11 Most Effective Ways for People to Protect Their Mental Health- A Guide by The Mental Health Foundation.

(image: Mental Health Foundation)

The 11 most effective ways for people to protect their mental health are revealed in a guide launched today by the Mental Health Foundation. 

The free guide, Our Best Mental Health Tips is based on the Foundation’s own ground-breaking study on what protects people from common problems such as anxiety and depression.  

The innovative study on which the new guide is based combined existing evidence about how we can protect our mental health with experts’ views, alongside the opinions of members of the public. 

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, who led the research and is a Director of the Foundation, said: ‘Our new guide encourages us to take care of the fundamentals of life – our relationships, our experiences, our bodies and our finances.  

The evidence shows that this is far more likely to keep us mentally healthy than the gimmicks and miracle cures promoted by some in the ‘wellness’ industry, who prey on our vulnerability. 

The truth is, there are no quick fixes for good mental or physical health. What works is developing healthy habits in our daily lives, that help us to feel OK and able to cope with everything. 

For example, in our new guide we talk about getting more from our sleep, learning to understand and manage our feelings, planning things to look forward to and getting help with money problems.’ 

The full list of mental health-promoting actions suggested by the new guide is as follows: 

  • Get closer to nature 
  • Learn to understand and manage your feelings 
  • Talk to someone you trust for support 
  • Be aware of using drugs and/or alcohol to cope with difficult feelings 
  • Try to make the most of your money and get help with problem debts 
  • Get more from your sleep 
  • Be kind and help create a better world 
  • Keep moving 
  • Eat healthy food
  • Be curious and open-minded to new experiences 
  • Plan things to look forward to 

Most members of the public involved in the study had experienced their own, or family members’ problems with mental health, so had the benefit of hindsight when assessing what helps most with prevention.  

The study was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Health Promotion

The new guide (and the research on which it is based) acknowledges that people may be unable to follow some of its suggestions, for instance because the place they live makes it impossible to sleep well or spend time close to nature. 

Dr Kousoulis added: ‘Enjoying good mental health should be an equally accessible goal for all of us, yet it is often out of reach for many. Government action is needed to create the circumstances that solve problems that are beyond individuals’ reach, and help prevent people having problems with mental health in the first place.’ 

You can download the new guide free of charge from the Mental Health Foundation website. You can also order hard copies by post, with a small charge.

About the Mental Health Foundation   

Our vision is of good mental health for all. The Mental Health Foundation works to prevent mental health problems. We drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all, and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk. The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week www.mentalhealth.org.uk  

This is a non sponsored article written by the Mental Health Foundation.

Knowing When It’s Time To Seek Treatment For Substance Abuse by Rachelle Wilber.

Whether it is addiction to alcohol or drugs, deciding to seek treatment for substance abuse is never an easy decision. If it is a family member or yourself who has a problem with substance abuse, there are certain signs that will indicate it’s time to seek treatment at a qualified facility. Though it may be hard to admit, here is how you will know the time has come to admit professional help is needed.

Changes in Personality

If you have major personality changes eg you were once very outgoing but now are withdrawing from those closest to you, this can indicate you may need treatment for a substance abuse problem- you could also be struggling with depression . Another indication is if you lie about your addiction to those you love and try and keep it secret.

Financial Problems

If you are addicted to drugs, it won’t take long for this problem to result in you having severe financial problems. Whereas in the past you always had money to pay your bills, you now find yourself having to ask others to help you out financially. Eventually, you may lose your car and even your home. Seek help for your finances when you are able to- perhaps a friend of family member could help you.

Incidents with Law Enforcement

As you live with addiction, you may find that you commit crime or do things you wouldn’t normally do. This may include getting arrested for drunk driving, possession of drugs, or even more serious crimes such as theft or assault and battery. Once this cycle begins, it will worsen very quickly, which is why you should seek out substance abuse treatment as soon as possible. Drugs and alcohol can change your behaviour.

