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6 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Mental Illness

6 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Mental Illness

How often do we hear someone say “I’m so depressed!” Or “I’m so ADD!”  Usually, people are using these terms in a casual fashion to refer to a temporary, down mood or to comment on their mildly scattered state of mind. Unfortunately, stigma and misinformation about actual illnesses still exist. A mental illness is a disturbance of mood, thinking, or behavior. The individual’s symptoms may be mild or debilitating, but they undermine his or her ability to function in daily life. Some of the most common mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,  approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States has an episode of some type of mental illness in a given year, and many individuals are never diagnosed.  Loving a person with a mental illness can be challenging, but many resources are available to help you cope. Below are truths to common misconceptions that people have about mental illness and how it affects a person’s character and personality.

1. Mental illness is not a character flaw

Even today, many people believe that depression and other mental disorders are the result of a negative attitude or some other character flaw. Often individuals with mental illness have this belief, too, and feel guilty that they can’t “kick” the disorder on their own. The most helpful thing you can do as a loved one is to remember that they didn’t choose the illness.   An abundance of research exists to show that mental illnesses have a number of causes, ranging from genetic causes to faulty activity in crucial parts of the brain.  Reminding your loved one that he or she has an illness, not a character flaw, is a way to be supportive.

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2.  Treatment can be very effective for people with mental illness

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma against seeking therapy or psychiatric treatment. Some people might think therapy and psychiatry is only for “crazy” people. The individual with the illness might be afraid to seek help for this reason, especially if his or her family is opposed to psychiatric treatment. To give another example, someone with depression might feel that nothing can help them, and that seeking treatment is pointless. (Feelings of hopelessness are common in depression, for example). Treatment can be very effective, especially when it is encouraged by family members and loved ones. Sharing your own experiences with therapy may boost your loved one book that first appointment.

3. They are committed to sometimes difficult treatment

Depending on the type of mental illness, your loved one may need long-term treatment. If medication is necessary, it may take a while to find the right medication. Some medications have side effects, and it can be a discouraging process trying to find the right treatment. The individual may at times feel like dropping out of treatment altogether. You can help by reminding him or her that while it’s difficult sometimes, not treating the illness will only make it worse. Again, openness about your own struggles (whether they be with relationships, mental health, or dealing with difficult situations) can encourage your loved one to stick it out.

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4. People with mental illnesses can have full lives

Especially in the early stages of treatment, individuals may struggle with accepting their condition, and feel like they are destined to be “outsiders” in life. You can remind your loved one that with proper treatment many individuals are living full, stable lives with a mental illness. In addition, many great contributions to our society have been made by people with mental illness. One example is Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist with bipolar disorder, who has written many books on the subject of bipolar. Not only is it possible to deal with a mental illness, a person can actually learn to overcome it and be an example for others. While it may seem far away — it is possible to have a full life just like everyone else!

5. A diagnosis does not define a person

Some individuals may start to identify themselves by their illness, and have self-limiting beliefs about what they are capable of. You can help by reminding them of their strengths, interests, and the things they have achieved. Labels and diagnoses are necessary when professionals are discussing recovery. It’s important that the individual remember, however, that he or she is a multi-dimensional human being behind the diagnosis. Once under control and well-understood, a mental illness can be another part of a very complex persona. Just like the color of your hair doesn’t define you, neither does your mental illness.

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6. People with mental illness can learn to communicate

Coping with mental illness, including treatment and recovery, can be a rollercoaster ride. At times, the individual can feel so overwhelmed by emotion that he or she retreats into silence. This can be frustrating for the person who just wants to help.  A helpful thing to say at these times is “I may not understand what you are going through, but I want you to know I care. Please let me know what I can do to support you.” Allow them time to explain their feelings and you may be able to relate in your own way.

Coping with a mental illness can be challenging, and understanding the ups and downs of the person experiencing the conditions can be confusing. But with education, treatment, and support, individuals with mental illness can live happy, full, and successful lives.  Their most important tool of recovery is the people around them who care, like you.

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Featured photo credit: Sad Young Man/Deposit Photos via depositphotos.com

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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