The Lockdown Therapy

Resting at homeWritten by Dwiti Kacharia

5 min read

In a Nutshell:

  • Create a bucket list. Pursue interests and hobbies that have always interested you.
  • It’s the 2020 and technology opens up a lot of options. Use the medium to connect and explore.
  • We’re all in this together. Believe in the power of community and togetherness.
  • Change your perspective. Treat this time as a luxury and a blessing.
  • Self-care is of primary importance. Fill your glass first before serving others.
  • Isolate but do not hibernate. 

Covid-19 lockdown has brought along with it a range of side effects. They can pose a lot of challenges to our mental wellness. In the face of this new reality, it’s important to focus on taking care of ourselves and doing what we need to to stay healthy.

While you’re physically distancing yourself from the rest of the world, you’ll likely be in constant close quarters with your family. As the frustrations of a limited social life peak,  issues that may have seemed insignificant in the past may become more serious. It’s easy to take out frustrations on the people you’re confined with day after day. How can we protect our relationships and our sanity until the lockdown is over?

Whatever your lockdown-related woes might be, one thing is true: anything unfamiliar and outside your comfort zone is likely to bring initial anxiety or frustrations. That’s totally normal, so be patient with yourself. Fortunately, as humans, it’s in our nature not only to adapt but also to reason. What if this lockdown might be therapeutic in some way? What if this self-isolation is actually something you can benefit from? 

Lockdown Bucket List

Make a list of things you always wanted to learn to do, but haven’t. Treat this lockdown as a gift of extra time and opportunity rather than a waste of time.

One of the major advantages of the digital age is that everything you need to develop a new skill or hobby is available online, often at no cost.

A virtual course to upgrade your professional skills, a writing workshop, or maybe learning an instrument—the options are endless and time is on your side right now.

Technology to the Rescue

Connections and communication have never been more available—imagine being in lockdown back in the 1800s! Be thankful for the internet, for endless data plans, and for Netflix.

Tried the Netflix party with your extended family yet? Scored your first million points on Ludo King? Planned a Zoom Bingo night with your friends? Or even better, a Zoom Happy Hour Bingo night? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

We’re All in This Together – the Power of Community and Togetherness

Yes, it’s tough. You may have financial problems, an uncertain career outlook, or both. But know that we’re all in this together. The layoff at your workplace, or the anxiety about paying next month’s rent, or frustrations with your partner or kids—it’s normal, temporary, and everyone is going through it. Believe in the power of togetherness. Reach out to the community, read about other people’s experiences and learn from them. 

Change Your Perspective

It’s not really the situation that matters, but how you react to it. A positive outlook, looking at the brighter side of things, will go a long way. 

Will the end of this pandemic boost your professional industry? Will working from home open up global remote work prospects? Will staying in with family help you deal with some long-ignored problems? Will you be able to spend more time with your teen like you always wanted? Will you have a chance to learn more about what your child enjoys, and connectng with him through common interests? Does no commute mean more energy for fun date nights with your partner? Look for the opportunities.

Self-Care First

It’s important to treat yourself and pamper yourself in order to support others around you. When was the last time you could self-isolate without the social obligations? Think of this as a chance to lay low until you are ready for the big reveal. 

When was the last time you had this much time to work on your health (and on those abs)? Imagine, the big Insta-reveal when you emerge from lockdown as a better, fitter version of yourself. There has never been a better time to work on self-care and self-improvement. Do it! Set a schedule and stick to it. Set aside time for workouts, skin care, hair care, reading time, yoga, or beauty rituals that help you feel your best. 

Isolate Not Hibernate 

As the world adjusts to a new way of life, keep up to date with news and market trends. Be informed about your industry and learn ways in which you can upgrade your skills. When all of this ends, the world won’t slow down for you to catch up. It’s okay to enjoy some downtime, but be sure to keep up with what’s going on—when things start to open up again, you want to be ready!

Eventually, things will go back to some version of normalcy. The question is, will you buckle under to temporary discomfort, or will you take this opportunity to focus on and build your strengths to emerge from this better and stronger?

Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleepy young man with pillow on light background

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

We often relate health with a healthy diet, physical activity, mental and emotional health but sleep is in some ways neglected in health conversations today. Sleep is the foundation of good health and it is important for every facet of life. Sleep deprivation affects every aspect of life whether it is physical wellness, mental wellness, job performance or social relationships. 

Why do you need to sleep?

  1. To improve your energy levels
  2. Boosts your immune system
  3. Improves heart health 
  4. Improves brain function 
  5. Good for memory 
  6. Better cognitive functions
  7. For the emotional well being
  8. For better weight management
  9. For better mental health 

Canada and the USA are the third and fourth most sleep-deprived countries respectively. One in three Canadians isn’t getting enough sleep and almost half of Canadians do not find their sleep refreshing.  

Recommended healthy sleep hours by the sleep foundation are as followed:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours 
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours 

Both too little and too much sleep can have poor health impacts.

Effects of too little sleep:

  • Poor concentration, memory and vigilance
  • Sleepiness, tiredness, fatigue, irritability and weariness
  • Increased risk-taking, suggestibility
  • Weight-gain
  • Depression
  • Poor immune system
  • Increased risk of diabetes and morbidity 
  • Increased mortality
  • Early ageing

Effects of too much sleep:

  • Obesity
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Depression 

Sleep is a basic physiological need. The less good-quality sleep you have, the greater your sleepiness will be, not only when you’re about to go to bed, but at other times as well. According to Dr. Chris Idzikowski (an expert on sleep and its disorders), the three main factors that affect daytime sleepiness are:

  1. The duration of your nighttime sleep (how long you’ve slept during the night)
  2. The quality of your nighttime sleep (how well you’ve slept)
  3. The circadian time (the time of the day)

Your sleeping space

Your bedroom must only be used for sleep and intimacy. Make some ‘keep out’ rules.

Keep out TV – Television is one of the greatest reasons for ignoring the urge to fall asleep. Television acts as a stimulant and keeps the brain active. Moreover keeping the TV on while getting ready for bed and then keeping it on when you are in the bed may make you overlook your body’s sleep signals. So place your TV out of the bedroom. 

Keep out work – Your bedroom is not an office where you need to check your emails, texts or read papers. Keep your notifications on silent for the night and your phone’s screen light to a minimum. Do not bring your laptop by your bedside. Your brain links work to being alert and focused, work is not conducive to sleep.

Bedroom Ambience

Create your sleep paradise!

The temperature, light and noise levels, and your bed are crucial factors that make the bedroom a perfect place to sleep. The first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to create a perfect bedroom environment. 

  • Turn off the lights, turn your alarm clock to face away from you, your phone must be away and on silent
  • Close the drapes or curtains or use a sleep mask
  • You can use earplugs to keep noise out or keep windows closed to block heavy traffic noise out
  • Consider double or triple glazing your bedroom to block the noise out
  • The mattress soft or hard must be according to your comfort
  • The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67degree Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.

You can also consider the colours in your bedroom. Studies show that peaceful whites, pale blues, and calming greens make it easier for us to fall asleep. Another way to make your bedroom feel calm is to cut down on the clutter. If you do not have much time to clean up and declutter simply spend 15 minutes cleaning up what bothers you the most. Feng Shi consultants and Zen practitioners insist that free flow of energy in your physical environment brings peace, prosperity and love.

Undo your stress

Limit your exposure to stressful situations and take frequent breaks during the day and learn to say no to any additional projects. Jot down your thoughts in a diary before going to bed. It will help empty your mind and help you relax and sleep better.  Use music as therapy for relaxing. The calm music such as zen music or wave sounds can calm your mind and help you sleep. For some people, aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender or jasmine is also beneficial. A gratitude journal before sleep can also help you feel better and promote sleep and meditation before bedtime also has a calming effect. Healthy eating, physical exercise and connecting with friends and family can help reduce stress and help you get better sleep.

Eat well for better sleep 

Caffeine and alcohol are sleep thieves!

