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Making a Major Life Change for Your Mental Health

For many years, I operated in a high-stress, fast-paced work environment. For a while, it was fun, and I felt passionate about my work. Despite how overwhelmed I often felt, I thought I was getting by and doing well.

I received positive feedback at work, liked my colleagues and enjoyed being challenged. But eventually, years of working long hours caught up to me, and my mental health took a turn for the worse.

I went from feeling a little tired, to burnt out, to dreading each workday. I felt as though I was drowning. 
 
Then, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. And I finally realised I wasn’t doing well—that it took all of my energy to simply stay afloat. I neglected taking care of my mental health for years and it was time to make a major life change. I needed to shift my life and job significantly to focus on my mental health.

So, after a long search, I found a new job at an organization that prioritized clearer working hours and off time for their staff. 
 
In such a fast-paced, busy world, it can be hard to focus on ourselves and make a change for our mental health. With that said, here’s what worked for me.  

Consider Seeing A Therapist, If You Aren’t Already. 

I know this is not an original suggestion, but it is an essential one. Talk therapy helped me realize what I really needed. It validated that my work environment wasn’t good for me.

Therapy gave me the confidence to make this decision for myself.
 
I also downloaded a mental health check-in app for each day between sessions, which helped me voice what I was feeling and experiencing each day. Over time, I saw how many days were marked with “anxious” or “exhausted.” It helped me visualize how clearly I needed a change. 

Before You Make A Major Change, Make A List Of Your Needs. 

For the past few years, I felt like I was duct-taping each day together just to get by. I wanted to feel like I could plan ahead and not feel swamped by the amount of work on my plate every day.

I also wanted to make sure I had enough time in my schedule to take care of my physical and mental health, prioritize time for my hobbies—reading, writing and embroidery—and spend more quality time with loved ones. 
 
Making a list helped me centre the way I thought about each job listing and potential opportunity.

I was able to quickly consider whether a job would help me achieve my personal and professional goals. 

Think Ahead About What You’ll Miss. 

Making lifestyle changes can be fun and exciting, but they also mean saying goodbye to smaller things that you may have loved previously. Contemplating ahead of time what those changes will be and what you may need to let go of (for now!) will help you feel more prepared. 
 
I loved the rush of dealing with a rapid-response moment, but based on the criteria of things I wanted out of my next job, I knew those moments would be less frequent. I also knew the constant flow of those hectic, exhausting moments had been taking a toll on me. Knowing I would miss them—but also the impact they had on me and my health—helped me feel ready to move on. 

When The Change Finally Happens, Spend Your Time Intentionally! 

Every day on my commute home, instead of looking at work email, I read a book or simply sit with my thoughts without a phone or screen in front of me. For two hours each weekend, I bring my laptop to my favourite coffee shop and write. I’m eating healthier and exercising more frequently. 
 
It still feels like an indulgence every day to take time for myself, but I can feel the difference.

I can tell my mental health is improving. Making big lifestyle changes for our mental health can feel scary and overwhelming. But if you make a change intentionally, you will feel like a weight has been lifted off your chest.

 

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Maintaining Mental Illness

When managing serious mental illness (SMI), the recovery journey can be long and challenging. It often requires creative and prolonged efforts to build and maintain a full life, but many people do reach recovery. In fact, up to 65% of people living with SMI experience partial to full recovery over time.

The term “recovery” refers to the process of learning how to minimize the symptoms associated with SMI. Note that recovery does not mean symptoms stop entirely or that deficit disappear.

Ultimately, recovery is not synonymous with “cured.” Rather, it means reaching a place where you can pursue a safe, dignified and meaningful life.

The cornerstones of recovery are self-determination, treatment, engagement with family and friends, work and hope. Loved ones play a critical role in a person’s recovery, especially when well-intentioned caregivers listen to and respect their loved one’s goals. Additionally, the guidance of competent, experienced and compassionate mental health practitioners can also be invaluable.

While recovery may look different for different people, several basic strategies can serve anyone looking to manage their illness. These basics may help you reach recovery more quickly and easily.

Maintaining Hope
Recovery is rarely achieved in the absence of hope. Its power cannot be overestimated.

You must always try to maintain hope despite the challenges (including loss, stigma, discrimination) you face.

Hope doesn’t have to come solely from internal strength; it can come from caregivers, friends, peers, people outside of a mental health context, and even animals or faith. Feeling supported, accepted and loved as a person of value and worth can foster and nurture hope.

Practising Self-Determination
Recovery has to be pursued; it does not simply occur in response to medication or other treatments. That is why it is so important to make your own decisions and actively use treatment, services, supports or other resources.