Physical Problems

When you are drinking or doing drugs regularly, this will ultimately take quite a toll on your physical health. While the most common signs may be relatively minor such as nosebleeds or eyes that are constantly red, you may also start to notice other signs. Look for signs of liver damage, increased blood pressure, or trouble breathing. Once these signs become evident, you need to get medical treatment as well as substance abuse treatment for your mental health. Look after your body as it can take a battering when you are addicted to substances.

Losing Your Job and Marriage

When substance abuse problems get very bad, your job and marriage may be at risk of being lost to you forever. You may find yourself suddenly being faced with the prospect of being unemployed and possibly divorced due to your ongoing battle with drugs or alcohol. Addiction can sadly strain relationships and make you unreliable at work too, because you are unwell and can’t get better. At that point, if you hit rock bottom, you may admit you need help for your addiction.

Taking that initial step in seeking treatment will be tough. However, doing so will enable you to get your life back on track and overcome your addiction to drugs or alcohol.

There are many places that offer specialised drug and alcohol treatment in the UK and globally. Check out Alcoholics Anonymous, Mind and Action on Addiction.

This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber.

4 Effective Ways to Boost Your Mood And Keep Well.

(image: Shutterstock)

Your mental health matters a great deal when it comes to your overall wellbeing. There may be days or times you feel low or maybe you’re someone who is managing a mental health or mood disorder currently.

Regardless of who you are, it’s important that you take positive steps in the right direction to take good care of yourself. Consider making and incorporating these changes and then notice how much better you feel overall. Here are four effective ways to boost your mood and be well so that you can get back to living fully and have a smile on your face while you do it.

1. Exercise & Move More

One effective way to boost your mood and be well is to exercise. Not only workout and break a sweat regularly but also commit to moving more throughout the day. Exercising is great for your mental health and can instantly put you in a better mood. Make working out fun by engaging in activities you enjoy and that get your body moving and making a playlist that keeps you motivated.

2. Get Organised & Declutter

Another effective way to boost your mood and be well is to get organised and reduce the clutter in your home, office, and life. You’ll feel less stressed daily and will be able to easily find what you’re looking for. Go through old boxes and get rid of or donate items you no longer use or want sitting around. As for anything you decide you want to keep but don’t want in your home, it would be useful to look into securing a storage unit with https://www.storagearea.com for the overflow.

3. Stay Social & Connect with Others

If you want to effectively boost your mood and be well then it’s in your best interest to build relationships with others, if you are able. Stay social when you can and make connections that are meaningful and rewarding. Keep a social calendar and be sure to get out and about once in a while so that you’re not always sitting around the house or feeling lonely. Sometimes this can be more difficult, so be kind to yourself.

You may want to join clubs or orgnaisations in your area, volunteer, or play group sports to help you stay better connected, if you want to. Otherwise, take up a hobby or two and make new friends this way as well. If you struggle with making friends or have social anxiety, you aren’t alone and there is a lot of support out there for you too!

4. Eat A Healthy Diet  

What you put in your body for fuel can also impact your mood and mental health. Feel better fast by eating a healthy diet and cutting back on sugar, alcohol, and processed and fried foods. Some foods can also cause anxiety and make you feel uneasy. Stick to a healthy and well-balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, nuts, and lean proteins. It might help to get in the habit of cooking for yourself at home so you have more control over the ingredients you use and what you’re eating. Also, always drink plenty of water to make sure you stay hydrated and have more natural energy to get you through the day.  

Keeping well is something you can do for yourelf- go at your own pace and look after your mental health and overall wellbeing.

This article was written by a freelance writer.

Taking Lithium for Bipolar Disorder: Side Effects by Eleanor

Pre Lithium in 2010 (skinny minny)

Post Lithium (on my wedding day in 2019)

I first heard about Lithium carbonate, a natural salt and the ‘gold standard’ medicine for bipolar disorder, when I was in my teen years. My dad was taking it to help his bipolar episodes- Lithium is known to stabilise mood and stop mania and depression from occurring or lessening their impact. I knew then that it was quite a strong drug, that you would need blood tests and that it caused weight gain. But it really helped my dad with his illness.