Limit your caffeine intake, reduce the amount of caffeine consumed in the afternoon and evenings. Caffeine stimulates the brain by blocking the action of hormones that makes you feel sleepy. The effects of caffeine might persist for up to 4-6 hours after consumption – always avoid caffeine consumption right before bedtime.

Energy Drinks are more of a hype than help as they contain lots of sugar. Caffeine hampers the normal mechanisms in the body (i.e. the sleep/wake cycle). The only way to rest the body is by getting a good night’s sleep.

Alcohol sedates you but does not put you to sleep – instead, it fragments your sleep all night. Beer, wine, etc. are poor sleep aids, as they stop your brain from entering the deeper stages of sleep, making you feel less rested and tired the next day. This is another reason why hangovers occur. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM or dream sleep.

Avoid eating dinner right before bed as it is hard to fall asleep with a fuller stomach, considering it keeps your body active and delays sleep. You must try to finish dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime for easy sleep.

Think your way to a good night’s rest

Develop a sleep ritual like brushing your teeth or a warm shower right before bed every day, as these can signal your brain for sleep. Reading a few pages of a book while in bed can also help put you to sleep. This practice is conducive to sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day sets your body clock and is helpful in getting good quality sleep. If you need to reset your sleep cycle in one day, stop eating for the 16 hours before the time you want to wake up.

Sleep is crucial for living a healthy life. Sleep deprivation triggers both physical and mental illness and may also bring social isolation and despair. If you struggle with sleep, have sleep anxiety or sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, please speak with your physician and take measures to get a better sleep today.

Improve your sleep to enhance the quality of your life.

Employees who sleep better work better 

Sleep Deprivation negatively impacts the energy levels and productivity of the employees and the company. Sleep insufficiency and sleep deprivation are linked to various physical and mental health issues and increased risk of workplace injury leading to more disability claims in the company thereby increasing the health cost for the employer. Here’s how employers can improve the sleep of their employees:

  • Promote the importance of sleep in their company culture

When employers talk to their employees about the importance of sleep they are more likely to influence their employees into sleeping better. Employers can circulate monthly newsletters stressing on a healthy lifestyle and some tips to improve sleep to help employees improve the quality of their life.

  • On-site napping

Employers can have on-site nap stations to facilitate 10-30 minutes of power naps for their employees. It improves the energy and productivity levels of the employees and reduces work-related stress.

  • Workplace wellness programs

Smoking cessation programs, onsite fitness facilities, meditation, mindfulness and yoga as wellness programs in an organization can help improve the general health of employees. The programs on healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality and quantity in employees.

Optimity can help you improve your sleep and health through various activities and challenges. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for more information on how Optimity can help you.

Adapted from Sound Asleep – The expert guide to sleeping well by Dr. Idzikowski C; Ten natural ways to a good night’s sleep by Dr. Linardakis N.

Let’s Talk Depression

Mental health image. Various emotion and mind. Waste paper and head silhouette.

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health and well-being. It is crucial for you to be aware and accept your emotions, feelings and struggles. The everyday struggle to show up with a smile when you are not doing well is devastating and the pain behind that smile is unbearable. You don’t have to wear a mask and pretend to be happy when in reality your depression is choking the life out of you.

Let’s talk about depression and how it can make your world look grey and bleak.

Mayo Clinic defines depression as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how an individual feels, thinks and behaves often leading to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression manifests in different forms and can be defined differently by people who have experienced depression or are still living with it each day.

To be diagnosed with clinical depression or major depressive disorder, the symptoms must be present for more than two weeks. You can also take the Beck Depression Inventory(BDI), a psychometric test to measure the characteristic attitudes and symptoms of depression. 

The terms Smiling Depression, high functioning depression or perfectly hidden depression (PHD) are not recognized as conditions in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) because the symptoms of these conditions are atypical and in most circumstances, the person himself fails to recognize depression.

