Monthly Archives: February 2015

8 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

by: Brigitt Hauck Feb 03, 2015

When your mood is falling as fast as the thermometer, these small lifestyle changes may help boost your spirits

1. Make your environment brighter.When your body is craving more daylight,sitting next to an artificial light—also called a light box—for 30 minutes per day can be as effective as antidepressant medication. Opening blinds and curtains, trimming back tree branches, and sitting closer to windows can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.

2. Eat smarter. Certain foods, like chocolate, can help to enhance your mood and relieve anxiety. Other foods, like candy and carbohydrates provide temporary feelings of euphoria, but could ultimately increase feelings of anxiety and depression.

3. Simulate dawn. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression that usually begins in late fall or early winter and fades as the weather improves, may feel depressed, irritable, lethargic, and have trouble waking up in the morning—especially when it’s still dark out. Studies show that a dawn simulator, a device that causes the lights in your bedroom to gradually brighten over a set period of time, can serve as an antidepressant and make it easier to get out of bed.

4. Exercise. A 2005 study from Harvard University suggests walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week improved symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Exercising under bright lights may be even better for seasonal depression: A preliminary study found that exercise under bright light improved general mental health, social functioning, depressive symptoms, and vitality, while exercise in ordinary light improved vitality only. Try these mood boosting workouts.

5. Turn on the tunes. In a 2013 study, researchers showed that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improved participant’s mood in both the short and long term.

6. Plan a vacation. Longing for sunnier days at the beach?Research shows that the simple act of planning a vacation causes a significant increase in overall happiness.

7. Help others. Ladling out soup at the local shelter or volunteeringyour time can improve mental health and life satisfaction.

8. Get outside. Talking yourself into taking a walk when the temperatures plummet isn’t easy, but the benefits are big: Spending time outside (even when it’s chilly!) can improve focus, reduce symptoms of SAD, and lower stress levels.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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How to Love a Girl Who Doesn’t Know How to Be Loved

 

Whether we know it or not, we’ve all met some form of the typical “Miss Independent.”

Some of us know her better than others; some of us claim that title ourselves.

She’s the self-sufficient, somewhat mysterious go-getter with big dreams and an even bigger heart, though not everyone sees it at first glance.

Some might see her as cold and distant, because she needs a significant amount of alone time to keep her from feeling scattered and spread so thin that she disappears. Sure, she has family and friends with whom she loves to spend much of her time, but it’s in her nature to crave those precious hours of solitude—being only with her thoughts, completely alone in a crowd or in the vastness of a quiet scene.

Some call it antisocial; she calls it sanity.

For any or all of these reasons and then some, she’s never been the type to “fall in love.” In fact, if she has ever been in a relationship to any degree, it was likely one of the most difficult and confusing things she’s ever experienced—and she’s not usually one to be deterred.

Perhaps she’s too focused on her goals to realize that love could be knocking on her door, or she’s so comfortable with being in control that the thought of surrendering even a little bit to someone else makes her uneasy. There’s also a chance that, despite her outward confidence and undeniable potential for success, she’s extremely insecure.

Or, maybe she’s simply afraid of opening herself up enough to be loved.

Whatever the reason, it comes down to the fact that this girl probably doesn’t know how to handle the love that a suitor might want to give her. It doesn’t mean she’s a lost cause, it just means that developing any kind of relationship with her will require an approach that’s more sensitive to her guarded heart.

In an effort to offer some insight, here are a few pointers for learning how to love a girl who doesn’t know how to be loved:

  1. Be patient.

Don’t expect her to feel comfortable with diving headfirst into anything even slightly resembling romance. Keep in mind, it’s probably taken her a great deal of contemplation and courage to even consider spending her time with you. And if she does appear comfortable responding to your first moves, it’s quite possible that she’s actually terrified of what you’ll think of her if she asks to slow things down. So, she just musters the strength to submit herself to the moment, only to spend all night feeling horrible about her dishonesty and inability to step on the brakes. This will freak her out enough to make her sever whatever ties were made and withdraw immediately—something she’s not afraid to do.

To avoid that, let things unfold at a pace that feels natural, which might be slower than what’s considered “normal.” Remember, she’s not used to this, and too much at once will surely send her over the edge. Showing sensitivity to her pace will let her know that she doesn’t have to fear being out of control, causing a miscommunication or feeling the pressure of time.

  1. Talk.

Because she spends so much of her time alone and in her head, this girl might be under the impression that her thoughts and opinions are a bit too intense for others. She rarely shares the things on her mind, as she fears that whatever’s in there is so deep and inquisitive that people will think it’s overdramatic, oddly philosophical or just plain weird. She values deep conversation, but feels that she can exercise this pleasure with relatively few people, if any at all.

So talk with her. Let her know that she can say what’s on her mind, and don’t be afraid of her ability to dissect every possible meaning of a theory she’s been hung up on for weeks. If she apologizes for rambling about it, tell her she doesn’t need to be sorry, she doesn’t need to suppress it. Make her feel that although she is certainly unique for having such thoughts, she isn’t crazy or abnormal.

Tell her it makes her all the more beautiful.

And then, give it right back to her. Be sure to engage in her contemplations just as much as you listen; she wants to hear your thoughts more than you realize.

 

  1. Support her.

Part of this girl’s struggle with letting herself be loved could be that she is relentlessly focused on her dreams and goals, so much so that she forgets to make room in her life for other things—like relationships. It’s not something she does intentionally, she’s just extremely determined to achieve whatever she has set out to do.

If she is forced to make a choice between a love life and her goals, she’s already chosen the latter. So don’t make her choose.

And certainly don’t make her feel guilty for not spending more of her time with you as a result—she’ll take that as another sign that she needs to sever the ties, even if they’re stronger at this point.

Instead, support her. If you really love this girl and she really loves you, then she’ll welcome the encouragement. She’ll want to support you, too. Let her; with a heart as passionate as hers, you’ll want her on your team.

  1. Don’t be two halves of a whole, be two wholes that make an even greater whole.

Remember that this “Miss Independent” is just that—an independent chick with an ability to fend for herself. She might even be afraid of relying on others, no matter how much she trusts them.

Therefore, don’t think of a relationship with her as one that joins two halves together to make a whole; she won’t treat it as such, and she definitely won’t feel comfortable if you do. Rather, see it as two wholes becoming an even greater whole—two individuals who love each other enough to respect the other’s independence and uniqueness.

This includes honoring her need for alone time. She realizes that you are a person with or without her and asks that you see her in the same way. Being able to spend time apart is important to her; she doesn’t want to rely on your presence, nor does she want you to rely on hers.

Don’t try to spend every hour of every day with her unless you want her to feel so bombarded that she tailspins into a mess of tears, word vomit and utter confusion, ending with her breaking it off and swearing to never interact with another human ever again.

But when you are together, be together. Completely. Let her know she is loved until she begins to understand what that feels like, and then keep doing it. If it’s right, she’ll come around. And because she’s loyal by nature, she’ll stickaround, too (so don’t give her any reason to think that you won’t).

Truly, this girl has a lot of love to give, even if she’s a bit awkward in showing it at first. She just needs time—time to figure things out for herself, to better understand how this works.

Let her figure out that deep down, she just wants to love and be loved—just like everyone else.

If she happens to let you close enough to love her, take it seriously. It means she’s trying. It means she wants to love you. And remember that helping her learn how to be loved in return is the surest way to win her heart.

Alone on Valentines Day

Are you going to be alone on Valentine’s Day? There are many reasons why you may find yourself alone; if you suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD) it may be due to fear about approaching potential romantic partners. Whatever your reason for being alone, below are some tips to help you cope.

Forego Valentine’s Day

There is no reason why you need to acknowledge or celebrate Valentine’s Day. Don’t let advertising, store displays, or stories of others make you feel bad. February 14th is just another day of the year, and there is no reason why you can’t treat it that way.

Treat Yourself

Instead of ignoring Valentine’s Day, decide to make it a day for yourself. Take the day off work, sleep late, eat your favorite foods, and engage in hobbies that you enjoy.

Send Yourself Flowers

If you are feeling really down about being alone on Valentine’s Day, why not send yourself flowers or chocolates to your place of work? Your coworkers will wonder about your secret admirer, and you will receive a gift chosen by the person who knows you best.

Avoid Love Triggers

If you are upset about being alone on Valentine’s Day, avoid watching romantic movies and listening to love songs. People with SAD are prone to depression, and these types of activities are sure to bring on the love blues.

Make Other Plans

Plan a day revolving around a recreational activity or a theatrical/musical event unrelated to Valentine’s Day. Invite a friend or family member. Having plans to do something concrete will help to take your mind off the fact that you are single.

Night Out with Single Friends

If you have single friends, plan a night out as a group. Being in the company of others in the same situation will help to ease your loneliness. Just be sure to keep the night upbeat.

Reach Out to Someone

Take the opportunity to reach out to someone that you haven’t spoken to in a while. That person might be a romantic interest, a friend, or a family member. You never know who might also be feeling lonely on Valentine’s Day.

Brighten Someone Else’s Day

Do you know someone who has recently lost a signficant other? Perhaps your neighbor is recently widowed. A small gift on Valentine’s Day would mean a lot to her and would make you feel good as well.

Go About Your Business

One of the best ways to deal with being alone on Valentine’s Day is to go about your daily routine. Work, go to the gym, catch up on emails; anything that will make it seem like just another day of the year.

Play Cupid

How would you feel if you received a gift from a secret admirer? Why not anonymously send a gift to someone in the same position as you? This doesn’t need to be someone in whom you have romantic interest; simply someone whom you want to see smile.

Valentine’s Day can be wonderful if you are in a relationship, but difficult if you find yourself alone. If social anxiety is preventing you from dating or maintaining romantic relationships, and you haven’t been diagnosed with SAD, if may be time to talk to your doctor. link to article

Mental Health 101: Developing Coping Strategies

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Coping with symptoms of mental illness can be a daily struggle for the mentally ill. Each person develops his or her own strategies to cope with these painful experiences. These strategies can be as unique to each person as people can make them. What works for you to battle your mental illness symptoms might not work for me, and vice versa.

We learn these coping strategies over time in the crucible of our illness and the ways in which we gain insight into our symptoms and how they uniquely affect us. That’s why it’s not very helpful to say to a mentally ill person struggling with their symptoms, “Just do this,” or “Just do that.”

What Works for You Might Not Work For Me

Don’t get me wrong. I definitely want to know your coping strategies, because they just might work for me too. But unfortunately, they may not.  The problem comes when we minimize other peoples’ suffering by making a “cookie-cutter” declaration that our coping strategies will work for everyone.

They won’t, and it can engender feelings of inadequacy which can exacerbate the pain we feel. This would be the last thing we’d want a suffering person to experience. So please know, the following are only suggestions to try and help you get started, if you haven’t already.

Put Together a Utility Belt

If you’re familiar with Batman, you know he wears a utility belt. This utility belt is full of little gadgets and weapons which he uses when he fights the bad guys. Batman has supreme confidence in his utility belt, because it’s worked for him in the past.

Developing coping strategies is one of the foundations of mental health. Try these mental illness coping skills and see if they work for you.

The idea here is to establish a collection of coping strategies you know have already worked well for you. Have them at the ready so when depression,anxiety, and other bad guys come knocking, you’re ready to fight. Here are a few examples of items you could place in your utility belt. The utility belt is also commonly referred to as a wellness toolbox.

Find Someone you Trust

This can be an important coping strategy for folks with mental illness. Most of us know that many mentally ill people are terribly isolated. Many literally have no human interaction beyond common niceties. They just don’t feel safe among others.

Although this isolation would be considered a negative coping strategy, such as drinking or drugs, you are where you are. At the same time, perhaps you could set realistic goals for yourself to become less isolated. This is important because having another person who knows and cares about you can be invaluable.

Identify your Negative Strategies and Replace them with Positive Ones

We all have coping strategies already, or we probably wouldn’t be alive. But some of those strategies are negative for us because they don’t contribute to our wellness, and sometimes they can make things worse.

Even Some Positive Coping Strategies Can Be Damaging

For example, I really enjoy listening to hard, driving rock and roll music. Did I say loud? Since music is one of the most effective of my strategies, I often retreat to listen to my tunes. It’s definitely a positive strategy for me.

Coping strategies are essential in mental health recovery.

However, since I have an anger management issue as part of combat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I discovered that when I was angry my beloved music would sometimes make me feel angrier. This is because in that musical genre the songs are frequently anger based. They also can replicate the physical attributes of anger, such as making your heart beat faster. Since I definitely don’t need help feeling angry, I stopped doing that as a coping strategy for anger. I still listen, just not when I’m angry. It’s important when you identify a negative coping strategy to not just get rid of it, but replace it with a positive one.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Prepare an Affirmation Portfolio

Write down several affirmations you find particularly helpful to you when you are down. Things such as, “I am a good human being, worthy of respect and love.” When you encounter a period of stress or a flare up of symptoms, pull out your affirmation portfolio and use the affirmations to help you get centered on healthy thoughts about yourself and the world around.

These are but a few of a multitude of different coping strategies. If they work for you, great. If not, that’s fine too. Just develop ones that you find beneficial in helping you cope. link to article

Romantic Relationships and Mental Illness: Three Reasons Why It’s Hard!

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Three. Three? I am currently asking myself this. Perhaps 100 reasons is more realistic? That sounds about right but that would be like reading a bad romance novel. That said, I want to focus on three of the biggest reasons and all of these connect to the smaller ones–like a web of very bad dates. Sarcasm aside, it’s a serious issue and let’s explore it as such.

Why Are Relationships Difficult When You Live With a mental Illness?

Oh, dear! I must stop myself before I launch into a horrid story of my less than stellar choice of partners. I think they would say the same about me. When I am depressed I am not fun. I do not laugh. Everyone, including the pets and dust on the table, pisses me off. It takes a, well, veryunique person to hang on for the ride.

Enough about me, let’s focus on three reasons why it’s hard to be in a romantic relationship.

>Confidence! Lack of confidence (unless you are in a manic state in which you are probably certain everyone loves you.) For those of us who are not in a meaningful relationship, we may feel like we don’t deserve love. We might feel certain that once a person really gets to know us they will leave. As a result, we fear abandonment and this may lead to isolation. The entire thing becomes messy and, quite frankly, terribly sad.

>Fear of Disclosing Our Illness. Sometimes, we feel having a mental illness is something we should hide. Of course we do not tell everyone. You don’t shake a person’s hand and state, for example: “Hi! I’m Natalie and I have Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, a history of substance abuse problems, disordered eating and some other things, want to go to the movies?” You get the ridiculous drift.

When we first meet someone special, as time progresses, we begin to feel the need to tell them. Because we really do. But this isn’t easy; it’s like putting our heart on the line, hoping it won’t get smashed.  The fear connected to sharing that part of us and the impact it has on our lives is hard. We might rather watch reality TV alone to avoid it (AKA me).

>Fear of the Future. Everyone grapples with the future: we wonder what it will look like, if we’ll be happy, have 2.5 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. Maybe a mortgage paid off. It’s different when you live with a mental illness. The future can be scary. We often cannot predict how we will be feeling–our level of stability and functioning. Adding in another person, someone we can see a future with, can be scary! It brings us back to fear of disclosing our illness.

Looking On The Bright Side. . .We All Have ‘Skeletons in The Closet’

Or, you know, five bottles of pills under the sink. Bad jokes aside, it’s absolutely true! Everyone goes through pain in their lives, all of our experiences are unique, but pain and struggle is a shared experience. Call me altruistic (unfortunately, I’m not) but I really believe this.

If we can step outside of our lives, our illness, we begin to see that the world isn’t cruel just to us. We all fall from time to time and so when we fear romantic relationships try to remember that you are not damaged, you are just human and deserving of love. link to article

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