Mental health stigma and drug addiction Guest post by Bill Weiss

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(image: https://understandinginternationalmentalhealth.wordpress.com)

The stigma that some people see looming over drug addiction and drug abuse disorder will prevent thousands of people from getting the help they so desperately need and deserve. Viewing drug abuse as a disfigurement of one’s will and self-worth is very harmful and can leave people in active addiction.

The fear of admitting that they are struggling and the judgment that will face afterward can be catastrophic. It has been scientifically proven that drug abuse disorder and addiction is a disease of the mind and body. There should not be any negative views toward someone when they decide it is time to get help for this issue.

During active addiction, many users will take part in actions that the clean/sober them would never think about doing. From the outside looking in, these decisions and behaviors can seem unusual, most of the time they are.

Watching someone absolutely self-destruct is very difficult. You may just want to shake the person struggling and scream “WHY CAN’T YOU STOP?!”. If only it was that easy.

Drug abuse and addiction is a surface issue, it’s the problem the whole world can see, but over 80% of drug addicts struggle with underlying mental health issues.

 

Mental Health Issues and Drug Addiction  

Far too many of those currently in active addiction have never received proper care to help them with their mental health issues. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and bipolar are the most common underlying mental health issues that can easily influence drug abuse. When one does not receive proper therapy and/or medications to help them with these problems they may turn to drugs for relief. Self-medicating the problem provides temporary relief, but nothing is actually being done to resolve and work on the issues.

The longer someone uses the worse their mental health issues will become. Depressive episodes can turn into suicidal thoughts and ideations. Anxiety can turn into panic disorder. Drugs do not solve the problem, but for someone struggling with mental health issues will find a level of mental peace from the drugs. Even as their life spirals out of control, they may accept it and continue to get high.

This isn’t their fault. Long-term abuse of any narcotic substance will alter the way one’s brain reacts to and handles certain situations. The chemical balance has been thrown out of whack, the drugs now have near complete control.

Breaking free from the powerful grip of these drugs is not easy, especially if the person struggling believes they will be harshly judged as the stigma around addiction follows them.

 

Breaking the Drug Stigma

Accidental drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death in the USA. We are facing a drug epidemic like never before, more US citizens passed away due to a drug overdose in 2017 than in the entire Vietnam War.

As a country we must help remove this stigma, it is literally a matter of life and death. Millions of people are currently struggling with drug addiction, tens of millions of families will be affected. How can you do your part of getting rid of the addiction stigma?

Educating yourself and others about drug addiction statistics and facts will help one truly understand the impact that drugs have had and will continue to have in this country. Drug addicts are not how they are commonly depicted in movies.

Addiction can affect anyone, any sex, religion and financial background can fall victim to substances and mental health issues. It is not just something that destroys the lives of the homeless and the poor. These are mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, friends, aunts and uncles who are being destroyed by these terrible substances.

If someone you care about is currently struggling with drug abuse/addiction the best thing you can do for them is to let them know that you are there for them whenever they are ready to get help. While you may not 100% understand what they are going through, you know that they need help and that’s all that matters.

It is strongly suggested by most medical professional that anyone struggling with drug abuse or addiction issues gets professional help from a drug treatment center.

 

Love and Remission by Annie Belasco: Book review

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(image: Trigger Publishing and Annie Belasco)

I only tend to review books that make an impact on me and that really touch my heart.

I ordered Annie’s book ‘Love and Remission’ , about her life recovering from breast cancer in her twenties and finding the love of her life. Annie and I have been connected on Twitter and she is signed to the same publisher as me so I was super excited to read her inspirational story.

When reading, I found a person of immense strength and an amazing sense of humour. Annie was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer aged just 25 years old. Her entire life was falling apart but she found a way through treatment, through the chemotherapy and radiotherapy-to put it back together. She describes what it was like for her to lose her hair and buy wigs, and to go through a masectomy and trying to feel womanly again- which she succeeded in doing. She was scared that the treatment wouldn’t work but she is now incredibly,  in remission.

Annie also had mental health issues due to the trauma but talks about how she slowly overcame her anxiety to live again.

The ‘love’ part in the title refers to her now husband, who she met while undergoing treatment and who stood by her against all the odds.

