How to Transform Social Anxiety/Phobia by Lewis McDonnell at Phobia Support Forum

(image: Pexels: Brett Jordan)

Social anxiety is quite common but it affects people in different ways, situations and circumstances. Some people may find they have anticipatory anxiety before certain events, like interview days, big events like weddings and public speaking. But for those that suffer with everyday social anxiety this can be equally debilitating.

Living with social anxiety can be tough because it literally affects everything we do. From the choices we make, activities we participate in, opportunities that are presented to us and naturally, the way we live our lives. It can also have a huge impact on the direction of our life and how it unfolds.

For many people living with social anxiety, it can range from mild to very extreme. It’s often triggered due to particular circumstances. Big events such as:

  • Going on a date
  • Meeting new friends
  • New job interview.

It can also be triggered by everyday events. For example:-

  • Going to the supermarkets or the shops
  • Speaking with the cash register assistant
  • Asking for directions
  • Walking around in public places.

In order to address the many challenges of social anxiety, we need to understand the specific causes.

Causes

Social anxiety manifests itself as tension in the body, elevated heart rate, paranoia, awkwardness, inhibition, not being able to express ourselves in certain moments where we want/need to. This is often caused by the beliefs and the ideas that we hold in our mind. When these are triggered, or we are provoked/threatened by the particular circumstance, this is when the anxiety kicks in.

In our everyday existence, we have two types of thinking.

One type of thinking is known as logistical thinking. This is simply our organisational logical thinking such as, today, I need to get the train. Or we may have thought when we go to the shop, I’m going to buy apples today, they are on the list, together with potatoes and rice. It’s very logistical. This kind of thinking holds no real emotion and is more matter of fact.

However, most people living with social anxiety describe themselves as self-conscious and this is an accurate description of the second kind of thinking, known as self-referential thinking.

Self-referential thinking is where we are referring back to ourselves.

For example… we might have the logistical thought, OK, I need to get the train. But then self-referential thinking would come in, making us consider, what happens if I miss the train? What happens if I’m late for work? What happens if the train is delayed? What will people on the train think of me? Should I be getting the train to work rather than driving?

This is where we apply personal meaning to our circumstances and to the logistical tasks of the day. We give it meaning that relates back to our self-image and identity. Within this, self-referential thinking is where a lot of anxiety is created.

Examples of self-referential thinking

Note: everyone is unique and everyone has their own thought patterns, leanings and identity. Here are some examples of self-referential thinking that can provoke anxiety in people:-

  • What will people think of me?
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • I hope I don’t come across as being awkward.
  • What if I embarrass myself?
  • Are they looking at me?
  • What if I make a mistake?

All of these thoughts can be considered seeds. The first domino in the sequence triggers the momentum of catastrophizing self-referential thinking. This can lead to a sense of anxiety, dread, panic or embarrassment.

(image: Cloudlead blog)

Struggle with social anxiety

I actually used to really struggle with social anxiety and this would prevent me from speaking in front of groups. It would make me feel very self-conscious and on edge when I was in supermarkets, when I was around people in public places. I’d often worry about what other people were thinking of me or how I was coming across and I really used to beat myself up over this. It made me feel as though I was somehow inferior or there was something wrong with me.

In my quest to beat social anxiety, I tried a lot of things to try and overcome this. Some of the things I found most impactful were part of my own professional therapy training.

During our practice sessions with my colleagues, we would get to work through many of our fears and anxieties. That provided me with a great deal of relief and clarity.

Another thing that really helped me was the concept of self-acceptance. Because it’s often the things that we reject about ourselves that we then project onto other people. So if we don’t like the shape of our body or the way we look, we will assume that perhaps other people won’t like that either. But that is a projection of our mind onto these people.

It’s none of our business what other people think, it matters more about what we think and self-acceptance is a beautiful concept. A practice where we draw in the things that we feel such great resistance to. Then we seek to embrace it, accept it and claim ownership over it. That way we take back our power and finally give ourselves permission to exist as we are, without judgement or criticism.

