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Category Archives: Resources

Coping With Bipolar Disorder During Coronavirus

Bipolar disorder – formerly known as manic depression – is a type of mood disorder that involves intense periods of both depression and mania. Depressive states are marked by symptoms like persistent sadness or low mood, chronic fatigue and loss of interest in daily activities. Manic phases, on the other hand, usually include long bouts of sleeplessness, racing thoughts and compulsive behavior. 

There are two types of this disorder: bipolar I and bipolar II. The difference between the two is that while bipolar I involves full manic episodes, bipolar II may only include less severe, ‘hypomanic’ episodes. Both experience depression. 

Energy is the fundamental feature of bipolar disorder. “When I think of bipolar disorder, I think of it as an illness that involves energy,” says Melvin G. McInnis, MD, Director of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Program and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. “Individuals with bipolar disorder have energy levels that are going up and down all the time, and sometimes it reaches the point of being an episode of mania, or alternatively, an episode of depression.”

Why Routines are Important for Managing Bipolar

One of the main characteristics of bipolar disorder is its tendency to cause impulsivity. This means that during COVID-19, people with bipolar are more likely to behave in ways that could put them at greater risk of contracting or spreading the virus. Severe bipolar episodes can sometimes lead to trips to the emergency room or other places that compromise safety protocol. Bipolar disorder can also cause distraction (including from taking prescribed medication), which is why it’s more important than ever to create and maintain regular routines. 

Needless to say, stay-at-home orders have resulted in significant changes to normal daily life. And while these disruptions – along with new potentials for isolation, relationship conflicts and getting stuck inside our heads – are challenging to anyone, they are even more so for those with bipolar. That’s because maintaining a cadence of normalcy is hugely beneficial for living with this disorder. 

So how can people manage their bipolar during this pandemic? By placing the focus on creating strong, healthy routines – namely in three main areas:

Sleep and Bipolar Disorder: Reestablishing Rhythms

Sleep is fundamental, and sleeplessness is often one of the first signs of a manic episode onset. And while bipolar disorder causes irregular sleep patterns, these can also worsen its symptoms. All of this is made even more challenging by the disturbances COVID-19 causes in our lives, which interfere with the cues our bodies and brains are used to receiving for sleep. 

Schedule changes like working, attending classes and socializing at different times (or perhaps not at all) throw off our body clocks and get in the way of reestablishing circadian rhythms. And that has a serious impact on mood. These challenges can be addressed by: 

  • Waking up around the same time every day. 
  • Avoiding napping during the day, especially in the evening. 
  • Staying away from bright lights, especially blue light, in the evening – use a red light filter for your devices. 
  • Avoiding screen time for one hour before bed – try journaling or winding down with a good book instead.
  • Aiming to get 30 minutes of cardio per day. This has the double benefit of boosting endorphins (feel-good chemicals in your brain) and helping you sleep more restfully at night. 

Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Plan waking and sleeping times as close to your natural rhythms as possible to make this easier and optimize your energy throughout the day. 

Daily Schedules: The Key to Staying Balanced

People with bipolar disorder have especially sensitive internal clocks that can more easily lose track of time due to environmental factors. This sets the stage for a manic or depressive episode, which is why it’s important to be vigilant about routines – particularly during periods of additional stress like COVID-19. Establishing a normal schedule is a powerful way to stabilize your body clock. 

Strategies for increasing regularity in your life might include: 

  • Starting your day around the same time every day. This can seem daunting during this time of uncertainty when we’re sometimes not sure what to do with our days, but starting with a simple task like brushing your teeth can help you set things in motion more easily.
  • Trying to spend time outside each day. If this isn’t possible, position yourself so that you’re facing a window during a decent portion of your daylight hours. 
  • Eating dinner at the same time every evening.
  • Staying in regular contact with your therapist – keep them updated on your daily routines, and ask for advice on what to do if you’re not getting enough sleep.
  • Scheduling a manageable amount of activities every day, like calling friends, working out or cooking a healthy meal. 

When talking to your loved ones, try to use more immediate, face-to-face communication methods like video conferencing when possible. These offer even more social benefits, but calls and real-time texts are also rewarding.

