Category Archives: Health and wellness

Summer Heat Wave and Mental Health Wellbeing

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(painting by Yvonne Coomber)

Here in England, we have been experiencing a heat wave of over 30 degrees (yesterday was 34 and the hottest day in England for decades). Needless to say, we are not really set up for this type of weather and most homes don’t have air conditioning, just fans and open windows!

I have decided to write about this because heat and its effects can very much affect mental health wellbeing.

Heat can make you feel sluggish, tired and overwhelmed. It can make you more vulnerable to pressures and less able to cope. Add to that a mental health or physical health condition or  concern and you will find that many people struggle in this type of weather.

There are also the physical concerns of dehydration, exhaustion, sun stroke, sun burn and the impact this has on wellbeing and mental health. It is so important to keep out the sun and keep hydrated. The intense heat can also affect sleep- and stop one from falling asleep and getting adequate rest. Again this will impact on our overall wellbeing, making one feel low or anxious or extremely tired or in the case of mood disorders, has multiple implications.

I find that when its this hot and there is no air conditioning, I feel less able to cope and more tired. However I am proud of myself for doing my best in this weather.  Luckily, its going to cool off a bit now too.

On the positive side, the sunshine brings much needed Vitamin D and can be a mood booster too! Just make sure you stay safe in the sun, summer is well and truly here 🙂

Guest post: Bipolar 2- Wading through depression and loss of motivation by Jessica Flores

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This article is about Bipolar 2 disorder, a mood disorder where sufferers can cycle between high and low moods. Jessica writes about her experiences: 

If you have been diagnosed with Bipolar II, you know that it differs from Bipolar I disorder in that you still cycle between high and low, but you never experience complete mania (high mood), which is good. Instead, you get hypomania (a lesser form). Yet, more often than not, you are trying to cope with long periods of substantial depression; which can be more severe and long lasting . Roughly six million people in the United States  and millions around the world, suffer from some form of bipolar disorder, so you aren’t alone.

When I am hypomanic, I find myself excited to go out and have conversations and stay up all night. I want to make friends and craft furniture and redecorate. I end up buying things online for some new life I plan to begin living. It’s why half of my living room has been filled with boxes of mid-century housewares for the last two years. However, I spend most of my time being depressed.

My life often feels like it is happening underwater. Every action I attempt to take exhausts me. Showering daily is impossible. I sleep for half the day and sit in front of the computer to do my job without the energy to move forward or the cognitive wherewithal to make sentences. I don’t have urges to harm myself, but I wonder why I need to keep feeling this way every day. I lose hope for the future- it can be very difficult.

Lately, I have begun to wonder if I am depressed or if I am simply losing motivation.  I feel sluggish. I don’t feel motivated. My house is a wreck. I can’t remember the last time I cleaned the kitchen floor. I thought about getting a maid service last week, but I didn’t want anyone to see my apartment.  Sometimes I have negative self talk and think I am lazy, not depressed.

As it turns out, I am not alone in my thoughts about this. Many people with clinical depression reach a point where they attach negative descriptors to themselves. If people hear they are lazy often enough during depressive episodes, it’s not unusual for them to question whether or not it’s true.

Mute Everyone Out

A depressed person isn’t simply dealing with a lack of motivation, they deal with changes in their sleep patterns, hopelessness, loss of pleasure in things they used to enjoy, changes in weight and/or appetite, and so much more. All of these are potential symptoms of bipolar depression and they can be treated. There are a number of medications that have proven effective in treating Bipolar II and many forms of therapy that are a critical element of a complete treatment plan.

Regardless, that’s a lot to handle all on your own. And what makes it especially difficult is the fact that it’s all being caused in your own mind.

