Am I depressed and what can help me?

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Psychotherapist John-Paul Davies explains what depression is, how it can feel, the self-help steps that help and why working with a therapist could open up a much-needed conversation

Am I depressed and what can help me?

Every person reading this article will have some sort of relationship to the concept of depression. Whether that’s through lived experience, witnessing the depression of a friend or loved one or questioning if the tough time they are currently going through themselves, is in fact depression.

As Psychotherapist John-Paul Davies explains on Happiful’s podcast, while the initial route for diagnosing depression should be through a visit to your GP or a Psychiatrist, depression is a condition he encounters regularly in his practice. He’s eager to share how common it is and to underline the constant possibility for change and a different way of being.

“Depression is very understandable based on our physiology, our environments, the media and the type of world we live in. It’s a very human response to somebody’s early life, to current circumstances and grief,” John-Paul notes.

“There are most definitely ways we can move through it, albeit it's a gradual process, but never think that because of what’s happened in the past that you can’t change in the present. There’s always hope and things that we can do to help ourselves.”

So what is depression?

“I would say that as human beings, we're at our happiest when we're in the middle band of feelings, which you might describe as ‘calm and alive’,” John-Paul explains. “However, it’s not always possible for human beings to be in that place. If we go above that ‘calm and alive’ band we might be overly aroused, fearful or angry. If we fall below, then we can feel hopeless, helpless, apathetic and in despair. There can be a lack of physical movement that goes with that feeling too. And I think for me, depression is a situation where somebody has a tendency to fall below ‘calm and alive’.”

The impact of depression, he notes, can be far-reaching too. “Depression can have a profound adverse impact, unfortunately on all areas of life for people,” John-Paul shares. “But there can be a range of depressive experiences, some people experience it mildly while, for other people, it's something that's been around clinically quite severely for months or even years in their lives.”

What can you do to help yourself?

As well as seeking support from your GP, John

What is scapegoating, why does it happen, and how can we heal and move forward?

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Nobody likes to be blamed for something they didn’t do. So why do some of us end up getting the short straw for other people’s faults, mistakes, or wrongdoings? Here’s everything you need to know about scapegoating, why it happens, and what you can do to stop being your family’s scapegoat

What is scapegoating, why does it happen, and how can we heal and move forward?

Not every family has one, but we’ve all heard of the ‘black sheep’ or ‘problem child’ trope when it comes to family dynamics. Whether it’s a sibling, distant aunt or uncle, or maybe even you, the family scapegoat is the one that ends up getting shamed, blamed, or criticised for just about everything that goes wrong – even if those things are outside of their control. But why does this happen in some families and not others? And how can we stop being blamed when things aren't our fault?

What is scapegoating?

Scapegoating is the act of blaming someone – or a group of people – for something bad that has happened, that they didn’t do. It’s usually done for one of several reasons: to protect the overall image or reputation of a family, or as the default to always favour one or more family members (commonly referred to as the ‘golden child’, who is seen as exceptional or able to do no wrong – often without a specific reason) by placing blame on one person (the ‘scapegoat’). While it usually happens to just one person in a family, it can happen to more, depending on the dynamics.  

Typically starting during childhood, scapegoating is a sign of unhealthy family dynamics. It’s important to remember that, if you think you or someone you care about is being used as a scapegoat, it isn’t their fault.

Family members may choose a scapegoat based on arbitrary factors that the individual themselves cannot influence, such as picking an oldest/youngest child, basing their preferences on gender, appearance, intelligence, skin colour, or even sexual orientation. The person or people who are unfairly targeting you may be projecting their own feelings of shame, rage, and blame onto you, instead of dealing with uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. By finding someone to blame, they are finding a way to avoid taking responsibility.

Am I the family scapegoat?

How can you tell if you have been made into your family’s scapegoat? As one therapist on Counselling Directory explains, there are many different signs you can look out for to judge if you may have become the ‘black sheep’ in your family.

