Posts

Who Will Save Our Mental Health from Technology?

Saving our mental health

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

A Former Google Manager is Spearheading Efforts to Limit the Negative Effects of Technology and Social Media

What are the negative effects of technology and social media on us? We’re aware of its influences on our mental health, with studies linking excessive social media use to depression and anxiety. What other grips does cyber-reality have on us?

In 2012, a young manager at Google named Tristan Harris made an impassioned plea in a presentation for his bosses to attend to “[our] moral responsibility to create an attention economy that doesn’t weaken people’s relationships or distract people to death.”

His ideas for a more ethical digital world gained some traction for a time, and it even got him tapped to be the company’s design ethicist. The company lost focus, however, and shifted its attention to other priorities.

Harris left Google in 2015, and three years later, Google produced a screentime tracker known as Digital Wellbeing, so that Android users could see how much time they were spending each day on each application they tapped into. Apple followed suit with a counterpart app for iPhones.

Continuing the Crusade

Were the new screentime tracker apps enough of a leash? Not according to Harris. In Harris’ estimation, the “free” business model is the most expensive business model ever invented.

More recently, Harris started the Center for Humane Technology and has expanded his thinking to bring more awareness to the negative impacts of the internet on our lives. From misinformation/disinformation being proliferated on various social media platforms (e.g., Facebook and YouTube (owned by Google)), to election tampering and invaded privacy, and finally to political divisiveness in our country, the internet gets blamed for a lot. And probably with good reason. Just think about how much control we give our cyber lives over our actual lives.

Harris continues to grow his audience with various national media appearances, conferences, and additional presentations of his own. The biggest takeaway he wants his listeners to remember is the mistake it is to treat mobile technology drawbacks as mutually exclusive from those inflicted by social media. It’s all part of what he refers to as the “extractive attention economy (EAE).”

Our Private Information Used as a Currency

It’s been said that “money talks.” Well, so does information in the EAE. Its business model is driven by gathering and leveraging data about its users and what they like. In order to keep them engaged online, more and more of what users want to see is constantly being fed to them, faster and faster, by automated platforms. This may sound great and convenient, but it actually gives them more extreme, sensationalized content, which only feeds upon their frailties.

Without any thought, judgment, or intent, people dealing with mental health issues might be looking on YouTube for ways to improve their mental health, while being unwittingly steered via “recommendations” toward videos about suicide and death. The only thing the platforms care about is how the relationships between what users are searching for and what the algorithms calculate they like will keep users online, engaged and clicking.

The Unbearable Lightness of Technology

What happened to “fun” social media? Harris warns that our addiction to retweets, likes, comments, and reshares, is only keeping us distracted and depressed.

Steve Jobs spoke of technology as an “exercise bicycle for the mind.” Harris has responded that the exercise bike is taking us down dark, unfamiliar roads where we might not ever want to find ourselves.

Harris believes that language can help shape reality, but he had to work through a growing fear that the language we were using to define the real impact of cyber-reality on our lives was very much lacking. It wasn’t enough to describe what he warns as a coming hailstorm.

One of his epiphanies was the realization that the real danger we’re in isn’t technology overpowering our strengths (like the cliche science fiction bit when computers take over the world). The real danger is when technology learns to overwhelm and leverage our emotional weaknesses against us… for profit.

Harris and his cohorts brainstormed themselves to a point where they thought that what might be going on was a process of diminishing, of degrading human lives and humanity as a whole. Technology, as we give it more and more of our time and attention, is causing the downgrading of human relationships, of human attention, of our common sense of decency, of democracy itself.

How Social Media Negatively Affects Us

Harris has commented specifically about how various social media platforms negatively affect us:

  • Snapchat turns conversations into “streaks,” redefining how children value real friendship.
  • Instagram glamorizes the picture-perfect life, eroding our sense of gratitude for our real lives, along with diminishing our sense of self-worth.
  • Facebook puts us into separate echo chambers, dissolving our real communities.
  • YouTube auto-plays the one video after the next, within seconds, regardless of what it does to our sleep.

Four Ways Technology is Hurting Us

Harris shares the four main ways he sees our subservience to technology is taking its toll:

Mental Health

The rat race to keep us on screen 24/7 makes it harder to disconnect, increasing stress, depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.

Children

The rat race to keep children’s attention trains them to replace their sense of self-worth with the number of likes they get, encourages them to compare themselves with others, and creates a non-stop illusion of missing out…which can lead to coping problems and mental health challenges.

Relationships

The competition for attention forces social media users to prefer virtual interactions and rewards (likes, shares, etc.) on their screens vs. interaction in a real face-to-face community.

