We have a lot of mental health awareness in the modern day. Barely a week goes by without it being mentioned that mental health is important, and that it’s “OK not to be OK”. By now, for sure, we’re all quite aware of mental health. What might be needed more from this point on is mental health understanding, because while people and organisations are more than ready to acknowledge the existence of conditions like depression, fewer are forthcoming with any practical help.
One of the problems that we have right now is that mental health issues were ignored and mocked for so long that – now we have some acceptance of their impact – a lot of people don’t have the language to deal with them. Well-meaning people might say “depression is an illness, just like X”, and not really understand that it can be seen as an unhelpful statement. It would be helpful for people with depression if the following facts were widely known.
A good day with depression doesn’t mean the problem is gone
A lot of the language used around mental illness, and particularly depression, portrays it as a steady, relentless grind – and it sure feels like that most of the time. As a result, when someone who has been suffering opens up, has a laugh and is “more like their old self”, their loved ones might see light at the end of the tunnel. Depression is a complicated condition, unfortunately, and even that brief spell of happiness might trigger a period of guilt, which deepens a depressive episode. This complication is part of what makes it so insidious.
“Looking on the bright side” isn’t a productive strategy
It’s easy to understand why people try to talk around someone dealing with depression by pointing to all the positives in life. It would seem like a productive strategy, because if they see a bright side, they will surely feel better. Right? Unfortunately not. While there are plenty of useful tips for dealing with depression, this is not one of them. Reminding people of how life is good and could be worse is more likely to make them feel like, on top of all the bad things they are feeling, they’re also ungrateful. It doesn’t help.
Depression doesn’t come from any single source
Some people believe that depression is a response to negative life situations. Others argue that it is a result of underproduction of serotonin in the brain. Both sides are right, and both are also wrong; depression isn’t solely chemically-driven, nor is it purely down to circumstances, and this means that you can’t fight it with medication alone. At the same time, it may not be possible to fight it without medication. Finding the right combination to beat depression (or at least sideline it) isn’t an overnight thing, but it is achievable.
The best advice you can give someone with depression is that, in time, things will get better and that’s all you want for them. Acknowledge that it will take time, and that you’ll be there for them, but don’t ever try to argue them out of it.
As many of you know, last year I began working as a consultant (and now manager) for the Body Shop at Home. This was after leaving a job due to severe panic attacks that left me not able to attend work or leave the house daily (related to past trauma) . I eventually lost that job, as I had to leave so many ‘normal’ workplaces that weren’t able to accommodate me.
My confidence was on the floor. I lost my job, we lost the flat we were going to buy and then in March, we went into lockdown.
I have had to face many dark times throughout my life, as I am sure you have. However, in the darkest of times I have learnt one important thing- resilience. Resilience is something that helps me when I am on the floor, sobbing my eyes out from a panic attack (or in the past when I felt low and suicidal). Resilience got me through my GCSES, A levels and University. Resilience (and medication) somehow got me through being sectioned in 2014 for my bipolar and having to recover to live again.
I am not perfect but I know what it is like to have no confidence, no self esteem, to be highly anxious or severely depressed and for each day to be a struggle. To feel like you are wading through treacle or for every fibre of your being to be stressed with anxiety.
When I talk to people about my Body Shop journey and the opportunities that it has brought me and my manager Sarah (who also lives with mental illness), people not only can’t believe it but they also tell me:
‘I can’t do what you do, you have so many supportive friends.’
‘I can’t do what you do, I feel really low in confidence and low on time’.
While it is true I do have wonderful friends and a good network, I still had to build my group, build my business and build my team from nothing. From scratch. I had to familiarise myself with the products, learn what they do and their ingredients. I had to make contact with new people and find new customers via my network. I had to sell to friends and family….which I was petrified of doing.
I thought I couldn’t sell a product as I had never worked in retail. My anxiety and confidence was really low and it took a lot to go live and share the products, play games like bingo and go live in the group.
But people got behind me and because they did, my confidence began to grow. I realised I loved what I was doing. I was good at it. I could help others and work from home with flexible hours. I could rebuild again.
