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What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)? How Well Does it Work to Treat Depression and Anxiety?

speaking with mental health professional about treatment

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Depression and anxiety have a new treatment option, and it is becoming more widely used all across the United States. What is transcranial magnetic stimulation, otherwise known as TMS?

How well does TMS work?
Does it sound too “science fiction-ey”?

More than 16 million adults in the United States experienced a major depressive episode between 2017 and 2018, and with medical science advancing as rapidly as it is, it’s no wonder that new technologies and therapies are beginning to take the stage as options to conventional mental health treatment plans.

What is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

TMS is a magnetic stimulation technique intended to target nerves in your brain that affect your mental health. More specifically, the magnetic field, delivered through a special device you wear on or over your head, stimulates the brain cells known to affect mood. The levels of magnetic energy used are in low amounts, at an individual’s unique brain frequency.

Most TMS sessions take 20 to 60 minutes, and don’t require any time to recover afterward. About four to six weeks into treatment (daily, five days a week) is when most patients start noticing significant results, and after that initial treatment, patients only need to go on an “as needed” basis. Regardless of the fact that it’s not meant to be a permanent cure, patients who undergo TMS therapy feel much better overall for several months up to a full year afterward.

Many lifelong depression and anxiety patients who have undergone TMS treatments for at least a month to six weeks will tell you that they begin seeing positive results immediately after each treatment.

TMS was approved in 2008 to treat depression and in 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved TMS therapy to treat some migraine conditions. In the fall of 2018 the FDA went on to approve TMS to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and studies are currently underway to see if it can be a viable treatment for other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Some aspects of TMS appear to simulate what some medications do, e.g., the release of dopamine that happens after a TMS session is similar (but not exactly the same) to what a medication can do.

But TMS can restore functionality, and that’s the important thing. Patients who undergo TMS treatment report “feeling normal” again, compared to patients on psychotropic medications who feel “different” than they do normally, because of some of the medication’s side effects.

What’s so Great About TMS?

TMS is part of a newer generation of developing technologies informed by neuroscience and easier to use than current technologies. It could very well be a look at the future of mental health care: it’s non-invasive, immediately effective after the first month to six weeks of treatment for long periods of time, and it’s especially effective for those with more severe depression and anxiety.

After the brief treatment, patients can get back to being engaged with their lives immediately, with a more positive outlook, and all the energy they need to do all the things they normally do. Further research shows that even just a few minutes of TMS daily can make a significant improvement in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

TMS side effects are few and they are mild. Common side effects include minor headaches, lightheadedness, and some scalp discomfort during treatment sessions. Some facial muscle spasms, and tingling or twitching of these muscles has also been reported during treatment sessions

What’s the Difference Between TMS and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)?

TMS has shown itself to be a viable alternative to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for patients who are resistant to conventional mental illness treatments.

There are some key differences between TMS and ECT treatments:

  • ECT requires anesthesia and typically a hospital stay while TMS does not.
  • ECT brings with it the risk of memory loss and cognitive confusion. Patients undergoing TMS have not manifested these side effects.
  • ECT is designed to create a brief seizure in the patient as a part of the treatment session. TMS does not utilize seizures as a way to treat patients.

TMS Accessibility?

If you’ve tried several types of antidepressants or other standard depression treatment, and have not received relief from your symptoms, you may want to discuss TMS with your mental health care professional. Ask him or her about the benefits and risks, and if TMS could be a good addition to your treatment.

TMS currently has one downside: the cost. It costs up to $10,000 to 15,000 for the initial four-to-six-week treatment. Though TMS has been approved by the FDA to treat depression and anxiety after trying one antidepressant medication that proved unsuccessful at controlling depressive/anxiety symptoms, many insurance companies won’t cover the treatment until after a patient has tried at least four different antidepressants. Double check with your insurance company to see if your coverage will cover TMS treatments if you are considering. It is still less expensive than ECT.

As always, maintain your sleep, exercise, nutrition, and stress management techniques as you normally would, even if you do undergo TMS treatment, as it will not be effective if you are not taking care of yourself.

Have you heard about TMS? Post a comment below. . .We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are you struggling with mental health issues? Mental health is very 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.

Who Will Save Our Mental Health from Technology?

Saving our mental health

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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.

7 Things You Can Do RIGHT NOW to Boost Your Mental Health… Naturally

what can i do to feel better right now

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“What can I do right now to improve my mental health?” You may have asked yourself this more than once. Life comes at you fast, and some days can feel like a real uphill battle.

Sometimes external things like traffic, a difficult coworker, your significant other, finances can leave you feeling run ragged. Other things become internal stressors, like anxiety, depression, and excessive stress itself.

Internal battles can be stressful and scary, and sometimes they can leave us drained and feeling flat.

Why does feeling happy feel like so much work sometimes?

Happy and fun feelings aren’t always spontaneous. One thing you should always remember: Keep on doing things you enjoy, even if they feel like hard work. Keep in touch with friends. Meet them for dinner. Keep up with all your favorite movies and shows.

Mental illness often robs you of your “enjoying life” skills. But the good news is, it never has to be permanent. You have to relearn how to do it from time to time. Eventually, things will normalize and you can go back to feeling like yourself again.

There are no magic bullets to immediately relieve depression, stress, or anxiety. But, Mental Health Awareness month is just around the corner, so what better time to pick up some powerful new habits? Let’s walk through some things you can do RIGHT NOW to improve your positive outlook and boost your state of mind:

  1. Get your body movin’. Exercise boosts your endorphins (feel-good chemicals), and over time, it can sustain your good moods longer. It helps you reprogram your brain into positive patterns.

