Wellbeing for the Mind – part 3

Stress -  “when life changes from normal to something abnormal to us”

Coping with life seems to cause us many problems. At the end of the day, this is what often causes our moods to change – when life changes from the normal to something abnormal to us – the life experiences. Here are some examples; illness, moving house, separation and divorce, the death of someone close and then life without that person, redundancy, retirement and so on. On an even more serious level, there is abuse, violence, deprivation, disability (although the impact of this will vary between individuals), homelessness etc.

All of these situations fit into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see part one) so in my view, the best way to tackle treatment is at this grass roots level. I am not a therapist with experience in this area and I believe that in some of these situations, help is going to be needed in one form or another and often from another person/people. Sadly, the usual sequence of events is that you feel out of control, you have time off work, you feel guilty about this so you see a doctor. You are given medication. This gives you hope and you return to work – who may be pressurising you to do so, but the very basic issues have not been addressed. It is highly likely that your problems will resurface at some time. The drugs have side effects which are at best unpleasant and at worst, detrimental to overall health. This report shows that drugs may not be necessary.

LotusWhen times are tough, be good to yourself. These measures do not have to be expensive. They don’t sound powerful in the way that drugs do, but their effects are far-reaching if you approach them in the right way. If you are given medication, you expect it to work don’t you? You must approach other measures in the same way – they will work and you will benefit but for the long-term, not just for the course of tablets. Time is a great healer and whether you are on a course of tablets or doing something less risky – putting space between you now and an adverse event holds the most benefit. You may as well do something positive for your overall health.

This is a passage taken from the link above, about the Key Factors to Overcoming Depression:
(“Me” and “my” refer to Dr. Joseph Mercola – not me personally)


Exercise – If you have depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, in your brain.

Address your stress — Constant stress can lead to depression which is a very serious condition. However it is not a “disease.” Rather, it’s a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.

This is so important to remember, because as soon as you start to view depression as a “mental illness,” you think you need to take a drug to fix it (and so do doctors). In reality, all you need to do is return balance to your life, and one of the key ways to doing this is addressing stress.

Meditation or yoga can help. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a system that can help you address emotional issues that you may not even be consciously aware of. For this, my favorite is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). However, if you have depression or serious stress, I believe it would be best to consult with a mental health professional who is also an EFT practitioner to guide you.

Eat a healthy diet — Another factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding sugar and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing depression. An important observation has been made regarding people suffering schizophrenia and their gut health. The same has been observed in people diagnosed with a condition on the autistic spectrum.

Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats — I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be a very important factor in helping depression.

Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you’re getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. One previous study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

I couldn’t have put it better so I have just cut and pasted it. I would add a couple of things too. Use your friends and talk to them – just as you have done for them and will do in the future. Revisit hobbies or maybe even go to an evening class. Not only will you make friends, but you will learn all the time – this is positive. Join in – even if it’s helping at your church or joining a walking/art group. Use distractions.To the diet recommendations, I would add fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir. These can help normalise the gut microbes. Dysbiosis (“difficult life”) in the gut is associated with many health issues, including the health of the mind.

For exercise why not just walk? It’s free and always interesting – whether it’s country or town. Observe all the while – don’t just look around you, really see the birds, gardens, people and so on. These give you connection and belonging. Don’t forget to greet the people you meet – this connection can make an enormous difference, not just to you but to them as well. Walking barefoot has huge health benefits too – a physical as well as spiritual connection to the earth.

There will be times when professional help is needed. It is of course, your choice where this comes from but do consider this – here is a link to the Human Givens Institute. Their help is very much based on problem solving and does not usually require more than a couple of appointments.

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Wellbeing For the Mind – part 2

There have been disturbances of the mind for all of history – and probably pre-history too. Psychiatry became a medical speciality in the mid-nineteenth century and asylums were full of the most affected people. At the turn of the twentieth century new perspectives on mental disorders were forthcoming and more conditions were given names. For me, therein lies the rub.

As a speciality, mental health was not as lucrative as other medical fields – SO something PillPackethad to be done. Giving a name to any illness – no matter what the source or part of the body affected – gave doctors the very reason needed to treat – with drugs. Time had become a crucial factor too and doctors knew that they could not give the necessary time to individuals with mental ailments – and medication seemed to fit the bill.  Remember, one hundred years is nothing in terms of evolution. It’s not even the blink of an eye. Everything is evolving. Technology begets technology and knowledge begets knowledge. We invent something (like a drug) and then a few years later we discover its shortcomings, often with serious consequences and everything changes. This article explores a powerful alternative treatment to drugs and this article explores the dangers of psychiatric medicine.

By way of an anecdote to illustrate the above, I will tell you a little about my son (with his permission). I had a tough time caring for him when he was young. I thought I was a very poor mother as everyone else seemed to manage easily. He was on the point of being excluded from school when a psychiatrist diagnosed him with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and gave him medication. My relief was absolute, I was excused for being a bad mother and he received treatment.

Did it work? Well yes, for me and the school – but not for my son. He was “under control” but felt like a zombie.  He was fourteen at this point – with puberty to deal with as well as ADHD. He has told me subsequently that it was the worst thing I have ever done for him – and with hindsight, I understand. The only people who benefit from a diagnosis are the physicians and in this case, me the carer.

I have finished punishing myself for my perceived failure but I have learned much from this. ADHD is a relatively new title for a character type which is probably as old as we are. It didn’t have a treatment when my father was young, but he would almost certainly have been diagnosed with ADHD today. Instead, it was part of his personality which he learned to manage as he grew up. No doubt this was the reason he still climbed trees when he was eighty! My son has also absorbed the personality trait to become a very active and imaginative young man. Medication follows diagnosis.

If the psychiatrist had given us the time to teach us ways of managing instead of giving us a label, would the outcome have been different? Ultimately the outcome may have been the same but if we had been offered help and support instead of a diagnosis and pills, the outcome may have been achieved earlier and my son may not have needed to live with a diagnosis. The embarrassment that this caused him was covered up with becoming the classroom jester. I’m sure you can imagine the trouble this caused.

Next time I will conclude this series with a personal opinion on how better to cope with some of the problems in life which, if left unresolved, can lead to the stigmatising label of mental illness and yet more unwanted medication.

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Wellbeing for the Mind – part 1

….an Alternative Perspective

When I am presented with a health problem, I consider if this would have been an issue for our ancestors. In fact my whole view of us – the human race – is as hunter-gatherers because that is what we are genetically.  We have changed little in 40,000 years. As you can probably imagine, the ill-health that I have encountered over my years as a nurse, would have been rare, if encountered at all back then.

Mental health is complex as a subject because to a degree, we have made it so. Why do we suffer so greatly today? We almost certainly did not suffer in the same way all those years ago. I believe that we have lost sight of the hierarchy of human needs and if we focus on that for a while maybe we can get a better perspective on why these illnesses occur. Before we do, I need to say that, at least in part, our diets are responsible. If the correct nutrients are not provided for the formation and upkeep of the brain and entire nervous system, trouble will ensue. (Science is already suggesting that Alzheimer’s disease is caused by nutrient issue.) However, from personal experience – even though I am in good health – I am aware that everyone is vulnerable – just being human makes this so.


 The above is an illustration of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. From the bottom up:

As you will appreciate, “from the bottom up” illustrates the essentials for human life with the core needs being those that (mostly) keep us alive, first. Interestingly, since this hierarchy was devised in 1943, there have been studies showing that infants live longer without food than they do without human contact.  Maslow was not the only person to come up with a list of needs, it has been done many times and they all have a common thread. This is a good illustration for my purposes.

Our state of mind could be determined by our needs met from this hierarchy. In my view this is one of those situations where, in the majority of lives, the first level should be achieved before the next level is reached – especially regarding the top three. As a slightly ridiculous example, there is little point in creating a sculpture if you are (literally) dying of thirst. Or (not quite so ridiculous) you will have difficulty with self-esteem if you are ill and homeless.

Some mental illnesses then could be viewed as the result of a failure to achieve the needs in the correct order or the omission of some all together.

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