On Selfie Day: Is social media bad for our health? Guest post by AXA PPP Healthcare

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(image: https://www.designweek.co.uk)

Today’s world is dominated by social media and it seems to be playing an ever increasing role in our lives.

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare acknowledges that social media can give young adults a certain perception of life, that isn’t always reality.

 “Social media is a window where people choose what they want to present to the world – whether this real or altered – and in many ways it can be a ‘false reality’.

 It’s natural for an onlooker to make assumptions about others based on what they see online, but often those who are vulnerable cannot make this distinction, which can have a negative affect both on their mental health and their body image.” comments Dr Winwood.

For some, being online is their main source of social interaction and, over time, this can turn out to be an isolating and lonely experience. And, whilst the ‘rewards’ of communicating online are instantaneous, this isn’t necessarily a good thing” he says.

Social media website Instagram has been rated as having the worst effects on teenagers’ sleep, body image and fear of missing out.

 Ultimately with four of the five most popular forms of social media found to be harming young people’s mental health, it is important for young adults to realise that there is a world outside of the screen.

In 2016, seven young people who switched off from social media told the Guardian about the positive results they experienced. One said “I can live my life instead of trying to shape it into one that looks good online. I also have a lot more time now, and it’s easy enough to keep in touch with my friends in other ways.

If you decide to have a social media holiday, here are Dr Winwood’s observations:

 Suspend your accounts – suspending them for a week means you can take a break without the temptation to check for any new notifications.

Make an effort to meet up with friends face to face – you may find that cutting down on your social media time leaves a temporary void, so arrange to see friends and family personally and you’ll feel in touch when you’re off-line.

Enjoy the gift of renewed focus – think of all the occasions when your attention was split between checking social media and having a conversation or watching TV or walking along and just tune in to the moment of what you’re doing without the distraction.

Get an alarm clock – using your phone as an alarm can make it tempting to automatically check the online scene the minute you’re getting up. Having a separate alarm clock removes that temptation from arm’s reach.

If you find you crave social media try checking out apps designed to block certain sites at certain times of the day. This approach helps avoid that mindless checking and re-checking we all fall victim too.

This guest post was written by AXA PPP Healthcare.  If you think you might be addicted to social media, find more tips and advice at AXA PPP healthcare’s Mental Health Centre or speak to one of its help at hand nurses online.

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Metro article extract by Eleanor: ‘My Dad and I have helped each other through our Bipolar disorder’

Our founder Eleanor and her Dad shared their story with Metro.co.uk for Fathers Day and Dads Mental Health Day. Here is an extract:

I am the child of a father with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with the same condition aged 16 in 2004 – this was only four years after my dad was diagnosed at the age of 44. Our story is a special and unique one, and dad and I have a strong bond as a result.

However, it has not always been easy for me and my family.  Growing up with my mum, dad and younger sister in Hertfordshire, I didn’t fully know that my dad had serious mental health issues until my teenage years. I was largely sheltered from it by my mum and my loving grandparents as a child. My grandparents would look after us when dad was ill with depression and mum had to work.

I am the eldest, and being the child of someone with a mental illness did bring its own challenges. I have always felt a sense of duty and responsibility to look after my sister and both my parents, despite receiving a lot of love and care. This sentiment has meant that I have always felt a need to look after those around me, and make sure my dad is stable with his health.

Many children of those with serious mental health issues are exposed to a lot more than I was. My childhood was largely happy. My dad was never sectioned or hospitalised and never experienced the psychosis that I have experienced with my own bipolar. There were no alcohol or drug issues in my home but dad did experience mood fluctuations with both mania and depression.

He also experienced panic attacks that stopped him from working. Dad remembers having these when I was just four-years-old. In 1996, he had his first bout of severe depression and anxiety. His panic attacks meant that he had to stop working at his job in finance after collapsing there.

