The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga: Guest post by Manmohan Singh

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(image: https://www.gaia.com/series/yoga-every-day)

Mental illness is like any other illness in the body. With Yoga, it can be treated and helped to heal. Yoga encourages mental fitness and healing of the mind.

Living in a modernised world, many of us still have conformist ideologies. Mental illness  is misinterpreted. It is often a deep-rooted issue, which, if not helped, can become life-threatening. Day-to-day stresses and heartbreak can lead to depression and other mental illness. If the condition becomes severe, it can lead to self-destructive tendencies, including self harm.

There are many ways (meditation, therapies, etc.) to prevent and help mental illness, with yoga being one of the most natural and safe options. According to many studies, it is confirmed that Yoga has the ability to relieve stress and anxiety and reduce mild depression and other mental illnesses.

So, let’s see the amazing mental health benefits of Yoga:

 

Calms The Nervous System

Yoga has the power to calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety levels. It makes you enter into a more relaxed state, and gradually, you move from flight or fight-to rest and digest mode (or move from the sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic nervous system). Yoga reduces stress, anxiety, depression, treats insomnia, and other kinds of health issues.

Makes You Self-Aware

Yoga practice helps to ignite the sense of Self. Through yoga, you know yourself better and form a deeper connection from within. Yoga helps build self-trust, increases self-awareness that helps in making healthier choices- like eating healthier, living the right lifestyle. You learn to accept yourself, develop stronger willpower, bring your consciousness back to the present, feel more confident, and gradually realise your self-worth.

Helps Mend  Relationships

Emotions and feelings contribute a lot towards ones mental health. A traumatising incident, heartbreak, death of loved ones, and many other day-to-day relationship struggles, can affect our mind and lead to mental illness.

Yoga ignites awareness and not only helps us improve our relationship with the Self but with others as well. When you form a positive relationship with the Self, you tend to deal with others in the same manner. A healthy relationship helps to maintain the overall mental well-being as well.

Reduces Inflammation Related To Genes

According to a study, it is proven that 15 minutes of yoga practice or relaxation techniques switches off the genes that are responsive to stress and inflammation. With the modern world, stress is something that is often found. This stress leads to various mental health conditions. Our body is designed in a manner that it has the ability to reduce stress and this mechanism is called the ‘relaxation response’. With yoga relaxation techniques, you can easily trigger the stress reduction ability.

Yoga practice is the best way to fire your body’s built-in mechanism that helps mental relaxation. 15-20 minutes of yoga practice triggers the biochemical changes in the brain cells and protects from stress and anxiety.

Yoga Boosts GABA Level

Our brain is filled with receptors and GABA or GABA receptors or gamma-aminobutyric acid is linked with anxiety and mood disorders. When the brain drops the GABA activity, the mood of a person becomes lower and they start feeling more anxious.  

With the help of yoga practice, you can boost the GABA level. Practice yoga for an hour daily to get positive results.

Reduces The Effect Of Traumatic Incidents

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a serious issue that people face after going through a traumatising or negative situation, shocking or terrifying experiences. People in this condition frequently experience flashbacks and nightmares of the situation they have had come across. With yoga, a person can help himself come out from the situation and help the mind.

Improves Concentration And Boosts Memory

Sometimes, our brain finds it difficult to do or concentrate on the day-to-day tasks. Yoga practice has proven effective in boosting memory and improving concentration and also clears the mind and calms the senses.

Prevents Mental Health Disorders At Every Age

A mental health condition can occur at any age depending on the situation you are in or what you’re going through. According to a study, people of age group 18-35 are at high risk of mental illness and have periods of severe stress.

These issues can also occur during adolescence, due to various reasons, including genetics but also envrionmental- family disputes, fights, peer pressure, body shaming, academics etc. Teenagers also go through many physical, mental and emotional changes.

Yoga practice helps elevate the mood, reduce stress and anxiety, prevent depression, control anger, and ignites mindfulness.

People as they get older can also face these mental health issues due to loneliness, change of the environment, alcohol abuse, dementia, loss of loved one, long-term illness, physical disability, poor diet, etc., Yoga can be beneficial to health.

Yoga Asanas To Practice For Mental Health- Balasana, Viparita Karani Asana, Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana, and Shavasana. Also practice Pranayama like: Kapalbhati, Anulom Vilom and Bhramari.

It is rightly said that a healthy mind breeds a healthy body, and vice-versa. It is important to have good, positive mental health for complete fitness and healthy, happy living.

Practising yoga promotes better health, try it today!

 

 

Author Bio: Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He provides Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India. He loves writing and reading the books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.

Website: https://www.rishikulyogshala.org/

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Suicide Prevention on Social media: Guest post by Dan Brown at MyTherapy for World Mental Health Day

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I recall reading a story last year about two teenage students from a town in Denver, both of whom lost their lives to suicide within two days of one-another.

In both cases, the students had made their intentions known on social media.

Countless similar stories can be found online. In many cases, such as the one above, people did attempt to reach out to those in need. In other cases, online cries for help were ignored or not taken seriously.

Teen Suicide Rates are Rising

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of teenage suicides in England and Wales increased by 67%.

In London, the figure is rising at an even greater rate, while a similar trend is occurring on the other side of the Atlantic, with the suicide rate of children and teenagers between 10 and 17 years old increasing by 70% in a decade since 2006.

The Role of Social Media in Suicide Prevention

While many believe social media is at least partially responsible for the rising rates of teenage suicides – due to matter such as cyber-bullying – it can be used as an effective tool for suicide prevention. This goes for any user of social media, not just teenagers.

The major platforms themselves are actively engaged in suicide prevention, but much of the onus is on individuals to respond should they encounter a post pertaining to suicide from a friend, family member, or anybody else.

Contacting the Emergency Services

First-and-foremost, you should not hesitate in contacting the emergency services if you believe someone’s life is in imminent danger. Any indications that someone is preparing to take their own life should be treated as a medical emergency. If need-be, contact closer friends or relatives of the person in question as well, to ensure help can arrive as quickly as possible.

In such situations, particularly if the person has made their intentions clear, the danger is obvious.

However, it is not always so easy to spot when a person needs help, or to differentiate between someone simply ‘venting’ after having a bad day and a more serious mental health issue.

The Warning Signs

Spotting the signs that a person may be contemplated suicide based on their social media activity can be difficult, given the absence of body language or tone of voice in many posts, especially those that are purely text rather than photos or videos.

However, there are some warning signs you can look out for.

  • Tone
    While tone of voice by not be present in a lot of social media posts, you will probably be familiar with the tone your friends and family members take on social media. A negative change in tone may be subtle or happen gradually over time, but it should not be overlooked. If you start to notice more posts that strike you as odd or out-of-character, it could be that person’s way of expressing negative emotions.
  • Signs of Anger or Lashing Out
    “Anger turned inward” is how Sigmund Freud described depression, a characterisation that is debated to this day. What seems beyond debate is that anger often coexists with depression, and that it can be outward as well as inward. Therefore, if you see someone reacting angrily or lashing out online, it could suggest they are struggling mentally. Again, this should be particularly alarming if it is out-of-character for that person.
  • Sad Posts
    Of course, sadness is the most obvious emotion to link with depression. When it comes to social media, this could be shown in sharing sad memes and pictures, or posts discrediting their own self-worth. Frequent posts of this nature could be a cry for help and should not be ignored.

 

It is also worth paying attention to the time of day the person is posting, as insomnia is a common symptom of depression. As such, regular posts late at night or in the early hours may be another warning sign.

Reaching Out to Someone You Are Concerned About

If you are concerned about someone’s wellbeing, raising your concerns with them is usually far from easy and must be done sensitively. However, many people struggle to talk about their mental wellbeing, be it through embarrassment, fear of ridicule, or any other reason perpetuated by the stigma surrounding the topic.

If you are the one to raise the issue, it can help break that barrier immediately.

There is also the myth that talking about suicide is a bad idea and could encourage a person to take their own life, which has contributed in making suicide taboo subject. Again, being the one to raise the topic, if appropriate, can help make a person feel more comfortable in discussing their concerns.

This article from Helpguide.org does a superb job of explaining the steps you can take in opening the dialogue.

Contacting Someone Closer to the Person

You do not have to be a close friend or family member to raise your concerns with a person. Given that we are discussing social media, you can even be the other side of the world.

However, you may ultimately decide that you are not the best person to speak directly to the individual you are concerned about.

That, however, does not mean you are unable to help.

Contacting someone closer to them – either physically or emotionally – clearly and considerately explaining why you are concerned, may encourage that person to bring the issue up. Perhaps they too have noticed the signs but were unsure whether to address them. Your message could be the push they need to do so.

You Can Help a Person in Need

It is quite likely that nothing in this article is new or surprising to you. However, many cries for help on social media go ignored. In the most tragic of cases, lives are needlessly lost. So, if you do find yourself in a situation where a friend or loved one is using social media in such a way, just remember: you can be the one to help. You may even save a life.

 

This article was contributed by Dan Brown from MyTherapy (free for iOS and Android).

How Meditation can improve our Mental health and wellbeing: Guest post by Jennifer Bennet

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(image: Erriko Boccia at Unsplash )

Ahead of tomorrows World Mental Health Day, we are publishing articles focusing on our mental health.

Meditation has long been a tool used in mental health counselling and it is one that has been proven to be highly effective with coping with stress and anxiety as well as depression and other mental health issues. Medication is often a vital treatment for mental health issues, but meditation is also an ideal practice to integrate into a daily routine to help as well and the benefits of meditation are outstanding.

A great deal of our lives in general are spent lost in our thoughts and dealing with our personal feelings. Why not use that time for meditation instead of dwelling on negative thoughts and behaviours?

Besides the fact that taking time for meditation opens your mind to a little peace and quiet, there are so many benefits of meditating that can help mental health issues. Here are five of the best reasons to start meditating today so you can have a happier mind to help with mental health issues.

 

  1. Meditation helps clear your mind so that you can sleep better at night. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle the stresses of life and keep a good reign on emotions during the waking hours.
  2. Meditation helps manage unhealthy behaviors by helping a person focus on viable solutions to problems. When we focus on just one issue and take time to carefully think about it in a positive way, it is easier to find a solution than it would be to randomly try numerous things to no avail. Mindful meditation allows a person to take time to delve deeply into a situation while focusing on how to resolve an issue wisely.
  3. The production of the hormone cortisol, which is known to weaken the immune system in the body, can be slowed down through meditation. When you have a better immune system, it’s easier to feel less stressed and be able to enjoy life better.
  4. Sitting down to meditate at least once every day can lead to having a better grasp on emotions. When you focus on objective ways to solve problems and face things in life, it is easier to control anger, depression and other emotions.
  5. Meditation helps keep your mind in the present instead of revolving to the past where you may have faced a bad relationship or other hardships. When you let go of the negative things that have a grasp onto your thought process, it is easier to move forward and face life with a renewed sense of self. This can have a profound impact on every aspect of your life including work, relationships and home.

 

How to Meditate

Some people believe that you must have scented candles, incense and soft music to meditate and while those things can certainly help ease your mind to help you find a peaceful calm, they are not at all required to find your way to inner peace and meditation. Here are some simple steps provided by the Taylor Benefits Insurance blog that you can follow to begin your journey into meditation and a firmer grasp on your own mental health and well-being.

 

Set a time

Let’s face it, when we don’t set an alarm to wake up in the morning it’s easy to oversleep and miss out on work and other important things in life. The same goes for meditation. This is an important step to take and once you decide to start meditating, it’s a good idea to try to set a time to do so each day. If you need to set a physical alarm, then get that alarm set and plan to sit down to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day. Consistency is key when you are meditating and it’s a good idea to make time for it every day. This will help keep your mind focused, so you can find your inner peace and start focusing on your problem-solving skills to lower your stress and find a little happiness that you may have forgotten about.

 

Breathe

When you meditate, take time to breathe deeply. From a siting position, sit straight and tall and breathe slowly but deeply. Be sure to wear clothing that won’t restrict breathing, so you can breathe freely during your meditation time.

 

Comfort is Key

No matter where you choose to meditate, try to make it as comfortable as possible. Whether you have a little space in your bedroom or even in the kitchen, pile up some comfy pillows or sit in your favorite chair and let yourself relax completely.

 

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Before you sit down to meditate, take time to choose one thing and only one thing to focus on during your meditation time. Meditation is not the time to let your mind wander in circles. When we can face one issue at a time and clear them from our mind, its easier to take steps to move forward with life with a sense of peace.

 

Pick Your Mantra and Focus

Now this is where you are going to take a slight step back and say, “What?” Something common to chant as a mantra is simply, “Om” which sounds like you are saying “Oooooooommmmmm” repeatedly. If that one does not work for you, then find a different mantra to chant during your meditation time. What you choose should help you feel relaxed.

While chanting your mantra, find a spot to fixate your eyes upon so you can focus clearly. This can be a candle if you have one, a spot on a wall or even a tiny flower placed across from you. The key is to stay focused throughout the meditation time.

While chanting your mantra, think positive thoughts such as visualising yourself winning a marathon (if you run), earning a promotion at work, completing a major assignment or whatever you feel you need to accomplish in your personal life.

Some people choose CD’s that have been prerecorded with slow, relaxing music on them. A great choice if you want to hear soft sounds would be a nature CD playing sounds of the forest or the ocean. Others prefer silence during meditation. Make some positive affirmation cards to place in your meditation area to help motivate you. These can include simple poetic phrases or even small sentences to help bring your inner peace. You could even listen to a prerecorded meditation CD or a YouTube video to help guide you throughout your meditation.

There is no set way to meditate and what works for one may not work for another. The most important thing is that you take time to meditate, get to know your true inner self and as you move forward you will soon find your way onto the healing path of inner peace and renewal as you learn more about yourself, your feelings and the strength of your own mind.  

 

Jennifer Bennet is a writer on wellbeing and an expert on meditation.

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

7 reasons why 30 days of Yoga enhances your lifestyle by Meera Watts

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You are probably fully aware of how beneficial yoga is for your mind and body. When you commit to it for 30 days, you will really begin to feel those benefits.

A practice like this is known as sadhana in Sanskrit, which means “dedicated practice.” You will definitely become more flexible and release tension on a daily basis.

The benefits go much deeper than this though. All aspects of your life will improve. You will mentally feel better about yourself just for the effort of getting on the mat every day. When you feel good about yourself and take action for your own self-care, life will get better for it.

Here are 7 reasons why 30 days of yoga will enhance your lifestyle.

1. You are More Able to Relax

When you’re able to relax, you can enjoy little moments in life far better. Yoga has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol by relaxing the central nervous system. Poses, or asanas, in yoga, will help relax all the tension in your body. You begin to regulate your heartbeat when you do yoga daily. This helps you to deal with stress far better as well.

If you have problems with sleeping because your mind won’t shut down, yoga can be beneficial for this as well. Chronic insomniacs have been able to break the cycle of sleepless nights from starting a daily yoga regime.

It helps to calm the mind and body. You might even want to do a few relaxing poses before going to bed.

2. You Feel Better About Yourself

It’s easier on your body to do yoga for 30 days straight as opposed to weight training or other intense exercises. It might be hard at first but the progress you make in the practice will improve how you feel about yourself.

Whatever your reasons are for going through a 30-day yoga practice, you will get a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose will make you feel good about yourself. Being dedicated to something and sticking to it can create a habit of commitment within you. You will have a greater sense of trust in yourself as well.

It starts with 30 days of yoga but you’ll likely move onto do more yoga or other types of physical activity. Doing something active daily is good for the mind and the body. Once you get into the habit, you’ll always want to improve.

3. Your Body Will Become Stronger

Although yoga wouldn’t be considered a direct way to lose weight, it actually can. You don’t burn a lot of calories but you do gain more muscle. Muscle eats fat so it is an indirect way to improve the body.

Doing yoga for a while 30 days will help your metabolism so you’ll burn fat more easily. Your weight will normalize through yoga because it restores hormonal imbalances. You also become more mentally stable when something arises and you feel stressed.

You’ll hopefully be able to manage the ebbs and flows of life because you’re more centered.

4. Better Posture

As you’ll be doing yoga for 30 days straight, you’ll be able to properly counteract bad posture. This will be a noticeable improvement.

As you stand in Mountain Pose, you’ll be pulling your shoulders back which will probably feel uncomfortable for a few days. As you continue with your practice, you’ll notice that it’s easier to stand with your shoulders back.

You’ll be focusing on your posture and how your body is functioning, which will help you focus on it while you’re off the mat. Many of the poses stretch out the areas of the shoulders and back that are compromised from slouching.

5. Mindfulness Makes You More Conscious

You may not realise all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Most of us just live every day and don’t really think about we have. We think about what we don’t have, what we want, and other things.

Mindfulness is a large part of the full yoga picture. It is where we let go of the ego mind, which is that inner chatter you’re hearing all the time. When you’re present in the moment of now, there can be no depressive or anxious upsets.

This allows you to open up to what is happening for you right now. When you’re more conscious, it’s easy to appreciate moments, you are more easily grateful for what you have. You become happier and more at peace.

Also, you’re not missing out on your life. It’s unravelling in front of you and you are there with it. The conscious thought brings a great deal of fulfillment into your life while eradicating self-critical, worrying thoughts.

6. You’ll Become Better at Breathing

Breathing is important for the health of your physical and mental state. When you get anxious, you will experience a shallow breath. This makes you feel more anxious. If you can learn how to breathe deeply into your lungs, you can calm yourself down instantly.

During yoga, you will probably feel very relaxed so you can safely hone those deep breathing skills. Then in times when you need it, you will be able to automatically breathe into your belly.

7. You’ll Be Able to Focus Better

Yoga sends a lot of oxygen to the brain, which helps to promote mental functioning. In addition, the lack of anxiety allows you to think more clearly. This can help you in your work life with productivity or in running a household.

When you’ve completed your 30 days of yoga, you will know that your life has changed. You have trained the mind and body to work in the most optimal way. You will see the benefits that manifest into your outside life and how it enhances the lifestyle you’re living. You’ll be fit and feel generally happier. Yoga can teach us a lot and you will understand this when you commit to the practice.

Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes, and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga.

Website:  https://www.siddhiyoga.com/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/siddhiyogaacademy

Instagram: https://instagram.com/siddhiyogainternational

Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/siddhiyogainter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meerawatts

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/meerawatts

FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/siddhiyogateachertraining

 

On feeling ‘meh’: Mental health journey

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(image: Whisper)

I am writing this because in the past few days, I havn’t been feeling that brilliant. Our mental health rarely stays the same and often goes through peaks and troughs. For me, it is likely that I am hormonal due to withdrawing from one of my medications (which controls female hormones).

I do feel very tired and a bit low some of the time. However, I am able to distract my mind and combat it through being busy at work and seeing friends or my fiance when able.

Even work I normally love doing feels exhausting this week- but I am trying to do the best I can.

Its important to have space and time for me. My family have been really helpful too.

There has been a lot of really exciting things happen and I am trying to keep afloat and make sure I practise lots of self care.

Things feel a little bit ‘meh’ right now. It could be that having returned from holiday and the isolating nature of my job means that I may be feeling less happy than normal. It largely does feel hormonal as my hormones are currently changing level.. so I am going to give it time too.

What I do know is I am very excited about my book project and other writing projects and I am just going to pace myself and take it day by day.

How are you feeling? Do you ever feel like this? I really try thinking positively but sometimes you just feel like you need a break.

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

The secret is out: I’m writing a book and am going to be an Author!

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I can’t fully believe that I am typing this as its a dream I have had for my entire life. I had been asking God for this to happen when I was ready and for me to be able to write to share and help others.

At my lowest ebb, I dreamt that if I survived the depression and mania that I would like to help others in similar places. Writing has become my therapy and I hope it helps others too.

So… the secret is out…

I am going to be an author and my life story with bipolar disorder and anxiety and how I have overcome adversity will be told in a book written by me for Trigger Publishing.

Trigger ‘the voice of mental health’ are an independent publisher whose work I have followed for some time now,. They are the publishing arm of mental health charity The Shaw Mind Foundation.

In 2016, The Shaw Mind Foundation set up Trigger, a global trade publishing house devoted to opening conversations about mental health. They say ‘We tell the stories of people who have suffered from mental illnesses and recovered, so that others may learn from them.’

In order to get my book published, I had to write three chapters and work with an editorial team. I had admired many of their books, especially those by Hope Virgo, Karen Manton and Terri Cox about their lives with mental illnesses and how they overcame them. I knew Trigger was the right place to share my story of recovery.

My book may not be out til late 2019/ early 2020 but I will keep you all updated. The title will also be revealed at a later stage.

With thanks to the incredible people at Trigger: Stephanie, Katie and James for believing in me and for Hannah for all your help!

Now I just have to get writing! I will write further blogs (or share vlogs) to update on how writing is going.

Love,
Eleanor x

A Guide to Mood Disorders: Guest blog By Ellie Willis

Mood disorders encompass many disorders of how you feel from day-to-day, whether that is abnormally elevated (mania) or depressed and in low mood. They can include depressive illness such as major depressive disorder, dysthymia, postnatal depression and the bipolar spectrum disorders. They also feature anxiety and panic disorders. These are often down to brain chemistry and sometimes environment.

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(image: Pinterest/ Healthyplace.com)

 

Major Depressive Disorder

Major depression is defined as a depressive illness where you experience a significantly lowered mood and a loss of interest in activities that you would normally enjoy. While it is normal to feel sadness and grief when your life significantly changes, such as when a loved one passes away, when it doesn’t go away or gets worse, it may evolve into major depression. Some of the symptoms of depression are:

• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness • Feeling guilty over insignificant things • Withdrawing from family and friends • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs as a coping mechanism • Having problems with concentration • Being unproductive • Having a lack of confidence • Feeling irritated or frustrated • Having a lack of interest in sex.

While sometimes a depressive episode seems to come out of the blue, there are often things that can trigger them. These may include: Genetic risk factors • Alcohol or other substance abuse • Medical problems such as thyroid issues or chronic pain • Certain medications such as steroids • Sleeping problems • Stressful life events 

Studies have shown that there appears to be a genetic component to depression. That is, if one of your parents has a depressive illness, you may end up suffering from depression yourself.

Dysthymia is a chronic form of depression that occurs when you suffer from a mild to moderate depression for at least two years. Although dysthymia causes problems in everyday life, dysthymia is often not severe enough to warrant hospitalisation. The chronic nature of the disorder means that you may believe that you have always felt like this.

The good news is that there are a wide range of medications to treat major depressive disorder, such as antidepressants. There are many kinds of medications around, and you may have to try a few until you and your psychiatrist find the perfect one with little to no side effects.

As of the time of writing, the antidepressants most commonly used are SSRIs and SNRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors). These refer to the types of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that affect mood, among other things) that they affect.

With antidepressants, it is extremely important not to stop medication all at once, unless there are serious side effects and even then, only under medical advice. This is because of discontinuation syndrome. Simply put, this means that your body gets used to the medication being in your system (different to addiction where you crave the drug) and you experience symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and insomnia, to name a few.

Another important way to treat depression is psychotherapy in one form or another. This can help you by learning coping skills to deal with depressive thoughts and negative thinking, as well as having someone to speak to with complete privacy. There are a few other ways for you to combat depression in adjunct to medications or therapy.

These are: • Maintaining good sleeping habits • Exercising more • Seeking out activities that bring you pleasure • Being around caring and supportive people

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a depressive illness where a new mother experiences depression in the first few months after giving birth to a child.

Some of the symptoms of postnatal depression include:

• Feeling sad or empty • Lowered self-esteem • Changing appetite (usually a decrease) • A loss of enjoyment in everyday activities • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia • Not being able to concentrate • Feeling cut off from the baby • A loss of interest in sex • Feeling ashamed, guilty or inadequate • Withdrawing from family and friends • Mood swings • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby

There are a number of factors that make postnatal depression more likely. Some of these may include: • A history of depression, especially postnatal depression in the past • If the baby is sick or colicky • If you are in an abusive relationship • If you are suffering from stress • If you have little support from family and friends •

Treatment for postnatal depression is essentially similar to that for major depression, such as antidepressants and therapy and in some cases intervention from a psychiatrist or hospital team is required.

 

Bipolar Disorder Spectrum

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterised by periods of extreme mood states known as mania and depression. It is one of the most serious mental illnesses and is the sixth most disabling condition in the world at the time of writing. It is chronic and potentially life threatening. However, those with it can go on to recovery and live happy and fulfilled lives between episodes. 

According to some studies, one in fifty people may suffer from a form of bipolar disorder. In many cases, there is a family history.

Mania is one pole of bipolar disorder – an extremely elevated or depressed mood, sometimes accompanied by psychosis. You may have racing thoughts or speak so quickly it is difficult for others to understand. You may also have trouble getting to sleep at night or suffer from insomnia. There is a danger of reckless behaviour such as overspending, unsafe sexual activity or aggression. You may feel a sense of grandiosity, making unrealistic plans. Despite mania feeling great at the time, the consequences of mania can be destructive.

Some of the signs of depression include a lowered mood, self-esteem or interest in enjoyable activities, pessimism, reduced energy and changes in appetite. Suicidal thoughts are also possible and must be monitored closely. As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications to maintain your mood at a normal level.

Hypomania is the hallmark of bipolar II where the patient might feel euphoria or agitation. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes except they are less severe and sometimes pleasurable to you. There is never psychosis in a hypomanic episode. Despite hypomania increasing productivity, or making you feel increased self-esteem, the consequences can be major, especially as your mood goes down to depression.

A mixed state is a combination of manic and depressed symptoms. In a mixed state you may feel very sad or hopeless while feeling extremely energised. These can be dangerous, because of the suicide risk from being depressed as well as impulsive. If you feel you are heading into a mixed state, you should contact your psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Bipolar disorder type I is characterised by at least one episode of full-blown mania as well as depressive episodes. There is also a chance of psychosis (delusions/ hallucinations)  accompanying a manic episode. Bipolar type II features only hypomania and never mania or psychosis. While these manias are less destructive, the depression tends to be worse, and there is often a high suicide risk.

Cyclothymia is a bipolar spectrum disorder where you may have long periods of minor depression lasting at least two years alternating with hypomania. These depressive periods tend to be irritable and agitated rather than melancholic and lacking in energy.

Bipolar NOS (not otherwise specified) simply refers to bipolar disorders that do not strictly meet the criteria of any of the previously mentioned types of bipolar disorder.

The treatment of bipolar disorder involves medications such as Lithium carbonate, lamotrigine, sodium valporate, and quetiapine, as well as psychotherapy to help overcome negative thoughts that exacerbate depression or after effects of mania. 

As bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness and there isn’t any known cure, you may need to take medications for life to maintain your mood at a normal level. Despite this, many patients continue to do well as long as they stay compliant with treatment and keep aware of their changing mood states.

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(image: MTVFORA: http://fora.mtv.ca/words-of-wisdom-celebrity-quotes-on-mental-wellness/)

 

Anxiety Disorders

The term anxiety disorder covers a wide range of illnesses from panic disorder to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite the wide range of diseases, many share similar treatment options. There is a stigma affecting some anxiety disorders due to stereotypes in the media.

 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

It is normal for people to feel some anxiety over normal life events such as exams, work problems or family issues. However, when it causes problems in your everyday life or is particularly severe you may have an anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder involves having irrational fears, such as being afraid harm will come to you or your loved ones, financial issues, health, relationships and work.

Physical symptoms when experiencing anxiety may include: • Light-headedness • Becoming tired easily, or being unable to sleep properly • Feeling tense or restless, or losing your temper easily • Nausea • Shortness of breath • Headaches • Trembling • Muscle tension Treatment generally involves medications or therapy.

Psychological treatments may involve: • Learning relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxing exercises or meditation • Therapy to teach you how to solve problems that cause anxiety with anxiety disorders, psychological treatments are generally more effective than medication, however it can still be useful.

The most common treatments are antidepressants or benzodiazepines such as alprazolam or diazepam. Generally, benzodiazepines shouldn’t be taken long-term, as there is a risk of becoming dependent on them.

Anxiety disorders are relatively common in the population, with statistics that approximately 25% of the people suffer some kind of anxiety disorder that may warrant treatment in their lifetime. Anxiety is treatable, and therapy or medication may minimise the effects on your life and relationships.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a mental health condition where you experience a feeling known as a panic attack recurrently.

Some of the symptoms of a panic attack include: • Shortness of breath • Dizziness or light-headedness • Tightness or pain in the chest • Trembling or shaking • Dry mouth • Muscle tension • Difficulty gathering thoughts or speaking • Tingling fingers or feet • A choking or smothering feeling • Hot or cold flushes • Nausea or butterflies • Blurred vision • Fear of dying, losing control or going mad

When you have panic disorder, you may also worry about the implications of a panic attack such as humiliation or feeling of going crazy.

You may try and flee from the situation hoping the panic attack will stop. Panic disorder is generally treated via therapeutic methods rather than medications. This may involve your doctor teaching you about panic disorder, for example, that a panic attack is distinguishable from other mental illnesses such as other anxiety disorders or psychosis – this is known as psycho education.

A therapist may instruct you not to avoid any situations where a panic attack may occur. This may be unpleasant at first, but slowly you will not feel anxious in the situation. This will help prevent agoraphobia and the disability it causes.

A common treatment for anxiety disorders is CBT – but there are many types too including exposure therapy and talking therapies. They can be incredibly helpful for you to overcome feelings of anxiety.

This guest blog was written by Ellie Willis, an expert in mental health.

 

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

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

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

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

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

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

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

What was your inspiration for writing it?

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

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

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

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

Who could you recommend the book to?

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

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

5 Tips to Manage Stress: Guest post by Cloe Matheson

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(image: Healthy Today Club)

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

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

 

  • Avoid triggering substances or habits

 

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

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

 

  • Anticipate and respond

 

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

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

 

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

 

  • Sleep

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

  • Get talking

 

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

 

  • Prioritise and identify

 

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

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

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

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