After all, this is about reclaiming your sovereignty, your identity, your freedom from these thoughts, insecurities and worries. These are the things holding you back from living your best life, enjoying your life and fulfilling your potential.

Comedians have social confidence

Take comedians for example, they often talk about embarrassing moments and they talk about all the taboo topics such as farting and other awkward encounters whilst everyone in the audience cringes with laughter at the shock factor.

But whilst the audience cringes with laughter, the comedian stands there proudly and boldly, proclaiming to the world. They take ownership of their so-called insecurity or embarrassing moments and they do so with confidence. That’s because a confident person is a self-accepting person. They have claimed ownership over their embarrassing moments and taken their power back from them.

Bringing self-awareness into your thoughts

The first stage of transforming your anxiety is bringing self-awareness to your thought process. The question you need to ask yourself is: What is making me feel anxious?

Some people are afraid of judgement, criticism, embarrassment, drawing attention to themselves, being the odd one out, being rejected.

Whatever it is to you will be unique and if you spend time thinking about this, you will begin to get a clearer understanding of what’s really generating all of this anxiety. It can be helpful to use a notepad and pen for this exercise.

Social anxiety is just a symptom of an unconscious behavioural response. The good news is that it can be changed because all behaviours can be changed. This isn’t something that you’re born with. This isn’t something that you’re destined to live with for the rest of your life. It is something that can be resolved and there are many ways to do this.

Taking the right path for you

Some people feel inspired to take the route of exposure and setting themselves social challenges. This is done in the way of, OK, if I’m afraid of talking to people or more afraid of what people think, I’ll set myself a challenge. Every time I go out in a social situation, I’ll ask someone for the time or ask the shop assistant, how are you doing today?

But whilst that’s all very well for a lot of people living with social anxiety, it can be very intense and confronting, even just getting to that stage can be challenging. So for that reason, professional one to one therapy can be really helpful for this.

Some recommendations would be to first find a therapist that you trust, that you feel a genuine connection with them. Always check to see if they have a proven track record for helping people get results, and that they really are an expert in their field.

Once you find that connection, build that trust and learn to enjoy your unique character, your anxiety levels will fall as you take back control.

Social anxiety is an unconscious behavioural response that’s generated by our beliefs and thought processes, all of which can be challenged and changed..

Conclusion

At some point in our lives, the vast majority of humans on this earth will experience a degree of anxiety in certain social settings. How we react, adapt and behave within these settings is dictated by our attitude and perception of the experience.

This article was written by Lewis McDonnell from the Phobia Support Forum.

Starting The Conversation: 5 Tips On How To Talk To Your Boss About Your Mental Health

Image by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels

According to new data from Mental Health Statistics, during 2020, 58% of workers experienced some kind of work-related stress, while 63% were experiencing moderate levels of anxiety. 

Health experts have warned, that if these mental health issues are left untreated, it can impact our day-to-day lives, including the ability to do our jobs. 

That’s why the team of experts at Delamere, have shared five ways to open up the conversation about mental health with your employer: 

  1. Find the Right Time and Place to Talk  

When approaching the conversation of mental health with your employer, one thing that will help is finding the right time to talk. Talking to your boss on a day when they seem overwhelmed might result in you not getting the best response, so make sure to schedule a call or an in-person conversation with them ahead of time.

As well as the right time, it’s also important to find an appropriate place to have the conversation. Find a place that will allow you to talk in a professional and calm way, and is a quiet space in your workplace. If somewhere suitable isn’t available you could also suggest meeting outside the office or even going for a walk. 

  1. Plan what you are going to say ahead of your meeting

Before speaking to your manager one of the best ways you can prepare is by planning what you want to discuss ahead of time. This will not only calm any nerves you might be having ahead of the conversation but will also ensure that you are only sharing what is needed to frame how your mental health is impacting your work.

Points you can prepare in advance could include, identifying tasks within your current role and workload that is making you stressed, reminding your boss of your achievements so that they remember you are more than capable, explaining what factors might need to change in order to help you.

  1. Decide Who To Speak To 

If you decide to open up to your employer about your mental health, consider who you will feel most comfortable having the conversation with. 

