Stress and Panic Attacks Part Two- My Mental Health.

(image: https://society6.com/product/its-okay-not-to-be-okay1048684_print)

Hi friends,

8 weeks ago when I last wrote, we were about to move into our new home. We have now been settled in and been there 5 weeks. It is so exciting and we have been overwhelmed with love. Moving though is a big life change and has triggered my mental illness again.

Lurking under the surface is my Bipolar/ PTSD anxiety disorder. If I do a lot and am more active, I can’t cope. I always try and do more than I am able and then end up crashing into panic- insomnia, racing anxious thoughts mainly and having to cancel plans. Social anxiety becomes heightened. Last week, I went to my mother in laws in Essex three times and also went to a family wedding (which was so special!). Both were lovely, but on Saturday night, my anxiety was triggered, thinking about going back home and socialising the next day- and my body and mind said Enough. This is too much.

Being on your own when you’re anxious and can’t sleep (but everyone else is) is one of the worst places to be. I actually posted an Instagram message at 6am about how I was feeling because I didn’t want to wake anyone up. People were really kind. I slept for maybe 2 hours and felt teary and emotional on Sunday, but had support from Rob and my family too.

The past few days my anxiety has been unleashed and remains high. I am writing this from my Mums house today as I didn’t want to be on my own again working in our flat . I have booked a session in with my therapist too because I am waking up feeling panicked. Its like my body and brain are trying to protect me from something, an old fight or flight response. I keep having regular panic attacks where I shut down, cry and hide in bed. Speaking to my therapist I know will help me process and clear the triggers behind whats going on.

Living with this is debilitating- but I will not be beaten. I will keep doing all I can to improve my low mood and anxiety, to keep going despite any setbacks and to try to heal my mind and soul so I can feel more confident and happier again.

Thanks for reading, I send love to anyone struggling

Eleanor

x

What is the Connection between Mental Health and Addiction by Jennifer at Mandala Healing.

(image: Unsplash)


Everyone has their own mental health. But people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or any other substance abuse are more prone to develop mental illness. While on the other hand, individuals who have mental illnesses are also more prone to developing drug, alcohol, or substance addiction. 

People struggling with addiction and mental health problems have complained about the co-occurring disorder. However, it can be tough to identify which one is the primary. A mental health diagnosis, such as clinical depression, can undoubtedly worsen an individual’s problems with addiction. Similarly, a person experiencing addiction may find that their mental health declines as their use grows. 

If these conditions are left untreated, then co-occurring disorders can lead to a nasty cycle of repeated addiction and worsens mental health symptoms. To overcome addiction and mental health issues, professional care is necessary at a rehab center like Florida Addiction Treatment

But before that, it is vital to understand the relationship between addiction and mental health when looking for help for yourself or a loved one. Because both addiction and mental health diagnoses are chronic medical conditions, they can be treated and managed with the right and approachable treatment while they cannot be cured. 

Understanding the Link Between Mental Health and Addiction:

You might wonder if mental illness can cause addiction or if addiction creates the perfect storm leading to mental health problems. However, in most cases, it is rarely clear which one manifested first. 

Addiction to drugs and alcohol or any other substance can occur due to people self medicating if they suffer from any mental health disorder. Self-medicating with addiction in times of crisis may provide temporary relief at first. But it may help you feel more comfortable connecting with your peers or boost your confidence. However, this is part of the danger of the link between mental health and addiction. 

Continued use is hazardous and develops the risk of addiction. What you look at as a remedy to your problem can quickly put you on a brutal cycle of misuse and abuse. 

Long-term use of addiction often produces side-effects such as anxiety and depression. Taking addictive substances alters your brain chemistry, and extended use of it only increases your chances of developing mental illness. 

People coping with these specific mental health conditions are more likely to get addicted to drugs or alcohol (but not in every case)-

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


Potential Causes of Co-Occurring Disorders:

Addiction and mental health issues can occur because of many factors; however, some potential causes may involve genetics, age, and environmental factors. 

  • Genetics or family history-

Genetics can play a critical part in the evolution of both addiction disorder and mental condition. It has been studied that genes contribute to many health issues.

As genes are passed down from generation to generation, the family history of a disorder is also a strong indicator. Autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder, major depression are all examples of conditions that can be spread through your genes. 

