Relaxation is an important part of human life. Everyone loves to take breaks and recuperate from time to time, and relaxation is shown to reduce stress and have several health benefits. Approximately 77% of adults regularly experience physical symptoms as a result of stress. These symptoms can include headaches, insomnia, chest pain, and more, and they can lead to serious conditions like cardiovascular diseases and mental health problems. Making time for relaxation can help manage this stress and prevent it from manifesting physically. Techniques like meditation, breathing exercises, and rest help produce a relaxation response in the body which can decrease stress and stress-related conditions.
However, as helpful as relaxation can be, the age-old adage “too much of a good thing is a bad thing” applies to relaxation as well. When people achieve relaxation in the wrong ways or over-prioritize it in their lives, there can be unhealthy consequences just as dangerous as having too much stress. Here are some signs that your relaxation techniques might be more problematic than they are beneficial:
You Achieve Relaxation in Harmful Ways
There are both positive and negative ways to achieve relaxation. If you use negative ways to reach a state of relaxation, you are going to increase your stress levels and cause more damage than good. Abusing drugs, alcohol, or other substances might feel helpful in the moment, but these coping mechanisms are unhealthy and can have significant health risks. Addiction to drugs and alcohol can cause physical and emotional problems that can lead to severe bodily damage and even death. You should avoid using substances to try and reduce stress.
Other negative ways people use to try and manage stress include unhealthy or excessive habits. Overeating and binge-eating can be disastrous for your health, which will lead to increased stress and health problems like obesity and heart-disease. Seek help if your stress-managing eating habits have become out of control. Over using entertainment and binge-watching television has been linked with depression and loneliness. While it might be helpful to set aside time to watch television, play video games, or use other electronics to take a break, when you spend hours upon hours doing these activities, you put your health at risk. Poor coping habits like impulsive purchasing can devastate people financially and mentally, and it can also ruin marriages and other relationships. Make sure to avoid these habits when you are trying to deal with the stressors in your life.
Emotionally or physically cheating on a significant other is a surefire way to poison a relationship. Destroying your health and the relationships you have with people you care about is never a good way to manage the problems you are facing in life. If you are participating in any of these activities in order to feel relaxed, your relaxation is harmful, not helpful.
You Over-Prioritize Relaxation
While relaxation can have wonderful benefits for people who make time for it regularly, it can be problematic for people who dedicate too much time to it. If you are relaxing when you should be working or you are slacking off instead of taking care of your responsibilities, you are relaxing in a harmful way. Like anything else in life, relaxation needs to be balanced among your other duties. If you are sleeping or participating in other stress-relief activities when it is time to for you to go to work or take care of your children, then you are not achieving a healthy balance. In fact, sleeping too much can ruin your sleep schedule and cause insomnia. Carve out time for relaxation, but make sure that you have time to take care of your other duties as well. Make sure to relax in moderation.
You Use Relaxation to Avoid Conflict
If you are in a partnership or friendship where there are unhealthy problems that need to be handled, you should not seek relaxation in order to escape or cope with the conflict in those relationships. Do not be so relaxed that you are afraid to confront someone. Avoid using relaxation as a form of escapism in order to prevent yourself from having potentially hard conversations with others. Practice good communication and address issues in your relationships when necessary. Communication is a healthy way to begin to address conflict, and everyone involved will be better for it.
Your Relaxation Promotes Isolation
While it is definitely important to carve out time for yourself and have alone time, be wary if your relaxation techniques only involve isolation. It is important to be around others and to communicate to your friends and family when you are feeling overly-stressed or you are having a difficult time coping with problems in your life. Actively avoiding others is not a beneficial way to relax and it can cause you to feel lonely and depressed.
For more information or for help finding positive relaxation and coping techniques, visit Oakville Wellness Center.
No one likes doing chores, but they have to be done. On a typical day, around 85% of women and 67% of men spend time doing work around the house. This time is often met with frustration and annoyance. Like many other responsibilities you have to take care of in your life, chore time can be more tolerable if you actively work toward addressing and improving the issues that make them unpleasant. With a few changes to your housework routine, you can turn a stressful experience into one that is bearable and that does not interfere with your happiness. If you dread completing chores around the house, here are some tips to help make chore time less stressful:
Make a List
Compile a list of all of the work that you need to get done. This will help prevent you from forgetting anything that you need to do, and it will give you a sense of accomplishment each time you can cross an item off of the list. People are more likely to accomplish tasks that they write down. Take some time each week and write down the chores you need to finish each day. When you make a list, it is easier to divide chores between multiple people, so it can make completing chores easier if you have family members or roommates.
