On a basic surface level, we understand that there is an obvious distinction between 'mind' and 'body' - or the mental vs. physical aspects of ourselves - but, as we’ve seen in plenty of studies and learned through our own life experiences, it’s not actually that clear-cut. The mind and the body are irrefutably connected and intertwined with one another. You cannot have one without the other, as both exist to establish the self. When one’s physical health suffers it can lead to mental health problems, including depression, feelings of anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, a person's psychological well-being has been scientifically proven to affect one’s overall health. Several years ago, after experiencing a rapid decline in my physical health, I became severely depressed and started seeing a psychotherapist - anecdotal proof that this correlation is real.
Since the pandemic, healthcare professionals have increasingly been asked to consider a patient's mental health along with their physical symptoms, and vice versa. Many lobby groups and nonprofit mental health agencies are seeking additional funding to improve mental health services in America. While Covid-19 has brought the mental health crisis in America to mainstream media awareness in 2021, the dilemma has been occurring for decades.
FACT: People with mental health conditions are less likely to seek out and receive proper health care.
FACT: Those with higher stress levels are at great risk of coronary heart disease and more likely to die from cancer than those who feel less stressed.
FACT: Depression, the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., can be just as much of a physical illness as a mental one. By suppressing T cell responses to viruses and bacteria, depression can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to contracting sickness and disease.
FACT: Individuals with schizophrenia have an increased risk for heart and respiratory diseases.
Fortunately for all Americans who are struggling with a mental health condition, there are lifestyle changes that can positively influence both physical and mental health.
Not surprisingly, exercise is at the top of the list. You don’t have to go to a gym to work out; any form of physical activity can help release endorphins (feel-good chemicals) in the brain. Even a short 10 minute brisk walk can improve mental sharpness, energy, and mood. If walking isn’t your speed (sorry for the pun), pick another activity that you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening, swimming, walking your dog, or playing a sport - just try to keep moving. Your body and mind will thank you.
You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s true. The food we eat can influence the development, management, and prevention of numerous mental and physical conditions, including depression and memory loss. A healthy balanced diet includes a healthy amount of proteins, essential fats, complex-carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. Recently, I started taking B12 on the advice of my physician to help eliminate chronic fatigue. Click here to learn more about the benefits of Vitamin B.
Get out and enjoy some sun and see if your mood doesn’t improve. Exposure to sunlight releases serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone associated with boosting mood, creating a sense of calm, and improving focus.
Animal Assisted Therapy
Last but not least, for anyone who has a pet, you have probably experienced the calmness that comes from petting an animal. The history of Animal-assisted therapy goes back centuries when it was used to help improve morale, engage the attention of the elderly, and help people with disabilities improve their skills. Today, most people think of therapy dogs to help reduce anxiety, elevate mood, and lower blood pressure. Both are incredibly beneficial for mental and physical health.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Please talk to a friend, medical professional, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find additional mental health resources on your website and be sure to follow us on social media for shared stories and inspirational quotes.
What do Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, and J.K. Rowlings have in common? All are talented, famous, and were bullied growing up. Bullying is a serious problem in schools and can have a lifelong impact on a child’s social and emotional development. While a lot is being done to prevent it,bullying is not acceptable — whether it happens at school, in the workplace, or on the internet (aka cyberbullying).
I have always been easily distracted and found it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time. It wasn’t until I was in my mid 40’s that I received an official ADHD diagnosis following a neuropsychological exam for memory loss. While the medical diagnosis made sense based on my behavioral traits, I never considered that my memory problems could be caused by ADHD.
Also known as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD is a neurological developmental disorder that most often occurs in children but can be diagnosed in adulthood. Those who are diagnosed later in life, like myself, usually experience ADHD symptoms at a young age, including not listening in the first place and nine symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
ADHD can be difficult to diagnose in children as parents often confuse their child’s rambunctiousness, inability to sit till, and lack of focus as “normal for their age”. Today, a teacher may address the issue with a parent especially if the child’s behavior is disruptive in the classroom or affecting their school work. ADHD can also accompany autism, anxiety, depression, borderline personality, and numerous learning disabilities including dyslexia.
If you are diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, you most likely had it as a child. But if you did not experience these symptoms at an early age and are uncharacteristically distracted, overly impulsive, unable to organize your thoughts or experiencing memory problems, you may be suffering from a mood disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or mania.
