Logotherapy Can Help Your Mental Health

Finding your meaning in life, no matter the circumstances, is what logotherapy is all about. It can help with many mental disorders. It was developed by Victor Frankl when he was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. He believed there is a desire for humans to find meaning in life, no matter the outward appearances of the situation you find yourself in.

There are many therapies, and deciding which one is right for you should start your therapeutic journey. Logotherapy is similar to psychotherapy and is based on this; it focuses on the future and our innate search for a purpose in our lives.

The term logo comes from the Greek word logos which translates to ‘meaning.’ Victor Frankl trained as a psychiatrist. After spending three years in the concentration camps, he reflected and realised that those who could survive it had developed meaning to their existence, even attending to tasks. He detailed this in his book Man’s search for Meaning.

Is Logotherapy Used Today?

Yes, it is used, and there has been research regarding its effectiveness for those with depression. They found that the levels of depression were lower in the experimental group after logotherapy than those who had no therapy at all.

You can find practitioners of logotherapy in your local area by searching for them, and you may find they use the terms psychotherapy and logotherapy as they are similar forms of therapy. However, the latter focuses more on the future and the former on the past.

The Core of Logotherapy

There are three critical components to logotherapy, and they are the core principles and go straight to the heart of the matter.

  1. Every person possesses a healthy core.
  2. You have your own inner resources, and the therapy enlightens an individual to the tools required to access this.
  3. Life offers you purpose and meaning, but it cannot guarantee happiness or fulfilment.

Frankl knew life held suffering, and although you may have a purpose, you cannot be assured that you will live a life free from worry or strain.

Logotherapy is about creating a new outlook; for example, you may have lost your job and find it difficult to find another one. This then could lead to depression. It would be suggested to focus on the task at hand, possibly retraining to look for other work outside your normal search scope. Thereby finding the solution within yourself and being driven by a purpose, and perhaps alleviating some of the symptoms of depression.

You can look at the core as a guide to improving the meaning of life. By creating the goals and aspirations, you will fully experience the effects of life as you set about achieving these tasks. Third, it is your attitude that will help you, knowing full well that suffering can occur, even through our faults or those of another.

Logotherapy Exercises and Techniques

Victor Frankl believed in three main techniques to help the client become more interactive within their own life. And that suffering and achievement were within the grasp of each one of us no matter what our current circumstances are. He proposed the following:

Dereflection

Instead of focusing on yourself, ‘dereflect’ onto others. If you have problems such as money worries, then choose to focus on doing the best job you can for your boss. If it is relationship troubles, focus on your partner and their needs.

It is about moving away from yourself and bringing to the forefront that of the needs of others, sometimes viewed as a spiritual approach. By thinking about other people, you become whole and less preoccupied with your problem or your worries or concerns.

Paradoxical Intention

In simplistic terms, you wish for the thing you fear the most, albeit with good humour. This works well with those who suffer from phobias and anxiety. By seeking out what you fear, you desensitise yourself to the impact of the thing or situation. You treat it with humour; for example, you may be scared of looking like a fool in certain conditions, so you go out of your way to become a fool in those situations. Or you might have a fear of flying, so you seek out various ways in which you can fly, from hot air balloons to paragliding.

Extreme it may be, but facing your fear and creating it on purpose lessens its impact on your daily life.

Socratic Dialogue

The answer to your problems lies within yourself, and during a therapy session, the therapist would reflect your words so you can hear what you sound like or the type of words you are using. The patterns the therapist picks up will help you to discover the meaning within them. During cognitive behavioural therapy, this is often used and is called reflection.

Discovering that you have had the answers all along is both comforting and a positive step forward in trusting your instincts.

Some Logotherapy Questions to Practice

The questions below will help you gauge if logotherapy is for you; try them out and see if this is the sort of therapy you would find helpful.

  • What can you do to create something in your life? Are you artistic, do you have gardening skills, can you write?
  • While logotherapy does not reflect any religious views, Frankl believed that the spirit is our identity and essence. What do you think about this?
  • You can gain a lot from social support; who or what is your support? Do you have people in your life who can be there for you? Or do you belong to online groups for this?
  • There is meaning in even the most awful things. How would you view this when comparing this statement to your own life? What was learned from it? What can you teach others from this?
  • What is your purpose for living? Where do you discover your meaning in life?
  • Nobody can take away your meaning, your logo. In your current situation, what is the sense of it and what is your purpose within it?
  • No matter what you are doing, find the purpose and the meaning within; it could be washing the dishes to vacuuming the car; what can you sense is the motive behind this?
  • How can you help others? What skills and attributes do you have which will be of benefit to other people?
  • Are you hopeful or expecting the worst? If you prepare your mind for the worst, then it has little hold over you. This doesn’t mean to say you have to be pessimistic, just realistic.

Logotherapy Criticism

As with all therapy, there are pros and cons, and one of the criticisms of logotherapy is that it can be seen as religious. However, it is not, but it has many similar connotations compared to religious viewpoints, such as thinking of others first and the spirit.

It was also thought that it could be pretty authoritarian and that if you can’t find the meaning in life, you were at fault. However, Frankl said that this was not the case. It gave the individual power over their own lives.

Critics in the past also stated that Frankl used his history in the concentration camps to further his version of psychotherapy; this experience did help develop logotherapy. Still, it in no way lessens the fact that Frankl experienced untold horror.

In Summary

Logotherapy can help a myriad of conditions from depression to phobias, and the search for ones own meaning of life is essential in creating balanced mental health. We all have the answers within ourselves, and a therapist helps draw these out, allowing us to make sense of our current situations and future endeavours.

Mental Health: What is Trauma?

Experiencing trauma can happen at any age and be caused by various situations we find to be stressful, frightening, life-threatening or distressing. Two people can be involved in an experience, one may develop psychological trauma, and the other may not have any lasting changes to their wellbeing. We all react differently, and what may be traumatic for one might have little impact on another.

You don’t have to be the person to experience the event. You can be a witness to a traumatic event and suffer from trauma. You can replay the event over and over again in your head like a stuck record, or you experience flashbacks upon hearing a noise to seeing or smelling something that reminds you of that incident.

The effects of trauma on the psyche can become apparent many years after the event; they don’t have to be straight after. This can be the case in childhood trauma.

What Can Cause Trauma?

Trauma is very individual, and two people will experience it differently; there is no specific thing that will cause trauma for everyone, although certain catastrophes such as terrorism, ecological disasters and wars will impact many but not all.

If you have felt frightened, under threat or even rejected, it can cause you to experience trauma. Even a serious illness can bring this about; see a personal story here.

If you have experienced childhood trauma, you may have developed mental health issues as an adult, which can exacerbate the symptoms. Therapy is highly recommended for this and all other traumatic incidences. There is also an organisation called HAVOCA who offer support for those who have been abused in childhood.

What Happens Mentally and Physically from Trauma?

Our bodies and minds go through natural responses when experiencing a traumatic event, and these are mainly focused on the fight, freeze and flight response. When we become stressed, cortisol is released, and this is called the stress hormone. It happens during the event, and cortisol is also released when experiencing flashbacks and panic attacks after the event.

We can’t control how we react; it is how the body and mind respond to a dangerous situation.

Physical Effects

  • raised blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • you will sweat more
  • your digestion slows
  • you may need to pee or poo
  • you freeze and are unable to move
  • You may automatically run or try to hide

Mental Effects

  • You may flop, which means you agree to things without airing a view.
  • You may want to fight.
  • You may fawn and try to please the one trying to do you harm.

After The Event

  • Flashbacks, where the event is relieved as though it is happening right now.
  • Panic Attacks
  • Disassociation is where we mentally remove ourselves from the event and go numb
  • Sleep problems from fear of having nightmares to feeling unsafe.
  • Anxiety also can be called hyperarousal, where you can not relax and are on high alert.
  • Your confidence may diminish.
  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Self-harm is often used as a coping mechanism.
  • You may have suicidal feelings (to find your countries suicide helpline, visit Wikipedia)
  • You may start drinking too much or taking drugs.
  • Emotional dysregulation, either feeling too much or too little.
  • Somatisation, whereby pain is felt although there is no injury or affliction

If any of these symptoms apply to you, please visit your doctor as you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

Will Trauma Cause Mental Health Problems?

Experiencing trauma does not mean you will develop a mental illness, although it can lead to PTSD, depression and anxiety.

Sometimes it just takes time to recover; however, many people will need talking therapies to help move them forward from the traumatic event. This could be counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy, or psychoanalytic therapy would be the best option if it stems from childhood.

If you wish to seek out cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you can do so from the comfort of your own home through [AF] Online Therapy; prices start at about £23.00 per week.

How To Tell If Therapy Is Working?

I’m not very good at talking about my feelings, so it takes me ages to tell if therapy is working, and I have had a lot of treatment for bipolar disorder. I hope my therapy experience will help you know if it is working for you or wasting your time with your current therapist. As not all therapies or therapists are equal, it all comes down to choosing the proper treatment and if you gel with your therapist.

