Is Social Media Affecting Our Mental Health? 

Thanks to Sarah from Hello Sarah Lou for writing this weeks guest post.

 

 


 

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Is Social Media Affecting Our Mental Health?


According to a study published last month by the UK’s Royal Society for Public Health, yes, it is. The survey,
#StatusOfMind*, asked nearly 1500 people aged 14-24 to rate popular social media platforms based on issues such as depression, anxiety, body image, bullying and loneliness.

Out of the 5 social media sites evaluated, Instagram was found to have the most negative impact on users, with Snapchat coming in second, Facebook and finally Twitter. YouTube was the only platform with a net positive rating, however, it wasn’t much higher than the others.

Are we, as social media consumers, surprised with these results? As someone who often falls for the filtered image of perfection on Instagram, the results do not surprise me at all. My feed is constantly full of what modern society deems as “hashtag” lifestyle goals. Smoothie bowls on Sundays with the girls (give me Coco Pops any day!), gym selfies, green smoothies, overwhelming amounts of ‘candid’ photography (you know, the look at each other, laugh and pretend no one’s taking a photo, shot), active wear, booty pics, designer clothes, the latest weight loss trends, dog filters – the list goes on. With social media accessible 24/7, it’s all too easy to feel like you’re missing out or less worthy because someone has more ‘likes’ than you do.  

I, myself, am guilty of uploading a ‘good’ photo, I’ll try my best to disguise the double chin that appears when I smile naturally. I will take several photos, trying every angle possible before I get the ‘perfect’ shot. It’s embarrassing to admit that but I guarantee you, I’m not the only one!

The unrealistic expectations set by social media are no doubt contributing to poorer mental wellbeing, especially in younger people. We are confronted with heavily edited photos and compare them with our seemingly ordinary lives. We strive for this so-called perfectionism presented to us in the form of photo-shopped images, glamorous lifestyles and perfectly curated feeds. 

Social media shouldn’t be a negative experience. It’s a great way to keep in contact with people, stay up to date with news and events and bring awareness to issues in society. Here are some tips for creating a more positive experience on social media:

– Have an intention, stop the mindless scrolling. I know how easy it is to get caught up and find yourself looking at photos of your sister’s boyfriend’s best friend’s cousins’ 2012 holiday to Paris.  

– Follow those who spread positivity and inspire you. Since blogging about my mental health, I have discovered a whole community of wonderful people who encourage each other to be authentic and real without judgement. Following like-minded people makes social media a much positive experience.

– Don’t feel obliged to be ‘friends’ with people you don’t want to connect online with. Keep people you value and want to stay in touch with. My friends list went from 700 to under 200 – it’s about quality not quantity. If deleting is not an option, remember there is the unfollow button!

– Limit your social media accounts, you don’t have to be active on all platforms. I recently deleted Snapchat because it didn’t add anything beneficial or positive to my day-to-day life.  

Remember, our self-worth is not determined by how many followers we have or how many likes we get.

 

* Reference – https://www.rsph.org.uk/our-work/policy/social-media-and-young-people-s-mental-health-and-wellbeing.html

 



 

19433446_835694769942047_925900645_n.jpgThis weeks guest blog was written by Sarah Bryan from Hello Sarah Lou.

Sarah is a mental health blogger who lives in Melbourne with her partner and their two cats. Having struggled with mental illness her entire adult life, Sarah is passionate about sharing her experiences to help and inspire others.

Be sure to check out her blog and share some love! You can also find her on Facebook here.

If you would like to be a guest blogger for The Nut Factory click here for more details.

Sticking My Head in the Sand

Another missed call. Or should I say another ignored call. My new case manager ‘S’ from CHM keeps calling me and every time it rings it comes up with ‘unknown number’ so naturally I ignore it. But she always leaves a message and most times I would respond. Not necessarily by calling back but I’d go in and see her in person. Not this time, or the other three times she’s called over the last three weeks.

Things haven’t been going well with her. We haven’t clicked and I find it incredibly difficult to talk with her. It just isn’t working and everyone’s time is being wasted. I think there are multiple reasons for this.

The biggest reason though is her age. She’s probably in her mid twenties, significantly younger than me. I’ve never really gotten on well with people my own age or younger. When I was a teenager, my closest friend was eight years older than me. We are still friends today. Another close friend I have is over fifteen years older than me. Even my husband is ten years older than me. I’ve just always gotten on better with people who are older. I know this shouldn’t matter when I’m working with ‘S’ in a professional setting, but it does. Due to her age I feel she has a lack of experience. I’m not talking educational or work experience, but life experience. How can she help when she doesn’t understand? When she hasn’t experienced what it’s like to be a spouse or a mother? She can’t understand.

