Are you S.A.D? Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s that time of year again as the nights draw in and the clocks come forward an hour. We will be preparing for longer nights and shorter days. Many of us take this seasonal change in our stride but 15% of us suffer terribly with the condition otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Woman Stretching in Bed with a Man Sleeping Beside HerSAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that affects approximately 1 in 8 people every winter between September and April, in particular during December, January and February.

It is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortening of daylight hours and the lack of sunlight in winter. The hormone melatonin is produced by the pineal gland at night and it aids sleep, natural sunlight suppresses the production of melatonin and improves immune function. Therefore, during the winter months when natural sunlight is at its lowest SAD can occur.

For many people SAD is a seriously disabling illness, preventing them from functioning normally without continuous medical treatment. For others, 1 in 50, it is a mild but debilitating condition causing tiredness, lethargy, sleep and eating problems. It is commonly known as “the winter blues”.

Symptoms of SAD

Many of people are puzzled year after year when every winter they seem to feel tired, lethargic, and suffer a loss of enthusiasm or energy. A great deal of those people do not realize that they are experiencing the symptoms are SAD, instead they believe that it is the feeling of the lazy days of summer disappearing and the grey days winter are approaching.

The main recognisable symptoms of SAD are the following:

  • Sleep problems, with sometimes a desire to oversleep, or alternatively a trouble in sleeping with disturbed sleep and early morning awakening.
  • Lack of energy and a feeling of fatigue affecting normal daily functioning.
  • Weight gain and overeating. This involves a craving for carbohydrates like bread and potatoes and a craving for sweet foods and junk food.
  • Feelings of gloom or depression, guilt and a loss of self esteem or interest in normal activities.
  • A lack of interest in going out and socializing. Deliberately avoiding social contact with friends and family.
  • Feelings of anxiousness, stress and irritability. A general lack of patience.
  • Low sex drive and physical contact with their partner.
  • Extreme mood changes, with sufferers literally surfing a wave of emotional changes many times a day.

How Can We Overcome SAD Syndrome?

Firstly visit your GP. This should always be your first option as your GP will always be able to check your symptoms in order to confirm SAD and recommend all the appropriate treatments and medical options.

Light Therapy

By exposing patients to very bright light (at least ten times the intensity of ordinary domestic lighting) for up to four hours per day (average 1-2 hours) light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 per cent of diagnosed cases.

Some light boxes emit higher intensity of light, up to 10,000 Lux, which can cut treatment time down to half an hour a day. Light boxes have to be bought from specialist retailers and are priced around £100

It is important to understand light is measured by what we call Lux. To get this in perspective a candle gives out 1 Lux, a household light bulb 350 Lux, and the sun in the summer gives out 100,000 Lux. Even on a winters afternoon the winter sun can give out as much as 30,000 Lux.  Have you ever wondered why you feel better when the sun shines?

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, counseling or any complementary therapy which helps the sufferer to relax, accept their illness and cope with its limitations are extremely useful.

Integrated mind therapies, inclusive of Neuro Linguistic Programming, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Hypnotherapy have also proven to be very effective.

Five further Steps to being free from S.A.D

  1. Ensure you walk for a minimum of one and a half hours outside every day. This could be to work or school or even during your lunch breaks. Even in the winter you can be exposed of up to 30,000lux. Get and stay outside as regular and often as you can
  2. Keep the wearing of sunglasses to a minimum but do not stare at the sun.
  3. Ensure you have a weekly exercise program. Ensure you include a minimum of 4 weekly cardio vascular activities.
  4. Be conscious of your diet and ensure you keep carbohydrates to a minimum, eating balanced meals every day with fruit, vegetables and grains such as brown rice. Avoid refined sugar as this can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels which can greatly affect your mood. By eating healthily you can maintain a healthy gut, also known as the second brain, for its serotonin producing capabilites.
  5. A mixture of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin D3, 5HTP and a vitamin B complex may help to create a natural serotonin boost and raise our mood naturally.  Always obtain health supplements from a registered Nutritional Therapist after a consultation. Some other medications like antidepressants can contraindicate supplements such as 5HTP and can cause more damage than good so it is important to speak to a specialist first.

To summarise, get outside in the sunshine as much as possible as it will drive your endorphin production (the bodies natural opiates) which in turn combats adrenaline and reduces mood related problems. You will get your light relief and mood relief twice from two different external factors.

Visit the Life Practice Nutrition website for further details about our Registered Nutritional Therapist and services offered.

Visit the Life Practice main website for information on our Psychotherapy, Hypnotherapy, NLP and Life Coaching services

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 people, how can employers support

ladybusAccording the latest report by the government’s Chief Medical Office, Professor Dame Sally Davies, 1 in 4 people will suffer a Mental illness in their lifetime. Around 70 million working days are lost because of stress, anxiety and other mental health conditions each year, a rise of a quarter since 2009. Last year this amounted to a cost of up to £100 billion to the economy.

In her report, Dame Sally called on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the NHS watchdog, to weigh up the costs of allowing workers with depression or anxiety to be fast-tracked for treatment, however, this costs money which we know the NHS simply do not have.

Yes, NHS spending needs to increase from the current 13% of the budget that it spends on Mental Health care but employers can help prevent many work related stress disorders from overcoming their employees by ensuring that they have relevant systems in place first, and this may prevent conditions such as anxiety rearing themselves to the surface in the first place.

Of those employees receiving medical care from the NHS they say that it is good but is not the reason they work well. The reason they work well is because of their employer who supports them.

consultationAt Life Practice group of clinics we see many individuals sent to us by their employers looking for help with Mental illnesses such anxiety, depression, panic attacks, social anxiety and executive burn-out otherwise known as “adrenal fatigue”. When assessing these individuals we find that many of them have been on a slow spiral downwards for several months before they have sought help. The reasons behind their ill health vary from difficult relationships at work, feeling undervalued as an employee, lack of support, lack of self-esteem and confidence, lack of fulfilment, the list goes on. With others their illness has stemmed from an external source within their family such as bereavement, divorce or an ill family member requiring care.
We believe that employers could do far more to support their employees by offering Mental Health Awareness days and regular confidential Mental Health assessments via qualified external sources in order to combat this alarming rising figure.
They could also have in place a protocol for any of their employees struggling with their Mental Health by offering flexible working hours, or part-time working post-illness which could be a key way to prevent sufferers from having to take too much time off work.

Quite often anxiety and depression leaves sufferers feeling helpless, out of control and without any direction of how to get better. By offering a confidential service whereby our clients can talk openly about all areas of their lives, personal and working, we can then ascertain what areas are causing the imbalance and set about agreeing a goal and action plan. This may include helping them to approach their employer about their issues and worries and making suggestions of perhaps re-structuring their week in order to cope with the job at hand, identifying any areas of training that may be required and teaching them to communicate effectively with their team.

Jubilant BusinesswomanWith a plan of action, this offers the individual a feeling of control over the situation which immediately creates optimism for the future ahead. Professor Dame Sally, says that employers can make a significant difference to the health of their staff. “They can make it by actually talking about it, knowing how their people are, whether they have ill health, supporting them by giving them flexible working if they need it, by reducing stigma.”

With figures from the report stating that an estimated 60 to 70 per cent of people with common mental health disorders were in full time work suggests that no company in England is without this problem within their work force. Employers have a duty of care to their employees and must treat their mental health the same as their physical health.

The Life Practice runs clinics and Mental Health Awareness Days & Stress Management Workshops across the country: Brighton, Cambridge, Harley Street, Hitchin, St. Albans & Liverpool. Call our Head Office today to find out more information Tel: 01462 431112

 

The key to happiness in your career

WhaBusinesspeople Running Towards Finish Linet is your current job role doing to you as a person, to your mind, character and relationships? Are you someone who always finds other people’s careers interesting compared to yours?  Have you assessed how you are doing lately? If not, why not?  Our career aspirations can change throughout life depending on experiences from our past, maturity into adulthood, and requirements to survive our chosen lifestyle.

Recently my 14 year old daughter has had to think about her career and future and to choose her GCSE options. Who actually knew what they wanted to do at that age?  It seems more of a minefield than it was when I was younger, particularly as the current government seems to keep changing the goal posts and schools seem also to be left in the dark, however, that’s a topic for another time.

Parenthood brings many challenges at different stages of a child growing up and as a parent I have always been conscious to keep happiness at the forefront of their minds and an “anything is possible” attitude to life.  In helping my daughter make her choices I have tried as much as possible to give her enough information so that she ultimately makes the decisions for herself. Her dream (at the moment) is to perform in the West End Musical theatre in London and perhaps eventually go to Broadway.  Whilst, many parents flippantly would say, “oh no, that could never happen for you”. I say “why not? Someone has to, why not you?” Sure, you will come across rejection, disappointment and failure along the way but by learning from these pitfalls and making the necessary tweaks this can enable you to adjust the path and change direction as you go.  After all, the yellow brick road was not straight and Dorothy learnt many lessons along her journey whilst experiencing the twists and turns of the land of Oz.

We have looked into course brochures and her school offered the children a career workshop that has educated them about what lifestyle they wish to have and how much money they would need in order to live it. All of these resources are important in making such decisions but deep down my feeling is as long as you follow what makes you happy everything will fall into place and if it doesn’t, I hear you ask, then you need to keep checking back by asking yourself some unearthing questions about your career.

