two groups – half spent 90 minutes floating and half spent 90 minutes relaxing in a reclining chair in a dark room. After the third session, he scanned all the subject’s brains again and compared the images. He found that floaters had lower anxiety and greater serenity as opposed to those in the chair.

He also found that the amygdala was shutting of post-float – the amygdala is the part of the brain that controls emotion and fight or flight survival instincts. He then compared the brain imaging of those who had floated with those who had taken an anti-anxiety drug, Ativan, and found the same dampening of the amygdala. Hence, floating has the same impact on the brain as anti-anxiety drugs. Feinstein is gathering more data but wants floatation to become a treatment for anxiety.

In 2018, Feinstein conducted a study on the impact of floating for patients suffering from anxiety and depression. 50 patients with anxiety-related disorders underwent a 1-hour session in a float tank. He found that floating can significantly provide short-term relief from stress and anxiety symptoms across a range of conditions including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Floating also enhanced mental wellness and serenity.

A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Stress Management aimed to investigate the long-term effects of the flotation-REST 4 months after treatment. Patients with stress-related pain underwent 12 float sessions and found that floating reduced pain, stress, anxiety, and depression and improved sleep and optimism. These positive effects were maintained 4 months after treatment.

A 2016 study by Kjellgren and Jonsson from the Department of Psychology at Karlstad University in Sweden assessed floatation as a treatment for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). 46 people took part, with 24 in treatment and 22 as control. Undergoing 12 sessions over a 4 month period, the study found that floatation reduced symptoms of GAD including depression, insomnia, and fatigue and 37% reached full remission from GAD symptoms post-treatment.

A 2014 study by Kjellgren investigated the beneficial effects of sensory isolation and floatation tank treatment as a preventive healthcare intervention. Healthy volunteers took part in 12 float sessions over 7 weeks. The study found that stress, depression, anxiety, and pain decreased and optimism and sleep quality increased.

These studies demonstrate the positive impact floatation can have on treating anxiety and how REST helps reduce the body’s stress response. More research is needed, particularly into long-term effects, but floatation could play a major role in helping soothe anxiety in the future. Try out a floatation tank today to see if it helps calm your anxiety – many feel more stress-free from just one session.

 

This sponsored post was written by i-sopod, a revolutionary float pod manufacturer and market-leading supplier to float centres in the UK, USA, Europe and Australia .

 

Christmas for CAMHS Campaign to brighten up Children’s Christmas in Mental health wards: Guest post

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(image: Christmas for CAMHS charity)

Christmas for CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) are a registered charity providing gifts each year for children and young people who are in mental health units in the UK over the Christmas holiday. They say,

Our aim is to make as many children and young people who are inpatients over the Christmas holidays feel thought-about, special and included.

We have been hugely supported over the past few years by generous donations from the public and have received much gratitude as a result from inpatient units. However, we are only able to provide gifts with your charitable donations. ‘

Christmas For CAMHS was originally set up because volunteers saw a huge disparity in the way CAMHS units were treated over the festive period compared to other NHS services for children and young people. They wanted to do something to change that and say,

‘Children are admitted to CAMHS units to receive support and treatment for mental health issues. There are no official figures for how many children will spend the festive season in CAMHS units across the UK. While many members of the public and corporate donors give Christmas gifts to Children’s hospitals or children’s wards in general hospitals, CAMHS units, which are usually based away from other services, are often forgotten, or not known about.’

Ro Bevan, doctor and founder says,

‘Five years ago I worked in a children’s hospital at Christmas time and there were many presents donated, mostly from corporate donors. There were so many presents that there was enough leftover for patients’ birthdays until June of the following year. A year later, I was working in child and adolescent mental health. We had no presents donated. Our patients had one present each, chosen by the therapy team, paid for out of the ward’s budget – saved from the NHS budget that is meant to cover therapeutic activities, and other expenses. I posted about the inequality on Facebook and before I knew it, my post had goneviral with 1,032 shares and so many supportive comments. It inspired me to start a group the following year and together we have raised over £1,000 to help children who would otherwise be forgotten by the generous public.

‘We don’t know whether this disparity is because people just don’t know that there
are children in mental health hospitals, or whether it’s indicative of the stigma that
society attaches to mental health issues. Regardless, we’re hoping to raise
awareness and address the balance. Although this project started with a simple
Facebook post, it has already gone further than I ever could’ve imagined possible
and reaching units across the UK which is a dream come true.’

