The team at Best For You NHS interviewed me about my life journey with bipolar disorder and anxiety. I hope it helps anyone, particularly young people, who are struggling.
You can read the interview that I did with Annabel here. Trigger warning as discusses suicidal thoughts, being in hospital and sexual assault.!
Thank you Annabel and team!
Best for You is a new NHS programme in London to help young people and their families access mental health support We know many can’t access the support they do desperately need and CAMHS services here in the UK are overstretched. I hope that by sharing my story it helps young people feel less alone, but we desperately need more funding into childrens mental health services too!
Yesterday was the first NHS meeting with the Perinatal (pre conception/birth) Psychiatrist. I didn’t know what to expect from it, though a few weeks ago I had the non NHS meeting with a very good consultant psychiatrist. They were both lovely women who are very good at their jobs- I had had to initially try for a private referral due to NHS waiting lists, but then managed to get an NHS appointment.
I was a bit nervous to see how the NHS would handle it, as they will be who I have care with going forward, so I was pleasantly surprised to be treated with respect and insight and kindness. I know that sounds weird, but those of you who know what my hospital admission in 2014 was like, will know that it wasn’t all plain sailing. Due to lack of insight, decisions happened about me and not always with me and so to feel empowered for me and my husband is very important.
Essentially these meetings now I have been well for a long time, are to plan ahead and discuss psychiatric history, what medications are needed, how it can be managed and what this would mean for a foetus and baby too. Birth carries a strong risk of relapse with the bipolar disorder, including the risk of psychosis and depression and so medication particularly for me needs to be planned carefully. I will need to be monitored once pregnant.
I am on 3 different types of psychiatric medication and also a contraceptive pill. Before we start trying to have children, I will need to have a time of withdrawal from the pill, which could send my hormones all over the place (i used to have PMDD symptoms where I felt very depressed and suicidal on periods so this is a slight concern). Then I may need to taper down one of my medicines (possibly sertraline) with the assistance of the mental health team, to reduce the effect on a baby. As baby will have a time of withdrawal from medications after birth while in hospital- which scares me too that they will be affected temporarily so want to make sure any baby is safe, as do the team I will work with.
The Dr also mentioned I would need to be in hospital for 5 days after birth so my Lithium level can be monitored (too high it can be toxic to humans) and I will need regular blood tests also- which are a source of anxiety, I hate hospitals due to past trauma. There was also a mention of needing to stop Lithium pre Labour and my Lithium levels as a result being quite high from birth too. So this information is good, knowledge is power but its also a bit terrifying to factor this all in.
I am scared but its also…. exciting in a weird way. Despite not yet trying to fall pregnant for a number of reasons so far- (which include possible bipolar relapse and changing meds/ time frames and starting a new job role), I have wanted to be a mother my whole life and I have more challenges than most due to the psychiatric and hormonal changes and how the baby would be. I question whether I am doing the right thing too by trying for a natural pregnancy in future and thats really hard. But egg harvesting and surrogacy is not easy either.. and its like going between a rock and a hard place at times with the best thing to do.
The doctors also mentioned I should visit a mother and baby hospital unit during my pregnancy to see what its like and what support is given- as my worries about it being like a severe psychiatric ward are high. Apparently, its a much calmer, supportive and therapeutic environment. I don’t want to be in hospital but these are the types of things one has to factor in with the bipolar being biological with mood changes.
Rob is endlessly supportive – we are embarking on a somewhat unknown journey – but are now armed with way more information from both psychiatrists and are very thankful to live in the UK.
So, this will be the last update from me on this for a while but knowledge truly is power and I know that with the help of our healthcare system- mental health teams and perinatal psychiatry/ obstetrics, my family, medication, self care etc I should be safeguarded and cared for well.
When the time is right, we pray our miracle will manifest.
Thanks for reading,
PS shout out to my parents, Rob and family for their constant support.
I havn’t been sure for many months whether I was ready or wanted to share about the many issues I have been grappling with for a number of years. However, writing for me is therapeutic and so I wanted to share about the reality of mood disorders and thinking about starting a family.
To begin with, this is such a personal and complex issue for anyone with what is termed ‘severe mental illness; ie bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis. Our illnesses mainly have to be managed on daily medication and for some people with severe mental illness, they may still live with daily symptoms which can cause difficulties for them.