Spread Out Your Chore Time
Instead of doing your housework all at one time, try breaking your chores up into manageable segments. Look at your chore list and choose a couple items to get done in the morning and a couple for the evening. By splitting your chores up, you will avoid feeling overwhelmed by trying to complete an unmanageable amount of work all at once or in a limited amount of time.
Time management methods like the Pomodoro Technique encourage people to use timers to split their work into intervals with breaks in between. Try timing yourself so that you can work on chores for a set period of time and take a break for few minutes in between working. You might find that you will have more energy for your work and that work might feel like less of a burden when you have time to rest or do an activity you enjoy in between chores.
If you see something in your house that needs to be cleaned that you can take care of in five minutes or less, do it right away. You will be surprised by how much less housework you will have to manage if you are putting items away or wiping counters down a little bit at a time. Whenever you find little gaps of time throughout the day, spend a quick five or ten minutes taking care of some work around your home and decluttering. If you clean regularly, you will minimize the amount of work that you will have to do.
Divide Your Chores
If you are completing the brunt share of the household responsibilities, you will feel overwhelmed and stressed when it is time for you to take care of your house. Divide your chore list between you and the other members of your household. Create a chore chart or a chore wheel to make sure that chores are divided up evenly and fairly, or assign each person a specific area of the house to be responsible for cleaning. Splitting your chores between multiple people will make chore time less stressful.
If you live with other people, it is important that you communicate with them about shared household responsibilities. Set clear expectations about which person needs to take care of which duty, and make sure that there are rules and boundaries in place to ensure these responsibilities are completed. Save yourself a lot of stress and trouble by making sure everyone understands their role when it comes to chores around the house.
Offering incentives for completing housework is a great way to motivate others (or yourself) to finish your chores. Reward yourself with a break, a snack, or something else you enjoy every time you cross a task off of your chore list. Offering praise or other incentives can also be beneficial for young children who have assigned housework.
Avoid Making Clutter
Set up designated places around your house for your shoes, keys, mail, and any other potential clutter. If you are holding something that will only take a couple minutes to put away, go ahead and take care of it right away when you are finished using it. This will help you avoid making a mess that you will have to clean up later. When you cook, clean as you go. The less clutter you leave around, the easier it will be for you during your chore time. Keep yourself from having a stressful chore time by preventing and eliminating messes.
For tips on how to communicate with others and manage stress, visit Oakville Wellness Center.
On July 24, actress and singer, Demi Lovato was hospitalized after an alleged drug overdose. Lovato, who recently celebrated six years of sobriety this past spring, has been vocal with her fans about her struggles with cocaine and alcohol addiction and her time spent in rehab. This past June, she released a single, “Sober” where she apologized to listeners for relapsing on her sobriety, leading many to worry that she was abusing drugs and at a high-risk for an overdose. Almost a week after the incident, Lovato remains hospitalized, and it is unclear how this incident will influence her health physically, mentally, and emotionally. News of Lovato’s overdose has been difficult on her family, friends, and her fans, many of whom have reached out to show their support for the singer.
When a person struggles with addiction, overdose, and recovery, it has a major impact on everyone who is close to that person. If your loved one has suffered from or been hospitalized due to an overdose, it is more important than ever for you to be there for them as they recover. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you help your loved one navigate this tumultuous time physically and emotionally:
Provide an Emotional Support System
Surviving an overdose is traumatic, and a survivor will need to return to a strong emotional support system. When a person survives an overdose, they are going to have to manage a lot of tough emotions. They might feel angry or betrayed because they were not able to prevent the incident from occurring or because they feel like they can no longer trust the friends or dealer who supplied them with the drug. Many people who go through this experience feel afraid that it will happen again, or they might be fearful of how the people in their life will react. If the overdose was a suicide attempt, individuals who survived might feel a sense of shame or failure because the attempt was unsuccessful. They might also have an increased desire to kill themselves. Remember that your loved one went through a traumatic experience and is wrestling with the emotional aftermath, and keep that in mind when you are trying to communicate and support him or her. Be patient and speak without judgment or criticism. It will involve the help of professionals and a solid emotional support system to help them cope during this difficult time, but you can help by trying to understand his or her feelings and practicing positive communication.