Fast forward to 2004, I was just 16 and had been diagnosed with bipolar in hospital. My brain was still growing and both I and my psychiatrist were reluctant to try Lithium at that stage, so I was started on Carbamazepine, another mood stabiliser. It was only when this medicine stopped working about 10 years later in 2014, when I was struggling with suicidal depression and anxiety (which then turned into a manic episode that I was hospitalised for), that I seriously considered taking Lithium to help me, like it helped my dad.

Lithium was first found to have benefits for patients with bipolar disorder in the 1950s, with a discovery by psychiatrist John Cade. Even today, we still don’t know what causes the disorder, but it is believed that Lithium stabilises mood – particularly mania. The psychiatrist.com notes this,

The real breakthrough in lithium therapy came in 1952, when Erik Stömgren, a Danish psychiatrist and head of the Aarhus University psychiatric clinic in Risskov who had read Cade’s article, suggested to a staff psychiatrist at the hospital, Mogens Schou, that he undertake a randomly controlled study of lithium for mania. Random controls were just being introduced to psychiatric drug trials at that time, and Schou randomly assigned patients to lithium or placebo by the flip of a coin. His results were published in a British journal with the article concluding, “The lithium therapy appears to offer a useful alternative to [electr[electroconvulsive therapy] since many patients can be kept in a normal state by administration of a maintenance dose.”

For me personally, Lithium treatment has changed my life in a number of ways- both good and not so good. Lets start with the good, I havn’t had an episode of mania and psychosis or suicidal severe depression in 8 years, which is largely down to medication helping my bipolar brain chemistry. It has worked for me- which is amazing- and I never thought I would find an effective treatment to help me. I have bipolar 1, the most severe type and although Dad has the same and was helped, I never thought it would lead me to remission. In fact, in 2014 when I was under the home treatment team after hospital, one of the nurses asked me to consider whether Lithium might not work for me and I might have to live with episodes… needless to say I cried as was very fragile and asked her to leave! She was wrong, thankfully.

On to the bad things: Lithium in combination with an antipsychotic Quetaipine has caused me to put on a lot of weight, as it slows metabolism. I also have to have 3 monthly blood tests to check my lithium level is within the correct range as too much is toxic to the body. Thankfully, I drink enough water and eat enough salt so I have never had a toxic reading but its a very careful balance..I have to always look after myself. Another bad side effect is skin sensitivity and acne- Lithium causes spots- so I have had to adapt my skincare regime and diet accordingly. Sometimes certain foods plus Lithium can trigger this too. Again, I have to pay more attention to my physical health as a result of taking Lithium and Quetaipine

The weight gain in particular has been a worry for me and is something I am working on., especially as diabetes runs in my family. Then there is the Lithium thirst…

Lithium as mentioned is a salt, and as it metabolises in the body, makes you incredibly thirsty. You have to be careful not to get dehydrated. Hence my love affair with Robinsons squash and the occasional ice cold fruit juice. No matter how much I drink, I can never fully quench my thirst, even if well hydrated. Lithium thirst is not the easiest… but Robinsons is my friend as its lower in calories and more delicious than plain water! And now I am thirsty again… haha

So I have a love-hate affair with Lithium. Brilliant for my mental health, not so great for my physical health at times. There is also a concern because over time Lithium can cause kidney and thyroid issues, which is why I have blood tests too. So its not perfect, but it really helps me to live my life and have stable mental health. Over time, its important i am monitored. I have been on it 8 years, but it could start causing problems at some point.

Additionally, when I please G-d get pregnant one day, my lithium levels will need to be monitored (but thats a blog for another time).

I don’t have nausea or trembling on Lithium which is good, but the other side effects (particularly weight) have not been so pleasant. I am so grateful though to have a medicine that keeps me well and out of hospital, able to live a life that some others take for granted.

Thanks to all who voted for this blog. If theres anything else you’d like to know, just ask a question and I will respond.

Eleanor x

Ready To Boost Your Confidence? Check Out This Guide.