  • Environmental factors-

However, you don’t have to have the genes for a particular disease, which does not mean that you will develop the condition. The environment plays a key role in how their genes are expressed. 

High-stress environments, trauma, physical or sexual abuse can also contribute towards a co-occurring disorder. Looking at your friends and family engage in dangerous behavior like addiction can also play a key factor. People likely to follow the examples of those they are close with. When your close ones behave poorly, you may be more likely to as well. 

  • Age-

Exposure to certain things during teen years can also be an element. Being offered drugs or alcohol at an early age can also contribute to addiction and possibly mental illness. Since at an early age, the brain is still in the developing stage. Developing a mental health illness at an early age may also make you more susceptible to addiction. 

Treatment for Mental Illness and Addiction: 

The best treatment for both disorders is an integrated approach, where both the substance abuse problem and the mental illness are treated together. Whether your mental health or addiction problem came first, long-term recovery depends on getting treatment for both the disorders by the same treatment provider. 

Treatment for mental health may include medication, individual or group counselling, self-care measures, lifestyle change, and peer support.

Addiction treatment may include detoxification, managing withdrawal symptoms, behavioral therapy, and support groups to help maintain sobriety. 

How to help others with their Mental Health when you live with it yourself.

(image: Pexels)

Dealing with mental health problems is tough, especially when there is a stigma. ”Man up? Why don’t you man up?!” (you don’t need to). However, you get to a point where you strike a balance that lets you lead a healthy and productive lifestyle. You’re on an even keel, which is essential as it stops the intense emotions and feelings.

Still, this isn’t the end of your journey. Once you get to a point where you feel you are on top of things, you might want to help others reach the same summit. After all, there’s no greater sensation than giving back. Here’s what you need to do.

Reach Out

You understand the warning signs better than anybody because you’ve been through the ordeal. You also know that people who are finding life difficult tend to bottle up their emotions and push them deep down. As a result, the likelihood of a fellow sufferer reaching out isn’t realistic. Instead, they’ll suffer in silence. Reaching out can be as basic as asking them if they are okay, or letting them know that they have a shoulder to lean on if they want. And, with the development of tech such as Zoom, you don’t have to be in the same room to eliminate loneliness or anxiety.

Share Your Story

Be honest – did you open up to anyone who asked about your issues? No, because it’s tough when there isn’t a sense of empathy. People who haven’t experienced what it’s like don’t understand, making it hard to relate to the pain. You’re different. Having dealt with it, you are better positioned than anyone to offer advice. Of course, they don’t know that until you share your story. Revealing what you went through will encourage them to trust you, ensuring your advice doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

Make It Your Career

If you love helping others and have a passion for mental health, you should consider turning it into a career. Your experience makes you well placed to get to grips with the complexities of the industry, and the advancements in technology mean it’s easier than ever to become certified. Becoming a counsellor is never a walk in the park, but some features make it simpler to juggle. For example, attending an online course instead of being on-campus. Or, doing it part-time to ensure it doesn’t overwhelm you and get in the way of your routine. You’ve got something to offer, so don’t be afraid to show it!

Be Flexible

Due to your success story, you will want everyone to try the method you used because it has had positive results. That’s perfectly acceptable since people draw on their experiences when helping others. However, no two individuals are the same, which means you must be flexible when providing your opinions. Sure, you can lead with what assisted you, yet it’s essential to keep an open mind and encourage whatever makes them happy. Also, never guarantee anything as there are no sure things with mental health.

It’s a process, an unpredictable one with lots of twists and turns, so you need to be prepared for ups and downs.



This article was written by a freelance writer
.

The Difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist. Which can best address your needs? By Anita Ginsburg


It’s always important to seek professional help if you are dealing with a mental health issue. Unfortunately, finding a professional can be harder than you might think. Even if you can find someone for you, you’ll still have to decide upon which type of professional with whom you should work. For most, the answer comes down to knowing the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.


What Is a Psychologist?

Generally speaking, a psychologist is a person with an advanced degree in psychology who works with patients on their mental health. These individuals usually use various types of talk therapy to help individuals work through a diverse number of mental health issues. When many people think of the basic idea of therapy, they’re thinking about what a psychologist does.