If you have a good relationship with one of your managers, it might be helpful talking to them about what you are going through. However, if you find that they aren’t very approachable, consider speaking to someone within your HR department that will be able to help you.

  1. Consider That Your Boss May be More Receptive Than You Think

Though talking about your mental health with your employer may feel like an uncomfortable situation, they may actually be more understanding than you anticipate them to be. 

Mental illness is very common illness and a lot of people, unfortunately, suffer from this in the workplace. So when you start the conversation, the chances are your boss or employer will have already had direct experience with dealing with it or even experienced it themselves. 

  1. Focus on Your Productivity and Ability to Work

To get the most out of your conversation with your employer, think beforehand about how your mental health is impacting your productivity and ability to work.

If you go into the meeting with this already prepared, the chances are you will have greater success coming up with solutions on how your employer can support you and what you need to get better. Whether it’s more flexible working hours or a lighter workload.

This article was written by Delamere residential addiction care.

Our Blog is 6 Years Old Today!

On the 1st March 2016, I started this blog as a way to provide therapy for myself- as I was going through panic attacks, (caused by trauma due to a hospitalisation for a bipolar manic episode). Since then I have had several years of EMDR trauma therapy and my life changed so much too- I met my husband, we got married and moved to our first home. I also found a career I love after many twists and turns due to mental illness. Life is never plain sailing especially with mental health and I still live with panic attacks/ social anxiety at times but am learning to manage them.

The blog has turned into a book Bring me to Light (with Trigger), writing for Metro.co.uk, Glamour, the Telegraph, Happiful, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and other incredible organisations, I have partnered with large and small brands, charities, businesses, writers to create content that battles stigma on mental health. We have been awarded as a Top 10 UK blog by Vuelio since 2018 (thank you) and I love to share my story to help others and educate people about bipolar, anxiety, panic disorders, psychosis, mania and mental health in the workplace (amongst other mental health topics!). I have also recorded podcasts – most recently with Dr Rosena Allin Khan MP, shadow minister for mental health, Daniel Rosenberg at SodsPod and was also interviewed by Penny Power OBE with my Dad Mike (who is a mental health speaker).

When I started this blog I had no idea where it would lead and its been the most special, humbling and amazing journey- with so much more to do so watch this space!. I really want to help more people this year and also have a childrens book I would love to get out there to help kids with anxiety.

As always, I want to thank all my contributors and brands (sponsored or not), as well as the digital agencies and freelance writers who provide content too. I hope to keep it going for the next year at least! Let me know what you want to see.

This year heres what we have been talking about (and big thank you to everyone. If it doesnt have a name by it, content has been written by a writer):



How social distancing is affecting social anxiety in the pandemic- Anita Ginsburg

Book Review of the Smart Girls Handbook by Scarlett Clark- me (Eleanor)

Being kind to myself, social anxiety and life in recovery- me (Eleanor)

Self care ideas for positive change in 2021

How to cope with top 4 challenging life events

The Book of Hope launchme

Sending self care packages- a guide to sending gifts

Feel less trapped with these powerful ideas

6 Tips to stay positive and help mental health

Moving to our First Home and mental health- me

How to reach for help and not be ashamed

Whats the connection between mental health and addiction- Jennifer at Mandala Healing

We are a top UK mental health blog 2021- thanks Vuelio- Me

Can you still get health insurance cover if you have a history of mental illness?

The benefits of seeking mental health support and help

The link between debt and mental health

Start Up founders are 50% more likely to suffer from a mental health condition- Daniel Tannenbaum

How can mental health workers cope with the new normal?