Image Source – Pexels 

When you suffer from low confidence levels, almost every task can seem unachievable. This can have a severe impact on your quality of life, causing you to feel down and miserable at the best of times, so it’s something that you should certainly aim to change in order to enjoy each day to the fullest! Fortunately, this guide contains everything that you need to know to boost your confidence levels like never before, and it couldn’t be simpler to get started today! So, if you’re interested in finding out more, then read on to discover some of the best tips and tricks that you can utilize today to transform the way that you feel about yourself in no time at all. 

Source Some New Clothes 

Is there any better feeling than throwing on a brand new outfit that shows off all of your favourite features? Sourcing some new clothes can be a brilliant way to boost your confidence levels, as wearing a different outfit from your usual comfort zone clothing can help you to feel head and shoulders above your previous self. Stepping outside your comfort zone is where the magic really happens, so spend a day at your favourite shopping mall or online shop and try on/view a variety of different outfits that you love but wouldn’t usually wear. It can be hard to love your body shape and yourself, so take time with this.

You’re bound to find numerous different outfits that you feel more than confident in, especially if you grab those pieces that you wouldn’t usually consider or that you know flatter you! There are so many different places to buy clothing so don’t fret if you don’t have a shopping mall nearby – simply check online and you’ll be able to source countless different shopping platforms filled to the brim with beautiful clothing that you can order for delivery straight to your door! 

Transform Your Smile 

It’s fair to say that your smile is probably one of your most notable features, as it’s a way of greeting someone new, someone you respect or someone you love. Your smile is the first thing that a person is likely to notice about you too, so if you don’t feel confident about your smile, you may choose not to put on a happy expression in any situation.

This can discourage people from wanting to approach you, which will no doubt send your confidence levels even further down, so improving your smile is a sure fire way to feel better about yourself! Invisible braces are one of the easiest and most effective ways to realign your teeth, whereas professional whitening can get rid of discolouration and staining.

No matter what kind of dental treatment that you seek out, make sure you find the best cosmetic dentist to carry out your procedure. You don’t want to risk ruining your smile, so read reviews and check for certifications beforehand.

Practise self love and compassion

Its important to boost your confidence by giving yourself some love too! Work on your mindset, say positive affirmations, learn to love yourself and write a list of your best attributes. Ask friends what nice things they would say about you and keep it in a notebook for those low confidence days! If you find it hard to love yourself or be kind to yourself, reach out to a therapist or coach who can help you to work through confidence and self esteem issues.

This article was written by a freelance writer.

How Can I Help An Alcoholic Or Addict Parent? by Chaye McIntosh

(image: Jon Tyson on Unsplash)

When a loved one suffers from addiction, it can have just as much of an influence on your life as it does on the addicts. This is especially true if the loved one is a parent or a close relative. Children of addicts within a family are undoubtedly the most affected by addiction. This is particularly true if the addict’s children are still growing up. Unless you’re young or elderly, it’s difficult to cope as the child of an addict. Addiction has the potential to destroy a family. A parent is a glue that ties a family together; if they are addicts, the children must mature and become the house’s adults. This can have a significant negative impact on children’s mental health.

What are the Feelings of an Addict’s Children?

Children look up to their parents as role models. Parents who become addicted to drugs or alcohol, on the other hand, are only concerned with their addiction. Understanding that addiction is an illness is crucial for children of addicts. This is because long-term substance misuse changes the chemistry of an addict’s brain. As a result of this, an addict’s brain is rewired over time as a result of their substance misuse. As a result of their addiction, addicted parents can exhibit poor judgment and decision-making, a lack of self-control, and deviant behaviour choices.

What Can Children Do to Assist Parents Who are Battling Addiction?

Drug and alcohol addiction can have both short- and long-term impacts. Substance misuse can disrupt even the calmest and most loving relationships. When family members quarrel, it becomes commonplace. The level of trust begins to erode. If a relative who consumes illegal substances acts angrily or hides their condition in secrecy, relatives may grow concerned. 