Address Underlying Issues
Many times people overdose because they take too much or an unknown strand of a drug. These individuals might do this because they are desperate for drug-provided relief or they are actively trying to commit suicide. It is important to remember that when a person survives an overdose, the reason why they abused drugs in the first place has not automatically been fixed by their harrowing experience. The underlying anxiety, stress, or depression that led them to this incident is still alive and well, and they will need help from professionals to address these issues and learn how to practice safe coping strategies. It is crucial for you to understand that the individual is likely struggling with pre-existing issues on top of the new ones that will arise as a result of surviving an overdose. Provide support and encouragement to your loved one as they communicate with therapists and work through the problems that contributed to their overdose.
Seek Counseling and Practice Self-Care
When someone overdoses, it is painful for everyone involved in that person’s life. Make sure that you do not neglect taking care of yourself while you help your loved one. If at all possible, try to decrease your responsibilities during this time. Avoid taking on too much work while you are trying to handle your own emotions surrounding the event. Seek help from a therapist or a licensed professional if you are having a difficult time coping with this tragedy. If you are close to someone who overdoses, you might notice their wide array of emotions can be directed toward you. It might be beneficial for you to speak with a therapist if you find it hard to deal with their emotions or behavior.
Know Risk Factors
Know the factors that contribute to overdose and put strategies in place to help prevent a repeat overdose from occurring. Repeat overdoses are extremely dangerous and can cause long-term damage to internal organs, brain damage, and death. Individuals are at a higher-risk of repeat overdoses if they are struggling with depression, have chronic illnesses that influence their nervous system, or if they have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Watch for warning signs like increased impulsivity, dramatic changes in mood or sleeping habits, and personality changes. It is essential that you and other members of the individual’s emotional support system are aware of these factors and encourage the individual to seek counseling as soon as possible after an overdose. Get in touch with the other positive influences and people who care about the survivor in order to make sure your loved one is getting the support and care that they need.
For more information about addiction, or for help finding a therapist for you or your loved one who is struggling with recovery, visit Oakville Wellness Center.
Giving compliments to others is a great way to build relationships and strengthen bonds between friends. People tend to enjoy receiving compliments because kind words and positive feedback are encouraging and motivating, and they boost self-esteem. In addition to making a person feel good about themselves, flattering words also have numerous health benefits for the recipient. People who receive positive words frequently are shown to higher levels of productivity and decreased levels of stress, and they experience the same emotional payoff as they would have if they received a tangible reward instead. Researcher Norihiro Sadata, one of the creators of a study about the benefits of receiving compliments, says that getting a compliment is “as much as a social reward as being rewarded money.” With the evidence of how money is a key motivator, it is no surprise that people who receive praise have high levels of performance.
Although the recipient of kind words seems to benefit the most from compliments, giving compliments can be equally rewarding. However, while everyone loves to receive accolades, praising others does not always come easily. Sometimes giving compliments can be intimidating because people are not sure how their words will be received, or they are afraid they will come off as disingenuous. It can also be difficult for someone who has social anxiety or someone who is nervous around others to approach someone and commend them. If you struggle with any of these insecurities, giving a compliment might be a challenge, but with practice, you can become skilled in this area and reap the benefits of boosting others up with kindness. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work on becoming more confident when giving compliments.
Avoid giving compliments randomly or without meaning. Compliments come across better when they are sincere and the recipient knows you truly mean what you are saying. Always make sure that you are being moderate with your praise. You do not have to be over-the-top with your compliments to be genuine. Inflated praise will make your comments seem insincere and might make the recipient uncomfortable. Take the time to truly acknowledge someone’s strengths and approach them with genuine kind words. A genuine compliment will go a long way because it will be more significant to the recipient.
Make sure your motives for giving the compliment are pure so that you do not give backhanded compliments or seem like you are giving praise for your own benefit. Empty flattery and kissing-up are not helpful for you are the person you are complimenting. Make sure you are not offering your words in order to receive a compliment in return. When you offer words of admiration, you should be doing it solely for the benefit of the other person.