The smiling depression or perfectly hidden depression is dangerous because people with these conditions are capable of perfectly hiding their despair, hopelessness and pain. They live perfect lives for the outer world and never communicate their sadness to others and in worse case scenarios this sadness has a tight grip on the person, driving them to end their life.

Dr. Margret Rutherford Robinson describes in her book, perfectly hidden depression is a type of depression that may not fit the criteria or description for minor or major depression but is a depression that lays silently beneath the lifetime of acting as if everything is going perfectly well. The characteristics of perfectly hidden depression enable a person to hide or detach from emotional pain. Just because we cannot see the pain does not mean it’s not there and it is not affecting the individual.

Dr. Margret Rutherford enlists the 10 characteristics of perfectly hidden depression in her book and suggests that an individual is more likely to experience PHD, if…

  1. You are highly perfectionistic and have a constant, critical and shaming inner voice
  2. Demonstrate a heightened or excessive sense of responsibility
  3. Detach from painful emotions by staying in your head and actively shutting them off
  4. Worry or need to control yourself and your environment
  5. Intensely focus on tasks, using accomplishment to feel valuable 
  6. Focus on the well-being of others but don’t allow them into your inner world
  7. Discount personal hurt or sorrow and struggle with self-compassion
  8. May have an accompanying mental health issue, such as an eating disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or addiction
  9. Believe strongly in counting your blessings as the foundation of well-being
  10. May enjoy success within the professional structure but struggle with emotional intimacy in relationships

Most often the psychiatrists or psychologist fails to identify people with perfectly hidden depression because they ask wrong questions. A person with PHD will never disclose how he feels even when they are the point of self-harm. Talk to your therapist or someone you trust, seek help. How can your therapist know what’s wrong if you don’t tell him?

To know if you are going through perfectly hidden depression click here for a questionnaire created by Dr. Margret Rutherford.

 

Join Life

Some measures for healing:

  • To accept your diagnosis or current emotional state
  • Practice mindfulness, dance in the present moment without being focused on the past or future
  • Recognize that change is a slow process and patience is required
  • Set some realistic goals, try to avoid your perfects inner voice here
  • Work in small steps to achieve these goals
  • Acknowledge success no matter how small it is
  • Connect with your inner self, journal every day
  • Develop a self-care routine
  • Practice self-compassion
  • Ask for help whenever needed

If professional help is needed contact a qualified psychiatrist or therapist.

It is very important to identify and accept your diagnosis and this particularly takes tremendous amounts of courage to confront your emotions. But hiding your feelings is not getting you anywhere but towards misery and despair. The loneliness that you feel is heart-wrenching.

When someone suddenly commits suicide, it often bothers us and we keep thinking of what might have happened, as to us everything was perfectly normal in his or her life.  

Edwin Shneidman defines psychache as the hurt, anguish, soreness, aching, and psychological pain in the mind that can drive a person to suicide.

If you ever feel like driving away from the pressure of your perfect life just know that killing yourself is never going to do any good to you and to people you love. You don’t have to go through psychache alone. It’s never too late to ask for help!

Some help resources are enlisted below.

Crisis services Canada (help available 24/7)

text-us

Call-us

Canadian Mental Health Association

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Self-help Tools for Mental Wellness

 

Mental Health at Workplaces

As per the data from CAMH, 30% of disability claims in Canada are due to mental illness and 70% of all disability costs are due to mental illness.

CAMH suggests the following mental health strategies for workplaces:

  1. Create a long term organization-wide Mental Health Strategy
  2. Institute mandatory mental health training for leadership
  3. Develop tailored Mental Health Supports
  4. Prioritize and optimize your  Return-to-Work process checklist
  5. Track your progress

Be there for your co-workers.

Identify signs of distress → Show you care for them → Connect them to help.

Does mental health have symptoms?

brooke-cagle-609873-unsplash

Mental health is recognized as a fundamental factor in our overall health – since it’s clear that it has a great influence both physically and mentally. As human beings, we want to understand the problem at hand and the precautions needed to reduce the problems it could cause. There is no guarantee that mental health disorders can be avoided – disorders that affect the mind, mood and behaviour, different beings react differently in life. However, several questions come attached to this topic when trying to attempt a solution.