Marriages may disintegrate as a result of addiction-related changes. Communication gets more difficult as displeasure is highlighted. In addition, children often take a step back from their parents to separate themselves from them. Family members may observe their loved ones endure the negative effects of drugs or erupt into rages while inebriated. Others may notice that their relatives have lost weight and are no longer recognizable.

How Can I Help an Alcoholic Parent?

Parents are blessings, so if they are addicts you can try to help them recover- but ultimately they must accept help. Here are some of the things you can do to help them. 

  1. Be Supportive

A person suffering from drug or alcohol addiction needs the support and love of family members. They need someone who will understand what they are going through. As a child, one should make sure that you are fully aware of the supportive needs of your parent- but equally you can’t fix everything.

  1. Talk to them

Talking helps a lot. An addict thinks that everyone is trying to distance themselves from them and if your parent feels like someone is trying to talk to them- they may appreciate it. Children of addicts should make sure to spend some time with their parents, where possible and if able. It can be very difficult to see your parent struggling with addiction and can be harmful also, so you will need to weigh this up. 

  1. Encourage Addiction Treatment

Addiction treatment is the only way to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Children of addicts should be aware that to help their parents they should suggest an addiction treatment program near them. Here are some addiction treatments that you can recommend to your parents:

Telehealth addiction treatment is a new form of treatment where a patient can receive treatment while being in their own homes. So if your parent avoids or doesn’t want to leave home for addiction treatment, suggest they get Telehealth addiction treatment.

  1. Avoid Fighting with them

There is no need to fight with your parents. They are already going through a very tough time. Try to avoid any sort of confrontation with them.

  1. Make them Feel Wanted

Addicts need their children to make them feel wanted. Spend some time with them. Take them out and have a nice dinner every once in a while. 

In The End…

An addict’s brain is rewired, and quitting addictive substances is more difficult than it appears. When a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, his or her brain becomes fully reliant on them to function. As a result, when addicts cut back or stop taking opioids, they may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Because they are terrified of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, addicts are sometimes discouraged from attempting sobriety.

As much as you may despise your parent for acting the way they do and refusing to seek treatment, you must respect their decision. Simply take a deep breath and recognise that your parent is afflicted with an ailment over which they have no control.

This article was written by Chaye McIntosh. You can see more about treatment here

How To Know If You Have An Eating Disorder and What To Do Next by Rachelle Wilber

(image: Unsplash)

An estimated 45 million people in the United States (and many millions globally) go on a diet each year to try and shed extra pounds. While exercising and eating healthfully is important, obsessing over losing weight can turn into an eating disorder.

Eating disorders present in a variety of different forms such as bulimia, anorexia, and/or binge eating. Staying aware of the symptoms of an eating disorder and what you should do should you develop one can help you stay healthy.

Different Types of Eating Disorders

Though problems with food can manifest in different ways, there are three main types of eating disorders.

  • Bulimia: Those with bulimia typically eat large amounts of food and then purge the food afterward by vomiting or using laxatives
  • Anorexia: Those with anorexia avoid eating or eat extremely small amounts of food
  • Binge eating: Those with binge eating may eat large amounts of food in a short amount of time

Look for Common Symptoms of Eating Disorders

One of the best ways to determine if you have an eating disorder is by watching for symptoms in your own habits and behavior. These symptoms may also be noticed by your friends, family, or other loved ones. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Having a fear of gaining weight or growing fat
  • Withdrawing from activities with family and friends
  • Becoming secretive and lying about it
  • Experiencing anxiety and depression
  • Feeling an intense fear of certain foods, such as foods that are sweet or have high levels of fat
  • Obsessing over the number of calories and food eaten
  • Avoiding situations that involve food
  • Attempting to lose weight by purging, using laxatives or over-exercising
  • Weighing yourself daily or multiple times per day

If you suspect you have an eating disorder, know that you aren’t alone and that help is available. Be proud that you are taking the first step and seeking help. It may be helpful to identify ways that you are not feeling in control in your life and the way you feel around food.

Keeping a journal of these feelings is a great way to learn more about your habits and identify the feelings that triggered your eating disorder. Next, talk with your insurance company (if in the US) or NHS/ privately if in UK and seek out a reputable doctor for eating disorder treatment. There are many specialists, counsellors, and rehabilitation centers available who are highly experienced in helping people recover from their disorder. Please note that the NHS may have waiting lists but seeking help is so important to find recovery.

Having an eating disorder often means you feel a lot of shame about yourself and your eating habits. Talking with a doctor and/or therapist can help you let go of this shame so you can love yourself and take the first steps on your road to healing.

This article was written by freelance writer Rachelle Wilber.

Living With Anxiety, Promoting Mental Health And Success In The Workplace By Erin Hallett

(image: Erin Hallett)

I sat in A&E on a Wednesday morning trying to control my breathing.

My day began normally with a rushed breakfast and a sweaty commute on the Northern Line. I got to work and started to feel lightheaded and slightly panicky. My chest hurt and I found an empty office to try and calm down. It didn’t work. My brain was screaming ‘heart attack’. A kind colleague put me in a taxi with directions to the hospital.

Of course, I wasn’t having a heart attack. It was a swift diagnosis and then I had hours to wait before seeing the on-call mental health specialist. My panic turned to shame. Especially as I watched ‘real’ sick people come and go from A&E.

It wasn’t my first panic attack, but it was my first one at work.

I was diagnosed with anxiety years earlier in Canada by my GP. I managed it through talking therapies, medication, and support from family and friends. I didn’t have to tell anyone at work and outwardly I always looked like a confident professional. I have what is commonly referred to as ‘high-functioning anxiety’.

My stress levels had been building since I moved to the UK. New country, new job, lots of work travel with more responsibilities, and missing my regular support systems. I felt uncomfortable in my own body; it ached all the time, my memory was unreliable, my hands shook, and my stomach always hurt.

I ignored all the signs and pushed through. It wasn’t one thing, anything specific, or even the building pressures at work. I stopped taking care of myself and I was scared to ask for help. Deep down, I knew it was my fault that I ended up in A&E.

I turned on my phone and scrolled through concerned messages from my team. Excuses raced through my mind: migraine, food poisoning, allergic reaction. Anything but admitting the state of my mental health. How could they, or anyone at work, respect me if they knew my truth?

One of my team members sent a private message asking if I needed a toothbrush. Even now, I can’t explain why it was their simple message that gave me the courage to tell the truth. Perhaps I sensed their kindness and concern? Perhaps because it was ‘normal’ when everything else felt out of control? Whatever the reasons, I decided to be honest with my team and my colleagues from that moment.

I am not unusual. The Mental Health Foundation cites a 2013 study with 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK. All my life I had been told I was ‘stressed’, ‘a worrier’, and ‘a perfectionist’. These characteristics make me successful, but they often cost me my mental health.

I recognise that being able to speak out is a privilege and that my seniority made it easier. It was still a risk, but I could no longer afford to be silent about my mental health. My main concern was that I would lose credibility at work. I didn’t want others to see me as weak, unreliable, or incapable.

Senior leadership, my team, and my closest colleagues were immediately supportive and sharing my story changed from being scary to empowering. Speaking out gave me some control over my anxiety and I became a better leader because I could bring my whole self to work. I started to see my anxiety as, if not a strength, something that allowed me to engage honestly with others and with my work.

I would like to share that as a white, middle class Canadian women working in reputable organisations with access to support, I feel that I have had some level of privilege at being able to access this support. Additionally, anxiety as a mental health disorder, is also relatively understood and more accepted.

No matter anyone’s background, including mine, talking about your mental health can be scary and make you feel vulnerable.

There is no one way to support mental health at work and everyone copes differently. It’s not about online yoga classes, taking deep breaths, or flexible working policies. I think it’s about awareness, inclusion, and having difficult conversations. Often when I am struggling, the only thing I want from my employer or a loved one is to be heard.

As a leader with anxiety, I think some of the most important things I can do is speak openly about my experience, help others to do the same, and listen to their stories. I took every opportunity to do these things while working at Imperial College London Business School and I continue to do so in my new role at Cambridge Judge Business School. Instead of just asking my team ‘How are you?’, I ask questions like ‘Are you getting enough sleep?’ or ‘What can I be doing to support you?’.

When I interviewed last year for my role at Judge, I intentionally spoke about my anxiety and how it influenced my leadership and working styles. I felt it was a risk worth taking.

I want organisations, employers, and employees to understand, and to see through my example, that having a mental health disorder doesn’t mean you can’t be successful or ambitious. Everyone faces challenges. Our organisations need to be a place that talking openly is encouraged and supported. Anxiety has taught me to be kinder, more empathetic, and that bringing these qualities to work are beneficial for me, my colleagues, an organisation’s healthy culture.

Erin Hallett is a mental health writer, advocate and speaker, originally from Canada- she now lives in the UK. Erin works at Cambridge judge business school.

What Tools Go Into Substance Abuse Treatment by Kara Masterson

(image: Darling Quote)

When you’ve developed an addiction to a specific drug or substance, it takes a lot of work to break that addiction. While there are those out there who can use a “cold turkey” approach to addiction, most people have to put in a significant amount of work in order to even begin experiencing healing.

Thankfully, that work comes with tools that can serve people in other areas of their lives. If you’ve been suffering from a substance abuse problem, consider some of the incredible tools that go into helping a person experience a better life.

Replacement Methods

While the cold turkey method works for some people, it often doesn’t work for the rest because they’ll simply hit a point where they either relapse or replace it with something just as harmful. For example, there are people who were able to break a drug habit but the replacement was that they started to overeat instead. Overeating is harmful in its own way as it can lead to different health problems such as obesity and chronic diseases. When you get professional treatments, you’re able to learn how to break a bad addiction and replace it with constructive hobbies and habits.

Professional Therapy

One of the worst things you can do is try to turn a friend or family member into your personal therapist. Their logic is only going to get you so far when you’re trying to beat an addiction. When you’re committed to getting professional substance abuse treatment, you’ll be able to sit and talk with therapists. When a professional has a specialization in treatment for substance abuse, they’re able to recognize signs and symptoms that need to be addressed in order to gain a better approach to your healing journey, along with an insight into methods that are more likely to help you cope with things like detox, cravings, and the specific stressors or triggers that turned you towards drugs in the first place.

Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is so important for each person to have. When you’re aware of yourself, you’ll be able to recognize how much you can handle something. You’ll be able to recognize where you need to course-correct. When you’re working through an addiction treatment program, self-awareness development is an incredible tool because it shows you what needs healing, how you’ve coped with trauma, and more. When you’re aware of yourself, you’ll position yourself to make better choices.

You’ll have to maintain a level of self-discipline that most don’t really want to exert. Think about the millions of people who lose weight. When you’re overweight and stuck on a plateau, weight loss seems impossible. However, if you look at the many testimonials and people who’ve lost weight, you know that it is possible. Use this same logic for your journey through a substance abuse addiction. It is more than possible. Look for examples of people who fought their addiction and won. Use their stories as tools to help you keep going. With this goal, you can dedicate your time to the process, use these tools, and experience a better life. Be kind to yourself and keep going!

This article was written by Kara Masterson.

Unbroken- The Inspirational Madeleine Black, The Courage Cultivator. How She Learnt To Heal After Sexual Violence.

(image: Madeleine Black)

Trigger warning: discusses sexual violence and mental illness.

I have known about the incredible speaker, author and advocate Madeleine Black for a while, through my Dad Mike. She is an outstanding and powerful advocate of courage after adversity, of hope after despair and of resilience despite intense pain. For me personally, coming from the same community, I feel that Madeleine is a shining light to so many- as sexual violence has historically not been talked about openly.

Please note the rest of the article will discuss Madeleine’s journey with sexual violence and how she was able to move forward.

Used, Beaten but Never Broken.

