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Managing Back to School Stress

The changing of the seasons are not singular events. They’re a multiplicitous experience: our wardrobes, routines, leisure activities, commutes, and even our diets, change. As the traditional school year starts and summer vacation ends, the roll-over from August to September is exciting and opportune for many folks, but for others, this is a time of year that spikes stress levels.

The reasons for this, too, can compound: change is not as welcome for some as it is for others. After months of sunny days spent outside, a return to classrooms and academic rigor is jarring. It’s important to identify and address stressors before they begin to handcuff our ability to participate in the day-to-day of our education.

To this end, we’ve put together a short list of stress-managing strategies to practice when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the schoolroom grind.

Use A Day Planner

This is admittedly elementary (pun fully intended), but using a day planner is something many of us think about, and few of us actually commit to. We’re not talking about a digital calendar—we mean a good, old-fashioned, analog, paper-and-pen planner. There are a few reasons for this. First, and maybe most importantly, writing information down on paper has been shown to improve information retention. Second, it’s helpful to cement our commitments in physical form. This gives them a sort of permanence that can help to hold us to them. It also leads us to address and analyze our capabilities: if we see a stacked day planner, we might better be able to prioritize which tasks need our attention first. This development of a sort of ‘plan of action’ can help us to feel like we have a handle on our stressors, and having a feeling of agency over our stress is of paramount importance.

 

Talk About Your Stressors

When we’re stressed out by something, one of the worst things that we can do is internalize it. This habit can lead to or exacerbate both mental and physical health issues. On the other hand, when we externalize stress via speech or writing, it can help to relieve some of the pressure caused by it. Not only might this lead to productive understandings or even solutions to our stressors, but it also grants them legitimacy and validity. This is important, because often we’re frustrated or ashamed by what’s causing us stress: discussing it in the open strips it of that stigma.

 

Develop A Healthy Routine

As school and its associated time constraints take over our schedule, it can be easy to feel locked into a routine that doesn’t allow us time for the leisure activities we enjoy. But in some cases, this comes down to a question of time-management, and developing that skill is key to leading a healthy, well-balanced life during the school year. Making time for a full breakfast might mean waking up half an hour earlier. Squeezing in a workout might mean cutting an hour of Netflix. Going to bed before midnight might require wrapping up homework early in the evening. Whatever the struggle is, it’s critical to assess the situation, and decide where you can make concessions to create a routine that keeps you on top and thriving.


Being ‘Yourself’ at Work

As workplaces change to adapt to the pace and characteristics of 21st century business practices, finding a foothold on personal operating habits can be challenging. On one hand, progressive, personalized, and idiosyncratic approaches are heralded as ‘the future.’ On the other, these traits, when unaccompanied by increased profitability, are ostracized as impractical and frivolous. The modern worker is caught between the desire to exercise and be recognized for their individual tenacity and creativeness, and the fear that these qualities might be met with disdain or, worse, professional repercussions.

 

This tango of ‘being yourself at work’ has become blurrier still as workplaces become diffuse and increasingly mediated by digital technology. How do we ‘be ourselves’ not just in person, but online? Do we pitch that bold idea via email? Do we look too eager if we replace the period with an exclamation mark?

These are the strange new frontiers of professionalism at work, and they’re growing. Between Gmail, Slack channels, and a broad range of social media, how we conduct ourselves is a constantly-mediated and always-watched affair. This adds to an ever-building layer of personal pressure in our work environments.

 

Navigating these quandaries can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Developing a set of skills and interests is just as important as enacting strategies for the deployment of those skills and interests. This means that, as workplace standards fluctuate, we can, too: we should learn to tailor who ‘yourself’ is to the needs of our workplaces.

At times, this might mean compromising on an idea or explicit vision for a project. At others, it might mean code-switching, or bouncing between ways of communicating with coworkers. The point of this isn’t to police personality, but rather to keep it attuned to the demands and realities of any given workplace. The loose uniform policy at your last office might not fly at your new one, but just because you’ve strapped on dress shoes and a button-up doesn’t mean your essence is compromised; it means you’re adjusting your presentation of that essence.

