What is Stigma? Guest post by Brandon Christensen

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What is Stigma?

Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart from others. When a person is labelled by their mental illness they are often no longer seen as an individual, but as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes and beliefs toward this group create prejudice, which can lead to negative actions and discrimination.

The sad truth is that mental illness is widely misunderstood. Those who suffer have been called names, been blamed for their condition, and isolated. Stigma, and the feeling of shame that it brings, often prevents people from seeking help and treatment for their disorder, even when it is desperately needed. It is crucial that all of us in the mental health community raise our voices and fight to eliminate stigma. If you are not sure where to get started, here are some of the best ways you can work towards reducing stigma in your community.

Ways to Reduce Stigma

1. Become educated and teach others about mental health

Educate yourself about mental health needs so that you are best equipped to discuss them openly! By learning the facts instead of the myths, you will be able to educate others. As you learn more, keep an eye out for opportunities to pass on the facts with friends, family members, or coworkers. If you see someone struggling, encourage them to seek the help of a professional therapist.

2. Encourage equality between physical and mental illness

Unfortunately, not everyone sees mental illness as important as it is, which is why it is so widely misunderstood. People would never shame someone who has the flu, so why does this happen with mental illness? Reminding people of the equality between physical and mental illness is a great way to reduce the stigma and find parity of esteem!

3. Show compassion and get involved

Always remember to treat people who have mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act towards you if you were in the same situation. A simple act of asking a friend or family member how they are doing can make their day and remind them that you care. One of the best ways to show compassion within your community is to get involved with a local non-profit organization that’s working on Stigma Free initiatives!

4. Fight stigma when you see it

You probably see and hear stigma in the public more than you realize. Start paying attention to situations that might be perpetuating this. For example, if you see something online or out in your community that sheds negative light on mental illness, take action and say something rather than turning the other way. Make sure your words and language come from a place or caring and concern, rather than confrontation.

It is so important to the mental health community that progress is made in eliminating the stigma that still surrounds something everyone deals with in one way or another – mental health.

By coming together to fight this common cause, we can make a global impact on how disorders are perceived in society. No matter how you contribute to the movement, you can make a difference by following just one of the tips above and committing to live stigma free!

Author Bio

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(image: Brandon Christensen)

Brandon Christensen is a passionate business leader and mental health advocate who is on a mission to leave the world a better place than he found it. Brandon is the co-founder of Modern Therapy, a tele-mental health company. Brandon has been featured as a keynote speaker onmental health topics at colleges like NYU, Skidmore College, and Columbia University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Website: www.moderntherapy.online

Instagram: @moderntherapyonline Facebook: moderntherapyonline Twitter: @_moderntherapy

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5 Years, Anxiety and Keeping Well (by Eleanor)

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(image https://mandibelle16.wordpress.com/2016/08/10/poem-free-verse-hope-scarred-amwriting-poetry/:)

Thanks to all who voted for this article on Facebook and who have supported me these past 5 years and beyond. I love you all.

I cannot believe that this year (in March) is 5 years since I was hospitalised as a 25 year old for my bipolar disorder. For those of you who know my story, I became unwell with an episode of severe mania within a number of days, which featured psychosis-losing touch with reality and agitation. Its likely that my old medicines stopped working and I started believing delusions that werent real.

When I was hospitalised, I eventually went to the QE2 hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire (which has now been knocked down and now based in Radlett!). The support I had from the psychiatrist, nursing team, OTs, ward manager and all the staff was incredible and they   really believed that I would get well again. I cannot have been easy to deal with, due to the mania and the fact I was pacing around all the time, singing and in my own little world. Their kindness and help really helped me recover properly- as did the visits and love from family and friends.

I spent 4 months as an inpatient at Welwyn and then a further 4 months in outpatient treatment at a Day Hospital unit in Watford. The day hospital was very beneficial to me and helped me to start on my new medication and process all that had happened. I had help from a very special care coordinator and support worker once I had been discharged from day hospital. My care coordinator helped me so much and was so kind and caring.