My first question to my therapist is always ‘how long does this therapy take to work?’, possibly not the best question to ask, how can they know after just meeting me? Still, I’m not one for dilly-dallying about; I want to know how much effort I will be putting in and over how many weeks.

If you have just started therapy, you may be wondering how you can tell if it is working, and my honest answer is when you begin to feel better, but there are other signs you can look out for, and I’ll go through them with you.

Before Therapy Begins

One of the things I have learned over the years is always take a notepad, not necessary if it is counselling you are attending, but notes need to be taken for any other therapy. Of course, your therapist will have notes, but you need some for yourself, there is a lot of talking and thinking, and it is difficult to remember everything.

I had an adverse reaction from a therapist before when I took out my notepad, suffice to say, I knew I would not gel with them based on this.

Never be afraid to change therapists; you need to feel safe and secure, more importantly not judged by what you do or say.

Also, look out for a therapist talking too much; this can happen with life coaches if you have gone down this route. You are the one who should be talking, not the other way around; they should be guiding you, giving you open questions and reflecting on what you have said. They should not be treating you as a pupil and them being the font of all knowledge. You have it in you to heal yourself. Their job is to guide you to your own answers.

It may sound like I have an issue with therapists, and I have in a little way, mainly because I have seen the good and the bad. I hope that from my experience, you’ll be able to tell early enough if therapy is working for you.

What Are You Expecting From Therapy?

When I first started therapy some twenty-odd years ago, I was very defensive, and it took an age for me to open up, and by the time I did, I only had a couple of sessions left. Not enough time to do anything; for me, it felt as though I was under investigation, which I suppose I was but not in a nefarious way, the therapist was trying to help me, and I found it threatening. I later learned in another therapy session this was part of my coping mechanism, deny, deny, deny.

When you enter therapy, you have to put your defences on the backburner, easier said than done, but you will get more out of the sessions if you are open and honest. The therapist needs this to help you, so it is essential you like your therapist. If you have any misgivings, regardless of what they are, try and find another therapist. The more you like them, the better the therapy will work.

All therapists have a box of tissues at the ready, as emotions can flood out, sometimes you can leave a therapy session feeling worse than when you went in. This is usual. When therapy is hard work, this is when you usually make the most significant breakthrough.

However, you don’t want to be dreading going to therapy; this is not a good sign; it usually means you are not getting on with your therapist or you haven’t done the homework, in my case. Depending on the therapy you have chosen, you might be given tactics to try at home, and if you haven’t, you have to ask yourself why?

I had this problem when I first started cognitive behavioural therapy; I didn’t do anything to help myself; I expected my therapist to wave a magic wand, and hey presto, I was healed. Therapy does not work that way, you have to put the effort in, and if you have chronic mental health issues, you might find you don’t have the energy. But let me assure you that the sooner you can find the strength, even if it means leaving the washing up on therapy days, the better it will be for you.

Signs Therapy is Working

  1. As I said earlier, you start to feel better or manage something that seemed impossible for you before. There will be ups and downs during therapy, but when you are at home, you begin to notice the difference. The day ahead does not fill you with dread; you can feel you are standing up straighter, your confidence may be improving, and you are viewing yourself differently, in a positive light.
  2. You look forward to your therapy sessions, maybe not in the same way as a gourmet burger, but you feel that the effort you are putting in is paying off. You like your therapist, they get you, and you don’t feel defensive when talking to them.
  3. Things seem clearer to you, so much so that what seemed impossible at the start of therapy has got you thinking, why on earth did I not think of that! But you did; it was just that your therapist helped move you into a place where you could see the bigger picture.
  4. If therapy is working, you should start feeling a little bit happier, so much, so you begin to look forward to things, you start painting your nails, you go to the barbers and have the works, you start to look after yourself more. There are times you think to yourself, how on earth did I manage before therapy?
  5. You are no longer wondering how long is left in the session; clock-watching has stopped. Occasionally when you are going through some complex emotions and feeling cruddy, you might be hoping the session ends soon, but you also know this is for your benefit and as I said before, this is when progress is made.
  6. Gone are the surface level problems, and you are getting to the root of the issues. You are learning to trust your therapist and be willing to give the deep thoughts and feelings breathing space, knowing full well it is a safe and secure environment.

How to Evaluate Progress in Therapy

As you progress through therapy, you might want to keep track of how you are doing. Hence the notepad I suggested at the beginning. By keeping track of your thoughts, you can read your progress and see how far you have come. But there are other ways you can evaluate progress in therapy.

  • You are implementing tools and tactics your therapist has suggested.
  • You start using new ways of thinking and processing situations.
  • If you used to abuse substances, you can face the world without them.
  • Other people have noticed a positive change in you.
  • Your sleep has improved, you are getting more quality sleep time.
  • If panic attacks happened to you, then these should have lessened.

When I start a new therapy, I buy a wall chart and some emoji stickers; at first, they might be sad or angry faces, but eventually, smiley ones appear more. Visual cues like this make it easy to evaluate your therapy sessions and how your life is progressing.

When Therapy is Not Working

As I have said earlier, don’t be afraid to change therapists, you don’t owe them anything; they work for you, not the other way around. However, it can be tricky if you have been assigned one by your mental health practitioner, as you might have been on a long waiting list, and you are just grateful that you’ve finally got a therapist.

I’ve been in this situation many times, and the way I cope with it is trying to find one thing I like about the therapist; it might be their hair or the tone of their voice. But you must have something that you can gel with. Ideally, if you can afford it, go private as you can then choose a therapist you like as a whole, but |I know it is not always possible.

It might not even be the therapist who is the problem; you might have chosen the wrong sort of therapy for yourself. You may have deep-seated childhood trauma, and counselling will not help you get to the root of your issue, whereas psychotherapy will. You might be grieving for a loved one; then cognitive therapy won’t help you should be looking for grief counselling. Always make sure the treatment you choose is suitable for your needs.

If you seek a therapist where you don’t need to leave your home, I recommend [AF] Online Therapy, they use cognitive behavioural therapy, and their prices start at around £23.00 per week.

Bipolar: Fatty Acids May Improve Your Mood

Research has discovered that eating a diet high in fatty acids may improve your mood if you have bipolar disorder. They found that some of the symptoms of bipolar lessened when the participants in the study consumed higher levels of Omega 3 and decreased Omega 6.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mood disorder that has no cure; I have bipolar, so the research greatly interested me. I set out to find out as much as I could about the effects of fatty acids on the bipolar brain. I also researched older studies related to Omega 3 fatty acids and bipolar disorder.

One thing I did note when researching this is the anecdotal evidence for Omega 3 in the form of high-level supplements causing mania or hypomania. So I have born this in mind that fish oil could make bipolar symptoms worse. I personally have not found this and have been diagnosed for over twenty years and take fish oil supplements regularly. But we are all different, so I can’t rule it out affecting you. You will be best sticking to foods rather than supplements if you have noticed any fish oil induced mania.

What Did The Study Find?

The study was conducted on 82 volunteers, some went into the control group, and the others were put on the high Omega 3 and low Omega 6 diets.

They all had to fill out surveys about their symptoms, and they had a biochemical analysis done.

They measured mood, irritability, energy, and pain, which showed a reduction in those symptoms. The diet showed improvement in the control study volunteers.

Another study looked at a wider area and sought to see if a greater intake of seafood had an impact on a countries level of people with diagnosed bipolar disorder. It turns out that those countries where the citizens ate more seafood had lower rates of bipolar. This does not apply to supplements but to food only.

Managing Bipolar With Omega 3

When you have bipolar disorder, the prescribed medicine you take has been shown by research to change the way the body breaks down fatty acids by causing inflammation. The research highlighted the need for a study to see if reducing Omega 6 and increasing Omega 3 would be beneficial. It turns out that there are some benefits, as already mentioned.

The Omega 3’s are more effective during a depressed phase as they have anti-inflammation properties. If you have read any of my other articles, you will know that the less inflammation in the gut, the better it is for serotonin production.

And on a personal level, this is when I take my fish oil supplements, which may explain why I have not had any untoward side effects. Or it could be because I take Krill oil supplements rather than fish oil. There is no research I can give you on this as it is only from my perspective with Krill v Fish.

Foods Containing Fatty Acids

There are plenty of foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids, and if you want to emulate the study, you will need to introduce these foods and lower your consumption of red meat and eggs. Also, watch out for hidden Omega 6 within your cooking oil.

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, herring, trout and sardines.
  • Oysters and caviar (if you can afford them)
  • Flax Seed
  • Chia Seed
  • Walnuts
  • Shrimp
  • Seaweed
  • Spirulina
  • Hemp Seed

As you can see, there is a wide choice, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan with bipolar disorder. I don’t particularly like eating fish, but after research, I will increase my consumption of sushi, possibly the best way to increase Omega 3.

