Checking In On Your Elderly Loved Ones Mental Health during the Pandemic.

(image: Pexels)

This is a difficult time for many people’s mental health. The 2020 coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic has been completely unexpected and has taken up the most part of most of our lives and conversations throughout the past year. Massive changes have taken place that can all impact mental health, ranging from fear of the virus to difficulties with social isolation, difficulties with social distancing and difficulties with job losses, financial instability, reduced income and troubles keeping up with financial commitments.

The list goes on and on. But chances are the people often hardest hit by this virus are the elderly. Even those who do not battle the virus itself have had to lead more sheltered and isolated lives since the start of the year and, if you have an elderly loved one in your life, it’s important to do your utmost to help them right now. Here are some suggestions that can help you to achieve this!

Make Sure They Have the Most Up to Date Information

The first step that you need to take for your loved one during this pandemic is to make sure that they have the most up to date information on the virus, current guidelines, current restrictions and any other useful information.

The rules and the regulations that we are living by are all changing on a really regular basis and it can be hard for the elderly to keep up. Bear in mind that many of us get our news updates from social media and online news apps. The elderly often rely on newspapers, which only arrive once a day and which they may not actually be able to get their hands on while they are isolating. The radio can help too. Make sure that they are in the know to make sure they feel comfortable and know what’s going on.

Check In On Elderly Relatives in Care Homes

Sure, many elderly people are in care homes where you are not able to visit them right now. This reduces virus spreading. But you should still check in on them. Most care homes will take care of your loved one well. But there have been instances of neglect or misconduct throughout this pandemic and you’re going to want to call your loved one and check everything is okay. If there are any issues, you may need to reach out to a nursing home abuse attorney.

Buy and Deliver Their Essentials for Them

If your loved ones still live in their own homes independently, you may need to get their essentials for them and drop them off on their doorstep. This minimises contact with them, but also ensures that they have the food that they need, the medication that they need, the toiletries that they need and the cleaning products that they need. Many are unable to head to the shops themselves – especially if it means taking public transport.

Now can be a hard time for the elderly and the pandemic could be taking its toll on their mental health. But by following the steps above, you can help to give them peace of mind and reduce their stressors.

This article was written by a freelance writer

8 Tips on Managing Your Emotions for better Mental Health.

(image: Pexels)


Having emotions and expressing them is a part of the human experience. Regardless if they are positive or negative emotions, the most important things about your emotions is how you express them. The response to your emotions can help you in so many other areas of your life, it is important to know how to control your emotions well, to help your mental health.

If you know how to properly work with your emotions you will likely make better decisions, your relationships will flourish, your everyday interactions with people you pass by or coworkers will improve and you will be better equipped to take care of yourself.

If you are tired of being run by your emotions, we have practical tips that can help you manage your emotions no matter what life throws your way.

Understand The Impact Of Your Emotions

Your emotions are important. Intense emotions can remind you that you are alive. It is also common for emotions to overwhelm, whether something good happens or if something terrible happens. That is why it is important to have a strong understanding of the impact your emotions play in your life. Emotions can make life worth living or it can make things unnecessarily difficult.

Take some time to consider how your emotions impact your life. You may have a lot of conflict in your friendships or other relationships. You may have a hard time relating to other people, so you may isolate yourself. Unmanaged emotions can also lead you to have issues in your professional life at work and in your academic life in school. It is very likely that you will have emotional and physical outbursts. Spend some time with yourself and determine how your emotions are affecting your life up to this point. Where has it led you? Once you put a name to your emotions, it will be easier to keep track of your problem areas making it easy to track your progress.

Regulate Not Repress

Managing your emotions does not mean repress or suppress them. You should still be expressing your emotions. Expressing your emotions is healthy and imperative to stable mental health. If your goal is to not feel something, strongly reconsider. Sometimes you may subconsciously do it, not even realizing. Bottling up your emotions may seem like a quick fix, but it causes more problems down the line. Repressed and suppressed emotions can lead to things like anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, muscle tension and pain, stress management issues and substance abuse.

Remember that your goal is to control your emotions, not pretend they do not exist. You cannot shop it out, smoke it out, drink it out. You have to deal with your emotions head-on. That is the best way to take control of your emotions. The goal is balance.

