Women experienced high rates of mental health problems early in COVID-19 pandemic

A study at the University of Chicago Medicine found U.S. women experienced increased incidence of health-related socioeconomic risks (HRSRs), such as food insecurity and interpersonal violence, early in the COVID-19 pandemic. This was associated with "alarmingly high rates" of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. The research was published April 5 in the Journal of Women's Health.

Other studies have found evidence for higher rates of anxiety and depression and related issues, such as alcohol overuse, connected to the pandemic — but this study is the first to link early pandemic-related changes in HRSRs to mental health effects in women.

Most national surveys tend to report aggregated findings rather than stratifying by gender. Those early studies gave us snapshots of the health and behaviors of the whole population, but gave us limited insight on women. Yet, women constitute the majority of the essential workforce, including healthcare workers, and we wanted to make sure that women's experiences were being documented."

Stacy Lindau, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Medicine-Geriatrics, UChicago Medicine

The researchers conducted a survey of 3,200 U.S. women over the age of 18 between April 10 and 24, 2020. More than 40% of participants reported experiencing at least one HRSR during the prior year, which included issues such as food insecurity, housing instability, difficulties with their utilities, transportation challenges and interpersonal violence; 22% reported experiencing two or more HRSRs during the year before the pandemic.

But by the first spring of the pandemic, nearly half of all women — including 29% of those who did not experience pre-pandemic HRSRs — reported new (incident) or worsening HRSRs. The greatest challenge was an increase in food insecurity. Nearly 80% of those without pre-pandemic HRSRs who reported a new HRSR became food insecure. Almost a quarter experienced interpersonal violence.

"It's incredible and concerning that nearly half of women — including more than a quarter of those who had no health-related socioeconomic risks — had experienced incident or worsening conditions," said Lindau. "It's even more striking that more than a quarter of the women who had none of these risks in January or February 2020 now had at least one by April.

That points to the likelihood that a large portion of women were already near the edge of vulnerability. When the world shut down, transportation became more difficult, food access became harder, and very soon after the crisis began, many women found themselves struggling to meet basic needs."

Those who experienced socioeconomic risks prior to the pandemic also experienced the greatest increase in insecurity. Three-quarters of women with pre-pandemic HRSRs experienced new or worsening risks during the early pandemic; 38% experienced two or more, with more than half experiencing increased food insecurity.

Significantly, the survey also found that 29% of women reported symptoms of depression and anxiety — nearly twice the estimated pre-pandemic rates. One in six women screened positive for symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a rate similar to that seen after other significant disasters, such as the SARS and Ebola epidemics. Those who experienced at least one new or worsening HRSR were at significantly higher risk of experiencing anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

"Given very high rates of these problems, we're really concerned about the current capacity of our mental health system," said co-author Marie Tobin, MD, Professor of Psychiatry at UChicago Medicine. "Women are principally responsible for parenting, family caregiving and other essential work — they are key to managing and recovering from this pandemic, and now are afflicted by very significant socioeconomic risk levels that appear to be drivers of anxiety, depression and traumatic stress. We should be especially concerned that socioeconomically vulnerable women are at high risk for developing pandemic-related psychiatric morbidity."

These results, the investigators say, should help spur healthcare providers and policy makers to address the underlying and modifiable health-related socioeconomic risk factors in order to prevent these negative outcomes.

"We can't change a person's gender, but we can act to ensure that all people have the basic nutrition and shelter they need to survive," said Lindau. "We can intervene on transportation barriers, we can pass policies to delay or offset rent or utilities payments. These are modifiable factors that can be addressed by leveraging the humanitarian resources of our communities and implementing policies that ensure everyone can live independently with their basic needs met. Ensuring equitable access to the basics would be a powerful buffer against mental illness in general and could help mitigate costly and painful mental health crisis among women and everyone who depends on us in the context of this and other public health emergencies."


University of Chicago Medical Center

Journal reference:

Lindau, S. T., et al. (2021) Change in Health-Related Socioeconomic Risk Factors and Mental Health During the Early Phase of the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Survey of U.S. Women. Journal of Women's Health. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2020.8879.

