One in five South Africans will experience some form of depression in their lifetime – whether it be due to genetics, stress, trauma, chronic illness or other factors, few know how to recognise the symptoms and get the help they need.
Abdurahmaan Kenny, Mental Health Portfolio Manager for Pharma Dynamics, says untreated depression is a serious issue, which often leads to risky behaviour such as substance abuse and self-harm.
“More than 75% of sufferers in low to middle-income countries go untreated. Major barriers include the stigma associated with depression, lack of resources and properly trained healthcare workers.
“People expect those with depression to just pull themselves together and get over it, but without the right treatment, which involves a combination of medication and psychotherapy, untreated depression can become debilitating,” says Kenny.
Kenny points out that there are many different types of depression. In some cases, symptoms overlap, but key differences set them apart. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek professional help from a therapist. Through the government’s Prescribed Minimum Benefits, medical aids can cover your session.
If you experience five or more of the following symptoms on most days, you may be suffering from major depression:
• Loss of interest in activities that use to bring you joy
• Unexplained weight loss or gain
• Trouble sleeping
• Feeling intensely sad, worthless and/or guilty
• Having trouble concentrating
• Feeling restless, anxious or agitated
• Low energy levels – physically and mentally
• Contemplating suicide
READ MORE: What Is Holotropic Breathwork—And What Can It Do For Your Mental Health?
Persistent depressive disorder
This type of depression typically lasts for two years or longer and is termed a low-grade persistent depression, also called, “dysthymia” or “chronic major depression”.
Common symptoms include:
• Not eating enough or overeating
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Lack of energy or feeling fatigued throughout the day
• Low self-esteem
• Not able to concentrate and make decisions
• Feeling of hopelessness
Bipolar disorder (manic depression)
People with bipolar disorder experience extremes in mood, which are termed as “highs” and “lows”. No two people have the same symptoms, but there are three main types of bipolar disorder:
· Bipolar 1 often includes one or more manic episodes that last a week and, in many cases, require hospitalisation and may last for at least two weeks.
· Bipolar 2 is characterised defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes condition (in which you display a revved-up energy or activity level, mood or behaviour).
· Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia) – is defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms, as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents).
READ MORE: Caley Jäck’s Simple Formula For Sticking To A Healthy Lifestyle
Psychotic depression is termed major depression with psychotic symptoms. These include hallucinations, delusions and/or paranoia.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
PMDD typically manifests itself at the start of a woman’s period. Symptoms range from feeling moody and irritable to changes in appetite or sleep.
After childbirth, many women struggle with depression, commonly known as “baby blues”, which could last a few weeks or months. Symptoms include excessive crying, anxiety, insomnia and mood swings.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
SAD is common in winter when there’s less sunshine and tends to improve during the warmer months of the year. Antidepressants and light therapy are effective treatments.
You can experience situational depression when you’re troubled by a stressful period in your life, including trauma, personal suffering, divorce or financial loss.
READ MORE: 6 Reasons That Explain Why You’re Constantly Tired
One-third of sufferers have treatment-resistant depression. This often occurs when you have other conditions that make depression difficult to treat. However, there are alternative therapies that can be explored.
Kenny says depression – no matter the type – can render people unable to function in their family, work and social life.
“The good news is that depression can be successfully treated in most cases with early recognition, appropriate intervention and support. If you recognise any depressive symptoms in yourself, a loved one or a friend, however difficult it may be, seek professional help to get a proper diagnosis. A GP will be your first port of call and will be able to direct you to a specialist if needed.”
For more insights on how to manage depression, visit https://www.mydynamics.co.za/lets-talk/raise-awareness/ or contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. More
One in five South Africans will experience some form of depression in their lifetime – whether it be due to genetics, stress, trauma, chronic illness or other factors, few know how to recognise the symptoms and get the help they need.
Words by Dr. Saliha Afridi, a clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Arabia
We think of ‘clutter’ as untidy stacks of useless items in a garage or attic. However, clutter could be anything that you are holding on to that you are not using, or in the words of the famous organizational consultant, Marie Kondo, anything that does not “spark joy” in our lives. This could be designer clothing, useful books, or beautiful decoration that does not inspire or excite and instead take up space and block energy in your home.
The same concept of ‘clutter’ can be applied to your inner space. There are many emotional, mental, social, and spiritual things you hold onto simply because you have ‘always been this way,’ and you ‘cannot imagine being or doing something different.’ You eventually do not even notice this clutter, but it is taking up space, blocking energy and keeping you stuck in different areas of your life. Consciously addressing these areas, acknowledging them, and letting them go will yield an inner space that is light, energetic, and peaceful.
The different kinds of clutter that might be occupying your inner space include:
● Emotional clutter: grudges and unprocessed emotions such as resentment, grief, anger, and hurt.● Mental clutter: constant worrying, thinking traps, information overload, never-ending to-do lists● Social clutter: people or events that we are engaging with in person or on social media that don’t add value or meaning to our lives.● Spiritual clutter: collecting spiritual information from bookshops and workshops, but never committing to spiritual practice.