Democracy

Social media unwittingly rewards faux rage, sensational facts, while reducing the role of factual information. It’s dividing us and making it increasingly difficult to agree on what is “real.”

So, where does this leave us? Possibly with additional challenges for those coping with mental health issues brought on by extensive technology use.

The good news is that you can take back control of your life by better managing your social media use.

Curious to hear more?

Do you suspect that excessive technology use and social networking are having a negative effect on your mental health or on that of a loved one? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

CBD Oil and Anxiety (Is it Legal? Are There Side Effects? And is it Safe?)

CBD Oil and Anxiety
(Is it Legal? Are There Side Effects? And is it Safe?)

With all the increasing public discussion of the topic, you may have wondered: Does CBD oil help with anxiety disorders and panic attacks? Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a natural cannabis plant extract rich in cannabinoids (a.k.a. plant-specific chemicals), that bind to certain receptors in the human brain when consumed. The most commonly known cannabinoid is, of course, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is only one of many cannabinoids and is famous for causing people to feel “high” after smoking marijuana.

Cannabidiol, on the other hand, binds to brain receptors like other cannabinoids, but without causing a “high,” and there are many who argue in favor of more mainstream use of CBD oil, arguing that it features many health benefits, that it can improve mental health, and even slow the spread of cancer in the body.

CBD oil is an oil like any other, that can be used for cooking, for adding just a few drops to a beverage, or even for direct consumption. Anyone who tells you it is healthy to smoke CBD oil may be high themselves, as there is no research to back that claim up.

About 20 percent of the population in the United States (that’s one in five) suffers from some form of anxiety or other. If this includes you, you may already be on the lookout for the best ways to calm down and relax.

How does CBD oil work?

Cannabinoids are the “feelin’ good” molecules released by your body when you are relaxed, feeling secure, or in the middle of something that causes you to be happy (e.g. going to bed the night before a long weekend, feeling validated by the positive comments from co-workers about a project you worked hard on and take pride in, etc.). Other times your body releases cannabinoids (the main cannabinoid molecule is known as anandamide) include times when you get enough sleep and awake feeling rested, or when you exercise.

This dynamic of your body releasing cannabinoids helps keep your body and mind in optimal balance. The release of cannabinoids helps your stomach and gastrointestinal system run well, reduces inflammation, and helps you maintain a good mood. There is research that shows that cannabinoids from CBD can stop the deterioration of anandamide in your body, and this means more ongoing “feel goods.”

Is CBD oil legal? 

CBD oil, extracted from hemp, is legal all over the U.S., so it can be consumed without the accompanying legal concerns that come with marijuana use.

Does CBD oil make you high?

CBD oil will not give you a high. Supplemental CBD oil comes from the cannabis plant known as hemp, which is closely related to marijuana. But CBD oil is virtually devoid of THC (which WILL get you high). There are trace amounts of THC in CBD oil, but not nearly enough to cause any psychoactive effects. CBD oil has actually been shown to offset the effects of THC use, including the reduction of paranoia, reduction in appetite spike, and mitigating weight gain.  CBD oil relaxes the body, relieves pain, and does not suppress breathing centers the way opioids do, which eliminates any concerns regarding overdose.

The main thing CBD oil does is help you relax, reduce anxiety, and it can even help you sleep better.

Can the use of CBD oil make you test positive in a drug test?

As previously mentioned, CBD has hardly any THC worth noting, so there is slim to no chance it will make you test positive for THC in a drug test. When in doubt, it’s better to consult with your employer regarding CBD oil use before taking any drug tests.

Is CBD effective to treat anxiety?

Research on animals and humans has shown that CBD may help lower feelings of isolation, reduce effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), relieve symptoms of autism, panic attacks, and even depression. CBD oil also seems capable of calming the brain and supporting the hippocampus (area of the brain that affects memory and healthy emotion processing).

Conditions that CBD oil has been shown in research to ease include social anxiety, psychosis, negative effects of antipsychotic medications, all without more serious side effects such as paranoia, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and spike in appetite. It is also being studied to see if it can help with childhood epilepsy.

Is CBD oil safe?

CBD seems to be safe to use*. In fact, the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has asserted that CBD oil is safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of CBD oil to treat children for epilepsy. It is worth noting that caution should be taken when approaching CBD use, as it is not regulated, nor has extensive research been done.

Keep in mind that, because of the way your liver works, CBD oil may affect the way other drugs affect your body. Be sure to check with your physician or mental health professional before you use CBD. This is NOT a substance you want to self-medicate on, especially if you have sensitive health conditions or if you’re taking other prescription medications.

How much CBD oil should I take?