Regardless of how sincere your intention is, a general compliment will not be as significant as one that recognizes something specific. Instead of praising someone for doing good work, praise them for the specific action or project they completed that demonstrated their good work and include examples. Saying, “Your presentation was great” is not as meaningful as saying, “The information you shared in your presentation today was insightful and well-organized, and I learned some helpful new skills I will be sure to implement.” Try and focus on character traits and behaviors rather than physical attributes, and be as specific as possible when highlighting these characteristics.
There is nothing more sincerely flattering than knowing someone sees you and that they can specifically pinpoint something they appreciate about you. Take the time to pay attention to those around you so that you can notice their personal strengths. As you focus on others and their positive qualities, genuine compliments will come to you more naturally. Make it a priority to be present when you are spending time with others and actively look for opportunities to offer praise.
Many people are afraid to praise others because, in their mind, they see compliment giving as ambitious, grandiose gesture. Giving a compliment does not have to be complicated or overly formal. When you see an opportunity to offer someone a genuine compliment, simply walk over to them and casually give them your positive remarks. Notice and offer admiration for small actions. If someone has a new haircut that looks good on them, let them know. You do not have to wait for someone to do something major or for them to have some sort of big accomplishment in order to recognize them. It will be less intimidating to give compliments when you see them as quick, casual remarks rather than grand gestures.
Be Open to Receiving Compliments
If you are not able to receive compliments well, you might struggle to give them to others. Learn how to take a compliment in stride. When someone praises your work or offers you a positive remark, smile and say thank you. Resist the urge to diminish their compliment by denying or negating their kind words. Do not automatically return a compliment unless it is sincere. When you receive a compliment that is truly flattering, consider the way they gave their compliment to you and allow that experience to influence how you give compliments to others.
For help communicating and building positive relationships with others, contact Oakville Wellness Center and visit their blog.
Giving is an essential component of a positive relationship, and those who give to others regularly often feel more positive and have higher self-esteem (Weinstein & Ryan 2010) than those who do not give. When you are generous with your time, energy, or money, you not only benefit the person to whom you are giving, but you also experience benefits yourself. One major upside to giving is that your feelings toward and connection with the recipient of your gifts are often strengthened. Giving in a relationship can often be more satisfying and rewarding than receiving because it builds intimacy and provides advantages for both the giver and the taker.
While generosity is great, in order for a relationship to be successful there needs to be a balance of giving and taking. This is because receiving a gift can have negative feelings associated with it like a feeling of obligation (Goes & Boster, 2005). When a member of the relationship gives too much without receiving, or takes too much without offering anything in return, the relationship can fall apart. Although giving and taking often will not be an even, 50-50 split between two people, it should always feel mutual, and no one should feel like the other person is taking advantage of them. This article will explore ways you can give in your relationship without sacrificing yourself, and how you can set boundaries to make sure no one takes too much in a relationship.
One of the most important ways to make sure your relationship maintains a proper balance is to communicate with your partner. Communication is essential to healthy relationships, and without it you will find your partnership will begin to suffer. Have a conversation with your partner about what healthy giving and taking looks like. Explain what you want to see from the relationship and listen when to what your partner wants. Make sure there is adequate time and opportunity for both of you to speak, and come up with strategies that address both of your needs.
If your partner communicates that he or she is feeling like they are doing the brunt share of giving in your relationship, do not get defensive. Take the time to have a productive conversation where both of you are listening to one another and truly considering what the other has to say. When a relationship feels too one-sided, it is destined to fail. Prevent this from happening by having regular conversations to express feelings and solve issues regarding giving to one another.
If your partner is not using the strategies you developed together and you are beginning to feel like you are giving too much in the relationship, set boundaries. Setting boundaries is key to having a healthy relationship, but it can be tricky. In order to set effective boundaries, it is important for you to be self-aware and communicate clearly with your partner. Take a look at yourself, and make note of your thoughts and feelings and the actions that trigger them. It is okay to have problems with different aspects of your relationship and to convey your feelings to your partner.
Unhealthy taking occurs when a giver feels overwhelmed or pained by the amount of time or energy they are sharing, or they do not receive anything in return. When the give-take balance of your relationship shifts in a way that is uncomfortable for you, present your boundary in a loving, but direct way. Telling your partner, “I love spending time with you, but I cannot stay up until 3 a.m. talking to you when I have work in the morning. I would love to dedicate time in the evening instead” is a way to reassure them that you care for them while expressing a clear boundary. If you do not set boundaries in your relationship, you will find that instead of receiving joy from giving, you will feel resentment. Set boundaries to preserve the relationship and to prevent losing your sense of self and happiness.
Diversify Your Giving
There are many different ways in which you can give to your partner. If you make sure you are giving in a variety of ways, you will not only help your partner feel loved, but you will also keep yourself from being overwhelmed. Here are some of the ways you can give in your relationship:
When you are tempted to get angry or to judge your partner, pause and give them patience and love instead. This can help you to have more productive conversations and to address conflict in a positive manner.
Give Praise and Thanks
Noticing and speaking up about little things that your partner does that you love doesn't cost you anything, but can benefit your relationship. When you see them successfully complete a challenging task or activity, give them a compliment. When they go out of their way to do something for you, thank them.
Give Time and Attention
Show up for the events that matter to your partner. Dedicate time during your day to listen to how they are feeling. This is the lifeblood of a healthy relationship. Giving time and attention can exhausting if you give too much of it, so make sure that you are setting boundaries, too.
Sometimes each person in a relationship needs a little space to make sure they are able to re energize, practice introspection, and maintain their sense of self. Do not be afraid to give your partner a space when needed. They were their own person before you, and you do not want them to feel like they are losing themselves. Do not monopolize their time and prevent them from having their own life.
For more tips on understanding yourself, setting clear boundaries, and deepening your relationships through generosity, communication, and love, visit Oakville Wellness Center online today!
Goei, R., & Boster, F. J. (2005). The roles of obligation and gratitude in explaining the effect of favors on compliance. Communication Monographs, 72(3), 284-300.
Weinstein, N., & Ryan, R. (2010). When helping helps: Autonomous motivation for prosocial behavior and its influence on well-being for the helper and recipient. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(2), 222-244.
Sadness and depression are two terms that are oftentimes used interchangeably. And while it’s true that sadness and depression are in some ways related, there are important distinctions that you should be aware of if you think you may be suffering from depression. Some sixteen million people in the US alone have been affected by this condition -- so awareness certainly does matter.
Sadness and depression share a lot of qualities (most notably a sad mood). However, there are a few areas where they have obvious differences. Asking yourself the following questions can help you discern a sad mood from possible depression -- and empower you to make the decisions you need in order to feel better.
Can you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
One thing that characterizes depression over regular sadness is that those stuck in the depths of depression often feel a sense of unsettling permanence. To them, it seems that things will never change and that there’s no possible event or action that will help in any way. A typical period of sadness, however, is often accompanied by the knowledge that the sadness will end (think of someone who’s sad because they lost their job, but understands that they’ll soon find a new one).
Are you able to distract yourself?
Can your friends still take you out to get your mind off things? Does a random encounter with a golden retriever puppy still bring you a moment’s respite from your negative feelings? If so then true depression is less likely. Those who suffer from depression are often unable to find joy in their favourite things, and no activity is able to distract them from how they feel.
Are you experiencing physical symptoms?
Depression hits more than just a person’s mental wellbeing. Very often a host of physical issues come along with it. Left untreated, depression can take a significant physical toll on a person’s body. If you’re experiencing any combination of physical symptoms along with a depressed mood, then it is likely evidence that you’re going through more than a normal bought of sadness.
These are just a few of the most common physical symptoms that come with depression. The National Institute on Mental Health keeps a more complete list, which you may find informative.
Can you still see the good in yourself?
Regular sadness doesn’t usually lead to self-loathing. Sometimes a person may be feeling sad and guilty about a bad thing that they did, but the feelings are unlikely to be permanent or all-consuming. You may feel like a jerk for that fight you started with your spouse, but at no point would your guilt over that make you feel like even your own parents have no reason to love you.
Depression, on the other hand, does exactly that. It can convince a person that they have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and that no one in their lives truly enjoys having them around. An intense self-loathing can be a very serious sign that not only are you depressed, but you need help fast.
Sometimes it can help to lay all your symptoms out at once, and see them all together to get a good idea of the scope of your situation. Depression screenings offered by hospitals or online resources are a good way of doing this. These are not a replacement for a medical diagnosis, but they can give you an idea of whether or not you should be seeking professional help.
