Thursday, August 25, 2016

3 Reasons Stress is a Pain in the Neck

Stress is a literal pain in the neck! When I go through stressful situations or feel anxious it comes with neck pain, always on the right side. It feels as though a vice is around the outside of my neck between my collar bone to the point just under my right ear. So why does stress come with a physical pain linked to a specific place?

1. Stress can cause muscle tension which tends to target muscles in the shoulders, back and neck. Stress can often cause neck pains and even cause a spasm or a tic. If this occurs you must seek medical advice as neck spasms can be related to other illnesses.

2. Fatigue- with many mental illnesses can come lethargy and fatigue which can lead to you tending to stay in bed or curled up on the sofa, usually in a position that is not the best for your posture. This can cause your joints to feel stiff, your muscles to ache and your skin to feel sore in places. Whenever you can and even if you have to consciously force yourself try to get up, move around and stretch. Build this up to light exercise and keep going.

3. High anxiety levels during a panic attack can cause blood-vessels and nerves to become restricted which can give you pain, numbness and tingling feelings in your head and face including your neck.

So how can we help this:

  • keep moving: don't sit too long, get out of bed, take a walk, stretch
  • take a hot bath to ease pain or apply a heat pack to the area
  • some people prefer applying something cold to the area rather than heat
  • check your posture is correct to help you feel comfortable and avoid further pains
  • sleep on a thin pillow rather than a large pile
  • a firm mattress can help with your sleeping posture
  • ibuprofen gel (if you can use it) can help relieve pain
  • massage can help relieve muscle tension
  • relaxation techniques and stress reduction minimise the cause of your neck pain
  • if your pain is persistent or unbearable speak to your GP and seek medical advice

Much love,
Becky xx

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bullying Recovery Podcast- Why Speak Now?

You may have heard that I was invited to speak on a podcast with Alan Eisenberg of Healthy University. You can find the podcast on the link below...

Listen here: The Podcast at Bullying Recovery

As you know by reading this blog I have no problem with writing about mental illness. I'll openly share my stories, answer questions, discuss topics and nothing is a taboo subject. I want to speak about mental health but until now you may have never heard my voice or me actually speak about my mental illness. You may have seen my Youtube videos but I struggled to watch them back and removed these. I found that I could easily write about anything but the act of saying it out loud was difficult for me to do. So why now?

Well, when asked to be part of the podcast I couldn't say no. I admire the work of Bullying Recovery and of the podcast host Alan Eisenberg. He speaks with a clarity and wisdom about topics that make me want to shout out loud "me too, he gets me". And you can see the amazing work he does by visiting:

Secondly I constantly challenge myself to fight my mental illness. I knew I would find it difficult so that's why I said yes. I knew I would feel anxious leading up to the interview and whilst doing it, which I did very much so, but I knew I would control that anxiety and not let it stop me. And finally, I did it because I will do anything that gets my message out of "you are not alone" to others suffering with mental illness. 

I don't want to think of anybody feeling as though they do not belong, they are alien to others, they have no hope or purpose, they are weird or strange, this is only happening to them, they are isolated by mental illness. I felt all of these and I won't be the last person to feel them which is why I need to try and reach as many people as possible. I know people will say if you can only reach one person out there and help them then it is all worth it. Not for me. It would be amazing to know that but it's not enough in the battle against ending stigma and kicking depression and anxieties butt for me. So you never know, you might get bored of hearing my voice now!

Much love,
Becky xx

Monday, August 22, 2016

Broken Heart Syndrome

One of the hardest things you may experience is heartbreak. My biggest heartbreak was losing my dad. As well as the emotional turmoil the physical effects of heartbreak were so intense and painful that I'd never felt pain like it. I remember saying to my mum it was no wonder you hear of older people not surviving the death of their partners. The grief and bereavement can become so unbearable that they just don't make it through. 

I have recently felt heartbroken, to the point where I felt helpless. Along with this emotional distress came an intense burning sensation and pain in the side of my chest travelling up into my armpit and around into my shoulder blade. I felt nausea, had a temperature and my skin felt like it was burning where the pain was located. I've never experienced stress to this intensity before. I believed it was due to stress. Once things had calmed down I decided to look into the effect stress can have on the heart and found that there is such a thing as Broken Heart Syndrome. I'm not saying this is what happened to myself. I believe I was highly stressed at a time where my anxiety was heightened and I felt as though I had a prolonged panic attack. I can't explain the burning pain but do find that stress has a very physical effect on my body and can be very physically painful. But what is Broken Heart Syndrome?

Broken Heart Syndrome is a temporary heart condition believed to be caused by a surge of stress hormones that cause your heart to react. It is described as feeling as though you are having a heart attack although it is not a blood clot but a disruption to the heart's normal pumping function. People can feel sudden chest pains and become short of breath when this happens. Broken Heart Syndrome can reverse itself, usually within a week or so but in rare causes can be fatal. They have found that women over 50 are the most likely to suffer with Broken Heart Syndrome and women more so than men. The stress can be physical or emotional such as major surgery or an accident to the unexpected loss of a loved one or a natural disaster. 

Much love,
Becky xx

Thursday, August 18, 2016

HALT Your Anxiety

After a struggle with panics and anxiety again I took to the internet to look for help. It may sound a strange place to look but personal stories and info videos on Youtube are what I used when I was first diagnosed to help get me through.

I found a video that talked about the H.A.L.T technique when dealing with anxiety. I'm not sure where it originates from but it is mentioned throughout many internet forums and help sites. So why H.A.L.T?

When you feel a panic or stressed you think of HALT. (If stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired.) You ask yourself if you are feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired. This helps you focus on your primary needs and yourself. And by dealing with these you will reduce stress. Although anger and loneliness can't always be quickly fixed you can start to address why you feel that way. It helps you look at triggers and if there are things you can change or avoid in your life to help reduce stress. 

Nutritional snacks are best for hunger especially things that are mood boosters like the ones mentioned in my Food vs Depression blog post. Resting can replace sleep when sleeping isn't an option. Just giving yourself a breather and a chance to refuel before you tackle anything. I found it best to HALT in that order. You can't think straight when hungry and you won't sleep with a busy mind. 

Unfortunately I find when I HALT I am all four, mainly because when I am low I don't take care of myself and let things build up which induces stress and anxiety but the stress and anxiety lead to me not caring for myself. Its circles. So what I need to remember and what you can do too is to HALT before you get the point of anxiety, panic or stress. Eat well, get sleep, socialise and do the things that make you feel content. If you take care of your primary needs you will be mentally and physically healthier and more able to deal with stress as you are starting from a better point than if you have an unhealthy lifestyle.

Much love,
Becky xx

Monday, August 01, 2016

5 Things That Improve Young Children's Mental Health

Our mental health as an adult can be shaped by our experiences as a child. The way we learn to suppress or express our emotions, how we learn to cope with situations and our beliefs of what is mentally strong and mentally weak are usually learnt as children. 

So how can we help young children be mentally healthy?

Love- it sounds simple but sometimes we forget to speak with love to our children. "I love you" "I'm proud of you" "you're my best friend" "good job" are all things we'd love to hear as an adult and so do children. If a child hears "you're being naughty" "I'm busy" "not now" or criticisms more than they do loving words it gives them low self-esteem, negative relationships and often results in bad behaviour to gain attention.

Talk about their emotions- ask your child why they had that tantrum, what made them cry, what makes them happy and what they can do when they feel sad, angry, lonely, poorly, worried... You are helping your child both recognise and evaluate their emotions as well as showing them it's OK to talk about our feelings and to confide in someone. Be careful not to mock emotions- "you're crying like a big baby" "somebodies being moody". A young child will need help calming down, soothing themselves and expressing their emotions. They need to know it is OK to show emotions and not be afraid or embarrassed to do so.

Gender stereotypes- "stop being a big girl" "man up" "little girls don't scream like that" linking emotions to gender can be very damaging for children. Young men can especially struggle if they have been brought up to believe that boys should be tough and not cry or show emotions. Again this leads to not talking about or showing emotions as an adult. As well as not reaching out for help when needed.

Value their voice- Young children can get frustrated when they are not understood or can't explain themselves. Helping them put what they want to say into words shows that you care about their opinions and that they deserve attention. Involving them in making decisions also helps them to speak up for themselves, feel in control of situations and learn how to compromise. Valuable lessons for when they are an adult.

Recognising emotions- when you are reading a picture book, watching cartoons or just out in the world there are chances to help your child recognise emotions in others. "Why is that baby crying?" "does the mummy bear look happy or cross?" "what can we do to make daddy happy?" By doing this you are helping your child to think of others, be sympathetic and be considerate and supportive. As an adult they need to read emotions, judge how to handle situations and know how to help.

Much love,
Becky xx