It’s recommended to start with about 15mg of CBD oil once or twice daily with food.  CBD gummies and beverages may have already started flooding the shelves in the area where you live, but it’s likely that they are made with lower grade CBD. It is important to purchase CBD oil produced by reputable companies.

It’s never a good idea to take supplements for anxiety without making appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes, including stress relief practices like meditation, to get the full benefit out of them.

*Note: Solara Mental Health makes no official endorsement of CBD oil.

What do you use to relax? Leave a comment below!

Have you considered trying out CBD oil to help treat depression and/or anxiety? If so, do so responsibly by consulting with a professional, rather than self-medicate. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

 

12 Must-Try Products to Help You Cope with Anxiety and Stress

anxiety relief

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Anxiety and stress can get the best of anyone from time to time. Anxiety can also overwhelm and make you feel chronically ungrounded and without any sense of control over yourself—even at times for seemingly insignificant or non-existent reasons whatsoever. Anxiety symptoms can undermine your sense of self-esteem.

You might be undergoing treatment to help you more proactively manage anxiety issues you may be having, learning relaxation skills, and other coping mechanisms to help you in moments of crisis. You might be getting comfortable and feeling more natural in regard to talking to friends, loved ones, your therapist.

These things are definitely the first components of a viable strategy in your treatment, but sometimes having something tangible, like a relaxation tool, or listening to calming music, or taking a long, hot bath can be just what you need to get you through to your next moment of calm.

None of these tangibles should be considered cure-alls, and you should always consult with a mental health professional if you are really in need of help. However, in the meantime, below is a list of fun tools, gadgets, and items that can give you an extra edge in confronting your own anxiety, and in feeling more content, energized, and calm.

Headspace app: Learn the pleasures and benefits of mindful meditation, made simple (free, AppleAndroid). Features hundreds of themed sessions on a wide range of topics, like stress, sleep, focus, and anxiety. Also: an assortment of brief guided meditations for when you’re a bit too busy to slow down for long, and emergency meditation/breathing exercises, in case you suddenly go into crisis mode.

 

 

Tea, anyone? Discover a new favorite, natural relaxation tea, starting with Traditional Medicinals Organic Nighty Night Valerian Relaxation Tea, ($4.82, Amazon).

Or, try the Tension Tamer herbal tea from Celestial Seasonings for a relaxing dip into soothing mint and lemongrass ($5.40, Amazon).

 

Feeling hip? Start a new trend with your new handy Maroamlife Lava Stone Diffuser portable aromatherapy bracelet ($7.99, Amazon). You can add a couple of drops of your preferred  essential oil to your bracelet, rubbing the oil into the stones. The anxiety-calming scent will follow you around while you’re out and about, keeping your mind at ease.

 

Do you grind your teeth at night and wake up feeling stressed and agitated? Pick up a 10-pack of Plackers disposable Grind No More Night Guard for your teeth. Plackers brings you the first disposable and ready-to-use night tooth guard, offering a cost-effective solution for you – comfortable, hygienic, and protective. No cutting, molding, or boiling required.One size fits all, Plackers can be worn on upper or lower teeth. Can be used for three days, then conveniently disposed of ($13.78, Amazon).

 

Go Zen! Overwhelmed? Anxious? Frazzled? Try WellPath Zen, featuring a natural mix of adaptogens, herbs, and vitamins shown to support stress relief ($15.85, Amazon).

 

 

 

Want to create a warm, relaxing, stress-free environment? Use VicTsing wood grain diffuser and cool mist humidifier, 300 ml ($27.99, Amazon).

 

 

 

Try it with this “aromatherapeutic” set of essential oils, which includes calming and relaxing scents like lavender, tea trea, eucalyptus, and frankincense ($16.95, Amazon). Check it out here.

 

 

When was the last time you had a nice, hot, fizzy bath? Try these 5 oz handmade bath bombs ($18.04, Amazon), and let them take you away!

 

 

Acupressure is an “in” thing! You wouldn’t think it by looking at it, but this Nayoya spiked mat and pillow ($39.97, Amazon) are designed to relieve your neck, back, and shoulders when you’re in pain.  Using them consistently can also help you sleep better, improve your circulation, and take the edge off of everyday life and anxiety. Residual side effects of using this acupressure mat includes better sleep, circulation, and relief from stress and anxiety. What are you waiting for? Take a look here!

Your blanket needs more weight. You may not have known it, but heavy, weighted0 blankets, like the 12 lb. polyester Brookstone Nap Weighted Blanket ($94.89, Amazon), have been shown to promote better sleep, and to reduce anxiety and stress. In fact, you’ll feel like you’re wrapped in a big, warm hug.