Posted in: Medical Condition News | Women's Health News | Disease/Infection News

Tags: Alcohol, Anxiety, Cancer, Children, Depression, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Health Systems, Healthcare, Hospital, Medicine, Mental Health, Nutrition, Obstetrics, Pandemic, Parenting, Physiology, Psychiatry, Public Health, Research, SARS, Stress

Comments (0)

Source: Read Full Article

Researchers explore nanotechnology’s potential to deliver synergistic therapeutics for COVID-19

From public health to the economy, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound impact in nearly all spheres of life. This disease, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pathogen, has claimed over 2.7 million lives so far. Coupled with sickness and mortality issues, the lockdown measures, social distancing and isolation have impacted the mental health of people everywhere.

Anxiety, confusion and fear have taken a toll on the mental health of many people worldwide. To combat this, researchers exploited some naturally occurring antiviral and brain-boosting compounds that may provide new insight.

A team of scientists, from the University of Kashmir, India; Rutgers University, USA; and Prince of Songkla University, Thailand, reviewed the nanoencapsulation approaches of synergistic compounds (Lectins, Caffeine, Cocoa, Flavonoids, Quercetin) and the role of nanotechnology in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. They discussed the dual action of such compounds for their brain-boosting benefits and antiviral activities. This review was published recently in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules.

Study: Exploitation of polyphenols and proteins using nanoencapsulation for anti-viral and brain boosting properties – Evoking a synergistic strategy to combat COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: NIAID / Flickr

Currently, there are no targeted and safe therapeutic alternatives for COVID-19, exploring the brain-boosting compounds, possibly augmented with antiviral activities, is a prospective research approach. The reviewers here discussed some compounds, derived naturally, like quercitin, caffeine, lectins from banana (Banlec) and cocoa flavonoids. They summarized the natural compounds with their antiviral and brain-boosting properties in this review.

Previously, it has been reported that the COVID-19 situation triggered various mental issues like difficulty in sleep, social media distress and paranoia of acquiring this viral infection; 80% of the participants in the study needed mental healthcare. This state of mind may also result in oxidative stress and loss of immunity, aggravating other symptoms.

Quercitin might prevent the neurons from apoptosis (programmed cell death) and oxidative stress. While caffeine and lectin might provide anti-depressant effects, cocoa flavonoids act as a neuro-protectant.

These suggested compounds are reported to also have antiviral activities. Quercitin has inhibitory action against SARS and MERS, two closely-related pathogens to SARS-CoV-2. Caffeine has antiviral activity against human immunodeficiency virus type I (HIV-1), lectin against influenza virus and the flavonoids can inhibit the fusion of viral membrane with that of the lysosome.

The emerging field of nanotechnology has made a significant impact on the target delivery of nutraceuticals and therapeutics.”

For effective delivery of these compounds to the target sites, nanoencapsulation is a novel tool. It has been established that nanotechnology's application enhances the thermal stability, oral bioavailability and water solubility of the drug. Nanoencapsulation may confer benefits to the drug by modifying the pharmacologically active part of these compounds.

The engineered nanoparticles possess high surface to volume ratio, good absorption properties and many bioactive components including resveratrol, curcumin, polyphenols, genistein, lycopene, anthocyanins and quercetin have been subjected to nanoencapsulation to combat the poor water solubility, low oral bioavailability and low taste profiles.”

Lots of synthesis methods and techniques are available for the nanoencapsulation process. For example, nanotransporters like yeast cells, nanogels, nanofibres and nanosponges are fabricated from polysaccharides and lipids to be employed for nanoencapsulation. Starch nanocomposites and chitosan-coated liposomes, superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles, alginate microparticles and gold nanoparticles are some of the possible nanocarriers. The reviewers recommend the suitable nanoencapsulation approach for each of the compounds discussed here in the review.