Easing the burden of divorce- Brooke Chaplan

Stress and Panic Attacks Part two- Me

How to remain independent and look after your health as you get older

How selfie changed my life and mental health- Kathryn Chapman

The benefits of personal training for your mental health- Life Force Fitness

Recovery from alcohol or substance abuse: benefits of a sober living home

6 Ways Fathers can Assist New Mothers- Jess Levine

Work in progress- healing from trauma to find the light- me

Is stress affecting your skin? heres how to tell

Prioritising mental health on the world stage, Simone biles- me

Why privacy is critical for our mental health

Goal setting for mental health

Moving house? 5 tips to deal with moving stress

4 Ways to make mental health a priority in your life- Emma Sturgis

What you need to know about post Partum Depression- Kara Reynolds

The Midnight Library book review- me

5 interior design ideas to boost wellbeing

Steps to help aging and wellbeing

How to keep your children in mind during a divorce-Brooke Chaplan

Bryony Gordons mental health card collection for Thortful.com

The Inquisitive-a film on mental health and suicide- Kelvin Richards

Being self compassionate when I have anxiety- me

Keeping things stress free when selling an elderly family members home

7 Bipolar disorder facts everyone should know- Ronnie Deno

Recovering from an eating disorder- Kara Masterson

Wellbeing tips and activities for children- collaboration with Twinkl resources

Building trust in a relationship

How sleep patterns affect your mental health

Choosing life and freedom- my therapy journey- me

Dealing with imposter syndrome

Confidence on return to the office

lifestyles and mental health- Anna Witcherley at Head Hacks

Stress and mild anxiety formula- Nu mind wellness

Mental health problems in the pandemic- Webdoctor.ie

Patient transport helps anxious travellers- EMA Patient transport

How to stop signs of traumatic brain injury- Lizzie Weakley

Looking after mental health in a tense office environment

Dealing with anxiety as a mom/mum- Kara Reynolds

5 Self help books for 2022

Winter mental health and anxiety update- me

Tips to fight addiction- Lizzie Weakley

Lockdown, sleep, anxiety and mental health- collaboration with TEMPUR mattresses (ad)

Helping elderly people to live independently

Getting your loved one help for their addiction- Emma Sturgis

How to support your spouse with mental health issues- Kara Reynolds

Battling co occurring mental health and substance addiction- Holly

Festive season- me

Its Okay not to be Okay by Esther Marshall book review- me

The difference between a therapist and life coach- Lizzie Weakley

Managing mental health over christmas/ festive time- me

Reflecting on a new year 2022- me

Surviving trauma makes relationships difficult- self compassion helps- Taylor Blanchard

Window to the womb launches avocado app for perinatal wellbeing

Where to start when battling addiction- Rachelle Wilber

Mental health new year resolutions

Book review- Pushing through the cracks- Emily J Johnson- me

Depression meals when life gets hard- Kara Reynolds

Jami see mental health campaign blog

Recovering from cancer- the mental health aspect- Rachelle Wilber

Outdoor activities to improve your mental health- Elizabeth Howard

Mental health and eating disorder recovery journey- Emily J. Johnson

Fitness and mental health

Interview with Penny Power MBE, Thomas Power and Mike Segall on bipolar disorder

Self love for Valentines Day- with Kalms (ad)

Being debt free and in good mental health for 2022

Mental health medication- fighting the stigma- me

Overcoming alcohol addiction- Rachelle Wilber

Spiritual tips for helping mental health

Risk factors for post partum depression

Wow! Thank you for supporting me and the blog, for continuing to read and share it and to help battle the stigma around not only bipolar disorder and anxiety- but every mental illness.

Love,

Eleanor x

Mental Health Chat With Penny Power OBE and Thomas Power of Business Is Personal with Myself and my Dad Mike Segall. Our Journey With Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety.


Yesterday, 9th Feb, my dad Mike and I were honoured to be interviewed by his friends of many years, Penny Power OBE and Thomas Power of Business is Personal- live on Linkedin, Youtube and Facebook.

They asked us to come on their weekly show to talk about our hereditary journey with bipolar disorder and anxiety and shed light on all things mental health.

It was a real pleasure to talk all about our lives and how my Dad was diagnosed with bipolar just 4 years before me.

Trigger warning: discusses suicidal ideation and psychosis.


Thanks Penny and Thomas! We hope it battles stigma around this much misunderstood illness. Watch here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fghp8RNTvX0

How to Support Your Spouse with Mental Health Issues: by Kara Reynolds.