Again, start simple… just walking for 45-60 minutes or so a few times a week will be enough to help you feel accomplished and good about yourself.

  1. Be good to yourself. Speaking of your body, make sure you are:
  • Getting adequate sleep every night (6-8 hours). To help with this, go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and avoid naps. Get your computer and TV out of your room. Before long you’ll notice your sleep improving.
  • Avoiding smoking and drinking
  • Eating a balanced diet and minding portion sizes (stay away from junk food, and go for foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, as well as foods rich in folic acid like avocado and spinach). If you binge eat or overeat when you’re feeling anxious or depressed, getting a better handle on your eating will help you feel better about yourself.
  1. Set some S.M.A.R.T. goals. Depression leaves you feeling like you’re worthless and can’t do anything right. Prove that negative self-talk wrong. Start with small S.M.A.R.T. goals like cleaning and organizing your desk, cleaning out your car, fixing or building something as a hobby.

A S.M.A.R.T. goal is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound. (e.g., “I will clean out my car (or organize my desk), and vacuum it this Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.”)

As you get better and gain momentum, you can start tackling more challenging things. Make a game out of it.

  1. Say “No!” to negative thinking. In your struggles with anxiety and/or depression, much of the battle is mental, and you’ll learn that to win, you need to reprogram the way you think about yourself. Whenever you immediately jump to the worst-case scenario in your head or keep thinking about what a failure you are… You’re a fighter, right? Learn to recognize and logically challenge each one of those thoughts for what they are: just passing thoughts. You’re under no obligation to believe every single thought that passes through your mind.

What evidence do any of these thoughts have, anyway? Over time and with practice, you’ll get in a more consistent habit of sending those negative thoughts off running. And you’ll be in better control of your self-image.

  1. Get yourself into a routine. Depression is often described as the result of feelings of helplessness and despair. You don’t know what to do, and what’s worse, you don’t even know if you care enough to keep on trying. You feel a lack of meaning, purpose, and structure. You feel out of control. If you’re feeling depressed, nothing will help you get more of a grip on your day than getting into a gentle routine to help you feel like you’re in the driver’s seat.
  2. Take on new responsibilities. When you are feeling anxious or depressed, your first inclination might be to turn and hide inward, avoiding other people, the outside world, and life in general. Resist this temptation. Get engaged with life by involving yourself with daily responsibilities.

You can:

  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Get a new job, even if it’s just part-time.
  • Sign up for some online classes.

New responsibilities will give you a sustained sense of accomplishment, self-esteem, and worth.

  1. Try something new. Get yourself out of the rut you feel you’re stuck in when feeling anxiety or depression, even if you have to push yourself a bit. Check out an art exhibit. Go to the library and find some interesting books to read. Take an online class to learn a new language.  You’ll start seeing how interesting life really is.

You will want to touch base with your doctor if you’re thinking of taking some new dietary supplements like magnesium, Vitamin C, St. John’s Wort, or Vitamin B12. This goes double if you’re already taking medications.

Keep in mind that these things can help you right away, and over time, can develop into healthy habits. They will not cure serious depression and anxiety by themselves. For help with severe depression and/or anxiety, be sure to consult with a mental health professional.

What is the latest regarding your mental health? Always remember that it is very 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.

Water, Depression, and Anxiety

Can drinking water help my depression and anxiety

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Can drinking plenty of water help alleviate depression and anxiety?

Several approaches can be taken to help manage mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Common approaches to managing mental health include: counseling, medications, removing stressors from your life, exercising consistently, getting enough sleep, proper diet, meditation, yoga, etc. The list goes on.

There is one simple remedy that’s been right in front of you all along, that you may not have picked up on yet: Helping your depression and/or anxiety by staying adequately hydrated throughout the day.

Every system in the human body counts on water to function, and the brain is no exception. In fact, about 75 percent of brain tissue is water. Research has linked dehydration to depression and anxiety, because mental health is driven primarily by your brain’s activity. Long story short, dehydration causes brain functioning to slow down and not function properly. It is important to think of water as a nutrient your brain needs.

How dehydration contributes to depression

Depression is a complex mental illness that has many moving parts in the inter-functionalities between your brain and body. Though it would be overly simplistic to say that dehydration is a direct cause for all types of depression, dehydration and depression are causally connected in many ways; in fact, one resulting symptom of chronic dehydration actually turns out to be depression.

Dehydration causes depression in at least three ways:

Dehydration Saps Your Brain’s Energy. Dehydration impedes energy production in your brain. Many of your brain’s functions require this type of energy become inefficient and can even shut down. The resulting mood disorders that result from this type of dysfunction can be categorized with depression.

Social stresses such as anxiety, fear, insecurity, ongoing emotional problems, etc., including depression can be tied to not consuming enough water to the point that your brain’s tissue is affected.

Dehydration impedes your brain’s serotonin production. Depression is frequently related to subpar levels of serotonin, which is a critical neurotransmitter that heavily affects your mood. Serotonin is created from the amino acid tryptophan, but sufficient water is needed.

Dehydration can also negatively impact other amino acids, resulting in feelings of dejection, inadequacy, anxiety, and irritability.

Dehydration increases stress in your body. Stress is one of the most prominent contributing factors to depression, along with a sense of powerlessness and inability to cope with stressors.