Increase Levels of Omega 3 with a Supplement

Of course, if you don’t like any of the above foods, you might want to take a supplement. I can’t say with certainty how it will affect you, but I take krill oil from [AF] Piping Rock and if you have concerns, only take it when you have bipolar depression, rather than when you are feeling balanced or hypomanic. Although the research I have found is inconclusive for increasing your chance of hypomania, it is best to take a supplement only when depressed to be on the safe side.

What Is Schema Therapy, And Will It Help You?

If other types of therapy haven’t worked for you, then Schema Therapy (ST) might be a good option to consider. It is an integrative therapy designed for those who need to work on deeper issues and ingrained thoughts and behaviour.

ST might not be your first choice when choosing a therapy, but it is excellent for those who have tried cognitive behavioural therapy and found it lacking. It integrates elements; it uses CBT, Gestalt, Psychoanalysis, Attachment Theory and Developmental Theory.

You may have developed thoughts and behaviours which stem from childhood that are harmful; these are called maladaptive schematic beliefs. When you work with a Schema Therapist, they will help you uncover the root cause and why you have learned potentially negative coping skills.

What Is Schema Therapy?

ST was developed by Dr Jeffrey Young back in the ’80s. He thought cognitive behavioural therapy was lacking in certain areas, especially for people whose character was severely affected by their learnt behaviour and coping mechanisms.

If your emotional needs were not met when you were a child, then Schema Therapy could be helpful. It works by trying to reduce the harmful coping mechanisms which may form a blockade within personal relationships. The positive behaviours of the personality are highlighted and bought to the forefront. The whole aim is to make sure needs are met in an emotionally healthy way.

When needs are not met in childhood, you may find you do not have the tools for the job when you become an adult. The basic requirements in childhood are food, shelter, love, affection, guidance and safety. If these needs are not met, you may develop maladaptive schemas, such as not mixing socially, getting into toxic relationships, and possibly self-destructive behaviour.

What Are The Schemas?

There are quite a few schemas you could exhibit, but they fall into roughly five domains. You might have more than one schema, so this is just for guidance purposes.

Domain I is all about rejection and a sense of disconnect; this typically makes it difficult for you to develop healthy adult relationships. You might be overly dominant or behave like a martyr.

Domain II is all about your being you, making it difficult for you to be yourself (autonomy), and you may find that you can’t be an adult and may revert to a child-like state within a relationship or when confronted by an adult.

Domain III is all about limits; you may have problems identifying your self-limits or spotting the limits within other people. You may always overstep the boundaries and not sense or know when to stop.

Domain IV, you may find that you put other peoples needs above your own, such as the martyr we saw in an earlier domain. You may lack the ability to say no and get taken advantage of by some people.

Domain V could see you being active in avoiding failure and constantly on high alert in case things start taking a downward turn. You might become obsessive. It could be that you are hurting yourself emotionally by being so attached to perfection.

What Are The Coping Styles?

How you cope with your schemas is how you learned as a child; however, what may have worked as a child, will probably not work as an adult. Even though you might be able to look logically at things, such as you know you are lovable, you might not feel that way, which is where the disconnect comes in. You may also have increased or varied your coping mechanisms as you have become older, such as the introduction of alcohol.

Schema Therapy aims to find the unmet need within you and then build nurturing relationships around those needs so that you can increase self-esteem and confidence.

Which Mental Health Issues Are Treated?

Whilst other therapies may have touched upon areas, ST is a lengthier process and will get to the root of issues. It has been proven to be effective with people who have borderline personality disorders, but it is also helpful for the following:

  • PTSD
  • Eating Disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Substance Abuse
  • Personality Disorders
  • Criminal Behaviour and Intent
  • Relationship Issues

The Pros and Cons of ST

One of the cons is the cost of treatment because it often takes a lot longer when dealing with the root cause of problems; the number of therapy sessions needed can go way past the usual 8-12 weeks for other therapy. This is because treating someone from childhood upwards takes time, especially when ingrained and attached to personality and emotional output.

It is a new therapy, and there is still research being undertaken to discover its effectiveness. However, as stated previously, there have been studies done on their suitability when it comes to personality disorders. They have also shown it to be effective when treating depressive disorders.

Where Can You Find a Therapist?

The easiest way is to use the search function at The Schema Therapy Society. They are international and have a directory of trained professionals. Or search Google for ‘schema therapists near me.’

What Are The 3 Types of Bipolar Disorder?

There are three types of bipolar disorder, although some say there is five. Bipolar is an illness I deal with daily, and I have the label of bipolar disorder I. It’s the only time I have been first in anything. The types are based on the experience of mania or hypomania and depression.

The Types of Bipolar

Bipolar I

If you experience bipolar I, you will usually have had one manic episode that typically has lasted over a week, and you may have also experienced depression. However, it is not always necessary to be given the diagnosis.

Bipolar II

If you experience bipolar II, you will have had at least one period of severe depression and have hypomania symptoms. They say it is a milder form but not for those who experience it.

Cyclothymia

If you are diagnosed with cyclothymia, you may feel as if you are in no man’s land, but it is just the differing grades the medical profession give to bipolar. To be given this diagnosis, your depression and hypomania will not be as severe for those in the category of bipolar I & II. The symptoms won’t be as intense, but that is not to say it is not valid; it is very real indeed.

Once you understand what your diagnosis is, it makes it easier to talk to your doctor about it, and if you search online, it is much easier to find out all the information your need for support and treatment options. Unfortunately, it is a life-long condition, and if you have just been diagnosed, you will want to read about what to do now.

What to Expect With Bipolar Episodes?

It varies depending on you as an individual, your diagnosis and if it has been stabilised to a certain extent. I’ve had bouts of depression that have lasted many months and hypomania, which has lasted several weeks. When I was manic, it lasted a couple of weeks, but I was in hospital when this episode ended.

In general, the following can be a guide:

  • It depends if your medication has been balanced, it took me many years to find the right mix of medicines, and then they stopped working, and I’m trying to find a new balance.
  • Certain things can trigger your episodes; for me, it is stress and lack of sleep; yours could be the same or something completely different, but over time you will learn what your triggers are and begin to avoid them as much as possible.
  • You’ll be able to ascertain over time what is depression for you and hypomania; we are all different, you may be able to handle depression better than me, so you wouldn’t class it as such, whereas I would and vice versa. A key point is not to judge your symptoms against another person.
  • I have found my symptoms worsen as I age, and also, going through menopause has had an impact.
  • Episodes can start suddenly when you least expect them, so always have a note stuck to the fridge detailing your medication and what others should do in an emergency.
  • Mania can last two weeks up to five months for some people, and depression can last many months.

What Is Bipolar Rapid Cycling?

Over the course of a year, if you have had four or more depressive, mania or hypomania episodes, you will probably be classed as rapid cycling. This can be a nightmare as you never know how you will wake up in the morning, and as I write this, this year has been one of rapid cycling for me.

You can experience all of the symptoms in one day; it doesn’t have to be spread out over months.

Sometimes I have found certain antidepressants can trigger rapid cycling, which is why it is essential you take your mood stabiliser, but that still does not guarantee you won’t experience the rapid effect.

It is not thought of as another category of bipolar disorder. However, they are continuing research, so you never know; it might be classed as separate.

What Are Bipolar Mixed Episodes?

Another nightmare for those with bipolar are mixed episodes; you can read about them here. As the name suggests, you get everything all at once, from depression to racing thoughts; for me, it is the worse symptom you can get as it is like you are in a washing machine, trapped and spinning.

It can also be hazardous to the individual as you may experience suicidal thoughts with a lack of judgement of mania.

The most extended amount of time I have experienced this is about one week, and it happened after a bout of stress, so I think it is related to high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the system, but I’m not a doctor so take that with a pinch of salt.

In Summary

When I was first diagnosed, I was never told about mixed episodes or rapid cycling, so I hope you are more informed about your condition after reading this article. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor, and if you are finding it difficult to cope and have suicidal feelings or thoughts, please go to your medical emergency department for help.

You can also contact your local suicide helpline by visiting Wikipedia and finding your countries phone number or read the symptoms of bipolar disorder here.

Forest Bathing: Get Out in Nature and Improve Mental Health

If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise, and that is you can improve depression and anxiety by forest bathing. There is no surprise that a walk is good for you, but when you combine it with walking for a couple of hours in a forest, you lower your blood pressure and decrease your stress levels.

During lockdowns, many of us experienced the joy of nature by going for long walks in our neighbourhoods and by doing this, many did improve their mental health and it also got them out from the enclosing four walls. Those who took to the woods and forests would have gained more significant mental wellness and physical benefits from a chemical called phytoncide, trees produce this and it can help our immunity.

The idea of forest bathing comes from Japan and is known as Shinrin-yoku, and there has been plenty of research carried out on it, and science agrees that it is good for your mental wellbeing.