(image: Pexels)

Providing support to anyone with a mental health issue is challenging, to say the least. But when that person is your spouse, the situation is even more complicated. At worst, it’s confusing and overwhelming. At best, you might be walking on eggshells. However, being there for your partner during this difficult time will ultimately bring you closer together.

Here are a few ways to support your spouse so you both can emerge from this stronger than you were before. 

1. Help Them Help Themselves 

In the United States, nearly half of those with clinical-level mental health issues don’t seek help. Instead, they try to handle their illness on their own or simply give up hope, both of which can quickly send them into a downward spiral. 

Therefore, if you notice potential symptoms of a mental illness in your spouse, it’s important to encourage them to seek help. Work together to find a therapist, counsellor or physician (doctor) who can provide medical advice or guidance. 

2. Understand the Diagnosis

Once they see a professional and receive a diagnosis, read up on their condition. Maybe you’ve noticed some of the accompanying symptoms but failed to attribute them to their mental illness. Now that you’re more aware, you can stay calm and avoid feeling triggered or attacked when these symptoms show up in everyday life. 

On the other hand, if your partner hasn’t visibly shown signs of depression, anxiety or other issues, you might have been unaware of their suffering. Understanding their diagnosis will help you notice symptoms in the future so they don’t have to go it alone any longer. 

3. Implement Support Tactics

Now that you know what to look for, you might notice more mental health flare-ups, so what should you do when things start going south? Implement support tactics specific to their condition. 

For instance, if your spouse is dealing with depression, you might notice they’ve neglected to wash the dishes or do the laundry. In this situation, consider offering to complete these chores yourself or suggest doing them together.

4. Be a Good Listener

Sometimes, your loved one will want to talk about their experiences or past trauma that may have prompted their mental illness. When they express interest in discussing things, create a safe space for them by being a good listener. 

Pay attention to every detail in an effort to better understand their perceptions and beliefs. Let them talk it out without worrying about how to respond. Then, when you do react, try to do so not from a place of judgment, but of empathy and compassion. Validate their feelings to help them accept their emotions and move on.

5. Be Patient 

It may be difficult to hear, but certain mental illnesses can ebb and flow for years without reaching a resolution. There’s no magic timeframe for recovery.. Therefore, it’s best to let go of idealised timetables and take things day by day. 

This is when love becomes a choice and your commitment to one another carries you through — for better or worse. Instead of running away, resolve to stay steadfast and patient. Instead of holding their illness against them and growing bitter, choose to see it as yet another challenge you can overcome together. No matter how long it takes, you’ll be there to give them support, encouragement and affection. 

6. Practice Self Care

If you’ve ever been on an aeroplane, you know the flight attendant recommends putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. After all, you can’t assist others if you don’t take care of yourself first. The same is true in your marriage — and every other relationship, for that matter. Therefore, it’s incredibly important that you practice self care and take care of your own mental health before trying to help your spouse with their issues. 

Take time to be alone each day. Revisit an old hobby or pick up a new one like knitting or journaling. Mind-body exercises and autoregulation techniques can also relieve stress and help you tune into sensations you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. Engaging in these activities will help you stay healthy and better support your spouse during this difficult time. 

7. Keep the Love Alive

Mental health issues and the symptoms that accompany them can become all-consuming. However, it’s important to focus on your relationship apart from this conflict to keep your bond strong and the love alive. 

Spend quality time together, go on dates and continue to communicate openly. Do things that bring you both joy and focus on enjoying each other’s company. Doing so will remind you why you fell in love in the first place and give you more reason to fight for your spouse’s mental health and your relationship as a whole. 

Communication Is Key 

After some time, you and your spouse may begin to resent the patient-caretake dynamic. When these sentiments arise, communication is key. Talking about your feelings will help you understand one another better and may put you on a level playing field again. Once you realise that it’s you two against the world — and not against each other — you can take on mental illness together and emerge on the other side stronger than ever.

This article was written by freelance writer Kara Reynolds, Editor in Chief at Momish.