So this article is my personal experience of living with Bipolar 1 disorder and anxiety. To note, I was started on Lithium in 2014 after my last hospitalisation- which has stabilised the bipolar episodes into remission (it does something to the seretonin in the brain). I still live with some anxiety, but the combination of Lithium, Quetaipine (an anti psychotic) and anti depressants has meant that I do not become manic or psychotic and nor do I suffer from severe depression or suicidal depression. I feel more stable and I have engaged in therapy for the trauma I went through, for 2 years. So, thankfully at the moment my illness is very much controlled well and I have support from Rob and my family.
One side effects of my medicines has been weight gain and I aim to lose weight over the next year. This is important to me because it can sometimes impact on fertility and also makes a pregnancy more high risk (physical side effects such as blood clots etc). I will also be 34 in July and so this has become more pressing for me in terms of wanting to try for a baby. However, there are many risks in choosing to do this and going ahead, without speaking to a perinatal psychiatrist or mental health team.
Today, I got my referral letter to the mental health team to discuss planning a pregnancy and am on an NHS waiting list til June. For me, because my type of bipolar can be dangerous with the mania and psychosis- and having had several psychotic episodes in my life to date that have ended me up in hospital- a pregnancy where I carry a baby myself, has to be carefully planned in terms of my medication. For many reasons, I want to stay on my medicines for the entire pregnancy- so that I don’t end up relapsing during or straight after pregnancy (with bipolar there is a greater risk of relapse and post partum depression/psychosis due to the hormonal changes straight after birth).
I have been terrified for a number of years over what to do in order to keep me and a potential baby safe. I have researched surrogacy so I don’t risk making myself unwell, but this comes with a whole host of legal challenges around who is the parent, high financial costs (of treatment and paying expenses for surrogate/agencies) etc and the wait for the right surrogate. Surrogates can also pull out before giving. birth, you have to put your trust in them if you don’t know them- and you are trusting them with something hugely important! We also thought about adoption but with my mental health history and the potential issues that a child in care may be facing, I just didn’t want to put myself through the stress of being scrutinised.
So, please God even if we are blessed with a healthy child- the pregnancy may be as a friend of mine has termed ‘high risk’. This scares me and it scares me about potentially ending up in hospital again, on a mother and baby unit. I want to stay on my mood stabiliser and anti psychotic so the bipolar doesn’t cause this- however, I have decided that as long as I can stay on my medication and have the support of an experienced perinatal psychiatrist and mental health team (as well as my therapist),- plus regular monitoring and scans… and of course a proper plan put in place in case of relapse, this is what I will do (again, no one knows until you start trying for a baby and there can be many hurdles but I am trying to think positively).
I have also been asked whether I am worried about passing bipolar on. This is a worry as it does run in my family- however, I believe the risk of this with one parent is only about 10% (I got unlucky). Sometimes, I sit and question- am I being selfish for wanting to be a mother? And I realise, no I am not selfish. I don’t want my potential child to get bipolar disorder but equally if they do, we will deal with it. We also both want to get tested by Jnetics as we are both Ashkenazi (East European) Jews so may be carriers for certain illnesses.
Some women don’t want to be mothers, but I always have done since I was a little girl and I can’t imagine never having a family with my husband. I want to be the best Mum I can be and reduce my illness risk as much as possible to remain stable and well.
Do I wish things were different and I didn’t have this illness? Yes. but the reality is that I do but that I have been stable for a long time. I know we will make good parents whatever way it happens and I just hope the road ahead won’t be paved with challenges… it is never easy. I write this because its not often talked about… and I know there will be more to come on this subject but I wanted to share- if you yourself are going through something similar, you aren’t alone.
It took a lot to share this because its so personal and I worry about sharing too much- but this blog has been years in the making really! There is never a right time to open up- but maybe now I can allow myself to a bit and release the burden.
People sometimes ask me if I have children (as im mid thirties and married) and my answer is always, I hope to one day soon but leave it in Gods hands.
During the 2020 COVID season, UK health experts stated that new mothers were twice likely to experience postpartum depression. The report further stated that women with babies younger than six months were the most at risk of developing this mental health condition.
While 47.5% of women may seem on the high side, it is a reality some people have faced in their motherhood experience. While science is still at a loss for the exact cause of postpartum depression, the medical fraternity believes risk factors exist.