But what I want to ask you is:
Why can’t you do what I do, if you want to do it?
Why can’t you say yes to an exciting opportunity- and have support from me and a great team? Why can’t you devote an hour in your day to your Body Shop business?
All it takes is a yes, a leap of faith and slowly building confidence. There is no pressure, coming from a background of mental illness, I want to empower and support others (not count sick days). I want to uplift and help, in the spirit of my manager Sarah who is wonderful too.
If you want to change your life and start on a new journey, drop me a message and reach out.
It is no secret that life has been tough for many people lately. Having to deal with circumstances that are out of your control can be especially hard to handle. But, in the most difficult times, it is more important than ever to focus on a brighter future. Spending so much time at home may have got you thinking about your plans for the future and how you want your life to look in years to come. Considering what you want from life can be so helpful and give you a focus to aim for. Having a focus can be particularly helpful in challenging times, such as the current situation.
Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself now is an investment in your future and the bedrock for everything else in your life. Looking after your health now can reap huge benefits for the future. Having good health will enable you to live life to the full and experience it fully.
Being out of your usual routine can make it harder to remember to look after yourself and to stick with good habits. Self-care is essential for good mental health, so you may find it helpful to try and stick with a routine and incorporate healthy habits into your day.
Take Care of Your Finances
Money worries are an issue that many people experience. Finding ways to improve your financial situation can help you to feel positive about the future. Taking control of your finances now will help you to plan for the future with confidence. If thinking about retirement is something that worries you, then researching ways to alleviate these concerns now could be beneficial. You may want to consider a Reverse Mortgage for Seniors or setting aside more money now to prepare for the future. Preparing your finances now will help you to gain the peace of mind to live your retirement to the full.
Focus on Your Goals
Everyone likes to have things to look forward to, so setting yourself goals for the future is an excellent way to stay focused and enthusiastic about life beyond this challenging time. It is essential that your goals are things that make you happy and don’t put you under an unhealthy amount of pressure. Overcommitting yourself to goals that you don’t feel comfortable with can be a source of anxiety and worry, which could impact your mental health. Instead, it is far better to consider goals that you will enjoy working towards and will bring you a real sense of achievement.
Reconnect with Yourself
When planning for the future, it is vital to make sure that your plans are yours, and not a result of other people’s expectations. Making plans for your future should be about reconnecting with what you want from your life and fulfilling your own ambitions. Checking in with yourself to make sure that you are planning a future that works for you and not just for others is essential to helping you to live authentically.
If you need to talk to someone about your mental health call Samaritans 116 123
It’s okay to need to spend some time renewing your confidence now and then. Confidence is often seen as a brick wall that stands the test of time once it’s built, but often, it’s more like a flame, one that must be fed, and felt with quality fuel, in order to keep going. Even the strongest and most audacious people on Earth can be knocked back by life, and they regularly are. This is humbling, because it shows that no matter how good things are, we can always find struggle. However, this also shows an opposite and no less important truth, that no matter how bad things are, we can always improve and come to love ourselves again, building that confidence necessary to moving forward.
This is the essential principle shown by the famous symbol of the yin-yang, the white has a little black in it, and the black a little white. So – if confidence is more of a fire to be kindled than a wall to be built, how can we re-fuel it? Let’s consider that, below:
Finding New Opportunities
It can be worthwhile to find new opportunities in life, even if they’re self-directed, and even if they come straight after an intense experience such as a life setback, trauma, bereavement or a divorce settlement. Taking stock of what your new situation means, how you can use it to your benefit, and what exactly it is that you want can help you move forward with confidence, resilience and a patience that not everyone has. The primary thought to keep in mind is this – new opportunities are always there. You just have to dig for them.
Going For Gold
Going for gold is important, once you have your opportunities or ideals prioritised. It might be that you invest completely in a new hobby or practice, or that you do something you’ve always wanted- a dream, travelling to a new place or something you’d never do normally such as getting a new tattoo. Going for gold- making things a reality , can also help you feel expansive, generating your purpose from one day to the next. No matter if this is getting back in the dating scene, trying to go for a new job, or finally enjoying your freedom, don’t forget to go for gold.
