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Multitasking: Could it be Hurting your Mental Health?

When an interviewer asks what a person’s greatest strength is, one possible answer is that they are able to multitask. Most people believe they can effectively multitask but they are actually doing more harm to themselves than good. When someone is being very productive and completing multiple things at once, they normally are actually just very good at working on one thing at a time very quickly, as only 2.5% of the population can actually multitask with any skill.

 

Instead of being twice as productive, the multitasker is less likely to produce high-quality work and leads to more confusion. Researchers believe that rather than being on a higher level than a mono-tasker, multitaskers are actually rewiring their brains and making it more difficult for them to concentrate on one thing at a time.

 

In our modern world, technology has given everyone the illusion of being a multitasker because we’re able to work on multiple screens at the same time. When you’re at home, you could be writing a report with the television on, and also be checking your phone periodically. The distractions of the television and phone will limit the quality of the report you’re trying to complete and also will take you longer than without them. It can even be dangerous to multitask, as texting and driving have been known to be a dangerous example of multitasking that can result in injury and even death.

 

While at work, one of the biggest distractions and illusions of multitasking is email. Typically, a person will check their email at several points throughout the day so they can respond quickly and stay on top of their tasks. Unfortunately, checking email frequently can lead to an unproductive day and research also shows that this constant habit could be decreasing your IQ. The best way to counteract this effect is by limiting the number of times throughout the day that you check your email and taking more control of your day.

 

Aside from being unproductive, attempting to multitask can make it more difficult for you to get back on track with your work and focusing throughout the day. Although it may seem like a great way to take charge and be in control of your day, taking on several projects or tasks will actually lead to a less productive day.

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Winter is Coming: Preparing for Seasonal Affective Disorders

For many, the cold of winter has started to move in. Winter may bring along the joy of Christmas, snow and endless hot chocolate but for millions of Americans it also brings along varying degrees of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a seasonal disorder that is characterized by depression, low energy, lethargy, concentration issues and even changes in appetite.

The Winter Blues are generally caused by a drop in serotonin, usually caused by lack of sunlight, which is the brain chemical that affects our mood. Low melatonin, another brain chemical that influences sleep patterns and mood, may also be a cause.

SAD becomes most prevalent in the late fall and early winter, though it may strike in the summer for some. If you think you are at risk for experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter, here are some tips for preparing for it.

Light Therapy
Standard treatment for SAD is light therapy or phototherapy. There are special light boxes that are designed to provide your body with imitation sunlight when it is not available outside. Some light boxes are equipped with alarm clock functions, that will allow them to slowly light up as your wake up time approaches, giving you the illusion that the sun is waking you up.

Keep an Active Lifestyle
Don’t stop moving just because it is cold! Yes, bears get to hibernate in the winter, but it may not be the best for your mental health. If you anticipate that you will suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter, plan consistent exercise that you can engage in to stay active. Try to plan your activity around when the sun is most likely to be out, such as around your lunchtime at work.

Plan A Vacation
For those whose SAD may be a little bit more extreme, it may be good to change some lifestyle habits, such as when you take your vacation. Shifting your vacation schedule to accommodate for the winter time can help provide you with a reprieve from gloomy weather. Plan a sun-soaked vacation for January or February when the winter has hit its peak. This can help provide you with a break from the gray and cold weather and rejuvenate your body as well.

Manage Your Stress Levels
As it is any time of year, it is essential to manage your stress levels during the winter. Keeping your stress low can be helpful when you feel more sluggish as is likely to happen with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Try to be proactive in setting your workload up for the week or season to accommodate for the weather and how you are feeling.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is not uncommon, and you are not alone! Be sure to talk with your doctor or therapist if you think your SAD is severe and needs medical treatment, such as antidepressants.

Films That Accurately Portray Mental Health

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 4 people around the world will be affected by a mental health or neurological disorder in their lifetime. Despite this, there still remains a lot of stigma and misconceptions surrounding the topic. Media has the ability to lessen that stigma and cut through those misconceptions by bringing awareness to the issue and depicting struggles with mental health in a way that is sincere and thoughtful. With that in mind, here are 5 films that did a wonderful job in accurately portraying mental health.

