How to Mentally Handle “The New Normal”

How to Mentally Handle “The New Normal”

It is no surprise that the virus has taken over the world by now, and every one of us is feeling anxious about the uncertainty it has caused in our lives. One of the many changes it has brought in our lives is the way we work.

We are all grieving the loss of something. For some people, it might be the loss of their jobs. For children, it might be the loss of being able to go to school. Either way, we are grieving the loss of the joy of going outside without the fear of getting affected by the virus.

We had to say goodbye to our “normal” life. It is okay to feel unmotivated, anxious, and uncertain right now. We are in the middle of a pandemic, after all. It is okay to take your time and figure out your own way of dealing with this loss. You do not have to feel bad about feeling bad, your feelings are valid, and you have the permission to feel.

One of the many things which have changed during this time is that we have to convert a section of our homes into our office. Working from home can be difficult for our mental health and can hinder our productivity. We are all waiting for the quarantine to get over and everything to go back to normal, but the reality is that we might never be able to go back to the way things were before. The custom of shaking hands might be dead even after quarantine is over.

The rules for social distancing will be in place until we find a vaccine for the virus or maybe even longer. The point is that we won’t have the normal which we had before. This might be the biggest change we will have to do collectively across generations. Change is tough, and to accept such a massive change is tougher. But what might help is a little heads up. It would be better if everyone understands that it is okay if we do not get our normal back and it is time to create a new normal.

While the future remains uncertain about the best strategies for reopening the economy, one cannot ignore the panic and the anxiety everyone will go through once people start going outside again. A mass amount of people have yet to develop immunity against the virus. If we reopen without proper strategies and clear rules, there is a chance that we may go into a worse scenario.

What is COVID-19 doing to our mental health? 

We all have been reading about the effects of physical health of COVID-19, but there are various ways it has affected our mental health as well.

  • Health Anxiety: The fact that this crisis has been so global and uncertain has induced a wave of anxiety which has not only impacted the spiraling thoughts but has also created a pit of fear in our stomach. For the people staying away from their families, the uncertainty of being able to see their families again has intensified.
  • Lockdown stress: The biggest effect the lockdown has had on our mental health is the loss. It is the loss of our identity and who we are. Being able to have hobbies and things that we do on weekends are disrupted causing stress because being able to identify who we are is highly associated with our psychological well-being.

The stress caused by COVID-19 has a way worse impact on people who have been diagnosed with mental health disorders than others. Certain situations related to the virus can be triggering. For example, people with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder are reminded of the time when they couldn’t go outside because of their illness. People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) could find washing of the hands as a trigger. Hence, one can feel more stressed if you are already stressed.

  • Loneliness: The lack of human connection can be tough, especially for the people staying away from their friends and family or living alone in an apartment.

 

How to prepare yourself mentally for the new normal affected by COVID-19? 

  • Stress Inoculation: This is a term used by psychologists, which means that if one is prepared for the stress to come in advance, they tend to resist less towards the stress and are more prepared for it.
  • Rebuild your rhythm: We all know that our sleep schedules are not doing so great these days. Doing some preparation about a week before going back to work, trying to fix your sleep schedule, or making to-do lists prior to going to bed can help rebuild your rhythm. Maybe this new schedule is better for you because you can now add things for self-care and things that you do to destress every day. Stress starts to interrupt your life when it has been accumulated for a long period of time.
  • Keep an open mind: While there are some speculations around how the world would look like post-COVID-19, it is better to keep an open mind for the unexpected. Be prepared for anything that has to come. We have done a great job in surviving a pandemic and isolation and we can do this as well.
  • It is okay to GRIEVE: We have all suffered from the loss of “normal” life and it is okay to take your time to grieve about it.
  • Going outside for a brunch with friends is still a NO: It would be great to just get the vaccine and go back to normal, but the reality is that it takes time to perfect a vaccine and distribute it to everyone. Unfortunately, we might have to put off brunch with friends for some more time.
  • Be more creative: It is time to be more creative around the idea of fun. We are still in the middle of a pandemic. Though the world is starting to reopen because of the economy, it is necessary to acknowledge that we might never be able to go back to the “normal” as before. We can be more creative in thinking of ideas to do at home while we survive this pandemic.