What Are the Benefits

Aside from mental health benefits, there are also physical ones, and from the research studies, the following are what to expect when you forest bathe.

  • Reduction in systolic blood pressure
  • Reduction in dialostic blood pressure
  • Reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Increase in mental coordination
  • Reduction in stress levels
  • Increased vigour
  • Reduction in anger

It was also seen in another study that the parasympathetic nervous system was actively increased, which means, in the long run, better digestion, improved metabolism and helping the body relax.

Why It Works

A walk in the woods is good but immersing yourself is even better. In Japan, a stroll through the woods is a social prescription that everyone should undertake and the older the forest and the larger the trees, the better for you. The chemicals the trees produce and the oxygen we need to breathe are not the only things that make forest bathing beneficial. It is another form of mindfulness, and this activity is well known for benefitting depression and anxiety.

It is also helpful for any age group; even those not participating in walking can still benefit from the serenity of a forest.

Phytoncide has been seen as forest aromatherapy, and it also increases our natural killer cells, reducing tumours and virus-infected cells.

Mindfulness in the Woods

As already mentioned, it is more than just a walk in nature; it is about being mindful as you walk along. You notice things you wouldn’t usually spot if you were just walking your dog or taking your daily run. Of course, you still benefit from the chemicals from the trees, but forest bathing is so much more than a stroll. To fully help, you need to essentially become one with the woodland and notice things like spider webs, picking up fallen sticks and seeing what lives beneath and carefully replacing it so as not to affect the wildlife.

Notice the type of trees and the shape of their leaves, try and spot squirrels or deer, feel the trees, what does the bark feel like under the touch of your fingers, is it covered with moss on one side. Engage all your five senses, listen, look, touch, smell and taste the air; go on, stick your tongue out, the trees won’t mind. 🙂

Accessing Forests

If you are lucky, you have a wooded area near you where you can take off and immerse yourself in nature whenever you want. But if you live in an urban area, finding a patch of trees can be pretty tricky. Hopefully, you will have a park nearby where there are trees, but if not, you will need to search out weekends away to have a break in a wooded area for forest bathing.

If you type in ‘forest bathing near me’ into your search engine, you should find places that offer this natural medicine; some of them may have camping in the forest, or at the very least, there will be accommodation close by.

You can also volunteer to join a tree-planting project to grow the forest area, it will not only benefit the environment, but you will gain benefits to your mental health in two ways, from the act of kindness to being amongst the flora.

In Summary

Forest bathing is of remarkable benefit to us, and we should get out into wooded nature as often as we can. Make a date with yourself to visit a forest and breathe in those phytoncides.

Your Weekly Mental Health To-Do List

Creating a mental health to-do list will help you to improve your mental wellbeing. If you suffer from mental disorders, you can create a routine that is always good for relieving depression and anxiety. When you choose to do something to promote mental wellness, you are halfway there to creating a calm and peaceful mind.

The most important thing is you treat yourself with respect, schedule the items below and stick to it like you would any other necessary appointment. If you stick to an exercise routine, you know full well the benefits you get from doing this each week to your physical body, so paying the courtesy to your mental health is essential.

Another critical aspect is not to make your to-do list so long that it creates anxiety. You don’t have to do all of the suggestions listed below; a handful will help you improve your mental health. The easiest way to keep your to-do list under control is to use a smaller notepad or assign just one item a day in your diary or on your phone.

What Should Your To-Do List Look Like

I’m not going to teach you to suck eggs, your to-do list is a personal preference, but certain things help make a list more successful. Avoid using post-it notes; they get lost, fall down the back of the fridge or under cupboards and look messy.

Stick to a notepad, either physical or on your phone; a diary is even better because you can make appointments with yourself. Use highlighters to stress the importance of the task, and it should be kept somewhere you won’t forget about it.

You can break things down into categories, but your basic list should suffice; the more complicated you make it, the less likely you will stick to it. If using a physical record, by all means, decorate it and make it unique, this in itself is good for mental health.

Suggestions to Add to Your List

Get Enough Sleep

Too little sleep can impact your mental health; make sure you get the right amount for yourself. You can use a sleep app to see if you have disturbed sleep and if you do, you can try a couple of things; you might be getting too hot during the night, a common thing to happen to women going through menopause. There could be noises during the night waking you, such as heating thermostats or outside noise. The app might pick these things up.

If you have trouble falling asleep, read about Melatonin as this can aid you in dropping off or read the sleep article. Sleeping troubles are not uncommon, and it doesn’t take much for circadian rhythm to become knocked out of kilter.

Waking up could also be stressful for you, especially if your alarm is loud and annoying; it can set you up for a lousy day mental health-wise. Choose an alarm that is soft and gentle alarm that gradually wakes you up, or use a light alarm such as the one from Lumia.

Be Kind to Yourself

You may have heard of self-care and its benefits. Some people think taking care of themselves is a little bit selfish, but it’s not. It is essential to look after yourself. If you are stuck for ideas, then here is 50 of them to inspire you. Try and schedule self-care appointments for yourself at least once a week, even if it is just twenty minutes of your time in a luxurious bubble bath.

Have a Massage

Ideally, you will get a professional massage done, but if you can’t, then self-massage is just as therapeutic to your mental and physical wellbeing. If you find an aromatherapy or Ayurvedic masseuse, then try and see them but there are articles on the website to help you learn how to give yourself one of these massages; the key is to use top quality oils.

Nutrient-Dense Foods

Eating food full of vitamins and minerals is excellent for your mental health; you want foods rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Milk and eggs could be the staple of your diet, but if you are vegan, you can get these from soy. If you are a picky eater or your diet is less than ideal, you can have your vitamins tailored to your requirements through a company called [AF] Vitl.

If you are feeling depressed, it is worth having a blood test to check your levels of Vitamin D, iron and potassium, as a lack of these can cause depression.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Upbeat music and showing off your dance moves in the living room will help your mental wellness and should be something you add to your mental health to-do list. Even if you only manage to dance to two tunes, the feel-good endorphins released will benefit you throughout the day.

Try and Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant, and over time can bring down your mood. Swap alcohol for chamomile tea and gain more than feeling calm; it will help you sleep better and feel less anxious. Although alcohol can make you feel relaxed, it is a toxin, and your liver doesn’t like it, so give your liver a break and choose herbal teas.

Good People and Good Vibes

Surround yourself with good people that includes people on social media. Ditch those who are negative, take advantage, are hateful in their comments and generally don’t have a good vibe about them. If you surround yourself with positivity, it brushes off onto you and makes you feel better.

Sunshine Even in Winter

Spend as much time as you can outdoors, especially when the sun is shining. Even in winter, if the sun is out, get yourself out into it. However, those of us in the northern hemisphere have a problem with getting enough sunlight during the winter, so it is essential to make the most of sunnier days.

We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, and as already said, a shortage of vitamin D can cause depression. In the winter, you might want to introduce a vitamin D supplement.

The sun also makes us feel good, and some of us get seasonal affective disorder in the winter, which can be helped with a sunshine lamp. You can sit in front of it for twenty to thirty minutes every day to increase your energy levels.

Acts of Kindness

Being kind to other people can improve your mental wellbeing. You can be kind in numerous ways and have a read of the article on kindness for inspiration. When we are kind, it makes us feel good, especially when we don’t want anything in return; this is the best type of kindness; you can volunteer or be a secret giver. The best way is face to face giving as you get to see the difference you are making.

Get Yourself a Hobby

Hobbies are fantastic for our mental health; not only are they enjoyable, but they are something to look forward to and an ideal addition to your weekly to-do list. If you don’t have a hobby, then there are so many to choose from that this website would not cover them all; however, one that is creative and lets your emotions show is beneficial; you can paint, write, sculpt or design images online.

Mindful Meditation

Science has proven that meditation can benefit mental health, especially mindful meditation. It reduces your blood pressure and helps you to feel calm and able to manage the day to day tasks. If there is one thing you add to your to-do list, it should be meditation. You only need to spend a minimum of five minutes every day to gain the benefits.

Spoonful of Honey

As the song goes, a spoonful of honey helps the medicine go down, but Manuka honey is the medicine itself. Full of benefits for supporting your mental health, see the article, a spoonful of this over your breakfast will help you reduce inflammation and increase serotonin.

In Summary

If you only add one thing to your mental health to-do list, try making it the meditation, as you will significantly benefit from this. All the ideas are fairly easy to incorporate into your week, but you only need to do a few to improve your wellness; keep it simple.

Stop Bottling Up Your Emotions

Do you bottle up your emotions and try to remain stoic through adversity? You could be damaging your mental health. Stop bottling up your emotions and let them out, you will feel better, and in the long term, you will relieve stress and any unwanted physical side effects.

When we store up emotion, it plays on our mind and causes us to feel stress; even if you don’t realise mentally, your body will feel it through the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. Too much stress can cause you to become seriously unwell; read this personal story.