Which is why it’s time to stop thinking of yourself as unmotivated or lazy, and it’s time to stop listening to anyone around you who does. You have a diagnosed medical condition. You are managing as well as you can in the given circumstances. I know it’s hard, but you’re going to need to learn to tell yourself that that’s all there is and you shouldn’t put yourself down for the resulting actions that you choose to take because of your condition. Instead of feeling ashamed, you need to make sure you are getting all of the treatment that you can and learning skills to help you control what you are able to.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. This is your battle. To make sure that you yourself don’t make yourself feel bad for how you spend most of your days. By being proud of who you are and accepting your condition, you close yourself off from any hurtful comments any uninformed person could ever tell you. And it’s important for you to be able to do that. Because you’re not any of the negative things you just said. You’re amazing, capable, and strong. Remember that.

 

Jessica Flores is a wife, mother, writer, and woman diagnosed with bipolar II. She knows that her disorder affects her entire family and she works to lessen the impact as best she can. However, she also gives herself permission to experience changes in mood. Her drastic experience motivates her to blog about it and help others who are experiencing trying times.

The Anxiety Wheel: Lifes Voyage

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It has been a while- about a month since I have written about everything going on. This is because between the moments where I feel full of health and happy, I have been experiencing morning panic attacks at times again and I just didn’t have the energy to process it and write about it.

I have had morning anxiety for a long time, where I wake feeling overwhelmed and fearful about the day and I have had lots of therapy to try and help combat it. The only thing that seems to work for me a the moment is resilience and picking myself back up- but its not easy. After the adrenaline stops, I often feel embarrassed that I couldnt do a desired activity and I don’t want to let others down also. Its a catch 22.

I am doing a bit better this week but last week was tough. When I have breakthroughs, moments where I can socialise or go to work- then its excellent because it gives me confidence to continue.

Here is a diary entry I wrote in Starbucks the other day to make sense of the ups and downs of what I term the ‘Anxiety Wheel’:

In the past week and a half, I have been experiencing an increase in my levels of anxiety. It reminds me of a metaphor- that of running around a hamster wheel. Let me explain.

Sometimes it feels like I’m treading, treading, treading, trying to keep the wheel of life turning. Trying with all my might to function at a ‘normal’ pace. There are days when I can enjoy the running and everything feels enjoyable and exciting. There are days when I can take my feet off the hamster wheel and rest.

Yet, sometimes in my rest times, I can be overwhelmed by the anxious thoughts of lifes spinning wheel. It all feels too much and then I freeze, I hide, I go into fight or flight. I metaphorically hide and sleep in my safe cage, before I pick up the courage to turn lifes wheel again.

Today I am taking back control of my life and spinning the wheel slowly and cautiously before I get back into the full groove again. Picking myself up after panic attacks is not at all easy,. However, with support, resilience and inner strength, I can do this. I will feel safe and comfortable.’

Shame and Psychosis article for Time to Change

My latest article for Time to Change, a campaign in the UK aiming to end mental health discrimination. (name has been changed)

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Three years ago last month, my mind lost touch with reality in a very rapid turn of events that culminated in an acute manic episode of bipolar affective disorder. Having been diagnosed with bipolar in 2004, I had not experienced any mania or hypomania (a lesser manic state) in ten years, although I had fallen into a suicidal depression just six months earlier. So when my brain fell into full blown psychosis – with delusions and grandiose thoughts, fearful thoughts about loved ones and being in danger and a complete change in rational perception – it ripped apart the fabric of my life and all I knew. I am writing this to explain what psychosis is really like.

I was just 25 and although I had experienced a mixed state which left me hospitalised at 16 (and had experienced some psychosis then), this was by far the most challenging, lengthy and painful bout of mania and psychosis that I had experienced. I began to believe that my step father was behind why I was in hospital and wouldn‘t let him see me, I thought that the doctors and nurses were a gang holding me hostage. I was fearful of everything, talking and singing to myself, unable to sit still and became quite agitated at times with the staff and patients, which is completely out of character for me. I simply didn’t know what was real or unreal and I was so frightened of the staff and others while my brain was in this state. Eventually, I recovered after about two months of being given anti-psychotic medication and tranquilisers to help me rest (often I was pacing around due to agitation/ mania), in combination with individual and group therapies. I left hospital after three months.