I don’t want to reveal any more than that- but this book was so inspiring, so moving, so well written that I read it in just two days!

I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about cancer and mental health whilst being a young woman. Annies story truly blew me away- with her strength, courage and unique take on life- she is so fun loving- and really loves her friends and family.

I was so touched by this book and her story. Thank you for writing it.

 

(You can buy the book now by Trigger on Amazon and in bookstores).

5 Ways to know your loved one may be secretly abusing drugs: Guest Post by Dr Nancy Irwin

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(image: inspirationalquotesmagazine.com)

Addiction has many consequences, both on the addicted person and their loved ones. Something I see very often is that family members don’t understand how they did not recognize it sooner. They regret that their loved one got to such a dark place before they could see there was even a problem.

But the reality is that people abusing drugs learn very quickly how to lie and manipulate. Because they are regularly involved in illicit activities, they become pros at distorting reality. And it’s easiest to trick those they love, considering that they know their loved ones’ soft spots.

This is not a judgment on them. On the contrary, they are not liars by nature, and often they are trying to protect their families.

Around 10% of the US population abuses drugs, and it is therefore more important than ever to learn to spot drug abuse as early as possible. The good news is that even if the individual at risk is good at lying, there are warning signs that are fairly universal.

The following five things could be signs that a loved one is abusing drugs.

 

  1. Physical Factors

Perhaps the most obvious signs are physical. Individuals who are using increasing volumes of drugs show physical changes which may be hard to account for. Look out for the following:

  • Bloodshot eyes and/or dilated pupils
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Extreme weight loss or weight gain
  • Deteriorating physical appearance
  • Sudden decrease in hygiene
  • Unusual smells
  • Tremors or slurred speech

Of course, all of these changes can have many alternative sources. However, if an individual exhibits many of them at once, and they tie in with some of the other signs on this list, drug abuse may be the most plausible explanation.

 

  1. Problems at Work

People who have started abusing drugs tend to struggle at work or at school. Their attendance drops, they neglect responsibilities and make mistakes, and cause trouble with colleagues or peers. They may even do something so self-sabotaging that it leads to them losing their job or being expelled.

Once again, drug abuse need not be the first conclusion you jump to. There could be many reasons why an individual starts struggling with work or school, including mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

This is especially true with adolescents. Assuming they are using drug abuse without further evidence can decay trust between you, when they might be acting out because they are not coping for whatever reason.

When alternative possibilities are exhausted, or they exhibit other signs on this list, drug abuse may become the most reasonable conclusion.

 

  1. Sudden Financial Problems

Drug abuse becomes increasingly expensive as the person addicted becomes more and more dependent. Their tolerance grows and they start needing higher quantities of the substance on a more frequent basis. They end up spending more and more of their money on drugs, leaving them unable to finance other responsibilities.

These financial issues can be easier to spot with adolescents who are not earning money. They may start stealing money from you or get caught stealing from peers or from their school. In this case, it may be possible to track their theft directly to their drug abuse.

But you don’t always need as clear a sign as theft. If a loved one who is financially independent suddenly stops paying their debit orders, gets behind on loan payments, or starts asking you and other friends and family for loans, this is a sign that something is wrong. Look into why they suddenly cannot afford their way of life. If there is no legitimate explanation, and they are exhibiting one or more of the other signs, drug abuse may be the most logical conclusion.

 

  1. Behavioral Changes

Gradual behavioral changes are a sure sign that something is wrong. Of course, they do not necessarily point to drug abuse.

Sometimes, mental illness can be the source of the problem. Alternatively, they may have gone through a trauma or be in some sort of trouble.

However, if a loved one shows changes in personality, starts getting into fights, becomes secretive, and has extreme mood swings, drug abuse may well be the cause. Other behavioral warning signs include a loss of motivation, paranoia, as well as unexplained hours of euphoria followed immediately by a drop in mood.

They may begin to fracture relationships that have, until now, been strong.

 

  1. Lifestyle Changes

Drug abuse often becomes the centrepoint of the individual’s life. They need to spend time, money, and effort sourcing and taking their drug of choice. They therefore start spending time with friends who are also abusing drugs, hang out at places where illicit drug use is possible, and lose interest in hobbies and activities that were once important to them.

If a loved one starts displaying any of these warning signs, do not panic. Look at the possible reasons for these changes. In isolation, some of these changes are easily explained. Depending on your relationship with the individual, you may be able to discuss the causes with them.

Once you’ve started noticing any one of these signs, it becomes easier to spot the others. If you feel that drug abuse is a likely cause, speak to a professional immediately for advice on how to investigate further and help the person at risk.

 

drnancy

Dr. Nancy Irwin is co-author of “Breaking Through, Stories of Hope and Recovery” and a Primary Therapist at Seasons in Malibu World Class Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Center.

Dealing with my mental health on holiday abroad: Trip to Israel

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(image: GoThinkBig)

On Monday, I returned from a wonderful holiday to Israel with my fiance Rob, seeing friends and family. I hadn’t been to Israel in 9 years for various reasons and he hadn’t been for 13 years (!) so we were determined to make the most of our trip. We definitely don’t want to leave it so long next time.

We travelled around the country staying with family and in hotels too. If anything, we almost packed in too much trying to see everyone- and I still didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to as we were only there for a week. I was also very conscious of the fact that it was very hot and it became apparent that I couldn’t cope with walking  in 36 degree heat for too long!

I made sure that I had lots of water on me as my medication, Lithium,  dehydrates my body quickly so I have to intake more water than most. I found that through heat and dehydration, I would get tired quite quickly so if we had spent a morning travelling, I would need to spend a few hours either resting in air conditioning or sleeping.

In general, my anxiety is better when I am abroad, though there were a few days where morning anxiety did overwhelm  and I chose to rest and sleep and then go out later in the day. My fiance was very understanding of this and went for a wander some mornings. However, once I was rested and had eaten breakfast/ drunk lots of water, I was able to enjoy and do lots of fun things.

On our trip we went to visit my best friend/ cousin and her family in a place called Tel Mond, near Netanya and we went for a day trip to Netanya- which is a beach side resort. They also made a barbeque for us when we arrived which was lovely and we saw other friends who live there. We met their newest arrival – gorgeous baby girl- and I had lots of cuddles with my new cousin!

We then went to Jerusalem for a few days- to the Western Wall to pray, walking in the Old City, seeing my other cousins and catching up over ice cream and meeting friends for dinner in the evening. We spent time in the Jerusalem First station near our hotel, which has restaurants and stalls as well as live music- a bit like Covent Garden! Rob and I went shopping and bought things for our future home as well as for family in England.

After this, we travelled to spend Jewish sabbath- shabbat with my other cousins who moved to Israel last year- and spent time walking around where they live and meeting their friends. It was restful and lovely to catch up with them, eat delicious food and rest.

Our final day was spent in Tel Aviv, going in the swimming pool,  walking around the streets by the beach, drinking iced coffee and going out for dinner with another cousin who happened to be travelling there with her friends. Rob and I also had time to ourselves which was important and we didn’t want to leave!

I am lucky that my medication very much helps my bipolar and so I was able to do all of the above.

For me when abroad, my main concerns are taking my medication on time and each day, getting enough sleep, eat well, staying out the sun at hot times and making sure I rest and drink enough. If I follow that, I can largely function.

Sometimes my anxiety  about being in a new place can kick in upon waking- so I was thankful my fiance understood it took me a bit longer to adjust to the day, but once I was rested, I was able to really enjoy the holiday.

Its important to note that everyone is different on holiday. However, it is vital to cut yourself slack, take rest days (or rest half days) and also take medication on time. I don’t drink alcohol on my meds- but keeping hydrated if you are is so important too.

Also make sure you declare your condition on travel insurance so you are covered if you become unwell abroad! This will make it more expensive but worth it. You don’t want to get sick abroad and have no cover.

I am pleased too that I stayed well- despite being very tired on my return. I made sure I caught up on sleep and didn’t go straight in to work – although I am now back at work.

I am missing my trip already and so thankful to my fiance, friends and family for making it so special.

The Saviour Complex: Guest blog by Charlotte Underwood

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(image: picturequotes.com)


For so many years, I was told that I have this so-called saviour complex. I never knew the actual definition of this, because, like most things, it’s all down to perspective. To me, the saviour complex is the desire and compulsion to help others at little regard for the cost that it comes with.