How would you know if you have a mental health illness? Is there a guide book that allows you to check off each symptom? Most importantly, what are the symptoms, if any?

The cause of any mental health disorder or illness can vary on several factors, but when assessing the state of mind of a being – here are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Major changes in eating / physical activity habits
  • Substantial alteration in energy/productivity
  • Withdrawal from social life (friends & family)
  • Detachment from reality
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mental Health Symptoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When any of these symptoms above occur, finding support will resort to great value. Whether it is professional medical care or referring to a friend/family member, the help that you seek can allow you to control the situation and positively adapt. In most cases, many of the mental health illnesses do not cure by themselves – so this is where the ones around you can boost you up before you even fall.

Each symptom attached to the person or mental illness can react accordingly to the environment or condition of the person. The first step is always to understand that there is an issue, and this would be followed by creating a plan that is ideal for the situation. There can be several risk factors and complications that can alter a lifestyle, so understanding when and how to react can have a crucial impact.

6 Tips on Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

1823694Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for a decline in cognitive ability severe enough to limit daily functionality. It is no secret that as people age, their memory tends to get a bit funky but the key differentiator here is speed. Alzheimer’s is a progessive disease, meaning that symptoms grow worse and worse over time. In its early stages, impairment is mild and the individual is still largely aware of their surroundings. By the late stage, the person is unable to communicate or move, requires 24 hour supervision, and will inevitably die from complications.  

The thought of developing Alzheimer’s disease can be an extremely frightening. Although current treatments are able to slow the pace at which the symptoms progress, scientists are still looking for a definitive cure. Like cancer, preventative measures are still by far the most effective strategy. By identifying the certain risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s and making the necessary adjustments, you will be able to maximize your chances for a life-long healthy brain.

Although some genetic factors such as a family history of Alzheimer’s are uncontrollable, here are six pillars you can follow that are entirely within your reach.

 

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent while slowing the progression of cognitive problems in those already with the disease.  The reason why is because exercise stimulates the brain into maintaining old connections and creating new ones. Try aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week with a balance between cardio and strength training.

 

Social Engagement

As humans, we are highly social creatures who do not fare well in isolation, and neither do our brains. Research has shown that having a strong network of friends can help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. You don’t need to be the biggest extrovert on the block, but do make sure to regularly connect face-to-face with people you care about.

Healthy Diet

When an individual has Alzheimer’s, inflammation and insulin resistance can injure neurons and hinder communication. Often described as “diabetes of the brain”, there is a strong relationship between metabolic disorders and neuron communication. However, if you make some small tweaks to your current diet, you can protect your brain. Examples include adopting a Mediterranean diet, drinking 2-4 cups of tea everyday, and cooking at home more!

Mental Stimulation

In an astonishing NIH ACTIVE study, elders who received 10 mental training sessions not only showed immediate improvements in cognitive function, but also as far as 10 years later. Similar to a language, if you don’t use for prolonged periods, you will start to lose it. The best advice is to set aside some time every day to engage in mentally-demanding activities (e.g. sudoku, playing a new musical instrument) to stimulate the brain.

Quality Sleep

New research has indicated that poor sleep can lead to higher levels of beta-amyloid, a brain-clogging protein that interferes with memory formation. If you happen to be struggling to get a good night’s sleep, be sure to be screened for sleep apnea and establish a regular sleep schedule.

Stress Management

Repetitive stress leads to negative effects on the brain including reduced neuron growth, shrinkage of a key memory area, and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, the answer is so simple – don’t stress so much! Some stress management tools you can use include restorative breathing throughout the day, scheduling relaxing activities, and keeping a sense of humour.

Here at Optimity, we recognize that satisfying all six pillars on a daily basis is an extremely difficult task. People are occupied throughout the day with work and other commitments, meaning that they either don’t have the time or simply forget about these crucial exercises. That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, designed to stimulate your brain and prevent Alzheimer’s disease! If you would like to learn more about us, feel free to visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution