Book Review:  Looking After Your Mental Health

Book Review:  Looking After Your Mental Health

This is the sort of book that I wish had been around when my children were younger. Looking After Your Mental Health is a great “how to” book for every young person. It is also the book every parent needs to start some of those difficult conversations.

The authors James & Stowell review almost every issue that has an impact on the mental health of young people. Written in “their” language, the chapters are short, the font is easy to read, and it is loaded in graphics and pictures. You don’t have to start at the beginning and progress through – just dip in and out as you see something that catches your eye or a topic of interest.

“Looking after Your Mental Health” starts at the beginning with “What is mental health?” A good question. We must talk about mental health more in general, but in particular with our children. Back in February 2016 the Independent published an article about the teenage mental health crisis and noted that the rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70% in the past 25 years.  It also cited a Girl Guides attitudes survey that found that mental health was one of the most pressing concerns, with 62% of those surveyed knowing a girl their age who has struggled with mental health problems.

Looking After Your Mental Health

Looking After Your Mental Health by Alice James& Louie Stowell

Chapters include subjects that have a huge impact on our young people – what happens in the minds, their bodies, and their feelings as they grow up. It talks about friends (and includes bullying), family (and all the different meanings that has today), sex and romance, the internet (and cyberbullying), difficult times and mental health problems. It touches on the actual mental health problems of depression and anxiety and touches on eating disorders (not a mental health problem, but a behaviour covering emotional pain). Of course, it includes some sound suggestions about finding help – talking to those closest to you for starters and a range of really useful and practical suggestions in its “Try This” sections. The glossary of terms in the back is useful to understand some of the jargon.

It does not cover a lot of actual mental health conditions (there is no mention of OCD, PTSD, acute stress disorder, phobias, psychosis, or self-harm (eating disorders’ sibling). There is no mention of contraception and safe sex (but it does talk about the emotional side of sex and saying “No”); nor of sexually transmitted diseases which may make it easier for children at the lower end of the recommended age range (9 – 18) to cope with. It does not mention the overlaying of mental health issues occurring with other conditions such as ADHD, Autism or chronic illnesses. But in not mentioning these it creates space for further discussion around the dinner table with the family.

I believe “Looking after Your Mental Health” is a really useful starter book with sound advice for some of the issues affecting our young people today. It is published by Usborne Books, so is available from your local friendly Usborne rep. If you don’t have one then please contact mine – Tracy Hickson – here.

Book Review:  Looking After Your Mental Health by Alice James & Louie Stowell, 2018, Usborne, London. ISBN

 

 

 

Book Review: Becoming Resilient – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to Transform Your Life

Book Review: Becoming Resilient – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to Transform Your Life

By Nimmi Hutnik (2017) Harper Element, India.

We have all heard about resilience, haven’t we? It is a fashionable word in both management speak and therapy circles. But the questions need to be asked – What is it, do I actually need it and if so how do I get more? In writing Becoming Resilient, these are the questions that Nimmi Hutnik answers with depression and anxiety as a foundation for self-treatment with cognitive behaviour therapy. Furthermore, she enables us to recognise and build our resilience to reduce the likelihood of the return of anxiety and depression enabling us to cope better going forward.

The book starts with clear explanations of what anxiety and depression are in Part One. It is possible to evaluate if you are clinically depressed and the severity of your depression from the questionnaires included. You will also be able to identify if you are suffering from anxiety, if it is an anxiety disorder and also which one – she describes seven anxiety disorders, split between danger disorders and coping disorders.

In Part Two Nimmi explains the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and illustrates them clearly with practical examples we can all relate to. She then details how to apply CBT as self-therapy to treat your own depression or anxiety. To benefit fully Nimmi reminds us the exercises need to be done well and practised regularly.

In Part Three, the book turns to sitting still (mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy), bouncing back (resilience) and springing forward (flourishing) to go beyond anxiety and depression. This part is a practical journey of discovery; you are given the means to take back the power, regain control and get yourself back on course. It is very important for the reader to realise that there is life beyond anxiety and depression, to the life we yearn for and that life is abundant, flourishing and obtainable.

Becoming Resilient by Nimmi Hutnik

Becoming resilient – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to Change Your Life by Nimmi Hutnik

Becoming Resilient is very practical. The explanations of depression and anxiety are clear and thorough; the language is easily understood and self-treatment using CBT is simply described in a logical progression. Once you have addressed your depression and/or anxiety you are able to take steps through transformation to a resilient and flourishing life.

Nimmi sums her book up by saying:

“This book is for ordinary people like you and me who suffer slightly elevated amounts of depression and anxiety, and other difficult emotions such as anger, jealousy, panic, shame and guilt. It will enable you to learn to deal with difficult moods, manage stress better and improve your relationships … it will enable you to develop an ability to become resilient, to flourish and to develop in a positive direction.”

I can certainly recommend it as a first stop, self-help manual for anxiety and depression – just remember to do the exercises well, practice them regularly and become resilient.

The book can be obtained here.

Hidden Wounds

Hidden Wounds

A couple of years ago my local community was rocked by an incident. It is neither my right nor my intention to comment on that incident. Suffice it to say that it had a much greater impact on two people who are much loved and respected by the majority of our community. The impact eventually lead them to bravely reaching out for help. Their wounds were hidden wounds. The ones we can’t see. Written on their minds and in their hearts in indelible ink. These are the sort of wounds we don’t talk about. They may cause a shadow in our eyes or the dulling of our face in conversation. They also cause a heaviness of heart, a drooping of the shoulders and a blunted will that is unable to do every day anything.

Lou says:

“Help for Heroes gave me my Dad back.”

When Louise became worried about her dad’s mental health, it started to affect her own wellbeing. She got in touch with our Hidden Wounds team, and it’s brought their family back together.

Lou and Norman share part of their story here.

If you have hidden wounds be encouraged, there is hope, there is help, you do need to ask for it. The Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds service can be contacted here.

React or Respond to a Challenge?

React or Respond to a Challenge?

We ALL face challenges in life, this is common to the human condition. Some of those challenges are greater than others. We may view barking our shin on a piece of furniture as a low-level challenge and being diagnosed with cancer as a very high-level challenge. What counts, and what makes the difference for us is whether we respond to a challenge or react to it. Let me explain.

Let’s use the barking of our shin on a piece of furniture as our example:

  • If I react to the pain in my shin I may swear, rub my shin, shove the offending piece of furniture away from me, yell at the children for moving the piece of furniture out of position, complain to everyone who will listen about the lump on my leg and how much it hurts, refer back to it often and give the children dark looks for the rest of the day.
  • If I respond to the pain in my shin I may rub it, cry “Ouch!” check my shin and realise it was only bruised, put the piece of furniture back into position, enquire if the children had moved it and discuss how the accident occurred, how it could have been much worse and ask them to ensure furniture is returned to its place whenever it is moved (even if accidentally). Then I’d get on with my day as it has been dealt with and no one else needs to know.

What happened when I responded to my bruised shin is I REFRAMED what had happened to a positive learning experience for the children. When I react negatively to something like this everyone is left feeling miserable, including myself.

Looking at the photo I have used for this post – when you climb to the top of the one pinnacle do you react by climbing down and complaining about it or do you respond by jumping the gap? We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control what we do about it.

Respond or React

Respond and jump, react and climb down. You choose.

A special friend of mine Sophie Personne, author of Your Other Half (a book about relationships I reviewed here) had a pretty awful year in 2017. Sophie has worked hard turning the negatives of 2017 into positives. She shares some great lessons in her talks and workshops and you can learn more here.

It doesn’t matter what challenges we face, we have the choice to react or respond. Which would you choose?

 

Worrying

Worrying

I received this post about worry the other day and thought you may appreciate it too. Worry is a form of anxiety.

“Worrying never got me anywhere before. So why should it now? There were many times when I could have died but didn’t. There were many times when I made plans, but they didn’t work out. And there were many times when I said to hell with it but things worked out anyway.

We think we have control, but our control is very limited. We can control our attitude and behavior to an extent, but we have far less control of outcomes. Of what other people will do, what nature will do, what opportunities will be available to us, etc.

Our insecurity comes from fear. Fear that our needs won’t be met. Fear that we don’t matter. Fear that things aren’t as we think they are. We’re insecure because we care. We’re insecure because we’re not able to let go and be present in the moment.

But how often do our fears come true? Not very often, right? Go with the odds. Odds are that the vast majority of your fears (me: worries or anxieties) won’t come true. And the ones that do, may not be as bad as you imagine them to be.

Allow one day’s problems to be enough. Worrying about tomorrow won’t make it better. And you might ruin your last day worrying about a day that’s not going to come. We should consider each day as possibly our last because one day it will be. Ask yourself: If today was my last day, what are some things I would want to do? And what are some things I should avoid?”

This last paragraph is a great one!

Acute Stress Disorder & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Following recent events (terror attacks in various places in the UK and around the world), it is pertinent to discuss the subjects of Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  These two conditions fit under the banner of anxiety disorders.

What is ANXIETY?

*       A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome

*       A nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

*       People may say “She suffered from anxiety attacks” or “He felt a surge of anxiety”

*       Rhyming slang – Joe Blakes

*       There are 5 groupings of anxiety disorders:

  • Panic disorder/attacks
  • Phobias – agoraphobia, social phobia, specific
  • GAD – generalized anxiety disorder
  • OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Acute stress disorder and PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder

Common Symptoms of ASD and PTSD

*       Both can develop after a distressing, traumatic or catastrophic event

*       Event may involve actual or threatened or serious abuse (sexual or physical or emotional)

*       It may involve witnessing such an event

*       Learning that such an event has happened to a family member or close friend may also be a trigger event

*       Re-experience the trauma – recurrent dreams, flashbacks and intrusive memories

*       Anxiety in situations that bring back memories of the trauma

*       Avoidance behavior (of anything associated with the event)

*       Emotional numbing (for months or years)

*       Reduced interest in others and the outside world

* Persistently increased arousal (watchfulness, irritability, jumpiness/easily startled, outbursts of rage, insomnia

In particular to ASD:

*       The anxiety symptoms/reaction begin to fade

*       The person resumes their normal activities within about a month

In particular to PTSD

*       Symptoms continue longer and impact daily life

*       Diagnosis possible 2 months after the event

*       1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women develop PTSD after a traumatic event

 What to do to help yourself

*       If symptoms persist go to your GP

*       If it helps to talk, then talk about it (to anyone and everyone). If no one is listening you can also try writing it all down – what happened and how you feel about it. Some people find enormous relief in burning what they have written when they feel ready to let it go.

*       In Hampshire, UK we have a free self-referral psychological therapy service called i-talk – http://www.italk.org.uk/ or phone 02380383892

*       If you can afford it get counseling privately

*       If your company has an EAP (employee assistance program) – contact them for help and support

*       Do something, anything to help yourself #changeonething How about checking out the websites on the links below?

What to do to help others including children

*       Let them talk if they want to. Do not force the affected person to talk, if they do not want to – that could re-traumatize them

*       Remember that what they are experiencing is very real to them (even if to you it sounds absurd or even ridiculous). Never brush off or belittle their experiences.

*       Encourage them to get help – offer to take them to their GP

*       Reassure them that they are okay and safe and that what they are experiencing is natural under the circumstances of the trauma

*       There are a lot more suggestions in this article from an American site but the information is really useful:

 

Trauma is devastating at the time, but there is life after trauma, after acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and effort to work through or overcome the impact of trauma, but there is always hope and life does return to “normal” in time.

 

For more information on mental health awareness and training please do contact me.

What is DEPRESSION?

What is DEPRESSION?

We all have mental health and there is no health without mental health. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week 2017, I have presented a series of articles covering a variety of mental health subjects to increase our knowledge.  These have so far covered:

  1. What is Mental Health?”
  2. The Impact of Mental Ill-Health
  3. When is a mental health problem a problem
  4. Balancing the Risks around Mental Ill Health
  5. Stress
  6. Anxiety

The final article in the series, this one, looks at depression.  We may all have a down day, but what is depression and how do I gauge that this is a down day (or few days) and that is depression? Do remember the third article in the series about “When is a problem a problem? (Answer: When it’s a problem).

Thoughts and reading around depression have led me to a formula:

S + A + T = D

In this formula, S is stress, A = anxiety, T = time and D = depression. If we live with stress we can develop anxiety and over a period of time, these can turn into depression. As a rule of thumb, depression is identified when we have suffered the symptoms for at least two weeks. The symptoms to look for include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Numbness, a lack of feeling
  • Mood swings, anger to complacency
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Affects ability to study, concentrate and enjoy relationships/ socializing
  • Global thinking, for example, everything is always against me or I am always wrong
  • Anxiety and guilt
  • Loss of libido
  • Self-criticism, pessimism
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Fatigue and sleep issues (insomnia, poor quality of sleep or sleeping too much)
  • Appetite issues (either undereating or overeating)

Depression affects up to 10% of people in England in their lifetime. It can re-occur, if you have been depressed once you can go back there (but as you are more aware of it should be able to get help sooner). Depression can co-occur with other health and mental health issues. As an example, it is probably not a surprise to realize that someone diagnosed with a long-term chronic medical condition (let’s say fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome or cystic fibrosis) may also become depressed. Or a person diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder may go on to develop depression also.

Depression in the Workplace

 Depression in the workplace may be challenging to recognize but the cost to the individual, the company, and the economy is significant. 1 in 6 employees may have enough symptoms to be diagnosed with a mental health condition at any one time. Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly recognized mental health issues at work. The HR specialists tell me that a middle manager being signed off due to a mental health issue may cost the company in excess of £30 000.

Depression in the workplace may present as a combination of all or some of the following:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Morale problems
  • Lack of co-operation
  • Safety problems (risk-taking behavior including driving at speed and not using PPE)
  • Timekeeping issues
  • Absenteeism – call in sick when not
  • Presenteeism – going to work when ill, or being there but not actually doing work
  • Frequent complaints of being tired all the time
  • Alcohol and/or other drug use

It goes without being said, but I’ll say it anyway, that if the symptoms described affect you perhaps it is time to write them down and go for a chat with your GP.