Some of us are taught when we are young that we shouldn’t show our emotions, and yes, if your primary emotion is anger, then this is not conducive to good personal relationships and requires anger management. But, even this needs to be vented. Otherwise, it can impact your life in negative ways, from depression to high blood pressure.

Why Bottling Up Emotions is Bad

As already mentioned, the effects of bottling up emotions are terrible mentally and physically. We can do so much damage to our finely balanced systems that it needs full attention. If you are struggling to let your emotions out, then further down this article, there will be ways you can do this, but let’s explore what happens to your body and mind when you hold onto those feelings and refuse to let them surface.

Sometimes when we are depressed, our feelings can seem to disappear; they don’t. They have just been masked by the depression. We can feel numb as though all emotion has vanished, but they are just hidden by the overwhelming symptoms of depression.

In day to day life, we need to express emotion as this is one of the ways humans communicate with each other; you may find if you are bottling your feelings up, your relationships are suffering, you may even develop toxic positivity whereby everything is joyful and highly optimistic. But deep down, you are a whirlwind of emotion but refuse to let it surface, so you mask it all through positive talk and actions.

When we try to hide our emotions, we may become martyrs and agree to things we would instead not do for fear of upsetting someone by saying no. This, once again, can impact our mental and physical welfare and cause untold troubles for later down the road. You will need to learn to say no, and this can be tricky if people around you are used to you saying yes, but it can be dealt with.

There is plenty of scientific evidence which shows bottling up our emotions is unhealthy and can affect us. In days of old, if you felt aggrieved by someone, you usually asked them out for a duel, but times have moved on. We can’t fight and let our feelings out. Nowadays, you are seen as a good citizen if you keep those feelings underwrap, but even though society may have moved on, our minds and bodies haven’t.

Physical and Mental Effects

There are many potential problems when it comes to bottling up your emotions, and if you spot any of them within yourself, you need to ask, why am I hiding my feelings? Sometimes we can’t help it because it has been ingrained since childhood or we have depression, but you can learn to release them, and we cover that in the next section.

Physical

  • Decreased immune function, whilst repressing your emotions won’t cause you to get the flu, it can lower your immunity to such things. You may continuously have sniffles or headaches.
  • You might have muscles and joint aches and pains, your doctor may say they are somatic, but they are real and can affect you daily.
  • Feeling sick and nauseous can be another symptom; when we have a build-up of cortisol, the stress hormone, it puts us in fight and flight mode and the bodies natural reaction is to expel the contents of the stomach from being sick to going to the toilet a lot.
  • Your appetite may be affected, either by comfort eating and trying to make yourself feel better and not eating enough because you are not hungry.
  • Sleep patterns can be put out of sync; you may find that you are sleeping less or waking up in the middle of the night. On the other hand, you could be sleeping too much.
  • High blood pressure can cause strokes and heart attacks; it should not be taken lightly, and repressing your emotions can cause stress.
  • IBS and other digestive disorders can become an issue; you may find you have bouts of diarrhoea or constipation, plus stomach cramps and stabbing pains.
  • Heart problems and cardiovascular disease are severe, as much as high blood pressure. Not that repressed emotions are the only cause of this, there are many, but it does not help.

Mental

  • Stress can play a significant factor in bottling up your emotions; you may be exhibiting signs of stress because you are not releasing those emotions.
  • Anxiety is also a key player, and you may find you are having panicky moments or obsessing over certain things, even conversations you may have had weeks ago.
  • Depression can cause us to feel numb and as though there are no emotions to be expressed, but as already stated, this is the mask of depression; there are still plenty of emotions under the surface.

How to Release Emotions

The excellent news is repressed emotions can be released, not all at once, so don’t fear that you will be like a champagne bottle popping. You can release those feelings and learn to stop harbouring them.

Therapy

Therapy is the best way to manage the release of emotions. I recommend cognitive behavioural therapy; if you haven’t got the time to see a therapist face to face or you would prefer a home-based option. You can have therapy from the comfort of your own home through [A.F.] Online Therapy; they have good reviews and offer C.B.T., prices start at around £23.00 for a weeks therapy.

Accept

You have to feel to begin healing, and accepting your feelings is all part of the process. There is a good acronym for this called R.A.I.N., which stands for recognise, allow, investigate and nourish. When you recognise the emotion you harbour, such as anger, you begin to acknowledge you are feeling this; you then allow this emotion to surface and investigate why you are trying to hide it. Once you have your conclusions, you then nourish this emotion by enabling it to be. The practice of mindfulness can help you through this process.

There are plenty of apps that will help you learn mindfulness, and many of them are free; practice at least once a day to help with the recognition of emotions and then go through the R.A.I.N. process to release them.

Grow

Make the emotion bigger, critical if you are depressed and the depression is masking your feelings. If you feel numb, pick an emotion out of the air, find it within yourself, and then begin to magnify it. Let’s say you have chosen sadness, you may have tucked this away because you don’t want to feel it, but by doing so, you are not addressing the feeling. With sadness comes tears, and this is our emotional vent, don’t be scared to feel this; it is a natural feeling we all have. Cry your heart out, either by yourself but best done with the emotional support of a friend or family member so that they can console you. Don’t be afraid of showing your feelings; it will help release them.

Express

Express yourself through art, dance or writing. It is sometimes easier to use a tool for emotional expression. You don’t have to be a very creative person, but channelling your emotions into an artistic endeavour will help you become more in tune with your feelings.

Exercise

Exercise is another powerful tool in emotional expression and is very good for releasing hidden anger and frustration. Many people say running helps them get to grips with their emotions, but if you are not a runner, you can practice shadow boxing in your living room or beat up a pillow. Any form of exercise where you can increase the intensity will be beneficial.

Now That You’ve Released Emotion

You may have a tear-stained face or be red and flustered from the activity, but once your feelings are released, there are a few things you can do to help yourself to keep them from becoming stifled again.

  • Journaling is a great way to express your feelings, and the prettier the journal, the better, in my opinion.
  • Be kind to yourself, go and have a luxuriant bubble bath or treat yourself to a takeaway.
  • If you have learnt new things about yourself, don’t neglect this; make a plan to revisit these things either with a therapist or within your support network.

End Note

Getting to grips with your emotions is the best thing you can do to ward off mental health problems down the line. Don’t let them fester and eat you up inside; expressing them is natural and will benefit your mental and physical health.

Stress: 10 Ways to Calm Your Nerves Naturally

When stress becomes too much, we are on edge, and our nerves may jangle. But how do you calm your nerves when you are feeling tense? Sometimes you feel the sensation in your stomach, or your hands become all jittery, and your legs may shake. You may want to go to the toilet, and sometimes you may start belching.

These are symptoms of stress. And, you can manage stress naturally with a few well-chosen techniques and items in your stress toolkit. Keeping your nerves in check will help you feel better and give you a better quality of life.

If you suffer from extreme stress, you will know all too well the effect pressure has on you and how debilitating it can be. You may have tried medicine from the doctors but found it too addictive or it left you with unwanted side effects.

What Happens to Your Body

When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. The effects of this hormone puts your body into fight or flight mode. We are then on high alert, and our nerves are too; we are geared to run from danger or defend ourselves. This is why you may need to go to the toilet more often as your body expels what it doesn’t need. Your shaking body is your nerves ready for action.

Your body does not know there is no physical threat to your well being; it is designed for the savannahs, not our current social and urban landscape. Therefore the biological process of stress is still with us, and we are trapped by our bodies because we do not need to perform the action it requires.

The best way to remove this nervous energy is to shadow box or go running, but this isn’t always practical, especially on public transport. So, what other ways can you help yourself to relieve anxiety nerves? I’ve listed ten ways in which you can calm your nerves.

Helpful Techniques

Mindful Breathing

This is a straightforward technique to try, and with practice, the better you get at it. Simply breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth and count each action as one breath. Count ten breaths and then repeat. If thoughts appear in your mind, acknowledge them and then concentrate on your breaths again.

Pressure Points

We have pressure points all over our bodies, but the easiest to reach in an immediate situation are the ones in our hands.

Join your hands together by interlocking your fingers, leaving your thumbs free and using your right thumb to massage your left palm for a couple of minutes and then repeat on the other palm with the left thumb.

Take your thumb and forefinger from your right hand and grip the loose flesh between your other thumb and forefinger and massage it for a couple of minutes, then repeat on the other hand.

EFT Tapping

You can reduce stress by using the emotional freedom technique tapping points; they are easy to do and can be done anywhere when you feel your nerves beginning to play up.

Use two fingers and begin tapping on your chin about 7 or 8 times, and in your mind, say, ‘I accept this stress, and I accept my situation.’

Use two fingers, tap 7 to 8 times below your eye on your cheekbone, and repeat the above phrase.

Again use two fingers and begin tapping underneath your nose and repeat the above phrase.

Stretching

You know how animals stretch; they don’t do it half-hearted; they put all their energy into getting a full stretch.