I rarely talk about my psychotic state, which led me to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This is due to shame: I was ashamed of myself even though it wasn’t my fault – rather down to faulty brain chemistry and my medication that had stopped working. There is still a huge amount of stigma about psychosis and anything that makes you lose your sanity. My psychosis is part of my bipolar illness and happened completely out of the blue. My mood stabiliser hadn’t been holding me for some time but no one could have predicted quite how rapid my descent into psychosis and illness could have been (it took only a number of days and escalated at a weekend, leaving me to be admitted via A&E, which proved traumatising).

The shame of losing your mind is great and also acting out of character shatters your self-esteem. When I left hospital, I sunk into a depression due to the shame of how I acted in hospital and how my brain and its chemistry could go so catastrophically wrong. Kindness goes a long way when you are feeling ashamed. If you have a friend or family member struggling with this – be calm, show kindness, and show up for them. They need your support at what is an incredibly painful time. Let the person with feelings of shame about their illness know that they are human, that they are an important friend to you, and stand by them.

What truly helped me in those dark days was the attitude of my psychiatrist in hospital and in the day recovery unit I attended after. Despite being psychotic and unwell in hospital and quite agitated at times, my doctor persevered to get me on the right medication and put up with my changing moods. She knew that if I took anti-psychotics and then agreed to go on lithium carbonate (the main mood stabilising medication for bipolar disorder) that I would recover – even if it took me months to get there. It was a slow recovery but I got there in time. Her patience, perseverance and kindness saved me from a very acute episode of illness. Similarly, the psychiatrist and all the staff at the Day Recovery Unit helped me in my down days starting on lithium and having regular blood tests, recovering from being very unwell and they treated me like a human being, when I had felt so ashamed.

If it wasn’t for the Doctors, nurses, occupational therapists and other staff who looked after me  and helped build me back up, I wouldn’t be here today.

There is no need to feel ashamed, although you may do.

Although I still find it hard to talk about my descent into a psychotic state – I am so grateful to the NHS for all the help I was given and have been well for some time. I hope this article helps others in a similar position – you are not alone and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/blog/there-should-be-no-shame-experiencing-psychosis

Bipolar Slim: Part One, Small steps.

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And so, the Slimming world diet has begun. Except it doesn’t feel too much like a diet- it isnt hugely restrictive which means I just adapt a lot of what I eat already but make it healthier- so less cheese, smaller portions of certain foods, good lean proteins and some carbs, add more veg and fruit, eat less chocolate and sugar (limited juice, drinking lots of water and low cal squash). Its about eating speed foods to speed up metabolism and burn fat and eat free foods- which you can eat a good amount of as they are healthy.  Free to enjoy essentially.

I am oddly really enjoying being healthier and taking care of myself (I hate exercise and have never been on a diet but its empowering). Its just dealing with the chocolate cravings that are a challenge- chocolate milk/ ice cream cravings. I’ve had some chocolate this week but i’m trying to limit it to maybe once or twice a week and smaller portions/ healthier.

I re-weighed myself and I have lost a pound this week! Which is the start of a long weight loss and health kick journey. I am now going to incorporate exercise into my plan, did a 30 min brisk walk yesterday.

I am on Instagram with my food diary which is helping with support and motivation from other slimmers and have the support of family and friends too. The group process is not for me- but I get support online and from my loved ones.

My aim is to lose 5 stone over time. I remind myself that the biggest journeys start with small steps…. heres to getting healthier!  

The Power of Meditation: Guest Post by Jimmy Vick

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Meditation is one of the most preferred activities for all, regardless of gender, age or other factors. People have different opinions about meditation and many consider meditation to be similar to prayer. For others, it is an activity that is meant for relaxation and getting away from their daily hectic lives. In general, meditation is the activity of turning your complete concentration to a single point, concentrating on the breath, on bodily feelings, or on a mantra and affirmation. Meditation is about diverting your thoughts and concentrating on the present.

The main goal of meditation is to achieve an inner state of awareness and strengthen personal and spiritual development. In practice, meditation consists of intense concentration on  sounds, images or emotions. Meditation increases awareness of the present moment, lessens stress, encourages relaxation, and improves personal and spiritual development. The various religious and non religious traditions in the world have given rise to an array of meditative practices. The power and benefits of meditation are many.

Here are some of the notable benefits and the power of meditation:

Healing Power

Meditation promotes healing. People who meditate daily can heal many of their illnesses. In meditation, healing takes place because the mind of the person will be calm, alert and completely contented. Meditation  can be very powerful. To accomplish an ideal state of health, one has to be mentally tranquil which can be attained via meditation. Meditation can  assist and promote recovery from ailments from many chronic health issues.

 

No Side Effects

Meditation, when used for treating medical complications, has no side effects. It is the main reason why many people enjoy practising it. It is an activity that people regardless of age and gender can follow. Since meditation does not have any negative side effects, it is suitable and safe alongside medical treatment.

Relaxation

One of the main reasons why most of the people follow meditation in their daily life is for relaxation. We live in a chaotic world where everything is moving very fast. People are really tired and need relaxation in order to get away from their chaotic world. Meditation is a perfect way to assist relaxation in ones daily life. It helps you to stop moving around, working, thinking, talking, seeing, hearing, etc and allow you to rest. Meditation can help you create a cool and calm mind and therefore aids relaxation.

Improve Concentration

If you would like to improve your concentration, meditation can help. Meditation is all about sitting in a calm place and focusing on only one thing at a time. Meditation lets you focus intensely on your daily life. It is a perfect means for you to get away from distractions and direct your attention to what you need to focus on.

Other Benefits of Meditation                                           

  • The relaxation response that you get from meditation allows you to reduce metabolism, lessen blood pressure, and get better heart rate, breathing, and brain function.
  • Meditation gives balance to your overall bodily systems.
  • Meditation is very helpful and can assist us to feel happier.
  • Meditation is a practice that assists us to control our own mind and as a result, our own life and find out more about ourselves.
  • Meditation can aid us to get rid of negative thoughts, worries, nervousness, and everything that can stop us from feeling happy.
  • Meditation can provide us with a calm mind and it gives time free from stress and tension.
  • Meditation is a good method to give clarity of perception. It aids to reduce feelings of negative mood, tension, sadness, and anger.
  • Improvements in communication, flourishing of skills and talents, a powerful inner strength, etc can be achievable through meditation.
  • Meditation offers the capability to unite to an inner source of energy and enhances ones self-awareness.
  • Relaxation, transformation, and quality of life are all natural results of meditating frequently. It helps you promote inner peace and feel more alive.

 

Author Bio

I’m Jimmy Vick.  I have been working as a freelance writer  At present, I work for a best essay writing service online and it allows me to deal with different subjects in which I am an expert. I love writing articles for blogs and other online publications.

9 Proven Ways to Help Build Mindfulness and Meditation: Guest post by Jay Pignatiello

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This article is about ways to build Mindfulness for a happy and healthier life, by Jay Pigantiello.

At the age of 25, I began to feel the inevitable tides of change turn as they do, dimming the spark of youth I had grown quite accustomed to and cloaked myself with. I had hardly thought of a future to this point, but the reality finally hit me; the truth of which became a monster of sorts, leading me into a dark period of depression that followed. It wasn’t that I lacked confidence as much as it was simply that I hadn’t the slightest clue of what I wished to do for the rest of my life. The “rest of my life,” seemed daunting. I’m not sure to this day that there’s anything I would like to do for the “rest of my life.” But, through the suggestion of a friend turned mentor, I began to accept these feelings rather than trying to flee from them.

Meditation is an incredible tool. I was under the delusion that in order to be more mindful about things, I had to sit like a guru for two hours a day and eat nothing but kale and lentils. This couldn’t have been further from the truth, as it was suggested to start slow in the beginning. Each morning, for five minutes I would sit up in my bed and allow myself to be present. The coldness of the other pillow, the silky sensation of my sheets, and the warmth of the sunshine creeping over the hills began to be my anchors. Instead of fretting over what I needed to do that day, I allowed myself to be present upon waking. Most people are in such a rush that in the haze of their haste they actually make more mistakes and are less productive than if they were to take a few minutes to let their minds stay still.

Here are 9 proven and effective ways to help yourself become more mindful, and hopefully lead to a meditation practice:

 

  • Allow yourself to feel the feelings. It’s amazing how easily your mind can switch from negative thinking to more positive thinking when you stop fighting what you’re feeling. Humans are supposed to feel other emotions than happy or contentment. Feeling sad, feeling anxious, feeling depressed are actually positive experiences because they allow an insight into what needs to be changed.

 

  • Listen to your negative thoughts, and try to translate them. Many times when I’m depressed, I’ll start to see through a lens of darkness over everything in my reality, when the truth is that I’m unhappy because she didn’t text me back, or he didn’t tell me that I did a good job at work today. If I can translate these feelings of sadness into thoughts, I can allow them to pass or I can begin to make the proper changes that are necessary for me to grow.

 

  • Practice makes perfect. For me, there are times where I’ll pick up my guitar after having not played for a while and immediately dismiss myself as awful if I’m not as sharp as I once was. I forget how many hours went into practicing in order for me to reach a point where I was confident in my abilities. When I carry this mindset into other areas of my life, it allows me to accept where I’m at in my skillset and encourages me to practice a little harder. It also allows me to see my strengths and my weaknesses.

 

  • Strengths and weaknesses. This might not help me to become more mindful, but it’s made me a more confident person. In recovery from addiction, I’ve always been careful not to mention it to employers because I’ve thought of it as a weakness. The same could be said for my depression or anything else I suffer from. It wasn’t until I embraced the struggles I had gone through as a strength that I truly started to flourish in all areas of my life. In fact, most people didn’t see it as a weakness, and I’ve gotten several jobs simply because I’m reliable and trustworthy.

 

  • Pick one positive thing you experienced in your day and take time to appreciate it. Whether it’s the fact that your boss bought you coffee, or someone smiled at you, find one moment throughout the day and choose to be present for it. Gratitude is a powerful anti-depressant, and also helps to build mindfulness.

 

  • Pick one negative or uncomfortable experience in your day and take time to appreciate it. There’s a saying that goes something like, “you’ll never know a good day until you’ve had a bad one.” Negative experiences don’t need to define your entire day, but allowing yourself to feel it and be present without resistance can help you to see how many positive experiences there actually are. Discomfort is a catalyst for confidence.

 

  • Choose a mantra. Mantras can be powerful anchors, helping us to meditate while not traditionally meditating. Sometimes when I’m waiting in line I like to recite, “go with the flow,” which is from a song I like, as well as an appropriate mantra for me to live by. Often times I can be controlling, and so by reciting these words I remind myself that I’m not the most important person in the room, and everyone else had to wait in the same line. Your mantra can be whatever you choose, so find one that works for you.

 

  • Sit with your eyes closed. Sitting with your eyes closed in a more traditional form can truly help you to be more present throughout the rest of your day. Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool to help us to achieve mindfulness, as well as spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical growth. When we allow ourselves to sit without judgement of our thoughts, letting them come and go freely without narrating the story of each, we’re allowing our minds to become tranquil; which in today’s day and age of computers and billboard ads, is a must.

 

  • There’s only one Buddha. I like this saying, because I’m sometimes harsh on myself if I can’t sit for as long as I hoped for. Sitting for five minutes, and gradually building yourself up to sit for longer can help you to form a regular practice. There’s only one Buddha, and so there’s no right or wrong way to meditate, nor is there a right or wrong amount of time to meditate for. Be gentle on yourself, and acknowledge each day when you meditate that you’re taking time to do something positive and helpful for yourself.

 

I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, as well as recovering from various addictions. Meditation and mindfulness helped me to change my perspective, which in turn actually helped me to become a more hopeful and positive person. These 9 steps are proven to help you not only become more mindful, but to feel better about yourself and the world around you. We’re all in this life together, and I choose to be a more positive person for the world around me.

 

Jay is a writer and works with Crown View Co-Occurring Institute, a rehab for depression and other co-occurring disorders. He enjoys walking his two dogs, playing music, and being a figure in the recovery community in his freetime.