 

This is really the core of the issue: we tend to feel that if we give an inch, we’ve given a mile. This is especially true when it comes to personal issues. But for workers, learning to take these shifts in stride is a trick of the trade. Social morals and ethics are, in many cases, worth taking a stand over. Your right to wear your wacky tie to work is not. And one of these is significantly more indicative of ‘yourself’ than the other.

 

The key to this struggle is to recognize the fluidity of ‘yourself,’ and where it can and can’t be applied at work. You, as a person, are not being shut down when you don’t get to embody your preferred aesthetic. Instead, focus on the contents of your work: if the means aren’t your thing, is the end at least a product that reflects ‘yourself?’ In other words, it’s not about how many exclamation marks you put in an email. It’s about what you’re saying between them.


Get Vaccinated: Spread Facts, Not Disease

In August, the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sponsor National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) to build awareness about the importance of vaccination.

We’ve come a long way since 1796 – that’s when Edward Jenner developed the first successful vaccine: the Smallpox vaccine. In the 20th century, it’s estimated that Smallpox has killed 300 to 500 million people. But thanks to vaccination, there has not been a reported case of Smallpox in the world since 1977 and the disease was officially declared eradicated in 1979.

However, since the advent of vaccines and their application to prevent, cure and eradicate diseases, there has been a simultaneous reactionary movement that has sought to portray vaccines as a form of mind control or as a cocktail of harmful chemicals that cause more harm than they’re worth: as they’re commonly referred to, “anti-vaxxers”.

This topic might seem more public health than mental health and you’d be right: vaccinations are not just about individual wellbeing but collective immunity. But as far as the anti-vaxx movement goes, they’ve incorrectly linked vaccines to disorders like autism and mental illnesses. And in terms of their mental health, anti-vaxxers are likely guilty of having a disproportionate tendency toward certain behavioural issues, like a higher than normal tendency toward conspiratorial thinking and reactance.

Interestingly, in that same study, which included more than 5,323 people across 24 countries, also found that the level of education had little effect on individual’s attitudes on vaccination.

For these reasons, anti-vaccination hysteria, while still an education issue shouldn’t be treated simply as a symptom of socio-economic status or access to information but as an offshoot of anti-social behaviour. As Robert Stoker, Professor at George Washington University adds, those that chose to immunize themselves or their children were noted to identify altruism – simply the concern for the well-being of others – as a motivating factor.

One of the leading contributors to the proliferation of anti-vaccination views has been social media. Being provided a platform to freely publish disinformation, seek out others within your community and to anonymously attack others has given the anti-vaxx movement a greater foothold than ever before.

That’s bad. As the effects of “Fake News” begin to take hold, younger generations without the experience to discern the difference between truth and fiction are more susceptible than others to anti-vaxx disinformation.

What can we do about it? Given that those inclined toward anti-vaxx beliefs tend toward conspiratorial paranoia and anti-government views, providing access to the facts through alternative channels has been shown to work. Leveraging the same social media networks that are used to spread misinformation and providing facts through shareable, easy-to-read content is also another possible angle of approach.

If you know an anti-vaxxer, perhaps all it could take to help is to reach out: a study found that ostracization can enhance one’s beliefs in conspiracies. Socializing the truth can become a gateway to education and defeating misinformation.

While vaccinations help provide a collective immunity so that people can live longer and thrive, anti-vaccination misinformation is seeking to undermine that hard earned freedom. It’s important that we treat the anti-vaxx community in a way that acknowledges their public health threat instead of as an idle curiosity and take action to spread facts, not disease.

 

 

 


Drug Addiction and Death: Don’t Become a Statistic

At the end of this month, people from across the world will recognize a struggle that in 2016 alone, killed more Americans than the entirety of the Vietnam War.

But this battle isn’t being fought with guns and bombs in a faraway country. It’s being fought in your home country, in your hometown, in the streets, in the hospitals and perhaps, in your home.

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day: a decades strong initiative designed to shine a spotlight on the hundreds of thousands of near-fatal and fatal overdoses every year and reduce the stigma so that compassionate, evidence-based policy can take hold and wipe out this deadly epidemic.