Symptoms of ADHD can present quite differently from person to person and most diagnoses are made largely through observation rather than blood testing or other physical markers. ADHD symptoms can also manifest in different ways as a person ages. For example, in younger children, hyperactivity may present as an inability to sit still, while adults may simply seem restless. Thus, it's important for both children and adults with ADHD to stay physically active.
Like many people with ADHD, I tried to mask my symptoms by creating coping mechanisms. Instead of being seen as someone with a short attention span, I would say I was multitasking. When I got bored or restless, I took on new challenges and increased my level of exercise.
Due to the lack of focus and restlessness associated with ADHD, holding down a 9 to 5 job can be extremely difficult. Therefore, the key is to pick a job that makes the best use of your skills and where your challenges won’t create major issues.
Research shows that people with ADHD are often creative and think up unique ways to problem-solve. Look for a job that will reward you for originality and innovative thinking such as: marketing, sales, advertising, the arts, teaching and design. Jobs to avoid if you have difficulty staying organized or on task would be accounting, medicine, or legal services. Instead, look for jobs with more flexibility.
You may also want to consider starting your own business which has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, you can work independently and choose your own hours. On the negative side, running a business does require organization and accounting skills. As a business owner myself, I have learned to outsource those tasks that do not fit my strengths, including bookkeeping, billing and payroll.
Living with ADHD does not have to limit your ability to live a fulfilling and successful life. There are many entrepreneurs, celebrities, actors, politicians, and entertainers who are living with ADHD. Among them, Sir Richard Branson, adventurer and founder of Virgin Airlines, who is best known for his risk taking and big spending. While these thrill-seeking ADHD traits can be cause for concern, they’ve helped Branson become an inspiring, successful businessman.
If you are living with ADHD, please comment below and let us know your biggest success and be sure to tune into our biweekly podcast and follow us on Instagram for inspirational stories and quotes.
There’s no doubt that the current situation with COVID-19 has dramatically impacted mental health in America and more people than ever are struggling with depression, stress, and anxiety. While medication and talk therapy are the most commonly prescribed treatments, studies suggest that owning an emotional support animal can improve both mental and physical health.
The term emotional support animal (ESA) was established by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 1973 to help individuals with disabilities. An ESA must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor, to receive the legal rights associated with the designation.
An emotional support animal is not the same as a service dog and differs in a few ways. For example, a service dog is trained to perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. As a result, a service dog may go anywhere with their owners, including areas usually restricted to pets. By comparison, an emotional support animal is not required to have any training and they do not enjoy the same legal rights as a service dog.
Studies show that emotional support animals can benefit individuals with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness. According to an article in Psychology Today, “petting, holding, or cuddling an animal increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine in our bodies, which are feel-good, changing brain chemicals. As a result of these positive chemical changes, feelings of depression and loneliness may be reduced while our self-esteem and happiness may increase.”
ESAs can be particularly helpful to seniors who are more prone to feelings of depression due to isolation, loneliness and lower levels of activity. Caring for a pet can provide a senior with a sense of purpose, increased physical activity, companionship, and a reason to get outside more. All mood elevators. Pet owners of all ages are also reported to have lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels (indicators of heart disease) than those without pets,
Although emotional support animals do not have the same legal rights as service dogs, they are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This means that people with mental health disabilities who live in the U.S. with an ESA can be exempted from certain federal housing rules. In order to receive an exemption, an individual must meet the federal definition of disabled, and the animal must provide emotional support that alleviates some symptom or effect of the disability. Individuals who meet this criteria may live with their emotional support animal free of charge and deposits, even if the building doesn’t allow pets. The Fair House Act also prevents housing providers from imposing breed and weight restrictions on the emotional support animal.
Until recently, individuals with an ESA were allowed to travel together in the airplane cabin, until effective in January 2021, airlines are no longer required to accommodate emotional support animals (although a few airlines still have programs to allow them). This rule does not apply to psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). A PSD is a type of service dog that performs tasks relating to an owner’s psychological or intellectual disability.
If you have a story about an emotional support animal, we'd love to hear it. Looking for ways to improve your mental health, you can follow us on Instagram and be sure to check out our podcast on Google Podcast.
Everyone gets the blues on occasion but when your mood affects your ability to function, you may be suffering from clinical depression, a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.
The term “depression” has become common in mainstream society and may be classified as:
Regardless of your level of depression, it is important to recognize the signs and ask for help to avoid spiraling out of control. Often those with severe depression have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and can feel as if life isn't worth living. Depression isn't a sign of weakness nor can you simply "snap out" of it.