This, in my case, means I am attracted, like a cosmic magnet almost, towards people that need helping or that I feel I can ‘fix’ – though this is never my intention, as no one needs to be fixed.

The cost has always been at my own expense, it’s been my own mental health and wellbeing but for a decade, I didn’t mind. I would always rather suffer so another can succeed.

I believe it falls back to my overwhelming urge to constantly help people, being the textbook people pleaser I am. I just want to do good and make everyone else happy, and never myself.

I used to laugh when people would tell me that I had this saviour complex, it just sounded silly to me. I would think that I liked who I liked and I just didn’t care what ‘ailment’ they had. Chemistry is not about biology, they are two very separate things, understand?

I saw my ability to look past the cover as a strength. I could look past anything that may be an ‘issue’ because honestly it never bothered me as long as they were a good person. For this, I still believe it is a strength, though empathy is not the problem here.

It wasn’t until I was around 19 and I had left a particularly hard relationship, I was reminiscing over the last four years or so of my life. I thought about the people I had dated and of whom were my closest friends.

Like a lightbulb, I could see the pattern, each person needed someone to talk to, to listen to them and that may have been a huge part to my attraction towards them.

It is possible that my compulsion to help people had warped into a sense of a ‘turn on’, though not in a sexual way. It could be that I felt like I could relate to those who were hurting, like wounded animals helping each other survive, there is romance in that I think.

However, I believe that maybe everyone needs saving a little, isn’t that what love is?

It’s not about fixing each other or changing who you are. It’s about having a person who you can talk to about anything, who will lift you up and help you past that finish line, even if you fall flat on the ground.

Maybe the ‘saviour complex’ isn’t about wanting to become a saint, it could just be that you have an understanding of a person’s needs and you are willing to help them through their trials, I don’t think that is a bad thing at all.

So yes, maybe I do have this ‘saviour complex’ and an extensive history of relationships and friendships with people who needed help in a variety of ways. I like to support people and make them smile, to feel loved and wanted because everyone needs that. I would like to think that I cannot fix people but for the brief time that I spent with said persons, they healed a little bit.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to save people or to give them freedom but what we need to remember is not to forget ourselves.

I feel that natural empaths are the ones known to have the ‘saviour complex’ and empaths, like myself, are often guilty of not giving ourselves respect, love and care.

So by all means, do good in this world, it really needs it but be sure to remember to look after number one, that’s you.

Charlotte Underwood is a writer, author and mental health blogger. Check out her work here: https://charlotteunderwoodauthor.com/

On Turning Thirty. My Bucket List and dreams

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(image: picturequotes.com)

As many of you know. I entered my fourth decade (!) on 1st July. I am now 30! This is weird because I don’t feel it at all. I remember turning 20 on holiday with my friends in India in 2008 and feeling like I didn’t feel ready to be in my twenties. I even felt old back then. (What was I thinking?)

Turning thirty has been bittersweet. Its been amazing and I am grateful to have made it here, older, wiser and still with hope intact. I have an incredible fiance, family and wonderful friends. But truthfully this has been one of the hardest months of my life- with my Grandma passing away and illness in the family. I have had to focus on some very sad and challenging situations in the past few weeks and spent the morning of my birthday visiting a family member in hospital- which was hard but important.

I did get spoiled with presents and cards and spent the majority of the day with my fiance, so that was lovely and he got me a chocolate cheesecake yum.

I am going to celebrate with friends at a later date too. Hoping to escape on holiday to Israel also with my fiance and just see family and friends, go to the beach and pool, see the Old City and have a much needed break in the Holy land! My best friend has just had a baby so will be good to see her too and meet the baby.

When  I turned 20, I could never have foreseen that I would achieve so much personally – my degrees, travelling, new jobs, making new friends, dating and meeting my one, fundraising and volunteering- but also that there would be many years of heartache due to ill health.

The past decade, my mental health and heart were ripped in two and I had to piece myself back together after being in hospital and suffering from the worst depression (and mania) that I had ever faced. It is frightening because you never know when you will get ill as bipolar is chronic, but being on good medication to hold moods as well as extensive therapy really helps.

I have been learning to seize the day and embrace a positive mindset. As I am typing this, James Arthur is singing on youtube and the lyrics ‘The sun will rise, thank the lucky stars that you’re alive.. beautiful life ‘ just played.
The sun rises after darkness and will continue to again. I know as long as I have my support network and team around me, I will be OK.

This decade I want to achieve- my bucket list:

  1. Be a published author and have a successful book which helps me become a speaker and advocate on mental health
  2. Travel to the USA, Maldives, Thailand and Vietnam, more countries in Europe- islands, Croatia and go back to Madeira! Also go on safari in Southern Africa and see Zimbabwe
  3. I would love to become a mother, with my husband
  4. Get on the property ladder if possible
  5. Write for the BBC, Cosmopolitan and other newspapers and continue my freelance writing career
  6. Meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge re mental health work
  7.  Be happy, live well and live fearlessly. Seize and love each day
  8. Study more Jewishly and deepen spirituality
  9.  Finally pass my driving test!!

(image:  favim.com)

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Heres to a new decade, with dreams manifesting and love abounding. I hope G-d blesses me and some or all of the dreams come true! We make plans and He laughs… but I think its important to clarify vision.

Thank you to all who raised money for Gigdev Ghana for my birthday and raised £520. It will help women there so much.

How am I 30?!  I still feel 18 in my heart :),

 Eleanor x

Why you can overcome mental health challenges and anxiety to succeed in life: Guest post by James Kenneth

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(image: OMG Quotes)

Hi, I’m James. I’m 25. I’m a regular person just like you.

I suffer from clinical anxiety. I’ve had anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I’ll take you on a journey through my life experience and perhaps this, in turn, will help you on your life path.

As a child, I was rather timid – not the most sociable. I spent a lot of my time reading (which I still do). And, I was rather anxious too.

Every week, several times a week, I would wet my underwear at school because I was scared to tell the teacher that I needed the toilet. Every week without fail, several times a week, I would wet the bed at night because I was afraid to go to the toilet by myself in the night-time. All this wetting myself only stopped when I reached the age of 11, and boy was that a relief. Not just for me, but for my Mum as well – the laundry pile reduced massively.

By the time I went to secondary school, it was clear that something really wasn’t right. I wasn’t making friends, and I just felt downright awful.

My Mum, to whom I am eternally grateful, decided to put me in talking therapy. And it helped. I actually ended up being in therapy, on and off, for ten years. I’ll talk more about my experience with therapy a bit later.

At aged 14, I had a major positive breakthrough. I was on a school trip with 30 other teens. We were outside the country, in a totally different environment, away from home.

At first, I was how I’d always been – shy, worried, quiet. But then something big happened. I opened my mouth. Not only that, but people liked what I had to say. People found me fun and humorous, and  liked me. That gave me a major confidence boost. It was one of the biggest turning points in my life.

It’s all because I was determined to change, to grow. I, of my own volition, opened my mouth, took a leap, and overcame a big emotional obstacle.It wasn’t easy but it was needed.

When I was 19, I moved to a different country. Was I ready to? I was still an emotional wreck to be honest. Much more mentally healthy than I had been at age 11, but an emotional wreck nonetheless. But, thank G-d, really big positive transformation began from this point on.

The main reason – because I am, and always have been, 100% determined to totally manage and overcome my anxiety and I know I will. I was ready to make big changes.

With G-d’s grace, I searched for and acquired some fabulous mentors to help me. They aided me to deepen my self-awareness and hence overcome more emotional obstacles. It is known that awareness is often the first step towards change.

At age 21, I decided it would be a good idea to see a doctor. I was prescibed with Venlafaxine. It took 6 weeks to kick in and then wow – life changed dramatically. I was still James Kenneth, but I was calmer, more content, and level-headed. I’m not saying the medicine totally removed the anxiety, but it helped – big time.

While on the Venlafaxine, since I had a calmer mind, I was able to work even more on overcoming my emotional obstacles. And I did. I was on that medicine for a total of three years and it worked me wonders. And then I came off it when I no longer needed it.

Let’s talk more about my therapy. As the many years of therapy went by, I spoke out what was on my mind and I became increasingly self-aware. With the new self-awareness I had and the support, I was able to gradually change my way of thinking to a healthier one.

It’s funny, the reason I actually stopped therapy after 10 years of it, was because I now understood myself and what I had to work on, far better than the therapist did. It definitely gave me more insight.

Another thing that’s help me in more recent years is reading self-help books. Some of these books have really helped me on my journey of growth. I very much recommend. “The Road Less Travelled” by Dr. Scott Peck, “The Wisdom of the Enneagram” co-written by Richard Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I recommend having a browse online and finding out more. I think they’re great!

To end, I’d like to tell you how things are now, in my current life situation. Not only am I no longer an emotional wreck – I’m a happy, self-aware individual who lives a great life. I’ve been happily married now for a year and a half. I’m not saying I no longer have any anxiety. I do. But I’m not the same person I was at age 11.

Heck, I’m not the same person I was even one year ago.

Every year I’m making leaps and bounds in managing my mental illness because I am determined to overcome it and live my best life. I believe that you can get better to, just reach out for help from others- be it medical teams, mentors, doctors or counsellors . With this help, we can recover and it is ESSENTIAL to reach for help and practise self care, kindness and compassion.

James Kenneth is a writer who has had  clinical anxiety and writes on self help. 

Metro article extract by Eleanor: ‘My Dad and I have helped each other through our Bipolar disorder’

Our founder Eleanor and her Dad shared their story with Metro.co.uk for Fathers Day and Dads Mental Health Day. Here is an extract:

I am the child of a father with bipolar disorder. I was diagnosed with the same condition aged 16 in 2004 – this was only four years after my dad was diagnosed at the age of 44. Our story is a special and unique one, and dad and I have a strong bond as a result.

However, it has not always been easy for me and my family.  Growing up with my mum, dad and younger sister in Hertfordshire, I didn’t fully know that my dad had serious mental health issues until my teenage years. I was largely sheltered from it by my mum and my loving grandparents as a child. My grandparents would look after us when dad was ill with depression and mum had to work.

I am the eldest, and being the child of someone with a mental illness did bring its own challenges. I have always felt a sense of duty and responsibility to look after my sister and both my parents, despite receiving a lot of love and care. This sentiment has meant that I have always felt a need to look after those around me, and make sure my dad is stable with his health.

Many children of those with serious mental health issues are exposed to a lot more than I was. My childhood was largely happy. My dad was never sectioned or hospitalised and never experienced the psychosis that I have experienced with my own bipolar. There were no alcohol or drug issues in my home but dad did experience mood fluctuations with both mania and depression.

He also experienced panic attacks that stopped him from working. Dad remembers having these when I was just four-years-old. In 1996, he had his first bout of severe depression and anxiety. His panic attacks meant that he had to stop working at his job in finance after collapsing there.

Mum became the breadwinner, with two children under seven. My sister was only five-years-old. I know this wasn’t easy for anyone though I don’t fully remember it. I have been told that dad was often not around during the day due to his depression. He would retreat into his bed and sleep, but would come and see us in the evenings, once we came home from school.

I do remember visiting him in hospital one time after his severe panic made him collapse in the street. He was having his heart monitored to rule out a heart attack and was eventually discharged home.

Dad was never referred to a psychiatrist and he believes this is why his bipolar was undiagnosed for so long. He gradually recovered with antidepressant medication and support from the GP and my mum.

He slowly coaxed himself out of bed and out the house to walk down the road to buy a paper. This would take several hours. His depression lifted and he eventually went back to work. Life was easier for our family for a while, although financially, things were tight and there was always a risk my dad might not be able to work.

 

 

Read the rest of the article : https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/17/my-dad-and-i-have-helped-each-other-through-bipolar-disorder-heres-our-story-7627817/?ito=cbshare

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MetroUK | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK/

Can Alcohol raise stress levels and affect our mental health?: Guest post by Tomas Sanchez

This guest post was written by Tomas Sanchez and talks about Drinkaware, the UKs top alcohol education charity. For more and help and support, view their website at : https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/

Highly demanding jobs, family duties, money worries, relationships issues, they can all add up to make our stress levels go through the roof. The truth is, it can sometimes feel like we’re sat on a roller coaster, led by a high-pressure lifestyle that is ruining our health and happiness.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 16 million people experience a mental health problem each year, and stress is a key factor in this. Which is why this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focused on understanding the impact stress has on our lives and how to tackle it effectively. The week took place last week between 14th and 20th May.