Know What You Are Feeling

It can be difficult to control something you are unfamiliar with. Get familiar with your feelings. Constantly check in with yourself about how you are feeling. When you check in with your moods and feelings, you will be better equipped to respond to any and every emotional trigger you may face throughout the day. It could also stop you from making purely emotional decisions that may not be the best decisions to make.

Throughout your day, ask yourself how you are feeling. If you are feeling good or bad, ask yourself why you feel this way. Maybe you are having an emotional reaction to what someone did to you or for you. Before getting upset with them, consider if the inciting situation has a different explanation aside from the one you are currently telling yourself. Sometimes it is the stories we tell ourselves that are the main cause of our discomfort.

Once you have done all of that, ask yourself what is the best way to get out that emotion. Should you scream? Should you vent? Another question to ask yourself is if there is a better way to cope with your feelings. Sometimes screaming is not the best way to cope. Instead of screaming at your significant other, scream in a pillow at home instead. Maybe taking a few deep breaths is more appropriate.

As long as you are thinking about alternatives to your current situation and your feelings, it will be much easier to control your emotions instead of working off of your knee-jerk reaction.

Be Accepting Of Your Emotions

Avoid downplaying your emotions. Give yourself permission to feel those feelings. Do not feel about feeling those feelings either. Do not invalidate your experiences! If something makes you so happy you could leap into the air, do it! If something makes you feel super sad, express that. Do not tell yourself to “calm down” or “it’s not that serious.” It is serious to you and that is what matters.

Once you become more accepting of your emotions, the good ones and the bad, you will become more comfortable with them. The more comfortable you are with your emotions the less likely you will react to a triggering situation in a way that does not serve you best.

The impulse to judge your emotions is common and everyone struggles with this in different variations of difficulty. Remember that your emotions are not good or bad. They are neutral. They hold useful information that can help you improve, even if the emotion itself may feel unpleasant.

Journal

Before you cringe at the thought of keeping a journal, try it out. Writing down your emotions and the responses you have to those emotions can help you clearly see patterns. Often when something happens that triggers intense emotions, you may have the instinct to run through the situation in your mind over and over again. Take it a step further and put words on paper. Sometimes the act of writing something can help you reflect more deeply on your feelings and your triggers.

Think of journalling as a way to keep track of the things that trigger you. Once you know your triggers, you can catch yourself before falling back into those patterns that no longer serve you. If you want to truly reap all the benefits journaling has to offer, make sure that you stay consistent with it at least once a day. Make note of all your triggers and reactions to those triggers. Use your journal to explore different, more productive ways to express your emotions.

Remember To Breathe

That sounds too good to be true, but remembering to breathe can impact the way you process your emotions. Life happens fast. Sometimes it happens so fast, we barely have time to process. Taking some time to yourself to deeply breath can clear your mind in a moment of rage or it can help you fully enjoy a moment. Taking a deep breath gives you between the moment something triggered an emotion and your reaction to it. In between that breath you can check in with how you are feeling and why. You can ask yourself those questions like what is the alternative explanation that makes sense. All of that can happen in the time it takes for you to complete a few deep breaths.

If breathing deeply is not your thing, do not worry! It can be your thing! All you have to do is try. Get in a comfortable position and try deep breathing exercises before you start your day. When you take a few deep breaths, remember to breathe from your diaphragm as all deep breaths come from there. Once you have breathed in so much that your belly is rising, hold it in for three counts and release slowly. You can take it a step further and add a mantra that you say to yourself while doing your breathing exercises.

Understand That There Is A Time And A Place

Expressing your emotions is imperative to being able to control them, but you must understand that there is a proper time and place to express those emotions. There are some situations in which an emotional outburst is acceptable. Maybe you lost a loved one and are stricken with sadness and anger. Crying into your pillow, punching your mattress or screaming is a great way to express emotions.

The challenge comes when there is no space for you to do these things. You then have to determine if expressing your emotions in this way is the time and place. You cannot yell at your boss and expect to keep your job. You cannot slap the cash register because your card got declined otherwise you will go to jail. You have to be mindful of your surroundings and what the situation calls for. This can help you determine if this is the right time and place to express your emotions in this way.

Give Yourself Space To Process

Sometimes triggering emotions happen so fast, it can be overwhelming to process. That is why giving yourself space to process is so important. When you create a mental distance between yourself and your emotions by taking a walk, watching something that makes you laugh, talking to someone you love and spending a few minutes with your pet, you are better able to process those difficult emotions.

We are a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog 2020- Thanks Vuelio!

Today I received the most amazing news that top PR and communications company Vuelio have listed us as a Top 10 UK Mental Health blog for the second year in a row!

It is such an honour to make this list with other amazing blogs- everyone who runs them works so hard to provide content and keep updating them. Congratulations to everyone else on this list 🙂

We are at number 6 and you can check out the list here!

Thanks Vuelio!

Mental Health Blog Awards 2020- Vote for Us! : by Eleanor

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(image: Mental Health Blog Awards)

Hi friends,

Voting is now open (first round) for the Mental Health Blog Awards 2020 and we have been nominated in the Blogger of the Year Category.

We would love you to vote for us, to recognise all of our hard work- including that of our guest bloggers, in battling mental health stigma.

I started the blog 4 years ago and it is an honour to be nominated.

You can vote for us- listed as Eleanor at Be Your Own Light here and please also vote for others in other categories if you are aware of their work! There are some incredible people nominated.

From Mike Douglas, founder of the awards:

“I am delighted to welcome you to the Mental Health Blog Awards. 

I look forward to continuing to celebrate the amazing work, effort, energy, emotion and so much more you all put into raising awareness, supporting, signposting, explaining and comforting in 2020.”

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(image: Mental Health Blog Awards)

First round voting closes on 1st May and you can vote here: https://s.surveyplanet.com/bG5vzH_q

 

With love and thanks,

Eleanor 

x

We are 4! On Be Ur Own Light’s Fourth Blog Anniversary by Eleanor

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Its Today- 1st March 2020 and Be Ur Own Light is 4 years old! (cue the streamers!)

I still remember starting this blog as an outlet for my fears, thoughts and emotions dealing with my bipolar and anxiety. The blog started as a way to tell my friends and family how I was feeling and has evolved into working with guest bloggers and now brands/ partners on sponsored wellness posts too! Writing the blog and sharing thoughts has been so therapeutic and it has taken me on  a journey that I could not have imagined.

In November 2019, I published my first book Bring me to Light with Trigger Publishing which is the book of my life story with bipolar disorder, anxiety and my life in general (travelling, going to drama school, starting a career as a writer). The blog has also grown so much this year and is currently nominated in the Mental Health Blog Awards for Blogger of the Year, thank you to our nominee!

Additionally, Vuelio awarded us as a Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog for the second year running and interviewed me (Eleanor) about working as a blogger!  Thanks also to Feedspot.com and My Therapy App for listing us in their mental health blog lists too for social anxiety and bipolar!

This year, I have written about World Bipolar Day for the Centre of Mental Health, about my search for EMDR therapy on the NHS, living with depression in winter, about writing my book and new life changes (getting married) and 2020 new year round up with hopes for the future. We also promoted mental health campaigns such as Shout UK text line (founded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and Meghan),  Christmas 4 CAMHS, Time to Talk Day and Mental Health Awareness Week. Additionally, I spoke in Essex with my Dad about our joint story with bipolar for the Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat and we also spoke at Limmud Conference in Birmingham!

This winter I did some interviews for the book which can be seen on the Book tab above and also received some lovely reviews. It was amazing to appear in Happiful Magazine’s bonus wellness Mag this January (edited by campaigner Natasha Devon) and to write for Glamour and Bipolar UK. I also enjoyed being interviewed for the Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle! Hopefully at some point I will do podcasts about it too and more interviews.

From March 2019-2020, the blog has attracted wonderful and talented guest bloggers wanting to spread their messages about mental health and wellness.

We have also worked with the following brands on sponsored and gifted posts and hope to work with many more this next year :  YuLife, Nutra Tea, Essential Olie, Loveitcoverit on mental health apps, I-sopod floatation tanks, Core Wellness Maryland, Wellbeing Escapes Holidays.