Reach into the air and imagine you are pulling yourself up a rope.

Now, put your arms out to the side and imagine you are the rope in a tug of war, and you are being pulled on either side.

This one is probably best done when you are alone; start gyrating your hips and really get some movement going.

Visualisation

Using visualisation, you can imagine a calm and serene place or picture yourself as relaxed and peaceful.

Close your eyes and take long slow deep breaths; imagine a scene of a quiet ocean lapping at the sandy beach, you are standing on the shoreline and watching the sunrise. You can see birds in the distance and can hear the sound of the gentle waves.

Stress Toolkit

Chamomile Tea

Having a drink of chamomile tea can help calm your nerves and make you relax. It contains antioxidants and is a natural alternative to other caffeinated beverages. You can buy it pretty much anywhere, and it can even be used in a tea meditation.

Calming Gummies

You can buy calming gummies from [AF] Piping Rock, and they are my favourite way of destressing and removing nervous energy. I use the strawberry and lemon ones; just type into their search box ‘calming gummies’ and scroll down until you find them.

The gummies contain L-thiamine and GABA, which are great for chilling you out. They only take about 15 to 20 minutes to work.

Essential Oils

Choose relaxing fragrances such as lavender or valerian oil. They are generally used to promote sleep but work well with calming nerves. Either smell the oil directly from the bottle for a quick hit or add to a diffuser to let the aroma fill the room. You can also burn the oil in an oil burner for a more intense scent.

CBD Oil

I use the food supplement of CBD oil, and I have written a couple of articles on its benefits; you can read how it is changing my life here. But it works well when I develop nervous energy; after a few drops, I can feel myself getting calmer. If you don’t like the taste, they come in capsule form, too, although I haven’t tried their effectiveness. I buy mine from [AF] Reakiro.

Journal

Writing in a journal can help release racing thoughts and help you reduce your jangly nerves. Start by writing how you are feeling and then move on to describing a calm place you know; it could be in your own home or a place you once holidayed at.

What To Avoid

Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that will not help calm your nerves; it can increase their severity. Stick with a chamomile tea, or if you want, coffee choose decaffeinated.

Alcohol

Alcohol will initially help as it is a depressant, but it is not the healthiest option as alcohol is a toxin and makes the liver work too hard to expel it.

In Summary

I hope these tips will help you calm your nerves and allow you to function correctly. If you have time, try and do regular exercise to reduce stress in your life, as chronic stress can lead to physical health problems.

Depression: Change Your Outlook Change Your Life

An optimistic viewpoint on life can change it. You can change your outlook and improve your mental health and wellbeing. Although it is easier said than done, there are a few simple ways of bringing the positive into your life. I’m not talking about being optimistic through adversity as can happen with toxic positivity but keeping the negativity away in your day to day life.

A positive outlook doesn’t mean you will sail through life without a care in the world, you can still get stressed and live with mental health issues, but you are more likely to be able to cope with blips that come along the way. You may be thinking, how on earth can I have a mental illness and be positive?

I have bipolar disorder, and I have chosen to look on the bright side; yes, it is difficult when I am in the midst of a depression and nigh on impossible when it is so deep I can’t get out of bed. But, I know I have been through it before, and it will pass; this is a positive outlook, a small switch in thinking. Rather than thinking this will last forever, I know by previous experience that it won’t, and I choose to accept that I am depressed and that is my mental state for now.

How to Get a New Outlook

Depression gives us a negative outlook. It is part of the illness; I won’t lie and say that changing the negative to a positive is easy, but it can be done. As is the nature of depression, seeing anything positive can be a challenge, even reading this article may have you sighing, but bear with me as I have been through the same thought process you’re going through. And, I still have negative thoughts, but they are less than they used to be.

You may have heard of mindfulness and thought it couldn’t help you, but there is scientific evidence that it can, and you also have my experience that it works.

It is a simple meditation, and you don’t have to sit cross-legged and say Om a lot. You can do it whilst walking or at work, even doing the washing up.

The process is simple, yet it is more challenging than it appears; however, it becomes easier with practice. It is not about removing negative thoughts. It is about accepting them and acknowledging their existence.

The Mindful Meditation

If this is your first time meditating, start with sitting on your sofa or lying down on your bed, close your eyes and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Each in and out breath counts as one; focus on your breathing and count up to ten in your head. When you get to ten, repeat the process. Soon you will start having intrusive thoughts trying to stop you from focusing on your breathing. Don’t try and get rid of the thoughts; acknowledge them and return to your breathing. You can name them such as, ‘ah, that’s the comment I made yesterday.’ Or ‘Ok, you’re my appointment tomorrow.’ Practice for five minutes.

And that is it; it is a simple little meditation that can positively impact your life over the next few weeks.

If you are not good at sitting still, try these mindful practices, the raisin technique and the tea meditation.

Things to Give You Positivity

Aside from meditation, there are other things you can do to improve your outlook on life; they don’t involve shopping sprees that’s fleeting positivity. This is about being active in your life to create a more optimistic view.

The six things I have listed below will help you be more flexible in your approach to dealing with negativity. Some of them take a bit of practice to build up into a routine, but a pattern is good for depression.

  1. Start a gratitude journal. Writing down things we are grateful for gives us positive thoughts; it could be saying thank you for the air that I breathe. Even if that is your only entry for day one, it is a start.
  2. Watch, read, listen to good things, turn off the news and limit social media unless you follow inspirational people who are positive in their posts. Try and watch more comedy and listen to uplifting music.
  3. Are you waking up in the morning to an annoying alarm? This is going to set your day off with annoyance and a jolt. I bought myself a light alarm clock, and I wake up naturally every morning. You can buy them second-hand off of eBay, and they start your day off right, which leads to a better outlook on the rest of the day. Lumie is a good brand.
  4. Self-care is essential when it comes to looking after our mental health. There is a saying which states that self-care isn’t selfish and it isn’t. Discover 50 ideas to look after yourself here.
  5. It is the little things in life which bring us the most pleasure, the big events are few and far between. It could be the smile of a child, a dog or cat doing somthing silly, an anecdote you heard. When a little pleasure happens, write it down in your gratitude journal.
  6. Change the way you word things; instead of ‘I have to’, change it to ‘I get to.’ If you are faced with the washing up, rather than ‘I have to wash up’ change to ‘I get to wash up’, it makes it sound more exciting and positive.

In Summary

I hope these suggestions help you bring a more positive outlook to your life; I know they have helped me, and I still practice them to this day. They will allow you to introduce positive thoughts into your life, which will soon outweigh the negative.

Taking Care of Your Skin Can Improve Mental Health

You’d be surprised, but taking care of your skin can improve your mental health. No way, you might think, but it is true, from self-care rituals to cleansing your face at night all go towards making you feel better. Skincare is not a cure for mental illness, far from it, but it can boost your self-esteem and confidence levels.

I’m sure you know how good a massage feels; well, this is a form of skincare you can use yourself or get a professional massage done. The latter is the best option as it makes you feel special.

I swear by aromatherapy to help me with my mental health issues; you can read my aromatherapy routine here. Not only does it feel luscious putting scented oils on your skin, but the massage will make you feel good.

Boosting Oxytocin

When you massage yourself or someone else does it for you, oxytocin is released. This is also called the love chemical, but don’t worry, you will not fall in love with your masseuse. It is just a natural human reaction to being touched by another who is making us feel good. You can even get this feeling by giving yourself a massage.

Not only does your body release this chemical, but you also benefit your body by releasing toxins. If you have depression and suffer aches and pains, a massage can help alleviate some of the pain. You also release feel-good endorphins when you are massaged, resulting in a happier outlook.

A study showed that massage releases oxytocin and reduces a chemical called adrenocorticotropin, which in layman’s terms is a hormone that releases cortisol, the stress chemical. By lowering stress, we feel better; we can cope with life and not feel overwhelmed.

A massage I use regularly is the Ayurveda massage, it is a great way to boost your oxytocin, and it is even better if you can get someone else to do it for you.

Look Forward to Something

If you make looking after your skin a part of your daily routine, you will start to look forward to this, especially if you use excellent scented lotions and potions.

If you are depressed, a simple skincare routine can improve your wellbeing, even if it just washing your face and massaging a face cream in, it only takes a couple of minutes, but you will still release those feel-good chemicals. It is challenging to look forward to anything or have the energy to do stuff when you have a mental illness. Still, a simple beauty routine is achievable, and a routine, even an easy one, is beneficial for our mental health.

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When you create a habit, you improve your chances of staying grounded. I know that when I follow a routine, it can help me focus on the day. If you have a mental illness discovering your routine can be tricky, but just having one thing that you do regularly can set you up for the rest of the day. It also makes you feel as though you have accomplished something and boosts your self-confidence.

