Saturday, 20 July 2019

Vital But Often Overlooked Self-Care Practices to Focus on Today

By Brad Krause

What we do on a daily basis to take care of ourselves is the number one determining factor in our overall mental health. Many of us live under unhealthy amounts of stress, financial burdens, and physical and emotional strain from juggling home and professional duties. When we think about self-care, it’s easy to overlook the basics. Here is what you should focus on today.

Muscle Relaxation

We think a lot about chilling out and relaxing (mentally), but we often fail to consider physical relaxation. If you have a demanding job or like to hit the gym regularly, muscle relaxation and massage should be a part of your self-care regimen (the benefits are vast). You don’t have to go out and spend a fortune every week on massages. For example, when it comes to the all-important foot massage, great home models will work just fine.

Focusing on Sleep Quantity and Quality

For many, sleep is just a thing you have to do for the next day to start. Even if you love to sleep, you may value other things — family time, work, TV — more. For better self-care, prioritizing sleep (both quantity and quality) is a must. Most adults need between seven and nine hours per night, and it should be uninterrupted. Focus on setting yourself up for quality sleep — avoid looking at digital screens before bed, do something soothing like taking a bath or reading a book, and try to limit consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and food in the hours before bedtime.

Boost Diet and Energy

Everyone knows the importance of eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. But not everyone considers food to be a form of self-care. If eating healthy is a priority but one that adds to your workload and stress, take the guesswork out of meal planning and sign up for a subscription meal kit or choose one day to prep meals for the rest of the week. And if you’re into smoothies, a good immersion blender provides a compact and affordable way to blend those fruits and veggies without a lot of fuss.

Regardless of your approach, setting yourself up for success ensures you’ll stick to the quality food your body needs to do its job. Sometimes a healthy diet isn’t enough, and you still need key nutrients. A multivitamin can provide you with these nutrients and give you a boost of energy as well.

Stretching and Light Exercise

Exercise gets a lot of attention in the self-care realm. However, just as important for your overall (physical and mental) well-being is stretching. Some exercise routines like yoga and Pilates focus on stretching, but there are plenty of other ways to achieve your stretching goals. Stretching not only improves your flexibility and range of motion, but it also boosts blood flow to your muscles and vital organs (your brain!), helps relieve stress, and improves your posture.

In fact, adding a light exercise routine to your days can go a long way toward preserving your health and introducing some much-needed self-care into your life. Fortunately, there are several ways you can do this, from taking a stroll around the block after dinner to getting the family together for an afternoon bike ride on the weekends. And fortunately for seniors, Medicare Advantage plans offered by companies like Cigna-HealthSpring will give you access to SilverSneakers, which allow you to use fitness facilities in your area at no additional charge.

Getting Organized

Clutter — both in terms of your physical surroundings and your schedule — is a huge cause of stress in most people’s lives. Taking the time to truly organize your life — both at home and on the job — is a vital act of self-care. Studies have found that people with clean surroundings are typically healthier. Not only that, but keeping an organized schedule can also give you more control over your time, leading to a reduction in overall stress levels and mental fatigue.

Spacing Out

There are very few times in a day that we turn our own brains off and completely zone out. This is too bad because spacing out and letting yourself be free of focus (on anything) is actually very good for your mental state.

“Mind wandering is not useless mental static. Instead … mind wandering allows us to work through some important thinking,” says Discovery Magazine.

In essence, relaxing your mind to the point of low-level function helps it reset and work through complex issues. This can boost your creativity, problem-solving, and allow you to work through complex emotional thoughts — all good for your overall mental health.

Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s extremely important for your overall well-being. While eating right, exercising, treating yourself to things you want, and other well-known self-care habits are vital, so are these often-overlooked practices. In the end, anything that keeps your mind and body feeling fresh is a critical part of any self-care regimen.

About the Author

Brad Krause created Self Caring after years spent putting his own self-care on the back burner. Brad discovered his real calling: helping people implement self-care practices that improve their overall wellbeing. His website is intended to share his own knowledge and the many great resources he finds on his self-care journey.

Illustration by Max van den Oetelaar at Unsplash.

 

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

"If You've Never Been Depressed or Manic, How Can You Know What It's Like?"

There’s a common perception that we cannot truly understand someone’s situation unless we’ve ‘walked a mile in their shoes.’ An equivalent experience may help us relate to one another but it carries its own responsibilities and cautions. The main danger lies in assuming that our experience is relevant to the person we’re trying to help.

If I’d ever been clinically depressed myself, for example, I might imagine Fran experiences depression the way I did or that her needs are the same as mine were. Consciously or unconsciously, there’d be a tendency for me to focus on those parts of her story which fit my personal model of what it’s like to be depressed. I might push her towards approaches I’d found useful and steer her away from things that hadn’t been helpful to me personally.

However, there can be specific advantages. Never having shared equivalent experiences allows me to ask Fran the ‘dumb questions’ others might not ask (believing they know the answers) such as how exactly does it feel to be so low that she can talk of ending her life, or so fatigued that making a tuna sandwich is a herculean undertaking. In turn, Fran can share as much of herself as she feels comfortable doing, recognising I am to some extent a ‘clean slate,’ untainted by preconceptions of what her life must be like.

This isn’t an argument for ignorance. An informed awareness of what it means to live with illness helps me support Fran more effectively. With that in mind, I try and learn as much as possible, by talking with Fran and with others, by reading widely and by taking all the training courses I can find. I work on the basis that Fran is doing her best to share with me the reality of her situation, and share my own understanding with her. In this way we honour each other and grow together.

 

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The Law of Attraction

Simply put, the Law of Attraction is the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on

I like the basic idea of the Law of Attraction. I think it kind of works, sometimes at least. If you’re focused on what you want and open to opportunities you’re more likely to achieve what you’re after.

By way of an example, I used to have nobody to meet up with locally for coffee or a drink or to go to events with, and didn’t know how to change that. Then I started finding myself in situations where in the past I’d probably have thought oh that’s not for me, but decided to give it a try.

I’m thinking of the Literary Salon which is on once a month here in Newcastle. I haven’t been in a while — it no longer quite fits what I want to be doing — but I got a lot out of going over the past year or two, including the confidence to stand up and speak in front of an audience. I met some great people too. Something similar happened with other local events and groups, and these days I have several people to meet up with and do things with.

Another example would be how I’m looking to expand the mental health work I’m doing in the workplace. I don’t really know how to do that, but I’m staying focused and I’m finding opportunities popping up that I’m keen to take advantage of. They might not all lead in the direction I want to go, but maybe they will take me somewhere interesting I would not otherwise have gone.

I note that same kind of approach to opportunity in several of the people I know and respect, although maybe they wouldn’t call it the Law of Attraction.

There can be a darker side to all this, though, that can lead people to think Things aren’t working out for me, I must be doing the Law of Attraction wrong, or I’m not good enough. I don’t like that side of it at all. So maybe I don’t think of it as a Law. More an idea that can be helpful.

 

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Innovative Mental Health Portal The Mind Map Launches

Press Release

A new mental health portal www.themindmap.co.uk launched 3 July 2019. This innovative new platform focuses on providing young people, predominantly aged between 16 – 30 access to subsidised counselling, the ability to find and book free mental health services and resources as well as access to a magazine that shares articles and interviews with well-known musicians and sports athletes regarding mental health, all in one place.

Launched by Liverpool-based mental health organisation The Mind Map, the platform is the result of a three-year research project carried out between The Mind Map and leading organisations with Mental Health at the centre of their agenda with contributions from Liverpool John Moores University, Imperial College London and the NHS amongst others.

Founder Phil Bridges, a Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor and Adolescent Mental Health university lecturer said:

We all have mental health — good or bad. But our research uncovered what we suspected — that young people don’t feel they have access to the support they need, in a format that is accessible and relevant to their everyday lives.

Our latest quantitative study into online mental health provisions showed a staggering 88.5% of students at Liverpool John Moores University felt that there were not enough online provisions available.

To also help us uncover the mental health needs of young people we ran workshops at organisations including the NHS, Merseyside Youth Association, Edge Hill University and the National Citizens Service. Out of that was born our ‘World of Wellbeing’ concept. A holistic offer where exercise, nutrition, employment and money support are provided alongside a map with all the free mental health services available to young people.

We have also brought together our first wave of BACP accredited therapists who specialise in adolescent mental health. From August, we will be recycling the economy by reinvesting our profits back into our community, supporting those who have the most need and making therapy available for free to those who can’t afford it. Ultimately this is something that we will roll out nationwide.

