Managing Our Mental Health During Christmas And The Festive Season by Eleanor

(image: Jonathan Borba: Pexels)

Its nearly here everyone! Just 4 days until our country (the UK) stops and celebrates Christmas (or uses the day as a chance to see family because they’re off work, like we do!).

The pressure is taken off for me during this period because its just a chance for relaxation for us as we’re Jewish, we don’t have the same expectations for the day as others. However, I know for many people Christmas is a stressful time where they see family they don’t normally see and may feel they have to hide how they are truly feeling with their mental health. The pressures are also on for the cost of food and gifts during this time and many people get into debt too.

We already have less daylight during this time and with the Covid pandemic a lot of people are feeling lower and more anxious . This has been the new normal for us all for over a year and particularly here in England where we have record numbers of Omicron Covid cases- but aren’t yet in lockdown.

I know I have been feeling a bit more anxious lately to do with Covid and other things… but I am also going to be kind to myself and give myself a break and time off work to relax also! I love sitting eating Quality street or a Terrys chocolate orange (yum) with loved ones and watching a good film like The Holiday… thats my favourite. Second is the Muppets Christmas Carol. Third Love Actually. Whats yours?

(image: lilartsy: Pexels)

I am lucky my bipolar is in remission and I am stable on medication. So I don’t have to worry about severe depressive or manic episodes right now. But, I still need to look after myself or practise self care- lots of sleep, not too much sugar, and check in with myself or my therapist if needed if my anxiety flares.

Obviously, over Christmas lots of NHS mental health professionals aren’t available but you can reach out to helplines such as Samaritans 116 123 (UK) if you need someone to talk to who will just listen.

You can also text SHOUT to 85258 if you’re in crisis and need support.

In an emergency, if you have a phone line to a hospital outpatient crisis team that are working over Christmas, call that and if not in an emergency you may have to go to Accident and Emergency (but there could be long waits).

Mind have an amazing list of helplines, organisations and food banks such as Trussell Trust for over the Christmas period should you need, click here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/christmas-and-mental-health/useful-contacts/

Wishing you all a very happy holidays, a peaceful festive season. This time can also be hard for people with alcohol or drug addictions or eating disorders, as Christmas is often a time with plenty of alcohol and triggering things.

Remember that its OK to be struggling but tell people you trust and reach for support. May your Christmas/ holiday season be merry and bright- and if it isn’t, remember things can get better from here, you can recover and you can be helped. Always tell someone you trust if you feel suicidal or want to harm yourself, so you can be protected and helped through these feelings.

Thank you for all your support this year,

Love,

Eleanor



How Debt can have a huge impact on your Mental health by Ian Sims

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(image: Money Under 30)

With the coronavirus outbreak, it is a worrying time for many of us financially. With that in mind, today we would like to share this about debt and mental health: 

Worries about money can hugely influence your overall wellbeing. A study conducted in 2019 showed that 9.5 million people in the UK have issues with their mental health, in direct relation to money woes, whilst a staggering 18 million worry about lack of money daily (source:N26).

How mental health impacts your finances

Research conducted by National Debtline indicates that approximately one in four adultswill experience an issue with their mental health within any given year. It is worth noting mental health incompasses a range of conditions and experiences, including:

● Anxiety

● Depression

● Bipolar disorder

● Phobias

● Schizophrenia

● Dementia

It is also worth highlighting that having a mental health issue or condition does not automatically mean you will struggle with finances or debt. However, it may make it harder to deal with. Research indicates that around half of all adults in the UK who are having debt problems also have a mental health issue (source: National Debtline).

It can causes a vicious cycle of problem health and finances

Unfortunately, feelings of stress, anxiety and even depression relating to growing fears about lack of money can lead to a vicious circle. It can impact your finance management abilities in a variety of ways. For example, serious anxiety or depression may cause you to lose energy or avoid your debt entirely. This may lead someone to avoid keeping up to date of their finances.

Problems with mental health could also affect finances if it means that it reaches a serious point where the person is required to take time off work. Depending on their individual circumstances (such as whether they are entitled to sick leave or not) this could mean a sharp reduction in their income. Unfortunately, this might have the unintended impact of making their mental health worse.

Other signs that debt is causing an impact on one’s health mentally include:

● Become overwhelmed or sick at the thought of the debt you are in

● Starting to withdraw completely from family and friends due to debt anxiety

● Symptoms of preexisting mental health conditions such as depression, are worsening

● Struggling to eat properly

● Struggling to sleep

● Regularly underperforming at work

What you can do if you are in debt and struggling with mental health

Do not suffer in silence, there are a number of places you can turn to that are confidential and free. This includes services such as the Samaritans or Mind. There are also debt charities dedicated to providing advice on how to get out of your debt, such as StepChange and National Debtline.

If you are looking to lower or consolidate your debts, you can look at debt management companies, but please note that they make take a fee for using their services

If you need help in the current crisis with getting Universal Credit or other welfare benefits for job loss or want to know more about managing your finances, check out the government and money websites such as MoneySavingExpert by Martin Lewis.

This blog was written by expert and freelance writer Ian Sims.

 

 

Mindfulness and Unplugging: Digital Detox

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(image: Gizmodo)

In my life, I have found that what is truly important is having time away from work, fears, worries, busy-ness in general and unplugging. If I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious or like things are too much, I take an hour or two in the week (and sometimes a day at weekends) to really, properly switch off.

I love social media and  I am always checking my email but sometimes its really good not to have to answer emails or mindlessly scroll through feeds. I love Instagram, but it is an excellent distraction from what I probably should be doing too!

Every Saturday in the Jewish world is Shabbat, the sabbath. I have a complete digital detox and find that I am a lot calmer and more present in the world. I go for walks and look at trees and flowers, without the distraction of my phone. I sleep without the radio (normally at night its on). I am not checking each notification, each app for something new.

I feel free for those 25 hours. I often curl up with a book, sleep and just relax. However, any longer and I really would miss the outside digital world- its a fine balance.

For me I want to be more mindful and appreciative and not live life constantly by social media. It is how I promote my work and stay in touch with people. I love that contact but I also like to unplug my mind and rest.

What about you?

Love,

Eleanor x 

 

‘Bipolar Disorder: What I wish someone had told me’- my first blog for Mind Charity

MindEleanor
(image by Mind Charity)

Original post at Mind website: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/bipolar-disorder-what-i-wish-someone-had-told-me/#.WiUudVVl-M-

When I was 15, I started suffering from depression and anxiety. My heart would race, I couldn’t sleep and it was so debilitating I had to take six weeks off school in my GCSE year. I still got my GCSEs and I recovered for a while. However the following months were filled with a manic, high episode and then a depressive episode featuring psychosis which led me to be hospitalised voluntarily on an adolescent mental health unit. It was there, aged just 16 years old, that a psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar affective disorder, which runs in my family.

Bipolar is a serious mood disorder where sufferers can experience depression and low phases lasting for months and manic, high phases which can make sufferers feel out of control due to the symptoms.

I am now 29, but when diagnosed at 16, this felt like a life sentence. I was a shy teenager, always wanting to fit in and now I was told I would have a chronic mental illness, have to take constant medication to keep well and keep regular tabs on my moods. What I didn’t know was that due to the severity of my illness, the doctors told my parents they didn’t know if I would be well enough to go to university. I proved them wrong, but this is what I wish I had been told when first diagnosed

Not everyone with Bipolar rapid cycles

I go for months between episodes and on my medication sometimes have no Bipolar episodes at all. In society, people think being bipolar means your mood changes a hundred times a day. This is not the case. Often months and years pass between episodes because everyone with the illness is different.

Some people do rapid cycle with their moods and for others it’s much slower. Let’s change that stigma.

You can do whatever you want to do, just make sure you set realistic goals

Whether it’s going to University, starting a new job, travelling around the world- you can do it if you are feeling well. Make sure you look after yourself and ask for reasonable adjustments in the work place, if need be. It’s ok to disclose a disability- but as long as your episodes are fairly under control (and in this everyone is different) you can still achieve. Small achievements are just as important, just make sure it’s achievable and realistic for you at the time.

Medication can help keep your moods on an even keel, but it is trial and error

It took me almost 11 years of living with the disorder before I found the right medication to keep my episodes at bay, and my moods properly stabilised. I experienced severe depressive and manic episodes when on the wrong medication for me.

Mood stabilisers, such as Lithium, really can help. When I changed from a teenager into a woman, my previous mood stabiliser Carbamazepine stopped holding me and I became unwell. Make sure you chat with your psychiatrist about the right medicine for you, and don’t be afraid of drugs like Lithium- it has saved my life.

Everything is trial and error and you may also need to be on a combination of anti-depressants or anti-psychotics. These medications all have side effects but if it helps your mental health significantly it can be worth it, just make sure you do it under the guidance of a psychiatrist.

You can live and live well

In 2014, I was hospitalised for a severe manic episode and was very unwell. It took me the best part of a year and a half to recover from the affect. However, since recovery I have worked for mental health charities, started a blog Be Ur Own Light (www.beurownlight.com) to tackle mental health stigma and blogged for Rethink Mental Illness, Time to Change, Bipolar UK and other publications such as the Huffington Post UK. Living with bipolar disorder means you have to be resilient. You can live. Yes, you may have other mental health challenges (I suffer from anxiety) but you can still achieve what you want, however big or small. Live your dreams.

When you are first diagnosed with bipolar disorder or suspect you may have it due to your moods and symptoms, you can feel incredibly out of control and overwhelmed. The most important thing to do is to take it day by day and get the right support. You don’t have to live a miserable, reduced life, rather with the right help and combination of medication, therapy and support networks – including a good medical team- you can thrive.

Things may feel bleak and scary. However, you can move forward into the light. Be kind to yourself. Your illness is not your fault and you can recover again. That’s what I wish I had known when my journey began and what I want to share with you.