Dehydration is the number one cause of stress in your body. In fact, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle: dehydration can cause stress, and stress can cause dehydration. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands produce extra cortisol, the stress hormone, and under chronic stress, your adrenal glands can become exhausted, and resulting in lower electrolyte levels.

Drinking sufficient water can help reduce the negative psychological and physiological impacts of stress.

Dehydration and anxiety

As with depression, dehydration rarely causes anxiety as a cause by itself, but not drinking adequate water puts you at risk for increased anxiety symptoms now, and possibly the development of higher anxiety levels in the future. In short, dehydration causes stress, and when your body is stressed, you experience depression and anxiety as a result. Therefore, you want to ensure you are properly hydrated daily, especially if you are naturally anxiety-prone.

Water has been shown to have natural calming properties, likely as a result of addressing dehydration’s effects on the body and brain. Drinking enough water is an important step in managing your anxiety. Even if you’re not experiencing anxiety, drinking sufficient water can create feelings of relaxation.

Dehydration and panic attacks

Panic attacks are common results of high anxiety caused by dehydration. Panic attacks typically have physical triggers, and one of those triggers is dehydration. When dehydration occurs, if you’re prone to panic attacks, you can easily begin to panic, even to the point of feeling like you’re dying.

When dehydrated, you expose yourself to many of the symptoms that trigger panic attacks, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Muscle fatigue and weakness
  • Feeling faint/lightheaded

While keeping yourself hydrated may not stop the panic attacks, they may become less frequent, or at least some of the triggers may be diminished.

How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?

Some dehydration signals are pretty obvious, but not all. Signs of dehydration you may or may not have been aware of include:

  • Increased hunger. Hunger and thirst signals come from the same part of the brain, so it’s no surprise that they might be confused. Hunger, even when you know you’ve eaten enough, probably means you need to drink some water, not eat more.
  • Dryness. Dehydration is reflected in common signs of dryness, including dry, itchy skin, dry mouth, chapped lips, etc.
  • Headache. Lack of water facilitates a shortage of oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in a headache.
  • Fatigue and weak/cramped muscles. Muscle weakness, spasms, cramping, etc., are common signs of dehydration.
  • Bad breath. Bad breath usually means you need some water to refresh yourself. Dehydration induces dry mouth, which means you’re not producing enough saliva to help your mouth fight off odorous bacteria.
  • Rapid heartbeat, rapid/shallow breathing, fever, cloudy thinking. These can be signals of severe dehydration, and you may need to seek medical attention.

How much water should you be drinking every day?

Your ideal daily water intake depends on your gender, stress levels, weight, climate, exercise levels, whether or not you’re sick, etc. But a rule of thumb is 11.5 cups (92 oz.) of water per day for women, and 15.5 cups (124 oz.) for men. If you have a hard time stomaching plain water, try adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Avoid beverages as much as possible that contain sodium, as sodium dehydrates you: soda/diet soda, energy drinks, etc.

You should ramp up your fluid intake accordingly if one or more of the following apply to your situation:

  • Engaging in long, intense workout sessions
  • Illnesses with fever, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Hot or humid climate
  • Pregnant/breastfeeding mothers
  • Chronic health conditions
  • Dieting

You can verify how hydrated you are based on the color of your urine. If you’re adequately hydrated, your urine will be a very clear/pale yellow color. If you’re dehydrated, your urine will be a dark yellow or tan color.  If it’s a dark yellow color and of a thick/syrupy consistency, that means you’re very dehydrated. Drink some water!

Conclusion

Keeping yourself adequately hydrated is not a cure-all for depression or anxiety. You will definitely want to seek the assistance of a mental health professional.

But getting in the habit of drinking enough water daily will definitely help alleviate many of the causes and symptoms of mood volatility. Think of it as a viable part of the foundation of your long-term mental health management plan.

Are you struggling with depression and/or anxiety? Both are treatable, and their treatment usually leads to an improved sense of overall wellness and better sleep. 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.

7 Foods You Need to Avoid to Help Your Depression or Anxiety

7 foods you need to avoid to help with your depression or anxiety

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What foods and beverages will make your depression and/or anxiety worse? Perhaps a better question would be, “What doesn’t make us more depressed or anxious these days?” Right?

But perhaps taking a less cynical and more rational approach is best. To further explore how your diet affects your mood and functionality, consider the fact that the food you eat nourishes and strengthens your body. It must therefore have a direct impact on your body, including your brain.  And as your brain regulates your body’s functions, including your mood, part of your mental health management would necessarily have to involve dietary considerations.

There is much research indicating that individuals who maintain a diet with less inflammatory foods and beverages also maintain lower risks of depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, many, if not most of the foods in the Standard American Diet (SAD) will cause inflammation. Healthier eating regimens include vitamins, antioxidants, high-grade proteins, and healthy fats.

The most common offenders include:

  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs)
  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Vegetable oils

That’s a list given in broad terms, but let’s go through a more specific list of foods and drinks that cause depression and why.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to avoid processed foods as much as possible. If you frequently consume fried foods, processed meats, refined cereals, pastries, high-fat dairy, candy, etc., you’re likely to be making your depression and anxiety worse. Stick with as much fish, fruits, vegetables, whole fiber-rich grains to help stabilize your mood more consistently.

Here they are: Some foods to avoid to help your depression and anxiety.
Note this list is not exhaustive.