My guest bloggers have written about their recovery and living with mental illnesses, as well as advice on how to improve your mental health. There a posts for whether you are going through a divorce, a bereavement, are stressed or have anxiety. We also had posts with people’s first hand experiences of mental illness including a brave post about being a sibling of someone with mental illness and one of living with an eating disorder. Furthermore, Be Ur Own Light has also covered World Mental Health Day and Time to Talk Day this year, featuring personal mental health stories as a way to raise awareness and fight misconceptions.

We have also covered new books coming out, a mental health fashion brand and a song about social anxiety, as well as posts about different therapies to help you.

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Thank you to my amazing guest bloggers (non sponsored) March 2019-2020 for your fantastic content:   

Ashley Smith- How Massage Therapy helps Anxiety Disorders

Emily Bartels- 5 tips for a mental health emergency plan

Dale Vernor- Understanding PTSD by Gender 

Tan at Booknerd Tan- How audio books and walking has helped anxiety

Emma Sturgis- Loving yourself, tips for a body positive life

EM Training Solutions- How to maintain mental health at work

David Morin- On social anxiety and talking to others

Lyle Murphy- How equine therapy can help those with mental health issues

Charlie Waller Memorial Trust- Best of Musicals event

A Time to Change Hypnotherapy-  Hypnotherapy for self esteem

Nu View Treatment Center- The connection between anxiety and substance abuse

Shout UK- Royal family launches mental health text line

Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health Awareness Week  May 2019 Body Image

Emerson Blake- Coping with the stress of becoming a single parent

The Worsley Centre- A guide to therapies and finding the right one for you

Byron Donovan at Grey Matter – How I recovered from depression to form a fashion brand 

Luci Larkin at Wooley and Co Law- How to reduce stress and maintain mental health during a divorce

Nat Juchems- How to keep your loved ones memory alive after bereavement

Emily Ilett- on her book ‘The Girl who Lost her Shadow’

Mark Simmonds- an interview about his book ‘Breakdown and Repair’ with Trigger Publishing

Curtis Dean- 5 facts about music for stress relief

Robert Tropp- How quitting illegal drugs helps anxiety in the long term

Aaron James- the difference between psychotherapy and counselling

Dr Justine Curry- 4 ways to help a friend with bipolar disorder

Christmas 4 CAMHS campaign for children in childrens mental health wards

Ani O- 4 ways to ease the fear of doctors appointments

Katherine Myers- Ways that spending time outdoors can improve your mental health

Anita- 5 ways to lift you out the slump of seasonal depression

Chloe Walker- taking care of your child’s mental health

CBT Toronto- how to deal with social anxiety and depression

Katy- a true story with anorexia and OCD

Vanessa Hill- Life changing habits to bring into the new year

Rachel Leycroft- Expressing social anxiety through songwriting

Shira- Living with a sibling with mental illness: the meaning of normal

Capillus- 10 signs you may have an anxiety disorder

Brooke Chaplan- When therapy isn’t enough 

Jami Mental Health Awareness Shabbat 2020 

Mike Segall- Time to Talk Day- 9 years undiagnosed, my story with bipolar disorder

Jasveer Atwal- Living with PCOS and managing mental health

Leigh Adley at Set Your Mind Free- How CBT helps children with anxiety

Lizzie Weakley- How to heal and move forward when you have an eating disorder

Sofie- Living with an eating disorder

Thank you so much to all of you and I am excited to see what 2020-21 brings for the blog!

Be Ur Own Light continues to be read globally and I love receiving your messages about the blogs and finding new writers too.

Heres to a 2020 of positive mental health, of fighting the stigma against mental illness and creating a positive and supportive community here. 

Happy 4th birthday Be Ur Own Light!  ❤ May this be an enlightening year of growth for us.

 

Love and Light always,

Eleanor    

xxx

‘The Meaning of Normal’: Living with a sibling with mental illness : Guest post by Shira

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(image: Thought Clothing)

It hasn’t been normal for so long that sometimes I forget what normal should feel like. When I try to think about it, it feels like a glimpse into someone else’s life, and I am an invasive stranger, trying to reach something that doesn’t belong to me.

What is normal?

Sometimes I think I remember it.

Sometimes I think that normal is that time when I was six and you were three and we didn’t fight. When we played hand in hand like every other child, and our entire world was pink and purple, and the most important thing to us was that our dolls had shiny blonde hair.