What can you do to help yourself on a personal level?

  • Try to do the basics of survival: Eating, sleeping, bathing, putting on clean clothes. On days when you are feeling overwhelmed, doing the basics is enough.
  • Building social support: Social distancing does not mean social disconnecting. This is the time to be more active via video calls and joining Facebook groups which share common interests as you. Try to build connections while social distancing.
  • Coping strategies: Remind yourself of the coping strategies which have helped you before.
  • Limiting your exposure to social media and news: It is okay to take a break from social media and to limit your exposure to the news.

Take one day at a time! It will be okay!

Help is available and you are worthy of it. Please click this link and it will direct to the help available in your country https://checkpointorg.com/global/

 

~ Pinky Sabhnani

 

What It’s Like To Be a Senior High Schooler during Quarantine

What It’s Like To Be a Senior High Schooler during Quarantine

COVID-19 has changed the world and the way we live in it. During this time of loss, change, and uncertainty of the future, everyone is experiencing a multitude of different mental health challenges, struggles, and responses. The experience of high schoolers in particular is a unique one that deserves more space in the news, media, and global conversations. In comparison to previous lighthearted and celebratory ends of years past, I find my current reflections of my junior year to be melancholic and heavy.

It was difficult to comprehend the magnitude of COVID and the degree to which highschool life would be affected when the pandemic was just beginning to come to light in the United States. We were first in denial, carrying on with our lives, treating it like a far away and distant issue. It seemed unreal that life could change in such drastic ways. We clung on to hopes of prom, graduation, and end of the year celebrations that got us through long days in math. Plans for activities and seeing family over summer still seemed possible. When the reality of COVID sunk in, we were faced with insurmountable sadness and the weight of what had been lost.

Since my freshman year of high school, I have looked forward to picking out a prom dress with my mom. My friend Sophie was excited to visit with family in England she hasn’t seen for over a year. My friend Lillie couldn’t wait to graduate highschool with her peers. Yearbook signings, end of the year carnival, taking the SAT. Even a few months in, it is difficult to internalize how forever changed our lives are. We try not to talk or think about it, afraid of what confronting reality will mean.

One of the hardest parts has been the absence of school relationships. For my friend Sophie, motivation to complete school work and stay engaged comes from interactions in class and in the halls with friends, classmates, and teachers. Not having those opportunities to connect with peers on a personal and face-to-face level has made it much more difficult to feel motivated and inspired to finish off the school year. For my friend Lillie, who is graduating her last year of high school, it is incredibly heartbreaking to know she can’t say goodbye to the peers and teachers she spent the last four years building relationships with.

Lillie described a strong sense of regret. Having planned on going to prom, school dances, and important events her senior year, she is distraught over not having the opportunity to create such cherished highschool memories with friends to hold on to for the rest of her life. She also reported a loss in the pride that comes along with being a senior throughout COVID. While school administration and staff has done their best to recognize and celebrate seniors, with no graduation or celebratory parties possible, the end of her highschool experience has felt anticlimactic and lacking.

For many juniors and seniors, the anxiety and uncertainty of what the future will hold and look like is overwhelming. Freshman year in college and senior year in highschool are some of the most celebrated moments of adolescence. We wonder what we will miss out on, and the ways in which our lives and youthood will be impacted. One of Lillie’s friend’s dad lost his job and mom is now working part-time. Due to her parents current financial shortcomings, she can no longer afford the college she has been excited about for all of high school, and will now be going to her 5th choice university. It is experiences like these that exist amongst youth all across the world, and lead to severe mental health concerns and feelings of despair, defeat, and loss.