  1. Sugary and Diet Soft Drinks. This list includes soda, fruit juice, energy drinks, Kool-Aid, etc. What’s so bad about them?
  • Soda Pop/Kool-Aid: This is a no-brainer to avoid. All sugar, and no nutrition. Sugar is very addictive, and plays with your brain’s incentive/reward system, which leads to depressive moods when you don’t have the sugar your body and brain crave. A better alternative if you’re craving a sugary soda drink would be seltzer water with just a splash of fruit juice. Too much caffeine often found in soda pop and diet soda can make anxiety worse, too. Try seltzer water with a splash of lime, cranberry, or orange juice. Or simply keep yourself hydrated with enough water your body needs. Your cravings for soda will go away.
  • Diet Soda: If you get rid of the sugar, you should be fine, right? Not exactly. A common artificial soft drink sweetener, aspartame, has been directly linked to depression. With diet drinks you won’t experience the energy/post-sugar crash, but diet soda can still get you depressed, perhaps even more than regular soda can. Your brain thinks it’s getting the sugar it’s craving, but it’s not, so it gets depressed.
  • Fruit Juice: Fruits not only contain healthy vitamins our bodies need, they also contain natural fiber that helps you feel full while slowing down how your blood absorbs energy. No fiber means just vitamin-packed sugar water that gets your blood up, followed by a post-sugar crash. Again, your body thinks it’s getting something it wants or needs, but is being left wanting. If you like fruit, eat it whole, and if you’re thirsty, try plenty of water, or seltzer + a splash of  your favorite fruit juice.
  • Energy Drinks: Energy drinks can cause abnormal heart palpitations, disrupted sleep, and heightened anxiety because of the caffeine and vitamin stimulants found in them (A common energy-boosting ingredient, guarana, has lots of caffeine). And don’t forget all the sugar or artificial sweeteners found in energy drinks. Water is your best bet to satisfy thirst, , while a piece of fruit nicely takes the edge off of a sugar craving.
  1. Alcohol. This one should go without saying, since alcohol is classified as a depressant. In addition to the high levels of sugar in alcohol, small quantities of it alone can disrupt your sleep, which can lead to heightened levels of anxiety and then later, depression. Too much sleep, which may result from overdrinking and then having to “sleep it off” the next day, can cause even more mood disorders, too. If you do drink, keeping your alcohol intake to moderate levels (One drink maximum for women, two drinks at most for men) can be a good way to relax, feel less anxious in social situations, and can help regulate the cholesterol in your blood.
  2. Frosting. Again with the sugar talk, right? Yes, but also keep in mind that typical cake/cookie frostings contain around 2 grams of trans fats (the bad fats) per serving. Trans fats, also known as partially-hydrogenated oils, are classified as GMOs, and have also been linked to depression. They are common in pizza dough, fried foods, crackers, cookies, donuts, cake, etc. Limit your fats to the good ones, like those found in nuts, avocado, fish, and olive oil. They actually lift your mood.
  3. White bread. Highly-processed white flour found in many white breads (also refined pastas, white rice, cereal, white sugar) quickly converts to blood sugar after consumption, much like from sugary drinks. This causes spikes and crashes in energy levels, leading to anxiety and depression. Why not try home made whole wheat bread?
  4. Light dressings. You might know that some store-bought dressings and marinades come loaded with sugar, usually listed as high-fructose corn syrup on the ingredients list. But many “light” dressings are sweetened with aspartame, much like diet soda, and are therefore also linked to depression/anxiety. Try making your own salad dressing using nothing but fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Ketchup/Soy Sauce. Ketchup contains high levels of sugar, while “light” ketchup contains artificial sweeteners. Soy sauce, typically associated with healthy-sounding foods like veggie stir fry and such, contains a lot of gluten, which can heighten anxiety and depression, and make you feel sluggish. Try making your own tomato salsa (and for a bit of a kick, add a dash of cayenne pepper to taste), and low-gluten soy sauce.
  6. Coffee. This is a controversial one to bring up, perhaps, but think of all the caffeine in coffee, known to disrupt our sleep, make us jittery and anxious, and let’s not even talk about the post-caffeine crashes. Caffeine levels can be gradually phased out of your diet, to avoid caffeine withdrawals and headaches. Cold water in the morning can wake you up just as well as coffee can. If you must have your coffee, try decaf.

Dietary changes can certainly improve your overall mood consistently, but sometimes depression and/or anxiety can be too much to handle on your own. Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to better sleep and improved overall wellness. 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.

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Does My Bedtime Affect My Mental Health?

Does bedtime affect mental health

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Can your mental health be affected by your bedtime? We all know the age old mandate about “early to bed, early to rise,” and “get your 6-8 hours every night,” and so on, but how much does your bedtime matter?

Beware of sleep deprivation

First, let’s talk about not getting enough sleep and your mental health. It’s common knowledge that sleep deprivation can impact the quality of your mental health and psychological state, as sleep and mental well-being go hand in hand.

Experts will tell you that if you frequently feel sleepy throughout the day or experience what are known as “microsleeps” (i.e., briefly drifting off into a light doze throughout the day, even momentarily), then sleep-deprivation or a sleep disorder may be something you need to look into. Other signs that you’re not getting enough sleep include: trouble falling asleep (i.e., insomnia), not waking up feeling rested, pounding coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks to get through the day, fighting to stay awake while driving or during normal activities like watching a movie, trouble with your memory, waking up in the wee hours of the morning and then having trouble going back to sleep (a.k.a., terminal insomnia).

Some facts about problematic sleep and mental health follow.

  • Problematic sleeping is a sign of depression. Problematic sleep is a common symptom of depression, and it also contributes to it. From 65 to 90 percent of adults (and about 90 percent of children) in the U.S. with clinical depression are likely to have some degree of difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. Usually, the problem is insomnia, but about 20 percent of problematic sleepers have problems with sleep apnea. Hypersomnia (e.g., severe fatigue throughout the day) is also commonly reported by individuals with depression.
  • Concerns regarding sleep are more likely to affect individuals with mental health problems. Ongoing problematic sleep affects between 50 to 80 percent of those with mental disorders and from 10 to 18 percent of adults in the U.S. Treating a sleep disorder may help mitigate the effects of depressive symptoms, and vice versa.
  • Anxiety and problematic sleep are often co-occurring. Disordered sleep affects more than half of adults with generalized anxiety disorder and is also typical among those with bi-polar disorderpanic disorder, phobic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Anxiety can also fuel problematic sleep, taking the form of nightmares and/or insomnia, while sleep deprivation can increase the risk for the individual to develop an anxiety disorder.

Bigger answers for bigger bedtime questions

Now… Here’s a deeper question. If you get enough hours of sleep in, does it matter what time you go to bed?

The human body produces a wide range of molecular processes, including hormone levels and core body temperature, as well as sleeping and waking up. It is impacted by genes as well as many lifestyle factors including exposure to artificial light, jobs, activities, and diet.

A 2018 broad genetics study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom reports that individuals who are genetically inclined to wake up early are linked to a greater sense of being content with life, and with a lowered risk for depression and schizophrenia.

The researchers found results indicating that if you’re a “night owl,” chances are good that you could be at greater risk to develop some sort of mental health issue. Night owls have a tendency to constantly push back against their own bodies’ natural clock, which can be exhausting, especially for those who have to be at work or school early in the morning.

Good news for all the evening types out there, however. Though previous research linked poor sleeping habits to a higher risk for obesity and diabetes, this newest research did not find any links between these health issues and body clock genes.

It’s noteworthy that this new research underscores the need for further study of the link between someone’s genetic disposition to being an early versus a late riser and his or her mental health.

So I can just start going to bed earlier, right?

Can you just start going to bed and waking up earlier? Well, it’s not that simple. You have what’s known as a chronotype, also known as your tendency to fall asleep and rise at a certain time, and this is largely determined genetically.

Differences between early and late risers have to do with differences in the ways our brains react to external light signals as well as the normal functioning of our internal clocks. There’s not a lot to be done to change this.

There are some things you can do, however if you’re a night owl and want to get in the habit of hitting the sack earlier in order to arise earlier the next morning. It may take a week or two for your body clock to adapt to the change in schedule.

  • Be consistent. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and day.
  • Try going to bed an hour or two earlier, though this may not always be realistic.
  • Do something consistently every single night before bed, like taking a hot shower, brushing your teeth, reading with a dim light on, doing some gentle yoga stretches, or practicing some mindful breathing meditation.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine after about 4-6 p.m.
  • Get out into the natural light throughout the day, and get some exercise in (at least 30 minutes) at some point every day. Three 10-minute exercise sessions spread out through the day are just as effective as one 30-minute session.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep; avoid having a desk or keeping a laptop in your room, and avoid using your cellphone right before bed as much as possible.

Are you anxious about your lack of sleep? Is your lack of sleep making your depression and/or anxiety worse? Depression and anxiety are both treatable, and their treatment usually leads to a better night’s sleep. 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.

8 Things You Can Do to Boost Your Mental Health in 2019

8 things you can do to bolster your mental health in 2019

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Life changes are coming, as with every new year. Now with the holidays behind us, it’s time to take on 2019. Problems getting started? You want this year to be different, but you are not sure what to do? No worries.

Let’s get away from any nomenclature having to do with “resolutions” for the new year. Resolutions are easily forgotten, you get discouraged not too long after the new year, and then what? You’re going to wait until next January to start up with improving yourself? You can get a grip on your depression, anxiety, what have you.

Goals, not New Year’s Resolutions

You don’t need a new year, or a new week, even to start working on yourself. How about starting out by setting some short and long-term goals? It may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to start big. Maybe you want to get better at stress management, or incorporate a more healthy lifestyle. Personal growth is the key, so remember, to just keep moving forward!

One of the best things you can do to help bolster your mental health is to be prepared for and to anticipate change. Our ability to cope with and deal with changes that life throws at us determines in large part how well-adjusted we are, and how proficient we are at problem solving.