How Substance Abuse Affects Bipolar Disorder

Substance use has increased dramatically during COVID-19 as people find themselves pushed further into isolation. People struggling with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for substance abuse, as manic episodes often drive people to reach for drugs or alcohol to calm themselves down. But it’s important to note that any mind-altering substance only serves to further destabilize mood and compound the effects of this complex mental health disorder. 

COVID-19 is also expressed in heart symptoms, and many substances can lead to heart problems – all the more reason to avoid taking that route in this current environment. This includes narcotic medications taken in ways other than those prescribed by your doctor. 

Bipolar Can be Managed, Even in a Pandemic

Despite the challenges COVID-19 poses to us all, it’s important to keep in mind that life in the new normal can be entirely manageable – even for those with bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar sufferer Christina Stiehl says the pandemic came as a shock at first. “Before the pandemic hit, (maintaining my routine) meant getting up early, going to the gym or a fitness class, making a protein shake, getting ready, and taking the subway into the office,” she recalls. “As my schedule and daily life changed completely, it really took a toll on my mental health.” 

But while she was initially anxiety-ridden and even found it difficult to even eat regularly, after the first few weeks passed, she started to find her footing and adapt to her new daily life. She credits live Zoom fitness classes, meal prep and regular walks outside with helping her take charge of her wellbeing again. 

If you’re struggling with bipolar disorder and are finding it challenging to adapt to recent changes, you can find your stride again, too. Ayadi can help. We offer confidential, one-on-one counseling with professional therapists via our convenient app – download it here to connect with a bipolar-specialized therapist today. 

How to Get Treatment for Depression

We’ve all experienced sad days when we’ve felt frustrated or defeated. Sadness is a natural part of the human range of emotions. But if these feelings become persistent or oppressive, and disrupt your daily life, they may be a sign of depression.

Depression is a common medical disorder affecting over 264 million people worldwide. It can cause symptoms that interfere with everyday life, from the way you think and feel to your eating habits.

Though there’s a lot of information online about depression, it’s important to note that only mental health professionals should diagnose this disorder. Certified therapists are trained to help those with mild to severe depression, and can help you evaluate your options and create a tailored plan to support you on your journey towards healing. 

Symptoms of Depression

How do I know if I have depression? 

This is a common question for people experiencing depression symptoms. Depression is a complex medical condition involving multiple interacting factors. Speaking with a therapist allows you to determine whether depression is in fact the cause of your symptoms.

These symptoms differ from person to person and can vary in length and severity. They can include: 

  • Prolonged feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Fatigue 
  • Anxiety

You might feel unsure about whether what you’re experiencing is depression, or if you’re just going through a temporary period of the blues. Grief and depression do share similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate between the two. Because of the complex nature of depression, it is not recommended to self-diagnose – as tempting as that may sound. A trained mental health therapist can help you pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.

Common Causes of Depression

Depression rarely comes from a single cause. In most cases, depression is the result of a mix of factors, which can include:

  •         Genetics
  •         Biology
  •         Chronic medical conditions
  •         Trauma
  •         Grief
  •         Stressful life events
  •         Medication or substance abuse

How Can Therapy Help with My Depression Symptoms?

A therapist who specializes in depression can help you navigate and manage depression. Therapy sessions offer a chance to talk about how you’re feeling, uncover the causes of your shifts in mood and access strategies for managing depression’s symptoms. Gaining a better understanding of yourself not only helps you understand and overcome depression symptoms, it’s an empowering process in and of itself.

How Do I Talk to My Therapist About Depression?

Finding a therapist you feel comfortable with, and cultivating that relationship, makes a big difference in treatment.

 Before speaking with a therapist, you might have some ideas about who you’re looking for: are you more comfortable speaking to a man or a woman; someone around your age or older? These are some factors to take into consideration when choosing a therapist, to ensure you find the best possible fit. 

Opening up to your therapist can be difficult – but don’t worry, your therapist is experienced at this and will guide the conversation. You might cover topics like:

  • What’s bothering you – worries at work, daily frustration, causes of anxiety
  • Your relationships – the important people in your life, your daily interactions, how you feel around others 
  • Life experiences – past or recent events, how they made you feel 

Ayadi’s therapists are trained to listen with an empathetic ear, creating a safe, nonjudgmental space where you’re free to express yourself.