Reduce Worry

The time before bed can be fraught with worry; for me, I worry if I’m going to fall asleep, but you may worry about things that have occurred during the day or whatever is planned for tomorrow. But, setting up an evening time facial routine will stop you from worrying about these thoughts and focus on the self-care aspect of treating your skin.

It doesn’t have to be a skincare routine. You could try journaling, but you want things that relax your mind before bed, and if you use lavender scented creams or oils, they will work by relaxing you.

If you are going to use aromatherapy oils, don’t apply them directly to your skin; make sure you dilute them in a carrier oil such as almond. Otherwise, they may irritate.

As you carry out your evening routine, try and do it mindfully. This is how I do it, as mindfulness helps my mental health. I focus on the actions, scent, texture, and how the cream or oil is absorbed into my skin. If you have other thoughts entering your mind while doing it, then just accept them, name them such as ‘hello worrying about the comment I made’ or ‘aha, you’re the appointment I have tomorrow’. Don’t focus on the thought; just let it be and carry on with your skincare.

Relationships

If you are with a partner, you can share in the enjoyment and have pamper nights where you get to treat each other to face masks and massages. This will increase the bond of your relationship and also increase oxytocin.

Our lives can be busy, and we may not be as loving or kind as we should be, but setting aside time for both of you to share a skincare routine is a great way to spend time with your loved one, and this, in turn, helps create good mental health.

A recent study showed that positive massage could improve the lives of stressed couples and improve wellbeing. There are plenty of videos on how to learn massage, either facial or body and being reciprocal is the best way for a healthier relationship.

https://mentriz.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/face-massage-couple.mp4

Learning how to look after another person’s skin is a great way to boost your self-esteem it gives you something you are capable of, and you will also know that you are helping your partner relax and improve their mental health.

In Summary

Skincare may seem off tangent when it comes to mental health, but it goes hand in hand with trying to feel good and improve our wellbeing. It can help stressed relationships and reduce the cortisol in your body.

If you are looking for gorgeous oils for massage, try [AF] The Ayurveda Experience and for skincare, try Urban Veda.

The Sort of Positive Ways Bipolar Has Affected My Life

I thought I’d look at the more positive aspects of bipolar, there isn’t many, but there are a few that make the illness bearable at times. The sort of positive ways bipolar has affected my life is productivity; I can produce a considerable amount of written material, hence one of the reasons behind this website.

But there are other little nuances to the illness, which are favourable when in a borderline hypomanic state; however, there is only a short window to act upon, and I need to make the most of it.

When in that twilight phase, I can see everything clearly; things make sense, so much so, everything seems as though the solution is right at my fingertips.

The Rough With The Smooth

As I said, I write a lot, but others are more productive in other ways, from cleaning the house top to bottom to cooking extravagant feasts. However, they may not feel like eating what they cook. Those who can work typically find they are super-productive at work. When I was working for a company before I was diagnosed, my work rate tripled when I was in the zone, but I would crash soon after, often needing a week to recuperate.

Unfortunately, my bipolar has progressed as I have become older, and I can no longer work for anyone, but now I run this website, and I can put all that mental energy into this. I still get many days where I cannot write, so I have to make the most of the days I can and get as much written as possible.

That’s the thing with bipolar disorder it is unpredictable, and I have found I can’t plan too far in advance as I never know how I am going to wake up, but if I awake with an idea in my head, then I know it is going to be a good day.

I know some people aren’t as lucky as I am when coping with the illness, and I’m not sure if it is an experience that has helped me or the fact I have an outlet in the form of writing to expedite my energy. When I was younger, I knew it was focused on being social and meeting new people and having conversations where I would speak ten to the dozen; nowadays, it is all mental energy.

Hypomanic State

The twilight zone before hypomania sets in is for me a good place; however, when I tip into hypomania, which thankfully isn’t that often due to medication, I lose the ability to concentrate and then my thinking goes into believing everything I write is gold. Of course, it is not; it is just that this is an aspect of bipolar, where I think everything I do, is, well, just brilliant—complete over-confidence.

In the hypomanic state, I often end up in debt; some people end up in debt and potentially ruin their relationships due to infidelities.

However, in the hypomanic state, my world is more colourful, and all things seem possible. I can come up with abstract solutions to problems I have and resolve them. But then the thoughts become too wild, and the solutions are wacky and unfeasible, not that I know it at the time.

It isn’t too long after a hypomanic spell, providing I haven’t tripped into full-blown mania; I usually end up in a depression.

The Downside

When I am depressed, all the colour goes out of the world, and I am left to pick up the pieces of a hypomanic episode. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time in a depression; I lose clarity and often have brain fog, whereby I try my usual tactics to get out of it; I have written about them many times on the website, and most of them when combined do lift me out of a deep depression.

My writing goes on the back burner when the depression is deep, but I can still write when it lifts, and I tend to write my depression articles. You wouldn’t think there is a positive to depression, and to be honest, I can only think of one. I get the sleep I need.

The Upside

The upside to living with bipolar is to make the most of the positives when they happen; you might not have had bipolar long enough to work out your triggers and how to get out of depression or how to accept your hypomanic spells. If truth be told, acceptance is difficult. It took me ten years to accept I had manic depression. I kept saying to the psychiatrists they had their diagnosis wrong, but too many depressive and hypomanic phases proved me wrong.

Once you accept your diagnosis, you can put plans into action to lead a semi-normal life. You will love very profoundly but also get over relationships very quickly. You will experience the world in all its colours but then view the world as dirty and grey. You have to make the most of the good times, and there are plenty; it just takes time to go through the cycles.

I won’t lie to you bipolar is a life-changing illness, and you will need to make adaptations and build a support system around you, it can be a very selfish illness, but you can’t let that bother you, as it is out of your control. You have to look after yourself as your life literally depends on it.

This doesn’t mean that you have to be obnoxious, but it is favourable to be selfish regarding your own mental wellbeing. One of the upsides of bipolar is that I find it very easy to be selfish because it will affect everyone around me if I become too unwell. So be selfish and look after yourself.

In Conclusion

There are positives to bipolar, and you have to make the most of them when they show up. Look after yourself with a self-care routine and try and discover what you can drive your mental energy into. Once you find this out, life becomes much more manageable, not perfect, but nothing is. Thank you for reading through my ramble of a post, and if you would like to write about how your bipolar affects you, then get in contact with me.

SAD in the Winter

As the season’s change, I prepare for winter as I am affected by low light levels called SAD alongside my bipolar disorder. I get my sunshine lamp ready, make sure my windows are as clean as possible to let in all the light, and change my posters and prints from the Posterstore to imbue my room with the sun.

This is a sponsored post

Usually, the pictures on my walls are of the moon, but in wintertime, I add sun posters so that when I walk into my living room, I have a deep blue backdrop with the sun in a myriad of forms.

This all goes to help me with my seasonal affective disorder known as SAD. On top of my bipolar and the effects of depression and the highs of hypomania, I have to deal with seasonal changes. Even going from dark to light, as in the summertime, can affect my mood.

Who Gets Affected By SAD?

Dandelions on the backdrop of the sun, my favourite poster.

It is a known fact that seasonal affective disorder affects about 5% of the population in the northern hemisphere. That is quite a lot of people who experience depression in the winter months.

I have learned over the years to try and combat this before the light levels get too low. As I’ve already mentioned the percentage of people who can suffer from this, it goes without saying many people need to get their homes and mind ready for when the change in season occurs. The poster store I use are from Scandinavia, and the prints they supply really help me as they are beautiful, and I can afford them as I’m on a meagre budget.

It also seems that four times as many women are affected by SAD as men, which begs the question, is it also hormonal? You are less likely to get it if you are under twenty, and of course, the further north you go, the more chance you have of experiencing seasonal affective disorder.

What Are The Symptoms?

These are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

  • Feeling low and finding activities, you used to enjoy no longer bring pleasure
  • The feeling of hopelessness and futility of everything
  • Difficulty with concentrating
  • You may have low energy levels and feel lethargic all the time
  • Indecisiveness can be a problem
  • Having trouble waking up in the morning
  • You may find you are sleeping a lot more than usual
  • Your appetite may increase, and you crave carbohydrates, which then may make you gain weight.
  • Loss of libido
  • You may become less sociable due to mood changes and lethargy
  • Anxious thoughts and feelings may also play a part

What Can Be Done About It

Apologies for the reflections, I’m not very good at taking pictures

Like I said before, I use a sunshine lamp, I actually bought it off of eBay for about twenty pounds, and it is worth its weight in gold. I plug it in and sit for thirty minutes in front of it in the mornings.

I also visit the poster store to see what new sun prints they have; I tend to visit on a Tuesday as that is when they get their new stock in. Plus, I know when I am buying from them, it helps the environment as everything is sustainably managed.

Of course, I also speak to my doctor and typically, my medication of antidepressants is increased to a higher level to combat SAD. I also ask for tests to be run on my vitamin levels as my vitamin D can drop like a stone during the winter months. I also have my iron levels checked.

