Category: Mental Health

From Ke$ha to Kesha: A Glitter Queen’s Ascension to Self-Care Goddess

Last week, pop-artist Kesha authored a piece for Time on the added pressure of the Holiday season for those living with Mental Illness. In the piece, she discusses the added pressures that this time of year can add, but you might be asking yourself, who is Kesha to give me life advice?

Following a year that included a highly publicized comeback single, accompanied by her second Number One album, a critically proclaimed tour, and her first Grammy nominations, one could say things are going well for the artist who’s early career was built on electro-pop and a quirky party girl aesthetic. While her new album highlights overcoming personal struggles and finding self-acceptance, it has not been all Rainbows for Kesha.

While promoting her albums upcoming release over the summer, Kesha released a series of letters to fans regarding each single that dropped, sharing an intimate and personal look into the process of how she turned her pain into art. She touched on her time in rehab for an eating disorder, her struggles with mental illness, and her decision to drop the $ from her name. Starting with a piece published in Lenny Letter opening up about depression, finding empathy, and the process of turning pain into art through Praying, to a piece from Rolling Stone where she shared about her idols and Female Empowerment in Woman, to Learning to Let Go and defining her own mantras in Huffington Post, to sharing in Mic on feeling like an outcast and her passion for equality on Hymn, and finishing with a piece in Refinery29 regarding the album’s title track, Kesha provided fans with a detailed look into her songwriting process and personal life.

In being vulnerable, Kesha not only reminds us that there is a reason to keep fighting when things are not going well, but also continues an ongoing effort to destigmatize mental health. Through her songs and her form of blogging, Kesha showed the world the destruction of perfectionism and the benefits of radical self-love.

But rest assured: I can speak from seeing her in concert this fall that our girl still loves her glitter. Here’s to continue to rooting for her to continue reaching for the stars and shining bright for her fans in years to come.

Sources:

Kesha: The Holidays Are Hard If You Struggle With Mental Illness. Don’t Blame Yourself: http://time.com/5041017/kesha-self-care-holidays/

Kesha Fights Back in Her New Single, “Praying”: http://www.lennyletter.com/culture/a904/kesha-is-back-with-a-new-single-praying/

Read Kesha’s Poignant Essay About Celebratory New Song ‘Woman”: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/premieres/read-keshas-poignant-essay-about-celebratory-new-song-woman-w491950

Learn to Let Go: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kesha-learn-to-let-go_us_59790480e4b02a8434b3841f

Read Kesha’s essay on her new single “Hymn” – a song for “people who feel like outcasts”: https://mic.com/articles/183195/kesha-essay-new-single-hymn-for-people-who-feel-like-outcasts#.D1hhvBGGM

Kesha: “What’s Left Of My Heart Is Fucking Pure Gold & No One Can Touch That”: http://www.refinery29.com/2017/08/167127/kesha-rainbow-lyrics-meaning-album-inspiration

You can do it

Here we are, winding down the semester.  I want to take my last blog post of the year 2017 and share with y’all this little poem-ish reminder I wrote to help me through this push before the holidays.

Okay,

Stop watching so much Netflix and do something fun yet productive. 🙂

Do what you’re passionate about!

Love yourself and be kind!

Post too many exclamation points if ya feel like it!!!!

Listen to music that makes you feel like how you want to feel

Find what works for you and it’s okay if that changes.

Appreciate the people around you!

Be yourself.

Open me,

Universe

These next two weeks may be stressful, but you can do it.  Remember to take care of your mind and body in addition to nurturing that intellect!

“I’ll have a blue christmas without you”

This time of the year is it hard not to get swept up in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, extravagant amount of food and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As we move through these next few weeks, it’s important to consider this time is not always merry for those around this. The holiday blues is a term coined to those who have feelings of anxiety and depression around the holidays due to the extra stress and expectations from this time of year. It differs from clinical anxiety and depression due to its temporary state. Holiday blues can look like fatigue, tension, loneliness, isolation and sadness. There are many triggers associated with them as such as less exposure to sunlight, changes in your diet and exercise routine, or inability to be with loved ones during the holiday season. Particularly those with pre-existing mental health conditions are at risk for the holiday blues.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has provided suggestions on how to avoid the holiday blues

  • Stick to normal routines
  • Sleep
  • Eat and drink in moderation
  • Exercise
  • Set goals and reasonable expectations for holiday shopping, cooking, entertaining etc.
  • Listen to music or other outlets for relaxation

To those experiencing the holiday blues, remember that this time of year is temporary and these feelings are short term. Happy Holidays!