Types of Depression Help Available

There are different types of psychotherapy for depression, all of which can be effective. You might prefer one over the others – your therapist can help you decide which is best for you. Some examples are: 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This talk therapy is based on the understanding that your thoughts, feelings and actions are connected. CBT with the right therapist can transform the way you think and behave.

Interpersonal Therapy

This therapy focuses on resolving interpersonal issues, addressing your interactions with others while examining social roles.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

A type of CBT, this therapy aims to teach you the skills you need to cope with stress and regulate your emotions. 

There are many more treatment options for depression in addition to these. Understanding what’s available to you will help you discover which approach resonates most.

Trust and Confidentiality Are Key 

It’s important for there to be trust between patients and therapists discussing depression. Protocols such as HIPAA (the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protect your data and keep your information safe. On top of this, certified mental health therapists must adhere to high standards of client confidentiality in practice, keeping your information safe.

Finding Safe, High-quality Depression Treatment During COVID-19 

Through times of isolation and anxiety, it’s normal for feelings of depression to start appearing. Or, you may have already been experiencing symptoms of depression before strict social distancing and lockdown measures were enforced, and you’re concerned about being able to reach a therapist.

Ayadi allows you to easily connect with professional therapists who specialize in treatment for depression through an app-based platform. This means you can access effective therapy from the comfort of your own home, at any time. 

Download the Ayadi app today to speak with a therapist about treatment for depression, and take the first step towards feeling well! 

Positive Potentials in Times of Crisis

The past few weeks have seen most of the world’s countries go into some form of a lockdown, with terms like ‘quarantine’ and ‘social distancing’ a part of our new vocabulary. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shaken up life as we know it. Reflecting on the current global state, it’s common for feelings of overwhelm or anxiety to build. It’s okay to feel bogged down by the uncertainty – our lives have been upended and the world is experiencing a collective shock. This is far from what we define as normal.
But, here’s the thing: in times of crisis, there’s room for incredible possibilities. Margaret Drabble sums it up beautifully:
“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.”

Embracing a New World

At points in our lives deemed critical junctures, positive potentials will show themselves – and we have the power to embrace them:

A time for re-evaluation and reflection.

While we may have been charging ahead at full speed before, the universe has given us an opportunity to hit the pause button. A chance to slow down, breathe and reflect. Reflection helps you sift through the chaos and organize your thoughts. It becomes a useful tool for learning about yourself, for forming an understanding of your values and for growing. If you’re unsure where to start, here are some steps you can take to practice reflective work. This crisis has acted as a reminder that we do need to periodically step back from our busy lives and re-evaluate what’s important to us.

Some of us might be feeling stuck as we attempt to navigate through the ongoing pandemic. If you’re finding it difficult to organize your thoughts, know that you don’t have to struggle alone. Professional therapists can offer invaluable support and guidance during these troubling times.

Reconnect with the essentials.

What do you value?

During periods of crisis, we tend to shed what’s unnecessary and rediscover the things we truly hold dear. With our once-hectic schedules reduced, plus all the other busy things consuming our attention put to a halt, we can be more in-the-moment – and experience what it really means to be human.

This might present itself in the form of hands-on hobbies, like cooking or art, or in experiencing the beauty of nature. A study led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter revealed that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces were likely to report better health and wellbeing than those who didn’t.

Reconnecting with the essentials helps us stay grounded, which in turn reduces stress and promotes healing. Think about using this time to connect back to what you love. Read books, admire greenscapes, make art, and rediscover life’s simpler pleasures.

The joy of being with family.

“I wish we spent more time together.”

How many times have we said this about our families, when life was in full swing and plans kept piling up? Before the coronavirus pandemic, many of us missed out on countless quality time with our families – time we’ll never get back. Parents around the world have been spending less time with their kids on average, and in one recent survey conducted by Centrepoint in the UAE, 46% of 5,043 UAE residents polled said they spent less than one hour a day of family time.

Now, with other activities put to a halt, there’s a beautiful opportunity to connect with loved ones again. To spend quality time with one another when you couldn’t before. By spending more time together, you’ll certainly make new memories, and you’ll discover new things about each other that can strengthen your bond. Take comfort in knowing that through all of this, we have new opportunities to connect with others on a deeper level.