For example, preparing a Psychiatric Advance Directive, which states your treatment preferences in the event of a mental health crisis, can allow you to retain control over care even if you become impaired.

As with any illness, you may have to self-advocate to ensure everyone in your care team respects your right to have a say in your care.

Do not give up on your dreams. Identifying your life pursuits, such as living, working, learning and participating fully in the community, is an important recovery goal. After establishing these objectives, you can work with your providers and caregivers to make those goals a part of your care plan.

Starting Now
You should not delay the pursuit of recovery in the hopes that your symptoms will go away on their own. Progress typically occurs through a series of small steps, which may involve considerable effort, patience and persistence over time.

These accomplishments become possible and noticeable if you set and achieve realistic and short-term, if not immediate, personal goals.

Small, incremental steps can build on each other, positioning you to address more ambitious goals further down the line. Celebrating achievements, no matter how seemingly mundane, is an important part of the recovery process.

Finding the Right Care
Finding caring, trusting, supportive relationships with a practitioner is critical for recovery.

Practitioners should encourage and support your hopes, interests, assets, talents, energies, efforts and goals.

To achieve these, you should discuss calculated risk-taking with your practitioner. A calculated risk is a carefully considered decision that could be beneficial but includes some degree of risk. For example, deciding to change your treatment plan or medication regimen.

Care should be person-centred and you should hold an active role in your care. Accordingly, practitioners should engage your participation using a strengths-based approach. This approach, known as shared decision-making, is evidence-based and has been shown to improve outcomes.

Care should also be grounded in your “life context,” which acknowledges, builds on and appreciates your unique history, experiences, situations, developmental trajectory and aspirations.

Care plans should be based on individualized, culturally sensitive, holistic and multidisciplinary considerations and developed in collaboration with you and your supporters each step of the way. Your care should focus on helping you live the life you want and choose.

Gathering Information on Community Factors
Practitioners should have adequate knowledge of community factors that may impact care, including opportunities, resources and potential barriers. These may relate to access to employment opportunities as well as employment disincentives that are built into programs for access to affordable housing and medical care.

If practitioners cannot offer you guidance on these subjects, they should at least be able to share resources and provide referrals to people who can.

Coping with Stigma
Stigma is widespread, even among friends and family and within the mental health care system, including from practitioners themselves. The detrimental impact of stigma can be greater than that of the illness itself. Thus, you may need to develop coping strategies to manage stigma, particularly if you are experiencing self-stigma.

You might consider discussing how you are impacted by insensitive statements with those who use them. You could also consider limiting interaction, if possible, with people who may continue to stigmatize you.

Talking to peers can also be helpful to process the way stigma affects you.

Engaging with Peer Support
Peer support can be invaluable. People living with a similar condition can help you normalize SMI, address loneliness and isolation, and offer acceptance and support.

They also can provide insights based on their own struggles and achievements, and they can help take away some of the uncertainty of living with SMI by helping you understand what to expect. They can offer hope as a mentor who is a living example of the reality of recovery.

The recovery journey is never easy, but it is always worth it. When a person with SMI reaches recovery, they often regain their self-love, self-worth and self-esteem.

Recovery can then free a person from stigma, shame and embarrassment. Perhaps most importantly, it can stop them from defining themselves merely by their illness.

Some people with SMI have to recognize that the greatest barrier to reaching recovery may be their own mindset. People who refuse to take back control of their lives (including their care) and refuse to take responsibility for their illness will find it more difficult to reach recovery.

It is a great tragedy that so many never reach recovery because it is possible for so many more.

Ultimately, we all need more visible and promoted examples of everyday people living in recovery.

The promise of eliminating stigma does offer hope, but recovery offers so much more.

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Others can be useful, listen to them

I never felt as alone when I had bad panic attacks. When your brain suddenly goes nuts and you feel like you can’t control anything within yourself and outside anymore,

your ears have this tendency to shut themselves down automatically to what anyone else could be saying.

You just focus on how feel, on how bad you feel, and on how you are probably going to die in the next few minutes.

In reality, things don’t always have to be like that. With time, I learned that when other people

I knew were around me, I could count on them, and I was certainly not alone.

Of course, what we are going through when a panic attack comes out is usually very hard, sometimes even impossible to understand for someone who has never experienced it.

However, that is far from meaning they cannot help us.

Personally, I have always been shy when it comes to talking about my anxiety condition.

I have always seen it as something I should hide, someone I was ashamed of because I didn’t know how to control it.

I didn’t realize that, by talking about it to others, I could find a way out. I could pace myself during the worst attacks.

My father was the one who really started to help.

I didn’t have to say anything to him, and in that regard, I was very lucky, he just looked at me and knew what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t work from the first time, and the beginning was rough.

When I was having a crisis, it was hard for him to understand why I was acting like that, ignoring him and everything else.

He didn’t get that I couldn’t actually control myself.

However, once he got the extent of what I was going through, everything changed. He was there to make me feel safe, to pace me up, to make me come out of the panic attack.

How? Well, through a very simple process, that can be applied to everyone. I’m sure you probably heard that a hundred times already, but it all comes to one thing: breathing.

During my worst panic attacks, my father used to take me outside, in a quiet place and had me lie down.

I always felt like I was about to die like I couldn’t breathe anymore, and I was screaming.

To reassure me, he used to say that everything was alright, that I was in my normal environment, that nothing had changed. It was just a panic attack.

Now, that is a key thing you have to keep in mind.

When you get those symptoms, repeat to yourself that it is only a panic attack, that it is not dangerous and that nothing will happen to you.

If someone is with you at that moment, have them say that to you too.

Then, he made me focus on my breathing. Only that.

Focus on the movements of your chest going up and down.

If you are not alone and experience focusing all by yourself, ask this person to say out loud ‘breathe in, breathe out.

Feel the air coming in and out of your body, and put all your thoughts on that. This will have two effects.

First, it will take your mind off the panic attack itself and will prevent you to work yourself up into an even worse state. Unconsciously, without even realizing it, you will be calming down.

Second, controlling the rhythm of your breathing, will regulate your oxygen flux and also bring the attack to an end.

A good way to start on the way to eradicates those nasty panics…!

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The Invisible Life Of Having High-Functioning Anxiety

Anxiety disorders — PTSD, OCD, and Panic Disorder, to name a few — are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, with about 18% of the population struggling with one. That’s nearly 40 million adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Not to mention the uncounted: young adults with anxiety, people who suffer in silence either out of fear, choice or because of a lack of insurance.

I’m not the kind of person you’d expect to have anxiety.

When you see me, I read as genuinely social, I run a fairly popular online magazine for which I act as a sort of “face,” and any anxieties I feel are generally zipped-up tight. Not prone to sharing incredibly painful feelings.

Not known for needing a trigger warning. Viciously opinionated, yet diplomatic. Capable of good work. Fairly prolific. Capable of travel (alone). Intensely ambitious. Not fearful of anything you’d know about, anyway. 

But the reality isn’t so simple; excessive, irrational rumination plagues my everyday life.

I worry about the things that live in between the lines — what someone said, how they said it, what they didn’t say, what I said, what they feel, what they don’t feel, what I perceive they feel.

Mostly, I worry that my own perceptions are false.

I obsess over my false projections, my limitations. I obsess on my irrational ideas and I obsess on my obsessions. 

Reality is not easily defined for me, because sometimes I feel like I’m wading through a thick, black muck of made-up ideas. And a part of me knows I make myself anxious, but I can’t stop it. So, “getting a grip on reality” is basically very difficult. I can’t step outside the tiny, vicious bubble of this very moment right now — so seeing a future, or a light, or a reality that isn’t this reality right now, is nearly impossible.

I liken it to Instagram personalities whose accounts tell a story of colour and beaches, fabric and healthy food, groups of friends, and amazing experiences. The narrative belies the struggle, which could be anything: an eating disorder, depression, social anxiety, an obsession with perfection, loneliness. 

And while I know where my “worry problem” comes from (PTSD), it’s a Sisyphean task to turn it off.

Our minds are literally wired to think certain ways. In my case, I grew up second-guessing everything.

I was taught to worry like I was taught to eat, to wash my face, to not die. It became as involuntary as breathing. 

This is the silent underbelly of my day: a boiling, raging, exhaustive epicentre.

Magma of constant analysis. Crippling fear of the self getting in the way of the self. And so on. 

I have a family member with panic disorder.

Their disorder is marked by panic attacks at the weirdest times, irrational associations, irritable bowel syndrome, social fears, and the need to disappear from reality.

Their sickness looks different from mine, it takes a different shape. It’s physical, louder, more noticeable.

So when I talk to them about understanding their feelings, they say, “You’re totally fine, I’m the mess!”

They’re not trying to be reductive at all, I know this. Because when they’re hunched over the toilet in seemingly random fear, hiding inside their house, I’m publishing essays or meeting with other writers.

How could we both be suffering? Is there some sort of privilege in suffering silently? I think not.

With everyone consistently proclaiming, “You? Anxiety? But you seem so well-adjusted/put together/inspiring” — which, thank you, you’re so kind! — so continues the spiral of invisibility. 

Mariana*, 35-years-old, says, “Anxiety is something I struggle with every day and affects even basic things like texting friends. When I tell people I deal with social anxiety,

I get a range of reactions from genuine surprise to understanding and compassion.

For everyone else, it’s a vague sense of sympathy, but not something they really understand.

And I do try to hide it as much as possible because I think it makes me look less competent professionally.”

Gabrielle, a college student, agrees, saying that people reduce her deep-seated anxiety issues to being stressed. “It feels like everything (including myself) is moving so fast that I can’t keep up — except I have to.

I don’t have a choice, so I block out as much of the feeling as I can, which is never enough.

And these days so many people seem to use “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably, especially on a college campus, that it makes me worry that the debilitating panicky feeling that I have all the time is normal, even though I know it isn’t.”

Ashley Bethard, a digital content manager for a national media brand, has high-functioning anxiety and shares the same sentiments I do, hitting on the interesting idea that if you’re not seen as physically sick, your sickness isn’t real. 

Bethard says, “It’s invisible. I’m good at my job. I logically understand what needs to be done, how to prioritize, and how to manage my time. The professional skills I’ve cultivated through the years have served me well, and without them, I probably wouldn’t be doing the quality of work I’m doing.

[But] there’s definitely a stigma around it. When I’ve shared this with people, sometimes the response has been incredulous: ‘Really? But you’ve got it together.’ I think there’s a bias against something you can’t really see, like, if someone is high-functioning or successful, they can’t have anxiety.” 

The reality is: do we really want people to agree with us? Do I really want them to tell me I’m losing it? No.

No one wants to be put on blast for their weaknesses or wiring issues. I wish there was a way to better understand the silent majority — the people who suffer every day.

The people who don’t speak out because everything they’ve ever done right in their lives — their successes, their jobs, their full social circles — makes having anxiety seem like a lie, or worse, like a bandwagon appeal for sympathy. 

For anyone who says we’re “put together,” try something new. Take a simpler approach. Instead of being polite and saying we don’t seem “anxious” or “crazy” or that we’re “good at hiding it,” just acknowledge that it sucks. Because whether we’re consciously hiding it or not, it’s there. Just say, “damn, I’m sorry.” Validate it. 

And while I can complain about the invisibility of it all, I’m of the mindset that complaint can’t be made without any attempt to change. I don’t get to air my grievances without trying to find a solution. I don’t want to. 

For the longest time, scientists thought the brain was a fixed thing — immutable, incapable of change.

But in recent years, scientists have been studying neuroplasticity — the idea that the brain can, according to Stanford.edu, “compensate for injury and adjust their activity in response to new situations or changes in their environment.”

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The 8 Types Of Depression (And The Best Way To Handle Each)

According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 45,000 people in the United States committed suicide in 2014 alone, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death.

Social media has conditioned us to display only happy and shiny parts of our lives.

In our bid to keep up with Joneses we have learned to put up a brave and happy face despite how we are feeling inside.

It has resulted in a steep increase in the number of individuals who are high functioning and successful but suffer from crippling anxiety or severe depression in silence.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 18.6 per cent of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders and 6.7 per cent live with depression.

Depression is a serious illness and it is time we start to understand the nature of the illness and remove the stigma around mental health that causes many individuals to suffer in silence.

Depression is not just about feeling sad or lonely.

What separates depression from sadness is that the latter is about melancholy while depression persists.

A person suffering from depression struggles with overwhelming feelings of grief, hopelessness, worthlessness, and emptiness on daily basis.

The severity of these feelings can actually rob the person of the simple inertia to even perform day to day functions.

Depression can manifest in a myriad number of forms and can be triggered by several causes.

Identifying the types and symptoms of depression is the first step toward

1. Situational depression

Situational depression is caused when you have trouble dealing with a sudden or stressful event in your life like divorce, loss of a job or loved one or while changing careers or moving to a new country.

The psychologists may refer to this as “Stress Response syndrome” and they can help you in this transition phase through counselling and psychotherapy.

2. Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder is the most common form of depression.

If you feel any five or more of the below-mentioned symptoms over a persistent period of time lasting at least two weeks, you are likely suffering from Major Depressive Disorder:

  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • The feeling of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
  • Feelings of irritability or restlessness
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Persistent feelings of emptiness and sadness

The severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person and in extreme cases, it can cripple your ability to work, sleep, study, eat or experience life in general.

This type of depression can be treated by a combination of psychotherapy or medications like Antidepressants.

3. Pain/Injury/Illness-related

People suffering from chronic illness or debilitating diseases often face depression or anxiety caused due to the emotional and physical distress of going through these diseases.

Talk therapy and medication can go a long way in treating illness-related depression.

4. ​Peripartum (Postpartum) Depression

Women who have major depression in the weeks and months after childbirth may have Peripartum (postpartum) depression.

This is different from normal baby blues.

Massive hormonal and physical changes and changes in lifestyle and responsibility can cause stress and depression for some mothers. Almost 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression.

This can be treated with counselling support and psychotherapy.

5. Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that happens in particular seasons like winters or monsoons.

It is believed that less sunlight can lead to a change in mood and irritability and therefore many people feel blue at the onset of winters or monsoons.

SAD can be treated with antidepressants or light therapy which requires you to sit in front of a special bright lightbox for about 15-30 minutes each day.


6. Trauma-based or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop when a person experiences or witnesses traumatic events such as sexual assault, warfare, accident or other life-threatening situations.

Symptoms may include nightmares, anxiety or panic triggered by events that trigger the traumatic memory.

It can be cured by talk therapy, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications.

7. Substance-Induced Mood Disorder (SIMD)

SIMD is caused due to substance abuse. Certain drugs have the potential to gravely affect your mental health.

The adverse effects of these drugs can result in manic or chronic depression.

Rehab, medications and talk therapy can help all cure SIMD.

8. Psychotic Disorder

People with psychotic depression suffer from severe depression along with “psychotic” symptoms, such as:

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • Delusions (false beliefs)
  • Paranoia (wrongly believing that others are trying to harm you)

It can be treated by a combination of talk therapy, antidepressants, and antipsychotic drugs.

If you notice any of these symptoms being experienced by many of your friends, family members or close ones, please reach out to them.

They may not even know they are suffering from depression or may not reach out due to feelings of guilt or shame or hopelessness.

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Why Do People Get Depressed?

Depression affects people of every age, economic situation, and race. Even though depression is common — especially in teens — some people get depressed but others don’t. Why?

There’s No One Reason for Depression

Lots of things influence whether a person gets depressed. Some of it is biology — things like our genes, brain chemistry, and hormones. Some are environment, including daylight and seasons, or social and family situations we face. And some is personality, like how we react to life events or the support systems we create for ourselves.

All these things can help shape whether or not a person becomes depressed.    

Genes

Research shows that depression runs in families. Some people inherit genes that contribute to depression.

But not everyone who has a family member with depression will develop it too.

And many people with no family history of depression still get depressed.

So genes are one factor, but they aren’t the only reason for depression.

Brain Chemistry

Chemicals called neurotransmitters (pronounced: nur-oh-TRANZ-mit-urs) help send messages between nerve cells in the brain. Some neurotransmitters regulate mood.

When a person is depressed, these neurotransmitters might be in low supply or not effective enough.

Genes and brain chemistry can be connected: Having the genes for depression may make a person more likely to have the neurotransmitter problem that is part of depression.

Stress, Health, and Hormones

Things like stress, using alcohol or drugs, and hormone changes also affect the brain’s delicate chemistry and mood.

Some health conditions may cause depression-like symptoms.

For example, hypothyroidism is known to cause a depressed mood in some people. Mono can drain a person’s energy.

When health conditions are diagnosed and treated by a doctor, the depression-like symptoms usually disappear.

Getting enough sleep and regular exercise often has a positive effect on neurotransmitter activity and mood.

Daylight and Seasons

Daylight affects how the brain produces melatonin and serotonin.

These neurotransmitters help regulate a person’s sleep-wake cycles, energy, and mood. 

When there is less daylight, the brain produces more melatonin.

When there is more daylight, the brain makes more serotonin.

Shorter days and longer hours of darkness in fall and winter may lead the body to have more melatonin and less serotonin. This imbalance is what creates the conditions for depression in some people — a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Exposure to light can help improve the mood for people affected by SAD.

Life Events

The death of a family member, friend, or pet sometimes goes beyond normal grief and leads to depression.

Other difficult life events — such as when parents divorce, separate, or remarry — can trigger depression.

Whether or not difficult life situations lead to depression can depend a lot on how well a person is able to cope,

stay positive, and receive support.

Family and Social Environment

For some people, a negative, stressful, or unhappy family atmosphere can lead to depression. Other high-stress living situations — such as poverty, homelessness, or violence — can contribute, too. Dealing with bullying, harassment, or peer pressure leaves some people feeling isolated, victimised, or insecure.

Situations like these don’t necessarily lead to depression, but facing them without relief or support can make it easier to become depressed.

Reacting to Life Situations

Life is full of ups and downs. Stress, hassles, and setbacks happen (but hopefully not too often).

How we react to life’s struggles matters a lot. A person’s outlook can contribute to depression — or it can help guard against it.

Research shows that a positive outlook acts as a protection against depression, even for people who have the genes, brain chemistry, or life situations that put them at risk for developing it.

The opposite is also true: People who tend to think more negatively may be more at risk for developing depression.

We can’t control our genes, brain chemistry, or some of the other things that contribute to depression.

But we do have control over how we see situations and how we cope.

Making an effort to think positively — like believing there’s a way around any problem — helps ward off depression. So does developing coping skills and a support system of positive relationships.

These things help build resilience (the quality that helps people bounce back and do well, even in difficult situations).

Here are three ways to build resilience:

  1. Try thinking of change as a challenging and normal part of life. When a problem crops up, take action to solve it.
  2. Remind yourself that setbacks and problems are temporary and solvable. Nothing lasts forever.
  3. Build a support system. Ask friends and family for help (or just a shoulder to cry on) when you need it.
  4. Offer to help when they need it. This kind of give and take creates strong relationships that help people weather life’s storms.

Being positive and resilient isn’t a magic shield that automatically protects us from depression.

But these qualities can help offset the other factors that might lead to trouble.

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5 Ways to Help Yourself Through Depression

f you are going through depression, it’s best to get help from a therapist.

To get the most from your therapy, you can do things to help yourself, too.

Here are five things you can do to feel better.

They may seem simple, but they can help a lot.

  1. Exercise. Take a 15- to 30-minute brisk walk every day. Or you can dance, stretch, or do yoga. People who are depressed may not feel much like being active. But get yourself to do it anyway. If you need a push, ask a friend to do it with you. Getting any activity started helps boost your mood. Keep it going.
  2. Eat healthy foods. Some people with depression don’t feel much like eating. Some may overeat. But what you eat can affect your mood and energy. So with depression, you need to be sure to eat right. For most people, that means plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit simple carbs and foods with added sugar.
  3. Don’t go for too long without eating. Even if you don’t feel hungry, eat something light and healthy.
  4. Don’t dwell on problems. It can feel good to talk through a problem with a caring friend. But depression can lead people to complain, blame, and rehash problems too much. It can keep you focused on what’s wrong.

    It’s OK to air your thoughts and feelings with people who care. But don’t let problems be all you talk about.
  5. Talk about good things too. This can help your mood become more positive.
  6. Express yourself. With depression, your creativity and sense of fun may seem blocked.
  7. But it can help to do things that get your creative juices flowing. Paint, draw, or doodle. Sew, cook, or bake. Write, dance, or compose music.
  8. Chat with a friend or play with a pet. Find something to laugh about.
  9. Watch a funny movie. Do things you can enjoy. Even a little. That helps turn depression around.
  10. Notice good things. Depression affects a person’s view of things.
  11. Things can seem dismal, negative, and hopeless.
  12. To shift your view, make it a goal to notice 3 good things in every day.
  13. The more you notice what’s good, the more good you will notice.

Most of all, if you’re going through depression, show yourself some compassion and kindness.

When you’re going through a hard time, it helps to know you’re not alone.

Be patient with yourself.

Depression takes time to heal.

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The physical symptoms of Anxiety we don’t talk about

It’s no secret that the mind can affect our bodies. When we get anxious we often sweat or blush; we might feel our body heat rise uncomfortably and our hearts hammering in our chests; and sometimes our voices might crack, squeak, or sound quieter than intended.

We might also find that our eyes start to water, we start to tremble or shake, and we feel light-headed, to name just a few.

But some physical symptoms aren’t often discussed quite so honestly. For example, anxiety or stress can also affect our digestive systems and toilet habits.

This can mean constipation, diarrhoea, or the nervous wee that we have to have ten times when we’re anxious.

I once was so anxious about a job.

I struggled to eat properly because it felt like my throat was restricting or closing up. It’s a symptom

I experienced a lot throughout my childhood – my anxiety would often make me gag on food when I tried to physically swallow – but it’s one I rarely hear mentioned.

These physical symptoms can be so frustrating and a huge discomfort.

And when we don’t know how common they are, it can leave us feeling all alone.

I discussed common symptoms l was experiencing, like blushing and sweating, with my therapist.

I would often wear clothes of a neutral colour just in case I got nervous and started to sweat.

My therapist suggested social “experiments” to help.

These included slowly gaining a little more confidence in public, as I suffer from social anxiety and doing anything in public feels nerve-wracking.