It’s important to be unapologetic about who you are. Why is this? Well, what do you have to apologise for? Your sense of style? Your sexual orientation? Your dreams and desires? Absolutely not, and actually, you should take complete and total pride in these things. This is what makes you, even if, as an individual, you are more than these designated labels. Being unapologetic helps you realize that you have dignity too, and that you’re worth expressing it. Having that mindset can help you curate your best attitude, which may or may not help you become a better, less bitter and more empathetic person. We all need to learn this lesson in life. It’s good to learn it now.
We hope you can develop that newfound confidence in yourself you truly deserve.
Your mental health is precious, and you’ve got to look after it as much as you can. We know sometimes this isn’t the easiest thing in the world as there are so many things that are beyond your control. We also know that even when things are okay, sometimes it’s still difficult to control the way that we feel. But, that’s why we’ve written this article, so that you’ve got some ideas as to the things that you can do to better your mental health. Keep reading if you would like to find out more.
Try To Relieve Whatever Stress You’re Holding
The first thing that we’re going to recommend is that you try to relieve whatever stress you are holding onto. We know that this isn’t easy, and we’re not saying it is, but it’s something that you’ve got to do if you want to recover. Your mental health is not going to benefit if you are constantly stressed. But, the only way that you are going to be able to relieve stress is if you know what is causing it. It’s for this reason that you’re going to have to think yourself or speak to a therapist and figure out what is causing most of the stress. From there, you can work out the best way to destress and take control, and this should ultimately end up improving your mental health.
Hypnosis Might Be Worth A Try
Have you ever given much thought to trying hypnosis? Professional hypnosis involves interaction with you and the therapist to heal mental health issues going on in your life. For example, you can get hypnosis downloads that will help you to do whatever it is you’re aiming for. Hypnosis will involve your consent and its worth a try- Your mental health is worth it. Search for a recommended therapist.
Try Taking Up A New Hobby
The final thing that we are going to suggest is taking up a new hobby. Your mental health will always be worse if you are not distracting yourself from negative thoughts. You’re going to get too deep into things and you may spiral into anxiety or depression. Instead of doing this, find something that you enjoy doing, thats a positive focus. It can be a sport, or a game, reading, watching TV, completing some arts and crafts, whatever you want to do as long as it takes your mind off of your thoughts for a little while. Become immersed in whatever you are doing, and leave the rest of the world behind for a while.
We hope that you have found this article helpful, and now see some of the things that you can do to better your mental health . Something on this list should help, and if it doesn’t, there are also plenty of other things that can be done as well. Make an appointment to see your GP or therapist if your mental health worsens and take care of yourself- self care is vital.
Last month, I was contacted by Ayala Goldmann, a journalist at Jüdische Allgemeine, Berlin’s Jewish newspaper in Germany. My grandpa Harry, who is now 94, grew up in Berlin as a child and fled the Nazis to England.
Ayala asked me lots of questions about my Jewish family background, bipolar disorder, my dads illness and my book.
Her interview with me is published in German, so click Google Translate to turn it into English. The title is ‘I wanted to get rid of the stigma’. Thanks Ayala and all at the Juedische Allgemeine. Read here:
I havn’t done a personal blog for a while because things have felt pretty…. the same. We are all going through such a difficult year where we feel in limbo, stuck with the dark, cold nights and little to distract ourselves- we can’t travel, go on holiday, see friends indoors in person . It can all feel bleak and frustrating with Covid 19 and this new world we find ourselves in.
I am lucky that my mental health hasn’t taken a nosedive, although there have been days where I have felt low, anxious and overwhelmed. I love my work for the Body Shop and my writing, but there are times when I just want a break. We were planning on maybe going away somewhere in the UK, but then Tier 3 restrictions hit London, so we will be at home over the Christmas break. Instead, I have made sure I have taken time for myself and rested- so that things don’t get too much.