When it comes to coping with stress, reaching for booze might seem like a good idea to help you lift your spirits and relax. However, in the long run, alcohol can have the opposite effect and contribute towards raising your stress, affecting your mental health and wellbeing.

Wine, beer, cider or spirits, whatever your tipple of choice, the alcohol in your drink is a depressant, which means it can disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals your brain relies on for good mental health – especially when you drink above the alcohol unit guidelines.

In fact, while a pint or two may cheer you up, this is only a short-lived effect that will quickly wear off. But, in the long run, drinking too much too often can exacerbate your stress and contribute towards the development of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Alcohol can also impact your sleep. You might think that drinking can help you nod off a stressful day at work, but in reality, alcohol can alter your sleep cycle and make it harder for you to get the rest you need to tackle the stress in your life.

If you’re struggling to deal with stress, there are more effective ways to cope with it than reaching for alcohol, such as:

Exercise, a great way to de-stress. Go for a run, swim or to a yoga class – or even a brisk walk can help clear your head of the day’s worries.

Talk to a friend about what’s worrying you. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends or family, look for professional help – talk to your GP or an accredited counsellor. They will be able to help you manage your feelings and point you to the right resources to help you restore your wellbeing.

Take a hot bath or do some gentle stretches to relieve tension from your body.

If you do decide to have a drink, follow the UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) advice – it’s safest not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and spread your drinking evenly over three or more days.

If you’re drinking too much too often, cut back on it by:

 

  • Keeping track of what you’re drinking – use Drinkaware’s App to help you monitor your alcohol intake and change the way you drink.

 

  • Choosing low-alcohol drinks or mocktails.

 

  • Giving alcohol-free days a go. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become dependent on alcohol.

Guest Post: Interview with Dr Janina Scarlet, author of new book ‘Therapy Quest’

I have got to know Dr Janina Scarlet, psychologist as I have written more across the media. Janina writes about therapy and mental health in an approachable and meaningful way. She also loves superheroes and fantasy and incorporates them into her work!

This week for Mental Health Awareness Week, I spoke to her as she launches her  new book ‘Therapy Quest’.

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(image: The Book Publicist/ Dr Janina Scarlet)

 

What is your new book Therapy Quest about?

Therapy Quest is an interactive fantasy book in which YOU (the reader) are the main character. You are transported to a magical world of Here and are the Chosen One to stop an evil sorceress, Mallena, from destroying the world. Only you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. Your anxieties and insecurities nearly lead you to abandon your quest altogether. However, if you decide to partner up with some new friends, such as a vampire with an eating disorder, and an Ogre who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, you just might be able to become a hero after all.

The book is written in a game-like format, which allows you to make choices along the way. Each choice you make will change the rest of your journey and can either allow you to earn or lose points. Some choices can kill your friends or your character, so you have to be careful.

Each time you make a choice, you will also learn a mental health skill, and you will need all the skills you can learn along the way to help you in your final battle.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

I knew I wanted to write a fantasy book with self-help elements in it, in which the reader could learn these skills through the characters they were reading about. My editor, Andrew McAleer, had the brilliant idea of having a similar format to “Choose Your Own Adventure” fighting fantasy books. This sounded like a very interesting challenge to me, and I am extremely honoured to have been able to work on it.

Could you explain a bit about what Superhero Therapy is and how it works in the book?

Superhero Therapy refers to incorporating elements of popular culture, such as fantasy and science fiction books, movies, TV shows, as well as video games, comic books (Superhero or otherwise) into evidence-based (research-supported) therapy to help clients to become their own version of a superhero in real life (IRL).

In Therapy Quest, the reader is the Chosen One, the Hero of their own journey even if they question their ability to do so. Through learning skills such as mindfulness, self-compassion, acceptance, and following their own core values, the readers are invited to take their own superhero journey and develop their own superhero skills, which can be utilized in their every day life as well.

Who could you recommend the book to?

I would recommend this book to anyone age 12 and up who might enjoy fantasy books and would like to learn skills to manage depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health struggles.

drjanina

Dr Janina Scarlet is a clinical psychologist and the author of Therapy Quest, a revolutionary self-help book which combines therapy with an interactive fantasy quest.