When to Choose a Psychologist

It makes sense to choose a psychologist when you’re looking to address your mental health issues without medication. Attempting to change behavior of the long-term is usually best done with the help of a psychologist, especially if you’re looking to get to the root causes of why you feel how you feel. It should be noted, though, that even those who do seek medication can often work with a psychologist as well as a psychiatrist.

What Is a Psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is specifically an individual who holds a medical degree and specialises in psychiatry. While psychiatrists do conduct many of the same types of therapy as psychologists, they differ from psychologists because psychiatrists can prescribe medication to their patients when needed.

When to Choose a Psychiatrist

The most common reason to choose a psychiatrist is because you are considering the possibility of pursuing some type of medical treatment for your mental health problems. This can range from specific types of medical therapies to medication, but all of these therapies do require a psychiatrist’s oversight. While most do choose psychiatrists because of the medical angle, many psychiatrists do still use talk therapy in a manner similar to psychologists.

It’s important to know what you want from therapy before you make a choice between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. While each type of professional does deal with mental health from a specific angle, whether one is better than the other has everything to do with your personal situation. While you will ultimately need to make the choice between the two, choosing to pursue at least some kind of therapy is a good step on the path to a brighter future.

This article was written by freelance writer Anita Ginsburg

How Managing my Space helps my Mental Health: Guest blog by Poppy Duffree at Organise with Poppy

poppy

(image: Poppy Duffree)

Hi everyone, my name is Poppy and I’m a Professional Organiser and Declutterer based in Bristol. 

It’s been a tricky time for a lot of people forced to stay inside unexpectedly and our home environment is playing such an important role in supporting us during this period. 

Clutter and an unorganised space intensifies feelings of chaos, being out of control and stress. It’s more important than ever that we do everything we can to keep our spaces calm so that we feel safe and can relax inside.   

A little about my story and how I got to where it was today. Seven years ago I found myself with severe anxiety and many of the triggers were work-related. After a round of effective CBT, I handed my notice in. I needed a fresh start, to feel ‘free’ again and to take some time to find what I wanted and needed out of life. At the time, that came in the form of deciding to go travelling around the world, with no set plan and no return date. 

That decision forced me to look at ALL my stuff. In the midst of my anxiety and unhappiness I had bought so many things to try and mask those feelings, to give me moments of excitement and distract myself from the real problems I was facing. Moving out of a shared flat in London with no plans to move elsewhere, I had no choice but to drastically cut back what I owned to place in storage.

I went from being able to pretty much being able to fill a Luton Van with a tail lift, to about six small boxes and four suitcases. I’d never felt so liberated, free and felt physically lighter. That really taught me the value in having fewer possessions – having so much stuff around me had been contributed to my anxiety. When we start to think about it, we realise that possessions take up our time; they need looking after, moving around, re-organising, fixing and then ultimately – disposing of. This can be stressful and often why these things feel so overwhelming. 

I love working as a Professional Organiser and Declutterer because I get to help people gain control of their environments and feel freer and lighter, which is incredibly rewarding. I still have to manage my own mental health carefully and I know that having an organised physical and digital space is something that supports me. As many of us know, sometimes it’s hard to control how we feel and so anything that we can do to support us and makes things easier when we are having days that are harder than others, is invaluable.  

Decluttering and organising physical items is now a very ‘on trend’ thing to do and the mental health benefits are widely recognised. It’s great that there’s so much help and information out there on this topic and the majority of the clients that I work with are primarily seeking assistance with physical items. However, what is often left out of the narrative is decluttering and organising your digital space. 

Let’s say we have our physical surroundings organised and it’s helping to support us in feeling calm and in-control. We’re sitting at home and we open our laptops and phones and are met with a barrage of unorganised files, unnecessary content, emails we’ve left unread for months and notifications everywhere. All of a sudden, our environment is actually our digital space, as that is where our focus is. It can be very overwhelming, draining and cause us anxiety and stress.

Given how much time we spend in our digital spaces, it’s so important we declutter and organise them  like we would our physical environments so that they also support us. 

