Caring for Those Who Deserve the Best: Mental Health and Our Veterans

The men and women who are part of all branches of the armed services are putting their lives on the line each and every day to help us live a long and happy life. Each day they go without seeing their family is a big enough sacrifice for them, but each day that they live in an unfamiliar country, where they never know if they are going to come home again, is a struggle that those back at home know nothing about. Getting them the help that they need when they do finally get to come home is crucial.

Helping Our Veterans: What They Need

There are many different types of help that veterans can receive when it comes to recovery after they return home. One of the biggest problems that a lot of veterans face when they come home is PTSD, which makes it hard to return to the life they had before. But there are other problems, such as simple assimilation back into society as a civilian and a member of their own family.

 

Dealing With PTSD

There are many ways that someone can attempt to work through PTSD. One of the newer methods is actually called floating, which allows you to float in a pool and relax some of your stress and troubles away. Just like you might have done when you were a child, you can enter a small pool and float around to help yourself relax. 

Another option is simply talking things through with a friend or family member. Talking with someone who knows what you’ve been through (such as someone who was there with you or has been in the military themselves) may help you feel more comfortable with what you’re going through. 

Talking with a professional is another way to help you not just with PTSD, but with that level of assimilation you’re looking for as well.

Assimilating into Society

Trying to get back to a normal life after you’ve seen horrible things or even just went through the rigors of being in the military in your home country (without a war zone) can be difficult on your own. But there are programs out there designed to help veterans, like these options that get you back into civilian life as easily as possible. 

Unfortunately, some aspects of assimilation are more difficult than others, and sometimes it’s difficult to turn off the part of your brain that’s always searching for danger or always wondering what’s going to happen next. Getting professional help can be an important step to helping you understand your own thoughts and emotions.

Assimilating into the Family

Finally, getting back to the life you left behind and the people you left behind is difficult, but crucial as well. Having that support system of people who love you and care about your ability to succeed makes it easier to succeed, but it’s still not going to be completely simple. There may be things you can’t or don’t want to talk about with them, but you need to talk to someone.

Getting to know your family again and getting to know how to be a family again is crucial to being able to get back to a civilian life, but it’s not as easy as you might like it to be. Better Help can help you and your family get to know one another again, and it can help you understand all the different steps you’re going through in trying to get back to a normal life, outside of the military. 

Can Gardening Ease Your Anxiety?

For those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other anxiety, depression and mental health disorders, cultivating your own garden can give you just the therapeutic release you need. It can ease your mind and give you a sense of purpose as you grow your plants from seeds, continuing to watch them grow with each passing day until you see full-grown flowers, herbs or vegetables. For years, scientists, doctors and mental health professionals have studied horticultural therapy and its positive effects on people. 

While some studies are still being done to test this therapeutical method, scientists have discovered that gardening is a natural stress reliever and calms temperaments and nerves. It does this by reducing cortisol levels in the brain; the hormone cortisol is responsible for stress responses coming from our brains. 

 

Here’s how keeping your own garden, either on your windowsill or in your backyard, can help you relieve stress and your mental health disorders:

 

You learn problem solving.

Are your plants getting too much sun or water — or not enough? Observing your plants every day can help you problem solve so they grow to their greatest potential. This application can improve your mental health and life in general. You can learn to problem solve if you want to handle an everyday stressor, tackle a fear or learn to cope with your disorder. Of course, if you need some help problem solving, outreach to someone who can help you. Talking with a mental health professional could help you work through issues. Take off your gardening gloves and chat with someone on a site like betterhelp.com, which can help find solutions to your mental health issues wherever you are.

You will be focused on the tasks at hand. 

When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, you’re often thinking about the past or future while not engaging in tasks, events or behaviors in the present. Using gardening tools and weeding your plants can give you something physical that will ease your mental state. When we’re anxious, we tend to want something to do with our hands, and gardening gives us a more productive solution.

 

You realize your garden is bigger than yourself.

Raising fruits and vegetables can allow you to share your produce with others. While your peppers and tomatoes can be used for your own recipes, you can share them with family and friends or sell them at a local farmer’s market. Having a larger sense of purpose can help you tackle your other problems in the same way. You will realize that you are part of a larger whole. 

You will learn what works best for you.