During this time of heaviness and darkness, however, there has been positivity too. As highschoolers with schedules bursting at the seams full of extracurriculars and school work, it can be incredibly difficult to practice self care with life running at full speed during the normal school year. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association reported that teen stress levels during a normal school year exceed what they believe to be healthy, and pass average adult stress levels. COVID-19 has permitted us to slow down, take a step back, and make ourselves and our mental health a priority. Sophie and Lillie have both turned to exercise and reading to take care and feel better about themselves. Sophie has also enjoyed using checklists for motivation and keeping a balance between family and schoolwork, and catching up on sleep missed due to 1am school nights.

Through all of this sadness and pain, it is so important to take care and make yourself a priority. You can start simple by taking care of your body. Go on walks, eat healthy and balanced meals, and try breathing exercises or meditation. If creativity is more of your thing, try keeping a COVID-19 bullet journal, creating self compassionate art, or doodling with chalk on the sidewalk for your neighbors to enjoy. When especially missing social connection, you might hold a Zoom brunch for you and your friends, try new activities with your pets, or bake cookies on FaceTime with your grandparents.

If you are in immediate crisis or need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. A 2017 University of Cambridge study showed that teenagers who depended on and had greater access to mental health support services were less likely to become clinically depressed later on in life. Talking about the way you are feeling and leaning on professionals and support systems is imperative to taking care of yourself and feeling better. This is a hard time, and you deserve to reach out and receive support.

 

~ Olivia Nilsson

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/teen-stress

https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2017/01/19/Study-shows-benefits-for-teens-who-seek-mental-health-treatment/5891484849520/

 

Racism is a Psychological Bias

Racism is a Psychological Bias

As an organization that is actively Breaking Taboo around psychological health, we found it difficult to ignore the issue of racism, as racism itself is a psychological bias. In light of the recent racist attacks that have been occurring due to the COVID-19 epidemic, we have a social and moral obligation to shed some light onto the psychology of xenophobia.

First of all, what is “xenophobia” and “racism”?

Merriam Webster defines xenophobia as: “dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.”

Racism is: “A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”

Where does racism stem from?

Racism stems from cognitive biases that are often based on stereotypes towards certain groups of people [1]. Stereotypes are largely based on assumptions and these assumptions are then assigned to all members of the group, without regard to the individualities and variations of the members. Although stereotypes can be positive or negative, they all can have a negative effect. These biases can be helpful and create mental shortcuts for us, but it can also have an adverse effect as it can result in prejudgements [1]. Jumping to conclusions is extremely easy to do, especially when we are judging people who seem different from ourselves. 

This is because of something psychologists call the “Ingroup Outgroup Bias,” also known as “Ingroup Favoritism”, “Intergroup Bias,” and “Ingroup Preference.” 

As social creatures, we categorize and distinguish ourselves between “us” and “them”. We have a natural inclination to prefer those who are like us, the ingroup, over those who are different from us, the outgroups [2]. This can cause ingroup favoritism, which is defined as “the tendency to respond more positively to people in our ingroups than we do to people from outgroups” [2]. This can lead to the unfair treatment of members in the outgroups. Furthermore, when we view individuals in our ingroups, we see these members as individual entities with unique personalities and traits [3]. However, outgroup members are generalized to have the same characteristics, so it’s easy to label them into one large homogenous group. This is called the outgroup homogeneity effect [3]. 

This type of bias extends beyond the scope of race and can be fostered and amplified by social perceptions such as competition.

In the Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment, eleven-year-old boys with similar backgrounds were studied in a mock summer camp situation, in which the boys were divided into two equal groups and encouraged to bond, with the aim of fostering an in-group mentality. Researchers then introduced a series of competitive activities which pitted groups against each other for a valuable prize. Hostility and out-group negativity ensued.

Lastly, researchers attempted to reverse the hostility by engaging the boys in situations of mutual interdependence, an effort which eventually resulted in relative harmony between the two groups.

Sherif concluded from this experiment that negative attitudes toward out-groups arise when groups compete for limited resources. However, he also theorized that inter-group frictions could be reduced and positive relations created, but only in the presence of an overarching goal, which could only be achieved with the two groups’ cooperation. [4][5]

When we see people that are different from us, especially when we don’t know much about them, it’s easy for us to categorize them into broad groups like race, gender, etc. When we build up these stereotypes in our minds, consciously or unconsciously, it can lead to changes in how we perceive and treat others. 

There is debate on whether or not these biases are intrinsic in nature; and if so, just how much of it is intrinsic versus triggered by social propaganda or even internal self esteem.

In a popular Yale research led by psychologist Laurie Santos, researchers found that monkeys stared longer at pictures of other monkeys who were outside their group, suggesting that monkeys spontaneously detect who is a stranger and who is a group member, and suggesting that human intergroup conflict may be an evolutionary construct. However, it is important to note that the same research also found that although monkeys divide the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ they do so in a way that is flexible and is updated in real time. [6]

According to Santos, “Pretty much every conflict in human history has involved people making distinctions on the basis of who is a member of their own race, religion, social class, and so on.” [6]

The subject of racism has also long been linked to having high or low self esteem. 

Dr. Steve Taylor, a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Beckett University, UK, concludes that racism is a symptom of psychological ill-health. It is a sign of a lack of psychological integration, a lack of self-esteem and inner security. Psychologically healthy people with a stable sense of self and strong inner security are not racist, because they have no need to strengthen their sense of self through group identity. They have no need to define themselves in distinction to — and in conflict with — others [7].

Racism is far from subsiding and we must be vigilant when we see it happening around us. 

Because of COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in racism toward Asian populations. There are many different social influences that are involved in negatively shaping these perceptions. For example, calling COVID-19 the “China virus” insinuates that all those who have a Chinese, or even just an Asian background are carriers of the virus. There is a slew of evidence that invalidates these biases. Based on an analysis of COVID-19 deaths by race and ethnicity, it was found that Asians have a relatively equal or less percentage of deaths compared to Blacks, Latinxs, and Whites [8]. Xenophobia and racism are still happening, and not just towards Asians.  

There have been various attacks towards all over the world because of racist motives. Examples of these attacks include: verbal abuse, harassment, physical assaults, and even murder. In Texas, two children were stabbed at a supermarket just because the perpetrator thought they were Chinese and had the coronavirus [9].

This, coupled with the recent scandal of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black American man who’s killing is currently being investigated as federal hate crime [10], and the most recent victim, George Floyd, who was videotaped being suffocated by the knee of a police officer named Derek Chauvin [11], shows that racism, prejudice, and hate crimes are still very prevalent in the world we live in today. 

The protests and uproar sparked from the death of George Floyd raise much needed conversations about racism. There are too many people that have been desensitized to racism, choose to ignore it and let it continue, or even worse, take part in it. For example, there is a video posted of Amy Cooper, a white woman, who called the police and falsely accused there’s an African-American man threatening my life.” simply because the man, Christian Cooper, asked her to leash her dog.

Too many of us have been complicit, and it needs to end now. 

The surge of hate crimes can be attributed to many different factors like ignorance, how race is  presented in the media, etc. but racism is a phenomena that has been happening long before the coronavirus outbreak and continues to be a very real issue that needs addressing. 

In 2011, the United Nations held a High-Level Meeting, where world leaders adopted by consensus a political declaration proclaiming their “strong determination to make the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the protection of the victims thereof, a high priority for [their] countries” [12]. But that was a decade ago, and the fight continues. 

We would like to leave you with a story published in Hayasaki’s article, referred to by Izzy Kalman.  This is a story about Angela King, a die-hard racist gang member who ended up in prison for robbery and assault at a Jewish-owned store. 

One day, while smoking a cigarette with her back against a wall, King noticed a Jamaican woman eyeing her. King thought she was going to start a fight with her. Instead, the woman asked, “Do you know how to play cribbage?” The woman sat down next to King and taught her how to play the card game. King became friends with her, as well as her black friends. They questioned King about her beliefs while simultaneously showing her compassion and love.

“They were treating me like a human being,” King said. “It blew me away, because I didn’t feel like I deserved it, and I wasn’t expecting it. To receive that, it’s not something that you can ask for or would even know to ask for. It’s a gift like forgiveness, that when you get it, it changes everything.” [13]

It is common knowledge that problems do not disappear by ignoring them, and while there have been many efforts to counteract racism, the work is far from over. Only through continued education, turning ignorance into knowledge, taking a stand against injustice, activism, speaking out, and giving a voice to those whose voices have been suppressed – can we all do our part to turn over new leaves and break the taboo against racism.

Serena Sun, Founder and Director of Breaking Taboo &

Lucy Li, Breaking Taboo Assistant

 

 

 

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/bias

[2]https://opentextbc.ca/socialpsychology/chapter/ingroup-favoritism-and-prejudice/ 

[3]https://sites.bu.edu/ombs/2013/10/16/why-are-people-sexist-racist-and-judgmental-behind-cognitive-bias-and-prejudice/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-group_favoritism#cite_note-aronson-1

[5] https://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Sherif/index.htm 

[6] https://phys.org/news/2011-03-human-prejudice-ancient-evolutionary-roots.html

[7]https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201801/the-psychology-racism

[8] https://www.apmresearchlab.org/covid/deaths-by-race 

[9]https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/10/opinions/how-to-fight-bias-against-asian-americans-covid-19-liu/index.html 

[10]https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/25/us/ahmaud-arbery-doj-hate-crime-investigation/index.html

[11] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52861726

[12] https://www.un.org/en/ga/durbanmeeting2011/index.shtml

[13]https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/resilience-bullying/201812/bottom-approach-reducing-racism

When Seasons Change, Emotions Change

When Seasons Change, Emotions Change

Going into March, the start of springtime, we at Breaking Taboo would love to talk about how the changing seasons can affect our mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized as bouts of depression that occur when the season changes, typically happening in winter and coming back in the following spring or summer [1]. As the seasons change, our moods can shift and sometimes, we don’t know why. Symptoms of SAD include episodes of depression which can involve weight gain, increased sleep, and less motivation for activities [2]. SAD occurs in ~10% of the general population, and is 3 times more prevalent in females than it is in males [3].

Research shows that circadian rhythms play a role in SAD. Circadian rhythm is your 24-hour biological clock which regulates your sleep/wake cycle and is controlled by part of your hypothalamus [4]. Your circadian rhythm is set through external stimuli such as light and dark that gets transmitted to the pineal gland and let’s our brains know when we should  be getting sleepy . You tend to feel sleepy when it’s dark, and not through your daily habits. As the seasons change, the amount of light during the day fluctuates, causing disruption to circadian rhythms. Interestingly, circadian rhythms can change as you get older and SAD becomes rare after the age of 50 [4 & 5].

Since light plays such a large role in setting circadian rhythms, there has been research on the effectiveness on treating SAD with light therapy during winter depression [5]! During light therapy, the patient sits in front of a light box and will be exposed to blue wavelengths for a set period of time [1]. This allows for the patient to receive a new light source they aren’t able to get naturally, especially during the wintertime when the sun doesn’t come out as frequently.

There have also been additional studies focusing on the correlation between vitamin D and depression [6]. Links have been found connecting depression and anxiety with vitamin D deficiency. As seasons change, there’s also a change in natural light. Spring is approaching, which means more sunlight, but what about those of us that can’t get out during the day due to things like school and work? I believe that for those of us that can’t get outside when the suns out, it can make us more prone to seeing symptoms of SAD. It’s important to get a chance to take a walk or catch some fresh air as much as your days allow you to.  

Even though blue light therapy has been found to be very effective for combating SAD, regular blue light that emits from our digital screens, lights, etc. can actually be disruptive for our circadian rhythms [7]. It adds too much additional light that gets sent to the pineal gland and disrupts the processes in your brain that lets you know when you should start getting tired. Additionally, looking at screens for a prolonged period of time can cause strain in your eyes and make you more fatigued. Even though many of us are so accustomed to using our phones or looking at other types of screens, it would be good to take a break from it when you can and focus some more time outside in the natural light. It wouldn’t be far fetched to say that taking breaks as much as we can and just being outside for a few minutes can make such a large impact on our overall mental well being.

~ Lucy Li

 

 

[1] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1081/CBI-120019310

[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/481869 

[3] https://europepmc.org/article/MED/9522484

[4] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm

[5] https://europepmc.org/article/MED/9522484 

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030698770700240X

[7] https://lowbluelights.com/blue-light-glasses-can-help-fight-seasonal-depression/

 

How Does Mental Health Affect the Heart? Heart Health and Mental Health

How Does Mental Health Affect the Heart? Heart Health and Mental Health

February is American Heart Month, it is a time to raise awareness about heart health and urge those around you to prevent heart disease [1]. Here at Breaking Taboo, we would like to take a moment and discuss the connection between mental health and heart health. Previously, the connection was seen as strictly behavioral. Behavioral in the sense that people were turning to binge eating, drinking and smoking when feeling down [3].

But currently, research is showing that aside from behavioral there could be physiological connections too [3]. “The biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health issues also could influence heart disease [3].”

The statistics are showing that “people with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions [4].”

Recently, there was an article in Harvard Health that discussed the head-heart connection [2]. According to this article, new research suggests that, people with depression or anxiety are more prone to developing cardiovascular disease.

Harvard Health conducted a research study where 221,000 people ages 45 and older without any history of heart disease were included [2]. They were given a short mental health questionnaire to assess their distress. There was an average follow-up of more than four-and-a-half years were “people who had reported high or very high levels of depression and anxiety were more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than people without those symptoms.”

 

The following is the Kessler psychological distress test that was used in the previously mentioned study:

Assess your distress

The Kessler psychological distress scale is a list of 10 questions used to identify people who need further assessment for anxiety or depression. People can select answers ranging from 1 to 5: 1 (none of the time); 2 (a little of the time); 3 (some of the time); 4 (most of the time); 5 (all of the time).

During the past four weeks, about how often did you feel

___ depressed?
___ nervous?
___ so nervous that nothing could calm you down?
___ restless or fidgety?
___ so restless that you could not sit still?
___ tired out for no good reason?
___ that everything was an effort?
___ so sad that nothing could cheer you up?
___ hopeless?
___ worthless?

Scoring: 15 or lower = low; 16–21= moderate; 22–29 = high; 30–50 = very high

 

So what does this study conclude? “These findings do not necessarily mean that psychological distress causes heart disease. Instead, both may arise (at least in part) from the same underlying mechanisms, says Dr. Jill Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Harvard Medical School and Executive Director of the Women, Heart and Brain Global Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital [2].”

Psychological distress not only accelerates the onset of heart disease but it also gets in the way of practicing prevention [5]. So, the bottom line is while we are trying to increase our physical activity and changing our diets, we must also learn to take into consideration what our emotions and thoughts are.
Preventative Practices:

 

Recommendations from the American Psychological Association:

Although heart disease is a serious condition that requires constant monitoring, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems and live a full, active life, even if you should suffer a heart attack [5].

• Talk to your doctor. No two people are alike, and some treatment or risk reduction strategies may be inappropriate or even harmful if you attempt to do too much too quickly [5].

 

o Key screening tests for monitoring cardiovascular health [6]:

 Blood pressure- Each regular healthcare visit or at least once per year if blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
 Fasting Lipoprotein Profile (cholesterol)- Every 4-6 years for normal-risk adults; more often if anyone has elevated risk for heart disease and stroke.
 Body Weight- During your regular healthcare visit.
 Blood Glucose- At least every 3 years.
 Smoking, physical activity, diet- Each regular healthcare visit.

• Avoid trying to fix every problem at once, if possible. Focus instead on changing one existing habit (e.g., eating habits, inactive lifestyle). Set a reasonable initial goal and work toward meeting it [5].

 

o Set “SMART goals [7]:
 Specific- What do you want to happen?
 Measurable- How will you know that you accomplished what you wanted to do?
 Attainable- Is this goal something you can really accomplish?
 Realistic- Is your goal too hard or too easy to achieve?
Timely- Do you have a definite time frame to complete your goal?

 

• Don’t ignore the symptoms of depression. Feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest in ordinary or pleasurable activities, reduced energy, and eating and sleep disorders are just a few of depression’s many warning signs. If they persist for more than two weeks, discuss these issues with your heart doctor. It may be that a psychologist working in collaboration with your physician would be beneficial [5]. Depression is not the end of the world, even if it may sometimes feel like it. Here at Breaking Taboo, we encourage people to be open and authentic about their feelings while providing the education necessary to move forward. We encourage you to get help if the below signs and symptoms resonate with you.

 

o If, you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression [8]:

 Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
 Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
 Irritability
 Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
 Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
 Decreased energy or fatigue
 Moving or talking more slowly
 Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
 Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
 Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
 Appetite and/or weight changes
 Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
 Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

 

• It is important to note that learning how to manage stress effectively is most important. In life, we will always have stressors, and so trying to avoid stress can be a maladaptive coping mechanism. Identify the sources of stress in your life and look for ways to reduce and manage them. Seeing a professional like a psychologist to learn to manage stress is helpful not only for preventing heart disease, but also for speeding recovery from heart attacks when used along with structured exercise programs and other intensive lifestyle changes [5].

 

o How to identify stress: there can be psychological signs, emotions signs, physical signs and behavioral signs [9]:

Psychological signs:
 Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions
 Memory lapses
 Becoming rather vague
 Easily distracted
 Less intuitive & creative
 Worrying
 Negative thinking
 Depression & anxiety

Emotional signs:
 Tearful
 Irritable
 Mood swings
 Extra sensitive to criticism
 Defensive
 Feeling out of control
 Lack of motivation
 Angry
 Frustrated
 Lack of confidence
 Lack of self-esteem

Physical signs
Aches/pains & muscle tension/grinding teeth
 Frequent colds/infections
 Allergies/rashes/skin irritations
 Constipation/diarrhea/ IBS
 Weight loss or gain
 Indigestion/heartburn/ulcers
 Hyperventilating/lump in the throat/pins & needles
 Dizziness/palpitations
 Panic attacks/nausea
 Physical tiredness
 Menstrual changes/loss of libido/sexual problems
 Heart problems/high blood pressure

Behavioral signs
 No time for relaxation or pleasurable activities
 Prone to accidents, forgetfulness
 Increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine, recreational or illegal drugs
 Becoming a workaholic
 Poor time management and/or poor standards of work
 Absenteeism
 Self-neglect/change in appearance
 Social withdrawal
 Relationship problems
 Insomnia or waking tired
 Reckless
 Aggressive/anger outbursts
 Nervous
 Uncharacteristically lying

 

• Enlist the support of friends, family, and work associates. Talk with them about your condition and what they can do to help. Social support is particularly critical for overcoming feelings of depression and isolation during recovery from a heart attack [5].

• If you feel overwhelmed by the challenge of managing the behaviors associated with heart disease, consult a qualified psychologist. He or she can help develop personal strategies for setting and achieving reasonable health improvement goals, as well as building on these successes to accomplish other more ambitious objectives. A psychologist can also help clarify the diagnosis of depression and work with the physician to devise a suitable treatment program [5].

 

This article is meant to be an educational and informational piece. If you are concerned about your health, you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Discuss how you are feeling both emotionally (mentally) and physically. Your primary care provider may refer you to a mental health professional for medication and/ or therapy.

You should monitor heart health not only during this month but every day, especially for those who are dealing with already existing heart health.

 

~ Jasneelam Kaur, MPH

Edited by ~ Serena Sun, Founder

Sources:

[1] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-month
[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-head-heart-connection-mental-health-and-heart-disease
[3] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-and-heart-health
[4] https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers
[5] https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/heart-disease
[6] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/heart-health-screenings
[7] https://breaking-taboo.org/general-posts/new-year-new-you-lets-break-the-taboo/
[8] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

Tips for Being Single And Happy on Valentines Day! Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue….

Tips for Being Single And Happy on Valentines Day! Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue….

Toward the end of the winter holidays, I remember running to my local grocery story to grab some last moment holiday baking items and I remember being surprised to see pink and red holiday candy and décor already out. February was still two months away, yet people were already planning to start celebrating the next holiday while there were still Christmas presents under their trees!

Maybe it’s the fact that January tends to last a whole 31 long cold days with little sun and plenty of brrr from the breeze and frost. Maybe that’s why grocery stores, retail stores and supermarkets try to help us out by reminding us of the next upcoming festivities. By displaying ginormous bears and hearts and candies and cupcakes.

Taking a look back into history St. Valentine’s Day is a holiday with Roman origins, [1] where lovers showed displays of affection with gifts and greetings. Overtime, I think we can all agree it has become a Hallmark holiday.

As if the pressure to be paired up during the winter holiday months of Thanksgiving and Christmas wasn’t enough here is yet another holiday where people often feel the pressure of being in a relationship. But, here is a gentle reminder that it’s okay. You do not have to be in a relationship to be happy this February 14th. There are many other ways you can share displays of affection with gifts and/ or greetings with family, friends or even yourself.

Before we go any further, I want to state that if you are in a relationship or have a romantic interest that is perfect and there is nothing wrong with doing so. Maybe you can relate to this blog, maybe you can’t. But we must go on for those who are curious as to how to solve their predicament.

First, here is a short list of people who you can chose to celebrate with:
– YOURSELF
– Mother
– Father
– Brother
– Sister
– Grandpa
– Grandma
– Uncle
– Aunt
– Best friend
– Cousin
– Niece
– Nephew
– Dog
– Cat
– Neighbor

Second, chose an activity to celebrate instead of focusing on buying generic cards and chocolates:
– Bake heart shaped goodies
– Capture a sunrise and sunset
– Cook a home-made meal for yourself and/ or your important person
– Dress up and go do a photoshoot around town
– Go for a hike
– Go on a picnic
– Go on a roadtrip
– Go to the gym
– Go watch a local sports game
– Hand make cards and write letters to your loved ones
– Learn to play golf or at least start with mini-golfing
– Play some boardgames
– Sign up for a painting or sculpting class
– Take a dance or workout class together
– Take a walk around your neighborhood
– Visit a local museum or two
– Volunteer at the local homeless shelter

Hopefully you were able to get some ideas of what you can do whether you chose to do it by yourself or with someone. But, just remember to give yourself time to rest and unwind from all the pressure and stress of the holidays. Maybe you read all the above ideas and end up ordering food in and binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix and that is absolutely okay!

There are no right or wrong answers with what you chose but just don’t forget to choose yourself. Take a moment to reflect. Write a letter to yourself, record a blog about your day, create a Q & A podcast about yourself. Just remember to love yourself 

Remember to focus on your heart health after all February is also American Heart Month.

~ Jasneelam Kaur