How to start decluttering your inner space:
Emotional clutter: We all go through difficult life experiences, and most of us will either deny, project, intellectualize, or ‘rise above’ the difficult experience before we have had a chance to feel the feeling. The unprocessed emotions remain stuck in our body and eventually result in dis-ease.
1. Journal: write down all the experiences of hurt that still reverberate inside you. Resentment, grudges, and vengeful thoughts and feelings take up a lot of your energetic space. The more you hold on to the past, the less energy you will have to create the future you want.
2. Give the earth your hurt. Instead of carrying your hurt in your heart, connect with the earth’s energy, and consciously release your pain. Earthing/grounding helps our bodies de-stress, reduce inflammation, and decrease pain. You can do this by walking barefoot on grass, sitting and breathing for a few minutes as you sit on the beach, or standing in the sea, ankle deep as you gaze at the horizon. Connect with your heart, and from that place, ask the earth to help ease your pain.
3. Bodywork. The combination of long hold stretches, shaking, yoga, qi gong, tai chi along with breathwork can help you move emotions through your body. Focus on the slow gentle movements, while breathing and visualize the pain of the emotional experience moving out of the body through the breath.
Mental clutter: thoughts, decisions, and constant flow of information can create a lot of mental clutter.
1. Do a brain dump- write down everything you have to do in your personal and professional life on paper. Once you have this, see what you can do, decide, delegate, or delete it off that list. Everything you have to do should be put in a timeslot for the upcoming week.
2. Make decisions- a lot of our mental space is taken up with delayed decisions. Make time in your schedule, preferably in the morning when you have mental energy, to make decisions you have been postponing. If you need support or information to make the decision, then get assistance.
3. Limit the distractions- Turn off notifications, keep your desktop clean and organized, and focus on doing one thing at a time. You use a lot more mental energy, and create a lot more mental noise when you are multitasking.
Social clutter: socializing without consideration for how it is adding meaning and value to your life can be emotionally and physically draining and adds to your social clutter.
1. Consciously connect- before you make a commitment to attend an event or follow a person’s social media account, ask yourself, ‘why am I doing this?’, ‘what do I hope to get out of this?’, and ‘what am I saying no to if I say yes to this?’
2. Clear out your social media account- You are what you watch. Your attention is prime space and your time, a limited resource. If it is not ‘sparking joy’ or teaching you about something that will benefit you or inspire ideas, you are just gathering social clutter.
3. Deep connections- while being a social butterfly has its charm, it is the deep bonds that make our life meaningful. Make an intention to spend less time with acquaintances, and more time with those you want to cultivate deep connections with. This can be done with one on one outings, or small group gatherings. Make sure to be present in the moment by putting your devices away and connecting heart to heart, and eye to eye.
Spiritual clutter: when we know a lot about well-being and spirituality but don’t practice what we know, we are adding to spiritual clutter.
1. Practice what you know: Most of us know enough to be enlightened human beings, but most of us are not practicing what we know. Before you sign up for another workshop or buy another book, spend 30 days devoted to a practice that has helped you in the past. If you don’t know where to start, start with breathing in for 4 seconds, and out for four seconds for a total of five minutes, three times a day.
2. Silence: we collect a lot of noise in our day-to-day lives. Many people fill their space with distractions to avoid their inner spirit. Make a practice being in silence so that you can connect to your inner spirit.
3. Gratitude: There is nothing that lightens up your inner space like feeling and expressing gratitude for the people in your life. Write a gratitude letter to someone, or look at the grocery store attendant in the eyes when saying a heartfelt appreciation, or hug your loved one’s heart as you thank them for something specific they add to your life.
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There are a lot of trendy treatments out there that promise to bring a new level of awareness to your mental health. But there’s one, in particular, that’s been popping up all over social media as of late, even though it’s not exactly new: holotropic breathwork.
Holotropic breathwork is a breathing practice where you do fast, controlled breathing patterns, usually in a group setting, to help influence your mind and emotions, says Prof Matthew Johnson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who is researching holotropic breathwork.
The name derives from the Greek words holos, which means whole, and trepein, which means moving in the direction of something. It was developed by psychiatrists Stanislav and Christina Grof in the 1970s as a way for people to develop an altered state of consciousness without using drugs. The idea is that it can push people toward positive transformation and wholeness. It’s also used as a tool in therapy, and it’s now even being studied as a potential treatment for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Got questions on how, exactly, this all works? Here’s what you need to know.
What does holotropic breathwork do?
Holotropic breathwork is not going for a calming effect and instead has a goal of reaching a psychedelic type of experience, per Johnson. “It may not necessarily be easy, and it will be intense,” he says. “But it can be an opportunity to explore one’s own mind in a useful way.” It’s meant to trigger intense emotions, sensory changes, and insights.
It is different from other breathing exercises, BTW. It’s meant to be done in pairs and overseen by someone who has been specially trained in holotropic breathwork, explains Dr Laurane McGlynn, a licensed psychologist and certified holotropic breathwork facilitator who offers weekend workshops.
The sessions are usually set to specific kinds of music and can go on for up to three hours. “Of all of the different breathing exercises, holotropic breathwork is more on the evocative and energetic side,” Johnson says. “The breathing is definitely heavier than some other varieties.”