I opened my book Bring me to Lightthis morning- I don’t often read it as I wrote it. But, it fell on this page- a poem about Bipolar that a fellow friend and patient wrote when we were on the hospital day unit in 2014. She also had bipolar disorder and was in there for her recovery.
She kindly let me keep her poem- at the time, I needed hope, healing and faith- that I could get better. That Bipolar wouldn’t ruin my life.
I did get better. I have been so much better on my new medication. I met an amazing man who is now my husband. I found a career I am able to do with my PTSD and new friends and a team of people around me who are wonderful. Life is good.
However, a small part of me is scared. Scared to get ill again or be hospitalised. Scared of the psychosis that wrecked my life. Scared of whether or how I can become a mother whilst on Lithium or whether we will need to look at surrogacy as the meds can cause birth defects and there is a strong risk of post partum psychosis and pre or post natal depression for me with my bipolar. I am scared that if I carried my own child, I could end up on a hospital ward again- but a mother and baby one. I don’t want that to happen.
In my book Bring me to Light I wrote, ‘ Sometimes I still feel like the scared sixteen year old, sitting in that psychiatry room at the Priory North London, being given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. …I have learnt that thanks to Lithium and therapy, bipolar disorder does not have to be my life.’
But knowing Lithium’s impact on my physical body too is scary. Weight gain. Acne. Water retention. Potential issues with kidney function/diabetes in future. Not being able to breastfeed on it or possibly carry a baby due to the severe risk – I have the most acute form of Bipolar and become very ill without medication.
These issues are so personal and I and Rob have been processing them for a while. We lost Robs dad to brain cancer in July and I didn’t feel able to blog about children before now. But, when the time is right and we speak to a perinatal psychiatrist and plan for a child, I want to write about it- maybe even a new book.
In the mean time, I am excited for new births in our family and I am just living and enjoying being well, being healthy.
I never see myself as someone with a disability- I always look for the Light. But, there are limitations and drawbacks to having this illness, even when it is in remission. It is biological and impacts on things I never realised when I was diagnosed in 2004. At the age of 32, these are becoming more real than ever and its scary. But, I want to smash the stigma and so I will write about what I can.
I wish you all a wonderful , relaxed festive season with good mental health- Happy Chanukah and Christmas.
It’s no surprise that our mental health is affected by the culture around us and our technology-based lifestyles. Every day we are bombarded with stimuli and information that influences our mental and emotional states and alters our opinions and worldviews. This is happening all the time, every day.
Today, we spend so much time online that it has become second nature, and we are losing important social skills and mental abilities that were once considered essential for a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to remember the impact technology has on us and adapt our lifestyles to include more nourishing practices. You can do this with a digital detox, read on to discover more.
Spend time offline
Depression comes in many forms and is very common. You can be mildly depressed due to a situation eg something that happened in work, or clinically depressed meaning you have a low mood that doesn’t seem to go away and only medication seems to help. Any state of depression can be exacerbated by using the Internet.
Those who overuse the Internet are prone to depression, researchers have found. This may be due to the lifestyle of heavy Internet usage that limits social contact and encourages a stay at home mentality, but it could also be caused by mental feedback loops when feeling of depression and low mood are reinforced through Internet behaviour.
Naturally, there are several solutions to the issue. If you experience low mood coupled with high Internet usage, consider switching off for a period or limiting your usage in the week. Instead of Internet usage, try a different activity such as talking to friends and family or taking a nature walk.
Limit SmartPhone Usage
Smartphones are a wonderful invention, as are mobile phones for seniors; they are portable computers and communication tools, essentially. But there are some underlying issues associated with them, especially with regards to mental well being. It’s thought, for instance, that high smartphone usage can increase anxiety and feelings of unease and restlessness. It’s no wonder with so much of our lives dependent on them.
Smartphones can increase anxiety due to our attachments to using them. We not only store important everyday information on them; we also communicate through them, socially and for work. In some ways, our smartphones have become our gateway to the world, and it’s difficult to put them down sometimes or go a few minutes without checking them for updates.