Once you get rolling and in the habit of setting and accomplishing goals, you’ll be unstoppable. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t ever give up on yourself. One step at a time. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  1. Be ProactiveProactive is a bit of a buzzword, and it is usually associated with something positive. Think of proactive (ahead, in front) versus reactive (afterward). See where you can “work ahead” on things at home, at work/school. If you’re a procrastinator, practicing the art of proactivity can get you out of just about any funk. Set a goal to not just meet the bare minimum, just in the nick of time, but get as far ahead of the curve as you can. Get that assignment done a week early. File that paperwork before the deadline. Set up that appointment when you have an extra 5 minutes on your lunch break. You’ll feel better about life, about yourself, and about your abilities.
  2. Get Organized. Which brings us to getting organized. Entering a space that is organized and tidy has a much more positive effect on your mental health than walking in to a messy space has. One is inspiring, while the latter is depressing and unsettling. Watch some YouTube videos and read some books if you need to, but start working on the habit of staying organized. Ever seen Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix?
  3. Watch What You Eat, Exercise, and Get Your Sleep. Taking care of your body has a huge impact on your mental health, though healthy eating, getting exercise, and getting adequate sleep (healthy living) are often overlooked. Avoid junk food, eat only wholefoods, more protein, fewer carbs, and in smaller portions. Exercise for at least 20-30 minutes, five times weekly. Get 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Get these things down, and you’ll be well on your way to being better able to manage your mental health effectively.
  4. Pick up a New Hobby, Learn a New Skill, Improve One of Your Talents. Maybe you think hobbies are too “old school” for you. You can develop your mind, ease stress, learn to breathe meditatively, etc., when engaging yourself in some pastime that interests you. Do you have a creative side? Take a class in watercolor painting. Do you like music? Have you ever thought of taking up the guitar or piano? Developing a hobby, skill, or talent will help lift your mood, and increase your self-confidence.
  5. Reign in Your Use of Technology.Excessive time on electronic devices, chatting, posting, gaming, etc. has been shown to be tied in with feelings of depression, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, negative self talk, etc. Have you ever thought of taking a break for a week or two from Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter? Why not give it a try? You may feel more liberated than you ever thought possible.
  6. Build Up a Reserve.  Research shows that investing time into quiet, introspective activities, like mindful meditation, can be a great help for mental health. Mindfulness practice also helps you build up a reserve of inner strength and groundedness to help you cope with any kind of future challenges you may find yourself facing.
  7. Get in the Habit of Telling Yourself Positive Things.It should come as no surprise that the way you think about yourself can have a huge effect on how you feel. Get in the habit of using words in your self-talk that reinforce feelings of self-worth and personal power. For instance, instead of saying: “I’m such a loser. I won’t get the award because I blew it writing my essay,” say something more like, “I didn’t do as well on my essay as I was hoping, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get the award.”
  8. Start a Gratitude Journal. Expressing gratitude and remembering the things you have to be thankful for have been unmistakably linked with a healthier sense of well-being, happiness, and mental health. Start a journal if you don’t already have one, and write down three things every day that you are grateful for. Think on them every day, and let them soak in. How does it feel?  Pretty good, right?

Now for a great year. Here’s to your mental health and winning 2019!

Gearing up for a great 2019? If you’ve ever struggled with mental illness or low self-esteem, now is the perfect time to address mental health issues. 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.

Brace Yourself – Autumn is Coming (And What You Can Do About It)

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) (also known as seasonal depression) affects an estimated 10 million individuals in the United States every year, and another 10 to 20 percent show mild signs of SAD. The typical age of onset is somewhere between the ages of 18 and 30, and the disorder affects women four times more frequently than men. Some symptoms are severe enough to affect an individual’s quality of life, with more than five percent of those with SAD result in hospitalization. Regardless, SAD can make the normal changing of seasons extremely unpleasant and wreak havoc on an individual’s mental health.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically makes one think of the colder, wintry months of the year. You are most likely familiar with common slumps in mood due to fewer daylight hours and cold weather, but the truth is, SAD can affect different people at different transitional times of the year. Even autumn, a season we connect with pleasant things like beautiful colors, refreshingly crisp weather, etc. is no exception.

In most cases, seasonal affective disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer. Less commonly, people with the opposite pattern have symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild, but then become more severe as the season progresses.

SAD, not Crazy                 

SAD is a type of recurring depression related to changes in seasons, and mood volatility sparked by shifts in the weather can really put you through the wringer. It is a major culprit when it comes to robbing someone of motivation and joie de vivre, and it typically begins and ends for an individual at about the same time every year.

The important thing is that you acknowledge it for what it is. Don’t write it off, and don’t let people tell you that it’s merely a “passing case of the blues” that you just have to push yourself through on your own. There are some key things you can do to manage this mental illness-related issue. Let’s discuss.

The Lowdown on SAD Symptoms

What does SAD look like?  If you suspect you suffer from seasonal affectation, you’re probably familiar with the most common symptoms. Here is a more inclusive (though not exhaustive) list:

  • Notably low energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and/or guilt
  • Feelings of sluggishness and/or spiked agitation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depressed mood throughout most of the day, just about every day
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Sleep problems (particularly oversleeping in the autumn/winter)
  • Significant fluctuations in appetite and/or weight (often coupled with cravings for high-carbohydrate foods)
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts and/or fixation on death

Note that for individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder, spring/summer SAD can invoke manic episodes, or sometimes a less intense form of mania known as hypomania. Autumn/winter-onset SAD can mean long stretches of depressive episodes.

Also…

The specific cause(s) of SAD continue to remain a mystery. Some experts point to an excess of melatonin (a sleep-regulating hormone) in the body, and fewer daylight hours during winter are known to boost the production of melatonin.  More melatonin means less energy and more lethargic states. Reduced levels of sunlight can also disrupt the body’s internal clock, leading to heightened depression.

Another suspect in the prolonging of depressed moods is difficulty in regulating levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter directly related to regulating an individual’s mood. A significant lack of natural vitamin D, believed to play a role in serotonin activity, has also been labeled to be a cause of depressive symptoms.