Mum became the breadwinner, with two children under seven. My sister was only five-years-old. I know this wasn’t easy for anyone though I don’t fully remember it. I have been told that dad was often not around during the day due to his depression. He would retreat into his bed and sleep, but would come and see us in the evenings, once we came home from school.

I do remember visiting him in hospital one time after his severe panic made him collapse in the street. He was having his heart monitored to rule out a heart attack and was eventually discharged home.

Dad was never referred to a psychiatrist and he believes this is why his bipolar was undiagnosed for so long. He gradually recovered with antidepressant medication and support from the GP and my mum.

He slowly coaxed himself out of bed and out the house to walk down the road to buy a paper. This would take several hours. His depression lifted and he eventually went back to work. Life was easier for our family for a while, although financially, things were tight and there was always a risk my dad might not be able to work.

 

 

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/17/my-dad-and-i-have-helped-each-other-through-bipolar-disorder-heres-our-story-7627817/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Dealing with Loss: Losing Grandma

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(image of Lady of Shalott Roses : Pinterest)

This blog post is really hard for me to write.

Many of you know, that my beloved Grandma passed away last week after a long battle with Parkinsons disease and dementia. Both are horrible conditions and it was very difficult to see her suffering.

I am happy that she is free from the severe symptoms she experienced. Grandma was bedbound for over a year and her mind was taken over by the dementia too.

I have such wonderful memories of my Grandma- she was kind, caring, loving, beautiful, glamourous, with a huge heart. She gave so much love to her friends and family and to us grandchildren. She believed in us, motivated us and was a second mother.

I know part of her will always lie within me.

We are Jewish and have just come out of the week of mourning. This is called shiva and friends and family come to support the family.

It was very helpful but I still can’t believe shes not here any more. Grandma was a light in my world and I will always, always miss her. The only comfort is that she is at peace and has relief from suffering.

The above picture is of the Lady of Shalott rose. The poem by Tennyson-  The Lady of Shalott- was one of my Grandmas favourites that we read to her in hospital. I am named after my Grandmas Mum, Rose. Our family found these Lady of Shalott roses at Kenwood, when they got up from their week of mourning during a walk there- a special and comforting sign.

I will love my Grandma always and I know she will be there with me on my wedding day next year. I take comfort from the fact she knew I was happy and settled and my last conversation with her was about my engagement.

We are still grieving for her. It takes time. We are trying to be there for my Grandpa too- they were married for 66 years.

Grandma- I will love you always and forever. You will be in my heart and never forgotten.

 

 

How Love Island helps my mental health.

I first discovered the reality dating show Love Island back in 2016, when it returned for its second series.

At first, I didn’t expect a great amount of entertainment, but what I found is that among the frivolity and fake tans, there’s a wonderful exploration of human relationships. Each night at 9pm, you can lose yourself in the dating lives of others.

I suffer from anxiety and have bipolar disorder, and this element of escapism has helped with my mental health issues.

In the past I’ve suffered from panic attacks linked to social anxiety and, at times, stress in the workplace. A distracting outlet like Love Island allows me to shake off the adrenaline highs and the depressive lows that follow.

Instead of feeling anxious or having negative thoughts swirling around in my brain, I can watch Love Island and occupy my mind, while also connecting with other fans online.

Whether its watching someone get ‘pied off’ (rejected) or couples getting together, there is always something going on.

That’s what makes Love Island so addictive and calming, I often feel less anxious once I’ve watched an episode.

There are many humourous elements on the show including bromances (last years one between Kem and Chris and their rapping was a sight to behold) and people form tight friendship groups and attachments very quickly.

Instead of thinking about my daily worries, I’m wondering what’s going on in the contestants’ lives. Whether like last year we followed the ups and downs of Chris and Olivia, or Camilla finally finding her man, watching them build relationships, go on dates and play games is truly fascinating.

Of course, escapism doesn’t replace the support you get from a doctor, counsellor or family and friends.

While personally I’ve had a positive experience watching Love Island, the show has been criticised for exacerbating mental health issues for viewers and for its contestants, too.

Where vulnerability is concerned, all reality TV can influence people, for good or for bad,’ explains Jo Hemmings, a behavioural media and celebrity psychologist.

While it is very often real people in real time, it isn’t in fact a reflection of true reality at all and so it’s important to distinguish that what we are watching is a made-for-entertainment TV series, which may or may not bear any similarity to real life as we live it.

‘My advice would be if it brings you pleasure, enjoy it – but if it makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy, it’s best to watch something else.

‘The Love Island contestants are well-cared for psychologically – assessed before the show and supported throughout. As a reality TV series, it is known for a few enduring relationships and friendships, so again I think they are treated with care and compassion off screen.’

At times, the show promotes a body image that can feel unrealistic, especially for someone like myself, having had a lot of therapy to improve my self-esteem.

Due to the perfect body image presented in can impact peoples self esteem especially if they have an eating disorder.

I asked my Twitter followers whether Love Island was good for our mental health? The most striking issue they presented to me was body image.

Edward Clements  ‘ I can see how it will maybe affect people who are less confident with their body image and cause them to feel worse. This is mainly because most of the men are always shirt less and very fit’.

Sarah TDefinitely makes me body check & compare myself to girls on programme. I wouldnt want to eat whilst watching. I am in a good place at the moment in terms of my eating disorder but if I wasn’t could be triggering. The show encourages placing value of the person in the way they look rather than their personality values too.’

So, body image is a real concern for many watching the show. This state of perfection promotes a negative body image and could harm self esteem.

Ben Edwards, relationship coach and self confidence expert agrees with this,

Reality TV shows like Love Island can of course affect our mental health both positively or negatively. Some people may find that this reignites their belief in love as unlikely couples find romance on screen, providing hope. Reality TV does not always reflect reality. It  might seem like harmless, light entertainment, we often compare ourselves because we feel something is missing. Confide in a loved one or seek professional advice if needed.’

The Love Island team said to us in a statement,
The duty of care towards all of our Islanders is always of paramount importance. Our islanders have ongoing access to an on site psychologist as well as show producers should they need it.’

I can’t wait for the next eight weeks of Love Island 2018.

It brings me joy each summer and I hope it will for you, too.

With thanks to Jo Hemmings, Ben Edwards, Love Island Press Team, Edward Clements and Sarah Tayleur for their expert comments.

We’ve won awards- Top 10 UK Depression Blog and Top 10 UK Anxiety Blog from Feedspot.com

We are delighted to have won some more awards from Anuj and his team at Feedspot.com!

Be Ur Own Light has been named as a Top 10 UK Depression Blog and Top 10 UK Anxiety blog alongside some amazing mental health bloggers and charities. It is a true honour.

Anuj has said: CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top UK Anxiety Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best UK Anxiety and Depression blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

You can see us in the lists here. Thank you Feedspot!

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https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_anxiety_blogs/

 

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https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_depression_blogs/

 

Taking a Mental Health Day: Retriggering the Anxiety Cycle by Eleanor

‘Sometimes you’ve got to face the darkness to step into the Light again’– James Arthur ‘Sermon’

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(image: rockonruby.co.uk)
I just want to start this post by saying that I am doing alright- I just have moments of bad anxiety or panic when triggered by specific issues. This week, I have been feeling more anxious than normal and when this happens I often have to take a step back, take a mental health day to rest and relax and recover.

As many of you know, I have social anxiety and this manifests in various ways. At the moment, I have issues with body image as I have put on a lot of weight over the past 5 years- partly due to medication and partly to lifestyle (I love sugar and don’t move as much). However, this means that in some situations,  my anxiety gets a bit heightened.

Early mornings are also the worst time for me in terms of anxiety so I try and do things later in the day now.

So what do my mental health days look like?

Sometimes they can involve:

– Sleeping or resting if needed for a few hours
– Watching something funny- today I watched the Windsors Royal Wedding special
– Speaking to a friend
– Eat something healthy that I love (and sometimes eating chocolate.. which I am trying to stop)
– Taking space and time from work to breathe. As I am self employed, I make my own hours so I know this isn’t the same for everyone.

Listening to relaxing music, taking a bath, doing something mindful eg colouring or going for a walk if I feel able are also good.

I am looking forward to a more restful weekend and taking care of my mental health. Once I’ve had a mental health day I usually feel better, more rested, calmer and centred.

Overwhelm is hard but it doesnt have to rule everything.

I’d love to hear about what you do when overwhelm sets in, to help ease the tension?

Love,

Eleanor x 

Can Alcohol raise stress levels and affect our mental health?: Guest post by Tomas Sanchez

This guest post was written by Tomas Sanchez and talks about Drinkaware, the UKs top alcohol education charity. For more and help and support, view their website at : https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/

Highly demanding jobs, family duties, money worries, relationships issues, they can all add up to make our stress levels go through the roof. The truth is, it can sometimes feel like we’re sat on a roller coaster, led by a high-pressure lifestyle that is ruining our health and happiness.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year, and stress is a key factor in this. Which is why this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focused on understanding the impact stress has on our lives and how to tackle it effectively. The week took place last week between 14th and 20th May.

When it comes to coping with stress, reaching for booze might seem like a good idea to help you lift your spirits and relax. However, in the long run, alcohol can have the opposite effect and contribute towards raising your stress, affecting your mental health and wellbeing.

Wine, beer, cider or spirits, whatever your tipple of choice, the alcohol in your drink is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals your brain relies on for good mental health – especially when you drink above the alcohol unit guidelines.

In fact, while a pint or two may cheer you up, this is only a short-lived effect that will quickly wear off. But, in the long run, drinking too much too often can exacerbate your stress and contribute towards the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Alcohol can also impact your sleep. You might think that drinking can help you nod off a stressful day at work, but in reality, alcohol can alter your sleep cycle and make it harder for you to get the rest you need to tackle the stress in your life.

If you’re struggling to deal with stress, there are more effective ways to cope with it than reaching for alcohol, such as:

Exercise, a great way to de-stress. Go for a run, swim or to a yoga class – or even a brisk walk can help clear your head of the day’s worries.

Talk to a friend about what’s worrying you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends or family, look for professional help – talk to your GP or an accredited counsellor. They will be able to help you manage your feelings and point you to the right resources to help you restore your wellbeing.

Take a hot bath or do some gentle stretches to relieve tension from your body.

If you do decide to have a drink, follow the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) advice – it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and spread your drinking evenly over three or more days.

If you’re drinking too much too often, cut back on it by:

 

  • Keeping track of what you’re drinking – use Drinkaware’s App to help you monitor your alcohol intake and change the way you drink.

 

  • Choosing low-alcohol drinks or mocktails.

 

  • Giving alcohol-free days a go. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become dependent on alcohol.

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.

What UK Charities are doing for Mental Health Awareness Week and helping to break stigma by Eleanor for Metro.co.uk (Extract)

Today my article for Mental Health Awareness Week (by the mental health foundation) went live on the Metro.co.uk website. I worked with the Foundation, Samaritans, Young Minds and Time to Change to discuss their initiatives to help break stigma against mental illness and do something active in our communities.

Here is an extract of the article link to the full piece: http://metro.co.uk/2018/05/15/its-mental-health-awareness-week-how-are-charities-fighting-the-stigma-surrounding-the-subject-7533330/

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(image: Eleanor Segall)

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week,  The event run by the Mental Health Foundation, has been running for 18 years. ‘Admitting it was shameful and embarrassing’ – what it’s really like to have kleptomania This year’s theme for Mental Health Week is: ‘Stress: Are We Coping?’.