READ MORE: Feeling Burned Out? Try This Super Simple Breathing Technique
What happens during holotropic breathwork?
Holotropic breathwork sessions are typically done in groups, with people pairing off. One person is the breather, who actually does the breathing exercise, while the other is the sitter, who is essentially there to observe. “The sitter’s role is simply to be present and available to support the breather—not to interfere, interrupt, or try to guide the process,” McGlynn says. “In addition, trained facilitators are available to offer support or body work—focused release work—as needed or requested by the breather.”
During a session, the room is usually darkened, and cushions, mattresses, and blankets are available for the breather to use. One session usually lasts from two and a half to three hours, and there’s a schedule from start to finish. “In the first hour of a breathing session, music with fast rhythms, such as drumming music, is used to support breathing,” McGlynn explains. “In the second hour, more dramatic pieces of music are used to facilitate breakthroughs. In the last hour, slow or spiritual music is played.”
READ MORE: How To Use Breathing To Get A Better Workout
The breather has their eyes closed and lies down on a mat. They use their own breath and the music in the room “to enter a non-ordinary state of consciousness. This state activates the natural inner healing process of the individual’s psyche, bringing him or her a particular set of internal experiences,” McGlynn says. While there can be recurring themes with holotropic breathwork, she points out that “no two sessions are ever alike.”
As for what this feels like, there’s a range. “At more extreme levels, someone can feel removed from themselves, like they’re not in their own body or they might actually feel more in touch with their own body,” Johnson says. “There is often sobbing and people may cough up a lot of phlegm. Sometimes folks will feel like they’re purging the body of toxins or negative thoughts.”
At the end of the session, the breather is encouraged to create a mandala (geometric configuration of symbols) to visually represent their experience, McGlynn says. There may also be a group discussion at the end where people can share their experience.
READ MORE: 5 Breathing Drills That Work Your Core Muscles — No Crunches Required
Can you do holotropic breathwork on your own?
Not really. Certain elements have to be in place for the breathing exercise to be actually considered holotropic breathwork, according to McGlynn. “If it is shorter or done alone, then it is not holotropic breathwork,” she says.
Why is partnering up so important? “If a person encounters material that may be difficult to process, they do not have any support to process or integrate that experience,” McGlynn explains. “Holotropic breathwork offers a safe and supportive setting to process the experiences a breather may encounter during their session.” That’s where the sitter comes in.
If you want to give it a shot, you can find a practitioner here or here.
This article was originally published in womenshealthmag.com
READ MORE ON: Mental Health More
Have you ever found yourself stuck in a scroll hole? This is what happens when you want to get to the end of the internet.
Just refreshed your Twitter feed for the umpteenth time today? You’re not the only one. “The tendency to endlessly scroll from one bad news story to another has grown over the past 18 months,” warns Tanya Goodin, digital detox expert and author of My Brain Has TooMany Tabs Open. This habit, also known as doom scrolling, is specific to your smartphone. Unlike your TV, your iPhone is always there, offering you continuous access to, let’s face it, the now rather depressing world.
READ MORE: Is Your Smartphone Addiction Causing You To Gain Weight?
We love misery
This may sound strange, but your brain loves to cling to negative news. “And the algorithms that drive news feeds know this all too well,” explains Goodin. Reading bad news triggers the fight-flight response, but your brain also hates leaving things unfinished. And so arises the psychological phenomenon where you have a fear of interrupted or unfinished tasks, also known as the Zeigarnik effect. And you just want to soak up more bad news.
READ MORE: Should You Go Through Your S.O.’s Phone? A Flow Chart
Pandemic = infodemic
This harmful effect is particularly associated with digital media. In the early days of the pandemic, consumption of stressful online news (which some researchers have called social media’s first “infodemic”) was associated with increased levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Research found that this was not the case with newspapers or magazines. The choice of your reading material therefore determines a lot.
READ MORE: 15 Best Journalling Apps To Start The New Year With More Mindfulness
It is not only news that can temper your mood. If scrolling through your perfectly filtered feed fuels your anxiety, it can be just as damaging. “If you find yourself getting gloomier, log out and do something completely different,” Goodin advises. And that really doesn’t mean you should delete all your apps: ‘Dissociating yourself from (social) media is not good for your mental well-being, any more than overconsumption of news or social updates is.’ Keep it in balance.
This story was first published in WomensHealthMag.nl
READ MORE ON: Health Tips Life Mental Health More
Ever randomly left your desk mid-morning to bask in the sun, head buried in a racy novel? Or taken a quick post-run nap on your lawn? You’re in tune with your body’s needs and on the right track, according to experts. There’s a term for these regular breaks — Intermittent Resting.
You’re probably already familiar with the term Intermittent Fasting — cycling between eating what you like and restricting your food intake via techniques like the 5:2 and 16:8. For the uninitiated, the theory goes like this: by giving your body a break from food you can not only lose weight, but potentially improve your metabolism and reduce your risk of certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Now, health and fitness experts are talking about Intermittent Resting, the idea that the body also needs to cycle through small bursts of inactivity (activity fasting, if you will) in order to perform at its best. So, can scheduling rest with the enthusiasm you usually reserve for scheduling workouts really support your health and fitness goals?
REST AND DIGEST
Nahid de Belgeonne, a former fashion industry employee and owner of a London-based fitness studio Good Vibes started creating deliberate pockets of rest throughout the day — a kind of deliberate down time — once she discovered the power of rest.
That she felt happier, healthier and more productive as a result of her new regime will come as news to nobody. But she also credits intermittent resting with making her fitter, stronger and improving her quality of movement. She now trains others in the art of snacking on rest via her yoga-meets-meditation technique, The Human Method.
READ MORE: The 16 Best Mental Health Podcasts To Help You Cope With Anxiety, Depression, And More
RHYTHM AND SNOOZE
Nahid explains that her theory is based on the body’s ultradian rhythms. The sister science of circadian rhythms – which control your 24 hour sleep-wake cycle – ultradian rhythms refers to the cycles that the systems in your body move through during the waking day. The concept is nothing new; it was proposed in the 1950s by sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman, whose contribution of the field of shut-eye is such that he’s often referred to as the ‘father of sleep’.
That the wellness industry is finally sitting up and taking notice doesn’t surprise Dr Kat Lederle, chronobiologist and sleep coach at the sleep education platform Somnia. “We’ve seen significant scientific interest and progress in nutrition, fitness and sleep — circadian health is the next big topic,” she explains.
While much of the focus in recent years has been on how your behaviour impacts your ability to fall – and stay – asleep, your behaviour impacts your waking function, too. “The body clock is made up of two clusters of 50,000 cells in the hypothalamus and we refer to that as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN),” Dr Lederle explains. “The SCN is like a conductor, setting the timings for everything else that happens in your body, so while your ultradian rhythms vary from system to system, your body clock ensures they’re working in harmony together. If your internal rhythms become misaligned, that can lead to all sorts of problems.”
It’s thanks to a raft of circadian rhythm research that we now understand that the repercussions of this ‘misalignment’ extend far beyond a night spent tossing and turning. A disrupted body clock has been shown to interfere with everything from your appetite to your co-ordination and mood. Extreme disruption, the likes experienced by shift workers, has even been linked with depression.
But if the behaviour that contributes to a broken body clock sits on a sliding scale, with the shift workers whose livelihoods depend on keeping variable hours at one end. On the other, you’ll find the kind of habits you know you shouldn’t do, but you probably do anyway — working through your lunchbreak, doing a HIIT session when your body is begging for yoga and reading the internet instead of your book come bedtime.
It’s these everyday behaviours, Dr Lederle explains, that present an opportunity to optimise your circadian health. “By becoming more aware of your body clock and adopting behaviours that supports its optimal functioning, as opposed to railing against it, you can not only reduce your risk of various diseases, but improve your day to day functioning.”
Essentially, it’s about practising sleep hygiene, but for the waking day, too. And among the tools in Dr Lederle’s ‘wake hygiene’ toolkit is a habit that sounds a lot like Intermittent Resting. Regular rest, it transpires, is the backbone of good body clock behaviour.
“I call them ‘mini breaks’, but they amount to the same thing — taking a break of up to 20 minutes every 90 minutes or so. For me, it’s sitting back for a moment and bringing an awareness to my breaths. But I think the key is doing something in that time that you enjoy. It’s not paying your bills or contacting your accountant — it’s something you’ve chosen to do.”
READ MORE: Struggle to Get to Sleep? Try These 5 Breathing Techniques
PAUSE FOR EFFECT
What seems to elevate Intermittent Resting from your average work break is its intuitive nature; the idea that tapping into the times when your body is best primed for activity and rest could be a useful tool for those in the business of incremental gains. “Mini breaks are just one example of how aligning your schedule with your body clock can support your health goals,” adds Dr Lederle, who gives the example of planning when you exercise.
If the idea of taking a 20-minute break every 90 minutes makes your heart race (not the goal), even breaking for five or 10 minutes can help. “I’m a huge believer in doing your own experiments and seeing for yourself what works for you,” adds Dr Lederle. “If you’re truly free to plan your life in the way that suits you, the repercussions on your health and wellbeing could be huge.”
READ MORE: How To Get Better Quality Sleep
Make Intermittent Resting Work For You
Take a chronotype holiday
Dr Lederle suggests taking a five-day trip with the goal of tuning into your natural waking and sleeping hours. Go to sleep when you feel tired, rise when you’re ready and avoid sleep saboteurs like screens. “By day five, you should know what your natural sleep timings are, and ideally you’ll start sleeping in that time window every night.”
Find out your MEQ
By now you’ll already known what hours you like to sleep, but for a more scientific approach, take the Morning-Evening questionnaire. There are 19 questions designed to tell you where you sit on the sliding scale of morning person and evening person.
Keep an energy diary
You’ll know intuitively when your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day by the times you usually reach for a coffee or a snack. Start consciously tuning into your feelings, and noting them down. Look out for the obvious signs, like yawning, as well as how engaged you feel in a task. Keep it up for a week and see what patterns you notice. This will guide you to your own Intermittent Resting breaks.
Make it stick
Your body clock is like a baby – it loves routine. “Anything you do that’s part of a routine will help your body clock to know what to expect, be that the time you do a workout or when you eat your lunch,” adds Dr Lederle. Once you’ve identified your energy peaks and troughs, schedule your breaks accordingly, and stick with it.
The article Can Intermittent Resting Help You Reach Your Goals? was originally published on Women’s Health UK.
READ MORE ON: Activity Fasting Health Advice Intermittent Resting Mental Health mental health advice More
Podcasts are incredibly popular these days, and there are so many to choose from. From politics to pop culture this type of audio entertainment covers almost everything you can think of and is a great way to pass the time and learn something new. But that’s not all it’s good for – mental health podcasts, in particular, can boost your emotional wellness and be an effective form of self-care.
Shelby John, a clinical social worker who specialises in addiction, anxiety, and trauma, loves mental health podcasts because they are not only extremely accessible for most people, but they are also free. “The freedom to be able to listen to episodes whenever and wherever you want is incredible,” she says. “This allows people who maybe otherwise would not go to therapy or hire a coach to access knowledge and practical skills from professionals.”
READ MORE: 12 Bonnie Mbuli Wellness Quotes
The information you consume has a direct impact on how you behave, feel, and think, says Amy Morin, a therapist and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. “If you listen to podcasts that share stories, strategies, and tips that can improve your mental health, you can learn how to improve your psychological well-being,” she explains. “A podcast might affirm the information you already know, which can reassure you that you are on the right path. A podcast might also help you feel less alone. This is especially true if you hear stories and interviews with guests you can relate to. You might also learn new things or discover strategies you can try to reduce your anxiety or boost your mood.”
Most mental health podcasts feature experts in a specific field, such as behavioral scientists, psychologists, therapists, or other types of pros with unique and helpful insights to share.
How To Choose A Mental Health Podcast That Is Right For You
The host will be your constant companion, so look for one whose personality and voice mesh well with you. You should also make sure the podcast you’re listening to is produced by a licensed and legitimate mental health care provider, advises Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Master Social Worker Kayleigh Parent. “Even then, just because someone is licensed does not mean they are competent or using evidence-based practices,” she says.
Another factor to consider is whether you are part of the target audience. Of course, anyone can listen to any podcast, but you may be able to benefit more if you tune into ones that you feel a kinship with, whether it is because of the age group, ethnicity, gender identity, or mental health issue they address.
READ MORE: Why You Need Boundaries ASAP
Know that many of the conversations that take place on podcasts are based on personal experience. The host and guests may touch on sensitive topics that trigger you. If you’re not comfortable with what will be discussed on a podcast (read those episode blurbs beforehand!), it may not be right for you.
Remember: Podcasts are not a replacement for therapy. If you struggle with issues such as addiction, eating disorders, domestic violence, self-harm, suicide, or trauma, seek help from a medical professional.
Ready to jump in? Here are the 16 best mental health podcasts recommended by experts. More
Whatever your typical set up around December the 25th – perhaps a chunky get together with the extended family, a little celebration with a few key friends and fizz or a firmly ‘non-traditional’ takeaway from your local Chinese restaurant – between high Omicron rates and the desire to be ‘cautious’, things might look different, this year. (Again!)
READ MORE: 12 Life-Changing Wellness Quotes By Bonnie Mbuli
One possible ramification of this is a sensation of loneliness. The festive period is a core cause of the feeling – notwithstanding a global pandemic that has severed our physical ties like a piece of silverware through brandy butter. This especially goes for those who have tested positive for the virus and now must isolate over the day itself.
79% of you feel lonelier now, than you did before the pandemic, according to WH research. To help you through, WH asked leading psychotherapist and author of This Too Shall Pass, Julia Samuel, to respond to some of your questions, musings and comments on feeling alone, this Christmas.
How should I deal with Christmas loneliness?
But first, there is some universal advice to root yourself in. Regardless of your situation, the below is likely to be a tonic, to some degree, in this bizarre time.
Keep a routine
‘It helps to have regular routines that you can rely on that give you some certainty, so it might be structural routine of exercise before breakfast, or meditate after work,’ says Samuel.
‘Both exercise and any breathing technique also reduce the anxiety caused by uncertainty, so you get double benefit. Intentionally choosing to do things that give you joy also helps manage uncertainty, so it might be listening to wonderful music as you cook.’
READ MORE: Yoga Moves That Bonnie Mbuli Swears By
Know what you can control
‘Recognising and jotting down the things you can change and influence and those you can’t is worth sticking on your fridge door,’ Samuel details.
Remember that, even amid wild uncertainty, you are in control of some aspects of your life. ‘It is important to be proactive, make times for online connection and if possible real connection through walks together, even taking hot drinks that you can stop and drink together,’ she adds.
‘We need connection to others more than anything else. People need people and love in every form is vital medicine right now, we have to commit and work to have it, not wait for someone else to connect with us.’