And while you might think that this isn’t something that could affect you, the answer is a little closer to home: The United States experiences approximately one quarter of estimated global drug-related deaths. Of that, overdose related deaths – particularly driven by opioids – have tripled between 1999 and 2015. That number only appears to be rising, with increasing availability of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and stronger analogs like carfentanil a major factor.

In 2017, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that a minimum of 190,000 people die prematurely from drug overdoses; with the “majority attributable to the use of opioids”. In reality, the true number of premature deaths is likely exponentially larger than reported: in many places, drug users are a “forgotten” people, a marginalized demographic unlikely to report overdoses for fear of persecution for illegal drug use and at the same time, discounted by indifferent governments and law enforcement agencies.

With International Overdose Awareness Day, the intent is to make this issue everyone’s concern: not just the problem of drug users, their families and those involved in relevant social work and law enforcement roles. If we can hold a conversation, as a society, we can bring those affected out of the shadows and create policies and initiatives that can prevent future overdoses.

We don’t have all the answers right now but there is evidence behind several approaches to curbing drug abuse and overdoses. For instance, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified that the amount of opioids prescribed per person had tripled between 1999 and 2015.

Remember a few paragraphs above where we identified that fatal overdoses attributable to opioids had also tripled during that same period? You should – because of the over prescription and highly addictive nature of opioids, a medical script can often be a gateway to other opioids, like heroin. That’s way many public health experts are calling for reductions in opioid prescriptions through different medical interventions. One floated solution: medical marijuana as a means to treat chronic pain.

Other evidence-based policies that have been shown to work are providing free or subsidized access to addiction services. Disproportionately, people on Medicaid or are low-income are disproportionately at a higher risk for a prescription drug or opioid overdose. Often, the cost of rehabilitative services can be prohibitive to someone suffering from addiction or they may not be able to afford the time off of work to effectively address their addiction in such a setting. Again, this is a public heath policy that requires legislative action to achieve – something that has proven difficult in a political climate focused on the “War on Drugs”.

Ultimately, what you can do right now is make sure that those in your life that might be dealing with addiction issues know that they are not alone and that you are ready to help provide the support they need to overcome. Materially, you can consider carrying Naloxone, a life-saving medication that can stop or reverse an opioid overdose. This injectable drug is now being carried by police officers in Canada and has been recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General for carry to help prevent overdoses.

Drug addiction is a complex issue that won’t be solved overnight or with one policy. But we can take steps right now to help ensure that those suffering don’t have to go it alone and have a better chance of beating the odds. On August 31st, spread the word about International Overdose Awareness Day. You could help save a life.


Regular exercise ‘best for mental health’ – BBC News

Regular exercise ‘best for mental health’

Image copyright Getty Images

Regular physical activity lasting 45 minutes three to five times a week can reduce poor mental health – but doing more than that is not always beneficial, a large US study suggests.

A total of 1.2 million people reported their activity levels for a month and rated their mental wellbeing.

People who exercised had 1.5 fewer “bad days” a month than non-exercisers, the study found.

Team sports, cycling and aerobics had the greatest positive impact.

All types of activity were found to improve mental health no matter people’s age or gender, including doing the housework and looking after the children.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, is the largest of its kind to date but it cannot confirm that physical activity is the cause of improved mental health.

Previous research into the effects of exercise on mental health have thrown up mixed results, and some studies suggest that lack of activity could lead to poor mental health as well as being a symptom of it.

Exercise is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Adults taking part in the study said they experienced on average 3.4 days of poor mental health each month. For those who were physically active, this reduced to only two days.

Among people who had been diagnosed previously with depression, exercise appeared to have a larger effect, resulting in seven days of poor mental health a month compared with nearly 11 days for those who did no exercise.

How often and for how long people were active was also important.

Being active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day came out as the optimal routine.

But there could be such a thing as doing too much exercise, the study concluded.

Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said: “Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case.

“Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health.”

He said the positive impact of team sports suggested that social sports activities could reduce isolation and be good for resilience, while also reducing depression.

Complicated link

The findings back up government guidelines recommending that people should do 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

But the study has some limitations. It is based on self-reporting, which is not always accurate, and there is no way of measuring physical activity.