 

 

Or, look into the super-soft microfiber 48″ x 72″, 20lb. Gravity Blanket, otherwise known as the original weighted blanket ($249.00, Amazon).

 

 

 

Concerned about anxiety issues? Not to worry. It is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

Depression and Anxiety: Diseases or Symptoms?

depression and anxiety symptoms

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

Depression and anxiety. Are they diseases in and of themselves as they are popularly regarded, or are they disorders? What if they, in and of themselves, are merely emotional symptoms (indicators) of deeper, underlying issues? It’s worth noting that most people with some degree of depression also suffer from an anxiety disorder.

First, no one who deals with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness should ever be made to feel that what he or she is experiencing is “all in [your] head.” Mental illness and its effects are all too (painfully) real for those experiencing them, and professional treatment can become a very real need.

But it matters how you frame mental illness. It can mean the difference between someone’s mindlessly and passively undergoing treatment and merely following a clinician’s “marching orders,” and that same individual’s taking a proactive and conscientious approach to acknowledging mental illness for what it is and confronting it effectively.

Now…

It will likely not come as a surprise to you, but diseases, by definition, are evidence of some abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of the human body, not due to any external injury. Diseases may, however, be caused by other external factors such as pathogens or internal dysfunction. Empirical data can be gathered and analyzed (via a testing or imaging method of some sort), and the problem can be reliably identified. Sure, your brain is also an organ, but a very complex one, about which there still remain mysteries and unknowns. There is no definitively reliable “depression test” or “anxiety test” from which a clear diagnosis can be reviewed and addressed directly.

In the case of mental illness, depression, anxiety, and other symptoms can be described to a clinician, who then draws upon his or her knowledge, experience, and expertise in order to help the individual identify, manage, process, work through, and minimize said symptoms. Medication and psychotherapy are common components of a treatment program.

That’s not to say that mental health professionals are just guessing, but rather to recognize that clinical approaches to address mental illness are far from being a perfect science.

Here’s the thing…

It is one of life’s unavoidable givens that sometimes everyone gets sad, gets nervous, becomes troubled or anxious, etc. Many of us may even grapple with varying degrees of psychosis from time to time.

Becoming clinically depressed or suffering from chronic anxiety is more severe, and potentially debilitating, versions of normal, everyday emotional responses to life’s routine bumps and bruises. But it becomes confusing when the emotions associated with depression and anxiety cloud the true underlying problems at play. In other words, the emotions (emotional responses) are not the same thing as the actual problem.

Depression symptoms and anxiety symptoms are signals that you are not processing something effectively, or that some need of yours isn’t being met. It is critical to your healthy sense of self that you feel loved and important by the most important people in your life. And it is important for your overall well-being that you have respect and compassion for yourself.

Imagine feeling unfulfilled in your relationships with friends or family, or perhaps you may be temporarily at odds with someone important in your life. You may feel unfulfilled or lacking in your intimate relationships/involvements. You may feel like your life has little purpose or meaning, or that you don’t matter, or that you have nothing to contribute and add value to society. Perhaps you feel guilt or shame for something you have done or may continue to do. This may lead to feelings of worthlessness, and/or hopelessness, to dismal self-esteem, and even to substance abuse/dependence. And hence, feelings of depression and anxiety.

But the feelings themselves aren’t the problem, though they can feel as excruciating as physical pain. Your unfulfilled needs are the problem.

Note that feelings of depression and anxiety can lead to your further isolation and avoidance from others, and from effectively addressing the causes of your painful feelings – which can lead to more depressive and anxious feelings, reinforcing the already existing source of your crippling feelings.

Here is why this differentiation matters…

This may seem self-evident, but consider this: imagine how different an approach you would take to addressing your mental illness if you thought of it in terms of “I deal with a mental illness/disorder” as compared to “I am mentally ill.” This valuable shift in perspective can be enlightening and is a coping mechanism/skill known as “reframing.” Reframing can help you feel better more quickly, more in control of your situation, and can lessen the duration of you feeling hurt or confused.

So the trick is…

There are no “silver bullets” or magical methods to help you cope with depression and anxiety. But know that the better coping and management skills you can learn with the help of your mental health clinician, psychotherapy, and possibly medication, the more clearly you’ll be able to recognize underlying problems that are resulting in depressive/anxious emotions, and the better you’ll be able to nip them in the bud.

This may seem overly simplistic, but remember, through appropriate treatment, you can learn to recognize depression and anxiety for what they truly are: symptoms of problems rather than problems in and of themselves. It can make all the difference in your recovery.

Do you deal with depression and/or anxiety? You are not alone and we want you to know that you can pursue a happy, productive life even if you deal with mental health challenges. Mental illness is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.