Social Media and our Mental Health

I will be the first to admit it, I spend a crazy amount of time online throughout the day. My iPhone is an extension of my hand as there is always a photo opportunity or a pretty Instagram feed to scroll through for inspiration.

Social Media is a minefield of positives and negatives and as a Mental Health professional I sit back from time to time and think, ‘How is this affecting our Mental Health?’

I have read around a lot of research on social media and its links to low self esteem, Anxiety and Depression.

Did you know that 56% of people aged 18-25 spend more than 3 hours a day on social media?

Comparison is the thief of joy…

There is always going to be someone who is always skinnier, prettier or has a nicer house and we all think ‘where the flip did I go wrong?’.  It’s difficult but we need to be content with what we have. Just because someone else portrays a happy and care free life does not always mean that they are more fulfilled. Remember, people are only sharing the things they want  you to see, rarely will you see the negative stuff, the arguments, the work pressures or the credit card debt accrued in trying to have a ‘perfect life’ – nobody’s life is perfect no matter how amazing their Instagram profile leads you to believe. #nofilter? I think not.

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‘Likes’ do not make you a better person…

Social media is addictive and our smile can beam from ear to ear when a photo gets a certain number of likes or we get a few more followers. Although this might give you boost of confidence for a short period of time, the number of ‘likes’ you get on Social Media should not validate you as a person. You are more than that, trust me. You are individual, unique and special in so many ways…your worth cannot be measured in ‘likes’.

There is always one…

Ten positive comments and one negative comment, which one will we dwell on? People can hide behind social media and say nasty things because they think that they can get away with it (I hear the term ‘keyboard warrior’ mentioned from time to time, more like keyboard cowards). In my experience in the mental health field, ‘pain causes pain’, although the comment may be hurtful, I always think about what might be going on with the individual that made them hurtful things in the first place.  All behaviour makes sense but that does not make it right. If you feel you cannot deal with the person, block them, delete them and do whatever makes you feel better. Its cathartic on so many levels.

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FOMO…

A.K.A Fear Of Missing Out

It’s the pressure we feel that makes us want to do what everyone else is doing, go to the same place everyone else is going and having the need to share it to prove our lives are just as good as theirs. This can give us a sense of anxiety that our lives are not as ‘Instagrammable‘ as everyone else’s. I think to myself, why are people doing this to themselves??

I’m a bit of a rebel in that if someone is going to a ‘cool place’ I tend to go the opposite way and find something different. I see this ‘anxiety’ to please others so much on my feeds I just want to tell people to relax and live the life YOU feel comfortable with! We  categorically cannot please everyone and you will just wear yourself out trying to do so.

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It’s not all doom and gloom…

For every person I see on social media that makes me ‘eye roll’, there someone that inspires immense creativity. I have met so many people through blogging and social media that are truly amazing. It’s a great way to find people with similar interests and the same life values as you. I have had some super luck in finding a few lovely people who now I consider friends and if it wasn’t for social media we may have never met!

How can I help myself?

Switch off. Literally.

Set the phone or laptop down and take time out from social media, our poor brains need a rest after a long day at work or looking after the kids. Use the time to have a relaxing bath or read a book. Being continually ‘switched on’ our brains cannot cope with the information overload which leads to exhaustion.

Do not use social media before bed.

I have a rule of no technology in the bedroom but I still find myself having a last scroll through (1 hour later…) before going to bed. Social media can effect our sleep pattern and the light of our phones messes up the bodies natural ‘wind down time’ so if you must look, make sure you switch your screen to night mode. If we don’t get a proper rest our body cannot cope which can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.

Talk to someone.

If you feel that it is all getting you down and your feeling of Anxiety or Depression is getting in the way of you living your life. There is always someone to talk to (and I mean face to face talking with a cup of tea not over whatsapp messages)… A friend, your GP or someone you trust.

I hope to continue to inspire others and make my social media channels a happy and positive place. Always be yourself and try and not succumb to the perceived way of life you think you should be having, happiness always comes from within yourself and not from external gratifications.

Much Love,

Judy xo

 

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Mint Tea

Those of you who know me will appreciate my unwavering love for Mint tea. Mint tea can come in many varieties including Peppermint, Spearmint and other interesting mint/herbal blends.  I drink 2-3 cups a day of different types and swear by it for a number of reasons.

A few years ago I decided to cut down on my caffeine intake.  I tried green tea first but I wasn’t fussed on the taste but when I tried peppermint tea, I knew it was a keeper.

 I thought I would share some of the known benefits of mint teas to explain why I keep reaching for them rather than a traditional Black Tea blends.

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Digestive Health

We inherently don’t like talking about our digestive health even though we are all proud owners of these things called intestines. Mint teas are great for your digestive system, not only can they reduce bloating and cramping but increase gut motility too, helping things just work a little bit better in there.

Immunity

Mint teas are known for their antibacterial properties which can help your body manage the bugs that it comes into contact with during the course of a day (spearmint tea is particular good at this). They can also help you when you’re feeling under the weather by helping to quell nausea and act as anti-inflammatories in the stomach.

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Stress Relief

When it comes to stress and anxiety, mint tea is one of your best allies. The menthol that is naturally present in the tea is a relaxant. This calming property can help to provide natural stress and anxiety relief.

Sleep

As mentioned above, mint teas are natural relaxants and so can help to aid sleep. Drink a cup in the evening and enjoy some quality Zzz’s.

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Hormones

Some of you might have read online that Mint teas (specifically spearmint) can help with ailments caused by hormone imbalances however the internet is full of information that is not always based on fact and evidence. As a medical professional I don’t feel that this particular health claim has been widely enough researched so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for a herbal remedy for these types of ailment without first consulting your GP.

My Favourite Blend

Still yet to be convinced? Why not give it a try and see what I’m making the big fuss about 🙂  If you’re looking for a tea to try, I recommend trying Suki Tea –  Loose Leaf Peppermint, it’s a fresh and delicate tea, ethically sourced and blended in Belfast. Find it here. (You can also get it in teabags if you don’t have an infuser.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog and are excited to try your first cup of Mint Tea.

Much Love,

Judy xo

*Image credit: Pinterest

Minding Your Mental Health at Christmas.

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Christmas can be an exciting time for some and a stressful event for others. Whether you suffer from a Mental Illness or not it can be a difficult time of the year.

It may be your first Christmas without someone special, maybe you find the busy crowds a bit overwhelming or you feel the self inflicted stress trying to get everything done for the ‘perfect Christmas’.

Money

Of course we want to get our friends and family the presents they deserve, but setting a budget that is within your means and sticking to it can help avoid unmanageable credit card bills which could impact your Mental Health further. If you need financial advice you can get some information here.

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Alcohol

Of course with Christmas comes more parties and social drinking. Although alcohol can help us feel relaxed, it is also a depressant. Drinking excessive amounts can lower your mood. Stick to the recommended unit intake and you should be able to maintain better physical and mental wellbeing.

Food

We cant help ourselves during the festive period and we do tend to over indulge. This in turn can prompt lower self esteem and body image. Alternatively if you have a history of an Eating Disorder, the quantity of food and the focus on food may be stressful.

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can improve your mood and can work towards preventing symptoms of lethargy and low mood that many of us feel during the busy festive season and dark winter months.

So, here are some ways to help look after yourself this Christmastime. 

I get by with a little help from my friend…

Helping others is good for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, increase self-esteem and happiness and even benefit your physical health. So visit your elderly neighbour (John Lewis raised awareness this year with their advert for Age UK), volunteer some of your time at a local charity or community initiative.

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And Relax

I always find you do not realise how exhausted you are until you have a few days off. If you are luck enough to have some time off over Christmas, have some ‘Me Time”, try out mindfulness techniques (I’ve written about some in a previous blog post), go for a walk or a long soak in the bath. Go on you’ve earned it…

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Catch some zZzZz…

With all the parties and disruption yo your normal routine and sleep pattern, it’s important to ensure you remain well rested. It’s a well known fact that sleep quality is linked to better mental wellbeing. So take a look at your sleep hygiene, as an increase in alcohol, less physical activity and increase in stress can have a big impact.

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I hope you have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year, but if you need a little more support over the next few weeks, I will add some charities below.

Much Love,

Judy xo

The Samaritans

BEAT- Eating Disorder Charity

Debt and Money worries- Citizens Advice.

Help with Alcohol- Alcohol Support Services

Mind

Mindfulness: Finding the Balance.

Mindfulness has become quite topical and almost trendy of late but it’s most definitely not a new concept. It is derived from Buddist practice and has been coined by Psychology in the past number of years. 

As part of my job as a Mental Health Professional, I talk about mindfulness a lot to my service users as one of the many tools for them to use from their toolbox for coping with whatever Mental Illness they are experiencing.

There are numerous different types of ‘Mindfulness’ from meditation to breathing or Yoga.

To define it, Mindfulness is a way of managing your thoughts through different techniques to help you focus on the present moment.

In sure most of you think it is a lot of mumbojumbo, however it has been extensively researched and is a preventative method as well as a coping method for anxiety and depression.

When stress and pressures hang over you like a rain cloud, it is very easy to get caught in that negative thinking patterns, which can be a vicious circle and hard to break. Being mindful is accepting this stress, and catching those negative thoughts and challenging them before they drag you down.

So what do you mean by challenging your thoughts? Basically that little internal voice in your head needs retrained, observe the comments without criticising , learning to be compassionate and kinder to yourself.

Some ways of being in the moment and focusing on the here and now are:

Yoga– I recently took up UndaYoga as I felt I needed that 90mins a week for true me time, focusing on nothing but my practice and breathing.

Walking– get yourself out and about at lunch time. Being cooped up at a desk, taking stressful phone calls…escape from that for 30mins and focus on your steps, the trees, the sky or breathing. You will feel so much better for it and come back refreshed to tackle the rest of the afternoon.

Watching your thoughts– If you are like me, I have a constant stream of thoughts of things I should do, should have done and as I talked about above, getting caught in negative thinking cycles. The trick is noticing when you are doing this. Say STOP to yourself internally and focus on your breathing for a moment (Breathe in for 5 and out for 5 until you are completely refocused). This will refocus your brain on the present moment.

Colouring in- Yes, you heard me right! I recently bought a colouring book off Amazon called ‘The Mindfulness Colouring Book’ it’s a great way to switch off for 10 minutes and focus on the picture and colours. They are quite intriquite drawings so require a lot of concentration!!

  
To finish, let me reiterate, mindfulness is always work in progress. It is also unrealistic to walk around in a bubble all the time and be blasé about life. We have to remember in this mad world, we have to look after ourselves, including our mental health.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, drop me a line.

Much Love,

Judy xo