Dr Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and honorary research associate, from the school of psychology at Cardiff University, said the link between exercise and mental health had been difficult to pin down but this large study “strongly suggests that there is a definite association between the two”.

“However, the nature of the study means it’s difficult to say more than that with any real certainty,” he said.

Prof Stephen Lawrie, head of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, said it indicated that social and “mindful” exercise is particularly good for mental health – but not if it is overdone.

“I suspect we all know people who seem ‘addicted’ to exercise and if this starts to impact on other aspects of life – like foregoing social activities because one has to be up at the crack of dawn to run several miles – it might actually be bad for people,” he added.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45116607

On – 08 Aug, 2018 By


How To Talk About Your Mental Health When No One Wants To Listen | HuffPost

Opening up with phrases like “I need to speak with you,” “I need your help,” or “Please listen

According to the American Psychiatric Association, people from racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to receive mental health care than the rest of the U.S. population.

Communities of color often lack adequate access to medical treatment for mental illnesses. They also face challenges like higher levels of stigma, misinformation and language barriers.

“While an individual may have their own [mixed feelings] toward how they think about mental health, it is then intertwined within the views that were being expressed within their household, school, work and so on,” said Shari Fedra, a licensed clinical social worker based in Brooklyn, New York.

But those barriers can be broken down. HuffPost asked several psychologists and mental health care providers who primarily treat patients of color how to have an effective and serious conversation about mental health and why it’s so hard to talk about in the first place. Here’s their advice:

Seeking professional help is OK ― even if it doesn’t seem like it.

June Cao, a New York-based clinical psychologist who specializes in working with Asian-Americans, said that one of her clients shared that silence was the default mode of communication between her family members.

“Her parents told her over and over that she just needed to endure and tough through, then her depression would be gone,” Cao said.

Cao’s patient is part of a larger trend: Asian-Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services than whites, according to the American Psychological Association.

Karen Caraballo, a clinical psychologist working with Latino families in Brooklyn, said that because of the significant value placed on family, many members of the Latino community do not seek outside help for mental health problems.

“Latinos are expected to rely on [immediate] family, extended family, church, el curandero and friends,” Caraballo said. (A curandero is a spiritual guide within a community that people go to when they are sick.) “We are expected to keep our problems within our inner circle.”

Knowing when to see a medical professional for your mental health is important because the longer you go untreated, the more potential consequences could arise, including the worsening of your symptoms.

“The pressure to hide your problems could make you more fearful of your mental illness and cause you to isolate yourself,” Cao said. “Transparency and awareness is probably the most successful way to overcome this fear.”

Assert the importance of conversation.

When dealing with friends or family members who aren’t as open to talking about your experiences or getting professional help, Cao suggested that you should genuinely and assertively request a conversation by using phrases like “I need to speak with you,” “I need your help,” or “Please listen to me before you say anything.”

B. Nilaja Green, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Atlanta, said that you should find a time to speak to your loved ones when they are calm and you can have their full attention.

“Be as transparent with them as possible about what you’re experiencing, how these experiences are impacting you, and why you believe the experiences are serious enough to warrant outside intervention,” Green said.

Use language that your loved one can understand.

When discussing a topic as sensitive as mental health, you want to make sure that you communicate in a way that makes sense for both the person you’re talking to and yourself.

Cao recommended doing this by avoiding general and weighted vocabulary such as “mental disorder” or “abnormal,” as this may reintroduce the feeling of shame associated with these terms. Instead, try starting the conversation by talking about any physical symptoms you may be feeling, such as a loss in appetite or insomnia that will help break the ice.

“You may find it easier to communicate about physical symptoms first, like insomnia and appetite changes, because there is no stigma or shame attached,” Cao said.

It’s also important that you communicate in a tone that makes you sound open to receiving feedback if that is your goal of the conversation.

“We often notice another person’s resistance without being mindful of our own resistances,” Fedra said. “Create an open [atmosphere] within your communication style by being mindful of your words, tone and feelings.”

Religion and mental health support aren’t mutually exclusive.

One of the main reasons mental health usually isn’t openly talked about within the black community is because of the reliance on religious beliefs to solve or fix mental health issues without considering additional supportive resources, Green said.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only about 25 percent of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40 percent of whites.

“I have heard clients share that family members and friends have either undermined them going to treatment and/or referred them back to the church as their most appropriate source for healing and help,” Green explained.

If religion is a major part of your family’s lifestyle, Green said that you could inform your loved ones that there are resources that cater to families with religious backgrounds.

“There are counselors and therapists of varying religious backgrounds who integrate their faith into the work,” Green said. “Even if you do not want to go to a therapist who identifies themselves in a particular way, most therapists have training that allows them to appreciate and respect the religious beliefs of their clients.”

Take advantage of outside resources.

If you are absolutely unable to talk to relatives or friends about the state of your mental health, there are several other options to choose from.

“Seek professional help from a psychologist, psychotherapist, mental health
counselors who speak your language and understand your cultural background,” Cao recommended.

If you believe you’ll have trouble paying for treatment, Cao said you can seek help from hospitals and clinics that offer appointments on a sliding scale adjusted for income. There are also online options and free alternatives that can still be helpful, like support groups. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America created a list of support groups throughout the U.S. that you can filter by group name or support topic.

Bottom line: Own your experiences and know that a living with a mental health condition doesn’t make you “weak.” The more you talk about it, the more people will start to pay attention. Experts agree that open communication can play a vital role in eliminating the shame and stigma surrounding mental health.

“Simply talking about your situation and illness to someone understanding may reduce some of the stress you have,” Cao said. “It can also help your loved ones to understand you better and relieve their concerns about you.”

Original Post

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-to-talk-about-mental-health_us_5b450d8ce4b0c523e263b100

On – 17 Jul, 2018 By Kristen Adaway


6 Reasons Pets Are Good Therapy for Mental Health | The Mighty

I’m a firm believer that pets are a fantastic thing for mental health. I have a mini zoo at home; we have three dogs, a rabbit, four guinea pigs and a hamster. In my opinion, pets really are a fantastic form of therapy; without mine, I don’t think I would be here. That’s the truth. They help me manage my bipolar disorder and keep me going in several ways.

1. They give you routine.

Pets give you a routine. They need to be fed, watered, cleaned out, given attention and, if you have dogs, walked at certain times during the day. For me, at least, it keeps me on track.

2. They give you purpose.

They give you something to be responsible for, which gives you a purpose during the day. This is something that even on bad days makes me feel worthy and gives me a reason to get out of bed.

3. They keep you company.

They keep you company so you are never alone. Even if I am isolated, I’m never truly on my own because I have them there.

user contributor photo of three dogs looking at camera4. They give you someone to talk to.

It’s a way to get out your thoughts and feelings without judgment because they certainly don’t talk back. If you’re lucky, they’ll act as though they’re listening.

5. They love you.

They give you complete and unconditional love; no matter what mood you are in or what you look like, they adore you and are always there for cuddles!

6. They encourage you to get outside.

My dogs get me out of the house even on days when I otherwise wouldn’t leave the house at all. They must be walked, and I love them, so that is my motivation. At times being out can start to lift my mood.

For all these reasons and more, pets really are a fantastic form of therapy for me and I’m sure for many others.

Image via contributor.

https://themighty.com/2018/07/reasons-pets-are-good-therapy-mental-health/

On – 18 Jul, 2018 By Lotus Flower


Reap the benefits of biking to work

It’s a familiar Monday morning scene: you wake up, shower, graze on some breakfast foods, and haul yourself out the door. Now, there’s a fork in the road. You can either A) hop in your car and drive to work, burning a quarter of a tank of gas and an entire day’s worth of patience in commuter traffic, or B) hop on the cramped, sweaty bus in mid-summer morning humidity, and arrive at work crabby, sore, and a bus fare poorer.

Most of you might not have considered a third option: bike to work.

The benefits of riding your two-wheeled chariot to work are countless, and they range in scope from personal to global. As gas prices continue a steady march towards unaffordability and city transit fails to expand in step with booming populations, the bicycle starts to look rosier than it might have before. In many parts of the United States, biking to work is only tenable from April to October, but it’s not too late to start before the year is out. Here are some of the simple rewards you’ll reap if you decide to start taking the 21-speed steel stallion to work.