Stress associated with new baby care
Without a doubt, baby care is a demanding responsibility. It can take a toll on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Unfortunately, women who are unable to properly manage all these three elements may increase their risks of post partum depression. Feeding, diaper/nappy changes, and constant monitoring can take all your time.
This is why experienced parents believe it is necessary to adopt certain measures to ensure you do not push yourself to the backburner. One of these measures is to sleep when your baby naps. So, how long does it take to sleep train your baby? This question is an issue many new parents struggle with as they streamline their babies’ sleeping patterns.
Preexisting mental health condition
Usually, a female with a preexisting mental health condition is believed to be at a higher risk of postpartum depression. Psychologists believe that the issue of brain chemical imbalances may significantly influence a person’s vulnerability. While the discussion on postnatal and postpartum depression continues to rage on, you may find it helpful to know the subtle difference. Postnatal depression is usually the mental health condition associated with a woman’s depressive mood in the first six weeks after birth. However, postpartum depression (PPD) refers to the period exceeding that.
According to a mayoclinic.org study, women with bipolar conditions may have a higher risk of PPD. Individuals in this category experience more depressive symptoms if the condition is left unmanaged. Additionally, a person with a history of Schizophrenia or Bipolar, may also have an increased chance of experiencing postpartum depression. Usually, women without a prior diagnosis of any preexisting mental health condition can have difficulty understanding why they have PPD.
A 2019 report by postpartumdepression.org claims a possible genetic and hereditary disposition to PPD. Although some medical circles believe the findings are inconclusive, there is a strong belief that this mental health condition can run in families. For example, if your mother experienced postpartum depression in her reproductive years, you may have inherited genes that put you at a higher risk. Indeed, this is not the kind of news people want to hear, but it is vital to be armed with this crucial piece of information.
It is worth noting that since specific genes run within biological families, the discussion of genetically inherited PPD cannot be a mere claim. PPD researchers claim that certain genetic alterations during pregnancy could indicate whether a woman would experience postpartum depression. Additionally, these researchers believe that the chances of it happening to a first-time mother may be higher than another who has had multiple births.
A drastic change in image perceptions
In many instances, women experience weight gain and other image alterations during pregnancy and after childbirth. While some women can bounce back to their former selves within weeks of birth, most take longer. For the latter group, the drastic change in physical appearance can affect their self-confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, the inability to embrace these physical body changes could contribute to postpartum depression.
A preemptive measure may be to embrace the fact that a changed appearance is a part of the pregnancy and childbirth journey. If you find that too hard to believe, you may find it helpful to be patient in the ‘waiting period.’ This is the phase when women’s bodies gradually return to the pre-pregnant state. If you can psych yourself up in this period, you can reduce your chances of developing an image-induced PPD.
Absence of social support after birth
Contrary to public perception, single mothers are not the most at risk of absent support. Undoubtedly, the absence of a partner may double up the burden of baby care. However, this issue cuts across both divides. Whether you have a partner or not, the absence of a support group from family or friends can increase your risk of postpartum depression.
Post partum depression can be a difficult struggle, but it is one that can be overcome with support. Reach for help from your doctor or psychiatrist, friends and family and support groups/ other mums too. You may decide to take anti depressants or engage in therapy to help. There are also helplines and charities out there to help new mums with mental health issues, including PPD. You are not alone!
This article was written by a freelance writer and contains affiliate links.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a severe medical condition that many mothers experience. It’s a condition that occurs to a mother after she gives birth to a newborn. You might be feeling hopeless as you try to be a mother — maybe your birthing process didn’t go as planned, or perhaps you’re having trouble breastfeeding.
The symptoms of PPD can last a long time. They’re severe as well, and if left untreated, you could develop something more serious that may pose a danger to you or your child. It’s essential to learn about postpartum depression to know if this is happening to you or even your loved one.
Know that if you have PPD, it is not your fault. It’s a medical condition that requires treatment if you want to get better. Here’s what you need to know about PPD so you can keep yourself, your loved one and the baby healthy and safe.
Defining Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a medical condition associated with extreme feelings of worry, sadness, tiredness and hopelessness that women experience after giving birth. These feelings can last a long time, making it hard for new moms to take care of themselves and the baby.
This condition can occur any time after childbirth. Even though it usually starts within a few weeks after having a baby, it can begin later, too, even up to a year after birth. It often doesn’t go away on its own and needs professional treatment to get better.
Although it is common for people to feel sad or empty, it’s not common for it to last as long as it does with PPD. It’s also not an expected part of becoming a mother. PPD affects your behaviour and physical health and gets in the way of day-to-day life.
It’s Not the Same as Baby Blues
More women experience baby blues after childbirth, but this is not the same as postpartum depression. Baby blues have similar symptoms of PPD, but those feelings don’t last nearly as long and usually go away naturally after a few days or a week. PPD symptoms last much longer and the emotions are more intense.
Baby blues are more like mood swings. New mothers have to grapple with being a mum for the first time and everything that goes with it. Of course, they’re going to feel anxious, stressed and upset at times. The sudden hormonal changes can do a lot to a woman’s mind and body, but the hormones eventually level out and women can handle the feelings independently.
It’s Fairly Common
You are not alone if you suffer from postpartum depression. In fact, about one in eight women will experience PPD in their lifetime. Postpartum depression estimates can vary by state, age and race, and can be as high as one in five women in some parts of the world.
Additionally, PPD is often higher for first-time mothers. However, it can happen to mothers who have had many kids, and it can reoccur in each pregnancy. Rates may be even higher than estimates because not all women will report or seek help if they think they have postpartum depression. PPD is more common in women who have had a history of depression, too.
It Can Affect Your Child
Postpartum depression can make it more difficult for you to care for yourself and also your baby. If your PPD goes on without treatment:
You might end up skipping your postpartum checkups for you and your baby, which can lead to other health and developmental problems.
It may be more challenging to bond with your child, which can affect breastfeeding.
Your newborn may not get the medical attention they need.
Getting the proper treatment and recognising that you or a loved one may be suffering from PPD can better the chances of the new baby thriving.
It Comes with Many Signs and Symptoms
Mothers will often feel overwhelmed when they bring their new babies home. There are regular hormonal changes that occur, and being a mother poses a new lifestyle all in itself. However, there are signs and symptoms that may be leading to PPD. If these occur for more than two weeks, then you need to seek medical attention:
Feeling hopeless, sad and overwhelmed
Crying more than normal
Having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Feeling like a bad mother or worthless
Changing sleep patterns
Withdrawing from friends, family and life in general
Not having any interest in your newborn
Eating too little or too much
Having physical pains, like headaches and stomach aches, that won’t go away
New mothers or even mums who have had other children may feel ashamed or embarrassed if they feel depressed (although its OK to feel this way) and may not seek the help they need. You don’t have to suffer, though — reach out to a doctor if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms.
It Can Be Prevented
While PPD is treatable, it can also be somewhat prevented. If you have had depression in the past, you can get counselling before giving birth to discuss your feelings about having a child.
Two kinds of counselling can work best to prevent PPD for women at an increased risk. The first is cognitive-behavioural therapy, which helps you manage negative thoughts by changing your thoughts and actions. The second is interpersonal therapy, which helps you identify and deal with problems in your life.
There is hope for those who have PPD. The earlier you seek medical help, though, the better off you and your baby will be. Common types of treatment for postpartum depression include therapy, medicines prescribed by your doctor and, in severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy.
At home, you should rest as much as possible. Additionally, talk to your partner, join a support group and make time to visit with other people.
Take It One Day at a Time
With time and support, you can make it through this season of Post partum depression. You are not alone.
This article was written by writer Kara Reynolds, editor in chief at Momish.
A new bundle of joy in the family is indeed a happy addition. While welcoming a new baby is a joyous event, new mothers also have a lot of things to keep in mind. Not to mention, mothers have to make huge adjustments in their routines, schedules, and even hobbies just to make time for the baby.
New mothers are also recommended to get enough rest. However, with an infant to care for, most mothers would not even have much time for themselves. And that’s where fathers should step up.
New mothers need both physical assistance and emotional support. Baby care and household chores are part of physical assistance. Emotional support can be done in various ways. But letting new mothers have a day for themselves is more than enough. Caring for a baby could get exhausting, and having a self-care day can help mothers refresh and recharge themselves after a gruelling week.
Fathers, or partners, can always help in both aspects. But aside from simply volunteering to change diapers and give bottled milk, here are some more ways to assist new mothers:
Have Your Fair Share Of Chores
This is one of the main things that partners can do to help eliminate the stress and burden of new mothers. Most of the time, your wife may not be able to wash the dishes or mop the floors because she needs to attend to the baby.
So, why not volunteer to do the dishes every night? Or help with the laundry each week during your day off? Helping around the house will definitely lessen the physical stress for new moms. Offering to disinfect or sterilise the baby’s things is also a great idea. The extra time they get can be spent resting or bonding with the baby.
Cook or Order Takeout (takeaway)
Just like household chores, cooking also takes time. Most new moms don’t even have the time to think about meal prep or planning. So, might as well just take things into your own hands! You can volunteer to either prepare breakfast or cook dinner so your partner can get more sleep. If you’re working long hours and there’s not much time for you to prepare dinner at night, then offer to order takeout instead.
Offer A Spa or Massage Day
New mothers direly need, and would highly appreciate, a self-care day. Sending them off to a spa or massage session would definitely lift up their mood and calm their mind. Doing this at least once a month can help improve their mental and emotional state. Mothers need a break from all that baby care too! But make sure to have someone reliable enough to care for the baby while mom is away. You can volunteer to do it yourself but if you need to take care of work or other errands, then you may hire a nanny or leave the baby with grandparents or a trusted family member for the day.
If it’s not possible for you or your wife to go out to a spa or massage service, then you can book a home service instead. You can also plan and prepare a homemade bubble bath that your wife can soak and relax in!
Avoid Adding More Pressure
New mothers might be overly conscious and anxious that they aren’t doing a great job with the baby and the house. On your part, you must also understand that they cannot fulfill household duties 100% all the time, since they also have a baby to care for.
So, if you see that the kitchen is not clean, floors are dirty and unswept, and the laundry is already piling up, don’t take it out on her. Instead, ask her which task she may need help with and communicate how you can work together to make sure that basic household duties are still maintained while also caring for the baby.
Appreciate What She Does
New mothers are always overwhelmed, but a simple appreciation will make them feel happier and secured. Many new moms are always thinking that they aren’t doing a good job (even if they are). So, don’t forget to remind them that they are doing great and that you appreciate everything she does for the house and the baby. Most of all, it’s best to remind them that as long as the baby is happy and healthy, then they’re doing more than a good job already.
Encourage Social Interaction
The mental and emotional stress that new mothers feel is sometimes caused by being cooped up in the house for too long. While she can spend more time bonding with the baby and communicating with you, remember that a healthy adult also needs a well-rounded social relationship.
So, encourage your wife to go out and see her friends over coffee sometimes! Recommend a mom group in your area that she may be interested in, or if your wife thinks she should see a therapist to help with postpartum depression or anxiety, then help her book a session.
A new mother would usually insist on being more hands on with her baby, and this is not a surprise, since it is just part of human nature. However, it does not mean that they don’t need the help and support from others—especially from a partner.
Assisting a new mother would not take much time, a simple gesture and moment of appreciation can already do wonders. However, it’s important to also help them with physical tasks to ease their stress and burden. Most of all, it’s important to do these things consistently.
Jess Levine is an experienced writer who loves creating articles that can benefit others. She has worked as a freelance writer in the past making informative articles and fascinating stories. She has extensive knowledge in a variety of fields such as healthcare, technology, business, finance, marketing, personal development, and more.
We have a lot of mental health awareness in the modern day. Barely a week goes by without it being mentioned that mental health is important, and that it’s “OK not to be OK”. By now, for sure, we’re all quite aware of mental health. What might be needed more from this point on is mental health understanding, because while people and organisations are more than ready to acknowledge the existence of conditions like depression, fewer are forthcoming with any practical help.
One of the problems that we have right now is that mental health issues were ignored and mocked for so long that – now we have some acceptance of their impact – a lot of people don’t have the language to deal with them. Well-meaning people might say “depression is an illness, just like X”, and not really understand that it can be seen as an unhelpful statement. It would be helpful for people with depression if the following facts were widely known.
A good day with depression doesn’t mean the problem is gone
A lot of the language used around mental illness, and particularly depression, portrays it as a steady, relentless grind – and it sure feels like that most of the time. As a result, when someone who has been suffering opens up, has a laugh and is “more like their old self”, their loved ones might see light at the end of the tunnel. Depression is a complicated condition, unfortunately, and even that brief spell of happiness might trigger a period of guilt, which deepens a depressive episode. This complication is part of what makes it so insidious.
“Looking on the bright side” isn’t a productive strategy
It’s easy to understand why people try to talk around someone dealing with depression by pointing to all the positives in life. It would seem like a productive strategy, because if they see a bright side, they will surely feel better. Right? Unfortunately not. While there are plenty of useful tips for dealing with depression, this is not one of them. Reminding people of how life is good and could be worse is more likely to make them feel like, on top of all the bad things they are feeling, they’re also ungrateful. It doesn’t help.
Depression doesn’t come from any single source
Some people believe that depression is a response to negative life situations. Others argue that it is a result of underproduction of serotonin in the brain. Both sides are right, and both are also wrong; depression isn’t solely chemically-driven, nor is it purely down to circumstances, and this means that you can’t fight it with medication alone. At the same time, it may not be possible to fight it without medication. Finding the right combination to beat depression (or at least sideline it) isn’t an overnight thing, but it is achievable.
The best advice you can give someone with depression is that, in time, things will get better and that’s all you want for them. Acknowledge that it will take time, and that you’ll be there for them, but don’t ever try to argue them out of it.
It’s no surprise that our mental health is affected by the culture around us and our technology-based lifestyles. Every day we are bombarded with stimuli and information that influences our mental and emotional states and alters our opinions and worldviews. This is happening all the time, every day.
Today, we spend so much time online that it has become second nature, and we are losing important social skills and mental abilities that were once considered essential for a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to remember the impact technology has on us and adapt our lifestyles to include more nourishing practices. You can do this with a digital detox, read on to discover more.
Spend time offline
Depression comes in many forms and is very common. You can be mildly depressed due to a situation eg something that happened in work, or clinically depressed meaning you have a low mood that doesn’t seem to go away and only medication seems to help. Any state of depression can be exacerbated by using the Internet.
Those who overuse the Internet are prone to depression, researchers have found. This may be due to the lifestyle of heavy Internet usage that limits social contact and encourages a stay at home mentality, but it could also be caused by mental feedback loops when feeling of depression and low mood are reinforced through Internet behaviour.
Naturally, there are several solutions to the issue. If you experience low mood coupled with high Internet usage, consider switching off for a period or limiting your usage in the week. Instead of Internet usage, try a different activity such as talking to friends and family or taking a nature walk.
Limit SmartPhone Usage
Smartphones are a wonderful invention, as are mobile phones for seniors; they are portable computers and communication tools, essentially. But there are some underlying issues associated with them, especially with regards to mental well being. It’s thought, for instance, that high smartphone usage can increase anxiety and feelings of unease and restlessness. It’s no wonder with so much of our lives dependent on them.
Smartphones can increase anxiety due to our attachments to using them. We not only store important everyday information on them; we also communicate through them, socially and for work. In some ways, our smartphones have become our gateway to the world, and it’s difficult to put them down sometimes or go a few minutes without checking them for updates.
Although it’s challenging a successful digital detox will involve a reduction of smartphone usage. You can limit your usage by making certain rules for yourself. The phone is not allowed in the bedroom, for instance, or you are only allowed a certain percentage of screen time per day. Train yourself to use the smartphone less and create discipline by opening up other avenues of communication.
Log Off Social Media
The Internet is useful for many things, but no one knows what it’s main purpose is; that said if it’s meant for anything, it’s meant for communication. Social media is an online phenomenon that has emerged or evolved throughout the age of the Internet, from chat rooms in the early days, to MySpace and then Facebook and others. There are now 2.7 billion Facebook users worldwide.
Although this platform is an excellent way to communicate with friends and relatives globally, to start businesses, sell things, and market services, there are some hidden dangers that can lead to anxiety and depression in people, some of whom are unable to escape from their online habits.
Everyone on Facebook presents the best possible image of themselves, which leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem when some people start comparing and contrasting. The reality is that many people experience issues in their lives, and no one is as perfect as how they like to be perceived. Logging off social media for a time can greatly benefit your mental wellbeing.
Social Media Dangers
The dangers of social media extend beyond low self-esteem based on comparisons. Facebook and Instagram may be the catalyst for such conditions, but the conditions can then manifest in various ways and cause long term mental and physical health issues. Disorders such as anorexia and addiction can worsen from heavy usage.
A phenomenon that affects mainly women is an increase in body awareness and adaptive behaviour based on the effects of social media. Since so much of social media feeds are occupied with perfect images, some women feel pressured into conforming and changing their body shape to achieve positive attention. This encourages eating disorders like anorexia or body dysmorphia.
This all points to a reduction in social media usage for improved mental wellbeing. It should also highlight the consequences of comparing ourselves to others. You can limit your social media usage by deleting your apps for a period, perhaps a week or a month. It doesn’t mean you have to leave the website, but train yourself to develop healthier online habits.
Improve your Sleep
Researchers have found that the average person requires eight hours of sleep per night to go through their full sleep cycles. What’s more, your sleep should happen through the night due to your circadian rhythms – these help keep the chemicals in your brain properly balanced so that you regulate and maintain optimal mental wellbeing.
Technology can influence and disturb your sleep patterns and cause insomnia in extreme cases. Harford researchers discovered that the blue light from laptops phones and devices was sufficient to reduce the levels of melatonin in your system. Melatonin is the chemical responsible for putting you to sleep. So using your screen every night in bed might cause you to fall asleep later and feel more drained in the morning.
A digital detox is recommended if you find your sleep pattern is disturbed for some unknown reason.
Make your bedroom and technology-free zone. Leave all your devices elsewhere in the house and take a book to bed instead. Reading a book does not have a digital glow and should help you fall asleep faster. You might also delay your technology usage in the morning shortly after waking.
Above all, look after your mental wellbeing and detox when you need to.
On Wednesday 4th November, National Stress Awareness Day, Superdrug invited me to a zoom virtual panel event highlighting men’s mental health.
They said, ‘The event will aim to break taboos and increase the conversation around the mental health challenges that men have faced during the current coronavirus pandemic. ‘
We had a chance to listen to some famous and insightful panelists, including
Professor Green – Award winning musician and patron of CALM charity
Chris Hughes– TV personality
Matt Johnson– Broadcaster and mental health advocate
Alexander Leon– Writer and social change advocate
Dr Amir Khan– Doctor and best selling author
In October 2020, Superdrug conducted research to find out how the pandemic is currently affecting people’s mental health.
The research was conducted among 3419 of its customers. Key findings are highlighted below:
● 86% of people believe men find it more difficult talking about mental health issues than women
● 82% of people believe there’s still too much stigma attached to mental health problems
● 71% don’t think employers take mental health problems seriously enough
● 80% of people would like to see mental health services being made more accessible to people
● 66% people said that their mental health is still being impacted by the pandemic.
As a result, Superdrug decided to launch a new service, known as Mind Care Superdrug. There will be an online doctor for people to find mental health support, with a video consultation and people will be referred to appropriate services. This will be a huge step forward and is an amazing thing to do!
Matt Johnson opened the panel, introducing each pannelist in turn to discuss men’s mental health. For me as woman, I recognise how important it is for men to speak out about their feelings after generations of stigma around mental health.
Professor Green talked about his battle with life long anxiety, saying ‘You just want to get out out of your own skin’, anxiety can be difficult but in life we encounter difficulties and learn to build resilience. Prof Green experienced anxiety as a child and teenager and still deals with it to this day and promotes talking about men’s mental health. He also spoke later in the discussion about self harm in men, to include drug and alcohol abuse and his familys own experience of suicide.
Chris Hughes then spoke about his anxiety and panic attacks, saying he was ‘proud to discuss it openly now‘. He said that before he became well known, he would get anxiety in the workplace that he tried to distract from by going to the gym. However, it didn’t work as well and now he is in the limelight, he has experienced panic attacks, which would manifest as pins and needles in his body and hyperventilation. Hughes shares about his mental health to help others, especially men, through it so they stop bottling feelings up.
Alex Leon told us that he was (in his words), ‘gay, brown and didn’t fit in’. He reminded us that LGBTQ and minority communities often have poor mental health due to a lack of acceptance. He said that 75% of suicide rates in the UK are men and that the narrative that ‘big boys don’t cry and men should just get on with it‘, should be addressed. Leon asked ‘what forms of stigma do men face?‘ and said often it is ‘Be stoic’ ‘be unemotional’ or ‘here is what a man or boy should be‘ – which all lead to poor mental health outcomes.
Dr Amir Khan also introduced himself and his work as a doctor in the UK- a GP working with mens mental health. He agreed with a lot of what Alexander Leon said and offered some profound insights.
The discussion then came back to Professor Green, who told the discussion that sadly his Dad and uncle had died by suicide and he felt mental illness ran in his family. He has struggled with depression and said, ‘ We all chase happiness. You should feel highs and lows- when I don’t feel anything is when I worry’.
Chris Hughes said we must normalise the conversation around mental health and Alex Leon added that self compassion is so important.
I very much enjoyed the panel discussion and really appreciated the chance to hear from great speakers on mens mental health. Superdrug are definitely ahead of the game!
I wasn’t paid for this article but Superdrug sent me a box of wellbeing goodies including Vitamin D tablets, vitamin tea, lavender and peppermint essential oils, sleep aids, moisture socks for feet with marula oil and a pampering skin and body set. Thank you!
Almost everyone goes through an episode of depression at some point in life. For some, the problem is severe and protracted. During the episodic depression, bouts leave you feeling hopeless and exhausted, making it difficult to be productive and present in your daily life. Although depression is a severe health condition, treatment brings hope to the affected. Once depression symptoms are controlled, knowing common triggers and how to avoid them can save you from a depressive episode.
It is important to seek help in the form of treatment from a doctor- whether that is medication or counselling.
When you feel that stressors, such as tight deadlines, are too challenging to manage, you become overwhelmed. Emotional overwhelm is more than feeling stressed. It means you are completely submerged by emotions and thoughts about your current problems, to a point of feeling paralysed.
It is a scary and confusing experience that might leave you with limited functionality and an inability to think and act rationally. Whether caused by stressful times at your workplace or traumatic experiences of loss, overwhelm can trigger depression. Minimise depression triggers by knowing your limits and boundaries of what you can take in and what can cause overwhelm. For overwhelming tasks, break them down into smaller, manageable tasks for you to complete in steps.
Money woes are a common source of stress that can cause a depressive episode. Focus on projects that increase your financial stability like side hustles. Avoid concentrating on what you do not have since it increases your worry. Customize your budget and do regular reviews to stay aware of your cash flow and financial situation.
Create a savings plan and make monthly deposits to the account so that you are less worried about the future. Go for local events that are free or cost-effective so that you can socialise at a budget. Remain engaged with your hobbies or spend time with loved ones to avoid overthinking about your financial situation.
Seek support from your doctor, if needed.
Some people indulge in alcohol and other substances to cope with depression. Most are drawn to alcohol’s sedative effects to help distract them from feelings of sadness. While alcohol can relieve some of depression’s symptoms in the short term, it can worsen depression in the long run.
As a person experiences the financial and social consequences of alcohol misuse, their worries increase, and relationships deteriorate, leading to an episode of depression. This leads to a vicious cycle of alcohol abuse to self-medicate some symptoms of depression. If taking antidepressants for depression, avoid alcohol since the depressant effects of alcohol counterattacks the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Poor Sleep Habits
There is a direct relationship between poor sleep and depression episodes. People that sleep less than six hours and more than eight hours have a high risk of experiencing recurrent depressive episodes than those who sleep the recommended six to eight hours. Practice good sleep habits, such as maintaining a consistent bed and wake time.
Turn off all electronics hours before bedtime to avoid overstimulation for better sleep. Reduce any source of discomfort, such as an old mattress. Look for the best adjustable mattress bases for maximum comfort and relaxed nighttime. Take a warm bath, meditate, or have a warm glass of milk to help you fall asleep fast.
A Poor Diet
Dietary habits can lead to depressive episodes. Consume more healthy foods with a focus on whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables for improved mental health. Limit processed and refined foods, including junk and fried foods. Look for foods high in selenium like whole grains and Brazil nuts to reduce anxiety and improve mood, making depression manageable.
Go for vitamin B sources such as egg, poultry, fish, and lean meat as they help to reduce the symptoms and risk of mood disorders, including depression. Eat food rich in zinc or use zinc supplements to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants for better depression management. Hydrate regularly with water or soft drinks for better moods.
Depression can be life-changing due to frequent worries, but treatment- medication and counselling can help manage the disorder. Make lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet, better sleep, and less worry for improved well-being.