Winter Mental Health and Anxiety Update by Eleanor

Hi everyone,

I have spent a number of months avoiding and not taking action on one of the main issues that has. been happening in my life.

As you know, I have spent many years living in the shadow of having bipolar disorder and panic disorder (social anxiety and panic attacks) and possibly also PTSD symptoms from my last hospitalisation.. that I didn’t realise that my panic disorder is essentially agoraphobia too. (Oh got to love my overly anxious nervous system and imagination that creates panic!),.

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.

For me, this means that I can struggle to leave home alone at times, socialise, go out on public transport, go out to eat, go into a shop, travel anywhere alone including walking and that I panic and avoid and retreat from situations.. When I am going through a period of low mood, the agoraphobia/panic disorder can worsen.

I am managing my panic attacks through therapy and speaking to my therapist works. However, being indoors all the time through Covid and changing my working patterns to working from home meant that my agoraphobia got heightened. I didn’t want to be around crowds because I could get Covid. I didn’t want to go on public transport in a mask- because I might get Covid. I didn’;t go in a shop because people were there- but once vaccinated, this hasn’t changed. Really this was masking deeper anxiety and fear of the world in general- feeling uncertain after a job loss and starting a new career and feeling intensely self conscious too about weight gain on my medication.

Today on facebook, I had a memory from 12 years ago (when I was 21) which informed me that I had been on a night out at Ministry of Sound nightclub in London for a gig and I was also coordinating London Booze for Jews ( a Jewish student bar crawl) – despite the fact I didn’t drink. I have always been social but nights out in bars and clubs are just not my thing these days at the grand old age of 33 (grandma alert).

I know my panic is not the whole of me. In the past I have completed a degree and masters at drama school, travelled to India, Israel, places all over Europe and volunteered in Ghana for 7 weeks. Despite my anxiety, I run two small businesses, have managed to release a book, written for well known publications and achieved many of my dreams. I also met my wonderful husband and am not only proud to be a wife, but an auntie (and hopefully one day a mother too).

I am still Ellie and still the person I was inside before trauma hit.

Despite all of the amazing things above, I have been struggling with getting out of my 4 walls. So this is a diary entry to say: I will get better and get out the flat more. I will try and expose myself to feared situations. Above all, I will be kind to myself and take slow steady steps. I will lose the weight too!

All friends/fam are welcome to try and coax me out and help too!

Remaining Mentally and Emotionally Stable Post- Pandemic.

I think we can all agree that the last couple of years were never in our plan. Whether we were at the best or the worst place in our lives by the end of 2019, a wide-spread virus and quarantine put just about everything on hold. Jobs, businesses, and routines all over the world were brought to a sudden halt—and one that has lasted for nearly two years. However, while many of our practical, everyday needs were unable to be met, this two-year pause did help to shine a light on our society’s immediate need for mental health resources. 

Whether you were facing pandemic-induced anxiety or depression, or you were fighting an old battle with any existing diagnoses, many of us had no choice but to ask for help. Luckily, with some time surrounded by loved ones and away from our busy lives we were able to truly care for our health. But now that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the question is, ‘how do we maintain our mental health post-pandemic?’ Well, here are some tips to help you do just that.

Normalise Your Needs

One of the biggest stigmas we often face when battling with mental health is the misconception that asking for help is considered weak. When in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Whether your struggle requires therapy, emotional support, or prescription medicine, asking for help and tending to your needs are the strongest things you could ever do for yourself. Specifically after the pandemic, this is the type of mindset we all need to adopt. By normalizing our natural, human need for assistance in times of need we can slowly eliminate this stigma, not only within ourselves but within our society as well. 

We can see how normalising our needs can even impact companies like Gopuff, who recently piloted prescription-based services in Philadelphia to support its consumers’ health throughout the pandemic. Similarly, BetterHelp, an online therapy service has created some buzz during the pandemic because of its on-the-go accessibility that has normalised therapy and integrated it into our daily lives.

Stay Connected

Along the same lines as asking for help, we need to make the point of staying connected post-pandemic as well. Many of our mental illnesses thrive in isolation; making it so important to establish a healthy lifestyle and surround yourself with a support system. 