IT’S AFFORDABLE AND ACCESSIBLE

Biking to work will cut your costs in more than just the immediate ways. You’ll save a fortune on gas, but you’ll also save on maintenance that your car might require with extensive use. You’ll save money from transit fares, but you’ll also save health care costs in the future if you stay active. A decent road bike will be a significant investment up front (between $500-$1000), but it will pay for itself within the first two weeks of riding. Further, biking is for everyone: there’s no license required, though a familiarity with the rules of the road is of paramount importance.

IT’S HEALTHY

For years, studies have trumpeted the health benefits of biking, with some hailing it as a form of “preventive health care.” Biking is a relatively low-impact activity that contributes to a strong cardiovascular system, and many professionals think that promoting cycling and integrating corresponding infrastructure like bike lanes can actually save lives by combating diseases like obesity and reducing environmental damage. It’s even said to lengthen life spans. These happy side effects promote healthier lifestyles while contributing to a sustainable and cost-effective culture.

IT’S GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

This is a no-brainer, but every car off the road is a plus for our planet. While it isn’t tenable or realistic to suggest that everyone ditch their car, if you bike to work, you can feel confident that you’re reducing your carbon footprint and, in a small way, working towards sustainability for our world. Most global change is composed of these cascading decisions, so the more bikes that are on the road, the better off planet earth (and its inhabitants) will be.

IT CONTRIBUTES TO HAPPINESS

All of the factors listed above contribute to the key selling point: cycling to work can help you feel happier. With more money in your pocket, a healthier lifestyle, and an eco-friendly approach to commuting, it’s logical that one would feel happy. Regular exercise like cycling has been proven to sharpen your brain and improve cognitive functions like reasoning and memory, as well as having a positive effect on mental health.


Beat the heat without breaking your daily routine

There’s a good chance that since summer began, your Instagram feed has been a deluge of beach and pool pictures. With record-tying (and record-smashing) heat waves across the globe, pilgrimages to these precious bodies of cooling water have likely spiked as well.

But of course, these trips are only feasible for those with time to spare. Many folks won’t have the energy, let alone the time, to reach the beach this summer, and for every happy Instagram influencer lounging at the beach, there are 100 workers without paid vacation or adequate days off slogging to and from work in the punishing heat.

This is exacerbated by the fact that the American work week is longer than that of many developed nations, and that margin is growing: a 2015 report found that the average work week for full-time workers in America runs 47 hours, an average increase of an hour and a half from a decade earlier. That leaves little leisure time to keep cool.

That means it’s important to develop ways to stay cool in your work-week routine. Especially given the breakneck pace of the work week, it can seem trivial to worry about beating the heat. But with deaths from heat stroke and dehydration on the rise, it’s more critical than ever to chill out. Here are some simple tips to stay hydrated and healthy without interrupting your daily comings and goings.

BRING A WATER BOTTLE EVERYWHERE

For some, this will be second-nature, and for others, it will be a big ask, but bringing a water bottle with you wherever you roam is an essential during these hot summer months. As you’ve probably heard by now, the U.S. National Research Council suggests eight to ten glasses of water each day, but keeping track of that can be tedious, and summer heat requires that we drink more as our body works harder to regulate our temperature. If you have a water bottle on you at all times, you’re more likely to stay hydrated, which will keep your body and mind functioning at full-tilt. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, and lightheadedness, so if you notice these setting in, it’s time to take a hit from the water bottle.

PACK AN ICE PACK

Ice packs are for more than just keeping your lunch and beers cold. They’re also relieving and effective coolants for our bodies on particularly hot days. Placing an ice pack on spots like the back of your neck or the inside of your wrists can be a welcome respite from the heat, especially if you’re stationary and able to keep it resting against your body for a period of time. Leave one in the freezer at home and one in the freezer at work—this will give you some icy peace on your morning commute and as you go about your work day. Look for flexible ice packs that can be fastened against your body.