The planting process will teach you about yourself. You will have time to think in the solitude of your gardening, and you can even plant items that will help you feel better. Growing plants, like basil, lemon balm, thyme, sage, nettle and others, can naturally help ease your mind and give new meaning to your own versions of horticultural therapy. 

 

Angst and Artistry

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While the trope of an artist who struggles, not only in making a living but with living itself, is certainly not applicable to everyone who pursues creative endeavors, anyone with any experience of the artistic crowd will have a shrewd idea of where it comes from. Just like the stereotypical engineer is socially maladroit and the stereotypical lawyer cynical, there are enough examples of artists battling some form of inner demon to affect the reputation of the entire profession.

Depression, in its various guises, is a particularly common malady amongst musicians, writers and other kinds of creative people; what may be surprising is the kind of artists who suffer from it. You would probably be able to think of Leonard Cohen, Kurt Cobain, Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent van Gogh without any trouble. However, the same list would have to include Woody Allen, Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry and Hans Christian Anderson. This brings us to an apparent paradox: would those suffering from depression not tend to produce works which tend to make others depressed? Since paradoxes can only exist in politics, this one is also specious. For one thing, experiencing even the saddest artworks don’t necessarily lead to feelings of sadness in the audience.

One possible, but probably insufficient explanation is that people suffering from depression experience a greater range of emotions that is the norm. This can inform not only their work on melancholy subjects but also in much more lighthearted pieces, whether musical compositions, short stories or whatever genre the artist chose to apply himself to. The reason for this is that someone who is generally or even constantly cheerful will not be capable of recognizing that inner state as anything but a baseline, while a person who has some understanding of the opposite will be more apt to see it as something to be grateful for and celebrated. An artist who’s lived his whole life on emotional mountains might be able to do no better than describe the heights as “peak-ish”, while someone who regularly visits the valleys between has a much greater basis for comparison and therefore a better understanding of both.

Another factor which may come into play is that the creative acts they perform may serve as a kind of catharsis for their internal conflicts. As such, their work isn’t something they do with the same mindset as someone spending time in an office, nor for the benefit or praise of other people, but a calling in some deeper sense. One of the prerequisites for becoming good at anything from coding in Java to writing sonnets is simply doing a lot of it, and when self-expression and emotional release converge, a person would be that much more likely to keep practicing his art. This would affect the quality of what he produces not only while in the depths of depression but also in happier times.

 Source: health.com

One further thing to take into account is that depression is often of the “manic” variety, more properly called bipolar disorder now that it’s better understood. People afflicted with this disease experience periods of elation and extreme creativity, and of near-total hopelessness and despair. Those who view the beauty and power of something created in the former state will not necessarily even be aware of the depth of the depressions the artist might have endured before and after.

Finally, we should be careful of generalizing from a few cases of depressed artists who’ve made history. In the first place, there are and have been plenty of equally famous creative minds who’ve suffered no more than the usual amount of sadness humans face in life. Secondly, is it really justified to make a link between Jackson Pollock and every guy who paints on Sunday afternoons?

The bad news is that there does seem to be a significant link between creativity and mental illness, even without adding genius to the mix. Statistically (at least in Sweden) people working in creative fields – which, for this study, can mean anything from painting to dancing to photography – were significantly more likely to experience psychological problems ranging from anxiety to substance abuse (certain categories were, on average, actually healthier than the general population). Writers, for some reason, are the worst affected; being 121% more likely than average to suffer from bipolar disorder and fully 50% more prone to committing suicide. Somewhat frighteningly, numerous other studies have established the fact that both creativity and mental illness tend to run in the family, pointing to a possible genetic link between the two.

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Now that we know that, though, we should also take a deep breath and recognize that psychology rarely deals in one-to-one, black and white correlations, and categories. You might be very capable artistically without being at all depressed or prone to anxiety. Even if this is not the case for you, there’s a wide range of existence between perfect mental health and anything that could be described as a psychic disorder, which are the two poles between which the vast majority of people find themselves. Drawing landscapes or diddling away on the piano does not really mean you’re likely to end your life the way Sylvia Plath did; depression is better understood and more easily treated now than ever before.

The Psychological and Social Impact of the Female Image in Modern Media.