Tackling stress, The Mental Health Foundation says, can go a long way to prevent anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide, and it has commissioned the biggest ever survey into stress-related issues in the UK.

The survey, of 6,000 people across the UK, found some startling findings: in the last year almost three-quarters of people have at some point felt so stressed they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

It revealed that 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, and that 83% of 18- to 24 year-olds said this, compared to 65% of people aged 55 and over.

Mental Health Foundation director Isabella Goldie says: ‘Millions of us around the UK are experiencing high levels of stress and it is damaging our health. ‘Stress is one of the great public health challenges of our time, but it still isn’t being taken as seriously as physical health concerns.’

Talking and breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness is also hugely important So how are charities working to break down this stigma? We spoke to a number of them to find out.

The Mental Health Foundation

It is hoped that Mental Health Awareness Week will educate on stress and mental health, and start to open the conversation on coping methods and support, such as therapies, support networks and medication. The foundation is running the Green Ribbon scheme, a charity pin that can be bought.  Worn during Mental Health Awareness Week, It allows people to show support for good mental health for all, with all proceeds going to support the work of the foundation. Actor David Harewood posted a photo on Instagram about the campaign as he is an ambassador.

He says: ‘This year I am supporting MHAW. I am putting my face to the campaign and making a BBC documentary on the subject because 30 years ago I had a breakdown myself.

‘I am not sure why it has taken so long for me to go public with it, but, to be honest, I’ve been so busy over the past seven to eight years I haven’t really had the time. ‘Ever since I did last year, I have been astonished by the number of people who have come to me with their own experiences of mental health, encouraged by my frank admission.’

The Foundation wants the green ribbon to be the international symbol for mental health awareness. It is encouraging family and friends or colleagues to get together and have a chat about mental health over a curry. There are quiz ideas and  competitions to keep your guests engaged and to raise money for the Foundations work in mental health. To learn more, visit mentalhealth.org.uk.

To read more about the other charities and see the full article click the link below.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/2018/05/15/its-mental-health-awareness-week-how-are-charities-fighting-the-stigma-surrounding-the-subject-7533330/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

When Life begins to whirlwind: Finding self care. by founder Eleanor

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(image: Pinterest)

I havn’t written here for several weeks, because I have felt a little bit like Dorothy and Toto the dog at the start of the Wizard of Oz film, when they are caught in the hurricane.

Sometimes life sweeps you up in its path and can get very busy. This for me at the moment is not a bad thing. My boyfriend- now fiance and I got engaged about 2 weeks ago. If you didnt know (WordPress followers) he proposed to me at the Shard here in London, overlooking the sunset over the river Thames and Tower Bridge/ Tower of London. It was super romantic and very very special. We are both so excited.

However, in the community we come from, we have had to organise an engagement party and ceremony quite quickly and do all the admin that comes with coordinating families. My parents are divorced and my Mum has remarried which means we have more family than normal too.

So, getting 200 emails in just a week and a half was not easy but we did it! We also got our families together for a meal and went to visit grandparents too. As well as organising other plans.  Its been a lovely yet overwhelming time and so grateful for everyones love and kindness.

Sometimes I literally have to take myself away from planning so I can cope. I was doing a lot of it myself but decided for my health (and bank balance) that I need to get back to work properly- and do what I love, writing.

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(image :Michelle Cruz/ AZ quotes)
When I feel overwhelm I just tell my support network and take a breather. Its the only way. Self care is hugely important.

I will also be writing an article for Metro on stress and insomnia during engagement period. Thankfully I am sleeping a lot better now but in the first few days after we announced our engagement, I struggled to sleep due to adrenaline overload.

I have also enjoyed the summer like sun here in London and being in nature at the weekend (we had a bank holiday- day off work).

Sometimes life does feel like a whirlwind- whether that is positive or negative. What is important is to ride out the storm and take time for you. This is what I am learning….

Love,

Eleanor    xx