Not only will a support system help you appreciate the good times, but they can also hold you accountable when you are struggling. And I know what you’re thinking but accountability is actually not as scary as it sounds. It is simply allowing your loved ones to call you out when you are living a life that is less than what you deserve. Luckily, when the accountability is coming from someone you trust, it can be the driving force that makes you want to be better mentally and emotionally and maintain your health for the long haul.

Find Your Passion

Oftentimes we hear that distraction is the best way to keep your mind off of the negatives in life. However, distraction is temporary and will only promote diversion, not growth. Passion however, will encourage you to go after the best things and life and in return, will promote mental wellness stability as well. 

A passion is whatever you deem it to be. It can be as simple as a love for reading or even a full-time job in teaching. In any case, it can allow you to step outside of your struggles and feel your impact on the world. Passions are also much more sustainable than distraction because they are not rooted in a temporary escape but instead, they are based in a love for a particular thing or idea. Exploring your passions can provide you with a sustaining peace that can get you through whatever feelings of uncertainty may arise after the pandemic.

Take a Break

Lastly, don’t forget to take a breather! Given the lax lifestyle that the pandemic brought on, many of us may rush back into the busy and overwhelming lives we once lived. However, we often underestimate the power of mental and emotional strain. We think that since we’ve had so much downtime these last couple of years, we no longer need a break. However, whether you are working a job or working on yourself, your mind is constantly going and is still in need of a break. 

Pandemic or not, don’t forget to prioritize yourself. Meet your own needs, stay connected with those you love, explore your passions, and as always, take a break and you’ll be sure to find some stability in your life. 

On my Therapy Journey to Being Free: I Choose Life. By Eleanor

Image: notsalmon.com

I started back in therapy consistently (weekly), 2 months ago in August after reoccurrence of panic attacks. I have been working with a really brilliant therapist for the past two years who is a specialist in trauma and EMDR therapy. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy and is a way to help you process and confront traumatic memories, with the aim of reducing their impact on your life. Its a very good therapy for people struggling from PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder). Although I do not have the full disorder, I do have some PTSD symptoms according to a therapy questionnaire, from being sectioned and in hospital in 2014 and other traumas that occurred around the same time.

My PTSD symptoms include:

– Panic attacks (palpitations, sweating, negative thoughts, fight or flight adrenaline and needing to cancel feared event) triggered by certain situations which remind me of the past traumatic events. This includes fear of medical appointments now including going to hospitals for myself or the drs surgery.

– Social anxiety- what will they think of me?

-Other fears over traumatic events – i can get triggered and feel flooded with panic.

So, as you can see, a lot to deal with and unpack in therapy. And figuring out my identity as a 33 year old woman with bipolar disorder (thankfully stable) and what the future could hold.

I have to say that finding an excellent therapist has been a lifesaver. I look back to where I was 2 months ago and generally (without jinxing it) my nervous system has calmed down a lot, I have been anxious but able to enter certain situations I couldn’t have done 8 weeks ago. My medications keep my mind stable and my husband and family are a wonderful support too. I love my work and can do it from home. I am really lucky in so many ways.

It is still a major work in progress for me, getting back to the person I once was. I prefer to work from home and I also am unable to go out as much alone as I would want. However, I am starting to go out more with others and I will keep working to find freedom from fear for myself.

If you’re feeling stuck or alone or fearful, reach for help. I have been very lucky to have help with funding my therapy sessions (shout out to my incredible parents) but they are so needed. I know not everyone has this.. the waiting lists for the NHS are so long and I was on them for years without support. My local borough also does not fund trauma therapy which was frustrating at the time.

Thanks for reading the update, feel free to share your therapy experiences with me,

i feel quite emotional writing and sharing this with you! And remember- to keep reaching, growing, and above all healing. Healing is so important for our mental health if you can access it,

Eleanor x

PS- while writing this blog. I was listening to the Sugababes originals Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan (MKS) sing No regrets which has the lyrics.. ‘I choose life’ . Listen here to this live version (not an ad, genuine love): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfdYE7BkEsw

Being Self Compassionate when I have Anxiety (a List) by Eleanor

(image: Unsplash)

I think that I put a lot of pressure on myself to be doing and achieving and living my best life. The truth is that this sometimes leads to overwhelm. I often try to run before I can walk as I am the eternal optimist… and then on the day anxiety (panic) takes over and I can’t do things.