Source: fashion-history.lovetoknow.com

Now is a very interesting time for women. Their image in the media their progress regarding power and respect is ambiguous and conflicting. Over previous years progress has been made in certain areas. We are now seeing more and more women in greater positions of power such as Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook or Meg Whitman at HP. In 1981, women made up only 5.6 percent of the top one percent. In 2012 that figure was reported to be at 18.3 percent. Clearly progress has been made here and women are gaining more and more power. Last year’s presidential election saw the first ever female candidate, Hilary Clinton, to make it to the penultimate position in the election race. Throughout the campaign this frequently brought up the topic of feminism, women in power and women’s progress for equality.

This also leads us to another interesting topic, Donald Trump. The man who was elected despite his less than fair remarks about harassing women leaked to the media. In response to his election millions of women to the streets in cities across the world spoke out about his attitude towards women. Yet surprisingly 53% of white women voted for Trump. Regardless of race, this is a staggering amount considering the remarks he has made about women, which makes this whole situation so much more intriguing. 

Source: theconversation.com

Politics aside, music and the arts has often been a space for great female empowerment. Although in recent years many self-proclaimed feminist artists have drummed up controversy regarding what is empowerment and what is purely media grabbing attention. Miley Cyrus is a prime example of this. Throughout her career she has often made remarks such as, ‘I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything‘. This has divided women everywhere. Is she free and expressive or simply trying to grab headlines?

It can be a difficult time for young girls who are trying to discover their role and identity in this world. On top of this there is also the added stress of conforming to the physical demands of what a woman should look like. Over the last 50-60 years the female figure with movies and advertising has dramatically changed. More and more women are pictured as slim, beautiful and attractive. Evidence indicates this influence can lead to negative body image and low self-esteem which can lead to dangerous consequences. For example, one study found a positive correlation between media image and body image. With American girls aged 7-12, it was found that television exposure was a clear predictor for a thinner ideal body shape and a higher level of disordered eating one year later. 

Source: salon.com

Among all this chaos, confusion and controversy it can be hard to know what to do or where to stand. However, you can make a difference if you feel that something needs to change. In November 2000, the Campbell Soup company launched many ads for a television campaign. In this 30 second TV ad young boys roughly aged around 9 or 10 offer girls of a similar age soup. The girls decline stating they can’t accept as they are watching their weight. The boys respond, “lots of Campbell’s soups are low in calories”. The girls then accept the offer followed by the commentator announcing “Because over 30 savory Campbell’s soups have under 100 calories or 3 grams of fat or less per serving. So you can feel full on fewer calories”. This angered Joe Kelly who saw the ad and as a father felt he needed to say something. He contacted the company regarding its controversial message which implied young girls need to watch their weight. A few days later the Vice president of marketing and communications called Joe to inform him that he had read his letter, reviewed the ad and agreed with their point. Because of Joe’s actions the ad was pulled. This may be a drop in the ocean but it is still important to remember you have the power to change things if you feel that something is wrong and you should always make your voice heard in. Within Business, Politics and the Media, women everywhere have made great strides towards equality, however there is still a great deal of more work to be done. 

Married to our phones: The positives and negatives of well-being

                    Source: reuters.com

We are always connected. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, our smart phones are normally no more than an arm-width away. The average person checks their phone 110 times a day. We have become increasingly loyal to these little devices, now possessed by most of the world population. We are promised connectivity at the press of button. Time and space is no longer the issue it used to be. An email can reach one side of the world to another in approximately 0.35 seconds. And phones are only becoming smaller, faster and more technologically advanced. Allowing us, the consumers, to become more and more reliant. Our usage of smart phones has tripled in the last decade. Its no surprise that the affect of smart phones on the human brain has been an increasingly researched topic by psychologists. So how exactly do smartphones affect our wellbeing?

With mental health issues such as depression and anxiety on the rise, especially amongst younger people, some psychologists point towards the constant connectivity as one of the leading culprits. In particular, the cognitive affect on young, more malleable minds has always been the concern of parents.  