And we would play every game under the sun, from barbies to dollhouse to the convoluted imaginary ones that only we knew the rules to, and even then did we ever really know the rules?

I was a witch and you were the princess. We were both witches. We were both princesses. I stole your magic time machine but you found another one, and our living room became the entire universe as we ran through it, believing wholly in the pictures we created, the way that only children can.

But did we ever really exist like that? Were we ever those idyllic children, the children that every parent wishes to have?

Maybe our normal is all the times when I was ten and you were seven and we would push and shove and slap. You were my younger sister who could do no wrong and I was the older one, always blamed for both our shares of misdemeanours.

“You should know better!” They would shout

“But she started it!” I would pout.

“It’s not true!” your bottom lip would stick out.

I think we all know that I probably did start it.

We would fight and yell and cry and shout, never giving in, never admitting that we were wrong. Because we weren’t wrong. We were both right, all the time, every time, and the other was always painfully mistaken. And we roared and yelled and scratched each other, but knew only to cry when a parent was looking. And if nobody was looking, well then nobody would see if we punched back just one more time.

But were we ever really like this? Two demonic screaming children who were never silent and never content with just each other? Were we really the children that every parent dreads to have?

Maybe our normal is the way we grew apart as we grew older. When I was 15 and you were 12 and I would pretend not to know you as I walked past you in school. And maybe our normal is the way we would come home from the same school at the same time separately, both of us walking different routes from the bus because being seen with one another would be unacceptable. Maybe that’s what all teenagers do. Maybe that really was our normal.

Maybe our normal was what came next.

Maybe the years we didn’t talk to each other was what we were always heading towards. Because one day we would put down the dolls, and one day we would run out of things to fight about and we would just…exist.

One next to the other.

Sitting in silence.

Neither speaking.

Neither bothering to reach out first.

Because now I’m 18 and you’re 15 and I don’t remember the last time I spoke to you. The house is thick with anger, so thick that it poisons every interaction, and I couldn’t even tell you what I’m angry about. Because the sister I played with, the sister I happily fought with but would jump on anyone else who dared fight with her is in pain. So much palpable pain, and for the first time I couldn’t just make it go away.

Was I angry with you?

Yes.

Was I angry with myself?

Yes.

And so I let this become our normal. A normal where two siblings exist side by side, but don’t even know how to speak without offending. Where everything I say hurts you and everything you say angers me.

So we made this our new normal.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care.

I don’t.

I care.

And now I’m 20 and you’re 17 and I’m 3000 miles away. But this is our normal now. We don’t speak. We can’t speak. But it doesn’t even matter because there’s nothing to speak about anymore. How can I ask how you are when I already know the answer, and I know it’s not an answer I want to hear. How can you ask how I am when you’re too focused on making it through your own day without worrying about mine?

And anyway, it’s been a long time since we told each other how our day was. Not since I was 14 and you were 11 and we would awkwardly walk home from the bus stop together, backpacks moving up and down and up and down as we compared notes about school, neither of us loving it, neither of us willing to admit that out loud.

But we are not those children anymore, and we don’t have any shared experiences to talk about anymore.

I wonder if you miss me like I miss you. I wonder if you count down the days to my birthday too, hoping that we will both make it past 17 and 20, willing time to hurry up even though maybe all I really want to do is turn back the clock.

And then you are 18, and it’s been 18 years since I sat by your tiny cradle in the hospital and cried when we left, maybe because I wanted another chocolate bar from the hospital vending machine, or maybe because secretly I don’t want to leave my baby sister in a cold hospital far far away.

But now you are 18 and I’ve still left you in a hospital far away and it’s still just as hard to leave you there as it was all those years ago. But a 21 year old can’t lie down on the floor and have a tantrum so I keep going and keep going and this is our normal now.

A normal where you’re there and I’m here. A normal where we won’t speak for months on end but then I text you and tell you I miss you and now you answer me too, and I think you miss me too. A normal where we joke and laugh at stupid posts we see on Instagram,  tentatively, both of us till remembering when you were 14 and I was 17 and we ripped each other apart with words until neither of us said anything at all. Is this our normal now?

What is normal?

I looked it up for you.