A Different Type of Stress Eating

Exercise has long been prescribed as a remedy to anxiety and stress. Are there certain nutrients that may help as well?

Vitamin B1: Prevents the production of excess lactic acid (often recognized as a biochemical factor in triggering anxiety).

Vitamin B6: Helps make mood-influencing neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Vitamin B9: Maintains homocysteine levels (high levels linked to anxiety) by converting into mood-stabilizing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and antioxidant glutathione.

Vitamin B12: Serves in production of methionine, precursor of SAMe, necessary for myelin sheath and nerve function.

Magnesium: Reduces lactic acid levels, binds to and stimulates GABA receptors, and can regulate the stress response by suppressing stress hormones.

Zinc: Stimulates enzymes necessary in the synthesis of serotonin and GABA.

Tryptophan: Acts as the amino acid precursor to serotonin.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Decreases proinflammatory cytokins, small proteins that interfere with the regulation of glutamate (a neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety).

Vitamin C: Moderates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Check back next week for a post on what foods are a good source of these nutrients!

#MeToo: Personal Stories of Assault Flood Social Media

As I scrolled through my phone through my various social media applications (as part of my slow Monday morning routine) I noticed the phrase “Me Too” flooding my streams. At first I was puzzled by this reoccurring status, but did a quick google search and came to astonishing realization: all of these people have experienced some sort of harassment or assault. It took a second to fully comprehend how many of my friends and followers have had this traumatic experience. As I continued scrolling through my feeds, I discovered that this campaign was kick started by a tweet by actress Alyssa Milano. Soon after many public figures came out responding with a “Me Too” including Viola Davis, Debra Messing, Rosario Dawson, Lady Gaga and Sheryl Crow just to name a few. By Monday afternoon, Twitter announced that the “Me Too” had been used in half million tweets and Facebook released “Me Too” was referenced by 8.7 million users.

This campaign comes out shortly after the New York times published a tell-all article about the alleged sexual harassment incidents by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. In the wrath of the article, Weinstein has been fired from his own company and the company will formally change their name. Let’s hope that that these events will ignite the conversation about harassment and assault and that social media will release these numbers to help change societal norms around harassment and assault!

Sources:

http://people.com/movies/me-too-alyssa-milano-heads-twitter-campaign-against-sexual-harassment-assault/

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/harvey-weinstein-what-you-need-to-know-w508162

 

https://www.recode.net/2017/10/16/16482410/me-too-social-media-protest-facebook-twitter-instagram

 

Normalization and Solidarity in Mass Communication–what are the impacts of the #MeToo posts?

As a student in health communication, I cannot help but be curious of the health impacts of the massive sharing of #MeToo stories on social media this past week. It’s rapid and broad spread globally is significant. The Hindustan Times reports that within 24 hours, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times and on Facebook an additional 12 million (the linked article is also an interesting take from a global perspective) . A few days later, this number was much closer to 10 million.

Here are some questions that have been floating around since last Sunday:

  • What is the impact for victims/survivors (source: CNN)?

For some, this may be therapeutic–it may create a safe space and a sense of solidarity that encourages catharsis and reflection on an often stigmatized and complicated issue. However, it can also be an emotional trigger for those who are not prepared to speak publicly or feel compelled to share a personal and traumatic experience.

  • How does this sentiment translate into action?

A Washington Post contributor discusses that while speaking out on social media is encouraging, it remains to be seen whether the dialogue initiated will lead to actual actions. It’s hard to  measure the how and if such a socially embedded problem changes. It is also worth considering social circles–the fact that while our friend groups on social media are supportive, in some cases they may not be the ones that need to hear the message most. As the Hindustan Times article linked above asked, what do we need to do to make sure there is no reason to tweet MeToo years from now?

  • What makes a movement viral, and how can this be harnessed to improve health outcomes?