I remember wishing they would kill me to make it all end.”- Madeleine Black 

It takes courage to speak the unspeakable. But for many years, Madeleine Black felt too afraid and too ashamed to utter a word of what happened to her. Violently attacked at the age of thirteen, her story is one of pain – but also of healing, resilience and forgiveness. Madeleine uses her personal and moving story to show us that it’s not the events in our life that define us, but by how we choose to reclaim our lives after them. How we become unbroken.

Madeleine grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and London into a loving Jewish family. At the age of 13, she went out with a friend in a group to a cafe in London, drank alcohol for the first time (like a normal teenager) and met two male international students that night, acquaintances of her friend. They took advantage of her age and vulnerability. Instead of dropping her home safely as she was drunk and could not consent, they carried her to a nearby flat and violently gang raped her, leaving her with terrible injuries. Her friend was sleeping in the next room. Madeleine talks of seeing herself floating above her body as if she wasn’t really there – dissociation as a trauma response. She was told by one of the men that if she told anyone about the gang rape, they would come and kill her.

Madeleine has said, ‘For many years after that night, my memories of what happened after he held the blade to my throat and threatened my life were fragmented… difficult to piece together. It was too extreme, too violent for me to understand.’

Madeleine struggled with her mental health following this trauma at such a young age. Living in a state of shock and self-loathing, it took her years of struggle to confront the buried memories of that first attack and begin to undo the damage it wrought, as men continued to take advantage of her fragility in the worst possible way. Madeleine was raped three more times before the age of eighteen, experiencing more trauma in her life than most ever will. Due to the aftermath of the trauma she faced, Madeleine used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and developed phobias and an eating disorder. While she couldn’t remember lots of details of that night, it left her feeling ‘worthless, dirty and contaminated’. She had a suicide attempt by overdose, hoping to end her life and had her stomach pumped. She was then admitted to a childrens psychiatric unit struggling with suicidal depression and self harm.

After a few years, she eventually found the courage to tell her parents what really happened to her. After growing up with burdens no teenager should ever have to shoulder, she found the heart to carry out the best revenge plan of all: leading a fulfilling and happy life. She met her husband, a loving and kind man, who helped her to heal from the traumas she faced with men and they are happily married and have children together, three daughters. Madeleine learnt through this that she is loveable and she is loved.

(image: Forgiveness Project/Madeleine black)

However, piecing her life back together was long and painful. Forgiveness was the key for her to move forward- not to forgive the act of rape- but to understand what led the rapist to do so. It takes a real desire to understand those who have done us so much harm. It is the ultimate act of courage.

Madeleine has said,

‘I want to end the shame, stigma and silence surrounding sexual violence enabling others to find their voice, whatever their story is.  I want people to know that it’s not what happens to us that is important but what we do with it.  I will show how changing my mindset tapped into my resilience and transformed my life, making people question their own thinking and encouraging them to see that there are always choices to make, and if we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us in life both professionally and in our personal life. I wants to encourage others to live their life courageously too; but ultimately, I want to inspire hope and show people that we are all so much stronger than we think we are.’

(image: Madeleine Black)

Madeleine found that since the attack, she had been burying memories and started to experience flashbacks when her daughter turned 13, the same age as when she was raped. This can be a part of PTSD- post traumatic stress disorder. She learnt that she must let go of her anger and make peace with her past, as her personal journey.

In her debut book Unbroken, Madeleine tells her deeply moving and empowering story, as she discovers that life is about how a person chooses to recover from adversity. We are not defined by what knocks us down – we are defined by how we get back up. She also hosts the Unbroken podcast where she has guests sharing their own stories of hope and courage.

Madeleine is also a TEDX Speaker sharing her journey to end the shame around sexual violence , works with the Global Resilience project and is the Patron for Say Women which helps rape and abuse survivors. She currently also works as a psychotherapist.

(image: Madeleine Black)

I will leave you with Madeleine’s words:

‘I am not my body or the things that were done to me. I am so much more than the sum of one night’

Thank you to Madeleine for giving me a copy of her book Unbroken to read and for all you do. You can get your copy here