I’ve been to probably five or six appointments with ‘S’ and things weren’t getting better. We never get through the full appointment time because I don’t know what to say and it seems like neither does she. I leave feeling disheartened and disappointed. I can’t keep doing this. I don’t want to keep doing this. I tried.

So instead of doing what I know is the right thing and actually telling her this isn’t working, I’ve just been avoiding her altogether, not showing up for appointments and dodging phone calls. The honest reason I’ve responded this way? I’m scared. I don’t know how to tell her. I don’t want to upset her or anyone else. I don’t like confrontation even though I know the reality is it’s probably not going to be that bad. I don’t know what alternatives there are if I don’t see her. So I’m sticking my head in the sand and pretending it isn’t happening.

Why I Write

I like to write. Writing is important to me as a coping tool. It’s a way to vent and get everything out. It gives me a voice that I may not otherwise have.

Writing is a way of expression so I can tell people things that I can not verbalise. I tell people things when I write this blog. I also write notes or letters to people when I need to tell them things that are difficult. Writing things gives me the chance to think about what I say before I say it so it doesn’t come out wrong and the message is lost.

A lot of what I write is shared with others but not everything. Sometimes I write things that are just for me, to help me order my thoughts and make sense of things. Whether I share it or not, writing things down is always helpful.

I also write to help others. To get my stories out there to support other people and also to receive support.

Sharing stories about mental illness starts conversations, conversations help break down barriers and remove stigma. By sharing stories we normalise our experiences and take the fear away so people don’t feel ashamed or worried about opening up about their struggles. By sharing stories we make it easier for people to say ‘me too’ and reach out for the help they deserve.

This is why I write.

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4 Self-Care Tips for Difficult Mental Health Days

Below is a guest post I wrote for the wonderful Niki over at The Richness of a Simple Life.

Here are some bonus tips just for you. Between all these things hopefully you’ll be able to find something that works for you on those not so good days.

Distract Yourself

Sometimes you can get so caught up in your own thoughts circling in your head it’s hard to break out. Distraction can be really beneficial at times like these. Put your mind somewhere else. Play some mind numbing games on your phone, iPad or computer (Candy Crush anyone?) or put on some trashy show on Netflix that you don’t have to think about too much. Give your brain a rest take some time to chill out.

Exercise

Exercise releases those feel good endorphins. I totally understand that motivation can be lacking when depression is kicking you in the butt. You don’t have to do anything too strenuous or go to the gym (unless you want to). Try a short walk around the block. Getting out in the sunshine really can help. If you’re still lacking in motivation try walking to the corner shop to buy yourself a chocolate bar as a tasty reward.

Make Like a Cat and Nap

Depression and anxiety, any mental health issue really, can really mess with your sleep pattern. You can sleep too much or too little. Sometimes a good nap can really make a difference. Make yourself warm and comfortable and let yourself drift off. Let your body rest. My only advice here is that you don’t sleep for too long during the day, just an hour will help. Try not to sleep all day or you will find yourself wide awake at night and feeling even more tired the next day.

Mindfulness

Be in the moment. Feel things. Close your eyes. What do you hear? Birds chirping out your window, cars driving past, wind in the trees. Focus on the sounds around you. Feel your body. Feel where your feet touch the floor, your back resting against the chair or bed, notice the little sensations. As silly as it sounds don’t forget to breathe. Try square breathing. Breathe in to the count of four, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four, repeat. Feel the breath as is comes in and out of your nose. Don’t worry if you get distracted, it happens, just bring your attention back to the breath. Just five minutes being mindful can really help refocus your thoughts and bring you back to the moment.

Now over to the main post with the rest of my self-care tips….

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The Richness of a Simple Life

This post was written by Ali over at The Nut Factory. Thank you, Ali, for sharing your experience with us.

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Dealing with mental illness can be tough. You have your good days where you’re happy, confident, and full of life and your bad days where you just want to hide under the blankets and make the world disappear. On the bad days sometimes you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do to get through the day. Remember that tomorrow is another day and as hard as it feels at times, know that you will get through this. Here are four tips for those not so good days.

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5 Mind Numbing iPad Games

I love my iPad. I mainly use it for playing games and watching Netflix but today I’m going to be talking about the games I play and why. Playing iPad games is a tool I use to help me with my mental health. Mostly I just play them for fun but there are times when they are quite important to me. There are times when my anxiety is high or my depression is looming and these are the times that iPad games are helpful. They provide distraction, and even just half an hour of playing, can help take my mind of things and reset my thoughts. It doesn’t always work but it does help. The other time these games are important are when I have an urge to self harm. If I can sit down with my iPad for a while sometimes the urge passes.

I tend to go for mind numbing repetitive games, it’s probably just me but I find patterns and repetition satisfying. Maybe I’m just weird. I’m sure different people will have different things they like. I tend to get obsessed with a particular game for a while and then either get bored of it or get to a level so high I can’t pass it. Below is a list of five games I have played or am currently playing and they are all free from the app store (because I’m stingy and don’t like paying for games.)

Candy Crush

Candy-Crush.jpgRemember when EVERYONE was playing this game? Is it still popular? Who knows. For those who don’t know you basically shuffle pieces around on a board to match colours and make them disappear. There are various challenges to complete. This is one of those games that I’ve gotten to a high level (level 543, oh yeah!) and can’t pass so have given up for a while. I might get back to it one day though.

 

Candy Crush Jelly

unnamedOk, so this is pretty much the same as Candy Crush but with slightly different moves and challenges. I like this one better but maybe that’s because I have yet to get to a level that I can’t pass, though some have been quite challenging that’s for sure.

 

 

 

 

Bubble Witch 3

unnamed (1)So instead of shuffling pieces on a board like the above games, in this one your shooting balls up to match colours and make them disappear. There are three different types of challenges in this game and they get harder as you go along of course. I’m really enjoying this one at the moment.

 

 

 

 

Papa Pear

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Another game where you shoot balls at things to make them disappear. Another game I’ve given up on because it got too hard. Another game I might get back to one day. I think I’ve actually worked out the solution to the level I’m on but I’m too involved in other games to get back to it at the moment.

 

 

 

 

Blossom Blast

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This one is a little different, you have to draw a line connecting flowers of the same colour to make them disappear. (OK, so not really that different – colours, matching, disappearing). Again there are different challenges on each level. This is also one of those games that is on hold for the moment.

 

 

 

 

Bonus Game

unnamed.jpgSeriously, what kind of list would this be without including the good old faithful solitaire? Surely everyone knows how to play this game AND it is in fact different from the above games. If your feeling adventurous try spider solitaire.

Let me know in the comments below what games you like to play!

Support Animals for Mental Illness

In Australia it is estimated that 62% of households have at least one pet, but for some, an animal can be more than just a pet. For some with mental illness, they’re a lifeline that keeps them going.

Animals can provide you with unconditional love and help alleviate loneliness, they can become your best friends. Some animals, such as dogs and horses, can help improve your physical health as they get you out of the house exercising by walking/riding them which in turn has a positive effect on your mental health.

You can talk to your animals and say anything without being judged. Come on, I know you’ve done it, talked you your pet while they sit there with soppy eyes looking back at you. They are fantastic at keeping secrets. Sometimes just saying something out loud helps, especially if it’s to someone who you know will still love you anyway, no matter what.

Research has also shown that patting an animal can reduce the persons blood pressure and heart rate.

Emotional support animals are usually just household pets who provide companionship while service animals, usually dogs, are specially trained to meet the persons needs and assist in a crisis. Some of the tasks that these animals can perform are:

  • Bring medication and/or water.
  • Bring phone.
  • Lead someone to you.
  • Provide tactile stimulation.
  • Provide a buffer between the owner and others while in public.
  • Increase owners sense of security.

Below is a picture of our family cat ‘Flea’. He is a pet and not specially trained to do anything (who can train a cat anyway?), however he does provide me with support and companionship. I don’t know how but he always seems to know the times when I’m not feeling my best and plonks himself on my lap for a cuddle. He provides me with distraction from whatever is going on in that moment and nearly always makes me feel better. Not to mention the antics he gets up to can make me laugh more than anything.

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I reached out to the mental health community online and it really does seem that some animals have a sixth sense for when their owners are not feeling the best. Here is what others had to say about their pets:

 

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“Simba’s unconditional love gets me through my darkest days, he doesn’t judge or ask why. Listening to his purr or petting his soft fur instantly eases my anxiety. Simba gave me reason to wake up on mornings I didn’t want to and continues to help me through my daily struggles with mental illness. The furry, four-legged kind is my favourite medication!”

~ Sarah Bryan (Hello Sarah Lou)

18198321_10155091360741977_4172769611495994255_n.jpgLambert

“He is so cuddly, and he just seems to know when we need some comfort. He cuddles up close and just stays there looking at you with those soulful eyes.”

~ Mac Lori

 

 

 

 

 

18198358_10208698972383032_5623520943087114002_nCouscous

“Anywhere I am, no matter what is going on, he wants to be near or on me. Especially if I’m having anxiety. He’s like a little panic sensor. His purrs magically calm me down.”

~ Monika Sudakov

 

 

 

 

 

 

18194000_611612322370302_942717743726686660_nViolet

“When I’m feeling particularly anxious, listening to her calm, even breathing helps me relax my own. When I’m feeling down, she’s always ready to lift my spirits with a cuddle. When I’m at my lowest, my kitty’s sweet face reminds me of how wonderful the world truly is. Not only is our family cat adorable, but she’s also done wonders for my mental health!”

~ Kelly Douglas

 

 

 

18222563_121119108445115_7060285579046033475_n.jpgLuci Lui

“This is my girl Lucy Lui. I call her Lula. She is a 3. Yr old pit rescue. She is so kind and loving, she can tell when I’m starting to have an attack. I also have insulin diabetes and she can tell if I’m having a high or low. She has helped me through a lot.”

~ Melissa Hartford

 

18194072_10209592518835452_5095129238375937200_nSnoopy and Budgie

“My bunnies, Snoopy and Budgie seem to sense when I am weeping and upset. They will thump to show their displeasure, then when I get on the floor with them, they will bunny kiss my tears away.”

~ Jean Mellano (Slipped Away Blog)

 

 

18199415_10213128067135468_193610636831541511_n.jpgSullivan

“He likes to snuggle and the purring calms me down if I feel anxious or sad. He is also hilarious and super playful!”

~ Riley Lee

 

 

Animals and Mental Illness – The movie

 

 

Grief

I’ve been thinking a lot lately and trying to work out why I reacted so strongly to my case manager leaving. Then I thought could it be grief? Can you grieve when no one actually died? So I started doing some googling and found out it is possible.

The theory is there are five stages of grief:

  1. Shock and Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

After reading more about this I can see I went through all of these stages though it was a bit more messy and out of order than this theory describes.

Shock and Denial – Shock was definitely my first reaction. The news of my case manager leaving was unexpected and it all happened really quickly. I couldn’t speak when I was told. I didn’t know what to say and didn’t want to believe it was happening. Again.

Anger – I sure went through an angry patch, though it wasn’t aimed at anyone or anything in particular. Just everything was pissing me off and I wanted to yell at everyone and lash out. Our back door took the brunt when it came of the sliding tracks and I couldn’t get it back on so I kicked it in frustration and swore at it. Not normally something I would do and normally I have the patience fix it. Not this time.

Bargaining – This is the stage I’m not sure if I went through so much. Though in a way I suppose I did when I decided I wouldn’t be seeing my case manager’s replacement. There was some ‘bargaining’ I guess when I was trying to figure out who I’d see next and what the next steps might be.

Depression – Hell yes. Depression to the hilt. It was this depression that landed me in hospital overnight. This depression was not solely caused by my case manager leaving but a big part of it was the thought of having to start over again. After fifteen years of retelling your story to different people you can get a bit sick of it. Every time someone leaves you have to start again and this can be difficult when it takes time to build trust. Often you just get to the stage where you’re comfortable to be more open and they disappear.

Acceptance – It’s hard but I guess I’ve accepted the fact that my case manager is now gone and I have to start seeing a new person. It just comes down to the fact that I have no other choice. If I don’t see someone and stay engaged with CMH I risk a more major relapse. I need there to be someone there to catch me if/when I start to slide backwards. I know my family will always be there but sometimes I need professionals who can help me make appropriate decisions when I’m not thinking properly.

So after two weeks of struggling I think I’m finally at a place where I’m not exactly happy but dealing with the change better. I’m not crying anymore and I think my self-harm is under control again. I have a couple of things that I’m looking forward to and I will post about those when the time comes – pretty exciting things actually but I’m not telling you what it is yet. Suspense!

 

 

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