Celebrate World Bipolar Day by Taking Control of Your Mental Illness

This post appeared on the International Bipolar Foundation website, here.

Are you bipolar? There is a day on the calendar to celebrate your struggles with the disorder.

World Bipolar Day (WBD) is celebrated each year on March 30th, in honor of Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday, as he was posthumously diagnosed as probably having bipolar disorder.

The day–an initiative of the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF), the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD), and the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD)–means to combat stigma and raise awareness of bipolar disorders.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is marked by abrupt changes in mood, energy, and executive function–the ability to accomplish tasks on a daily basis.

Celebrate World Bipolar Day By Taking Control of Your Mental Illness - CassandraStout.com

Bipolar disorder comes in several forms.

People with bipolar I suffer from manic episodes–periods of increased energy, euphoric mood, and decreased need for sleep–depressive episodes–periods of intense, pervasive sadness–as well as weeks of relative stability. People who suffer from bipolar II deal with even more severe and lengthy depressive episodes and hypomania, a lesser form of mania. There’s also cyclothymia, or bipolar III, where people have lesser forms of depression and hypomania, but cycle more rapidly between the two.

Episodes of bipolar disorder are not the usual ups and downs that everyone goes through. This is a lifelong condition which interferes with day-to-day functioning. The prevalence of bipolar disorder has been estimated to be as high as 5% of people around the world.

There are several causes to bipolar disorder, including genetic components, environmental stresses, childhood trauma, and other factors.

International groups like IBPF, ISBD, and ANBD support global efforts from scientists and advocates to investigate causes of bipolar disorder, methods of diagnosis, coping strategies, and medications to successfully treat the mental illness. World Bipolar Day was created to celebrate these efforts, acknowledge the struggles of people with the disorder, and raise awareness and sensitivity.

You can celebrate World Bipolar Day by taking care of yourself. But if you have bipolar disorder, how do you cope with the day-to-day challenges the mental illness brings? There are several strategies:

Take Your Medications

Your medications are there to help you. If you don’t take them on a regular basis, you won’t know if they work. Figuring out the right cocktail of antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety meds–as well as electroconvulsive therapy–requires a lot of patience, as the testing process takes time and a toll on your body.

But there is hope. Bipolar disorder is one of the most manageable and treatable disorders. You can find a correct combination of medications or electroconvulsive therapies to treat you. For a post on how to get a psychiatric evaluation, click here.

Attend Therapy

Talk therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy, is one of the best ways to learn coping skills to handle the challenges of daily life. An unbiased, sympathetic therapist can help you understand patterns of your behaviors and help you correct said patterns. Attending therapy is essential for daily functioning when you have bipolar disorder.

For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.

Practice Self-care

Self-care is not limited to bubble baths and painting your nails. It’s taking responsibility for your physical and mental well-being. Self-care involves sleeping enough (but not too much), eating a healthy diet, spending time outside and with other people, exercising, and drinking plenty of water.

Practicing these tenants of self-care on a day-to-day basis is crucial for you to feel better. Even if you can’t do all six everyday, try to eat, sleep, and drink enough water. Your energy levels and mood may improve immensely.

Final Thoughts

World Bipolar Day, celebrated every year on March 30th, is a great time to take stock of the strategies you’ve used to cope with your mental illness. If you have bipolar, taking your medication, attending therapy, and practicing self-care will go a long way towards improving your ability to handle your condition.

There is no shame in having bipolar disorder. It just means your brain functions differently. Make the effort to treat your mental illness on World Bipolar Day.

I wish you well in your journey.

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Celebrate World Bipolar Day By Taking Control of Your Mental Illness - CassandraStout.com

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Self-harm Awareness Month: How to Spot Self-Injury in Your Teen

March is Self-Harm Awareness Month. How to spot signs of self-injury in your teen.

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Trigger Warning: This post contains discussions of self-harm and suicide. If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts, please talk with someone from the Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-8255 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Self-Harm Awareness Month: How to Spot Self-Harm in Your Teen - CassandraStout.com

Self-injury or self-harm is practically the opposite of self-care.

People sometimes mirror emotional pain with physical pain. Sometimes, suffering people, especially teenagers, cut or burn themselves as a release valve. When they hurt themselves physically, the emotional pain often lessens. Other times, suffering people hurt themselves because they feel emotionally numb, and just want to feel something.

People who self-injure are heavily stigmatized. They are often labeled as attention seekers, especially girls, who are more likely to self-harm.

But self-harm is surprisingly common. Up to 15% of teenagers self-injure, as opposed to 4% of adults. An estimated 90% of self-harm starts around age 14, and continues into the late 20s. Self-harm crosses all boundaries: gender, social-economic, races, beliefs, and ages.

March is Self-harm Awareness Month in the U.S. The organizers have set aside March to combat self-injury stigma. For people who want to wear a ribbon to raise awareness of the issue, the color to wear to support people who self-harm is orange.