In my supplements box, I have vitamin D and iron tablets, along with fish oil capsules, and I also use CBD oil for when the depression is terrible, which lifts my spirits.

As I said, I rearrange all my posters as I want to walk into my living room and see a bright sunny outlook. I have three sun prints lined up along the long wall of my living room, and I can look at them and imagine warmer days.

I also attend therapy sessions, I’m part of a bipolar support group. Although everything is done by phone these days, I still attend my appointments with my therapist and talk about my problems and how I am doing.

Other Self Help

Make sure you spend a lot of time outdoors in the sunnier weather; if you work in an office or factory, try and make sure you go outside in your lunch breaks and take a brisk walk, hopefully in the sunshine.

I also put music on, an upbeat tune and start dancing; even if I don’t feel like it, the movement helps re-energise my body. Sometimes I have no energy whatsoever, and I just sway to the music, but every little bit helps, and it helps fight off the carbs that I may have overindulged in.

Work out near a window; hopefully, it will be sunny, but if it is not, put your sunshine lamp on, look at your sun posters when you dance or move your body. All of these ideas can help you work towards improving your mental health.

In Summary

Choosing to get your home and mind in order before seasonal affective depression hits are of paramount importance; if there is one thing you take away from this article, it is the importance of simulating sunshine, from posters to vitamin D.

I wish you all the best for the coming winter season.

Here is a discount code should you be interested in buying posters for your home:

Code: MENTRIZ55

55% on all posters (except Selection Posters and frames)

Not combinable with other discount campaigns. Valid from 22nd to 29th of November.

Depression: Turning Hopelessness into Hope

If you are depressed, you may be experiencing hopelessness, it is a horrid feeling, and I want to help you turn hopelessness into hope based on what I do when I am depressed. There will also be the odd scientific fact thrown in so that you know where the idea comes from.

I’m assuming you are already on antidepressants or in the process of getting them, as these will help alleviate those feelings of hopelessness. But they take time to work, and if you are anything like me, you want to get rid of this horrible empty feeling.

You might be wondering what hopelessness is? It is the loss of purpose and a sense there is no meaning to life anymore. Nothing seems possible, and any thoughts of changing how you feel seem pointless because there is no longer any desire to move forward.

On the other hand, hope is future planning and optimism about the supposed outcome of goals and ambitions. Everything seems possible, and it is with joy that future events are planned and thought about; it gives us purpose.

Depression and Hopelessness

One of the key signs of depression is feeling hopeless and not having the energy to do anything about it. I have been depressed many times, and everything seems bleak and pointless; there is little room for hope when you feel lethargic and exasperated by the hollowness you feel inside.

When hopelessness sets in, it can be dangerous as suicidal thoughts soon follow, so it is of paramount importance to take antidepressants. Yet they can take several weeks to begin to work and during that time you have to manage your thoughts. If you have ideas or intentions about suicide, I will always recommend that you don’t read the rest of this article. Get yourself to a medical emergency centre; it will be the best place for you; I have had to do this several times in the past.

If you cannot attend, then phone your countries suicide crisis number. You can find it on Wikipedia.

Increasing hope will involve some activity, but I’m not going to ask you to jump around the room or sign up for a marathon. I know full well energy and motivation will be lacking, so the suggestions I have are easy to do, and you don’t have to venture very far.

Bipolar and Hopeless Feelings

I experience bipolar depression, hence why I get depressed so often. It is a chronic condition interspersed occasionally with hypomanic episodes.

Much like the advice above, if you need help now, stop reading and see a doctor.

If you have been newly diagnosed with bipolar, you may feel hopeless about the future, as you don’t know what to expect or how to manage the condition. I have many articles on this site about bipolar; here are a few which should be of use to you.

I will also suggest therapy to help you come to terms with a bipolar diagnosis. You don’t even need to venture out of your own home as [AF] Online Therapy offers cognitive behavioural therapy for around £23.00, and they work worldwide.

Ways to Increase Hope

Faith

I won’t lie; changing hopelessness to hope is a challenging process that requires what little energy you may have. I am fortunate that I have beliefs that help me. You may not ascribe to any belief system, but I’d advise finding one that resonates with you. Be it Buddhism, Christianity or even Aliens, any belief about hope will help instil a sense of calm and move you forward through prayer and quiet reflection.

Nature

However, you don’t have to believe in something to find hope; you can look towards nature for your hope. In ancient times the rising of the sun was a joyous event; it meant a new day and that the Gods were pleased. You can take this viewpoint and watch the sunrise, and life begins again. Each new day is an opportunity for nature to be born again.

Watching wildlife go about its business makes you wonder if they ever get depressed; they seem to be constantly on the move, searching for food, a mate, safety and their lives are spent with purpose. Do they know what it is, or do they just go by instinct? Start asking yourself questions about nature. You’ll find by questioning; you are giving yourself hope to find out the answer. We don’t ask questions if we haven’t expected the answer.

Meditation

Hope is an expectation of things or thoughts to come. You can train your brain to be hopeful; I use the free meditation apps you can get for your phone. I try many of them to help my mind and accept negative thoughts and promote well being. Quiet and still meditation is not for everyone; you may prefer a more active one; I have a couple on here. One involves raisins, and another requires tea.

This could be as simple as closing your eyes and repeating a single phrase or word, or counting breaths. “This helps provide some distance from those negative thoughts or stressful feelings, allowing you to recognize that, although they affect you, they are not you,” says Dr. Denninger.

Harvard Medical

Audio Books

When you are hopeless and depressed, it is difficult to read a book as you can’t concentrate, but books inspire, and they create hope for the characters, and you can get involved in their lives for a short while. I find listening to books easier than reading when I am depressed.

Don’t go for complicated books but think about getting some classics or one of the current bestsellers. Try and avoid horror or gory thrillers; choose an audiobook narrated by a famous person you admire; this will more than likely interest you. Set aside some quiet time to fully absorb what is being said to become involved with the characters. If you can’t have hope for yourself, transfer it onto someone else.

Calming Gummies

If you are feeling anxious about your condition, I suggest taking calming gummies. I use these regularly when I need to manage my anxiety. When we are depressed, we can become anxious at the lack of feeling, and if we are also experiencing brain fog, this can cause us to feel out of control and even more hopeless.

The calming gummies I use contain GABA and L-theanine, which promotes relaxation and they will help you to feel more chilled out. When you feel calm, you can think logically, and you are not basing thoughts too much on emotion; you can look towards the future and see there are possibilities.

The gummies take about twenty minutes to work, and I buy them from [AF] Piping Rock; just type in their search box ‘calming gummies’ and scroll down and look for the strawberry and lemon flavour. They deliver worldwide.

Don’t Look Back

I find that if I start reminiscing, it can lower my mood. To start with it is enjoyable, especially if I am looking through old photo albums, but then thoughts creep in about how well I felt back then, and this then makes me feel bad that I don’t feel that way anymore. It can exasperate me and lead to hopelessness.

Feeling hopeless does not last forever; sometimes, it can last for a few hours, other times a few days, but the human spirit inevitably looks for opportunities. Just as our eyes will be drawn to movement, so too does our inner being; the past is no longer here; it has long gone. All we have is now and the things to come. Knowing you will not be stuck in hopelessness forever should bring you hope; it is a passing phase.

Suppose this is your first time feeling hopeless and depressed. In that case, you won’t have any previous depressive episodes to gauge it by, but let me assure you that the feeling of hopelessness does go, maybe not today. Still, soon enough, you will realise you are planning for the future; even waiting for the antidepressants to work is hoping.

Counselling

Counselling is beneficial for talking through your condition. I recommend an online company called [AF] Calmerry, and they have good reviews on Trustpilot. I find when I have counselling, I am actually looking forward to my next session. You can’t always talk to family as expressing how you truly feel may be upsetting for them, and I personally do not want to put that burden on family, so I choose the option of counselling.

When you seek out counselling, you move from hopelessness into hope because you plan for the future; you have given yourself something to do in the coming days.

Unrealistic Hopes and Expectations

When you become hopeful, try and keep your hopes realistic, don’t suddenly plan to involve yourself in a triathlon if you have not trained for one, even for charity. When I first experienced depression, I started planning great things like hosting dinner parties and travelling the world as I became hopeful. These are all fine when you are well, but start small, so you can tick them off and build your self-confidence.

Depression takes a lot out of you, and you may find that you become slightly different after; I wrote an article called Emerging Different, which talks about this. You may find your priorities have changed and that you want to follow a new lifestyle as the old one landed you up in this place.

I tend to find setting realistic goals such as getting my hair cut or going to a restaurant for a meal is much more conducive to improving my mental health than big plans. Once you’re recovered from depression, then you can make big plans, but in the meantime, little and often is the best way to go.

In Summary

Turning hopelessness into hope can be challenging, but I hope that what I do will help you create a more hopeful atmosphere. You are setting your mind up for change by giving them a go, and change brings hope.