Postpartum Depression: Ways To Cope And Heal

If you’re a mom or dad, you’ve walked through the otherworldly time surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. The time following the birth of a child is incomparable: It brings the gift of life and the fun of seeing your family grow.

Parenthood also brings upheaval. Daily routines become irrelevant, sleep is sporadic and scarce, and guilt can take over in ways it never did before. Our old, familiar lives vanish. Like our babies, we’re born into new way of life, and it can take a while to adjust and adapt.

This happens even if all goes well. When you add in a postpartum condition, it can be debilitating. Nine years ago, I struggled as a new parent. After the traumatic birth of my first child, I developed postpartum depression (PPD).

I needed a roadmap. And with the help of other moms, a therapist and research, I pieced one together. My roadmap turned into a book about my journey called When Postpartum Packs a Punch: Fighting Back and Finding Joy. The key points on my roadmap back to wellness are these:

Speak Up

Mental health conditions typically don’t go away on their own—they get worse when untreated. Treatment is key, so do not wait to seek help; you are in charge of your treatment plan. A combination of psychotherapy and medication are the standard line of intervention for PPD, but it varies by person. Different forms of therapy are available, such as supportive therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Talk to your doctor about what would be best for you.

Know You’re Not Alone

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders affect many women. While the exact prevalence is unknown, some estimates say as many as 1 million moms face it each year in the U.S. alone. Other moms can be your greatest source of strength. If you have persistent symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, sleeplessness or crying spells, reach out to someone you trust. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, contact Postpartum Support International. They have an invaluable network of women who are a phone call away. There’s no shame in seeking support.

Remember That This Isn’t A Character Flaw Or Weakness

Psychiatrist and chair of the U.K.’s Maternal Mental Health Alliance, Dr. Alain Gregoire, says: “The reality is that we are all vulnerable to mental illness. Our brains are the most complex structures in the universe and our minds are the uniquely individual products of that structure. It is not surprising then that occasionally things go wrong.” Just because you aren’t feeling well doesn’t mean you’re not meant to be a mother. It’s not a subconscious sign you don’t want your child. If your symptoms seem to be telling you this, don’t believe them.

Cling To Hope

Perinatal mood disorders can turn something already difficult—transition to motherhood—into a seemingly impossible hurdle. Just know that the symptoms don’t last forever. They’re temporary and treatable. Keep asking for help until you find the care you need. There’s an army of people who want to help you get better.

By Kristina Cowan

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/January-2018/Postpartum-Depression-Ways-to-Cope-and-Heal

The Pathway To Peace Of Mind

To create the roadways of a city, it takes years of planning, developing and building. It’s a never-ending process as new ideas are constantly suggested on how to make everything more efficient and in tune with changing needs.

Peace of mind is developed the same way.

In the 1900’s, scientists believed that our brain was fully developed by age six. We could learn more, sure, but “who we were” was set. Additionally, it was believed that after our teenage years and early years of adulthood, our brain and bodies declined through aging, injury, disease and illness.

“And then,” stated Dr. Lara Boyd, a brain researcher from the University of British Columbia, “studies began to show remarkable amounts of reorganization in the adult brain. And the research has shown us that all of our behaviors change our brain. That these changes are not limited by age…in fact they’re taking place all the time.” Meaning we can reorganize, change and restructure the physical makeup of our brain no matter what age we are.

So, imagine your brain is a city composed of many roadways that have all been under construction since before you were even born. And just like cities, we can create new roadways that enable us to be happier.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the many ways to be happier and healthier, but true change relies on deciding on a new habit or practice and dedicating yourself to it. That’s when your roadways will begin to evolve for good. Here are some important things to keep in mind when you’re working on yourself.

Change

Whatever we decide to think or do, it has to be different than our norm. For example, if we decide to move towards having more peace of mind by going on walks three times a week, and we’re already walking three times a week, we are not going to change. But if we decide to also practice mindfulness while walking, this is different.

Belief

Whether it’s exercise, nutrition, meditation, yoga, tai chi, therapy, medication, religion, spirituality or any other strategies we might use to become happier, we need to believe in what we’re doing and believe we can succeed. Rather than going through the motions, we need to embrace the belief that we are changing our thoughts or behaviors to become happier.

Motivation

“The harder we try, the more we are motivated, the more alert we are, and the better (worse) the outcome, the bigger the brain change,” wrote Dr. Michael Merzenich in Soft WiredTo make a change, it takes commitment and effort. There are times when we just don’t want to get out of bed to do yoga or go for a brisk walk. That’s true for anyone. Occasionally missing an opportunity to practice what we’ve decided to do is okay. But if we allow ourselves to continually take breaks, then we are pausing our progress.

Intention

Our intention should be all-in. I once had a client who listened to guided meditation while he was driving and then later in the day when he was focusing on a project at work. He said he didn’t have time for anything more intensive, and he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t feeling any better. It takes focus to make change for the better. It helps to set aside specific time so you can focus solely on one thing at that time.

Practice And Repeat

Most of us quit doing what we’re doing once we experience “success.” That’s pretty common. But when we practice beyond “success,” we convert short-term changes into long-term memory and that’s what sticks. It has been found that repetition is effective in helping children learn how to read (imagine if they just stopped after completing their first book?). The same is true when establishing an ever-growing peace of mind.

It’s best to look at creating happiness and peace of mind as an evolving process rather than an end goal. It’s important to keep in mind that we’ll always be moving towards happiness. The roadways to peace are never finished—we’re always under construction.

And we can either let our old pathways determine who we are or keep working on becoming who we want to be. Each step we take enables us to become happier with ourselves, our relationships and with the world. And we can achieve a greater sense of peace and calm as we continue to grow.

By Larry Shushansky, LICSW

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/The-Pathway-to-Peace-of-Mind

The Best Movies About Mental Health

It’s becoming increasingly more common for Hollywood to highlight mental health conditions in films. Because mental illness affects millions of Americans, it’s an extremely relatable theme. Sometimes, these movies show mental illness in a way that is inaccurate or stigmatizing. For those in “the business” who don’t have lived experience, it can be difficult to depict.

However, there are some movies that realistically show what it’s like to experience mental illness. Here’s a list of a few movies that get it right.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

This movie, based on a true story, highlights the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russel Crow), a mathematical savant who lived with schizophrenia. The movie beautifully captures the challenges John faced throughout his life, including paranoia and delusions that altered his promising career and deeply affected his life. Through the magic of film, viewers can live John’s hallucinations with him, which feel as real to the audience as they did to him.

Matchstick Men (2003)

Roy (Nicolas Cage) is a con artist working with his protégé to steal a lot of money. While he may be confident in his ability to steal from the rich, he struggles in other aspects of his life. His debilitating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), agoraphobia and panic attacks make it difficult for him to leave his apartment or even open a door. When he discovers he has a 14-year-old daughter, he’s forced to evaluate his career choices and isolated lifestyle. Matchstick Men is an honest depiction of the rituals and behaviors of someone living with OCD.

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story (2010)

You wouldn’t think a movie set in a mental health hospital could be a comedy. However, this well-crafted film tells the story of 16-year-old Craig (Keir Gilchrist) who checks himself into a psychiatric ward because of his depressionand suicidal ideation. He ends up staying in the adult unit because the youth wing is under renovation. The hospital is not a scary place and the patients are not portrayed as “mad” or “insane”—it’s a safe place where people struggling are getting help, and using humor as a relief from the serious conditions that brought them there. This Hollywood approach to a psychiatric unit may be more comical than any real-life scenario, but it helps normalize the fact that sometimes people need this level of care.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

After a stay in a mental health hospital, Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) is forced to move back in with his parents. His previously untreated symptoms of bipolar disorder caused him to lose both his wife and job, and he is determined to get his wife back. In his efforts, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who offers to help him in exchange for Pat being her ballroom dance partner. Silver Linings Playbook represents the range of emotion that often occurs with bipolar disorder in a real and riveting way.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Socially awkward Charlie (Logan Lerman) starts high school isolated and anxious. Luckily, he becomes friends with a group of charismatic seniors, including Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). His friends bring joy to his life, but his inner turmoil reaches a high when they prepare to leave for college. As the film goes on, we learn more about Charlie’s mental health journey—from his stay in a psychiatric hospital to the details of a childhood trauma. This coming-of-age movie does an exemplary job of showing the highs and lows of growing up with mental illness.

The Skeleton Twins (2014)

The opening scene of Skeleton Twins shows the film’s main characters, Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig), both attempting suicide. Milo’s attempt lands him in the hospital, which reunites the brother and sister after 10 years of estrangement. Both characters express their depression in candid and humorous ways as they learn to accept each other and themselves.

Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)

Cam (Mark Ruffalo), a father with bipolar disorder, becomes the sole caregiver for his two daughters while his wife (Zoe Saldana) goes away to graduate school. Throughout the movie, Cam faces many challenges that make it difficult for him to take care of his daughters. However, despite the severity of his condition (and some unique parenting methods that accompany it), Cam learns that he is a good father who cares deeply for his family. Infinitely Polar Bear is a very meaningful portrayal of how families can be impacted by mental illness.

Welcome To Me (2015)

Alice (Kristen Wiig) has just decided to go off her medications for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) when she wins the lottery. She impulsively buys her own talk show with the money, in which she shares her opinions with the world. Although portrayed in a humorous way, Alice shows many of the traits of BPD, including mood swings and unstable relationships. As her behavior pushes away the people closest to her—including her therapist—she starts to take her mental health condition more seriously and works to keep her loved ones in her life. In the process, she falsifies the myth that a person with BPD is selfish.

Inside Out (2015)

This quirky animation personifies the different emotions inside a young girl’s mind. Characters Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust try to help Riley through her family’s move to San Francisco. The emotions learn to work together to help Riley process the turmoil of adjusting to her new life. Inside Out is a clever, modern and well-made film that puts mental health into a new context.

Hopefully, as we continue to spread awareness and education, Hollywood will continue to make movies like the ones in this list that show what mental illness is really like.

By Laura Greenstein

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/The-Best-Movies-About-Mental-Health

Tips For Managing The Holiday Blues

Many people can experience feelings of anxiety or depression during the holiday season. People who already live with a mental health condition should take extra care to tend to their overall health and wellness during this time.

Extra stress, unrealistic expectations or even sentimental memories that accompany the season can be a catalyst for the holiday blues. Some can be at risk for feelings of loneliness, sadness, fatigue, tension and a sense of loss.

A lot of seasonal factors can trigger the holiday blues such as, less sunlight, changes in your diet or routine, alcohol at parties, over-commercialization or the inability to be with friends or family. These are all factors that can seriously affect your mood.

However, there are certain things you can do to help avoid the holiday blues. Ken Duckworth, M.D., NAMI’s medical director, shares advice for managing your health—both mental and physical—during the holiday season in this video.

Download

By Laura Greenstein

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2015/Tips-for-Managing-the-Holiday-Blues

Lessons We Missed As Kids: Practicing Mental Health

During childhood, we learn lesson-by-lesson how to take care of ourselves. Many lessons pertain to our health—such as bandaging a scrape so it doesn’t get infected. But typically, our childhood health lessons involve only physical health. What are kids taught to do when they feel lonely? Or when they feel rejected by other kids? The answer, usually, is nothing.

Why is physical health prioritized more than psychological health? Psychological health weathers many wounds—some might even argue we experience more emotional wounds than physical. These wounds—such as feelings of failure, inferiority, anxiety, rejection, loneliness—routinely get infected and worsen because we don’t know how to treat them. In fact, it doesn’t even occur to us that we should.

These emotional and psychological wounds impact our lives for years, often more than we realize. We tell ourselves that these problems are in our head, that they will go away and we will return to “normal” eventually. But imagine if we treated a broken leg the same way: We would likely never walk again.

How Can We Practice Mental Health?

Our quality of life would dramatically improve if we learned and practiced emotional hygiene. We would cope better with difficult situations and build emotional resilience. Even though we don’t learn how to do this as kids, there are many proven ways to prevent and treat psychological wounds throughout life. Below are a few.

Battle Negative Thinking

What is our natural inclination when something is bothering us? We think and think in a vicious, negative cycle about everything that is wrong. This is an instinctive tendency that only wounds us further; it is also one of the most challenging habits to break.

According to Psychology Today, recent neuroscience shows that we can train ourselves to self-regulate negative emotions and rewire our brains to move toward loving/kindness, empathy and positive emotions. So every time you start to focus on the negative, distract yourself—even if only for two minutes.

Calm Your Thinking

One way to battle negative thinking is through meditation. Meditation is often seen as the practice of controlling the mind and stopping all thought, but that doesn’t work for most people. If meditation instead involved stepping back from our thoughts and looking at them with a relaxed, focused mind, we might have a better chance at reducing everyday stress. So how can we achieve this? Take each thought—one at a time—and focus on it. Is it really important? Is this thought productive? Then move on. Consider each thought like a cloud in the sky. Focus on one thought at a time to determine what it resembles, then let it pass by so you can move your attention to the next.

Change Your Response To Failure

One of the hardest thought cycles to let go of is when we feel as though we have failed at something. A typical response to failure is self-blame and an attempt to gain something positive from the experience: a new perspective, a lesson, motivation to work harder, etc. While this may seem like the most productive response, it isn’t, according to the Harvard Business Review.

The only way we should respond to failure is with empathy. We must greet our failures with the understanding that it’s okay to fail. We must stop trying to derive something positive from a negative. We should accept our mistakes and not blame ourselves for what happened. Life is messy, and it’s normal not to be perfect.

Show Yourself Compassion

If your friend was feeling down, how would you make them feel better? Maybe you would validate their feelings, offer support or reminisce on something positive. Showing this kind of compassion and understanding is what a good friend does—so why don’t we do the same for ourselves?

Rather than berating yourself for negative feelings or failures, treat yourself the way you would treat a close friend. Tell yourself that you understand what you’re going through and that you shouldn’t feel bad for having a hard time. Ask yourself, “What can I do that would make me feel better?” Also think about a time when you felt good, and try to harness what that felt like. These are all things we hope our friends will do for us, but we are more than capable of providing this kind of compassion to ourselves.

Take Action When You’re Lonely

According to the New York Times, loneliness has been linked to physical illness, functional and cognitive decline, and even early death. Research also shows that people who feel lonely are more likely to isolate themselves even further. This is because loneliness changes the way our brain functions and causes people to subconsciously guard themselves and go into self-preservation mode.

With that in mind, seek out relationships that make you feel connected. It doesn’t help just to be around other people; loneliness doesn’t always mean you are literally alone, but rather that you feel socially disconnected. Take a class, rekindle an old friendship, Skype your family members, volunteer at your local community center or do anything else you can think of to force yourself out of isolation.

Slow Down

Sometimes we can become socially disconnected because we are too busy. Having time to recharge is essential for our minds. New York Times writer Tim Kreider comments that “idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.”

According to the research article “Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education,” rest allows the brain to process any new information that it has absorbed, work through unresolved conflicts and reflect. Rest can also help lower levels of stress and anxiety and increase our memory and ability to focus. So use your personal days!

Be Grateful

Slowing down also gives us time to appreciate what we have. Research supports an association between gratitude and an overall sense of wellbeing. Consciously practicing grateful thinking each day can strengthen connections with other people, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve self-worth.

Wake up each morning with the question, “What do I appreciate about my life?,” and write down a few things, even if they are simple or obvious. In time, you will feel a positive effect on your outlook. It is not happiness that makes us grateful—it is gratefulness that makes us happy.

These are only a few of the many methods to practice mental health and achieve psychological well-being. While implementing these practices into your life can be challenging (because they are often opposite to our natural instincts), they can make a huge positive impact in your life.

Laura Greenstein is communications coordinator at NAMI.

Note: This piece is a reprint from the Spring 2017 Advocate.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/August-2017/Lessons-We-Missed-as-Kids-Practicing-Mental-Healt

Can Social Media Save A Life?

Trigger Warning: suicide

Like many who have social media accounts, I regularly check my timelines and feeds for intriguing articles, updates and happenings. Two years ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through one of my accounts before going to bed and one post immediately stood out among the rest: It was a suicide note.

Frantically, I read my friend Mark’s post. It detailed his internal suffering over the years, which he no longer wanted to endure. The comment section grew at an alarming rate. People asked questions, both directly to Mark and to each other. Some people were pleading with him to reconsider. Others offered comments of hope.

Over the next few days, I saw something I did not expect. Hundreds of comments on Mark’s post evolved into a community of people coming together to help find Mark, who had gone missing. People used his previous posts on other social media platforms to piece together his possible location. Some contacted the authorities—and thankfully, those authorities located him before he took his life.

Social Media On The Rise

We live in a world driven by technology. We see the media regularly report on new apps for our smartphones and the latest trending celebrity tweets. Whether we’re commuting to work, studying in a coffee shop or spending time with our family and friends, being connected digitally is part of our lives. An entire generation of young people is growing up with devices in their hands, regularly engaging in social media.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2005 only 5% of American adults used at least one social media platform. That number has since grown significantly: Today, 70% of the public uses social media, with many people using more than one platform.

Some researchers are beginning to identify connections between online social networking and mental health concerns. Among these concerns are varying levels of self-esteem and addiction to social media, as well as the internet. However, it is uncertain whether signs and symptoms of mental health conditions are the causes or effects of using social media. Since each platform is different and new platforms continue to be introduced, future research is needed to assess the true effect of social media on mental health.

Identifying Mental Health Concerns Online

When used responsibly, social media can be used in positive ways. It can be used to promote mental health to a large audience. I’ve seen individuals share their personal stories of recovery, like those on NAMI.org at You Are Not Alone and OK2Talk. I’ve seen mental health writers connect with one another on Twitter. And as with my friend Mark, during times of crisis, social media can even save lives.

On platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, users now have options for getting a friend help. If a user thinks a friend is in danger of self-harm or suicide, they can report their concerns by going to the social media websites’ Help Centers. These online Help Centers have dedicated content about suicide and self-harm prevention, which include online resources and phone numbers for suicide hotlines around the world.

