Winter blues, Depression and Social anxiety by Eleanor

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(image : http://www.caring-crate.com)

In the past few weeks, I have found that all I want to do is stay inside, under a cosy blanket in my little nook on the couch, reading lots of good books or watching something good on TV (by good I mean my favourite reality shows at this time of year!). I have been practising a lot of self care activities as I havn’t been feeling at my strongest or happiest this week. I think I may have seasonal depression but I am not sure if its the winter blues – probably the winter lack of light combined with my bipolar brain chemistry.

Sometimes I  will phone or whatsapp my friends, I will take long bubble baths and sing in the tub (feeling like some kind of surreal movie like Amelie) , I have discovered a new love for the Body Shop seaweed clay facial mask (it leaves my skin so soft and moisturised and helps my spots). I have wrapped myself in my pink, Beauty and the Beast blanket (without make up on) and just enjoyed the freedom of being. Of resting and being in the moment. Of being more mindful.

There have been times when this has become a bad thing. I’ve spent several nights this week on my own and there have been days where my anxiety has increased and I havn’t wanted to go outside. This is because its cold and dark (winter here in England), I don’t want to interact with random people or I just don’t want to be out in this weather when I could be warm and cosy at home.  I am an introvert (who also loves people). My introvert side craves time on my own but this is also part of my social anxiety.

However, every anxiety win.. like going to a gig in Holborn with my Dad and using the Tube (I forgot about the lack of personal space) or hanging out with my fiance or friends without cancelling on them, has been good. In truth though, I have had to cancel a lot of plans this week and luckily have very understanding people in my life. I hate letting people down but sometimes I can’t cope- the adrenaline pumps and things feel too much for me, too overwhelming.

I have felt overwhelmed and mildly depressed this week. However, I am coming to the slow realisation that this is OK. Its alright to struggle and to want human contact but also to find it overwhelming too.

I do need to get more fresh air though, exercise more and be healthier. Part of the lure of being inside is that its relaxing and ‘safer’ but the outside world is not as scary as my head decides it is when its cold and dark in winter.

I think I have mild seasonal depression- so its really important I do all I can to work with that and go outside my comfort zone- when all I really want is to be a doormouse surrounded by those I love and sometimes curled up on my own!

I am going to start talking therapy again soon as theres been a lot of stressful things going on, so hopefully that will help too.

How do you help your seasonal depression?

  Eleanor x

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What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

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(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H:

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Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter @readwritechill.

 

Autumn leaves and Mental Health tales. (by founder Eleanor)

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(image: http://www.thechakrahouse.co.uk/chakra-hygge-fairy-lights/)

I wanted to write this blog today because I have been reflecting. Over the years, I have come to really love the Autumn (Fall) season, despite being born in summer. Its cosy and calming at times, however these months can bring on some anxiety again for me.

I think that we are all human and are affected by the changing seasons. I know that my bipolar goes in phases, but is largely controlled and stabilised by medicines. However, sometimes hormones can make me feel lower at times of the month or life events can make you feel a bit sadder than normal, and in some cases, provoke depression.

My anxiety arrives in the form of morning panic and I can find it harder to do certain tasks. However, I am lucky that I am not depressed currently but the anxious thoughts are getting worse again.

I will worry about being around crowds, travelling far or socialising en masse with people I havn’t seen for a while. I live within a community where we all gather together for religious festivals and it can be harder to do this when I am more anxious. I particularly find early mornings hard- and don’t want to leave the house before 10am usually!

Working from home is both a blessing as I can work my own hours but I go out less. I am really trying to work on going out more- even down the road, especially before it gets too cold and dark.

Despite the increase in anxiety in the past few days, I am feeling thankful. There are so many good things to look forward to. There are so many exciting projects I can be a part of. When one door closes, I know that another will open.

I am still writing my book, still running my blog and have some articles being published soon. I also do social media management. I hope that my career will continue to diversify and bring joy.  I also need stability and the life of a freelancer, though fulfilling at times, is never easy.

There is a lot to be grateful for- family and friends, my fiance and life- despite the fears, anxiety and catastrophising that I do at times and am trying to limit. Positive mindset is so important- I am working on it!

Autumn can make us feel sadder or more anxious, or cause other mental health symptoms.  However, like now, it can also feel comforting- as I write on my computer, sipping a cup of tea as the darkness is falling. (Is it too new age of me to use the word ‘hygge’)?