Recovery is never linear and its something I have to work at every single day. There will always be life stresses that can trigger my anxiety and depression (and potentially a lesser manic episode, although the mania hasn’t happened yet thank g-d). I still struggle with my anxiety disorder and panic attacks in the mornings sometimes. I believe this is as a result of all the trauma that is involved with being sectioned, being an inpatient and having to rebuild my life after. I had social anxiety anyway, as part of the depressive part of the bipolar, but I still believe that even though I have had talking therapy, that my brain is still processing the trauma. Mental health wards are not fun places to live, as you can imagine and despite the staff trying to make it as calm as possible.

I will get triggered with my panic by certain things- like social events or job interviews and I may not always know fully why- it could be subconscious, or I realise it after. I am still rebuilding my self esteem and the love for myself. Anyone who goes through a severe episode of mental illness will tell you that its hard to separate the illness from yourself. Bipolar from Eleanor.

I have incredible friends, my fiance and family who can separate it. Yet, there are times where we all don’t feel good enough. Where  we want to hide even though we are capable of more than we know.

So in these 5 years I have been learning to love me, to think and act on hope, recovery and the future. I have learnt to build self care tools and relaxation into my days if I feel overwhelmed or to stop me from getting too stressed. I have been blessed to have found my life partner and developed my career- although my illness has put my career on hold many times and I have had to reinvent myself. However, I am starting slowly to find the light in the dark.

This is where the phrase ‘Be Ur Own Light’ comes from- to find the inner strength to carry on.

There have been many times when I have wanted to give up. Where I have been hurting and have felt inadequate. When I felt no one would want to date me  or that I wasn’t good enough for a career. Because how could I tell people what had happened to me without them thinking I was a ‘fruitloop’? That was my logic.

Thats why I started to write. I write to heal. I write to explain, educate and battle stigma. I write to make sense of my own mind. I write as a job but also to make a difference in the world and I hope I will do that through my book and blogs/ articles.

In the past 5 years, aside from work and my mental health advocacy, I have been travelling again which always brings me joy. I have been to Rome (Italy) , Prague (Czech Republic), Madeira (with Charlotte), Israel (with Rob), Portugal and Romania. I have stayed at my Dads and explored the Cotswolds and gone on holiday to the beach at Broadstairs with Anna and family. I have seen theatre shows, amazing movies and read some fantastic books. I have found a life partner. I have secured a book deal, volunteered for Jami to launch their mental health shabbat, worked with the Judith Trust and my blog is growing. Being published in Glamour, Metro, Happiful, the Telegraph and the Jewish News were major highlights and finding an incredibly supportive community on Twitter too.

Life is not all hard and sad. Yes, there are times when I have found it a nightmare with my anxiety disorder. I am 100% still a work in progress- recovery isnt easy.

I have had to work on my self esteem in therapy. I have had 6 months of psychodynamic therapy. I read self help books. I should exercise and go out more (working on this).

But:

I am not severely depressed or manic. I can hold down part time work, often from home. These 5 years have taught me that I may always have some degree of anxiety- particularly about past events which effect how I react currently. I need to learn how to heal from this and I hope in time I will.

If you had told me 5 years ago I would be writing a book of my life story and been published in national newspapers I would have laughed at you. I am getting married in July and I can’t wait (and also would have probably laughed at you too).

Anxiety is horrible by the way. Your heart races, you get flooded with adrenaline, you fixate on the fear and want it to go away. You feel sweaty and clammy and you may shake. You need to rush to the toilet. It stops you from sleeping. It stops you from living your best life. So I don’t want to trivialise it here. Its a struggle at times and its disruptive to life.

The pain of anxiety, depression and bipolar is matched by my hope and my belief that I will still achieve despite it. Yes there will be difficulties and bumps along the way, but today I am choosing to look towards the sun. 

          

How to Manage Bipolar Disorder in the Workplace: Guest blog by Ralph Macey

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(image: bphope.com)

People with bipolar disorder face a major problem in maintaining a good job performance at work due to frequent mood shifts (from high moods to extremely low moods). High moods are characterised by mania and hypomania. On the other hand, low moods are characterised by depression. These mood shifts create several types of challenges in the social, professional, and personal life of the people.

Bipolar disorder can make it very difficult for a person to get or keep a job especially if the symptoms are hampering day-to-day functioning, and if they also have anxiety.

In a recent survey, it has been found that 88% of the individuals with bipolar disorder face problems in maintaining a decent work performance. Around 58% of the people have stopped working altogether.

It’s a fact that bipolar disorder brings many challenges that can hamper work productivity. However, qualified psychiatrists specialising in bipolar disorder say that it’s possible to get and maintain a job while having a bipolar disorder by following a few tips. Let’s talk about them today.

 

How to get and maintain a job with bipolar disorder

1. Don’t volunteer to disclose your medical information to the employer during the interview. Employers have full right to decide if you can do the job properly. But they can’t ask confidential questions to you.

2. As per the Americans with Disabilities Act, (and other disability legislation around the world like her in the UK), employers can’t force you to give a medical exam or check your medical records. They also can’t ask you questions regarding your medical history. Moreover, this Act forbids any kind of discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual disability. So it’s better you read the rules and regulations of this Act before going for a job interview.

3. Try to avoid talking about your past. Instead, talk about your current capability of doing a job properly.

4. Ask about health insurance after getting a job. Just review the benefits information before accepting the job officially.

5. If your mental illness becomes an issue for the employer once in the job, then bring a letter from your psychiatrist that gives a general outline of the treatment you’re undergoing. Request that the psychiatrist issues a letter where it’s clearly written how much you can cope with at work. You can read the letter before giving it to the employer. 

How to keep a job with bipolar disorder

It’s a myth that you can’t be successful at work with a bipolar disorder. There are several things you can do to control your mood swings and manage your work. Let’s talk about them in detail now.

1. Take medicines as instructed: Even if you’re extremely productive during a manic high, don’t skip your medicines. That is not advisable as you can become unwell too with your mania.  Don’t stop taking medicines even when you feel well for several months. Remember, medicines keep all your symptoms under control. When you stop taking medicines, your symptoms can reappear and aggravate your mental illness.

Bipolar disorder medications have some side effects. Some medications cause drowsiness. This makes it quite difficult to focus on work. Speak to a psychiatrist specialising in bipolar disorder about this issue if you feel too sleepy at work. Ask if you can change the time you take the medication. Learn about the various strategies to combat drowsiness so that you can give your 100% at work.

2. Relax a little bit: Take short breaks between work regularly. Take a short walk during the lunch break. Listen to music that uplifts your mood. Take deep breathing. All these things help you to relax, especially if you are low or have anxiety .

3. Lead a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly to keep your mind and body fit. Eat healthy and nutritious food. Have adequate sleep at night. If possible, try to sleep for 8-12 hours at home. Try to avoid eating unhealthy food. A healthy lifestyle can help you manage bipolar disorder both at home and work, by making you feel at your best.

4. Organise your tasks:   Bipolar can at times interfere with work functioning.This means your mind may not cooperate with you on a regular basis. Try to organise your tasks. I

Create a ‘to-do’ list on the Google calendar and check if each task has been completed. Whenever you fail to finish a particular task on a specific date, move it to the next date on the calendar. This way you’ll remember about the unfinished task. Divide big projects into small tasks. It will be easier for you to manage them.

If you are struggling, you can speak to your work HR if they are understanding.

 

Should you inform your employer? The eternal dilemma

Let’s accept it. There is a social stigma attached to mental health, however many employers are becoming more understanding and the stigma is lessening. Your medical information is something confidential and private. Obviously, you may not want to share it with everyone. You don’t need to talk about your mental health openly at work if you don’t want.

However, if your boss or line manager is cooperative and a good human being, then you can have a conversation with him or her. When you need to take leave for doctor appointments, your boss will understand and give you a day off without issue.

 

Conclusion

Don’t panic. Don’t feel that you’re less than anyone because of your bipolar. Your mental disorder doesn’t define you. Your work is not the only thing you have in your life. Spend quality time with your friends and family and volunteer to help others.

If you have a good conversation with your employers and/or your doctor/ occupational health, you may be able to manage at work.

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/

2018 Round up: The year that has been: New Year by Eleanor

 

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When I look back at this year, 2018, I don’t fully know where to start. It has been one of the most meaningful, eventful, and wonderful years of my life so far, but there have also been sad times.

Outside of work, this year was a very special one as back in April, my fiance Robert proposed to me at the Shard, overlooking London. I said yes and 8 months later we are in the middle of wedding planning and planning for our future (and I found my wedding dress!). The proposal was the most amazing thing to happen this year. Also, two of my best friends got engaged and for one we were involved in the proposal and got to see him propose so that was fantastic!  I am looking forward to the weddings 🙂 We also celebrated other friends 30th birthdays, engagements and weddings this year as well as many births of their children which was so wonderful.

Sadly this year, we lost my beloved Grandma in June to Parkinsons disease and I miss her every single day- we were very close.  A month ago, my Grandpa (on the other side of family) passed away after a short battle with cancer, but I was able to fly to Portugal where he lived and see him before he passed and give him a hug, so that was very important. There is also family illness occurring, my father in law to be is very unwell with cancer and mid treatment- and this is very hard for us all but trying to be a positive as possible!

Back in February, My Dad and I went to Romania to the town of Iasi, to explore where our ancestors lived. There was a lot of snow and walking around palaces and churches and finding the synagogues. When we came back, we discovered that my Great grandpas sister and family died in Moldova across the border, at the hands of the Nazis (via the Yad Vashem online database) A very bittersweet trip but we were pleased to see Iasi.

In happier news, after celebrating our engagement with those we love, in July, my fiance Rob and I went on holiday to Israel which was really wonderful. We stayed with close friends and family and also in hotels and had a really special, meaningful, fun and sunshine filled trip! A personal highlight – the swimming pool at the InterContinental hotel in Tel Aviv and of course, walking through the Old City while sipping iced coffee (it was so hot) and visiting the Kotel. When we came back, we spent a weekend in the Cotswolds at my dad with family- a lovely escape. This year too, I also read some great books (like Michelle Obamas autobiography) and watched some fab films/ theatre shows.

In July, I celebrated my 30th birthday with friends and family (thanks Katie for my delicious birthday cake) and then this December, we celebrated Robs 30th birthday at London Zoo light trail.

This year work wise, has been a blessing- I managed (somehow) to secure a book deal which has been a lifelong dream and am working with the fab team at Trigger Publishing and my patient editor Stephanie- thanks to her, Katie and James for their support as I continue to tap away at my keyboard.

Before 2018 began I was in touch with Naomi Greenaway at the Telegraph (Stella Magazine). Thank you Naomi for helping me to tell and share my story in a sensitive way. It was an honour for me to be featured online at the Telegraph and for my story to reach new readers.

Back in January, I met a wonderful editor on Twitter, Yvette Caster, who was looking for new writers for Metro Blogs (as it was then). She looked at this here blog after I sent her a pitch email and commissioned me to write my first ever article for Metro.co.uk on mental health, weight gain and medication. From there, she and her colleagues continued to commission me to write and when she and they left in the summer, I have continued to pitch articles and be published. Thank you to Ellen Scott, Aimee Meade and the current team at Metro too. Being published online by Metro has been an amazing journey and I am proud to write for them on lifestyle topics and mental health, my favourites this year being about the Royal wedding, homelessness and mental health and sharing my Grandpas story.

Thanks also to Bianca London for commissioning my two Glamour articles, this was another amazing bucket list dream ticked. The one on dating and mental illness, bipolar and how I met my fiance (when I wrote the article, he was my boyfriend) was something very close to my heart and it was a genuine honour to be featured in a magazine I had a read as a teenager and one of the biggest womens magazines in the UK. Still can’t believe it.

Thanks to Rebecca Thair, editor of first ever mental health magazine, Happiful magazine for not only being first to publish my story with bipolar back in January (which was so important to me) but also publishing my later articles on social anxiety and a guide to bipolar. I love working with you and the Happiful team and hope to write more for you.  Thanks also to Sonja at UIO Podcast and Sarah Cardwell for interviewing me.

Thanks to Francine Wolficz, Richard Ferrer and Jack Mendel at the Jewish News for all the articles and positive support of my mental health work in and outside of the Jewish community this year.  And to Rabbi Ari Kayser at Aish for including my story in Perspectives Magazine with the Jewish Weekly newspaper.

Thanks to writer Olivia Blair at Cosmopolitan/ Hearst for featuring my thoughts on bipolar in several articles which were also published across Hearst publications like Elle Magazine, Prima Magazine and Netdoctor.co.uk . Thanks also to the team at Refinery 29 for featuring me in an article on Seasonal affective disorder and to the fantastic charity No Panic for publishing my personal story with bipolar disorder.

This year I was also a shortlisted finalist for a UK Blog Award for the Health and Social Care Category  in March (thank you Lauren and team)  and invited to come to the Mind Media Awards as a highly commended journalist in my category. (This was incredibly magical).

Going to the Mind Media Awards in November with my Dad at the Queen Elizabeth Hall and hearing peoples stories of mental health across the UK media was just incredible. It was also a fun night of celebrity spotting- Fearne Cotton, Bryony Gordon, Dame Kelly Holmes, Kim-Joy from Bake Off, Stacey Solomon and Loose Women team, Frankie Bridge and many more. Stephen Fry presented the awards and was just remarkable, humble and funny as always. I was so pleased I managed to attend, it was a privilege to meet people. I met Yvette, Ellen and their producer at Mentally Yours podcast and fellow blogger Katie Conibear. My Dad and I were honoured to attend.

This blog has been a joy at times alongside the hard work. Thank you to all my guest bloggers and all sending submissions- you’ll get a proper individual thank you at our 3rd anniversary in March, but I couldn’t run the blog without your articles and careful attention. Thanks To Vuelio and Feedspot for awards too. Heres to a 2019, our third year of Be Ur Own Light! Thanks also to my Twitter followers who make it so easy for me to share thoughts and ideas with them- and for all the online friendships I have made- you know who you are!

This year has been hard at times but there has been SO much beauty and I feel so grateful and thankful for it all. My mental health has taken a hit at times, but I have found a really good therapist for talking therapy- who has helped me so much and I have also spoken to my GP. Its OK to reach out for support. Thankfully I have a good support network.  I have been a little more anxious and battling mild depression but I am slowly getting better again and starting to see the light :).

I just want to wish you all a happy and healthy new year 2019- this will be the year that I please God get married and my best friend Katie (as well as my fiances cousin too!). May it be a year of better health, wellness and joy for us all. And heres to keep fighting stigma!

May the new year be one of dreams coming to fruition and love and laughter.

Love always and thank you for reading,

Eleanor x 

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How to Enjoy the Holidays after Addiction: Guest blog by Alek Sabin

 

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Socialising during your recovery always requires some effort, and life after rehab always takes some serious adjusting, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. The holidays are a time when you reunite with family and friends and spend time at seasonal social gatherings. You may encounter friends from your past times of using, people with whom you have impaired relationships, and social situations that tempt you to compromise your sobriety. In short, despite being one of the happiest times of the year, the holidays can also be stressful and dangerous for sobriety.

While the holiday season is a season of joy and giving that ought to be celebrated, it is important to be on your guard in order to protect your newfound sobriety. In case you find yourself or a loved one struggling to navigate recovery from addiction this season, here are some tips for protecting the sobriety you’ve worked so hard for during the holidays…

 

Know Your Triggers

Take an inventory of what your triggers for substance use are. In the past, did you use when you were hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Was substance use an outlet for stress? Do you experience cravings most when you are bored or sad?

Whatever your triggers, be sure to take the necessary steps to keep those triggers at bay. If stress is a trigger for you, for example, practice regular stress relief techniques like meditation, even when you don’t feel particularly stressed. If you are tempted to relapse when you are bored, on the other hand, make it a point to plan out your days with wholesome activities and to have a go-to activity for those times when you truly do have nothing to do.

 

Use Your Support System

It is so crucial to set up a support system within your social circle during recovery, and the holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of that support system. Talk to members of your support system, especially family members and friends with whom you may be attending holiday gatherings. Tell them about what struggles you are facing and what you are worried about this season. This will help them remain mindful of you and allow them to help you at those times this season when you need it most.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Call for Help

Your support system can carry you through the most difficult times of the holiday season. If you are worried about temptations to pick up alcohol during a particular holiday gathering, for example, a friend or family member can refrain from drinking with you or stay by your side throughout the evening to help hold you accountable. If you are worried that spending time with a particular group of people might tempt you to use again, make alternate plans with a friend or family member who understands your recovery.

 

Consider Whether an Event is Worth It

Holiday gatherings can be stressful for a variety of reasons. You have to answer questions about what you have been up to and what’s new in your life. You may encounter people with whom you used to use during times of addiction. You may find yourself around loved ones with whom you are still trying to repair harmed relationships. There are all kinds of reasons to be stress about attending a holiday season event, and for those occasions when you think the stress may be too much, it’s important to recognize when it may be better to miss an event.

 

Make a Plan for Parties

If you do feel that a holiday party will be low-risk enough for you to attend, be sure that you still come with a plan. Bring your own non-alcoholic party drink to sip on if you know alcoholic drinks will be present. Drive yourself so that you can duck out a bit early and have more control over when you leave. Plan out what you will say any time someone offers you a drink at parties. Try to envision which scenarios may arise so that you can be prepared for them.

 

Wear Your Sobriety on Your Sleeve

Finally, make the decision to own your sobriety this season. When someone asks you what is new in your life, go ahead and tell them about your sobriety (only if you feel comfortable doing so, of course.) Talk to them about your journey thus far, in as little or as much detail as you desire. Share what you are looking forward to as you continue your journey. When others see you talk enthusiastically about your recovery, they are sure to respond with similar enthusiasm, offering a shoulder of support and becoming advocates of your recovery.

12 Tips on how to Accept Yourself: Guest post by Spela Kranjec

I know that everyone suffering from an eating disorder wants some magical cure. But there is no such cure. And I can’t give you one, even though I had anorexia and searched for such a cure for whole nine years. But I can give you some useful tips that helped me – and they might also help you.

I also described my entire experience in a book for which I just launched a Kickstarter campaign which you can visit here :https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spelakranjec/notice-me-my-9-year-struggle-against-anorexia.

I’m sure you’ll find something that will help you find your own happiness.

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Here are my 12 tips:

  1. Find your motivation

After I overcome anorexia the first time, I relapsed a few years later – and it was even worse. Thinking about it today, why it happened, I’m convinced that it’s because I didn’t want to get better the first time. I got better because my parents made me. I needed to find my purpose to reach recovery.

Today I am aware of how important it is that you do something because you want to do it and are motivated to do it. I discovered myself that finding motivation when you’re at the lowest point in your life is far from simple. But I’ve also proven that it is possible.

  1. Don’t give up 

Know that you will have moments where life is really difficult, so get ready for them. These are turning points in your life, so you can’t give up.

  1. Read a motivational book and attend a workshop on personal growth

There are many books and workshops on the subject of personal growth – some are more technical, while others include personal experiences of people who faced a similar situation to the one you face.

These books are filled with advice that could be helpful. Furthermore, reading these books will help you realize that you’re not alone.

  1. Go shopping

You don’t actually have to buy anything – you can just go window shopping. Try on a gown, browse free samples in a cosmetics shop, go to a furniture store and find the most comfortable sofa – anything to distract you and make you happy.

  1. Spend time in nature

If you don’t like big shopping centres and prefer to spend time in nature, take every opportunity to do so. I’m one of such people. I love to climb mountains, spending hours sweating to reach the top, where I can enjoy a wonderful view and a delicious sandwich. This makes me forget all my worries, and I come home a new person. And afterwards, I can look in the mirror at home and tell myself, “Damn, you’re not too bad!” 😉

  1. Socialize

Human beings are social creatures, and solitude has a negative effect on us. We need love, we need laughter, and we need to feel accepted. Without this, it’s inevitable that your thoughts, stuck as you are between four walls, will become occupied by the negative. And suddenly everything will become negative – even you. So don’t let that happen.

  1. Write a diary

If you have problems sharing your problems with others, find a new way to express yourself – maybe start writing a diary. You can also write down a list of positive characteristics that you like about yourself.

  1. Listed to music / sing / draw / be creative

Find your creativity and keep your mind active. Boredom has a similar effect on us as loneliness – an opportunity for pessimism to creep in.

  1. Do something nice for others

I spend my time with my grandmother. I knew she was lonely and that a cup of coffee shared with her granddaughter meant a lot to her. It was heartwarming spending time with her in a cafe, listening to her talk, because I could see how important that moment was for her.

  1. Find something that will make you feel useful

You’ve certainly done something for which you received praise. The feeling was phenomenal, right? Remember what you felt at that time – a feeling of pride, success, joy. So make sure there are more moments like that.

  1. Visit a counsellor

If you’re feeling completely down and think you can’t do it on your own, seek help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I sought help from a psychiatrist. Even though I was ashamed at the time, I am so happy I did it. Ultimately, it helped me become happy and well again by working with a professional.

  1. Talk about your problems

Never shut yourself off from others and isolate. That’s the worst that can happen! If you isolate yourself and don’t talk about your problems, negative thoughts may get worse. So find someone you trust and share your feelings – you will feel much better!

Most importantly, never give up! I’ve proved that it’s possible – and so can you! To find out how I did it, visit https://www.notice-me.net/free-chapter/.

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Top Tips for avoiding a Christmas Relationships Crisis: Guest blog by Brookman

 

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(image: Ebay)

Christmas is meant to be a joyous time of the year and an opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family, but unfortunately, it can also be one of the most stressful. For some, the biggest worry they will encounter is whether they’ve overcooked the turkey, but for others, far deeper problems are magnified around this time in terms of finances, family tensions and even relationship breakdowns or divorce.

Avoiding the Subject?

For many, the easiest solution at the time is just to put the problem to the back of their mind and focus on the present. In fact, in a survey of 1016 married individuals conducted by Brookman International Divorce Solicitors, 64% of respondents revealed they have put off a major decision because they felt it was ‘not the right time’ to deal with it. One third felt that the New Year was a good time to make a fresh start or major life decision, with ending a relationship or asking for divorce being the most popular major decisions to withhold. Whilst this may seem a temporary solution, avoiding the problem only prolongs the suffering and could lead to a frosty atmosphere over the festive period.

Worrying thoughts at any time of year can cause stress, but they can be particularly troublesome at Christmas, when you’re having to juggle shopping for presents, go to events and balance the interests of lots of different people. The people closest to you will notice the changes in your behaviour, even if they don’t actually know what the underlying cause is.

Left for too long, this build up of stress and tension could reach breaking point and lead to heated arguments and upset. It could even put your mental health at risk. No one wants an explosive argument over the Christmas dinner, so, here’s a few tips to help avoid a Christmas Crisis.

 

  1. Talk to someone – Speaking to someone close to you about your worries is a great place to start, even if you don’t feel ready to address the person causing the stress directly. Be sure it’s someone you can trust and who will be honest with you. When it comes to a big decision, you don’t want someone beating around the bush, or telling the world about it either!
  2. Nip it in the bud – Whatever the problem is, talk to your partner about it as soon as you feel able to. Whilst the discussion might be difficult, you will feel an immense sense of relief once you have got the issue off your chest. It may be that your partner feels the same way, or has a solution which could result in a better outcome for both of you. Until you speak about it, you simply won’t know.
  3. Focus on yourself – it may seem selfish, but ultimately, you have to make decisions based on your own happiness. If you are constantly making compromises to make others happy, then you’ll always be in conflict. A Christmas full of atmosphere, tension and cold shoulders is no fun for anyone, and actually tackling the problem outright, even if it means a major change is on the horizon, can make the transition far easier for everyone to manage.
  4. Forgive yourself – Decisions which are one-sided can often leave the perpetrator feeling an immense sense of guilt, but it is important to be kind and forgiving to yourself. Sometimes people don’t agree, have different perspectives, or reach a different stage of their lives where priorities change. Understanding that life is a journey and that we all have our own paths to take can help to put the current situation into perspective.

 

Following these key steps will help you to deal with difficult decisions quickly, effectively and with the best intentions.

In the Brookman survey, 74% of people said they felt instant relief once they had made a decision, be that dealing with the core issue, or simply booking an appointment to get some advice. The important part is taking steps to address the situation so that you don’t feel like it is spiralling out of control.

Whether you decide to end a relationship or not, make sure you make informed decisions that are right for you.

This guest post was written by Brookman International Divorce Solicitors.

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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

Womens Health Awareness and Taking Action: Guest post by Sarah Cardwell

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(image: Sarah Cardwell)

I remember wanting to start my periods when I began secondary school. I had no idea what to expect, but it just felt like it would be the first step in growing older, becoming an adult. Within 6 months of starting I hated it. I had horrifically heavy & painful periods since the age of 13 and my mum always suspected I had endometriosis, the same condition she had been diagnosed with.

I never struggled to get pregnant with either of my two children, but with a heavy first natural baby of 10lb 7oz, it was decided after many scans that I would have a planned caesarean with my second daughter. She was only 7lb 11oz. When my periods returned after my second baby, I knew I had to do something.

After months of pursuing issues, and aged just 30, I eventually took my mum along to my appointment  and was referred for a laparoscopy. It was then that my mums suspicions were confirmed & they found signs of endometriosis.

On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis, according to Endometriosis UK (https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-facts-and-figures). It has taken almost 17 years for my diagnosis. The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.

It was then I asked for a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) & was rejected.

Hysterectomies are known to treat endometriosis well:

• With mild endometriosis, the chance of needing further treatment is 4 out of 100 women

• For severe endometriosis, the chance of needing further treatment is 13 out of 100 women within three years and 40 out of 100 women within five years.

https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/sites/default/files/files/Information/

And I’m in good company, with many celebrities having hysterectomies for many reasons, Angelina Jolie and Michelle Heaton to be two of them. Lena Dunham too had her hysterectomy due to endometriosis. 

I was told I was too young and was offered a range of treatments from the coil to the pill, I even was treated with hormones to replicate the feelings of the menopause to see how my body would react, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues.

After six months it reacted brilliantly, no periods, no pain. I thought I was cured, but they said I couldn’t continue on the treatment due to risks of osteoporosis . I was in pieces and soon back to having periods spending days of my month in bed unable to move.

It was another 2 years of trialling medications & eventually changing my gynaecologist, before I was finally booked to have a hysterectomy operation. I was ecstatic. It was booked in February for the June of 2015 following my family holiday, I couldn’t wait.

However, things were about to take a turn for the worse. In March (the following month), my mum was informed that they had found a tumour where her ovaries had previously been, and within six short weeks she had passed away. It was the most awful time of all our lives, although thankfully she was surrounded by her family as she passed away. She had made me promise to go through with the hysterectomy, but to request and ensure they removed both my ovaries, even though they were healthy. So I did. In June 2015 I had a Bilateral total hysterectomy.

I knew I was very young at 32 to lose everything that made me a woman, but this was more than pain relief now, it was about survival and securing my future with my children.

The procedure went well and I recovered quickly, I was back at work part-time within 2 weeks, probably due to being a younger patient, but it didn’t have the same impact on my menopause symptoms. I suffered and still do, with every possible symptom, night sweats, hot flushes, weight gain, moodiness, although I think those closest to me would say that had always been there it just worsened.

Whether it was connected, it was then that the rest of my health deteriorated. I was never super fit or thin since my teens, but over the next year I gained almost 3 stone, started with severe anxiety and following an asthma attack after a serious lower chest infection, I was finally diagnosed with adult onset asthma. These of all could also have contributed to my recent spiral in mental health illnesses, but I still believe it was the right decision.

At 35 years old, I am on HRT and more medication than most pensioners, but I’m still here. I’ll be on most of my medication for life, but my HRT for a minimum of 20 years until I’m the average age for a natural menopause.

I wish my mum was here, as she too went through early menopause after her hysterectomy and I’m sure she’d have some tips that beat ice cubes down my top and lining my bed with ice packs to keep me cool in the night.

She’d hopefully have some advice on last summers rare heatwave in the UK, but sadly she was only 54 when she passed away and she inevitably saved my life and helped preserve my life so I can live beyond that she and be there for my children. And this hysterectomy added another layer of protection!

For more information please check out the resources above.

This article was written by writer Sarah Cardwell- who also experiences anxiety alongside her other health conditions. Check out her blog here: www.sarahsthinkingagain.blog