Diagnosis

Ultimately, SAD is not managed as a stand-alone disorder, but rather as a specific type of depression with a recurring seasonal pattern. For a reliable SAD diagnosis, an individual must show symptoms of major depression that coincide with specific seasons, for two consecutive years, at least. This seasonal depression should also be shown to be dominant over other types of depression.

Do You Need Medical Attention?

Days of “down” moods and feeling blue are normal, especially during the winter. If your depressed mood lasts for days at a time and you can’t seem to get enjoyment out of your regular activities and hobbies, you should definitely seek clinical help. It becomes even more critical that you get help if your appetite and sleep patterns are disrupted; turning to alcohol for comfort and relaxation instead of addressing the disorder can lead to feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Some Things You Can do to Help Yourself

  1. Just Breathe

An easy method to help keep yourself grounded is to practice mindful breathing. At your desk or while you’re driving, inhale slowly and deeply for a count of five, hold your breath for five, and then slowly exhale for another five counts. Yoga and mindfulness meditation can certainly keep you in practice with steady breathing, as you want to avoid shallow breathing which can make you hyperventilate.  And that will only kick your body into heightened alert “fight or flight” mode.

  1. Get Your Vitamin D and Magnesium

Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to anxiety and depression. After the Summer Solstice on June 21 in the northern hemisphere, daily doses of sunshine (natural Vitamin D) slowly begin to decline. There are Vitamin D receptors located all throughout your body (e.g., brain, heart, muscles, immune system, etc.), and when there is a shortage of it, your body will start to panic. Your body needs plenty of Vitamin D all throughout your system to function properly. You can also invest in a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp, which simulates sunlight indoors.

Magnesium is a mineral with a definite calming effect, and which helps the central nervous system. Calming your nervous system is a great way to reduce inclinations to anxiety and panic. Dark, leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale are great ways to get your magnesium every day, as is dark chocolate (though careful not to get used to too much sugar!).

  1. Simplify

This one can be difficult to remember, especially for A-type personalities. Do not overextend yourself in regard to extracurricular activities! Pushing yourself harder while feeling a lack of energy will only exhaust your body, make you prone to illness, and drive your mood downward more.

When you recognize your SAD kicking in, eliminate every unnecessary activity, responsibility, or stressor that you can. Focus your energy on doing the things you must like work and/or school, and let go of the rest.

  1. Challenge Yourself (in Non-stressful Ways)

Setting goals and achieving them can be good for you mentally and psychologically. A brain that is used is a happy brain. Just make sure that those goals decrease your stress levels, rather than increase them.

Rather than getting involved in so many things and overcommitting yourself to too many activities, pick a goal such as working out for 30 minutes a day for the next month, practicing a musical instrument, or making time to read a good book every week. Learning how to cook some new meals for yourself can also be a boost, as you more mindfully get the nutrients you need. Cooking can be challenging and satisfying, just not mentally exhausting.

  1. Treating Allergies

Autumn and spring are very allergy-prone seasons for a significant number of people, and grappling with allergies on a regular basis can contribute to anxiety and depression. Being aware of this dynamic can go a long way to put your mind at ease because you’ll keep yourself from thinking that something is “wrong” with you.

Allergies can attack your immune system, and rightly so, as research has shown that the same biological processes involved in fighting off an infection are the same as for someone dealing with mania or depression. It has also been shown that volatile allergy symptoms during times of low and high pollen coincide with spikes in reports of anxiety and depression (did you know there is a spike in suicides during spring every year?).

Are you concerned about severe mood swings that come and go with the seasons? You’re not alone! 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.

The Top 5 Mental Health Blogs You Should Be Following

Best mental health blogs

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Top mental health blogs? Maybe it’s never occurred to you to follow one.

It’s no simple task to keep up with all the latest in regards to mental health research, updates, news, etc. To be sure, it’s a landscape that is constantly in flux. If you live with a mental illness or have someone you care about that does, you should be following as many expert mental health blogs and writers on as many related and relevant mental health issues as you can. Many are fighting hard to reframe the mental health discussion, tearing down misperceptions and stigma regarding mental health, and to just give you a new way to think about the issues you face. With any luck, one day the world can be one where mental health issues are taken seriously, and those with mental health are not discriminated against.

Check out some of the following blogs and writers, and see if you can’t learn something new from them:

  • Reddit (Mental Health/Mental Illness)
    For those not familiar with Reddit, it is a U.S.-based social news aggregation, web quality content rating, and open discussion website. Registered members can submit content to the site such as articles, text posts, images, and other links, and then the Reddit community votes each post up or down. The most popular and interesting, relevant, and interesting posts surface to the top.Website: https://www.reddit.com/r/mentalillness
    About This Blog: A place for openly discussing mental health and mental illness with other interested community members
    Frequency: Nearly 30 new posts weekly
    Facebook followers: 1,159,181  Twitter followers: 565K
  • The Mental Elf (Mental Health)
    Oxford, UKA resource to help you find just what you need in keeping up-to-date with all of the latest important and reliable mental health research and guidance. Blog posts featuring short and snappy summaries that highlight evidence-based publications relevant to mental health practice.Website: https://www.nationalelfservice.net/mental-health/
    About This Blog: Keeping you up to date with the latest reliable mental health research, policy, and tips.
    Frequency: 3 new posts weekly
    Facebook followers: 5,641  Twitter followers: 59.6K
  • Sluiter Nation (Mental Health)
    West MichiganKatie Sluiter (pronounced “Sly-ter”) is a wife, a mother, a teacher, a reader, and a writer living in a small town in West Michigan. She has a Master’s Degree in English Education from Western Michigan University and teaches in a Title 1 Junior High School near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her writing has been published in the 2012 anthology of Every Day Poets, the May 2013 issue of Baby Talk Magazine, the book Three Minus One ,  the anthology My Other Ex, and in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan. Most recently her essay about her struggle with postpartum depression was published in Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience.Website: https://www.sluiternation.com
    About This Blog: Katie has experienced many challenges in her life including various losses and mental health issues. The adversity she has faced inspired her to write her story and set up a blog to provide inspiration to the people and mothers, who like her, grapple with mental illness.
    Frequency: 2 new posts weekly
    Facebook fans: 1,274  Twitter followers: 5,981
  • Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. (Mindfulness/Psychotherapy)
    West Los Angeles, CADr. Goldstein is currently a licensed Psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and also teaches mindfulness-based programs through The Center for Mindful Living and InsightLA. It’s all about mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to cultivate awareness of the present moment while putting aside our programmed biases. It is being in connection with the direct experience of the present moment, the here and now.  http://elishagoldstein.com/blog/
    About This Blog: Articles, free audio/video, and other resources that can give you insights into working through a mental illness and toward growth and recovery. Stress? Anxiety? Depression? Trauma? Addictive behaviors? No matter what you bring to the table, this is a place where you will find help and support.
    Frequency: 4 new posts monthly
    Facebook followers: 11,085  Twitter followers: 20K
  • From Both Sides of the Couch | Psychology Today (Mental Health)
    New York, NYA therapist reflecting on her time with patients…and her time as a patient. Her writing explores her journey with mental illness and healing.Website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/both-sides-the-couch
    About This Blog:  Gerri Luce is a licensed clinical social worker, publishing under a pseudonym to share her experience and insights. Now in her 50s, she spent her late twenties and thirties battling anorexia, major depression, and borderline personality disorder. Her essays have appeared in a number of literary journals and anthologies.
    Frequency: About 1 new post monthly
    Facebook followers: 7,384,665  Twitter followers: 571K

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start following a mental health blog that really speaks to you! Come to think of it, why not keep up with the valuable information in this blog?

 Do you or someone you love struggle with mental health issues? Fear not! You got this! 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.

 

Be Aware of the Effects of Social Networking on Mental Health

Negative social media effects on mental health

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Looking back in time, one might say that social media sites as we know them today crept up on modern society unawares. Those of all ages–ranging from the very young and impressionable, up through adolescence, young adulthood, and even mature adulthood–have come to follow social media apps consistently (and even obsessively, one might argue).

Over three-and-one-half billion people worldwide use the internet, and over three billion of them use social media regularly, amounting to about 40 percent of the earth’s population. It is certainly one of life’s more ever-present daily activities for a significant portion of humankind, whether for a few minutes daily, or for hours at a time. Some of social networking’s benefits include the ability to stay informed, self-educate, build and relationships with family and friends, professionally network, interact with another human being at any time of day or night, and share expertise. But have you ever wondered if you can use social media sites too much?

Unfortunately for those who love their social media time, there is enough evidence to argue to some degree or another that the downside of social media effects on mental health well outweigh its touted benefits.

Sources of lowered self-esteem, social anxiety, and moodiness in social networkers have been shown to include cyberbullying, heightened stress levels, unhealthy comparison of self with others, jealousy, depression, feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness, impaired ability to manage emotions, disrupted sleep, and decreased productivity leading to a decreased sense of achievement.

According to a 2015 research study at the University of Missouri, researchers noted that regular Facebook use can lead to depressive symptoms if the interaction creates feelings of envy in the user. In a study conducted by the British disability charity known as Scope, 1500 Facebook and Twitter users were surveyed, and as high as 62 percent of them reported feeling “inadequate” and 60 percent reported feelings of “envy” caused by comparison of self to other users.

Think about it. It stands to reason that if you have a generally negative outlook on life, or are already feeling somewhat down, regularly scrolling through pictures of happy couples and other cheerful characters living what appears to be a “perfect” life, it can easily make you feel worse. Excessive online social networking and mental health are not always a harmonious combination.

What else do social media and mental health statistics have to teach us? Excessive social media use has been directly linked to less happiness overall. Other studies have shown that Facebook use was linked to less life satisfaction overall, as well as less moment-to-moment happiness. Another study suggests that social networking creates a heightened perception of social isolation in the user unlike other solitary activities, and this perceived sense of self-isolation is one of the most emotionally destructive dynamics humans can encounter.

While it still stands that social networking has some benefits, there are plenty of convincing reasons that factual data can show us how social media affects us negatively.

You don’t need to “swear off” social media cold turkey, but you can motivate yourself to use social media in moderation. Here are some ideas to help manage its effects in your life:

  • Choose to seek out the positive, and soak in the gratitude for your own victories as well as for those of others.
  • Remind yourself regularly that social media isn’t an accurate representation of real life.
  • Stop tormenting yourself with comparisons of yourself to others.
  • Don’t be afraid of missing out by unfollowing your most (seemingly) happy and successful friends (even if just for a while).
  • Give social media a rest by deactivating your account(s) (you can reactivate them later at any point).

The effects of social networking continue to be studied, but nothing we’ve learned so far has even remotely indicated that its effects are anything but detrimental to your mental well-being. You’re still on the computer? One final tip: go outside, face the world, and start creating your own realistic and successful, happy moments.

Do you suspect that excessive social networking is 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.