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64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011. This increasing use of smartphone usage has been a particular trend amongst young adults between the ages of 18-29 yrs. But the age of mobile users is creeping younger by the year. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, children from as young as 12-years old are now becoming frequent owners of smartphones. Raising from 63% in fall of 2006 and then to 71% in early 2008

This need is particularly linked to problems sleeping during the night – due to the demand of always needed to be reachable, no matter when or where. Behavioral addictions can come as a result, creating a compulsive need to stay connected, send messages and scroll through endless newsfeeds – lowering our standard of sleep and in some cases leading towards insomnia. This occurs for both adults as well as young people.  

 

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At the same time as being connected with each other, we`re also connected to a whole string of world events which are mainly, negative, violent and disturbing. 

Giving up your phone to avoid all of this may seem like a daunting and impossible task, however the good news is you don’t have to. There are certain methods you can use to curve your Smartphone addiction. For example, don’t use your phone as an alarm. This may sound impractical, although it is important to remember as soon as it’s off, most of us head straight to social media, bombarding our brains the moment we wake up. Another tip is to place your phone on airplane mode during important times throughout the day such as dinner. Having your phone out at dinner is not only unnecessary but can also be considered very rude when in the company of others. It may seem tempting to reach for it the moment you hear that buzz but remember you are the mast of your phone not the other way around. 

I will leave you with this inspiring quote from the legendary director Steven Spielberg which I think perfectly sums up our complicated relationship with cell phones.

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” – Steven Spielberg

Spoilt for Choice: The new pressure of finding your future

What do you want to be when you grow up?  

  

From an early age, I grew up watching the popular 90’s American comedy Frasier almost every morning before school as my mum would usually have it on in the background. Immediately I was fascinated by the profession of the main character Frasier Crane, a radio talk show psychologist. Even though it is probably not the best source of Psychology facts or information, I was instantly hooked, and I knew I too wanted to study Psychology. I bought second-hand text books from Car boot sales (or Flea markets for any Americans reading this) and immersed myself in the fascinating topic. At the age of 15 I chose to study it at college (Late high school for you Americans again, 16-18 years) where I obtained top marks and later took it at University and graduated with the highest possible grade.   

Source: shelleyhallmark.me

After all of this, you would assume that my career path lacked any ambiguity regarding “What do I want to do in life?”. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I undeniably love the subject but currently have no real ambitions of pursuing it as a career for many reasons. Mainly because this career path requires an overwhelming plethora of qualifications, which will take a lot of time while simultaneously accumulating a lot of student debt. Moreover, it hinders my ability to do the one thing I love more than anything, travel! As a result, at 24 my idea about what career path I want to take changes daily, constantly zigzagging between ideas.   

  

The pressure of choosing a career  

  

There can be an incredible amount of pressure for teenagers and young adults when it comes to making decisions like what to study and whether pursuing further education is the right choice. Parents, friends and teachers can be a source of help or added pressure, and these influences are only the tip of the iceberg. It can be hard processing all the factors, what do I enjoy doing, is there a demand for this, how much money will I earn and what if I want to do something else in the future? Many years ago, the necessity to make these decisions weren’t as common because social mobility hardly existed. If you were born into a working-class family, it’s likely that you were going to stay there. If your father was a miner, there is a good chance you will be too. Therefore, due to these new options in our modern world, it can be a stressful time for young people. 

  

Making the right choice

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Arriving at the right decision may be a long and stressful process, but it can also be very rewarding if you discover something you love or successful choose to pursue your passion. Even though I have no intentions of pursuing a career in Psychology at this current time, I thoroughly enjoyed the subject and I honestly believe I can attribute most of my success to the fact that I am passionate about it. Here are some tips on how to make the right choices when faced with this mammoth task.   

  

Talents, Abilities and Skills  

  

When making these decisions it’s advantageous to consider what you are naturally good at. If you happen to have a natural talent for Maths it may be worth considering some careers which require this type of methodical thinking such as Maths, Computing or Science. The same can be said for all other subjects. If you are naturally good at something, it may give you an advantage when applying for universities or when competing in the modern workplace. The same can be said for any previous work or subject experience you have. Although, what your naturally good at may not be something you enjoy, and if you don’t enjoy your work I can almost guarantee it will affect your productivity and job fulfilment. In other words, don’t consider this the only factor.   

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Social and economic factors  

  

This has less to do with who you are and more to do with the environment you will be entering. Today’s modern technology is forever moving forward with rapid pace and so is it’s ability to replace humans with machines. For example, it is highly likely that we will see many jobs like lorry drivers  out with the use of  self-driving vehicles. So when it comes to making your choice of what to study it is important to consider the demand for workers in this field in the foreseeable future.   