 

NORMAL:

  • Conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected

 

But who gets to decide what that standard is? How do we know when something that once wasn’t normal now is, and if what was once normal is now anything but? Do we decide that? Or do others who stand by and watch get to decide that for us?

I’m sure someone could tell you the scientific answer. I’m sure there is a video out there with a detailed and meticulous answer laid out for us to study.

I’m sure somebody could tell us the answer. Maybe we haven’t even been normal, maybe we always were.

Maybe the imaginary games of our childhood were always meant to turn into imagined grievances causing real rifts. Maybe we were meant to grow apart and then come back together again, a little rougher but a little kinder. Maybe none of it was normal, or maybe all of it was.

Sometimes I wish I could change all of it. If I hadn’t said what I said that one day, or if I hadn’t slammed my door that one time, or if you hadn’t called me that name under your breath, things would all be different now.

But sometimes I know I can change none of it. And maybe that’s ok. Maybe if we hadn’t played all those games as children, if we had never walked down the road together from school, if I had never sent the texts you eventually answered, things would all be different now.

Normal isn’t for us to decide, it isn’t for me to determine. All I know is our normal is all we have, and I wouldn’t change us for the world.

About:

Shira is a writer living in Israel, drawing on every day life experiences. Her sibling lives with a diagnosed mental illness and she has bravely shared their story here.

 

 

 

2020: New Year Round Up by Eleanor

 

(image: Prevention.com)

New year posts are always hard to write aren’t they? We start the year in a midst of optimism about goals and achievements and working towards our dream/s. But it can so easily get derailed as life gets overwhelming or busy. However, this post is to say ‘do not give up!’ (to me and to you).

2019 was an amazing, busy, emotional, whirlwind of a year for me. I started the year engaged and half way through wedding planning. In March, my step grandpa sadly passed away at the age of 96. Then, my father in law has stage 3 brain cancer and earlier this year was hospitalised for pneumonia (due to chemotherapy weakening the immune system), which then rapidly became sepsis (poisoning) which can be life threatening. We didn’t know if he would make the wedding and at one point we didn’t know if he would make it through the night.  There was a lot of praying, a lot of fear, a lot of emotion. That was April.

Thankfully, he survived and recovered over months at home. But he is still unwell- we are just lucky he is still here and he made our wedding too.

In May, I started a new job in PR and Communications and met the best colleagues ever. I also spent the year writing my book ‘Bring me to Light’ with Trigger editors Stephanie and Katie. I submitted the manuscript 2 weeks before our wedding.

In late June, I was bridesmaid for my best friends wedding and it was wonderful.

In July, I married my best friend in front of loved ones (including father in law), we moved in together and we went on honeymoon to Sicily, Italy in August to a beautiful place and made good memories. In September, Rob’s cousin got married and that was a lovely family wedding.

In October, I left my new job for personal reasons- although I loved it. The stress of the year, the changes of life had got to my mental health. I am currently working freelance as a writer but applying for jobs too.

Sometime in October/ November, I started EMDR trauma therapy with a wonderful therapist and I hope it continues to help me.

In November, my book was published and sent out to the world and I did some press for it, although I experienced heightened anxiety with it coming out which affected me for a while. Good friends got married too at this time.

In December, I went to Limmud Festival (a conference) with my Dad for our first talk about it and managed to speak, despite my anxiety.

Now, its 2020.

I have some goals for this year. Mainly to be happy, healthy and confident and to give to other people.

This year I would like:

To publish my children’s stories

-To seek out amazing opportunities to promote my book

-To work as a writer and in social media. I would also love the opportunity to work in schools again part time to develop my skills in early years. For me to be financially independent is something I would love again.

-Manage my panic attacks through therapeutic techniques.

-To raise more mental health awareness

-To be more healthy and look after my body

-To be kind and give to others more.

 

Here’s to a new year of health, happiness and prosperity. How was your 2019/ new year?

Eleanor x

 

The Girl who Lost her Shadow: Guest blog by Author, Emily Ilett.

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The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow is a story about sisterhood. It’s about being there for each other when everything feels like it is falling apart.

Gail and Kay used to swim every week, but everything had changed after their dad left. Now, Kay never left her room if she could help it. She hardly ate, and if she looked at Gail, it was like she was looking all the way through her, as if she was invisible.