Ask yourself:

  • Do my parents treat me differently than my siblings?
  • Was I expected to take on extra caretaker responsibilities from a young age? (e.g. extra chores, responsibilities, looking after siblings, or other tasks that can fall under the parentification umbrella).
  • Are mistakes I make punished appropriately? Or are they a bigger deal than seems reasonable?
  • Do/did my parents notice or intervene when I was bullied?<

Everything you need to know about healthy eating

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Why can the idea of healthy eating feel so complicated? How do I know what foods are good for me? What should I be eating to keep myself healthy?

Everything you need to know about healthy eating

Eating healthily has so many benefits for the mind and body. Making the right food choices for you can not only support your immunity and longevity, but it can also improve your bone, skin, gut, and eye health. But being bombarded with the latest health crazes can feel both confusing and a bit intimidating at times. It’s so easy to get caught up in a bit of a daze with it all.

We’re pretty good at knowing why it’s important to eat healthily, but how to put it into action is a whole other thing. If you are finding it a struggle, there are some simple ideas to stick to that can teach you all you need to know about healthy eating.

No more fad diets

The promise of quick weight loss might seem appealing but fad diets are usually lacking in scientific evidence and can feel quite restrictive. Cutting out entire food groups can be unsustainable and may make you feel disheartened about trying to change your eating habits. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re back to square one with it all.

The dieting industry relies on people failing over and over again. In her article, 5-minute reads: Why diets don’t work, Kacie Shoulders (ANutr) explains why diets are to be avoided and why the best advice is to eat a balanced diet.

“I know you may be thinking that your diet includes a whole lot of food, or promises to. But as soon as you restrict in any way (and most diets are about low calories so will be restricting) your body thinks it’s got to battle for survival. Food is clearly scarce and it needs to adapt. That means increasing appetite hormones, decreasing satiety hormones, slowing down your metabolic rate, etc.”

Eat a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet is a way of ensuring you eat the proper nutrients from a variety of foods, helping your body feel good.

Here are a few basic tips to help you get started:

  • Try eating at least five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
  • Keep well-hydrated (six to eight glasses is recommended per day)
  • Carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, and potatoes should be about the size of your fist; this will vary depending on how active you are.
  • Eat good quality protein with every meal such as meat, fish, eggs, whole grain beans and pulses.
  • Try to reduce refined sugar found in sweet treats and fizzy drinks.
  • Keep your saturated fat intake found in crisps, pies, processed meats, and baked goods to a minimum where possible.
  • Make healthy choices based on the reference intakes guidelines found on the back of food packaging.

It’s also great to remember that being active, especially in nature, is a lovely way to support your body’s needs and complements all the great benefits of healthy eating. Looking after yourself in all these ways can help give you more energy, focus, and motivation.

Look after your attitude to food

Even though there may be certain foods y

What is sleep syncing, and how can you try it?

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Try the wellbeing trick that could transform the quality of your sleep

What is sleep syncing, and how can you try it?

When the quality of our sleep plays such an important role in our overall wellbeing – as well as our ability to successfully navigate our jobs, relationships, and responsibilities – it makes sense that we want to get it right.

That said, finding what’s right for us may take some time, and is likely to require a bit of trial and error. For one person, it may be playing sleep sounds as they fall asleep, for another it could be about changing their diet, or perhaps beginning a journaling practice in order to let go of the worries that usually keep them up at night.

But now, there’s a new option that could be the answer for you: sleep syncing. All about tuning into your body's natural circadian rhythm, sleep syncing requires you to think about, and adapt, your daily routine to line-up with what your body naturally wants to do.

“Your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your sleep-wake cycle, is your internal body clock which follows a 24 hour cycle and is influenced by many internal and external factors as well as light and dark,” Martin Seeley, sleep expert and CEO of Mattress Next Day explains. “It works to control hormone release such as melatonin and helps keep your body in a good routine.

“Sleep syncing is when you create a routine that ensures your body is sleeping and waking when it should be, giving your internal clock a gentle nudge. Sleep syncing can help improve sleep quality, increase energy levels, and help to maintain a healthy body.”

How do I sleep sync?

Let’s be honest for a minute, most of us have a routine that we have to abide by to some extent – whether that means sleeping around work, caring responsibilities, or anything else. But that doesn’t mean that sleep syncing won’t work for us. Instead, it’s about gradually aligning our lifestyle with our biological rhythms in order to wake up feeling refreshed and energised. So, how do we do it?

1. Work out what your schedule should be

As Martin points out, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends and days off work) is a great way to regulate your body’s internal clock – which will, in turn, make it easier for you to fall asleep and wake up. So, have a think about what times work for you. The average adult needs eight hours of sleep each night to feel refreshed and energised, but you may find that you need more or less. Experiment with different lengths, perhaps noting how you feel in a journal or sleep tracker. Once you’ve got a good idea of how long you need to be asleep, you can then plan for what time you should go to bed, and when you should set your alarm for in the morning.

You may also want to think about establishing a calming bedtime routine. Perhaps incorporating some self-care, journaling, reading, or light yoga.

2. Try to get natural sunlight in the morning

Don’t underestimate the power of the sun in regulating our bodies.

“Waking up to natural light can be a great way to wake up,” Martin explains. “This notifies our circadian rhythm that it's time to get up.”

When you wake up in the morni

Finding financial support following a cancer diagnosis

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Over one million people living with cancer in the UK say this will be the ‘hardest year of their life’. If you’re worried about your finances, Macmillan Cancer Support is here for you

Finding financial support following a cancer diagnosis

The cost of living crisis is impacting many of us in some way or another, but for those living with cancer, this is an especially difficult time. Macmillan wants to raise awareness of the support that is available.

The latest data from leading cancer charity, Macmillan, reveals that 16% of people going through or recovering from cancer in the UK have had to sell their personal possessions or borrow money to get by. Almost one in three are struggling to pay their basic living costs, like food and energy. Even more worryingly, some people are resorting to unlicensed lenders such as loan sharks and, in extreme cases, are even at risk of being evicted from their homes.

In these desperate times, 39% of those going through or recovering from treatment are buying or eating less food and spending more time in bed to try and stay warm. These measures are putting their health and wellbeing at risk. What’s more, one in five feel that their current financial situation is not enough to see them through the economic crisis.

The rising costs we are all experiencing are in addition to the existing financial impact that a cancer diagnosis brings. Macmillan Cancer Support is calling for people to urgently access support, so what help is available?

Financial help

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is likely to change your financial situation. You may need to reduce your working hours or take more time off. Your expenditure may also rise as you accommodate hospital parking, transport, and bills such as heating to support your treatment.

Benefits

You may be entitled to benefits or other financial support from the government. To learn more about what you may be eligible for, you can contact the Welfare Rights Advisors on the Macmillan Support Line.

Energy

Cancer treatment often means people are spending more time at home and are needing to up their heating use to keep warm during their treatment. If you’re struggling to pay your bills, Macmillan can advise on the grants available and help you navigate conversations with suppliers.

Macmillan Grants

For those on a low level of income and savings, Macmillan can offer grants. These are small, one-off payments to help people overcome extra costs. Macmillan Grants act as an extra bit of help, not a replacement for support, so they may affect the benefits that you are entitled to.

Richard Pugh, Head of Partnerships at Macmillan Cancer Support, says, “We know that this is a very difficult time for many people and that it can be hard to make the first move in reaching out for support. It’s crucial that anyone who is feeling the pressure knows that we are here for them. We have specially trained teams on our Support Line who can offer confidential advice or simply provide a listening ear during this challenging time.”

Whether it’s benefits or emotional support, Macmillian is here for you. Get in touch by calling

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