  

It’s never too late to change career paths  

  

Even though all these choices may seem stressful, it is important to understand that this freedom to choose last for a lot more than just your teens. When I graduated University, I accepted a job working in Sales for an IT technology company. I know nothing about IT, and even after working there for a year and a half I still know nothing about IT. What I did learn is that IT really doesn’t interest me (despite my efforts to change this) and now I know. I may not know what I want to do in life, however, because of this experience I have now narrowed down my options and ruled out IT.  

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Relax! This is supposed to be enjoyable.   

  

Being told to relaxed when faced with daunting decisions may seem difficult but the truth is you are on a mission to find something that every day makes you want to get out of bed and go do what you love. Even though it might seem like a difficult mission at times, you can explore so many options and try so many things. This is a path to discovering your passions, your skills and essentially a route to discovering more about yourself and what makes you tick.   

  

One of the most influential moments during my degree was when I was introduced to Alan Watts. If you are not familiar with the work of Alan Watts, I would highly recommend checking him out. More importantly, my lecturer showed us this video shortly before we were all due to graduate and it really did have a lasting influence. If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it is to have no fear. Try new things, study new topics, find jobs you like, quit jobs you don’t and always, always pursue your passion because that will keep you going through the best of times and the worst of times. I may not know what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I have found a great passion for writing and working as a freelance writer. Tomorrow I may want to be a chief, or perhaps a tightrope walker in a travelling circus. But whatever, you decide to do pursue your dream and make sure you are happy.   

 

“If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you’ll spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing thing you don’t like doing, which is stupid.” – Alan Watts 

 

Till divorce do us part? The implications of marriage in today’s modern life

Source: i-do.com.au

With 50 percent of all marriages now ending in divorce it begs the question is the tradition relative in our modern society, or better still why can so few of us no longer making it work. As a 24-year-old nomadic traveller, marriage is not currently the highest item on my to do list. With that being, I often ponder if this tradition is for me considering my parents are separated as well as both of their parents. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in love, but it appears to be so rare to find and so much harder to maintain in our modern world that I wonder if a happily ever after ending is a lottery that only a few of us are lucky enough to win. 

There are clearly many reasons people choose to divorce. Money worries, infidelity or lack of communication can all be key issues. None of these are particularly new problems that we face, yet in recent years we have consistently seen a rise in divorce rates, but why is this? Are we just becoming less and less patient due to modern expectations, or is it just because society now allows us to show our true colours regarding commitment? The answer is complicated as research appears to suggest a combination of both.

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Many studies indicated that we now have a higher expectation of what marriage should provide. For many of us, when we find that special one, we now expect them to provide so much more than previous generations. We rarely have the luxury of only one person needing to work to hold down a household, as a result this has become a shared responsibility also adds to financial concerns. Along with household responsibilities we also expect our partner to be a source of unconditional trust, adventurous love, a constant source of support, and above all to fulfil our need for a close companion. In previous years, these roles are likely to have been spread out among multiple people. In addition to this, modern married individuals spend less time with friends and family members compared with their single counterparts. 

Our society has also encouraged a dangerous attitude of immediate gratification and expectation. With amazon prime giving us whatever we desire the very next day and Netflix releasing whole a series at once we never need to wait. This expectation can infectiously spread to other areas of our lives leading us to believe that all our problems can be easily fixed. As a result, many couples are not willing to give marriage the same effort that many generations before us had too. Furthermore, ease of divorce has increased while the taboo surrounding divorce has notably decreased, increasing the appeal of taking the easy way out. 

Source: lifehack.org

One final factor to consider is the amount of quality time partners spend with each other. This is a great indicator of a marriage’s success rate, and over previous year we have seen the amount of quality time partners spend with each other decrease. Without this essential element marriages can often end up disappointing and unsatisfied. 

The good news is that marriage isn’t dead. Despite the decline in its success at least half of all couples that make a go at it still manage to make it work. In our modern society, it is important to understand that we must give our relationships more time, and above all more quality time for them to succeed. It is easy to get caught up in the modern rush with an overwhelming list of expectations from a partner.