 

Some top tips for digital organisation:

 

  • Phone Apps: Delete phone apps you no longer use. This reduces notifications and means less app to have to update. 
  • Social Media: Declutter your social media feeds. Be in control of the content you are seeing and unfriend/unfollow those accounts that do not provide you with content that is useful or positive. 
  • Desktop: Clear your desktop of all documents and folders. Opening up your computer to be met with clutter can be an instant stressor, before you’ve even begun working on anything. 
  • Newsletter Emails: Reduce unnecessary newsletters. Search for the word ‘unsubscribe’ in your inbox and it will bring up any newsletters you’ve subscribed to. This allows you to start going through those that you no longer want and unsubscribing to them, meaning less emails coming in in the first place. 

 

I’d recommend doing a deep-dive into all things digital so that all your clutter is cleared and you have organised documents so you can remain focused on your priorities, rather than having to fight off distractions. 

Not everyone can afford the services of a Professional Organiser and so during lockdown, I’ve been creating some resources and workbooks that are more budget friendly, to help people get organised and clear out their spaces (physically and digitally) from the comfort of their own home. 

I’ve created a 25 page step by step workbook to help you with this called The Ultimate Digital Declutter and Organisation Workbook’. It’s broken down into four key areas; desktop, emails, phone and social media. There are a variety of tasks with step by step instructions to help you get organised with ease.

The link between our environment and our mental health is very real and so I’d love to offer you 25% off with the code ‘BEUROWNLIGHT25’ to help you tackle this area. 

If you do decide to put any of these into action, I would LOVE to see your before and after pictures, screenshots or figures. Please feel free to tag me in them @organisewithpoppy if you’d like me to share them with my followers too! 

Happy Organising! ☺

 

Poppy | Organise with Poppy

Instagram – regular tips: https://www.instagram.com/organisewithpoppy/ 

Workbooks – downloadable PDFs: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/OrganiseWithPoppy 

Website – in-person services: http://organisewithpoppy.co.uk 

 

Poppy Duffree is a professional organiser and declutterer, based in Bristol UK, with her business Organise with Poppy. She is a guest blogger for us and is offering all readers 25% off her services. 

clutter2

 

How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Pandemic: by Mary Davis

hydrangea

These days of the coronavirus pandemic are filled with anxiety and fear unlike anything else we and the world has experienced since World War II. It’s important to stay in tune with yourself and remember it is okay to not feel totally well and to be feeling more anxious. 

Here are some ideas to help your mental health during the pandemic: 

 

Get moving

You’d be surprised what physical activity does for you, both in terms of physical health and mental health! In terms of mental health in particular, it can help decrease anxiety and improve moods. While gyms and studio classes are closed and it is easier than ever to get an effective exercise in with guided tech at home, now is a great time to become familiar with fitness apps. There are many different ones to choose from: you could try the 30 day fitness challenge app for example to get into a new routine and find the perfect guided workouts work for you! Whether its workouts, barre, or even taking the stairs more, try to move as much as you can. 


Try meditating, mindfulness or prayer

Finding stress management techniques that resonate with you is crucial as stress is an inevitable part of life. The ideal time to start up a mindfulness practice is when times are good so that you have established a practice in times of stress, but it can still be incredibly powerful if you are starting out now!

Just remember to be patient with yourself. There are a lot of practices out there, such as meditation, mindfulness, and prayer, so you have options. If you are unsure of where to start, start with daily deep breathing exercises. 


Avoid alcohol 

Avoid or at least monitor alcohol intake in times of high stress in order to protect your mental health. Alcohol is often used to ‘self-medicate’, but while it can release endorphins in your body, it is classified as a depressant. It significantly impacts your central nervous system, and in times of stress you want to be in tune with your body and paying extra care to your nervous system rather than confusing it. 


Seek a therapist and do appointments via Skype or Zoom

Seeking help is a sign of strength! If you need help or need professional support as you work through stress and/or anxiety, seek a therapist. Many therapists do appointments via Skype or Zoom and if you find one in your area, you can transition to in-person appointments when possible. 


Practise self care

Self care looks different for everyone, and finding what makes you feel good and content is so important. Try cooking, at-home facials, taking extra time on your skincare and giving yourself a face massage, baths with Epsom salts, and quality sleep. 

 

selfcareself1

(image: Samantha Carbon)

 

All of these things can contribute to healthy living and can help us get through the pandemic. They are also great habits to incorporate into your lifestyle to continue caring for your body and mind. 

This guest blog was written by freelance writer, Mary Davis.