As the leaves begin to fall and the frosts come its so important we find our lights in the darkness.

How are you doing? Let me know below!

Love,

Eleanor

Mindfulness and Unplugging: Digital Detox

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(image: Gizmodo)

In my life, I have found that what is truly important is having time away from work, fears, worries, busy-ness in general and unplugging. If I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or like things are too much, I take an hour or two in the week (and sometimes a day at weekends) to really, properly switch off.

I love social media and  I am always checking my email but sometimes its really good not to have to answer emails or mindlessly scroll through feeds. I love Instagram, but it is an excellent distraction from what I probably should be doing too!

Every Saturday in the Jewish world is Shabbat, the sabbath. I have a complete digital detox and find that I am a lot calmer and more present in the world. I go for walks and look at trees and flowers, without the distraction of my phone. I sleep without the radio (normally at night its on). I am not checking each notification, each app for something new.

I feel free for those 25 hours. I often curl up with a book, sleep and just relax. However, any longer and I really would miss the outside digital world- its a fine balance.

For me I want to be more mindful and appreciative and not live life constantly by social media. It is how I promote my work and stay in touch with people. I love that contact but I also like to unplug my mind and rest.

What about you?

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

How I stopped Self Medicating my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- PTSD and found Recovery by Peter Lang


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(image: sayquotable.com)

Peter Lang shares his amazing story of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Trigger warning: please be careful when reading, talk of drug use. 
Most people think of veterans when they think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unfortunately, I know all too well that PTSD can also affect civilians. PTSD is defined as the psychiatric disorder that happens following a traumatic event. While war is a common traumatic event that causes PTSD, it’s not the only kind of trauma. Traumatic events can include abuse, life-threatening illnesses, and serious accidents.

As a homeless drug addict, I experienced my share of traumatic events. I spent most of my twenties without a home: couch surfing with acquaintances and strangers all over the country, living on the streets of Philadelphia, and living on the beach in Maui. Throughout this time, I used every substance you can think of: alcohol, heroin, cocaine, meth, prescription medication. I drank so much, I developed avascular necrosis in my hips, which later led to a bilateral hip replacement after a car accident at age 30.

After I got hit by a car when crossing a street in Philadelphia, my mom asked me to come down to Georgia to stay with her. I spent the next two years in a wheelchair. Though I tried periodically to stop drinking and using drugs—with some success—I still struggled. I know now that one of the main reasons I was struggling was that I was trying to self-medicate my PTSD.

On the street, I experienced many traumatic events. There were so many times I got beaten up or taken advantage of or almost died. Once in Hawaii, I did die, and they had to revive me in the hospital. The doctor told me with the amount of alcohol I had in my bloodstream, it was a miracle I was alive.

In early 2016, I met a woman who changed my life. We fell in love almost immediately after meeting each other, and we got married a year later. We are about to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary.

She made me see that it was okay to ask for help with my PTSD. I didn’t have to feel like I had to take care of it all the time. She made me see that a great deal of my struggles with substances was because I was just trying to numb the pain from traumatic events I hadn’t dealt with.

At one point, I was prescribed benzodiazepines, which did help my PTSD. However, I was never able to take the medication the way I was supposed to, and they became just another substance for me to abuse as opposed to a helpful tool.

It was clear that in order to stop self-medicating, I was going to have to see a counsellor and confront my traumatic events. I started seeing a therapist regularly, and she has helped me immensely. She has helped me to open my eyes and stare the traumatic memories in the face, knowing that they don’t define me.

Another tool that was incredibly helpful for me was meditation. By meditating, I could learn how to become spiritually centered and stop identifying with the painful memories. I’ve also been greatly helped by Buddhist-based 12-step meetings, which have given me a unique perspective on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Now, I’m doing better than ever. My wife and I are ridiculously in love, we just moved into a nice house, and I’m working full-time as a freelance writer and marketer. I wouldn’t be where I was today if I was unable to deal with my PTSD. I would have never been able to stay clean and sober if I kept self-medicating.

I still struggle with my PTSD frequently. It hasn’t gone away. But now I have the tools to handle any episodes that do come up.