I was specifically nervous about being judged, and my social “experiments” included small things like sitting in the middle of a restaurant instead of hiding in a corner and slowly wearing lighter-coloured clothing that would show up any sweat patches.

The idea was to make a note of how anxious I was on a scale of one to ten before the experiment, to try and complete my task, and then to go back afterwards and write on the scale how anxious I was during and after the test.

The results usually indicated that my anxiety was high before, a little better during and lower after the completion of the experiment. The more I did these little tasks, the more

I realised that my anxiety at the beginning was often triggered by what I worried would happen – but these worried never came true.

 am now much more comfortable wearing what I like in public without the feeling of being judged.

The truth is everyone is so busy and wrapped up in their own lives that what you are wearing or any physical signs of anxiety and distress you are displaying is far more noticeable to you than to anyone else.

The physical effects that anxiety has on our bodies are very much as real as the effects it has on the way we feel and the thoughts we have. Inevitably, these connections all come hand-in-hand and it can be unpleasant when we experience them.

But discussing these physical symptoms more openly might help us tackle and normalise them when it comes to mental illness.

Blushing, sweating, shaking, constipation, diarrhoea, the constant need to pee and the struggle to eat are all part of the package that we didn’t sign up for – and that’s okay.

Where to get help

It’s really common to struggle with anxiety at some point. We have lots of information and advice that can really help if you find that you’re feeling worried more than usual.

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We are all Sugar Addicts

Did you know that one simple nutrient, one simple food you are almost surely consuming every day is hindering your well-being? And did you also know that you have all the chances in the world to be addicted to that substance without even realizing it? Yes, you are a junkie. A sugar junkie.

Let me get something straight here: I am a drug addict too. I sometimes have cravings that I feel like I cannot control. I rush to the fridge and binge on some milk chocolate or sweets.

 I like eating sugar when I am sad or alone. If you think you are not like me, that you are stronger, try to cut sugar from your diet for a few days, even just in its refined form – which would mean that your sugar intake could only come from fruits, honey or maple syrup.

Let me know if you do not experience a single withdrawal symptom.

You might have experienced the harmful effects of sugar on your body already. 

When you eat a lot of sugar your spirits are high, you feel very excited and energetic.

You might have already used the idiom ‘being high on sugar’. After a while though, your body crashes down and you can feel debilitated for some time.

When you quit refined sugar, those crashing moments happen more often.

You need to sleep more, sometimes even in the afternoon, just to make it through the day.

This is caused by the fact that sugar is numbing you to tiredness, it powers you through beyond what your body is capable of actually doing.

The sugar addiction we are all experiencing can be explained scientifically.

Once it is consumed, sugar sends messages of pleasure to the brain, which triggers a form of excitement.

This leads the body to function at a higher rate than usual, to accelerate from its natural rhythm to a faster one. Of course, the body has to work harder to maintain this new rhythm and needs more energy.

So, once the effects of the sugar you have previously taken wear off, you will feel tired and exhausted and will look for another hit of energy.

Guess what could give you instant satisfaction? Sugar, that goes without saying. Here, you can clearly see that the mechanism is very similar to drug addiction.

In addition, research has shown that when provided with a mouthful of a sugary drink, people’s brain activity had the same reaction as when it was exposed to a hit of cocaine or heroin.

When you are getting off sweets, the same neurological symptoms as withdrawing from nicotine, alcohol or morphine can be experienced.

Beyond physical effects, sugar addiction can also be experienced through the mind.

When your blood is filled with sugar, you will usually feel good, feel high and energetic.

However, when you are crashing down, your mood will instantly degenerate and you will more likely feel emotional and down than your usual natural average.

Sugar will also lead you to behave in ways that are not suited for you, that is too hard on your body.

Such behaviours include over-exercising, going to bed too late, over-eating, working longer hours without realizing you are exhausted, among other things. Just add a good splash of caffeine to the mix, and you are well set for a disaster.

On a worldwide scale, numerous medical studies have shown the negative impact of sugar on the population.

In early childhood especially, sugar has been linked to the development of depression, anxiety and behavioural troubles.

High blood glucose levels have also been linked to the development of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia in people that were not affected by diabetes.

Sugar can also impact the health of our heart and other vital organs which are put on a strain as they are being asked to work faster than their natural pace.

It is hard to be aware of all the effects of sugar on your body while you are still on it.

It is only once you have quit and made it past the withdrawal syndrome that you will start feeling better, more connected to your body and your mind. Nowadays, more and more people are trying to set themselves free from addiction, and succeed.

