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To Cope With Your Mental Health Pandemic

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To Cope With Your Mental Health Pandemic
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Looking for a change in pace or mindset? These tips to improve your mental wellbeing are for you.

This year has truly impacted everyone’s mental health in every aspect. People of color may have found themselves stressed or discouraged in light of social and racial issues in the United States. Americans have found themselves anxious about the pandemic, the election, and financial uncertainties. So, here are eight ways to improve your mental health and furthermore, your lifestyle amidst this year’s struggles.

1. Stay active.

Exercise has many benefits attributed to mental health including reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood while also improving self-esteem and cognitive function. Increased energy and stamina, reduced tiredness, and an increase in mental alertness are also some mental health benefits.

For example, schizophrenia patients who participated in a three-month physical conditioning program showed improvements in weight control, reduced blood pressure, and increased perceived energy levels.

You don’t need to run a marathon to feel the benefits of exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is sufficient for these health benefits. These 30 minutes don’t need to be continuous, either, meaning three 10-minute walks are equally useful as one 30-minute walk!

2. Talk about your feelings.

Many people view talking about your feelings as a sign of weakness, but talking about your feelings and having someone actively listen to them can improve your mental health. Having an empathic listener can make you feel supported and less alone, and perhaps by opening up the person you are talking to will do the same.

Whether you’re talking to a therapist, a close friend, a family member, or just journaling, talking to someone you trust can be a step toward having a healthier mind.

3. Eat well.

Maybe you don’t want to exercise as much; I get that. According to Dr. Cora, a board-certified psychiatrist, sticking to a diet of healthy food can help set yourself up for fewer mood fluctuations, an overall happier outlook, and an improved ability to focus. Furthermore, unhealthy diets have been linked to an increased risk of dementia or stroke.

A diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oily fish, dairy products, whole grain bread, and plenty of water can benefit your mental health by making you feel better and healthier. You are what you eat, and if you try eating healthy foods, perhaps you’ll have a healthier mind!

4. Take a break.

As we continue through the holidays and finals season, taking a break by a change of scene or a change of pace can be great for your mental health. From a 15-minute break from being with your family to a 30-minute break from studying for exams, taking a break can give you time to de-stress and refocus.

A key to this tip is listening to your body. If you’re feeling hungry, maybe taking a snack break would be best. If you’re stressed, go for some yoga or mediation. My personal favorite yoga instructor is Yoga With Adriene, who focuses on mediation and mindfulness as well. If you’re feeling tired, try taking a nap. Without a good amount of sleep, our mental health can suffer and our concentration especially can go downhill fast.

5. Ask for help.

Outside of talking to those you trust, there are many local services that are also able to give you the help you might need. Examples of these services include joining a support group to help make beneficial changes to your life, finding a counselor to help you make a new start, or visiting a Citizens Advice Bureau if you need advice on debt.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline handles many crises, not just serious ones. The Trevor Project‘s LGBTQ-focused helpline is also beneficial, as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses‘ hotline, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

Mental health continues to have a strong stigma attached to it worldwide, so it’s understandable if you’re feeling nervous or scared to reach out. By asking for help, you’re already taking a big step of significant courage and bravery.

6. Do something you’re good at.

Enjoying yourself can be a key part of beating stress and boosting your self-esteem. Concentrating on one of your favorite activities such as jogging or playing board games can help you forget your worries and change your mood for the better.

Participating in something creative like drawing or painting can help you express yourself creatively. Doing something active and social such as rock climbing or playing football with friends gets you both active (Tip #1!) and gives you the opportunity to meet new people.

7. Care for others.

With the skills mentioned above, perhaps volunteering for a local charity or organization might be for you! Helping others can make us feel needed and valued. Helping your loved ones or caring for a pet can improve your mental health too. Volunteering can help us see the world differently and therefore put our own problems in perspective.

Taking care of a pet more specifically can bring structure to your day and benefit your social life as many fellow dog walkers tend to chat. My personal favorite volunteering activity is working with puppies who are training to be service dogs at my college.

8. Keep in touch.

Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you through many aspects of life and help you develop a healthy mindset. They can help you feel included and cared for, as well as keeping you grounded and provide help in solving practical problems.

Giving someone a call or shooting a quick text will keep lines of communication open and build these relationships further. If you have been feeling distanced from your loved ones during COVID-19, maybe reaching out with a phone call could build your relationship up again.

Conversely, if you think someone is damaging your mental health, it would be beneficial to take a break from them or even end the relationship if it feels that bad.

Whether you’re feeling stressed from feeling cramped in your home during quarantine or feeling tired from studying for exams, there’s something for everyone in relation to having better mental health.

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What you need to know about Xanax

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What you need to know about Xanax
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What is Xanax?