The human side shines through.

We’ve seen the videos of doctors in Iran dancing to uplift patients’ spirits, or entire neighborhoods coming together to make music on their balconies in Italy. People are lending each other a helping hand. We’re seeing people holding fundraisers for their neighbors and volunteers sending daily deliveries of essential goods to at-risk groups. Through all of this, with everybody facing difficulties, the human side is shining through.

Entire communities are coming together with empathy and compassion. Heart-warming moments are being created across the globe. The COVID-19 pandemic shows us that in times of crisis, humanity prevails.

The flip side of fear is love.

Love is a universal language – humans are deeply rooted in love, it’s a part of our nature. It’s important to remember that even though there are feelings of worry and fear right now, the flip side of that is love. There is so much potential for all around us right now to take better care of ourselves, our families and our communities.

Receive compassionate, confidential support.

If you’re feeling stuck, anxious or afraid through all of this, know that you do not need to struggle alone. Ayadi’s fully certified therapists are here to listen with an understanding heart and full confidentiality and offer professional support to help you navigate these unprecedented times.

Download the Ayadi app to talk to the therapist of your choice today.

Learning to Embrace Uncertainty

The current state of the world is marked largely by uncertainty. Suddenly finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory, and not yet knowing what the future holds, can give rise to a number of uncomfortable emotions. When a world that once felt predictable becomes a world full of unknowns, it’s easy to feel out of control.

Many of us see the world around us as being, for the most part, stable. We find this idea of stability comforting, and losing touch with that sense of control can prompt fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, and even loss as we grieve parts of our lives that no longer exist in the way we thought they would. But in all of this discomfort lies a hidden treasure: an opportunity to grow our powers of acceptance and adaptability. When we step out of the familiar territory and embrace the unknown, a world of possibilities opens within us.

The good news is, however uncomfortable it may be, this process and the emotions that come along with it are completely normal.

The Unknown: A Normal Part of Life

Facing unknowns is an inherent part of life. Learning to be okay with uncertainty is an extremely beneficial life skill to develop. In fact, the ability to tolerate not knowing is directly linked to our ability to feel content.

Instead of avoiding our fear of the unknown and suppressing the feelings, it brings up for us, what would happen if we stayed present with that feeling? Uncertainty is simply a stage within a larger process of change. We move out of our comfort zone, into uncertainty, and finally into a new, more evolved stage of being. But this requires us to work through our fears rather than allowing them to control the outcomes.

Let’s take a look at some ways to approach this process.

Ways to Work Through Uncertainty

Feel your feelings.

Becoming aware that a situation is out of your control can bring up fear, anxiety, and sadness: emotions we’re normally taught to suppress. Instead, try allowing them to be there without resisting them, as resistance only traps fear and causes it to grow. Practice being compassionate and nonjudgmental towards yourself as you experience your emotions.

If this is your first time doing this, the practice can seem counterintuitive, as we’re largely taught to believe such feelings should be avoided, or mean there’s something wrong with us. If you’re not sure where to begin, a certified mental health counselor can help guide you through this process.

Identify what you can and can’t control.

Predictability is an illusion we create for ourselves. The reality is that much of life is beyond our control – things around us can change at any time.

Take an inventory of what’s going on in your life at the moment, and try to determine what’s in your control and what’s not. We don’t have control over what happens in the world, but we do have control over how we choose to respond. We can choose to constantly check the news and fixate on worries about the future, or we can choose to prepare ourselves to the extent that we realistically can.

For example:

  • You may not be able to go to the gym, but you can work out at home.
  • You may not be able to find certain sanitary supplies, but you can practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly and avoiding touching your face.
  • You may not have control over your family members’ decisions, but you can check in with them regularly to see if they’re taking the recommended precautions and make sure they have
  • everything they need in place to do so.
  • You may not be able to go outside right now, but you can make sure to get sun, take in views of the outdoors or listen to a playlist of nature sounds each day.
  • External factors may be in flux, but you can establish a daily routine that helps you get into a rhythm and accomplish tasks when you’re feeling well.

Reconnect with the essentials.