The most helpful feature I’ve seen instituted recently is on Instagram. Users can anonymously flag posts by other users that have content about self-harm and suicide. That user then receives a message encouraging them to speak with a friend, contact a helpline or seek professional help. The same message appears for people who are regularly searching self-harm- or suicide-related content on Instagram.

Recent research by the Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Office notes that personal social media accounts “can provide an important window into a person’s state of mind.” At the Secretary of the Army Symposium on Suicide Prevention in mid-January 2017, military leaders, mental health professionals and companies like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn came together to see how social media can be used to connect those in need to care and resources.

How Can I Help?

With social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat dominating our screen time, it’s wise to assume that social media will continue to be a primary method of communication. Therefore, it’s up to us to look out for mental health warning signs while on social media so we are better prepared to assist a friend in need.

If you see any of the following behavior online, it may be time to step in and contact your friend directly to see how you can help:

  • Cyberbullying, which includes:

a. harassing messages or comments

b. fake accounts made to impersonate someone else

c. someone posting unwanted pictures or images of another person

  • Negative statements about themselves, even if it sounds like they are joking, such as

a. “I’m a waste of space.”

b. “No one cares about me.”

c. “I seriously hate myself.”

  • Negative leading statements with little to no context that prompt others to respond, such as:

a. “You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through.”

b. “Today was the worst day ever.”

c. “It’s like everyone is against me.”

If someone you know is in immediate danger—for example, they talk about a specific plan for harming themselves—contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. This lifeline can support the individual and their family members, and has the ability to connect with local law enforcement, if necessary. If a person has attempted self-harm or is injured, call 911 immediately.

If the threat of physical danger is not immediate, here are some things you can do to help:

  • Report the content on the social media website’s Help Center;
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255; or
  • Reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting the word “NAMI” to 741741 (standard data rates may apply).

As you scroll through your social media feeds, be mindful of what others post. Being educated about available resources is important for those of us who promote mental health, but knowing when to reach out to a friend who may be experiencing a mental health crisis is even more important: You just might save a life.

By Ryann Tanap

Ryann Tanap is manager of social media and digital assets at NAMI.

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/September-2017/Can-Social-Media-Save-a-Life

You’ll Be Happier If You Let Yourself Feel Bad

There’s a moment in Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray when the title character declares war on his feelings: “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions,” Dorian says. “I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” Basil Hallward, the artist who had painted Dorian’s portrait, becomes fearful of his subject’s newfound aggression: “You talk as if you had no heart, no pity in you,” he says. But Dorian, in the throes of an existential crises, isn’t listening; he wants control, most especially over how he feels.

It’s not an uncommon desire. In fact, it may be a near-universal one. With varying levels of success, we try to hold on to good emotions and ward off the bad ones — but research suggests that those efforts, at least when it comes to negative feelings, may be misplaced.

For many, accepting our negative emotions appears counterproductive, especially because it gets in the way of what motivates us. Our negative emotions can act as catalysts and adrenaline boosts — nervousness in the face of a closing deadline, for instance, might help push you to finish your task on time. Often, though, people don’t use their negative emotions so productively; instead, many tend to get stuck in their negativity, spiraling downwards. It’s hard to accept your emotions — both positive and negative — and let them pass by. Dorian Gray certainly never could.

But studies have shown that the ability to embrace your negative feelings can provide a slew of benefits. Those who accept all their emotions without judgment tend to be less likely to ruminate on negativity, less likely to try to suppress mental experiences (which can backfire by amplifying these experiences), and less likely to experience negative “meta-emotional reactions,” like feeling upset about feeling upset. Or, as the authors of a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology put it: “When people accept (versus judge) their mental experiences, those experiences run their natural — and relatively short-lived — course, rather than being exacerbated.”

This latest study, led by University of Toronto assistant psychology professor Brett Ford, explored the link between one’s acceptance of negativity and one’s well-being. The researchers first set out to discover if and how the acceptance of negativity benefits psychological health, and whether this kind of acceptance works for everyone across socioeconomic, gender, and racial divides. Around 1,000 study subjects filled out surveys about their mindfulness, life satisfaction, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and the number of stressful events they’d been through over the course of their lives.

Ford and her colleagues found that those who accepted their negative feelings were, on average, also more psychologically healthy. They also found that the factor most strongly linked to participants’ well-being wasn’t a low-stress life — rather, it was the capacity to accept life’s difficulties and one’s own negative feelings non-judgmentally.

On the face of it, this is a counterintuitive idea. A person with, say, no medical or financial issues — someone who should theoretically have low stress — ought to have greater well-being than a poorer, less healthy person who’s working 70 hours a week. And yet if the latter person is better at accepting the negative experiences that come with his objectively more difficult life, this study suggests, she may be happier than the person who has fewer stressors in life.

In order to further prove this apparent paradox, the researchers recruited 160 women, half of whom had experienced a life stressor “of at least moderate impact” within the past six months, to complete a neutral task (watching a movie clip) and then a stressful task (giving a three-minute video-recorded speech on their job qualifications in front of an audience). During both tasks, the women rated their own emotional experiences; once again, Ford found that the people who were more accepting of their negative mental states reported less intense negative feelings.

Finally, to test their findings with a more diverse set of participants, Ford and her colleagues had 222 men and women complete diary entries every night for two straight weeks, making note each night of the stressful events they’d experienced during the day. Some reported particularly high-stress moments, like receiving a phone call from a son in prison, while others had mostly mild stressors, like low-key arguments with a romantic partner. For each entry, participants also rated the extent to which they felt 12 negative emotions: sad, hopeless, lonely, distressed, angry, irritable, hostile, anxious, worried, nervous, ashamed, and guilty.

Once again, acceptance was associated with greater psychological health, but with an added layer of nuance: The correlations showed that accepting negative situations was not associated with increased psychological health. Rather, it was the acceptance of one’s state of mind that came from negative situations that best indicated psychological well-being.

Taken together, Ford says, the results across all three experiments “underscore the broad relevance of acceptance as a useful tool for many people.”

“The overall take-home message is that emotions are naturally short-lived experiences,” she says, and if we let them wash over us instead of trying to push them away, “these emotional experiences would actually pass relatively quickly.”

Still, opening your arms to all your negative feelings is easier said than done in a culture where happiness is considered a virtue. We tend to valorize the pursuit of positivity, while ignoring or dismissing the importance of a well-rounded emotional experience. Happiness, the thinking still often goes, is the absence of negativity rather than the acceptance of it. But the research says otherwise — you can’t always control your emotions, but you can control how you respond to them. Sometimes it’s best to let yourself feel okay about feeling bad.

By 

https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/youll-be-happier-if-you-let-yourself-feel-bad.html

Less Sunlight Means More Blues For Some

Global

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that recurs regularly at certain times of the year, usually beginning in late fall or winter and lasting into spring. While the reported incidence of SAD in the general population is four to 10 percent, some studies suggest that up to 20 percent of people in the United States may be affected by a mild form of the disorder. The disease was officially named in the early 1980s, but seasonal depression has been described as early as the days of Hippocrates.

The symptoms of SAD include depressed mood, loss of energy, increased sleep, anxiety, irritability and difficulty concentrating. Many also experience a change in appetite, particularly a craving for carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. Some people report a heavy feeling in their arms and legs.

Scientists believe SAD is caused by a biochemical change in the brain, triggered by shorter days and reduced sunlight during the winter. In particular, two chemicals in the brain, serotonin and melatonin, have been linked to changes in mood, energy, and sleep patterns. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression. Serotonin production is activated by sunlight, so less sunlight in winter could lower serotonin levels, leading to depression. Melatonin regulates sleep and is produced in greater quantities in darkness. Higher melatonin levels could cause sleepiness and lethargy as the days get shorter. The combination of the changes in the levels of serotonin and melatonin could contribute to SAD.

There are various risk factors for the development of SAD. Females are up to four times more likely to be affected than males. Although SAD can affect children, it is reported mostly in people between the ages of 18 and 30, with incidences decreasing with age. Many have a family history of mental illness. Studies have shown that living farther away from the equator increases the occurrence of SAD. Those already experiencing clinical depression or bipolar disorder may see a worsening of their symptoms in winter.

Treatments for SAD include traditional psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. In addition, light therapy, a daily 30-minute exposure to a light box that simulates high-intensity sunlight, has shown promise in treating SAD.  Interestingly, the ancient Greeks knew about the power of sunlight. Back in the second century, the physician Aretaeus instructed, “Lethargics are to be laid in the light, and exposed to the rays of the sun for the disease is gloom.”

One theory suggests that SAD is an evolutionary adaptation in humans, similar to hibernation in animals. As food gets scarcer and the weather gets colder, animals adapt by storing fat and reducing caloric output. Applied to humans, this could explain the carbohydrate cravings, increased sleep and reduction in energy levels. It could also play a role in reproduction, where it is more beneficial for a female of childbearing age to conserve resources.

While these naturally occurring body changes may have helped our ancestors survive, depression in any form can be serious. Anyone affected by significant symptoms of depression should consult a physician.

Author: Hisaho Blair – 1/22/2013

How Do We Get The Men Into Mental Health?

*Trigger Warning*: Suicide

Note: This blog is presented as a cross-collaboration between NAMI and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, whose mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. It originally appeared on the AFSP Lifesavers Blog.

Dude. Dudes. It’s time for some real talk. Let’s get real here and look at the numbers. According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control, men are responsible for 76.92 percent of all completed suicides. Basically, about four out of every five completed suicides is a guy.

Yet here in South Carolina, where I’m on the local state board for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I notice that every time we do a public mental health awareness program, about 80 percent of the attendees are women. A lot of these women show up because they’ve lost a loved one to suicide, and much of the time, the loved one they’ve lost was a man.

The numbers tell us a lot of men out there are suffering…but most men aren’t showing up to get help, raise awareness, or help encourage their fellow bros to talk about what they’re going through.

I’d like to ask all the women reading this blog post to leave the room for a minute.

Are they gone? Cool. Dudes, it’s just us now. Let’s talk.

I’ll start.

I lost two brothers to suicide. That’s right. Two. 11 years apart. Mark and Matthew. After the second one, I found myself in a very dark place. Sobriety, counseling, and time have helped me immensely, and in 2010 I started to volunteer for AFSP, and this has accelerated my recovery even further. It has taken me years to get to this point, but when you start helping other survivors of suicide loss and start focusing on preventing future occurrences of completed suicides, you ultimately end up helping yourself. My work with AFSP has benefited me greatly on a personal level, but I am still very bothered by what is happening with men and suicide.

So, I’m going to turn this around on you now, and ask for your help. First, a couple questions:

  • Why is the number for male suicide so high?
  • How do we lower it?

I personally think the first step is for us dudes to become more comfortable talking about it. How can we get our fellow men to open up? First of all, let’s realize that when we show vulnerability, we are actually showing strength. We need to focus on forming some really tight connections with each other. Once those are in place, we need to get comfortable sharing real life situations, knowing full well that two (or more) brains are better than one. How do we get our other dude buddies to feel comfortable doing this?

For me, I am involved in a faith-based, men’s-only group that meets every Friday. We in the group have grown together to a place where we are quite comfortable admitting to each other when we’re screw ups, or when we’re worried about something…but that has taken some time. That’s just one example. I saw recently that the construction industry is including mental health into their meetings, and the NCAA is addressing mental health issues through their Sport Science Institute. Progress!

Maybe another tactic is to keep things light. One thing I’m thinking about doing is hosting a men’s only comedy night with a mental health theme. Laughter helps people feel relaxed. Maybe if we guys can sit around, talk about feelings – I know, a lot of us hate that word—in a light way, it can help us become more comfortable opening up.

Another thought I had in terms of encouraging our fellow men to join our efforts in suicide prevention is to not make it too time consuming. Men tend to volunteer in spurts. We’ll do a golf outing, but mention a three-year commitment to a board and most of us are out the door. It’s important to remember that we can all get involved within the constraints of our own personal comfort zone. Every little bit helps. Dip your toe in the pool. The water’s warm.

No matter what strategies we use, the overall message is simple: mental health and suicide are okay to talk about, and we all matter. Talk Saves Lives.

So, what are your thoughts? If you’re a guy and have been impacted by mental health conditions or possibly a suicide attempt or a loss, reach out for help, or come help us at AFSP. Get off your duff and find your local chapter and volunteer for something — anything! Even just making a point to talk matter-of-factly about mental health and feelings (jeez, that word again!) with your friends makes a difference, because it lets them know you’re a safe person to talk to when they have something to say.

Women – I can see you’ve stepped back in, now, that’s okay – do what you can to drag the men in your life to a community walk, a survivor’s meeting, or somewhere you feel they can benefit from, but might not feel comfortable going to themselves. Many of us will not do it without your help.

Finally, think about ways we can better reach men about suicide prevention, and share your ideas. Come at us with all you’ve got. If we want to lower the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025, we’ve got to put the men back into mental health.

By Dennis Gillan | Sep. 08, 2017

9 Signs You Should Break Up with Your Therapist

But let’s say, for example, you picked your therapist while you were in the midst of a crisis and now you feel like you’re too far into your treatment to leave. Or maybe you’ve gone a few times but you’re not really sure that you’re getting what you need from the interaction.

There are many reasons people find themselves in an established relationship with the wrong therapist or seeing someone they’ve outgrown. We asked experts for red flags that indicate you need to break up with your therapist and find a new one. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Your therapist fell asleep on you

Believe it or not, this actually happens.

“I have had more people than I can count come to my office and tell me that they’re coming because their previous therapist fell asleep,” Chloe Carmichael, a clinical psychologist based in New York City, told The Huffington Post. “And they’ve told me that it’s happened more than once.”