Although it’s challenging a successful digital detox will involve a reduction of smartphone usage. You can limit your usage by making certain rules for yourself. The phone is not allowed in the bedroom, for instance, or you are only allowed a certain percentage of screen time per day. Train yourself to use the smartphone less and create discipline by opening up other avenues of communication.
Log Off Social Media
The Internet is useful for many things, but no one knows what it’s main purpose is; that said if it’s meant for anything, it’s meant for communication. Social media is an online phenomenon that has emerged or evolved throughout the age of the Internet, from chat rooms in the early days, to MySpace and then Facebook and others. There are now 2.7 billion Facebook users worldwide.
Although this platform is an excellent way to communicate with friends and relatives globally, to start businesses, sell things, and market services, there are some hidden dangers that can lead to anxiety and depression in people, some of whom are unable to escape from their online habits.
Everyone on Facebook presents the best possible image of themselves, which leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem when some people start comparing and contrasting. The reality is that many people experience issues in their lives, and no one is as perfect as how they like to be perceived. Logging off social media for a time can greatly benefit your mental wellbeing.
Social Media Dangers
The dangers of social media extend beyond low self-esteem based on comparisons. Facebook and Instagram may be the catalyst for such conditions, but the conditions can then manifest in various ways and cause long term mental and physical health issues. Disorders such as anorexia and addiction can worsen from heavy usage.
A phenomenon that affects mainly women is an increase in body awareness and adaptive behaviour based on the effects of social media. Since so much of social media feeds are occupied with perfect images, some women feel pressured into conforming and changing their body shape to achieve positive attention. This encourages eating disorders like anorexia or body dysmorphia.
This all points to a reduction in social media usage for improved mental wellbeing. It should also highlight the consequences of comparing ourselves to others. You can limit your social media usage by deleting your apps for a period, perhaps a week or a month. It doesn’t mean you have to leave the website, but train yourself to develop healthier online habits.
Improve your Sleep
Researchers have found that the average person requires eight hours of sleep per night to go through their full sleep cycles. What’s more, your sleep should happen through the night due to your circadian rhythms – these help keep the chemicals in your brain properly balanced so that you regulate and maintain optimal mental wellbeing.
Technology can influence and disturb your sleep patterns and cause insomnia in extreme cases. Harford researchers discovered that the blue light from laptops phones and devices was sufficient to reduce the levels of melatonin in your system. Melatonin is the chemical responsible for putting you to sleep. So using your screen every night in bed might cause you to fall asleep later and feel more drained in the morning.
A digital detox is recommended if you find your sleep pattern is disturbed for some unknown reason.
Make your bedroom and technology-free zone. Leave all your devices elsewhere in the house and take a book to bed instead. Reading a book does not have a digital glow and should help you fall asleep faster. You might also delay your technology usage in the morning shortly after waking.
Above all, look after your mental wellbeing and detox when you need to.
We all think we know what anxiety looks like. It looks like hyperventilating, sweating, and a worried look on someone’s face. But the truth is anxiety looks like a lot of different things to different people, and there are some secret signs of anxiety too.
While you can’t mask all of the physical signs like hair loss, increased or decreased appetite; a lot of anxiety is dealt with in secret.
Even if you don’t personally have anxiety, it is important that you can spot the signs of anxiety in your loved ones. It will help you to help them.
There are some common, yet not totally obvious signs that someone (or yourself) is suffering. It is important that you let them know that there are options for support. Sometimes a good conversation and regular therapy can help. Other times medication and rehabilitation like The Banyans might be the answer.
Some headaches are caused by dehydration, and others are caused by stress. A stress headache usually happens because someone is holding their jaw clenched tightly, which causes tension in the neck, shoulders and up to the head. The clenched jaw may last through the night, and this will cause headaches.
Note that stress and anxiety cause an inflammation reaction in the body. This, in turn, will cause eczema to flare up. Another issue is that when people are anxious or worried, they tend to sweat more. The sweat will act as an irritant and increase the impact that eczema is having on the body.
If you, or someone you care about, are often talking about how poorly they are sleeping, there is a good chance there is something deeper going on. Most often mental health fluctuations will cause a person to sleep more than usual or not at all. Insomnia, nightmares, sleepwalking, disturbed sleep are all common signs of anxiety and stress.
Coughs, colds, aches, pains, and generally feeling run down are signs of anxiety too. Stress has an awful impact on your immune system. It promotes and overproduction of the hormones that regulate your immune system. This affects the ability of your body to produce white blood cells to fight infection. The weakened immune system means you are more susceptible to illness.
Stress and anxiety will also impact your mood. It will make it more difficult for you to regulate your emotions. People who are feeling stress are usually irritable and can have mood swings too. Difficulty concentrating can also be a symptom as well as an issue caused by stress and anxiety. Decision making and memory are impacted too.
If any of these things sound familiar to your then it is time to take steps to reduce your stress and anxiety levels or have a chat with a friend who is exhibiting signs.
Make sure you look after yourself and speak to a doctor if you are concerned about your health.
Humans are probably the only species on the planet that know that life is finite. Practically every other creature that ever existed did so in a state of blissful ignorance. The end of life wasn’t some dark, horrible certainty that needed pushing to the back of the mind. It just didn’t exist psychologically.
We have no such luxury. As thinking beings, we have to confront this issue, one way or another, and somehow try to make peace with it. It’s not easy.
Over the years, you can see some of the strategies people used to try to do this. One method was believing in the afterlife and in the soul – somewhere that you’d go once your physical body finally gave up. For many people, this is a core tenet of faith. For others, it is not. The idea that we could somehow pass away into nothingness seems like a tragedy.
Aging is currently a big issue in our society. The number of people over the age of 65 is the highest that it has ever been. And it is going to continue to grow as the population changes. Fewer people are having babies, and more people are living into their seventies, eighties, and nineties. It’s a big difference compared to just a few decades ago.
In this context, we are all having to learn how to deal with our finite lives. But what’s the best way to do it?
Get Comfortable With It
Nobody likes the idea that we’re here for a small amount of time. We have these unlimited imaginations. And yet, we’re confined to these Earthly bodies.
One piece of advice is to try to find ways to become comfortable with the fact that life doesn’t go on forever. It seems taboo to even talk about it, especially when there are people around us approaching the end of their lives. But it is critical that we address the issue internally. Unless we can somehow make peace with it, we’ll never find peace in ourselves. We will always have this gnawing feeling at the back of our minds that the whole show will come to an end. That’s no way to live.
Talk To Somebody About It
Sometimes, chatting to somebody you trust can help you come to terms with the facts of life. If you don’t have anybody in your life who fits the bill, then there are plenty of helplines available including Samaritans or you could talk to your GP or a therapist/ psychologist if it is beginning to impact on your day to day living and mental wellbeing .
In many cases, just getting the words out can help tremendously. Speaking your mind to a sympathetic person is a great way to come to terms with reality.
Prepare For It
The finitude of life can also be scary for another reason – the fact that we aren’t always prepared for the end of it. We can spend weekends worrying about what will happen to our loved ones when we are gone.
We can’t go on living forever. But we can make financial arrangements to ensure that people who depend on us are taken care of in the future.
Setting up a policy to provide a lump sum to your relatives and dependents is relatively straightforward. And getting free gifts with life insurance is always a bonus.
Complete Your Goals
Having the discipline to complete your life goals is a real skill and one that relatively few people ever manage to master. Ideally, you don’t want to get to the end of your life only to look back on it and regret that you didn’t live it the way that you wanted. You need to feel like you completed your goals – or at least took control and moved towards them.
Sometimes taking the plunge and just getting on with things that you’ve left on the back burner is the best way to cope with the fact that life is limited. When you pursue that which is truly important to you, a lot of the worries and concerns disappear. You know that you’re making the best possible use of your time – and you’re grateful for it.
Appreciate What You Have
Yes, the facts of life can be tough to accept. But it is also worth appreciating the fact that you’re here in the first place – a very unlikely event when you consider all the people who could have been born throughout history. That’s some consolation when you think about it. There is always goodness and hope in life- make the most of it. This article was written by a freelance writer.