Xanax is an antianxiety medication in the benzodiazepine family. This is the same family that includes diazepam (Valium), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), flurazepam (Dalmane), and others.

Xanax slows down the movement of brain chemicals that may have become unbalanced, resulting in a reduction in nervous tension and anxiety. Xanax works by boosting the effects of a natural chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is made in the brain.

Warnings

To ensure the safe and effective use of benzodiazepines, doctors will provide the following guidance to anyone with a Xanax prescription:

  • People should inform their doctor about any alcohol consumption and any medications they are currently taking, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications. People generally should not consume alcohol while taking benzodiazepines.
  • Doctors do not recommend Xanax for use in pregnancy. A person should inform their doctor if they are pregnant, are planning to have a child, or become pregnant while they are taking this medication.
  • People should inform their doctor if they are breastfeeding.
  • Until a person experiences how Xanax affects them, they should not drive a car or operate heavy or dangerous machinery.
  • People should not increase the dosage of Xanax without speaking with a doctor, even if they think that the medication “does not work anymore.” Benzodiazepines, even if a person uses them as recommended, may produce emotional and physical dependence.
  • People should not stop taking Xanax abruptly or decrease the dosage without consulting their doctor, as withdrawal symptoms can occur.

A person should inform their doctor if they have:

  • asthma or other breathing problems
  • glaucoma
  • kidney
  • liver diseases
  • a history of excessive alcohol use
  • a history of depression
  • suicidal thoughts
  • an addiction to drugs or alcohol

People should not take Xanax if they:

  • have narrow-angle glaucoma
  • are also taking itraconazole (Sporanox) or ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • are allergic to Xanax or other benzodiazepines, such as:
    • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • clorazepate (Tranxene)
    • diazepam (Valium)
    • lorazepam (Ativan)
    • oxazepam (Serax)

Other precautions

In certain individuals, the body may handle Xanax differently. This includes people who:

  • drink a lot of alcohol
  • have alcoholic liver disease
  • have impaired hepatic function
  • have impaired renal function
  • are older
  • have obesity

Allergies

People should not use Xanax if they are allergic to alprazolam or other benzodiazepines, such as:

  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • clorazepate (Tranxene)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)
  • oxazepam (Serax)

Alcohol

People should not drink alcohol while taking Xanax. Xanax can increase the effects of alcohol.

Pregnancy

People should not use Xanax if they are pregnant. Benzodiazepines can potentially cause harm to the fetus. During the first trimester, for example, Xanax increases the risk of congenital abnormalities.

People should usually avoid taking Xanax during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Healthcare professionals should also inform people that if they become pregnant or intend to become pregnant while taking Xanax, they should tell their doctor.

A child born of a person who is taking benzodiazepines may be at risk of withdrawal symptoms from the drug. Respiratory problems have also occurred in children born to people who have been taking benzodiazepines while pregnant.

Children

Researchers have not yet studied Xanax use in children.

Gender

Gender does not affect the body’s response to Xanax.

Older adults

Older adults, or people aged 65 years and above, may be more sensitive to the effects of benzodiazepines. For example, the sedative effects of Xanax may last longer in older adults.

Accidental falls are also common in older adults who take benzodiazepines. Therefore, people should use caution to prevent falling or accidental injury while taking Xanax.

Race

Xanax may affect Asian populations more than white populations.

Smoking

Xanax concentrations may be reduced in up to 50% of people who smoke, compared with people who do not smoke.

Suicide

As with other psychotropic medications, there are some precautions to take when people with severe depression or suicidal thoughts take this drug.

Mania

Episodes of hypomania and mania have occurred in association with the use of Xanax in people with depression.

Uses

Many people use Xanax to manage anxiety disorder or to provide some short-term relief from the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety or tension associated with the stress of everyday life usually does not require treatment.

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by unrealistic or excessive anxiety and worry about two or more life circumstances for a period of 6 months or longer. During this period, the person has been bothered more days than not by these concerns.

At least six of the following symptoms are often present in these people:

Motor tension, such as:

    • trembling
    • twitching
    • feeling shaky
    • muscle tension
    • aches or soreness
    • restlessness
    • feeling easily tired

Autonomic hyperactivity, such as:

    • shortness of breath or smothering sensations
    • heart palpitations or an accelerated heart rate
    • sweating or cold, clammy hands
    • a dry mouth
    • dizziness or lightheadedness
    • nausea
    • diarrhea or other abdominal symptoms
    • hot flashes or chills
    • frequent urination
    • difficulty swallowing or a “lump in the throat”

Vigilance and scanning, such as:

    • feeling keyed up or on edge
    • exaggerated startle response
    • difficulty concentrating or “the mind going blank” because of anxiety
    • difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • irritability

Xanax is also indicated for the treatment of the panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia, and it may reduce the number of panic attacks a person has.

Panic disorder is characterized by regular panic attacks. Panic attacks are relatively short periods of intense fear or discomfort where four or more of the following symptoms develop all of a sudden and reach a peak within 10 minutes:

  • heart palpitations, a pounding heart, or an accelerated heart rate
  • sweating
  • trembling or shaking
  • sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • a feeling of choking
  • chest pain or discomfort
  • nausea or abdominal distress
  • feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint
  • derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself)
  • a fear of losing control
  • a fear of dying
  • numbness or tingling sensations
  • chills or hot flashes

Side effects

Side effects often occur at the beginning of therapy and will usually disappear when a person stops taking the medication.

Some possible side effects of Xanax include:

  • drowsiness
  • lightheadedness
  • low energy
  • depression
  • headache
  • confusion
  • insomnia
  • nervousness
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • restlessness
  • impaired coordination
  • irritability
  • memory impairment
  • anxiety
  • abnormal involuntary movement
  • decreased libido
  • confusion
  • muscle twitching and cramps
  • increased libido
  • a dry mouth or increased saliva
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • inflammation of the skin due to allergy
  • rash
  • tachycardia or heart palpitations
  • chest pain
  • hyperventilation
  • nasal congestion
  • hypotension
  • blurred vision
  • menstrual disorders
  • tinnitus
  • upper respiratory infection
  • sweating
  • weakness
  • abnormal dreams
  • fear
  • rigidity
  • tremor
  • increased or decreased appetite
  • weight gain or loss
  • edema
  • slurred speech
  • incontinence

The above is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. Call a doctor for medical advice about side effects. People can also report any Xanax side effects they experience to the FDA at 800-332-1088.

A person needs emergency medical help if they have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction to Xanax:

  • hives
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat

A person should call their doctor at once if they have a serious side effect such as:

  • depressed mood, thoughts of suicide or hurting oneself, unusual risk taking behaviors, decreased inhibitions, or no fear of danger
  • confusion, hyperactivity, agitation, hostility, or hallucinations
  • feeling very faint
  • urinating less than usual or not at all
  • chest pain, a pounding heartbeat, or a fluttering feeling in the chest
  • uncontrolled muscle movements, tremor, or seizures
  • jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin or eyes

Dosage

Xanax comes as a tablet, an extended-release tablet, an orally disintegrating tablet (a tablet that dissolves quickly in the mouth), and a concentrated solution (liquid) to take by mouth.

A person should take Xanax by mouth as a doctor directs. The dosage will be based on the following factors:

  • why the person is taking it
  • their age
  • how their body responds to the treatment

A doctor may gradually increase the dosage of Xanax until the drug works effectively for the person. People should closely follow their doctor’s instructions to reduce the risk of side effects.

If a person has used this medication regularly for a long time or in high dosages, withdrawal symptoms can occur if they suddenly stop taking it.

To prevent this, a doctor may reduce the dosage of Xanax gradually.

Xanax is available in doses of:

  • 0.25 milligrams (mg): This will be white, oval, scored, and imprinted with “XANAX 0.25.”
  • 0.5 mg: This will be peach, oval, scored, and imprinted with “XANAX 0.5.”
  • 1 mg: This will be blue, oval, scored, and imprinted with “XANAX 1.0.”
  • 2 mg: This will be white, oblong, multiscored, and imprinted with “XANAX” on one side and “2” on the reverse side.

A person should not crush, chew, or break a Xanax extended-release tablet. They should swallow the tablet whole. It is specially made to release the drug slowly into the body. Breaking the tablet would cause too much of the drug to be released at once.

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TIPS TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY THIS SUMMER

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TIPS TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY THIS SUMMER
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With the world finally reopening again after lockdown, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and drained by the sudden onslaught of social events and parties. If your tank is a little low on fuel, learn how to boost your energy with these top tips. Time to enjoy summer to the max!

The temperatures are rising, the days are stretched out and there’s a carefree vibe in the air following the steady easing of restrictions. We are all grateful about the prospect of seeing life go back to normal. However, if your phone has been non-stop buzzing with a flow of invitations to garden parties, pub lunches, and picnics, it can all feel a little too much. Especially after going cold turkey on any semblance of social life for so long.

‘The summer of 2021 marks the beginning of a post-lockdown era. The sense of “making up for lost time” after such an extended period of restricted activity is both understandable and risky as people over-indulge in the things they have missed most. If not managed carefully it can feel overwhelming and lead to burnout,’ believes Kate Morris-Bates, clinical therapist and wellness expert. In Japan, summer fatigue is known as ‘masturbate.’ With sauna-like temperatures soaring during the summer months, masturbation is an annual phenomenon the Japanese know only too well. They manage this fatigue by practicing better self-care, looking after their diet, and tweaking daily activity levels. So, if you feel like your vitality is waning and you’re desperate to get to your happy place once again, we’ve covered all bases to send your energy levels sky-high!

1. Have a power nap for a quick energy boost

The Japanese take power naps at work and, in European countries such as Italy and Spain, an afternoon siesta forms part of daily life. Yet, in the UK, we still haven’t really cottoned on to the benefits of a speedy daytime snooze. A power nap can leave you feeling refreshed and energized, and there’s even research demonstrating that 40 winks can improve memory. ‘According to an Australian study, having a 10-minute nap (which isn’t long enough for you to enter deep sleep) at midday provides an immediate improvement in alertness, mood, and performance,’ shares Morris-Bates.

2. Change up your workout

Just as you might add a pop of color to your summer wardrobe or re-think your skincare regime, you should adapt your workouts to correlate with the shift that warmer weather brings. This might mean taking an indoor workout into the great outdoors or getting up an hour earlier to practice an energizing sequence of sun salutations. ‘Take exercise during the cooler times of the day – work out so you’re not tired out and listen to your personal energy levels so that you can tailor your workout appropriately,’ advises Morris-Bates.

3. Inhale energizing scents to boost your energy

When you’re feeling up and down, and need a way to lift your energy levels, a sniff of an energizing fragrance could do wonders to refill your feel-good tank. Citrus scents like lemon and lime evoke a summer holiday vibe of cocktails and sunshine, whilst geranium and bergamot have a balancing effect on emotions. Grow some herbs such as energizing peppermint and rosemary (known for helping to improve focus) on your windowsill and cut off a few sprigs whenever fatigue strikes.

4. Make an effort with friends but know your limits

We’ve lived in isolation for such a long time that it’s practically become a new way of life, but it’s important that you still make an effort to nurture relationships with friends, family, and even trusted neighbors, as communication is so important for fostering wellbeing

However, we all have boundaries, and if social invitations are feeling too overwhelming, remember that it’s okay to say no.

5. Keep a journal

When something is bothering you, writing down your feelings is one of the best ways to get things off your chest. Keep a journal where you can free-flowingly scribble down your emotions when things get too much.

6. Try a tropical diet to boost your energy levels

A healthy diet is a key part of the Japanese lifestyle. And even if you aren’t hopping on a plane this year, nibbling on tropical fruit can whisk your senses off to more exotic climes. Choosing fruits with a high water content allows your body to hydrate to offset summer tiredness, whilst filling you up with key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

‘Fruit with high water content, such as watermelon, is ideal. It’s high in carotenoids, such as lycopene, and antioxidants such as vitamin A and C – all of which are essential to protect and repair sun-sensitive skin. It’s a good source of hydrating electrolytes, too,’ says Morris-Bates. Strawberries, cherries, peaches, and plums are also in season at the moment and will provide an energy pep-up, thanks to their fruit sugar content

7. Make some healthy habits

Try doing these simple things every day/week to keep your mind and body in optimal condition…

  • Drink two liters of water every day
  • Eat eight to 10 portions of fruit and veg throughout the day
  • Schedule in a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week
  • End your daily shower with a cold 30-second blast of water
  • Put on your favorite tunes and spend 10 minutes busting out dance moves

8. Work with your body’s rhythm

We all have an in-built body clock known as our ‘circadian rhythm’ which governs our sleep-wake pattern, and this is responsible for essential functions and processes. When you become misaligned with your internal body clock, you can suffer sleep problems and lethargy.

Your circadian rhythm is influenced by environmental cues such as light and dark, which is why you get up when the sun has risen and go to bed after dark. Regardless of the longer days, try to implement a regular sleep-wake pattern by getting up and going to bed at roughly the same time each night. It’s also worth ensuring you get around eight hours of slumber time.

9. Let nature give you an energy boost

A nature fix can help to beat summer fatigue on so many levels. Just20 minutes of direct sunlight exposure helps to increase immunity and mood-boosting vitamin D levels. You’re also automatically more in tune with your senses and better able to slow down when immersed in nature. ‘Extended daylight hours offer us the opportunity to breathe fresh air, enjoy nature and absorb vitamin D [the “sunshine vitamin”] as well as the happy hormone serotonin. Relish the chance to sit reading a book, stroll through a park, eat outdoors or spend time in the garden,’ recommends Morris-Bates.

10. Practice box breathing to boost your energy

Controlled breathing practice is the antidote to so many of life’s ailments, from stress and anxiety to poor sleep. And when you need an energizing pick-me-up, a few moments spent practicing box breathing could help to boost your vitality. Exhale to a count of four, pause for four counts, then inhale for four counts. Pause for four more counts before beginning the pattern again.

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