On DBT, Art and Healing: A Joy That’s Mine Alone: Guest post by Violette Kay

violettekay1
When I was little I wanted to become a violinist when I grew up. And I could have done it, I was actually really good, but unfortunately mental illness robbed me of that dream. I had my first bipolar episodes right when I started studying music in college, failed a bunch of classes, wronged a bunch of people, and watched my music career crash and burn before it had even begun.
It’s been almost a decade now, and I have a whole new life in which I’m stable and happy, yet I still can’t help but wonder if I could have done it. If I wasn’t bipolar, would I be a professional musician? This question haunts me, it follows me wherever I go, and no matter how far I run it always brings me back. A few years ago I bought a music school in a hypomania-fueled delusion that it would bring me closer to my childhood dream. It did not.
I’ve also written a play about violin teachers and nostalgia/regret, it was very therapeutic, but it didn’t fully heal the wound of my failed music career. Perhaps nothing ever will.
The first thing they teach you in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is called the “Wise Mind”. It’s supposed to be this balance between your reasonable mind and your emotional mind, and that’s the place you want to be making decisions from. You want to consider both the facts and your emotions, and not ignore one or the other. For example, let’s say you have coworker who is making you angry, and you want to yell at them, throw things and storm out, that’s just what your emotional mind wants. So if you bring in a bit of reason and use your wise mind, you can probably come up with a better solution.
When I was learning this in DBT group I noticed that all the examples we were given involved using the Wise Mind to avoid acting on our emotional mind, so I asked the instructors if they could give me a situation where it’s the other way around, an example where your reasonable mind is what’s leading you astray. They gave some roundabout unclear speech about… something, I don’t remember. Basically they didn’t have an answer for me.
Well, it’s been over a year now and I think I finally found one: I should quit music. I should completely cut it out of my life, sell my violin, recycle all my sheet music, unfollow/unfriend everyone I met through music, and stop self-identifying as a musician. Music has caused me so much pain, and landed me in some impossible situations. So logically, if I want to stop feeling that pain I should just quit, right?
That’s my reasonable mind talking. But if I did quit music I would be ignoring my emotional mind, who likes music and has a lot of very meaningful music-related memories both good and bad, memories I wouldn’t want to lose.
So what’s the middle ground? I still play sometimes. I’ve gone busking during periods of unemployment. I record backing tracks for my singer friends. I take on background music gigs sometimes. And I bring music into my theatre and writing practice all the time.
I’m still shocked every time I get paid to play music, and though I do on occasion mourn the violinist I could have been, I’m also incredibly grateful that I still get to live out my childhood dream in small ways. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s still a good life.
My latest project is a film inspired by my experience of having bipolar disorder and buying a music school, and a first for me: a project born entirely out of self-love, rather than pain. I am so grateful I got the opportunity to make it and to share it with others.
I’ll always have bipolar disorder, it will always be a part of me, but it’s just one part. And I’ll always be a musician. That’s also just one part of me. Maybe they’re the same part.

violette1

This guest blog was written by film maker and musician Violette Kay. Her film the Joy thats Mine Alone about life with art and bipolar disorder, can be viewed at : 

The Road to Recovery: On PTSD, Trauma and the Future… by Eleanor for Mental Health Awareness Week

eleanorlinkedin

(image: Eleanor Mandelstam (Segall))

 

Trigger Warning: sexual assault, details of assault and severe mental illness

 

Hi everyone,

Its been a while but I thought I would put type to keyboard and write a blog for more mental health awareness.

Since my book was published, I haven’t written many follow up personal blogs, purely because the launch of my life story into the public domain felt overwhelming and scary. 6 months on, I am used to it being out there but I have been working hard in EMDR trauma therapy to help myself.

See, the truth is that right now the Bipolar Disorder for me is stable and under control on my medicines. I still get side effects- weight gain, dry mouth and thirst, but my mind is generally healthy in terms of the Bipolar- no mania or depression. Anxiety and panic yes but Bipolar, not really at the moment.

Yet, almost lurking unseen after I left hospital in 2014 and began my recovery was the fact I was traumatised by my experiences of going into psychosis (losing touch with reality via delusions, false beliefs) and my experiences when being sectioned. I will just give an overview as the rest is in my book- but this included- being restrained, being attacked by other patients and seeing them self harm, being injected with Haloperidol (an anti psychotic) in front of both male and female nurses in a part of the body I didn’t want, being chased round A and E by security men in genuine fear of my life, dealing with lawyers and going to tribunals while ill, thinking I had been abused by family and was locked up by a criminal gang and fearing my family were against me. My bipolar mind could not cope.