The Skeleton Twins (2012)

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are better known for their comedic chops, being alumni from the long-running sketch comedy variety show Saturday Night Live. But in the drama The Skeleton Twins, the two play twins who are reunited after 10 years apart after a suicide attempt lands Milo (Hader) in the hospital. While there are laughs to be had, the film also offers a heartfelt and candid look at depression as the brother and sister re-learn to accept each other and who they are as individuals.

Inside Out (2015)

Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures have a history of producing animated films that present mature themes in a way that is palatable for kids and adults alike. Inside Out continues that tradition. While mental health disorders themselves aren’t discussed, the story explores the literal emotions of a young girl named Riley as they learn to work to together to help her deal with her family’s move to San Francisco. Puberty can be a confusing and turbulent time in our lives, and it’s good to have a movie that presents the struggles that youth face as well.

Ordinary People (1980)

A classic that won 4 Oscars, including for Best Picture and Best Director, Robert Redford’s drama Ordinary People represents a turning point for the portrayal of psychotherapy in the film. It stars Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, and Timothy Hutton as an affluent Chicago family trying to carry on after the accidental death of their son/brother. The film tackles difficult topics like PTSD and survivor’s guilt, as well as the stigma around seeking psychiatric treatment.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Another winner of 4 Oscars, Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind follows the life of John Forbes Nash Jr, as played by Russel Crow. Nash was a real-life mathematician and Nobel Laureate. He also lived with paranoid schizophrenia, and the film beautifully captures how dealing with paranoia and delusions affected his life and career.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

This critically-acclaimed film from David O. Russell stars Bradley Cooper as Pat Solatano, a man recently released from a mental health hospital and forced to move back with his parents. Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell, a young woman grieving after the death of her husband. The two meet and agree to help each other: Pat by being Tiffany’s ballroom dance partner, and Tiffany by helping Pat get his wife back after his untreated bipolar disorder drove her away. Silver Linings Playbook presents the rollercoaster of emotion that often comes with dealing with bipolar disorder, and it does it in a way that feels real and compelling.

Offensive Statements You Should Never Say to a Person With a Disability

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The term disability is a broad one, encompassing a range of things from mild to severe, intellectual to physical. Some disabilities are obvious, while others may not necessarily be apparent. According to the U.S. Census bureau, there are nearly 12 million people with disabilities in the workforce. So, whether one is aware or not, the chances are good that he or she has, or will, encounter a person with a disability on the job. With that in mind, it is important to understand that certain statements or questions, regardless of the intention behind them, are universally perceived as offensive to those with disabilities.

 

“What happened?”

Humans are curious creatures, by nature, and it is understandable that one might be interested in knowing the background of a person’s disability. Asking “what happened?” or “Were you born this way?”, which may seem like nothing more than a conversation starter to the one asking, is never appropriate upon first meeting. It is purely the right of people to maintain the level of privacy they are comfortable with, and to share, or not, on their own terms. Putting them on the spot is invasive and offensive.

 

“I forget you’re disabled”

Generally speaking, this statement is made with the best of intentions. Likely, the person saying it is trying to communicate that he or she values their disabled coworker as a person. However, Within the disabled community, there is debate as to whether this is a positive statement or not, tied to the varying ways persons with disabilities identify with their own disability. Since it is controversial, it’s best simply to avoid saying it.

 

“How do you…?”

There’s no doubt that for a person with a disability, accomplishing many of the everyday tasks the rest of the population takes for granted, involves challenges and accommodations. It is understandable that there is a level of curiosity around how he or she is able to do things. Asking overly personal questions (e.g., “How do you use the bathroom?”) is simply rude and intrusive.

 

There is an expected protocol for one’s behavior within a professional setting. The above questions and statements are never acceptable to broach in the context of the workplace. Of course, should a professional relationship evolve into a personal one, with a greater level of shared intimacy, the subjects mentioned might not remain taboo forever. But, as a general rule, they are best to avoid in the workplace.