If your therapist ever falls asleep on you in session, take that as a sign that he or she is not fit to be working with patients and you should find someone new.

2. You feel like your therapist doesn’t support your goals

It is important that you feel supported. Carmichael gives the example of a troubled relationship: If your therapist thinks you should break up with your partner but you are seeking help to repair the relationship, have a conversation with your therapist about this, she advises.

“I would encourage the person to say, ‘I want to clarify if we should continue working together, because I want to clarify that we have the same goals. I want to stay with my boyfriend and sometimes I feel like you want me to break up with him. Is that true?’” Carmichael said.

This kind of conversation provides the opportunity to see if you and your therapist see eye-to-eye, learn about potential red flags he or she might be noticing and agree about the direction in which your life is going.

“You do not want to be with somebody who comes across as judgmental,” agreed Liana Georgoulis, a clinical psychologist and director of Coast Psychological Services in Los Angeles.

On the other hand, sometimes you won’t always hear what you want to hear, Georgoulis said. The right therapist won’t always agree with you. And, of course, any therapist has a responsibility to intervene if you’re in an abusive or otherwise dangerous situation.

3. The therapist claims he or she is an expert in every condition

Beware of therapists who say they’re able to help with everything or market themselves as a “Jack of all trades.”

Many therapists know which conditions they can help with, and also where they can’t, Carmichael notes. A good therapist will refer you to someone else if your condition falls out of his or her scope.

4. You’re not sure why you are in therapy

Therapy can provide tools for coping with everyday stress or a mental health condition. Make sure you are working with your therapist toward mutually agreed-upon and clearly defined goals.

“Sometimes there might be differences in what that work is or how to get there,” Georgoulis said. But ask the professional you’re seeing to outline the treatment plan so you have a good sense of what it is you’re doing together.

5. Your therapist needs reminders

You should not feel like you need to brief your therapist on events or facts you’ve already covered in previous weeks.

“If that happens every session, that might be a sign that you want to get a therapist that’s more organized or more attentive,” Carmichael said. “You shouldn’t have to lead the therapist.”

6. You don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere

Let’s say you went into therapy for anxiety and you’ve learned tools to help you cope better each day. So rather than talk about anxiety, you bring up other issues that you need help working out. But session after session, you just don’t see any progress in these areas.

“Sometimes you’ve just gone as far up the mountain as you can with somebody, and it’s justifiably time to say goodbye,” Carmichael said.

Georgoulis agrees. If you’ve been in therapy for a long time but the needle hasn’t moved on certain issues, bring this up to your therapist. If you are still in pain, or not feeling good, it may serve you to find another person to talk to, she said.

7. You know too much about your therapist’s life

When therapists tell patients information about their own lives to make a point or illustrate an idea, it’s called disclosure. Researchers have been debating where the line is when it comes to this technique for ages ― even Sigmund Freud grappled with it, The New York Times reported.

Here’s how Carmichael suggests approaching it: If the therapist is telling you things about his or her own life for an obvious reason and it feels helpful, it’s probably fine. But if you can’t figure out why the therapist is sharing certain stories, or if he or she is taking up your valuable therapeutic time, it could be an indicator that this therapist is not the right fit.

Carmichael suggests finding a therapist who expresses him or herself quickly and distinctly during your time together.

“There’s not room for long winded answers,” she said.

8. You go to therapy just to vent

A core component of good therapy is the therapist’s ability to connect a patient’s thoughts, find patterns and then trace it all back to concrete changes in thinking, Georgoulis said.

“If a therapist is just letting you come in and ‘vent’ each week, that’s not a good sign,” she said.

Find a therapist who does more than just make you feel better in the moment or provide advice for particular situations.

9. You feel good after every session

“There’s a misconception, I think, that people are supposed to walk away from a therapy session feeling great and I don’t think that’s true,” Georgoulis said. “The work is hard and sometimes you leave therapy sessions feeling challenged or drained. Stuff gets stirred up.”

If you are always leaving therapy feeling like everything is perfect, Georgoulis urges you to ask yourself if you are truly doing the work. It could be a sign that you need a different therapist who can help you process challenging emotions.

So, what should you do?

Both experts say the best route to securing the right therapist from the outset is to interview several of them, be straightforward about why you need counseling and ask about specific treatment methods he or she uses.

Bottom line, there are many excellent reasons to go to therapy. But once you’re there, consider if the therapist is really the right fit for you. If it’s not the right match, do what you need to do to find the right person.

It’s worth it.

Therapists work for you. Read these signs to determine if you need to “shop around” a bit more to get the help that you deserve!http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/signs-you-should-break-up-therapist_us_58ed18f0e4b0ca64d919dd01?utm_hp_ref=mental-health