When Gail’s older sister, Kay, becomes depressed, Gail doesn’t understand what is happening. The two sisters used to do everything together – they dreamed of being marine biologists and swam in the sea whenever they could. So when Kay becomes tired, sad and distant and won’t swim with Gail anymore, Gail feels abandoned and is furious with her sister.

But after Gail’s own shadow disappears on her twelfth birthday, Gail kicks at her sister’s shadow in frustration and it’s then that she begins to understand how Kay really feels.

Her feet prickled as Kay’s shadow gathered around them, silken between her toes. She gasped at the force of it. She felt emptied of everything she cared about, hollow like a clam shell cast up on a beach. Was this how Kay felt?

Kay’s shadow ripples under the bedroom door and out of the house, leaving Gail alone with this new understanding. And so Gail becomes determined to get her sister’s shadow back. She’s sure that if she brings it back, everything will go back to the way it was before Kay became depressed. But the journey she does go on turns out to be quite different.

As she follows Kay’s shadow across the island, she meets Mhirran, a girl who can do Morse code, a storm, and two bird shadows. With her new friends, Gail learns that she is stronger than she thought, and that even though Kay feels so far away, Gail can always find a way to reach her again.

This is a story about the impact of Kay’s depression on Gail, and how Gail finds the courage to be there for her sister, just as Kay has looked out for her so many times before. I think children’s stories about mental health are so important; at a time when everything can be painful and confusing, stories are a way of seeing ourselves and understanding how we can ask for support and give it to those we care about.

Kay said too many people try to do things by themselves – she couldn’t understand it. It’s a brave thing to ask for help, she said. The bravest thing.

When I was a child I struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and at the time I didn’t understand what was happening or that it was a shared experience. As an adult I recently read The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson, a beautiful and sensitively written children’s book about a boy called Matthew who has OCD who solves a mystery in his local neighbourhood. It was such a poignant experience reading this book and I am so happy it exists for the next generation of young readers, so that they feel less alone and can find the words to put to their experience or the experience of friends or family.

I hope that The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow will help young people and families talk about depression and mental health, and this tale of magic and adventure provides companionship to young people and supports them to ask for, and give help, themselves.

In this extract, Gail is trapped inside a tree’s shadow and she is looking at a photograph of Kay in the hope that it will give her the strength to escape the shadow.

Gail ran a forefinger down the photo, following the curve of Kay’s cheek. Kay had always been the strong one, not her. She remembered the time when she’d broken her arm and Kay had drawn

twenty-three octopi on her cast so that she had all the arms she needed, and when Kay had spent hours explaining the tides because Gail was afraid of not knowing when the ocean would shift or shrink. She remembered when her sister had taken the blame the day Gail had turned their mum’s umbrella into a jellyfish with pink tissue paper and superglue, and when she’d squeezed Gail’s hand and distracted her with stories of marine biologist Asha de Vos while Gail had her first terrifying injection.

And she remembered one day after Kay had started sinking, when she had turned to Gail in the sticky silence, and said softly, “Do you remember the time we went swimming last October? We stayed in for ages and when we came out our lips and fingers were blue. You squeezed my hand and I couldn’t feel anything at all.” Gail had nodded and Kay stared at her own hand, flexing her fingers. “I feel like that now, Gail. Everything is numb. It’s like I’ve been swimming for hours. But I don’t know how to get out. I can’t get out.”

Gail had stiffened at Kay’s words then. Kay was the strong one. She needed Kay to be the strong one. And so she had tightened her mouth and tapped at the window and shrugged and said nothing at all.

Twigs broke behind her. They crunched in a creature-like way. Gail held her breath; she slipped the photo back in her bag and tried once more to wrestle her feet from the tree’s shadow. It was beginning to convince her that there were leaves growing from her nostrils and in between her teeth: Gail had to touch her face to check that there weren’t. She tugged her hair behind her ears, and shifted her rucksack higher on her back.

Leaves crackled to her right, followed by the scuttling of insects disturbed.

“Hello?” Gail whispered. “Who’s there?”” 

(The Girl who Lost her Shadow)

 

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This blog was written by author Emily Ilett. ‘The Girl Who Lost her Shadow’ is out now with Floris books and on Amazon. 

Mental Health Awareness Week: The Mental Health Foundation: Body Image 13th-19th May 2019

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(image: Mental Health Foundation)

This week, starting today is the Mental Health Awareness Week by the UK charity the Mental Health Foundation. Its theme is looking at Body Image, how we think and feel about our bodies.

Mental Health Foundation say ‘Body Image can affect us all at any age- during this week we are publishing new research and campaigning for change’    .

They continued,

Last year we found that 30% of all adults have felt so stressed by body image and appearance that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope. That’s almost 1 in every 3 people.

Body image issues can affect all of us at any age and directly impact our mental health.

However there is still a lack of much-needed research and understanding around this.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week:

  • We will be publishing the results of a UK-wide survey on body image and mental health.
  • We will look at body image issues across a lifetime – including how it affects children and young people, adults and people in later life.
  • We will also highlight how people can experience body image issues differently, including people of different ages, genders, ethnicities and sexualities.
  • We will use our research to continue campaigning for positive change and publish practical tools to help improve the nation’s relationship with their bodies.’
  • The good news is that we can tackle body image through what children are taught in schools, by the way we talk about our bodies on a daily basis and through policy change by governments across the UK.’

For more on how you can get involved see : https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

 

Loving Yourself: 4 Tips for Living a Body Positive Life: Guest blog by Emma Sturgis

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(image: Emma Sturgis)

Starting to live a body-positive life all begins with you, the individual. It can be challenging with so much pressure from society trying to dictate our lives. It becomes easier when you block out all negative forces and decide to start loving yourself and your body no matter what others have to say.

Loving yourself no matter what will increase your happiness and your overall peace in life. Here are four tips to help you down the body-positive life and feel total peace of mind about your body and physical appearance.

Work on Self-love

A significant number of girls have been through the trauma associated with body shaming, especially in high school. Some have taken the weight of the shame to our adult life where we lose our confidence and tend not to love ourselves as we should.

Many women and girls suffer from poor body image for years, or even through their entire life. The first step into living a body-positive life is by loving yourself first. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and no one is perfect. You just have to own your flaws and flaunt your strengths.

This can often be easier said than done, especially with years of social conditioning. You can achieve self-love through daily practices that make you feel your best physically and emotionally. Tell yourself every day that you appreciate your body and all it does for you.

Eat Instinctively and Respectfully

You don’t have to starve yourself to fit into that wedding dress within an unrealistic time-frame. Diets don’t work and neither does overfeeding any time you are stressed, sad or angry. Stop for a moment and ask yourself what your body desires to look great.

If you feel that you are struggling to keep an eating routine and your mental health is worsening, accept the problem and seek inpatient eating disorder treatment. under a psychiatry team or your local doctor.  

 

Change Your Perspective on Exercising

Most of us quit taking exercise and going to the gym because we hate working out. Exercise can be fun when we redirect the focus from it being a weight loss challenge to treating your body correctly and healthily.

You don’t have to attach any pressure or targets to your daily workout routines. Do exercises that are fun to you and even make it a social event with your friends. Once you start viewing exercise as healthy for your body , you will begin to love it. You will enjoy exercising because of how it makes you feel, endorphins from it will make us feel happy. You may even feel proud after a work out!

 

Pamper Your Body

After all the stress and pressure that your body endures, it deserves to be pampered and treated right. Get some good fitting outfits, wear the best lotions, go for therapeutic massages and take frequent hot tub baths. Fall in love with every curve while you look straight into the mirror.

This will allow you to connect with your body instead of feeling detached and negative toward it. You can make these things part of each day. Carve out some time from your busy schedule to pamper yourself, even if it includes simply putting on your favorite perfume. It will give you a simple confidence boost to carry through your day. Always take time for yourself and don’t let your daily tasks take priority over caring for your physical and mental health.

Once you change your mindset, the journey to living a body-positive life will be so much easier. You don’t have to lose 20 pounds to start loving yourself and your body. You are much more than your physical body.

Knowing your worth is a gift to yourself and your body. Eventually, it helps you rediscover your true self. You will be able to go forward in the world with confidence and give your amazing gifts and what you have to offer, to the universe.

This blog was written by freelance writer Emma Sturgis from the USA