An estimated 300 million people worldwide are diagnosed with some level of depression which can occur regardless of age, ethnic background, education, and social position. A family history of mental illness, high stress environments, and drinking or taking drugs while pregnant are some of the known causes of major depression. Other factors may include financial stress, death of a loved one, divorce, abuse, trauma, and a brain imbalance.
Severe Depression Symptoms
Severe depression is a mental illness that can impact productivity, self-esteem and performance. The most noticeable signs are extreme sadness, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, excessive mood swings, reckless behavior, isolation, acting out, and suicidal thoughts.
Insomnia along with trouble concentrating can also be signs of depression and leave you feeling both emotionally and physically drained. If you are having trouble sleeping, you may want to try limiting your caffeine to the morning only and take an over the counter sleep aid 30-minutes prior to bedtime. If these natural remedies don’t cure your insomnia, consult with your doctor or a sleep specialist.
Serious Depression Treatment
If you are suffering with severe depression, don’t ignore it. Instead, it is important that you talk to someone about your feelings as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with someone you know, there are many mental health organizations that provide confidential hotlines and peer counseling. You may also want to find a psychiatrist who can provide you with a proper diagnosis and treatment options.
Most healthcare professionals agree that therapy or counseling along with proper medication can be very effective in managing moderate and severe depression. If untreated, depression can lead to other mental health conditions. Along with substance disorders, depression is the most prevalent diagnoses among suicide victims.
If you or a loved one has suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-TALK (1-800-273-27of3-8255) for help.
Please share your insights on depression in the comment section below. You can also connect with us on Facebook and Instagram.
Many of us feel lonely from time to time and these short-term feelings should’t lead to long-term mental health issues. However, the impact of the Coronavirus and the need to self-isolate from family, friends, and others to avoid spreading the virus has been emotionally challenging on all of us --- both mentally and physically.
According to psychologists, loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and the actual experience of it. Even those who are surrounded by others throughout the day can experience feelings of loneliness.
People who live alone or with minimal human contact are more likely to develop a mental health condition, experience cognitive decline, and have shorter life spans. On the other hand, those who are socially connected or part of a community tend to have more moments of happiness and live longer.
Loneliness does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages and both men and women equally. So what can you do if you are experiencing short or long-term feelings of loneliness?
Dr. Vivek Murphy, former U.S. Surgeon General believes that building a sense of community now, even with the constraints of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic is key to mental wellness. He recommends that we spend some time every day reaching out to people in our lives for just 15 minutes a day
"In the short term, that 15 minutes could have a significant impact on your mood," says Murphy. "When done consistently over time, it can be a lifeline that connects you to the outside world."
To get the full health benefit, Murphy recommends avoiding the desire to multitask when connecting with others and to focus on the interaction.
"One of the greatest gifts we can give other people is the gift of our full attention," notes Murphy. "It's not always what we say. It's about our ability to listen, and that has a powerful impact on our connection."
During the pandemic, mental health experts are encouraging the public to find new ways to feel connected such as joining a local chat group, or starting one yourself. Volunteering is also a good way to stay connected --- whether it’s delivering food to those in need or offering to help a neighbor with yard work while do so at least 6 feet apart.
"Service can be a powerful antidote to loneliness," explains Murphy. "One of the things that's powerful about service is it shifts the focus from us to other people, while reaffirming that we have value to bring to the world."
Speaking of value, you already know how good exercise is for your physical health. But you might be surprised to know that exercise is also good for your mental health. Studies show that exercise can be as effective as talk therapy and medication for treating mild to moderate depression. You can also exercise with a group while social distancing to combat feeling lonely.
Finally, having an animal companion has been scientifically proven reduce loneliness and reduce stress in humans. Along with being man's best friend, dogs are well-known to have multiple mental health benefits including boosting self-esteem and improving social connections. However, before you decide to get a dog, you should consider other animal companions based on your living situation, work life, and financial resources. Cats, rabbits, birds, and hamsters are also known for providing companionship, lowering blood pressure, stress and anxiety.
If you are struggling with a mental health condition please talk to a friend or mental health professional. There is no shame in mental illness. To hear others talk about their own experiences with mental illness, check out our podcast, Speaking Candidly with Candace here on our website, and every other Wednesday on Google and Apple podcasts.
No one likes to talk about it. But the truth is that suicide rates are rising in America and almost everyone has been touched, either directly or indirectly, by this tragic reaction to stressful life situations.
Death, particularly by suicide, is nearly impossible to understand. Yet, so many who grieve the loss of someone who has taken their own life often look for answers which makes the process of bereavement that much more challenging. Fortunately, there are actions we can all take to help prevent suicide including: starting a conversation, offering support, and directing others to get the help they need.
If you are concerned that someonel may be contemplating suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them about their mental health. Sometimes simply asking a person about their thoughts can help them re-examine their wish to die.
The death of a loved one is never easy, whether it comes without warning or after a long battle with illness. But several circumstances set death by suicide apart and make the process of bereavement more challenging.
Many people have trouble admitting that a family member may be mentally ill and secretly concerned about whether their loved one may be contemplating suicide. Being aware of the warning signs can help prevent this strategic outcome. Here are 15 warning signs, from The National Suicide Prevention network, that someone may be suicidal.
While the pain and loss will never go away, suicide survivors must understand that they are not to blame and those who have died by suicide did not do this to hurt you. They did it to stop their own pain— a pain they thought would never end. There’s no way to know the demons they faced or how many years it was going on.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For more information on The National Suicide Prevention network, visit their website suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-TALK. Please share your comments and be sure to check out our podcast, Speaking Candidly with Candace, for real life stories about those coping and recovering from mental health issues.
A friend of mine recently observed that I have an addictive personality. While my addictions to things such as caffeine, bargain hunting, and social media are not life threatening, the statement prompted me to wonder why some people have addictive behaviors while others appear to be asymptomatic.
By definition, a person with an addiction uses a substance, or engages in a behavior, for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeat the activity, despite detrimental consequences. Addiction may involve the use of substances such as alcohol, inhalants, opioids, cocaine, and nicotine, or behaviors such as gambling.
While the above definition of addiction excludes a plethora of behaviors, such as impulse shopping, overeating, gaming disorder, and even exercising, they all share a common key neurobiological component that severely involves brain pathways of reward and reinforcement involving the neurotransmitter dopamine. The good news is that these brain changes are reversible after the substance use or behavior is discontinued.
Since addiction affects the brain’s executive functions, centered in the prefrontal cortex, individuals who develop an addiction may not be aware that their behavior is causing problems for themselves and others. Over time, desire for the pleasurable effects of the substance or behavior may dominate an individual’s actions.
Characteristics such as a lack of ability to tolerate stress or other strong feelings have been associated with addiction, but there is no one “addictive personality” type that can clearly predict whether a person will face problems with addiction or not.
When most people think of addictive behaviors, alcoholism is often one of the first to come to mind. Alcohol addiction is a disease that affects people of all walks of life and can unfold in a variety of ways. The severity of the disease, how often someone drinks, and the alcohol they consume varies from person to person. Some people drink heavily all day, while others binge drink and then stay sober for relatively-long periods of time. Regardless of how the addiction looks, someone who relies on drinking and can’t maintain their sobriety is most likely an alcoholic.
Substance abuse and gambling affect the reward, reinforcement, motivation, and memory systems of the brain. They are generally characterized by impaired control, changes in personality, and cravings that can disrupt everyday activities and relationships. These addictions can be particularly harmful to relationships and can impact job or school performance.
According to Psychology Today, the clinical diagnosis of an addiction is based on the existence of at least two of the following features:
The road to recovery from any addiction can feel like a rollercoaster ride. It is extremely common for someone to relapse. Not just once but multiple times. Thus, it is critical to recognize the desire to change. Should you or a loved-one relapse, don’t think of it as failure. Instead, get back on track and resume treatment as soon as possible.
For more information on mental health, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. Be sure to check out our podcast and feel free to comment below . We want to know what is on your mind.
A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no apparent cause or immediate danger. Panic attacks can be extremely frightening, and you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
Panic attacks may occur with or without a known trigger. According to the Mayo Clinic, many people have just one or two panic attacks in their lifetimes. But if your panic attacks are recurring and you are in constant fear of another attack, you may have a condition called panic disorder.
Although panic attacks themselves are not life-threatening, they can have a significant effect on your quality of life. In order to be diagnosed with a panic disorder, symptoms must not be related to substance use or another illness. If you have at least 4 (or more) of the following symptoms, you may have a panic disorder and should seek medical help.
Panic Disorder Signs and Symptoms
Living with anxiety and panic attacks is more common than you may think. According to the latest mental illness statistics, 40 million American adults have a panic disorder.
In 2014, professional soccer player David Beckham went public with his own struggle with panic attacks and said that playing with Legos calms him down when he is feeling anxious. Other celebrities including Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, and Nicole Kidman, have admitted to suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.
Mental health research has shown that people who have been diagnosed with panic disorder can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Treatment for Panic Disorders
Medications for panic disorders typically fall into two categories: antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
When first introduced in the 1950s, antidepressants were primarily used to treat mood disorders. However, today, these medications are known to effectively help reduce anxiety, lessen the symptoms of panic, and decrease the intensity and frequency of panic attacks.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Celexa, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft are frequently prescribed to treat panic disorders, anxiety, and panic attacks. This class of medication has been proven to decrease the frequency and intensity of panic attacks and can make a huge difference for a person who has become afraid of leaving the home or has difficulty engaging in other necessary activities.
Expert psychologists recommend that anyone who is struggling with an anxiety disorder try cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) as the first-line of treatment. One of the main goals of CBT is to develop coping skills by changing negative thinking patterns and unhealthy behaviors found in persons diagnosed with panic disorder.
Another popular treatment for panic disorder is panic-focused psychodynamic psychotherapy (PFPP). This form of therapy aims to uncover past experiences and emotional issues that may have influenced the person’s development of panic and anxiety. Psychotherapists believe that by coming to terms with emotional turmoil, the client can then overcome their issues with panic disorder.
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Managing Bipolar Disorder Individuals with bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, struggle with unusual mood swings, thinking, and behavior. Unfortunately, the treatment for bipolar is not “one-size fits all.”
Over the past 30 years, medication has proven to be successful in managing bipolar symptoms. Lithium, zyprexa, and Abilify are some of the most common medications used to manage bipolar symptoms. Speak to your doctor about which medication is right for you.
Anyone who has ever experienced the pitfalls of the ups and downs of mania and depression will likely agree that proper psychiatric care is vital to managing bipolar symptoms. Part of this care includes medication management.
Beyond medication, lifestyle choices can make a profound impact in managing bipolar. Intentional decisions around exercise, diet, and sleep are proven factors that greatly improve mental stability.
Medication paired with daily exercise, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and regular sleep can greatly boost the management of bipolar symptoms. On the flip side, stress can induce both mania and depression.
Those who are diagnosed as bipolar are either referred to as bipolar I indicating long periods of mania or depression - or bipolar II demonstrating rapid mood swings between mania and depression, and “mixed states.”
Symptoms of mania may include:
Symptoms of depression may include:
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, incorporating the following steps should help you feel better.
Daily exercise helps to improve mood. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout. Walking for just 30 minutes everyday can improve your bipolar symptoms. Exercise is a great stress reliever as it can work out tension. Stress can trigger both mania and depression, so managing stress helps to manage your bipolar symptoms.
Exercising daily can help you get out of a depressive slump. Exercise releases serotonin in your body. Serotonin is linked to happiness, and a positive outlook on life.
Exercise can also reduce excess energy levels. This can be helpful if your bipolar leans towards mania. A walk in the evening can help reduce excess energy and can help you fall a sleep faster. Just make sure you don’t exercise right before bedtime.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Though it is not scientifically proven, Omega 3 Fatty acids are generally agreed upon in the mental health community to stabilize moods.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in most fish such as tuna and salmon. You may find that eating less red meat, and more lean fish may help to stabilize your moods. Adding a fish oil tablet twice a day on top of eating a high Omega-3 diet can increase your mental stability that much more.
The importance of regular, and restful sleep can never be overstated. The National Sleep Association recommends that everyone get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep nightly. This is especially important if you are bipolar.
If you have trouble falling asleep, try putting away all electronic screens such as tv’s, computers, and mobile devices thirty minutes before bedtime. Electronic screens omit what is called “blue light.” This is an artificial UV light that can make it hard to fall asleep.
Try reading a book instead. Reading is a great tool to relax and calm your mind. Doing so can help you fall asleep faster, and get a more restful sleep.
Cut Back on Caffeine and Alcohol
Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake can also help with management of bipolar symptoms. Caffeine is a stimulant. Too much caffeine can trigger symptoms of mania. Alcohol is a depressant. Drinking too much can cause serious depression bouts that can be tough to get out of.
Try these suggestions along with your prescribed medication. If you find them helpful, or if you have any additional suggestions on how to better manage bipolar symptoms beyond medication - leave a comment below, and connect with us on Facebook.