Even if it takes a strong commitment to making it, it is possible to stop being a refined sugar slave.

But where to start when facing such a vast challenge?

First of all, if you decide to stop eating refined sugars, do not replace them with artificial sugars.

Indeed, those can lead you to eat more calories during the day and gain weight, by creating confusion between the gut and the brain.

If the sweetness does not come with the right amount of calories, the system gets confused.

Also, if you are addicted to real sugar, still getting that sense of sweetness will not help you get off it at all.

You are still satisfying your craving. Then, it may be a good idea to start exercising regularly.

When you do that, your body will release higher levels of serotonin, making you feel happier, just like when you eat a cookie.

Another way to enhance serotonin levels is to add whey protein to your diet, for example by drinking more milk. Improving your sleep habits will also be beneficial.

 Indeed, if you have not slept enough at night, you are more likely to give in to a sugary treat during the day.

 And if you go to bed earlier, you will say goodbye to that late-night cookie you used to not be able to resist.

Now, are you ready or should I get you one more glass of soda?

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7 Surprising Ways Anxiety Benefits Your Life

Anxiety benefits aren’t exactly something most people talk about. With such a bad rap, it isn’t hard to view anxiety as a hindrance that at its best must be tolerated.

And yet anxiety can be a positive force in your life, sometimes a powerful one, especially when you choose to see it that way.  One of the most important things to keep in mind is that its discomfort doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, or that you can’t use it to your benefit.

Recognizing how anxiety can help can put you on the path to using it to your advantage.

Understand these 7 anxiety benefits and you are well on your way to harnessing this powerful force for good next time you experience it.

  1. Anxiety means we care.

Like a highlighter pen for our highest priorities, anxiety helps remind us of the things that matter most to us. We worry because we care, not because we are crazy. Thinking about anxiety as a reflection of our top priorities can help us embrace it as a resource.

  1.  Anxiety helps us focus.

Current science suggests anxiety may have more to do with harnessing attention than fear, and in this way can be a huge help when it comes to managing our increasingly distracted attention.  

We worry about the things we care about most, and anxiety can keep us focused on our top priorities even when we may not want to.

  1. Anxiety helps us maintains focus, especially when distractions beckon.

Distractions lurk seemingly around every corner these days. Increasing competition for our attention means it has never been easier to veer off track, and not surprisingly anxiety has become part of this picture.

A return to the beloved fable of the tortoise and the hare illustrates another anxiety benefit when it comes to maintaining focus and effort as well.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”

Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”

Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line. The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare. Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. The tortoise was over the line.  –Aesops Fable

As an executive coach, David Cottrell, notes in his article the real reason the tortoise beat the hare, distraction is deceptively dangerous.

“After all, if the hare had run straight to the finish line, it would have won. Perseverance would not have beaten speed in that case. But the hare was so consumed with its talent that it forgot to use that gift, diverted by the prospect of a soothing nap. The tortoise never got distracted: It focused on the finish line.”

  1. Anxiety fuels motivation and energy to find solutions.

Anxiety alerts us to potential threats to our priorities and motivates us to find solutions. It keeps grabbing our attention and stirring our motivation to act until we find solutions. Can’t stop worrying about those taxes that need attention? You probably won’t until you get them done. This is your anxiety helping you stay on top of important things, even if you might not want to.

  1. Anxiety is uncomfortable for a reason.

Like an alarm clock that will snooze, but only turn off once we wake up and deal with turning it off, anxiety keeps hassling us to pay attention and tend to the problem at hand until we do. If we ignore it temporarily or distract ourselves from it, it can suspend itself temporarily but will keep coming back until we face and use it to problem-solve.

  1. Harnessing anxiety can be good for your brain.

Research shows that acute bouts of stress can help boost neural growth and memory. Stress hormones help us perform optimally and also learn from our experiences such that can do it again and with less effort.

Like straining muscles and bones contribute to strength building, handling stress helps us get stronger and better at it.

  1. Seeing is believing. 

Finally, how we think about anxiety actually defines how we experience it. Perception is so hugely powerful, and how we choose to view our anxiety is completely within our control.

Naming our emotions is a well-documented, powerful tool in gaining control of them.

Simply defining that you are anxious and it is helping you stay on task can help keep your anxiety productive.

Moreover, research shows that how we think about stress and anxiety can have a powerful influence on its overall impact.  According to science, if you believe you can handle it, you can.

Anxiety keeps us awake and alert to the things that matter to us, protecting us from distraction and complacency.

We need the anxiety to help us pay attention, and protect ourselves against threats, be they modern or age-old temptations.

Anxiety benefits become real as we choose to see them.

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