Signs of Self-Harm

Finding out that your teenager self-harms can be a shock. Most people who self-harm are able to hide their injuries successfully, or explain them away as accidental cuts and burns.

Be on the lookout for these common signs of self-injury:

  • Wearing long sleeves and heavy coats and sweaters even in the hot, summer months
  • Frequent, scabbed-over injuries on the arms or legs
  • Repeated excuses as to how or why the teen became injured
  • Isolation or withdrawal from normally pleasurable activities.

If you discover that your teen is self-injuring, you can help them address their self-harm. It’s not too late to seek help. Take them to a competent therapist who specializes in children and teenagers.

For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here. For a post on how to get a psychiatric evaluation, click here.

Suicide and Self-harm

Surprisingly, suicidal ideation is rarely a cause of self-harm. Most people who self-harm don’t want to die, they just want to release the pressure on themselves. Many people who self-injure do so to avoid suicide. However, those who have self-harmed are much more likely to attempt suicide or plan for it. The emotional distress that causes self-harm can cause suicidal ideation if not treated.

Final Thoughts

Self-injury Awareness Month is a time to set aside and combat stigma, especially gender-based stigma of girls as attention seekers. If it won’t put you in danger, try to be open about mental health and recovery. Too many people suffer in silence because they’re afraid of being judged.

If you or a loved one, especially your teens, engage in self-harm, it’s not too late to seek help. You can overcome this, together. Educate yourself about the disease of self-injury. Support your loved one, and, if you self-harm, try to perform self-care as a counter balance.

I wish you well in your journey.

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Mental Wellness Month: How to Look After Yourself in the New Year

Mental Wellness Month: How to Look After Yourself in the New Year - Cassandra Stout.com

The new year brings new beginnings and a sense of starting fresh. Everything is fresh and full of potential. What better time than the new year to start looking after your mental health?

January is Mental Wellness Month in the U.S. It’s part of a public health and awareness campaign set up by the International Association of Insurance Professionals (IAIP), an educational organization created for insurance professionals. Mental wellness focuses on prevention of further mental health issues rather than the treatment of what’s already there.

What You Can Do to Celebrate Mental Wellness Month

Taking a proactive approach to your mental health can help you nip problems in the bud. There are many things you can do to celebrate Mental Wellness Month, the foremost of which is looking after yourself. But you can also raise awareness of mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Here are some other things you can do during Mental Wellness Month:

  1. Get a mental check up from your psychiatrist and encourage your friends and family to do the same. Set up an appointment with your psychiatrist today for a mental-health check in. If you don’t have a psychiatrist, ask for a referral from your primary care physician.
  2. Plan out goals for the new year. Setting goals is a great way to challenge yourself. If you set a mental health goal like, “I will do self-care three times a week for eight weeks,” then you can look forward to taking better care of yourself.
  3. Start a gratitude journal. Listing what you’re thankful for on a daily basis elevates serotonin, a feel good chemical. Start a gratitude journal to try to remind yourself of what you actually have, and don’t focus on what you don’t.
  4. If  you have bipolar disorder, you can start tracking your moods. Charting your moods when you have bipolar disorder is a helpful bellwether. If you track what you feel for a few weeks, your doctor will be able to read the data and make a better plan to treat you. You can also figure out your triggers for mood episodes. For a post on how to get started tracking your moods and why, click here.
  5. Destress from the holidays. Prioritizing self-care during the holidays is difficult, which can make your mental health go down the toilet quickly. Getting back on track and making sure that you destress from the holidays is so important. Try meditation, a bubble bath, or eating a one-ounce square of dark chocolate.
  6. Attend a therapy session to discuss your hopes and dreams and current struggles. Therapy is crucial for most people’s mental health. If you have a therapist, try to attend at least one session in the month of January to celebrate Mental Wellness Month.
  7. Post about mental health issues on social media to raise awareness of mental wellness issues. Most of the time, I advocate for leaving social media behind, and not engaging more than you really need to. But, if you are going to browse social media and don’t want to give it up, then you can post about Mental Wellness Month and other mental health issues to raise awareness.
  8. Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. Communicating with our friends and loved ones gives them a chance to help us, or manage their expectations of us. You don’t want to ask them to manage your emotions, but help cleaning the kitchen or taking the kids for an afternoon so you can get a nap in is a perfectly fine idea.
  9. Make a commitment to eat better. Our diets affect our moods. I’ve written before about how plant-based, whole foods diets and Mediterranean diets can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Make a commitment to eat better for a month, and see how you feel at the end of it.

Final Thoughts

Celebrating Mental Wellness Month doesn’t have to be difficult. You can celebrate as little or as much as you want, publicly or privately. If you prioritize taking care of yourself during the month of January, that’s all the celebration you need.

Happy Mental Wellness Month!

What will you do to celebrate Mental Wellness Month? Leave me a note in the comments!

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Mental Wellness Month: How to Look After Yourself in the New Year – Cassandra Stout.com.

 

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