DRESS FOR THE WEATHER

One of the benefits of many modern work environments is a general relaxation of the stuffy dress codes of yesteryear. This flexibility is especially important during summer months, when extreme heat poses a health threat. No normative dress regulations are worth risking your life over, so make a point of dressing according to the weather: if temperatures are spiking, wear loose, breathable clothing that won’t retain heat or cling to your body. This will help your body regulate your temperature more efficiently, which means you’ll sweat less. Win-win!


Can apps help you optimize your well-being and mental health?

It’s 2018, and everywhere you look, necks are bowed into chests while eyeballs firmly fix their gaze on black rectangles. It’s the age of the smartphone – devices that have put the world’s greatest collection of knowledge directly at our fingertips but have also been criticized as the catalyst for a generational mental health crisis.

While smart phones are still relatively new (it’s been little more than a decade since the first iPhone was unveiled), significant amounts of research have been poured into studying their effects on cognitive development, attention spans, social effects and wellbeing. While some experts point to an ultimately net negative effect, many of us have accepted that smartphones and similar technology are here to stay – so why not make the most of it and find ways to use them to boost our mental health?

In today’s blogpost, we’re going to look at some apps and addons that can help you optimize and manage your wellbeing.

*Please note, that these programs should not be considered as a substitute for professional therapeutic or psychiatric services – think of them as tools that can help you track and manage aspects of your life that can contribute to overall wellbeing.

Headspace
For millennia, meditation has been hailed as revolutionary practice to find discipline, clear the mind, communicate with higher powers and even reach transcendental enlightenment. Today, meditation continues to be a widely hailed technique for building and enhancing inner calm and wellbeing. Headspace puts guided meditations at your fingertips and gives those just starting out the basics as well as all the way up to advanced techniques. Additional valuable features: SOS sessions for moments of panic, anxiety and stress and analytics to track progress.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
While this app is meant for iOS devices, there are numerous sleep tracking smartphone apps out there, including those that interface with other wearable technologies to measure your nighttime tossing and turning. The effects of sleep on mental health are well studied, and so they should be: we spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep. Evidence shows that a lack of restful sleep can cause poor mental health. With a sleep tracker, you can find your optimal sleep pattern through data analysis and be able to determine what’s your ideal bedtime and natural wake-up time, if a certain sleep position enhances your sleep and perhaps, where you’ve been wandering all those nights you’ve been sleepwalking. Ultimately, a sleeping app is a critically potent tool for managing both physical and mental health.

Productive
Any given day, we’re bombarded by millions of separate and demanding stimuli. Amongst the commotion, it’s easy to lose track of what we need to do to continue to lead of best and most productive lives. Enter Productive, an app with nearly 30,000 positive reviews that gives you the ability to keep track of the big and small items of your daily routine and gamifies the experience to give you a sense of accomplishment when you’re consistently meeting your goals and gives you an extra nudge when you’re not. Productive keeps you honest to yourself and your habits. As we’ve previously discussed, healthy habits are a great way to keep your mental health and wellbeing going strong.

PTSD Coach
This app was first created in 2011 as part of a joint project between Veteran’s Affairs and the US Department of Defense. Since then, it’s been downloaded over 100,000 times in 74 countries across the world. PTSD Coach helps users learn about and manage symptoms that often occur after trauma and provides information on PTSD and treatments that work, tools for screening, tracking and managing symptoms as well as direct links to support and help. The app is also useful for those living with a loved one experiencing PTSD and want to learn more about how they can be supportive.

Wizard
Developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, this “brain training” iPad game may improve the memory of patients living with schizophrenia and helping them live a more balanced and independent life. After a 9 month study involving 22 participants diagnosed with schizophrenia, the team behind the game found that those who played the memory game made significantly fewer errors on the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) PAL and saw an increase in score on the Global Assessment of Functioning scale, used by doctors to assess adult social, occupational and psychological functioning.

Across smartphones, there are more than 5 million apps currently available; a significant chunk of which that focus on physical and mental health management. Among them, there are wonderful tools that can be used to maintain and manage your wellbeing and help you live a happier life. But don’t forget about the world outside of your iPhone – if you’re ever suffering and feel that you need something beyond a screen, reach out for therapeutic services through your EAP or local medical services.