The Mind Map are aligning action with awareness and promoting a New Normal where people can talk as openly about their emotions, as they’d talk about last night’s game or the latest TV series. Browsing their immersive magazine section leads you to international musicians and Premier League footballers talking about everything from anxiety to grief and how they have dealt with their respective life challenges and mental health issues. This creates dialogue, reduces stigma and helps put Mental Health front-and-centre as an important issue to the young adults of the UK and their welfare.

Web: www.themindmap.co.uk | Twitter: @themindmapco | Facebook: themindmapco

 

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

For the Win! Celebrate Your Successes in Your Own Way

As I wrote recently one of the things I’ve learned from fellow mental health blogger Aimee Wilson is to celebrate every achievement and make the most of each moment because you don’t necessarily know what’s coming up next.

I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve realised there’s more to celebrating our successes than I’d ever imagined.

A Thing Worth Celebrating

It might seem obvious that we tend to celebrate good, happy, positive things. We celebrate things that are special, infrequent, or unusual; and we celebrate big things more than we celebrate little things.

What’s perhaps less obvious is that there’s an unofficial list of “good, special, big” things which are deemed successes worth celebrating. The list includes:

  • Graduating from school or college
  • Becoming engaged or married
  • Becoming pregnant
  • The birth of a child
  • A new job or promotion
  • Moving into a new home

This is fine if it fits with our aspirations, desires, and abilities but what if it doesn’t? If we are not ticking those boxes, by choice or otherwise, we can be left feeling outside the norm. Worse, we can end up feeling a failure for not succeeding in the right ways. As a friend put it to me, “the Western world puts a lot of emphasis on accomplishments.” Maybe there’s a different way to think about what success means and how we go about celebrating it.

Marking the Waypoints

Most of the things on the list are big enough to stand as destinations on our journey through life, but we rarely arrive at them in a single bound. We’ve usually been working towards them for some time, often with considerable sacrifice or effort.

We can lighten the journey by acknowledging waypoints or stopping places along the road. These may not be things others would consider worth celebrating, but that’s no reason not to!

Surprised by Joy

Life sometimes surprises us with things we were never looking for or could not have anticipated. Maybe we meet someone who becomes a close friend or partner, or we learn something that moves or delights us. Maybe it’s a song we hear for the first time, or a joke shared with a friend. Sometimes it is joy, pure and simple. These might not count as successes because we have not worked towards them or “earned” them, but are moments worthy of celebrating!

Celebrate Your Failures

It might seem perverse to suggest celebrating failure but learning to reframe our “failures” as successes (lessons) can lead us to new ways of thinking about and doing things. It’s that reframing that’s worth celebrating. We generally experience more “failures” than “successes” too, so there’s plenty of opportunity to give it a try!

Do It Your Way

But how exactly are we to celebrate? By convention, celebrations are fun, loud, and social — think office and family parties, organised events, meals or evenings out with friends. They can be expensive and often involve eating or drinking to excess.

That might work for us but it might not. With a little imagination we can find ways to celebrate that are meaningful to us. They are our achievements, after all!

I prefer to celebrate quietly on my own or with one or two friends; although Fran and I marked the cover reveal and official launch of our first book with live online events. For our book launch Fran also hosted a house party for friends.

How do you like to celebrate your achievements? Big? Little? Quiet? Loud? Leave a comment, we’d love to know!

“I Did This!”

To celebrate is to take ownership of your successes and say “Look, I did this!” It’s no small thing to take pride in ourselves, not least because there’s often resistance from people determined to rain on our parade. It is easy to become disillusioned but it’s important — and healthy — to celebrate our wins.

I was proud to speak at a recent corporate event at which our CEO was presented with the Time to Change Employer Pledge on behalf of the company. It was a team success but as Pledge Lead I gave myself permission to own it as a personal achievement too. I celebrated with a drink and a meal out on my own before heading home.

“You Did This!”

I’ve been unable to trace the author but this quotation says a lot to me about friendship, support, and celebration:

It is important to have friends who are proud of you when you get a new job or learn to bake or do big things but it is also important to have friends who are proud of you when you get out of bed and take a shower.

Having someone who understands your achievements and what they mean to you can certainly make a world of difference, as my friend Aimee posted recently on social media:

After almost every blog post, Martin is there telling me how much they meant to him. After every achievement, he is there telling me how proud he is.

Well, now it’s my turn! I’m a very proud bestie after all of his recent achievements at work!

So proud that I designed a meme for him!

Thank you, Aimee! I’ve never had a meme designed for me before!

Keep an Achievements List

It is easy to lose track of our successes when life is hectic or we are feeling low or overwhelmed. Consider keeping a list to look back on when you need reminding, or when you feel like treating yourself and want a valid reason! If you write one, a diary is an ideal place to explore what your successes mean to you, but keep a separate summary list or you will lose them in amongst the rest of your journaling.

Here are a few success suggestions. Perhaps some of them are relevant to you. What would you add to the list?

  • Asking for help
  • Taking your medication as prescribed
  • Attending appointments
  • Speaking up for yourself
  • Being there for someone in need of help or kindness
  • Taking time for self-care
  • Saying no to something that doesn’t feel right to you
  • Moving forward when you’ve been stuck
  • Recognising you’re not ready to move forward yet and being okay with that

If you know someone who finds it hard to recognise their achievements, consider asking if you might keep a list on their behalf. I have done this for Fran on several occasions, most notably when she was traveling in Europe during the summer of 2013. Positives were few and far between but I kept a list of “Happy Moments” and emailed them to her every few weeks to remind her things were not quite as bleak as they appeared to her. I’ve done this for other friends on occasion.

Over to You

I asked a few people what success means to them.

Jen Evans:

As to the small wins I’d need to think about it. I do think about it daily ... for me right now, the small wins are walking my dog despite how I feel. Getting clothes washed ... things like that ... just routine stuff. A day when I write is a good day. But on a day like today ... getting anything done is a big deal. My high school buddy is in town so I will see her in the next two days. Oh and I cleaned the bathroom!! Win!! My buddy asked if she could use my shower ... so a very quick clean ... but still a win!

Roiben:

I find it hard to get up and dressed. I find it hard to clean my teeth, to shower, to wash my dishes and do my laundry. I push through to achieve these as often as I can. Sometimes I achieve it. Sometimes I don’t.

I celebrate those times I do, because those times I do are testament to the fact that I am still here, still alive and still going despite my body and mind doing their best to make this no longer the case.

Karen Manton:

Success to me is something that gives me that happy feeling of satisfaction. It is knowing I am doing the very best I can but most importantly I’m making a difference to the lives of others. I’m preparing to work with students very shortly at my local university and I am confident that will be a huge success to me. This will be celebrated by sharing my achievement with my loved ones.

Paul Saunders-Priem:

Success to me means getting the job done no matter whatever it is. I celebrate through first laughter, then food, walks and things like that.

Aimee Wilson:

For so long I blamed myself for everything bad in my life – I thought I had deserved all of it. So, moving into recovery with my mental health, I knew that had to change; I had to be able to treat myself well and allow myself to revel in my achievements and be happy about my successes in life. With that in mind, I was eager to contribute to this piece of Martin’s to take it as an opportunity to recognize my recent successes. There’s two I really wanted to talk about; the first seems small but is just as important as the second, bigger one!

Last year (2018) I began hearing a voice that told me to stop taking my medication with the belief that it was poisoned. Stopping my medication suddenly and without the knowledge of my support team ended up being hugely detrimental to my life and I put myself, and others, in danger a number of times until one time, I scared myself so much that I knew I had to take my meds again. So every day I go to my dosette box and peel back the little sticker to reveal the tablets that need to be taken, pour a glass of water, and swallow them? Well that’s an accomplishment. Some people might look on that and think that I shouldn’t be praised for doing what is expected of me but those people mustn’t comprehend how challenging fulfilling that expectation can be.

My second achievement recently has been getting my Digital Marketing Internship with Docere (an education recruitment company). I told everyone that I thought it was just what I needed to help me take my recovery a step further and some people were hesitant and worried that it’d be overwhelming for me but those people were soon silenced when I got the job and began working! Learning new things and doing something I love (such as marketing and publicity and all things social media) has been a huge motivation in my efforts to resist urges to self-harm.

What does success mean to you? How do you like to celebrate your wins? Leave a comment below — we’d love to hear from you!

 

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Weepy, Angry, Catatonic: Three Kinds of Depression and How You Can Help

By Julie A. Fast

Depression has many modes. I divide it into a few categories: weepy, angry and catatonic. Knowing what kind of depression your friend experiences is a good place to start when it comes to offering help. Fran and Marty’s book High Tide, Low Tide covers this topic well.

The following examples show what people go through during each of these three kinds of depression. If you are unsure what your friend experiences, I suggest you read this blog together when they are stable. Ask them, “Do you experience what is in this blog? I would like to know more how to help when this happens. We can talk about it now while you are feeling better and I will then know what to do when I see the depression show up!”

I would LOVE a friend to do this for me, so please know that you are needed when we are depressed.

Weepy Depression

If I’m talking with you about things in a weepy, sad way and this is different from how I normally express myself there is a good chance the depression has a hold on me. When I’m sick, the news is simply overwhelming. I will start to talk about how the world is a bad place and how scary everything is now. I will cry over relationships and work and will be unable to hold myself together watching sad movies or when I see any kind of situation where someone is being harmed.

When I’m stable, I have a filter for these things. I hardly ever cry and when I do, it will have a good reason behind it. When the weepy depression hits me, I cry like a baby at everything. The tears are different too. They are like waterfalls. There are no tear drops like with regular crying. Instead, I have waterworks coming out of my eyes! The crying is endless!

If you see me tearing up, turning my head away so you don’t see me cry or I simply cry in front of you because I am so depressed, I can’t hide it, I DO want you to say something. I want you to say, “I can see the nasty depression has a hold of you. You told me the tears come really easily when the depression is around. Let’s talk about your plan and how I can help you get out of this downswing.”

Angry Depression

I’m a right nasty bitch when the irritated depression hits me. No one is safe from my rotten thinking. Everything upsets me! You will notice that while I am normally a pretty good listener, you will say things that piss me off more. I might even snap at you and say something unkind. I want you to know that this is not the real me.

It doesn’t mean that it’s ok. It’s not and I am working on it, but if you notice that I am much more irritated, upset, nasty and downright mean, don’t just take it or walk off or fight with me! Instead, I want you to say this, “You told me that you have depression that makes you really irritated. I see signs of this right now. It is hard on me, but I’m willing to work through it with you. We can focus on getting you out of this downswing. I don’t want depression to affect our relationship. I want to work together on this.”

I know that many of my past relationships would have been saved if my friends just knew what to say. Yes, I am responsible for what I say and I’m working on that. I want to let you know that sometimes the depression is stronger than I am and I do need help sometimes. Let’s work on this together.

Catatonic Depression

When I’m really depressed, you will not know it by looking at me. I simply won’t show it to you. My face will be a mask when we meet. I will do everything possible to hide what I am going through. It’s as though I’m a puzzle I want someone to solve, but I simply won’t give them the pieces! I can’t. The depression is so violating! It gives me thoughts that no one loves me, so how on earth do I break through that and tell you that I am hurting with this illness? It would be like saying I love you to someone I know will never love me back. I can’t feel or see that you care about me when I’m depressed.

For this reason, I need you to look for the other signs of my depression as you won’t be able to read it in my face. Am I talking less? Do I hang back or say no in situations where I would normally participate? Does my phone go to voice mail? Do my text replies get shorter or are all emojis? These are signs I am not doing well. I do want your help, but the kind of depression I have makes me silent. You can always ask me, is the depression rough right now? I will tell you the truth. Then, we can get out and do something together. Something active. This is what I need when I’m catatonic. I need the reminder that my body can still move.

Being friends with someone who has depression takes patience and a willingness to help when the depression is controlling how your friend thinks and behaves. As someone with depression, I wish that I were more able to control how it affects my brain, but I simply can’t. Instead, I need people in my life who will help me get through the down times so that we can go back to enjoying the good times.

 

About the Author

Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get it Done When You’re Depressed and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. Julie is a board member of The International Bipolar Foundation, a columnist and blogger for BP Magazine, and won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was the recipient of the Eli Lily Reintegration award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. She is a bipolar disorder expert for the Dr.Oz and Oprah created site ShareCare.

Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists and general practitioners on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People Magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis and Depression. She struggles a lot due to bipolar disorder. Friendships keep her going. You can find more about her work at www.JulieFast.com and www.BipolarHappens.com.