This is non-specific to the topic of sexual abuse, but in general, what are the factors that made the MeToo hashtag catch on so quickly? It’s personal nature? It’s ubiquity? Recent news? Media studies say most hashtags are created ad hoc, perhaps that is more genuine and reflective of users’ needs, though efforts have been made to generate disease specific discussions…but I wonder what the role of these hashtags and surrounding dialogue will be in a few years. As people rely increasingly on social media for information in addition to sharing content, how will this be leveraged by those who wish to propagate information?

Interested to hear your thoughts about social media and health-related campaigns/movements–this one in particular, or others.

Impostor Experience: The Advice I Keep Giving Myself in Graduate School

Impostor experience is characterized as having an inability to internalize one’s accomplishments, where those who experience it feel that they are a fraud, that they have somehow deceived others to believe that they are smarter than they actually are. These feelings occur even when contradicted by success, often crediting luck or good timing over their own hard work and effort. And it is quite prevalent in academic spaces.

When I started my graduate career, I was lucky enough to have professors who were well aware of this topic, encouraging students to reach out when they needed to, reminding us that we all have expertise to contribute to the classroom, we all have a space.

As a first generation college student, I still have moments almost daily where I feel like I don’t belong, that this isn’t really the place for me. Sometimes it’s a simple comment, someone in class sharing an experience, like “Oh my dad’s a doctor”. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are two of the hardest working people I know. But there are constantly reminders for me that in pursuing a graduate degree, I’m taking a career path that not many people who knew me as a child could even imagine.

Below I’ve attached some resources that I have found particularly helpful at some low points in my academic career. But what has helped the most for me is opening up to my friends and classmates, and realizing that I am not the only one having these feelings. I’m writing this because I’m not perfect at taking my own advice, I still need to step back and use some of these strategies, and I still need to practice opening up when I’m struggling.

Sources:

APA Cover Story: Feel like a fraud? http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud.aspx

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Impostor Syndrome is Definitely a Thing: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Impostor-Syndrome-Is/238418

Should you sleep naked?

As someone who traditionally loves wearing pajamas to bed at night I have always wondered about the question: is it better to sleep naked than in pajamas? A lack of sleep over time has been shown to increase the risk for stroke, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, and obesity, so it’s important to determine what’s best for yourself to get a good night’s rest.

Rather than sit around and continue to wonder, I decided to do some research on the topic and solve this dilemma once and for all. In the US, around 10% of the population admit to sleeping naked; which is actually kind of low considering about 30% of our friends in the UK do so. Now that I know some people in the world actually do sleep naked, what are the benefits of doing so?

The most scientifically sound reason I could find for sleeping naked was to better regulate your body temperature overnight. If you sleep in pajamas and have heavy covers it can be easy to overheat and disrupt sleep accordingly. The Sleep Council has determined that 68°F is the ideal sleeping temperature for a high-quality night’s rest.

Personally, this just tells me to make sure my thermostat is set to 68°F at night before going to bed. I normally don’t have trouble sleeping at night, but I know that is not always the case. It seems there is more research needed to truly determine its effect, but do you think sleeping naked actually helps sleep quality?

 

AB

Straight Skinny, but Gay Fat? Reflections on Pride, the intersection of identity and mental health, and the stigmatization of queer bodies

This past weekend marked the 33rd annual celebration of North Carolina Pride, a time to celebrate the beauty, diversity, and resiliency of the LGBTQ community. The week of October 1-7 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, observed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to “fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care” in regards to mental health. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ identified individuals are three times more likely to live with a mental health condition than their heterosexual counterparts. This includes, but is not limited to: depression, anxiety, eating disorders, or Body Dysmorphic Disorder, to name a few.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, is classified as a body-image disorder where individuals have persistent and intrusive preoccupations with a defect in their appearance, which can be imagined or slight. Obsessions about appearance can be all consuming, and make it hard for those affected to focus on other areas of their lives. Oftentimes, those living with BDD can perform a compulsive or repetitive behavior, with some examples being: avoiding mirrors, skin picking, excessive grooming, excessive exercise, frequently changing clothes, trying to hide or conceal body parts, or in extreme cases seeking surgery to correct the perceived flaw or flaws. These behaviors can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, resulting in avoiding social situations and having difficulties with work responsibilities and personal life. Individuals suffering with severe BDD are also at a higher risk of having suicidal thoughts or to attempt suicide.

People living with BDD often also suffer from other anxiety and mental health disorders, such as social anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Because of similarities and overlap of symptoms, BDD can be misdiagnosed as one of these other mental health disorders, specifically with similarities to OCD, being distinguished when behaviors focus specifically on appearance. According the American Psychiatric Association, between 2.2-2.5% of people in the US experience BDD, and it usually begins to occur around the age of 12-13.

As someone living with BDD, I spent years of my life not having words to describe what I was feeling, being hyper aware of my body and the way I see it as being perceived by others. Most of the time, these are internal conflicts, rarely do they manifest in ways that are visible for others. On Saturday night, I was waiting in line to get into a gay night club to celebrate Pride with friends. When it was time to pay the cover to enter, the thought of people looking at my body, of people touching parts of my body that I find unsightly, resulted in a panic attack where I ended up leaving and going home. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt uncomfortable in a space like this, but I can’t shake the feeling of letting my friends down, of allowing my insecurities to get in the way of what was supposed to be a fun night out.

My bigger concern is that my experience isn’t unique, that others have also struggled to feel accepted in places that are supposed to be welcoming to then. The unrealistic standards around body image in queer spaces foster an environment of self-doubt, generate feelings of insecurity, and further reinforce the heteronormative narrative that is already placed on us by larger society as a whole.

But issues around unrealistic body issues aren’t the only problem facing the LGBTQ community. Blatant and covert racism, misogyny, and the policing of how others live their lives are also major hurdles that we need to overcome. And many of our spaces aren’t accessible to a number of people due to cost.

On top of all of this, we don’t give each other spaces to talk about the ways we are struggling, whether that be with our mental health, our interpersonal relationships, or how we are handling navigating a society that simply is not designed for us. My hope is that by sharing, it will open up a space for others to acknowledge what they are feeling, to finally have words to define those feelings, or to simply be aware of the struggles that others are going through.

Below are some sources if you are interested in learning more about the topics that I discussed here. If you feel that you need to reach out, talking with a mental health professional can be a great place to start. If you are a student here at UNC, CAPS offers a variety of mental health services, more information can be found below.

For CAPS Walk-In Services:

Go to the 3rd floor of the Campus Health Services Building

MON-THURS: 9 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm

FRI: 9:30 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm

Sources –

National Alliance on Mental Illness Awareness Week – https://www.nami.org/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/Mental-Illness-Awareness-Week

National Alliance on Mental Illness LGBTQ – https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Body Dysmorphic Disorder – https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd

Breathe in… breathe out…

Feeling anxious or stressed? Consider diaphragmatic or “deep breathing” exercises! Deep breathing can be a helpful technique for relaxing both mind and body, as well as stress and anxiety management. It can even improve our energy levels!

With deep breathing, we are able to consciously control our breathing, lower our blood pressure and heart rate, and relax our muscles. During normal breathing, we typically breathe shallow breaths using our chest and not our bellies. However, with deep breathing, we breathe with our bellies, taking in slow, deep breaths.

One key muscle involved in the process of deep breathing is our diaphragm, located between our chest and abdomen. When we inhale, we contract our diaphragm, expanding our abdomen, which then pushes air into our lungs. We then exhale, relaxing our diaphragm, and air is pushed out of our lungs.

Interested in trying deep breathing? Click here for a step-by-step guide!

Happy stress relief!

References:

Diaphragmatic Breathing [PDF file]. (2016, September). Retrieved from https://www.uncmedicalcenter.org/app/files/public/196/pdf-medctr-rehab-diaphbreathing.pdf

Patel, S. (N.d.) Retrieved from http://www.chopra.com/articles/breathing-for-life-the-mind-body-healing-benefits-of-pranayama#sm.00019xogqb4t2eoex3f1a17fb6wn4

Rakal, D. (2016). Learning Deep Breathing. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/learning-deep-breathing/

Wong, C. (2017, April 30). Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/how-to-breathe-with-your-belly-89853