A New Year’s Resolution to Keep: Making Your Mental Health a Priority

After the ball drops in Manhattan and New Year’s Eve celebrations die down, many of us turn inward to look at ourselves and figure out how we can make this new year the best year ever. It could be that we vow to get physically fit, we might promise ourselves that we’ll finally quit smoking, or we could say we’ll take steps to get enrolled in school and earn that degree we’ve always wanted. For most of us, creating a list is one thing, carrying them out is quite another, but this year, we should each take a moment and make a promise to make our mental health a priority.

Mental health is an integral part of our lives, whether you’re a child or a senior citizen because it is the way we perceive the world, how we interact with loved ones, how we feel about ourselves, how we perceive and deal with stress, and how we make decisions about our lives. Make this year the year you work on yourself from the outside in and make your mental health a priority.

 

Move as much as you can

Depression and other mental illnesses can make the simple act of getting out of bed seem like an impossible task. If your mental health needs attention, going for a walk and exercising can give you a boost in your confidence and energy levels. When you’re depressed, any exercise you’re able to get is an achievement and you should also make sure to give yourself with a healthy reward when you’re able to sustain a more active lifestyle.

 

If you’re still struggling to exercise, try simply getting out of bed and fighting the urge to go back to it for as long as you can.

 

Stop dieting

Every year, millions of people go on a diet in attempts to lose weight and feel better about themselves. Instead of going on a new trendy diet or cutting out a food you love, try implementing new, healthy foods into your diet slowly. If you’re struggling with body image, dieting can exacerbate these feelings of inadequacy, especially if you’re unable to lose weight in the time period you want.

 

Make time for those that you love and that love you

As adults, we all struggle from time to time with scheduling enough time for friends and loved ones when life at work and home get busy. Making time for those you love and that love you is really important and you should try to set aside at least one time a month for a get-together. Along those same lines, you should be careful with your time and yourself when it comes to friends and stop making time for those that put you down or add more stress to your life.

Social Media and the Effects on Our Mental Health

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool that has been incorporated into our daily lives, there’s no doubt that it can affect our mental health. Social media allows us to keep in contact with people who don’t get to see on a daily, weekly, or even yearly basis, but unfortunately, it can also act as a catalyst to mental health disorders if what you’re seeing on the screen makes you feel bad about your own life.

 

A recent survey taken in the UK polled 1500 Facebook and Twitter users and the results showed that over half of the participants had feelings of inadequacy and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy because their followers and friends had more exciting lives by comparison to their own.

 

For those of us who spend a large amount of time on social media every day, it can be difficult to disconnect from it. In fact, studies show that social media may actually be addictive. It allows us to break away from our lives and have a distraction, but it can also give us unrealistic expectations, cultivate our insecurities, and point out things that we don’t have in our lives. What experts do agree on is that those who are overly dependent on social media and technology for social interaction are more likely to exhibit feelings of anxiety. When we see our friends and all the places they’re visiting and the life events they’re experiencing, it can cause us to look at our own lives and feel inadequate with what we’ve experienced and the things we haven’t been able to do.

 

Because many people who regularly use social media are addicted to it, they will regularly check their feed to see what their followers are posting. Unfortunately, when we’re addicted to social media, scrolling through our feeds only makes us feel less in control afterward.

 

If you’re struggling with an addiction to social media and feel like you’re mental health is suffering, as a result, begin making a change by making a conscious effort to limit your time on social media each day. If you’re finding that difficult, remove the apps from your phone so that to sign into your accounts, you need to go to a web browser. This will also keep you from seeing the notifications every time one of your followers’ tweets or shares a post.

 

It’s also a good idea to make an effort to see your friends and family in the real world. Too often we rely on interacting with our loved ones through social media, which can be a great tool but shouldn’t be used as a replacement for actual interaction. Whenever you are with them, be present. Put away your cell phone when you’re out with them and give them your attention.

Managing Workplace Anxiety

There’s no denying work can be stressful. For those of us who suffer from an anxiety disorder, each day can be a struggle to get out of bed, get dressed, and get to work on time. Those who are unsure of their talents and abilities may voluntarily miss out on opportunities that would put them ahead in their companies because they don’t know if they’d be able to fulfill the needs of the position. Public speaking and traveling can be difficult for most people to adjust to, but missing opportunities willingly can also exacerbate symptoms of anxiety disorders.

In order to mitigate the symptoms of anxiety disorders and manage anxiety in the workplace, it’s a good idea to be proactive every day so you can live a happy and healthy work life. It’s also important to realize that feeling anxious is a perfectly normal response to stress, but if it becomes overwhelming, that’s when you need to actively take steps to make positive changes for your overall wellbeing.

 

Be Self-Aware

Being self-aware means checking in on your own physical and emotional responses when feelings of anxiety arise. Be mindful of what exactly is causing your stress and try to see how you can make changes. Are you overwhelmed by unrealistic deadlines? Do you dread everyday responsibilities? Figure out whether or not you need to reorganize or if you’re procrastinating on projects. Don’t try and disregard your feelings because they won’t go away, in fact, they’ll probably intensify. Instead, try to pinpoint exactly what is causing the excessive stress.

 

Make time for yourself

When our plates are full and we feel like we have no time for ourselves, that’s when we especially need to carve out our day and make extra time. When we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, we’re less likely to exercise, but our bodies need it most at that time. Try hard to care for your mind and body by eating the right foods, getting enough sleep each night, and squeezing in some workout time.

 

Reach out to friends and family

Loved ones can be a source of guidance, wisdom, and support. More than likely, you have someone in your circle who is experiencing feelings of anxiety and a loss of control. If not, someone is going to have gone through it at some point in their past. Even if you don’t want to discuss this with friends and family, just knowing they are there for you can be a positive re-enforcement.

 

Seek help from a professional

There is no shame in asking for help if you aren’t managing your anxiety alone. If you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder and don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, it’s best to seek out help in order to manage it effectively. A clinical psychologist will help you figure out not only where your stress is coming from, but how to deal with it so you can live a life that is not controlled by anxiety, but by yourself.

Spread the Positivity Virus

Peer pressure is something adults tell children to watch out for. They are afraid because children are thought to be impressionable. Little do they know, the attitudes of their friends can affect them in similar ways. Your colleagues may not try to get you to engage in illegal behavior, but surrounding yourself with negative people may lead to negative feelings, and the same can be said with positivity. But why does this happen?

The culprit may be social cues. Most humans have the ability to sense a mood shift, based off of nonverbal cues. These can include posture, facial expression, and movement. Someone who is frowning is sad. Someone who can’t stop tapping their fingers is jittery. Someone with their arms crossed is closed off. There are hundreds of social cues humans subconsciously recognize.

Social cues are said to make up 55% of all communication. Before we learn our first words, we observe our family’s behavior and categorize behaviors by their intended effect. This means we can recognize the mood in any given situation without directly asking about it even before we begin school.

Obviously, social cues are a key to this puzzle, but how exactly do they fit in?

When someone does not adhere to social norms, they stick out like a sore thumb. Sometimes, there is an event which calls for celebration or one that calls for grief. However, sometimes a group’s mood can be a byproduct of one or two people’s attitude.

Daniel Goleman says that leaders influence their teams’ moods. A manager who angrily points out all of your mistakes can make you feel angry in return. A respectful boss will inspire respect from their employees. In your social group, there is almost always one particularly vocal friend (whether they are happy, sad, or any other emotion), who acts as the leader of the group. Everyone else tends to model their behavior around this centralized person.

There are circumstances where it is appropriate to experience negative emotions, but living a happy life is important to your mental health. Spending all of your time with negative people will ultimately lead you to feel more negative. Experiencing the world with positive people will allow you to enjoy more in life and lead to a deeper appreciation of all life has to offer.

Positivity can be spread as easily as a disease. Every positive word or action transfers this positivity to the next person. Surrounding yourself with positive people is the best and easiest way to live a fulfilling life.

So what are you waiting for? Go out into the world and find new people to share your positivity with. After all, your positivity is just as contagious and can make ripples in the world.