This year, a special advent calendar has been designed by Sam Barakat, featuring  positive quotes every day, rather than chocolate. As well as this, there will be 32 windows, one for every day from December 1st to January 1st. 50 will also be donated to mental health units via Christmas for CAMHS. Sam says, ‘For many, Christmas is a joyful time that is spent with friends and family. For others, it can be the hardest time of year. This could be due to past events, trauma,  loneliness  or mental illness. ‘

I (Eleanor) feel this is such an incredible campaign that will touch the hearts of many. I was in a CAMHS unit aged 16 over Christmas and think this will help many people.  

You can donate and buy a calendar here for someone struggling : https://www.gofundme.com/f/a-mental-wellbeing-advent-calendar?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1

To donate to Christmas for CAMHS and give presents to ill children click here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/
CAMHS2019

Website and more information: www.christmasforcamhs.org.uk

 

The difference between Psychotherapy and Counselling: Guest post by Aaron James

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(image: Weheartit)

In our age of information, choice and variety, there are hundreds of different types of therapy and counselling available. As a starting point, one of the most common questions asked is, what is the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

The answer is much debated as the boundaries are not always clear, especially in the UK.  However, it is generally stated that counselling is typically a shorter undertaking that focuses on the present and on current behaviours. On the other hand, psychotherapy addresses deeper, longer-term issues by exploring all experiences including those from childhood and with clients undergoing therapy for longer periods of time. 

To get a fuller understanding, it helps to look at both the similarities and differences.

 

Blurred lines

The terms counselling and psychotherapy are frequently used with overlap and flexibility. Certain therapists offer both. Some psychotherapists choose to use the term ‘counsellor’ simply as a softer, more approachable title, some use counselling as part of a psychotherapy process. There are also counsellors who adopt psychotherapeutic approaches. You can see where the confusion arises.

There are many individuals and practices offering counselling, but less that offer a full range of therapies including in-depth psychotherapies (for example, Brighton and Hove Psychotherapy who also happen to discuss this topic on their site).  Reputable practices share the interests, approaches and qualifications of their therapists and will be happy to discuss their compatibility with clients.

The similarities – what you get from both

Counselling and psychotherapy are both focused on creating an open, non-judgmental, safe space to help people improve their mental wellbeing and to remove distress from their lives. The majority of therapies across the board are talking or communicative therapies where participants aim for a better understanding of themselves, and often their relationships with other people, through guided discussions with a therapist. 

In talking therapies people explore their feelings and thoughts and often look at their choices. Both counselling and psychotherapy have different branches and specialisms and  both can work with individuals, families, groups or particular focus areas. But there are some general distinctions that can help people decide which is most appropriate for them.

Counselling

Counselling addresses present problems and current personal issues such as a relationship breakdown, anxiety or confidence or behavioural issues. Often with some kind of structured process, the counsellor helps alleviate symptoms and current behaviour patterns that are causing distress. It may offer practical tools to break down negative feelings and habits, and it can often be goal or action based.

As it generally deals with more surface level ‘life’ issues, clients are usually involved in therapy for shorter timeframes. The Counsellor’s Guide is a good source of information for those wanting to know more.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a deeper and longer term approach. It looks not only at the present situation, but how someone’s childhood and past may be affecting and shaping emotions they have now. The therapist may help someone delve into their past to reveal hidden experiences that have affected them. Psychotherapy looks to identify the roots of an issue as part of the process. 

As such it can address more complex mental health problems. It is a much more in-depth exploration of a person’s emotions aiming to bring buried issues to the surface to deliver a more profound understanding of who they are and their relationships.

Training

The training a therapist undergoes is often stated as another key difference. A counsellor or psychotherapeutic counsellor requires a diploma or degree, along with a number of hours of work placement experience. Psychotherapists are required to undergo postgraduate level specialist training of around 4 years. It is often noted too, that most psychotherapists are required to undergo therapy themselves as part of their training and so that they have experience from both sides.

However, counsellor and psychotherapist are not legally protected titles and further specialisms may often entail more training for both. A good therapist will openly share their training details and should be a registered member of one of the appropriate industry bodies such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Which therapy is right for me?

The distinctions made here are broad ones to give a general guide. There are counselling and psychotherapy options to suit different types of problem, different types of people and different levels of previous experience. The therapies on offer will vary and some people undergo counselling for a long time, and some find a psychotherapy that offers a shorter solution. 

It depends massively on the person seeking therapy and their needs, and the important thing is for a client is to find a therapist that they feel comfortable with. Many experts say that much of the healing comes from the positive experience of the therapist to client relationship and this can be down to a personal match. 

 

This guest blog was written by freelance writer Aaron James, based in the UK.