There’s a wide array of options to treat depression. Sometimes changes in daily routine can be helpful. Other times, a psychotherapist or psychiatrist might need to come on board. Many people are reluctant to begin treatment for depression, but it is truly more effective the earlier you start. And remember that most treatments, including medication, do not need to continue for the rest of your life. Recovery time is different for everyone but most people can get better from depression, and get back to living their lives.
Oakville Wellness Center
Falling in love with a friend can be one of the most exciting, frightening, uplifting and confusing experiences. The deep connection that is so important in a romantic partner may already be present in a good friendship. All of these emotions stem from the fear of losing a close friend and the fear of potentially refraining from confessing feelings to someone who could be a significant other for a lifetime.
There’s a lot to gain and a lot to lose. If you’re falling in love with your best friend, you’re probably clueless about the best course of action.
For a start, you may want to sit down and take a deep breath. Analyzing your own emotions is very important because you can otherwise commit one of the biggest mistakes in your life.
Are You Really in Love?
An honest, committed and exciting friendship can easily bring those butterflies that will make you mistake the emotion with love. Are you really in love with your best friend? You may want to take a step back and think about those emotions before having the conversation.
There’s a difference between friendship attraction and romantic attraction.
Friendship attraction is a very strong liking that doesn’t have a sexual component. The sexual desire may develop in time but originally, it’s not there. You enjoy spending time together but you don’t feel a physical urge, the chemistry and desire to move away from the platonic level of connecting with each other.
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a relationship. Romantic attraction isn’t just sexual attraction. This type of attraction brings together friendship and physical attraction. It’s all-encompassing and this is the scenario in which we can speak about love.
Take some time to figure out where you stand right now. It’s possible to experience physical attraction towards a friend and it’s possible for the attraction to be short-lived. This type of physical attraction is normal but it doesn’t come with a romantic component. Whether you’re going to act on this urge and become “friends with benefits” depends on both of you. Many people refrain from acting on the impulse because they don’t want to ruin the friendship.
If you find yourself thinking about a friend all the time, wondering what it would be to have a relationship with that person and to build a future together, chances are that you’re experiencing romantic attachment.
You may want to ask yourself a couple of important questions before telling your friend anything about the feelings you have.
Taking the Relationship to the Next Level
If you’re 100 percent confident that you’re in love with your best friend, you’ll have to gather up the courage and confess those feelings.
It’s possible to become something more than friends but you’ll have to take a chance. Once again, don’t rush it. You could be mistaking a certain type of attraction with something much more serious. Think about it, explore your emotions and if you’re certain – go ahead!
An international study found that nearly 14 percent of the children aged up to 15 are raised by a single parent. Most of the single parents are moms and these women face some unique challenges. If you’re trying to be everything that your child needs and you’re alone, you know these challenges very well.
Despite these significant challenges, the news is not all negative. Some studies show that they usually grow up to be more responsible than their peers. Being a great single parent is possible but it can be draining. Providing for the family, being there for your child, dealing with stress and loneliness will definitely get to be too much on occasions. This is why you need to familiarize yourself with the best techniques for coping with the challenges of being a single parent.
The Most Common Challenges that Single Parents Face
Single moms and dads have to deal with various issues that couples raising children don’t experience.
Changing Your Mindset
The first step towards being a successful parent and a happy person involves changing your mindset. For a start, determine what your priorities are. These are the things you should be focusing on. Everything else is secondary. Don’t spend your time and don’t waste your energy on things that don’t matter in the long run. You’ll find yourself to be a happier person, once you set your priorities straight.
Boundaries come right after priorities when it comes to changing your mindset. These are the ones that you should work on together with your kids. You deserve some “me time” to be a functional parent. Let kids know about your responsibilities and about theirs. Everybody in the household should have a role. Working on happiness and growth together is the best way to make it happen – you can’t handle everything on your own.
Seven Tips for Overcoming the Challenges
A changed mindset isn’t sufficient to address all of the challenges you’re going to face as a single parent. Here are some additional coping strategies that may be helpful.
It's not going to be easy, but pushing through and doing your best is important - even if it doesn't turn out in the ideal way you feel it should. Children are often very adaptable and will often be able to cope with the imperfections that may feel devastating in the moment. No matter how overwhelming things are, it is important to take a step back sometimes and re-evaluate your priorities and coping strategies, otherwise you may spend a lot of time working hard on things that just don't matter. Hopefully reading this article helped you do just that.
Mental illness is often the result of a complicated interaction between our genetic makeup, lived experiences and the environment we inhabit.
Scientists have yet to precisely identify the root of the difficulties 1 in 5 Americans face in a given year (National Alliance on Mental illness, 2017).
Advances in the area of mental health research are vitally important as they can help to inform new treatments.
Researchers at the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Bonn in Germany recently discovered that a gene called “SLC6A4” was strongly correlated with someone's chances of suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD). Initial findings have been published online in the journal of Psychiatric Genetics.
SLC6A4 is involved in transporting serotonin in the nervous system. Serotonin is sometimes referred to as the “happiness hormone” as it is involved in feelings of positivity and wellbeing.
The fact that some people are born with an innate disposition towards suffering from SAD is extremely interesting, particularly given its high prevalence rates in the American population.
Anxiety disorders are amongst the most common mental illnesses affecting up to 18% of the population (Anxiety and Depression association of America, 2017).
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
SAD is often minimized by people confusing it with “shyness” or simply being introverted. In reality, SAD is an intense and persistent fear of social situations. Those with SAD may experience bouts of anxiety over simple everyday things such as answering the phone or being asked directions on the street.
Whilst many of us may experience mild anxiety over social situations, those with SAD will experience chronic worry before, during and after the social scenario. They particularly fear embarrassment or social rejection.
SAD is often apparent from an early age and first manifests itself in childhood or adolescence. It is also almost twice as common in women as men, with prevalence particularly high in Europe and North America.
Scientists are not fully sure why women are more prone to anxiety but some have theorised that this propensity may be linked to differences in brain chemistry and hormone fluctuations.
Women are also more prone to stress and tend to mull over stressful situations more than men, who tend to pursue more active coping strategies.
So what does Social Anxiety Disorder look like and how is it diagnosed? Here are some of the signs:
Some individuals who suffer from SAD also experience panic attacks.
Panic attacks result from fear of social situations that becomes overwhelming, leading up to a physical response. Although panic attacks usually only last a few minutes, they are extremely unpleasant.
The individual may feel nauseous and experience trembling, palpitations and a shortness of breath. Although panic attacks don’t lead to any long- term physical difficulties they are extremely alarming.
SAD often co- occurs with other disorders such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder and post- traumatic stress disorder.
What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder?
As previously discussed SAD is the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although certain genes may significantly increase the likelihood of SAD, this may not be enough for the disorder to manifest itself.
Researchers have linked parenting styles to the likelihood of developing SAD. As SAD may have a genetic root, parents may be more worried or anxious, translating poor coping styles to their children.
Getting Diagnosed with SAD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the tool most commonly used to diagnose mental conditions including SAD. Criteria includes:
Persistent fear of and/ or intense anxiety about social scenarios in which you believe you may be judged or act in a way that's embarrassing.
Avoidance of social situations and/or intense anxiety when present in social situations
Anxiety that's out of proportion to the situation
Anxiety or distress that impedes your daily living
Fear or anxiety that cannot be explained by a different medical condition, medication or substance problem
These criteria should be present for 6 months or more
How is SAD Treated?
SAD may be treated with medications and/ or psychotherapy. Psychological counselling is highly effective for those suffering from SAD. It can help the individual learn ways to deal with stress in social situations and build self- confidence.
One of the more commonly used treatments is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). CBT may help the individual to see that their fears are irrational and help them to gradually work up to facing the social situations they fear the most. One tactic that is often employed is role- playing, whereby the individual can practice being in social situations and build up confidence in a safe and secure environment.
SAD can be all- consuming for the sufferer, as being crippled regarding ones social life and interactions limits our ability to form relationships, push our personal boundaries and live a happy and fulfilling life.
It has a remarkably high prevalence rate and many suffers stay under the radar undiagnosed.
SAD responds remarkably well to treatment, however, and if you suspect you may have SAD, please seek out a local mental health professional and learn to tame the anxiety you face daily.
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV-TR. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Turk, C. L., Heimberg, R. G., & Hope, D. A. (2001). Social anxiety disorder. Clinical handbook of psychological disorders: A step-by-step treatment manual, 3, 114-153.
The act of giving birth is one of the most celebrated in human society. We all know parents who gush about this phenomenal experience and detail the elation they felt in the hours and days following. Popular culture and film are also awash with moving scenes of childhood as couples transition to parenthood against a backdrop of sentimental music and family joy.
What is less often depicted is that once the post-partum dust has settled, the early stages of parenthood can be truly difficult.
Whilst many women suffer the “baby blues” and may be anxious or tearful for short periods of time (usually around one to two weeks) following birth, this can sometimes develop into something more serious.
If symptoms last much longer, or start later into motherhood, postnatal depression is a possibility. Postnatal depression (sometimes also referred to as postpartum depression) is a mood disorder associated with childbirth. It is estimated that approximately 13% of women experience postnatal depression.
Symptoms that you or a loved one may be suffering from postnatal depression include:
What causes postnatal depression?
Unfortunately the answer to this isn’t entirely clear but it is believed to be caused by a combination of factors.
On a physiological level, pregnancy and birth bring with it a whole host of hormonal changes, which may lead to changes in mood. Hormones affect some women to a greater extent than others.
Parents who have suffered from depression prior to childbirth, are much more likely to develop postnatal depression. A family history of mental illness is also a risk factor.
That said, a history of depression does not automatically mean that you will go on to develop depression postpartum. It may be helpful to be aware that you are at risk, so that you can look out for the signs mentioned above.
Aside from this, there are factors relating to the birth process itself that may trigger postnatal depression. These include:
Your home-life may also be influential. Unsuitable housing or money issues may naturally make the transition to parenthood more stressful. Worries relating to work can also hamper your ability to relax and settle into the changes you face.
A strong support network and supportive partner may provide a protective effect against postnatal depression. It is not helpful to spend too much time alone without adult company so if you are feeling isolated it may be helpful to reach out to other parents in the community.
Can men experience postnatal depression?
Although men may not experience the hormonal storm of pregnancy, they may still be subject to its emotional effects. A recent study conducted in Sweden found that 28% of men demonstrated mild levels of depression. Women are routinely screened for postnatal depression while paternal mental health is often overlooked.
The research team added a series of questions to the most commonly used postnatal depression screen, in order to capture the unique symptoms that may be displayed by men. These included working longer hours, irritability and excessive alcohol consumption.
It is not entirely clear whether depression in fathers is a newer phenomenon, or just something which we have only recently begun to explore and detect. Many new fathers face challenges such as trying to balance their work life with their family life as well as decreased sleep and changes in their relationship.
Naturally, depression makes it harder for a new father to invest time in the newborn. Fathers experiencing difficulties should consider that they may have paternal postnatal depression.
How can postnatal depression be treated?
The first step is to speak to your general practitioner. With prevalence rates estimated to lie at about 13%, it is much more common than you think, and health services are trained to recognise the signs and give you the support that you need.
Self-care: It is also crucial at this stage to be kind to yourself. Take care of your primary needs such as getting enough sleep, eating well and doing things that you enjoy. It may feel like you do not have time for this with a young child on your hands, but don’t be afraid to ask others for help.
Talk therapy: As with many psychological difficulties and types of depression, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be useful. Most experienced therapists will be able to provide a course of CBT and tailor it to the specific difficulties you may be having. Many new parents struggle to live up to the ideal of “perfect parent” and may not have anticipated the difficulties associated with parenthood. CBT can help new parents find a way to think about the difficulties they face and learn better coping mechanisms.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants may also be useful, particularly if the depression is more severe. Some women worry about taking antidepressants whilst breastfeeding but your doctor will be able to provide you with ones that are safe.
One of the worst things about postnatal depression can be feeling alone or unusual in the feelings you are having. This couldn’t be further from the truth and it can help to reach out to national organisations. These can not only provide information and advice but also networks of other parents to talk to.
Cox, J. L., Holden, J. M., & Sagovsky, R. (1987). Detection of postnatal depression. Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. The British journal of psychiatry, 150(6), 782-786.
NHS, Unknown. “Postnatal Depression.” NHS Choices, NHS, 11 Feb. 2016, www.nhs.uk/conditions/post-natal-depression/treatment/.
Psouni, E., Agebjörn, J., & Linder, H. (2017). Symptoms of depression in Swedish fathers in the postnatal period and development of a screening tool. Scandinavian journal of psychology.