Use this as an opportunity to reassess the fundamentals of your life that matter most, such your relationships and self-care. You may find that your priorities have shifted to more truly reflect your values, and that many of the sources of your anxiety were in fact not that important to you in the larger picture. For example, you may realize that spending more time with your family helps you feel grounded, and that it’s worth it to you to forego those extra hours at the office.

Embrace the upsides of developing new skills.

When you’re able to grow your tolerance of uncertainty, you also grow your adaptability – your internal resources for adjusting to new circumstances. This kind of resilience enables us to switch gears more easily and approach the future with a more open and optimistic mind.

This doesn’t just apply to the coronavirus; uncertainty is bound to recur at various stages throughout life. If you use this challenge as an opportunity to add tools to your mental wellness toolkit, they’ll be there to serve you for the rest of your life – and they’ll be ready next time you need them.

Get the support you need.

If you’re struggling with anxiety and worry about the future, Ayadi can help you build the tools you need to thrive in this phase and beyond. Our experienced counselors are here to listen to what you’re going through and offer their compassion, understanding, and guidance.

Download the Ayadi app to connect with a certified mental health counselor today.

Do I Need Treatment for Anxiety

Stress is a normal part of everyday life – in fact, it’s designed to protect us from danger. But while in today’s world our stresses usually aren’t life-threatening, our anxiety levels sometimes respond as if they are. Anxiety is a normal response to stress. When worrying becomes excessive and persistent and starts to interfere with daily life, it may be time to consider options for treating it.

It’s important to note that while it may be tempting to self-diagnose an anxiety disorder based on the information you find online, a mental health professional can help you determine, and get to the root of, what’s really going on. To do so, your therapist might start by discussing the issues you’re currently experiencing, your thoughts and feelings, and the potential origins of your patterns. Often, therapists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the standard psychiatric manual, to help them diagnose anxiety.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Anxiety disorders, which can include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder and panic disorder, may cause symptoms like:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Impaired mental focus
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Sleeplessness

Most people experience some of the above symptoms from time to time. A qualified mental health counselor can help you determine if anxiety is in fact the cause of this, or if there’s another contributing factor at play.

Can Anxiety be Treated Without Medication?

Some people who suffer from acute anxiety may find medication helpful for getting severe episodes under control. In some cases, chronic anxiety may be treated with antidepressants. And some people may be able to make lifestyle adjustments or use treatment methods that don’t involve medication at all.

It’s important to note that despite the stigma surrounding medication, choosing this course of action is completely okay if you truly feel it meets your needs. Also be aware that some anxiety medications are habit-forming if used excessively, which is why it’s important to take them exactly as directed. A psychiatrist can explain your treatment options, inform you of the pros and cons of each and help you decide which route is best for you.

Psychotherapy (also known as counseling our talk therapy) is also a highly effective approach to treating anxiety. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you understand what’s causing your anxiety and start to develop skills for managing it.

Can Anxiety be Treated at Home?

Often, small changes to your lifestyle can make a noticeable difference in reducing your symptoms, coping with anxiety and preventing it from occurring as often. These might include:

  • Nutrition – It’s long been known that whole, nutrient-dense foods have a positive impact on mood, but modern research reveals increasing evidence of a strong link between your brain and gut health.
  • Fitness – Exercise boosts endorphins (feel-good chemicals in your brain), and doing it regularly can reduce your baseline stress level.
  • Sleep hygiene – How well-rested you are has a huge impact on how you feel. Getting regular, high-quality sleep is essential – talk to your therapist if anxiety is interfering with your sleep patterns.
    There is also a wide range of non-medication alternatives for treating anxiety, including mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, herbal supplements, and more. But each person responds differently to various treatments, and some herbal remedies can interact with other medications – a counselor may recommend certain therapeutic approaches based on your specific needs.

Finding a Treatment Plan That Works for You

Everyone’s causes and experiences of anxiety are different, and which treatment you respond to best depends on your personality, preferences, and circumstances. A certified mental health professional can help you discover what triggers your stress, and get strategies in place for preventing and dealing with anxiety when it arises. Once you have a treatment plan, stick with it – progress is a process and consistency leads to results!

Ayadi offers anxiety treatment via a convenient app that allows you to connect with professional therapists from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Download our app to get help for anxiety today.