Scroll on for her response to WH readers who are feeling a little stuck, sad or solitary, at this time.
7 of your Christmas loneliness questions, answered
1. ‘I feel sick about Christmas! I am alone and dreading seeing people with their families on Instagram. What should I do?’
‘I can understand that living alone is heightened over Christmas when you both imagine and see on Instagram families being together,’ says Samuel. ‘I wonder if you might contact an organisation that connects people in communities, young and old online and in person.
‘Another thing to note is that using our skill and agency to make something through painting or any kind of craft gives us both purpose and satisfaction, there are also many online craft meet-ups that you can join to discuss your area of interest.’
READ MORE: If The Festive Season Stresses You Out, Try These Psychologist-Backed Coping Strategies
2. ‘I am struggling with uncertainty. It looks as if Christmas will be very miserable this year and there’s a shortage of money through no work…’
‘The uncertainty and shortage of money make celebrating anything worrying. I wonder if you can schedule virtual meet-up with, say, four good friends to wish each other a happy Christmas.
‘I have been pleasantly surprised how meeting with a small number of close friends can feel intimate and enriching.’
3. ‘My main concern is my 94-year-old mom, who lives alone, abroad. My sister is nearby and sees her a couple of times a day, but if there’s a bad snowstorm or Covid regulations, she might not see anyone.’
‘I imagine not being with your mom on Christmas day is particularly hard, when the number of Christmases you are likely to have together in the future is uncertain.
‘Could you perhaps create a Plan B for your mother if there is a snowstorm – does she have a next door neighbour who she could ring and would agree to drop in, and could you agree a time you will telephone each other on Christmas day whatever the weather?
‘I would write and send her a card with a message of all that you feel about her, and memories of your happy Christmases of the past that she could open on Christmas Day.’
4. ‘I lost my mom four years ago and she made Christmas magical. It’s not ever been the same again.’
‘Having memories of those very Happy Christmases with your beloved mom must be bittersweet.
‘I would create an annual Christmas ritual which reflects your mom and your love of her, maybe light a candle with flowers and a photograph of her that you can turn to at particular times or do something that connects you to her over Christmas.
‘Touchstones to memory are a way of expressing the love of the person who has died, for our love for them never dies.’
5. ‘I think I will get depressed as I alone am expected to carry out all household chores. I used to have my friends as support, but, because I’ve not been in touch with them regularly through lockdown, they have left me.’
‘I can hear how hurt you are not being in touch with your friends, but I would suggest you draw on your courage and contact them and agree to reconnect. I am sure they would welcome hearing from you as they might well be feeling left and lonely too.
‘Partly it is about just daring, taking the leap to text or call and it is also cognitively recognising that the feeling of fear doesn’t in anyway match the reality of fear – feelings are not facts.
‘The worst that can happen is the status quo, they don’t respond, so you have lost nothing and may gain a friend so it is definitely worth the jump.’
READ MORE: 7 Busy Women Share Their Best Self Care Tips for the Holidays
6. ‘I can’t visit my family as my mom is very high risk, which means feeling very disconnected and alone. Help?’
‘That’s tough for you and your mom. I wonder if you could record a voice message for her from you and others that know and care about her, saying Happy Christmas but also why she is special to you, that she could receive on Christmas Day.’
7. ‘I have no family anyway and I think Christmas is over-amped as a time of togetherness – and that itself is the key cause of the seasonal loneliness.’
‘I wonder if you would find some sense of enrichment over a time that feels over-amped by volunteering on Christmas Day or around it? Helping others is both good for those that receive but also the giver.’
*This article was originally published on Women’s Health UK
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As the eldest members of the generation accused of never wanting to grow up enter their fifth decade, one older millennial writer consults the experts to give her peers a general check up – and asks how they might fare in middle age and beyond.
Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Anna, I was raised on Friends and I used to call myself a digital nomad (cringe).
I’m also bisexual, earn my crust as a self-employed writer-slash-podcaster and I’ve just managed to buy a small flat in Margate, which I share with my best friend – a gay man.
READ MORE: These Are The Top 10 Health Conditions Affecting Millennials Today
I have no pension, I’m single, and a scroll through my grid would reveal captioned posts on the subject of everything from managing anxiety to cold water swimming.
No, I haven’t copy-and-pasted my Instagram bio – although admittedly there is some crossover. I’m telling you this by way of letting you know that I’m a millennial. And if you happen to have been born sometime between 1981 and 1996, I suspect aspects of your life look a lot like mine.
We have two men called Neil Howe and William Strauss to thank for the term, millennial. And in the years since they coined it in 1991, ‘millennial’ has gone from being a descriptor to an insult.
25% of the world’s population are millennials, totalling 1.8 billion people worldwide.
To baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – we’re spoiled, insecure commitment-phobes who care more about Instagram likes than a mortgage.
To Gen Z (born 1997 to 2015) we’re ‘cheugy’ – a term doing the rounds on TikTok (where else?) that loosely translates as a blend of basic and past it. And don’t get them started on our side partings.
But perhaps the most cutting among the insults levelled at my generation is that we’re the ones who refused to grow up. It’s ironic, then, that the oldest of our cohort turn 40 this year.
Meghan Markle celebrated her fortieth on 4 August followed by Fearne Cotton, Rebel Wilson and Beyoncé in September.
While my own Big Birthday is still three years away, seeing my peers on the cusp of midlife has left me feeling reflective.
That millennials are entering positions of financial, political and social power during the biggest humanitarian crisis since the second world war is more than a little daunting.
But quite besides the fact that we’ve thoroughly outgrown the labels of ‘kidults’ and ‘snowflakes’ – to tell the truth, they never really fitted in the first place – I want to know how our health is faring as we reach this milestone.
READ MORE: Meet Evie Richards — The Millennial Making Cycling Cool Again
Plus, what the choices we’ve made so far will mean for our wellbeing – now, and in the decades to come.
How Healthy are Millennials, Really?
That ‘millennial’ is almost synonymous with ‘wellness’, I hope, bodes well. While the origins of wellness as a movement can be traced back to the 1950s, it was between 1980 and 2000 – while millennials were all being born – that it began to gain momentum, coming of age around the same time we did.
The Global Wellness Institute put the movement’s ‘tipping point’ at 2010, after which fitness, diet, healthy living and wellbeing offerings proliferated.
While mine certainly isn’t the first generation to take an active interest in our health, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we were fundamental in making wellness a credible, 360-degree health concept that means far more than simply not being ill.
Nor does doctor, private health coach and fellow millennial Dr. Christie Lewis. ‘I’d certainly agree that millennials are more aware of the benefits of good nutrition, exercise and low stress levels than any generation before us,’ she tells me, from her consulting room.
20% of millennials have changed their diet to reduce their impact on the planet
Take our health and fitness spending – there are countless studies that show millennial continuously spend an impressive amount on health and fitness.
Meanwhile, the number of vegans has risen 350% over the past 10 years, with millennials making up one third, according to The Vegan Society.
What Drives Millennials’ Health Consciousness?
‘There are a number of factors, from the acceleration of research into preventative medicine to how pivotal a role social media plays in our lives,’ adds Dr. Lewis. Something that speaks to both, she explains, is the rise of doctors-slash-influencers.
‘The fact that social media users have been able to access scientific research, explained in an accessible way and by aspirational figures, has gone a long way to increasing engagement with health topics – particularly the kind that were previously considered taboo, like mental illness and menopause.’
READ MORE: Less Sex Could Lead To Early Menopause, According To This Study
As to whether taking an active interest in our health will translate into a healthier midlife and beyond, Dr. Lewis is optimistic. ‘If you form healthy habits earlier on in life, you’re more likely to continue them through to your middle years,’ she explains.
This is significant, since one of the best predictors of living well when you’re older is developing healthy habits by the time you reach middle age.
“Form healthy habits earlier in life and you’re more likely to continue them into middle age”
Take a 2020 study published in The BMJ; having four out of five low-risk lifestyle habits by the age of 50 (never smoking, eating a good diet, maintaining a healthy weight, doing 30 minutes of daily exercise and drinking a moderate amount of alcohol) meant female participants were likely to live chronic disease-free for 10 more years than those who hadn’t established those healthy habits in their forties.
There are several lifestyle factors that can help reduce your risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, like following a balanced, predominantly plant-based diet and keeping your body moving,’ adds Dr. Lewis.
‘Weight bearing exercises in particular can help to lessen the risk of osteoporosis, seen disproportionately in women due to hormonal changes,’ she continues.
The latter is just one of many conditions that she anticipates being less of a burden on our generation, thanks to the rise in supplementation of one vitamin in particular.
READ MORE: The Top 2 Reasons Why Millennials Cheat On Their Partners
‘Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of health conditions, so the fact that our generation has increased knowledge about supplementing it – as more research about its benefits has been published – makes me hopeful,’ Lewis explains.
Are Mental Health issues Common for Millennials?
But while Dr. Lewis paints a positive image of our physical health in midlife, I suspect the outlook is rather less favourable when it comes to our minds.
I’ve had several spells of depression, which I needed to take antidepressants to relieve. Most of the creative, high-achieving men and women in my friendship group have had a similar experience with mental health, which is representative of millennials more generally.
We’re more likely to be depressed than any other generation – lonely, too – with fingers pointing at everything from entering the job market in the wake of the 2008 financial crash to the housing crisis and the un-put-downable nature of our smartphones.
50% of millennials spend more than three hours a day on their phones
So I can’t help but feel nervous as we enter our fifth decade – one in which we’re statistically more likely to become a carer to an elderly relative, experience myriad physical and mental symptoms as we go through the (peri)menopause and face mounting professional and financial responsibilities.
Dr. Emma Svanberg has a front row seat when it comes to the emotional baggage many women in their forties wrestle with.
A clinical psychologist who often supports mothers, she’s keenly aware of the pile-on of pressures, though she remains optimistic that millennials will rise to the challenge.
“We’ve created a language and a blueprint for a model of happiness, beyond the traditional”
‘Particularly since the #metoo movement, millennials have highlighted many questions about gender equality and the harmful experiences that were too often accepted by previous generations,’ she says, referring to the ways in which we’ve railed against prescriptive social norms.
READ MORE: If You’re A Millennial, Your Risk For Colon Cancer Just Doubled
When I think of all the terms we’ve normalised along the way, there are too many to count. From polyamory to being child-free and happily single, we’ve created a language and a blueprint for a model of happiness beyond the traditional (read: marriage and kids) kind.
57% of millennials have never married, and one in four won’t have married by their fifties
‘Millennials have been instrumental in the increased diversity of the concept of family, and for changing expectations of gender roles in parenting,’ Dr. Svanberg explains. On the whole, she believes this will serve us well: family units and partnerships will be shaped more by individuals’ wants, as opposed to society’s say-so.
But there’s a ‘but’. ‘This can also make parenting more challenging, since we’re trying to do something that’s already immensely difficult while writing our own stories.’
Millennials at Work: How a Generation Impacted Workplace Mental Health
Nowhere is millennial-made progress within mental health more profound than at work.
‘The movement for mental health to be taken more seriously in the workplace has absolutely been from the ground up, with millennials driving the change,’ says James Routledge, 30-year-old founder of workplace mental health coaching service Sanctus and author of Mental Health At Work.
‘If companies want to attract and maintain millennial talent, they need to demonstrate that they have a good mental health culture and that they support flexible working,’ he adds.
Routledge is confident that as this emotionally-aware generation moves into positions of power and responsibility, it’ll take action to give mental health parity with the physical kind.
‘We’re already seeing this with paid leave for pregnancy loss, and hopefully as millennials move into middle age, we’ll see greater support for workers caring for elderly parents, too.’
READ MORE: Your Postpartum Periods Might Be Heavier And More Irregular Than The Ones You Had Pre-Pregnancy
That’s not to say that all facets of physical health are taken seriously – not least when they’re ones that exclusively impact female bodies.
Journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Emma Barnett – who shares details of her struggle with endometriosis and adenomyosis in her book Period: It’s About Bloody Time – is one notable millennial who’s used her platform to make female health conditions newsworthy.
“Millennials have shown that women can hold both power and physical vulnerability at once”
That one of the most fearsome political interviewers speaks openly about her crippling period pain is powerful – and indicative, I’m learning, of a unique millennial strength: the ability to show both power and vulnerability at once.
‘To show pain, to show suffering, can be viewed as weak; we’re educated to believe that’s weak,’ says Barnett. ‘But actually, even to put one foot in front of the other with conditions like endometriosis and adenomyosis, you’re the toughest woman I know.’
I put it to Barnett that the way in which millennials, like her, have been open when it comes to talking about periods stands us in good stead for what happens when they stop.
But when it comes to the (peri)menopause, Barnett believes we won’t be the change-makers. ‘Women in the generation above us are talking about it now, and we’re going to be the inheritors of that,’ she says. ‘I feel grateful to the women who have come before me on that.’
What Wellness Lessons can Millennials learn from Gen Z?
While props are due to the generation above us, we have a lot to learn from the one below, too. ‘Members of Gen Z are so much more aware of the systemic issues causing mental health issues than we were,’ adds Dr Svanberg.
‘This means they may be better adapted to abandon the perfectionism and chronic dissatisfaction that many older millennials struggle with after being brought up in the 1980s and 1990s,’ she continues – ‘when success and outcomes were prioritised over growth and development.’
She argues that while it’s true that millennials started talking about mental health openly, they often do so in an intellectualised way.
READ MORE: 6 Tips On How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic
‘We’re still not truly able to contain and validate people’s distress because we can still feel uncomfortable with genuine vulnerability,’ she shares. This resonates, hard.
“My millennial friends were keen to tie my difficult emotions up in a neat little bow”
Over the second lockdown, I had a sports injury that required surgery and, without the crutch of exercise, I experienced an episode of depression.
When I voiced what was going on, the millennials in my circle were keen to tie my problems up in a neat bow: ‘Oh well, it’s a good time to get it done! What else would you be doing?’
There was a need to patch it up and move on – which, ultimately, made me feel I was being too negative or exaggerating how bad I felt, which only increased the depressive feelings. Clearly, we’ve not got this self-compassion thing licked.
Health and Happiness: Why this isn’t a Generation Game
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what midlife holds for me. But during this past 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions, I’ve felt grateful for the archetypal millennial lifestyle I’ve built.
My meditation apps, my yoga habit, my collection of single thirty-something friends; my lifelong commitment to social justice; the life-processing memes sent by friends across the world via Instagram or WhatsApp.
This millennial baggage, as ridiculous as it might sound, is what got me through a year of career pivots and pirouettes, isolation from my family in another country, and oppressively tragic world events.
But the other thing that got me through? The wisdom of generations older and younger.
During this weird time, I’ve relied on the compassion and kindness of baby boomers, the more relaxed and existential beliefs of Gen Xers, and the progressiveness and openness of Gen Zers.
It’s a comforting thought that, however well I fare in middle age and beyond, I’ll do so with the support of the people I love, regardless of what year they were born.
This article was originally published in the September issue of Women’s Health UK.
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