Many people suffering from a substance use disorder are also suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder. You can treat one without also treating the other. Luckily, you don’t have to. There are plenty of resources that will help you to seek the treatment that you need. All you have to do is ask for it and be open to it.

Peter Lang is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia. He occasionally writes for The Recovery Village. In recovery himself, he has dedicated himself to helping others struggling with substance abuse.

 

Blue Monday- a Message: Day of Mental Health Self Care

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(image: Excellence Assured)

So today is apparently Blue Monday- the most miserable day of the year, according to the media. Its January, Christmas has ended, the days are still short and dark. But, today doesn’t have to be blue in the sad sense of the word. We don’t have to be down today- even if we don’t feel great or strong.

Today can be about a day of self care, recovering, healing, hoping, dreaming and positive actions that can make your day better. Feeling like you can’t get out of bed today. Try just an hour earlier. Feeling anxious, depressed, low, or wanting to harm yourself? Seek support. Seek help. Don’t feel like you have to hide this or go through it alone.

Self care is so important- whether setting small goals to do, or phoning/ texting someone you love, to doing something, eg reading books, making art or listening to music, for the pure joy of it. Maybe you like running or dancing, maybe you like bubble baths and candles? Whatever is your thing- that thing you love, that heals your mind and body? Do it.

If you like meditation, meditate. If you need to talk to someone you trust, open up. If you need to be quiet and watch a movie, do that. If you want to see a therapist or doctor- go. You may not want to talk but you will feel better to get that weight off your shoulders.

Everyone is an individual. If you are struggling on todays Blue Monday (or Blue Self Care Monday)- please seek that help. You are not strange or weird for feeling how you feel. Mental health touches everyone regardless of age, sex, race or religion.

Remember to keep shining your light… even if its a tiny candle to fight the dark. You have this today. We are all here for you.       

Holiday Break Update: Fairy Lights, Writing and Self Care Rest.

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(image: flickr.com  at Kew Gardens, London)

I have had a really relaxing and at times, busy, break. I always try to pace myself because sometimes when I do too much, I get overly tired or anxious, which has a knock on effect for the rest of the week. Its important that I don’t do too much at once.

Although we don’t celebrate Christmas, my boyfriend and I went to the Christmas at Kew Light installations. They were so beautiful with a tunnel of fairy lights, oversized baubles, stars and snowflakes hanging from trees, coloured fairy light displays on the lake, different coloured trees and singing trees, burning fire and glittery fake trees, coloured pods changing colour to music and the Palm House light show with a Winter theme. The trail was just incredible, I really recommend it! There are also rides, a kids show and little kiosks selling mulled drinks and hot chocolate.

Then, I have been spending the past few days with family and been working a lot on my writing- on my book manuscript and also on another project for a magazine. It can get tiring and I invest a lot emotionally but I am so grateful to be able to write, and hope only positive things come out of it .

I have taken time as well for self care- to read, rest, relax so I don’t get overly anxious or exhausted. Yesterday I watched the Sex and the City Movie. I love Sex and the City, its brilliant. It makes me happy.

Hope you have all had a good break? Let me know what you have been up to. Remember self care is so important. Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year 2018!

Guest Post by Redfin.com: How to Alter Your Home to Treat and Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

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(image: Redfin.com)

Each summer, we become accustomed to sunshine and days that never seem to end. We are outside, being active, and absorbing plenty of Vitamin D. It’s no wonder we feel so good! When fall starts to set in and daylight savings comes, our bodies receive less sunlight and we are often confined to indoor activities to combat the cold. With such a dramatic change, it’s easy to slip into a state of feeling hopeless, distracted, or even depressed. These feelings alone could be symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs when the seasons change, primarily in winter. Everyone reacts differently, but the warning signs sometimes include:

  • Depressed mood
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy
  • In some cases, people with SAD experience suicidal ideation. If you have felt any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone! Roughly 10 million US residents suffer from SAD each year, and another 20 percent suffer with a milder form of it. There are many more sufferers around the world. In fact, it’s very treatable. So while you’re huddled inside keeping warm, we are going to discuss ways you can treat or prevent SAD this winter simply by altering a few things inside your home.

Switch up your Lights

Using light therapy boxes can provide relief from SAD. Sitting near a light box for around 30 minutes a day, typically after waking up, provides similar light to a bright, sunny day. Keep your eyes open but don’t look directly in the light box. It’s perfect for sitting on your desk, makeup table, or where you eat breakfast.

Secondly, using a full spectrum bulb or daylight bulb helps some people find relief from darkness. Although it’s not powerful enough to mimic daylight, it’s a great way to reduce darkness in your house. Utilize bright lights to create a reading nook or inspirational space in your home. You can also purchase a treadmill or stationary bike and place it near these mood-enhancing lights, surrounded by plants. These ideas can help give you your “outside” fix even in winter, and can go a long way in fighting seasonal depression.

Add Greenery to Your Home

Bringing more plant life into your home is a great technique for managing SAD. You can fill the rooms you visit often with green, colorful, blooming plants, or set up a room or area in your home that can be a sadness-free retreat. Set up a yoga mat to practice mindfulness next to an exercise area; adding movement to your day will help produce endorphins and serotonin that can improve mood.

If you’re all about gardening, building a DIY greenhouse in your backyard is a great fall/autumn activity that can help you get ready for the winter months. You’ll be able to grow vegetables and fruits year-round, which can help improve your mood since you won’t have to miss your favorite summer treats.

Bring in Some Colour

Take a look around you and ask yourself, do the colours in my home make me feel good? If the answer isn’t “yes,” then it might be time to switch up your home’s colour scheme.

If you’re surrounded by dull or dark colours outside, you might feel the tug of depression more deeply if those are the same colours you’re surrounded by inside. A fresh coat of paint might be just what you need! Paint your walls colours that inspire warmth and joy, like a cosy sunrise or warm, light blue water. Plus, adding a home improvement project to your to-do list can help boost your energy and creativity during a time when laziness lurks around the corner. Studies have shown that setting, working toward and achieving goals can be a big mood booster any time of the year.

If painting is too much work, you can also swap out your throw pillows or blankets for brighter colours. Duvets and pillow case covers are an easy way to change the appearance of your home without throwing out your current décor and or having to commit to a new style long-term.

Finally, hang up some of your favorite photos of you and your friends, family, or pets. Research shows that recalling times of happiness can provide a dose of happiness in a blue moment.

Don’t forget the kitchen

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a proven method for tackling many kinds of depression, including seasonal affective disorder. An easy and fast way to consume more fruits and vegetables is to make a morning smoothie. Embrace daily healthy eating by exploring new recipes online and from your friends. Cold months lend themselves perfectly to soups, stews and crockpot recipes. Try new ingredients, and invite your friends over to taste the results. Not only will the food feel good, but your company will, too! Even when your instinct is to avoid social situations, having friends and family over can be the push you need to feel more upbeat and happy.

And while you’re in the kitchen, check out your surroundings. If the room is highlighted with grey, steel appliances, consider adding pops of upbeat color and warm touches to brighten your mood. Paint the backsplash behind your sink a warm butter or khaki shade, add pops of green alongside wispy plants, or add bright coloured appliances like a teapot, coffee maker, or mug display. Even if you aren’t noticing the colors in a room at every moment, they can still impact your thoughts and emotions.

Put Some Soul into Your Surroundings

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Customize your home to give off positive vibes that boost your mood year-round. Surround yourself with things that inspire you like your favorite music, art you love, or quotes from authors.

Consider how music makes you feel. You can purchase and install a surround sound or multi-room music system to pipe in your favorite tunes whether you’re in the bathroom or the bedroom. A simple Bluetooth speaker works wonders too!

If you enjoy the outdoors but the lack of sun and warmth are keeping you indoors, bring the outside in. Set up a room or a corner where you can experience similar activities, like a trainer for your bicycle, yoga mat, or some free weights to keep you in-shape.

Last but not least, consider design schemes that will inspire a positive attitude. Put some soul into your surroundings. Choose decor that will help you build confidence, feel happy, or bring back memories. Start by making a list of things that you know make you smile, and then find ways to create an environment that replicates those same feelings.

While experts are still unsure the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder, whenever changes come around the corner (big or small) humans have an emotional response. You don’t have to be diagnosed with SAD to feel a bit of the blues during the colder, darker months. Luckily, SAD is very treatable and these home tips for managing feelings of depression can help anyone, any time of the year.

Post courtesy of Redfin

As a reminder, our tips are only suggestions and if your feeling of sadness persists, contact a therapist near you.