Just before this all happened, I was very vulnerable and was sexually assaulted by a man I knew through friends and all of this trauma stayed with me.

I did what most of us with severe mental illness and assault survivors do- I tried to rebuild my life. I tried to work in schools helping children with special educational needs. I tried to work for a mental health charity as a peer support worker for people like me. I began to blog and write and share as therapy- from charities to national newspapers. Bit by bit, as I wrote out what I has been through, I started to slowly heal. But, the symptoms of the extreme panic remained. I lost jobs because of it. I became depressed. I started dating but I often had to cancel dates- (before I met Rob, my husband who listened to me talk about it all and didn’t bat too much of an eyelid.)

I was in a state of flux, a state of transition. I knew I had trauma still living in my brain and body. I had been physically and sexually assaulted, I had been mentally violated- I had been sectioned twice in a few months and now I was sent home to try and rebuild my life as a 25 year old single woman.

I share this important blog, not to share that I am a victim- because I am not. I want to share that I believe for about 5 years, I have been suffering with some of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). My therapist believes the same.

The panic attacks that grip me with fear before work or the day ahead when I have to leave the house. The fear of going out or travelling at night alone. The fear of being taken advantage of and having to trust men again (thank you to my husband for helping ease this pain). The fear of exploitation, of losing my mind, of not trusting mental health professionals any more.

My panic attacks get triggered by certain events- it could be having to speak about my life or book, or seeing people I don’t feel comfortable with, of feeling exposed, of worrying about others judgement. I am still healing from all I have been through and experienced. The PTSD means that I have to take medication (Propranolol) to function sometimes. It means that I experience flashbacks in my body- I feel gripped with fear, I get chest pain and shallow breathing and I start to cry. I had one the other day at 4am….. thank the lord for meds so I could calm down and sleep.

My therapist is incredible and we have been working since October to process the roots of my trauma and panic disorder. We use a combination of rapid eye processing with talking therapy which helps to tackle each and every trauma- and we are still at the tip of the iceberg. It takes time to process the deep rooted experiences in my brain- we are getting there slowly.

For me, in many ways my future is uncertain. My medicines have long term physical side effects. Motherhood will be more of a challenge due to medication and my mental health- I am still processing the choices I will have to make, which I will write in another blog.

I want to end this blog by saying- if you know someone with anxiety, PTSD, another anxiety disorder or something like bipolar or schizophrenia- Be Kind. You never know what someone has gone through.

The NHS waiting lists for help are too long, services are too underfunded- all my treatment has been private provided by my family due to being stuck on a list for years. I am lucky, not everyone is. 

I hope this blog gives some information about my experiences of PTSD since leaving hospital 6 years ago. It is by far the most personal thing I have posted since publishing my book but I hope it helps you feel less alone.

Positivity and Hope are key.  Meeting my husband and my therapist changed my life for the better as I slowly rebuild and find an equilibrium again.

Love,

Eleanor x

The UK went into Lockdown and I went into Meltdown: Guest blog by Nicole

quotesblog

(image: Nicole_no_filter)

The UK went into lockdown and I went into meltdown.

When I heard the announcement on the news, I was on my Mum’s sofa and I immediately felt the usual sick way that I do when I get anxious. I needed to get out of the house, so I quickly escaped on a walk with my dog. My thoughts were far from pleasant and I silently cried while I slowly paced around my local area. This marked the start of a tough couple of weeks.

I fell into the behaviours that you would probably expect from a person with anxieties, I was obsessed with updates on the lockdown, it became my most frequently searched term on Google! My skin condition, urticaria, flared up which happens when I experience stress. My sleeping got worse than usual and I was easily irritated by silly things. Most of all, I fixated on the negatives of my situation, such as the impact living alone would have on me.

I’m not going to pretend that I had an epiphany on day fifteen and I’m now thriving in my new life of one daily walk and it being a glam day if I put on jeans!

However, I’ve now established a flexible routine and I’ve settled into working from home.