This week though I have had extra pressures. I have had to deal with some medical things like my blood test for lithium (which I struggle to get to the surgery for), a potential job interview and my fears around social anxiety. Needless to say i have felt panicked and have had to self soothe, be kind to me and really look after myself. I am also working with an EMDR therapist.

So I thought I would create a list of things that I and you can do to be kind to ourselves! (inspired by googling and things that help me). Feel free to add in the comments!

  1. Call a good friend and have a natter- always good to speak to those who love you for you non judgementally and don’t mind if you’re not having the best day.

2. Have a warm bubble bath or shower with your favourite shower gel/ bubble bath/ bath treats. I am a big fan of bath bombs. Theres something super relaxing about them and you’re taking care of yourself too! I love things with cosy vanilla scents personally.

3. Do not be hard on yourself or criticise yourself. Bad mental health is not your fault and tomorrow can always be a better day.

4. Talk compassionately to yourself if your anxiety is overwhelming. Do what you need to self soothe and look after yourself.

5. Make sure you get enough rest- its OK to curl up with a blanket and Netflix for a bit, or read a good book. making art can also be healing too.

6. Accept the way you are feeling and seek support from a trusted therapist, friend or family member. You are OK as you are. You just may need help to recover.

7. Cuddle a pet. I have two very sweet guineapigs who give wonderful cuddles.

8. Listen to soothing music- that you love..

9. Remember to be kind to yourself, look after your wellbeing if you are low or anxious.

10. Call a support line if you are in crisis– such as Samaritans 116 123

Love,

Eleanor

x

4 Ways to Make Your Mental Health a Priority in your Life by Emma Sturgis

Because of the stress and fear caused by the pandemic, more people are coming forward to talk about their mental health struggles. Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, affect millions of people around the world. The inability to cope with stressful events as well as other factors can lead to an increase in mental illness.

When you make taking care of your mental health a priority, you will be surprised at how many ways there are to help a variety of mental health issues. Here are four simple but effective ways to improve your mental health.  

(image: Pexels)

Practice Mindfulness 

According to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, mindfulness improves mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.   Some people are skeptical about how mindfulness can create such positive results, but it really only takes a few days of regular practice to prove to yourself that being aware of what you do when you do it focuses your mind. When your mind is focused on a task in the present moment, it won’t engage in depressing or anxious thoughts. Definitely give it a go and see if it works for you.

Exercise Regularly If You Can

Physical activity is an excellent way to manage depression and improve your mental health.  Physical activity boosts the release of mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain. These endorphins can help reduce any feelings of sadness or anxiety, alongside other treatment. Exercise also increases blood flow to the brain, which can make you feel more energised and happier.  Furthermore, physical activity can help people cope with stress better by improving their coping skills due to the endorphin boost or just being outside in fresh air. Exercise is also a great way to spend time with others in a social setting such as an exercise class or do some gentle exercise at home.

Eat Healthy Meals 

Diet is an important part of our lives, we should make sure that we eat a balanced diet in order to nourish both our bodies and souls. There are many healthy food options to choose from which help you to look after your body and mind. For example, why not try the nutritional goods on offer on the Gold Bee website, such as the natural honey and coconut oil that can be added to many meals of your choice. 

Get Professional Mental Health Assistance   

Talking to a psychiatrist can help you learn how to deal with your mental health condition. It’s especially important to be able to get professional assistance when dealing with a life-altering event or trauma. Talking about your feelings, fears, and worries alleviates stress and can help mental illness. 

Try these four ways to improve your mental health. Mindfulness increases productivity and reduces stress. Physical activity benefits your mental health in many ways. Following a balanced diet nourishes both body and mind. Talking to a mental health professional can help mental health recovery.