So if any of you who are reading this are wishing they had had some insight into their future career before they got there and feel it is too late to change direction. Think again.

There are five dimensions of meaning to one’s career.

  1. Earning money
  2. Achieving status
  3. Making a difference
  4. Following your passions (interests)
  5. Using your talents (skills)

These five dimensions can be prioritised in various order depending on your own experiences, influencing factors (family) and perception of the world.

Earning money

Look at this in a broader perspective rather than going for a career that pays the best. How much income do you want/need? Are you setting your own monetary goals or complying with someone else’s? What is a comfortable living, and what careers might fulfill that? What career fields might suit you in other ways from which you could also earn a reasonable (from your perspective) salary?

Achieving status

As with the perception of money, your definition of status may be different to the next person’s. Take some time to determine your proudest moments at work and in life. That may give you some perspective of what constitutes “status” to you. Does your current position provide you with the sense of pride and status you desire? What in your current job do you take pride in?

Making a difference

Now without thinking I’ve gone all tree hugger on you, making a difference isn’t always about saving the whales or other voluntary projects; you can also make a difference at work. Think about a teacher who makes a difference every day to a pupil but the results aren’t always seen immediately. What about helping someone learn to cope with their debilitating anxiety or fear of public speaking? What does “making a difference” mean to you?  Are you perhaps underplaying the difference you make in your current job or would a different job provide more fulfillment for you in this area? Is making a difference important to you or do other factors trump this desire? Only you can decide.

Following your passions and interests

This is the area in which I have focused on with my daughter and her subject choices. What subjects do you love to learn about as these tend to be the subjects you do well in.  There is no doubt, if you love the job you are in you will love getting up in the morning and springing onto that commuter train and whistling as you go, however, it is not quite as simple as that to achieve this, there are compromises and creative solutions along the path to doing what we love.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself if you have found your right livelihood.  Are you pursuing what you love or have you found the love in what you do?  Because it might be that doing a less-than-ideal job that puts food on your family’s table and offers you the chance to travel on holidays to sunnier climates is one aspect of the love you can find in it.

Understanding talents, skills & passion

You need to have the right mix of talent and skill. You don’t actually need passion but if you want to get into what you love to do, it helps. Skill is something that you can learn. Talent is something that you naturally have. List down in three columns: all of your skills, talents and passion. When you are at your all-time best, what are you doing? And how can you find a job that lets you do more of that?

I have always been fascinated with the mind and how people behave.  Armed with my interpersonal skills and my talents of leading, motivating and inspiring people I have managed to re-carve a new career in the world of Behavioural Change.  Sure, I needed to do some extra training and education to get me here but the underlying skills, talent and passion have always been there. I just simply got the qualification to fill in the gaps. The skills and experience from my last career have all been transferable in one respect or another.

That’s the key to successful career transitioning: you take a job, figure out what you like best, and then look for a job that lets you do more of that.   Or you take a look at your skills, talents and passions and see what positions could work in line with those.

In my career path, my strength was Sales. I have always been told that I have good inter personal skills and these skills helped me to build rapport with my customers who I sold to and eventually through the years I was promoted up the ranks into a Senior role managing teams within the Financial Industry, earning a shed load of money.  However, the dis-loyal, cut-throat nature of the Corporate world did not sit well with me and I found it soul destroying, extremely stressful and at times unethical. One day the money was just not the priority and my happiness and health took precedence. I still had my good interpersonal skills and had picked up many other skills along the way in the Business world from training, coaching, mentoring and leadership so I re-trained and stepped into a new industry that I remain in today.  Ironically, coaching business men like my “old-self” who have been sucked in by the Corporate life, bigged up, and spat out the other side feeling hit by a train with the look of shock as to what to do next.

A poignant example that springs to mind where I have made a difference in someone’s life which touched me emotionally was when I coached a West end actor to overcome his performance nerves prior to starring in his first West End show. My client had achieved his “status” by being chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber, whom he held in the highest regard in the Musical Theatre World but unfortunately, his nerves did not care about this, his body was struggling to calm down in such a highly charged situation. After teaching him some techniques and exercises along with visualisation he managed to overcome his fear and the show was a West End hit.  My moment of “making a difference” became apparent when I went with my family to watch him. I was so proud of his achievement that it brought tears to my eyes. How many people can say that about their job?

Now you have examined these dimensions. Which is most important? Which is least? How much of each is “enough” in your work? So going back to the original question, “What is your current job role doing to you as a person, to your mind, character and relationships?” Would making changes in these five dimensions change your life for the better? Is one area neglected at the expense of another? How can you fix that?  By doing this career MOT every so often it helps you keep on the right track and is the key to happiness in your career.