I check the news once a day and I appreciate that I am lucky to be healthy and still have my job. However, I don’t give myself a hard time when I have a bad day and I don’t pay attention to unhelpful comments online, criticising people for struggling as there are others with more serious struggles. Of course, this is true, but I heard recently that, ‘you wouldn’t tell someone not to be happy, because there is someone happier’ and that has stuck with me ever since.

The most positive outcome of this situation for me, is that I am in touch with my thoughts, emotions and my behaviour, more than ever.

Some things that have helped me are:

  • Reawakening my passion for writing: As a Careers Coach, I regularly create resources and assist others with writing about themselves. However, it had been so long since I wrote for pleasure. I now record my thoughts in a journal, you are currently reading my second blog post and I rediscovered my love for writing poems. Writing has felt a bit like offloading to my best friend; I get out my thoughts and I then feel better. 

 

  • Walking: I think it’s amazing that so many people are focusing on their fitness, but I was previously anxious about my weight, so I don’t put pressure on myself to follow a rigid exercise routine. Pre-lockdown, when I had a crap day, I benefitted from getting out of the house and being around others; walking isn’t a substitute for this, but it helps me to get rid of negative energy by doing something active. 

 

  • Keeping my space tidy: This won’t work for everyone but a clear space, means a clearer mind for me. I also find cleaning quite therapeutic as it helps me to focus on the task in hand and not overthink. 

 

  • Paying it forward: I have been trying to spread some positivity remotely, for example, I suggested to my colleagues that we each send a card to another person in the team with a positive message. I also started an Instagram account to raise awareness of mental health and share experiences and strategies with others. As a people person, helping and connecting with others always lifts my mood. 
  • Revisiting coping mechanisms for anxiety: I have done a lot of research into cognitive behaviour therapy techniques over the last few years, as some of the principles are useful for my job in supporting young people. I have also personally been through this type of therapy; this helps me to reframe negative thoughts and therefore gain better control of my feelings and actions. 

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I still regularly think that I can’t wait for this to be over! I miss the little things in my life, but the lockdown has caused me to have a deeper appreciation for all the good aspects of it.

I have also realised that the little things ARE the BIG things. Being forced into this situation that I have no control over, has helped me to put less focus on other things that I can’t control.

I was previously anxious about being single as I am about to approach my 30th birthday, but I have gained a more positive perspective on this. I may not be able to control what happens TO me, but I can control what is IN me, which are my thoughts and how they make me feel and react.

Nicole is a careers coach and freelance writer in the UK and is on Instagram @nicole_no_filter

How to help Teens with Mental Illness succeed at School: Guest blog by Brooke Chaplan

teenmentalillness

(image via B Chaplan)

It can often feel like the educational system is not set up to deal with anyone who falls outside of a fairly narrow set of parameters. If you know a teen who is dealing with a mental illness, you have most likely seen ways that the system fails to help him or her. If you want to help that teen succeed, though, you can take a few of the steps below.

 

Seek Out Treatment

The first, and perhaps most important, step is always ensuring that the teen in question is actually receiving treatment for his or her illness. While you might think that the teen’s coping skills are up to the task of school, the truth is that professional help is still the best way to stay on track. Whether this means therapy, medication, or a combination of the two, seeking out treatment is always a wise first step, from a doctor (GP) or psychiatrist if needed.

 

Find the Right School

The next step requires taking a look at the school environment. Some students do well in a typical school, while others might need a more therapeutic environment. Even choosing a smaller college prep high school may be the best way to help out a teen who has to deal with significant emotional problems. The setting in which education occurs matters, so make sure that your teen has the support he or she needs.

 

Create a Support Network

Make sure that the teen in question doesn’t have to do it all on their own. Setting up a support network that involves friends, therapists, and even teachers is a great way to give your teen a bit of extra help when it comes to dealing with the tough days. While you should be careful with how you talk about your teen’s illness, it’s also a good idea to make sure that others are aware of what he or she is going through.

 

Involve the Teen

Finally, give the teen a stake in his or her success. Let him or her be part of the decisions about schooling, therapy, and finding the right support. Developing a sense of agency is a must for any person who deals with a mental illness, so start the process sooner rather than later.

Don’t be afraid to seek out help when your teen is struggling. Find a good therapist, build support networks, and make sure that you’re making the right educational sources.

With the right kind of help, your teen can be quite academically and emotionally successful.

 

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeCha