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Mental Health: 4 Steps to Recovery

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This post was written by Katie Arbre and was originally posted here.

The road to recovery is never straight, nor is it simple. You don’t get a map or a road sign and most people walk it completely alone. But, fear not moi amis! I left a breadcrumb trail.

Just follow my personal steps towards a happy, stable you…

Step 1- Recognition.
Step 2- Understand your illness.
Step 3- Learn your triggers.
Step 4- Introduce healthy changes at your own pace.

1) Recognition:

“I have a mental illness.”

If you read my blog, you’ll know that I recently came to terms with having an eating disorder. I’ve always known there was something wrong with my eating habits but I did not face the fact that it was down to an eating disorder. Now that I’ve accepted it, I can move on and get healthy. The same can be said for my self-harm. I ignored the issue for such a long time, it made it all the more difficult to stop. But now, I’ve moved on and progressed greatly. The biggest step you can take is to recognise that you are unwell and then decide that you want to recover.

No one is going to save you, you must decide  to save yourself. You should  start by telling a friend about your mental state, or a relative or even just say it aloud to yourself. But, by acknowledging the issue, you are much closer to solving it.

2) Understand Your Illness:

Of course, researching is the next step. You can only start thinking about recovery once you understand what it is you are recovering from. My boyfriend and I read through many self-harm sites. Frankie couldn’t understand how I could do that to myself and I needed to see that I wasn’t crazy or completely alone. We found a lot of useful information on Mind– the mental health charity. I learned that I self-harmed because I had low self-esteem and by doing it, I no longer felt numb. Frankie learned that people deal with feelings in different ways, I have always been a very closed person and I don’t convey emotion well. Self-harm was my way of dealing with that, it meant I didn’t have to face what I was feeling. I just felt I had no other option, I would rather hurt in that way than be hurt by others. And I’m still learning a lot about my eating disorder, I’m currently researching healthy foods and how to actuallycook them…
It’s a whole new world for me, I used to live on shortbread biscuits.

3) Learn Your Triggers:

Unfortunately, you can’t just stop having a mental illness. It’s not that simple. And I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about the origin of mental illnesses. But after digging in my brain, I got as deep as developing one due to low self esteem in terms of my appearance… Now, I try not to think about appearance in such an ‘all or nothing’ way. I’m not defined by how I look, I shouldn’t let it dominate my life. I much prefer my world now where appearance doesn’t matter. It’s helped me see the world in a whole new light- Beauty is everywhere! If you feel you can’t dig deep for answers, you can instead learn what triggers you. Find out what ‘sets you off ‘ and affects your mood. For instance, if I don’t eat, I get moody and upset over the tiniest things. And if I don’t exercise, I get angry and irritable. It builds up throughout the day, my hands can get restless and I find myself wanting to self-harm. But, I can fix this… with exercise!

There’s a great Mental Health App you can download called Pacifica. It’s designed to monitor Anxiety, but I have found it helps keep track of everything. I was looking for an app like Pacifica back when I was recovering from self-harm. You can record your mood, from feeling great to feeling awful and add a couple of keywords- this is good for looking back on e.g. I only felt ‘okay’ on this day because I was stressed. You can also record how much you drank, slept, exercised, spent outdoors and whether or not you ate well. I like doing this because it makes me so much more aware of what I’m doing and how it affects my mental state. I can see that when I feel stressed, I eat junk food and don’t exercise. I don’t feel good so I eat comfort food as a quick ‘happy’ fix but ultimately it makes me feel worse… the sugar crash, toxins, synthetic hormones and what-not. Some Health Apps can be quite daunting, the idea of getting my health on track is scary, it’s an arduous commitment. But, Pacifica lets you take it at your own pace. By learning what triggers me, I now know that sometimes I just have to eat something, rest or exercise and I will feel 10 times better.

4) Introduce Healthy Changes:

Little by little, start changing your lifestyle. Drink more water, eat healthier, grow stronger. Cut out toxins and processed foods (something I’m attempting at the moment). Be kinder to yourself with daily positive affirmations- not criticising yourself every morning can truly change your day. Negative thoughts are really ugly, so don’t inflict them upon yourself or anyone else for that matter. Look around you, appreciate Earth! Cut down on technology. Go to bed early, wake up early. Mix up your routine, try something different. Just please don’t you ever give up on yourself!

As my brother always says: “There’s so much more to life than what you see here. Go out and try it.”

Yes, you will have a few difficult, stormy days, but they will pass and you will carry on. Your ultimate destination: Wholesomeness. (Not to be confused with awesomeness. Although yes, you will also be awesome.)

Good Luck!

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts.

& I recently got to 1K on Bloglovin! Thanks so much for following Our Wolf Song 🙂

5 Diet Tips for Anxiety

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Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, or remain focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one cope with the tasks and demands of everyday life. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it can become a disabling disorder. Fortunately, effective treatments for anxiety disorders are available that can help most people with anxiety disorders lead productive and fulfilling lives. However, studies have shown that having a healthy diet may reduce signs and symptoms of anxiety. Although food can’t cure an anxiety disorder, consider some diet changes and that would benefit a severely anxious person:

Avoid or limit caffeine intake as much as possible. Caffeine is present in many soft drinks, not just in tea and coffee and it can set up its own vicious cycle. It can speed up heart rate and disrupt sleep – which later on become prevailing signs of anxiety. Trying to overcome tiredness by drinking more caffeine only makes the long-term problem worse.

Avoid too much alcohol. Similarly, alcohol can worsen the symptoms of anxiety, and disrupt sleep. Many people reach for a drink to calm their nerves, but the consequences of overindulgence can outweigh the benefits of initial relaxation. For some, a hangover, insomnia, and dehydration make one feel worse than before one had a drink. In excessive amounts, alcohol can actually act as a depressant, making the drinker feel sluggish or more anxious. Alcohol, like a simple sugar, is rapidly absorbed by the body. Like other sugars, alcohol increases hypoglycemia symptoms. It also causes mood swings.

Eat complex carbohydrates, also known as carbs. During anxious times, turn to comforting carbs. These foods act as a mild tranquilizer by increasing the amount of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Complex carbs such as potatoes, wholewheat bread, and pasta take longer to digest than sugary simple carbs like white bread. That way, one can stay fuller longer and blood sugar is likely to stay steady, eliminating stress and anxiety.

Be sure to drink eight or more glasses of water a day. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches and stress. One should be well-hydrated and drinking lots of water a day can decrease symptoms of anxiety.

Take multivitamins and mineral supplements. B vitamins, whose role is to unlock the energy in food, are crucial. Vitamin B-6 helps manufacture serotonin in the brain. Choose a daily supplement that supplies 100 per cent of the daily recommendation of all vitamins and minerals.

Although tension and daily stresses are unavoidable, one can relieve tension and manage stress and anxiety better by watching out for what one eats and what one does not eat. Remember that a healthy body and a healthy mind are often one and the same thing.

Get Pacifica today on iOS or Android.

Anxiety Attacks Explained – It’s Just Your Body

Anxiety Attack Explained

Anxiety or panic attacks are sudden periods of intense anxiety, fear, and discomfort. While these attacks might seem to happen for no reason, they’re actually the body’s response to what it perceives as the need for “fight or flight”. The attacks usually last about ten minutes, but can be as short as one minute. In severe cases, these attacks can happen in cycles. These cycles may last for extended periods. These cycles can cause “anticipation” anxiety between episodes.

Physical symptoms of anxiety attacks generally include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and sweating. Tingling and numbness in the extremities, dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches and nausea are also commonly experienced. These may appear to be random, but they’re actually the result of the body’s preparations for protection.

The anxiety attack is brought on by a sudden onset of fear. In response, the body releases adrenaline followed by increases in the heart and breathing rate and production of sweat (to regulate body temperature). These actions prepare the body for the physical activities of fighting or escaping. Because the anticipated strenuous activity rarely follows the panic attack, these reactions result in physical discomfort.

The increased heart rate is felt as heart palpitations. Rapid breathing (hyperventilation) results in a drop in carbon dioxide levels in the lungs and blood. This leads to the tingling, numbness, dizziness and lightheadedness. The adrenaline causes a narrowing of the blood vessels which results in less blood flow to the head. This also contributes to the lightheadedness and headaches.

Get Pacifica today on iOS or Android.

Managing My Anxiety with Pacifica

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This post was written by Alyson Shane and was originally posted here.

Many of you know that over the past while I’ve been trying to take positive steps to start tackling the stress and anxiety that I deal with in my day-to-day life. Part of that has been creating positive dialogues by sharing my experiences, and recently it’s involved using an app called Pacifica.

I’d never really considered using an app to manage my anxiety, but after John mentioned it and sent me a link to their webpage, I figured “why not?” Since then I’ve been using it daily and have really been noticing a change in my mood and my anxiety levels.

Basically the app provides you with tools to work on mindfulness and to track your moods and activities over time, which attempts to paint a picture of the kinds of behaviors that can increase or decrease anxiety and stress.

There are five daily tasks: Mood, Relax, Thoughts, Experiments, and Health, though when you use the free version (like me, I’m cheap) you only get access to three a day. Honestly though this is more than enough.

There are two things about this app that I liked enough to sit down and write a review, one of which is the little push notification. Usually I hate them, but there’s something sort of soothing to look down at your phone and see a message that says “how are you feeling?” – even when I know it’s coming from an app, it makes me stop and think.

This also works well because once I see the push notification I go right into the app and input my Mood, which means that I don’t just use it when I’m feeling good or bad, which would skew my ability to figure out if I’m making progress.

The other is the Thoughts feature. I used this for the first time the other day after a particularly stressful experience.

Basically the feature has you record your thoughts out loud, then it plays the recording back to you and asks you to identify positive and negative statements.

When you identify a negative statement, it displays leading questions which force you to think about why you felt that way, and why you expressed it the way that you did.

Once you’ve listened to it once (or more times if you need) the app has you re-record your thoughts on the issue: was it as bad as you thought? How could you change your thinking patterns moving forward? etc.

I really struggle to do this in the moment and while it was a bit weird to talk out loud when nobody else was around, hearing myself played back and thinking critically about the statements that I heard myself making really, really helped.

The app does other stuff, too, like helping you track how much you sleep, how well you ate, how much exercise you got, etc, but this was the most influential tool that I’ve used so far.

I really find that managing my day-to-day stress and anxiety levels can be a challenge, and having an app has really helped me be more mindful of my choices and it’s helpful to go back to a particular day and be able to say “yeah, I handled that really well” or “I could have done better, what can I improve on?” and see that progress over time.

What about you – do you have any app recommendations for managing anxiety? I’d love to hear them! 

Getting Help For A Friend Struggling With Anxiety

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Getting help for a friend who struggles with fear and anxiety can be tricky. He or she may be reluctant to get help or they may be scared. This is the time that your friend needs you the most. With this in mind, here are some suggestions on how a person can help his or her friend with their anxiety.

The first step a person should do is to convince their friend to get professional help. Explain to them that they must decide to get the help they need to overcome their anxiety. Nobody can do it for them. Explain to them that seeing a professional will really help them in the long run and that it is in their best interest to get this help.

Remind them that is hope and there are solutions to their anxiety problems if they seek treatment. There is nothing wrong in asking for help. Try to convince your friend that there are ways to manage your persistent anxieties and fears, however they must make the effort to learn these techniques.

When your friend is struggling, be there for him or her. Be supportive of your friend and try to help him out during his struggles. Dealing with fear and anxiety can be tough so give your friend a break when he struggles with his fears and anxieties.

One technique that you can use is to learn from your fearful and anxious situations. In every stressful situation that you experience, begin to learn what works and what you can do to improve. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to take a stroll around your local park. The next time you feel anxious you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking a short walk.

Taking advantage of the help that is available can go a long way in managing your fears and anxieties. When you are with your friend, you need to remind him or her of this fact.

Get Pacifica today on iOS or Android.

5 Natural Anxiety Tips

Natural Anxiety Tips

Nobody enjoys persisting anxiety problems. From the physical symptoms to the mental fatigue, it’s important to remember that anxiety is highly treatable. Here are five natural anxiety tips to help you.

Diet
When we eat a balanced diet, our bodies tend to function better. First, try to get enough iron, potassium, selenium, and chromium. These have been shown to affect anxiety. Moreover, try to eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts. On the flip side, avoid refined sugar, soft drinks, alcohol, coffee, and anything else that has caffeine like tea, coffee, or chocolate. Caffeine is a major trigger for many anxiety sufferers.
You can use the HEALTH tool within Pacifica to help.

Exercise
Regular exercise will help your body to relax and relieve it from stress. Exercising helps produce endorphins (i.e. that’s why you feel better after you exercise). Try exercising 30 minutes a day.
You can use the HEALTH tool within Pacifica to help.

Relax
When you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to take a moment to pause. Try listening to music, talking to a friend, working on a crossword puzzle, reading a book, taking a walk, taking a nap or painting a picture. Doing things that you enjoy will definitely help to alleviate stress.
You can use the RELAX tool within Pacifica to help.

Sleep
If you are stressed and suffering from anxiety as a result, try to get some deep and proper sleep. Sleep is a natural relaxer and sleeping will definitely help when you are suffering from anxiety.
You can use the HEALTH tool within Pacifica to help.

Negativity
How we think determines how we perceive the world. Try and avoid developing negative feelings (easier said than done). Such feelings can only spoil your day.
You can use the THOUGHTS tool within Pacifica to help.

Get Pacifica today on iOS or Android.

Panic Attacks: The Facts & The Symptoms

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There are many symptoms that can be associated with an anxiety disorder. Some of the most common symptoms include fatigue, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, stomach pains, shortness of breath, and headaches. With anxiety, the body goes into a preparation mode to deal with the problem. You will find that your heart rate and blood pressure increase. You may start sweating more. Blood flow will be increased to the major muscles in your body. Your immune and digestive systems will stop functioning properly. Some of the outward signs of anxiety can include skin that is pale, sweating, trembling, pupils that are dilated. If someone is suffering from the effects of anxiety, they may have an overwhelming sense of panic or dread.

Panic attacks are a symptom that is seen quite frequently in those that suffer from anxiety. They come on suddenly, often without warning. The fear that is associated with a panic attack is most often irrational. That being said, it is also true that the fear and perceived danger that the person suffering the attack has is very real. A person that is suffering an attack often feels like they are going to pass out or die. Often, these attacks are mistaken for heart attacks.

There are many emotional symptoms that go hand in hand with the physical symptoms of anxiety. Sufferers may experience feelings of dread or apprehension. They may have difficulty concentrating. They may be very tense and jumpy. They may be irritable, anticipate the worst, be restless, constantly watch and wait for signs of danger, and may often feel like their mind is empty and blank. Many people that are suffering the effects of anxiety will have nightmares, obsess about sensations that they feel, feel like they are trapped in their mind, and fear everything.

Get Pacifica today on iOS or Android.

Introducing Pacifica: Daily Tools for Stress & Anxiety Based on CBT

Available today, both the Pacifica iOS app and the Pacifica Android app offer daily tools to help those with stress and anxiety. Based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a well-researched technique for helping people understand the relationship between their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, Pacifica is comprised of quick, immersive tools that are designed to fit into our daily lives.

“Pacifica puts powerful therapy tools into the hands of consumers and guides them through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in a thoughtful way. It is a beautiful, user-friendly app that will hopefully make a big difference in the lives of many people,” said Christine Moberg, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University School of Medicine. “It represents an important step forward for psychotherapy. By creating a tool that can be used outside of the clinic, we enable people struggling with anxiety, stress, and depression to work toward making improvements in their mental health. While there will always be a place for traditional therapy, barriers such as stigma, cost, and logistical considerations often get in the way of individuals getting the treatment they need.”

“We found that the current apps out there are simple mappings from typical workbook-based pen and paper exercises to a mobile device,” stated Pacifica Labs Co-Founder and CEO Dale Beermann. “However, workbooks themselves don’t fit into our normal routines. We knew we could do better.” The new app provides guided relaxation exercises, spoken thought journals, and daily goals, each designed around specific parts of the CBT cycle. In addition, mood and health trackers help people understand how their symptoms are affected by certain known triggers.

“I’ve personally dealt with anxiety most of my life and CBT was the way out of the woods for me,” said Pacifica Labs Co-founder and Designer Chris Goettel. “The challenge then in designing Pacifica was distilling these tools into an engaging and empathetic experience. I know first hand how debilitating and isolating anxiety can be. Pacifica is an extended hand to anyone suffering.”

Get Pacifica today on iOS or Android.