The reviewers discussed the issues in drug delivery and how nanotechnological based approaches may help overcome them. For example, they discussed the mechanism of action of an antiviral vaccine named, Nuvec®, which are silica-nanoparticles surface-functionalized with polyethylenimine for carrying nucleic acids. An ideal delivery system for vaccines and medicines, these nanoparticles protect the cargo from nucleic acid enzymes and do not cause any inflammatory response.

Theranostic nanoparticles, classified as inorganic, organic and virus-like self-assembling protein nanoparticles, are excellent tools in the application of nanotechnology to combat COVID-19. Also, the quantum dots (the semiconductor nanomaterials) ranging from 1 to 10 nm with tunable optical wavelength, are novel imaging probes.

The researchers report that owing to their nano size and shape, the quantum dots penetrate the SARS-CoV-2 with sizes ranging from 60 and 140 nm, and the quantum dots also sequester the S protein of SARS-CoV-2 due to their positive surface charge. It can also interact with the negative RNA strand of the virus, creating reactive oxygen species within SARS-CoV-2.

It is established that the nanoparticles can deliver a range of antiviral moieties and target both the adaptive as well as the innate immune system. With nano-dimensions, high surface-to-volume ratio, flexibility and option of administration via alternative routes, the potential of nanotechnology in fighting COVID-19 has not only been realized in the context of developing a nano-vaccine, but by delivering the nano-based antiviral agents, the reviewers explain.

This review has summed up some of the brain-boosting as well as antiviral compounds and highlighted the nano-encapsulating of these synergistic compounds; this may pave a way in strategizing the formulation of therapeutics for combating the adverse conditions of COVID-19.

Journal reference:
  • Nairah Noor, Adil Gani, Asir Gani, Asima Shah, Zanoor ul Ashraf. (2021) Exploitation of polyphenols and proteins using nanoencapsulation for antiviral and brain boosting properties – Evoking a synergistic strategy to combat COVID-19 pandemic, International Journal of Biological Macromolecules. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2021.03.028 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0141813021005456

Posted in: Medical Research News | Disease/Infection News | Healthcare News

Tags: Antiviral Drug, Anxiety, Apoptosis, Banana, Brain, Caffeine, Cell, Cell Death, Chitosan, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Disease COVID-19, Curcumin, Drug Delivery, Gold Nanoparticles, Healthcare, HIV, HIV-1, Imaging, Immune System, Immunodeficiency, Influenza, Lipids, Liposomes, Lycopene, Macromolecules, Mental Health, Microparticles, Mortality, Nanoparticles, Nanotechnology, Neurons, Nucleic Acid, Oxidative Stress, Oxygen, Pandemic, Paranoia, Pathogen, Programmed Cell Death, Protein, Public Health, Quantum Dots, Quercetin, Research, Respiratory, Resveratrol, RNA, SARS, SARS-CoV-2, Severe Acute Respiratory, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Sleep, Stress, Syndrome, Therapeutics, Vaccine, Virus, Wavelength, Yeast

Comments (0)

Written by

Dr. Ramya Dwivedi

Ramya has a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the National Chemical Laboratories (CSIR-NCL), in Pune. Her work consisted of functionalizing nanoparticles with different molecules of biological interest, studying the reaction system and establishing useful applications.

Source: Read Full Article

Opioid use is linked with other forms of substance misuse, mental health problems

Opioid use has dramatically increased in the 21st century, especially among young adults. A new study from the University of Illinois provides insights on usage patterns among Illinois high school students to help inform prevention and treatment strategies.

"The societal and personal costs of opioid misuse are massive. There's been a lot of focus on trying to understand how to combat the current epidemic. But we also need to make sure we have good data in order to know how we should apply our efforts," says Allen Barton, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at U of I and lead author on the study.

The researchers based their study on information from the 2018 Illinois Youth Survey (IYS), which measures risk behaviors among high school students.

Over 230,000 students across Illinois typically participate in the biannual survey, says Doug Smith, professor of social work and director of the Center for Prevention Research and Development at U of I. Smith is co-author on the opioid study and principal investigator for the IYS.

The study focused on 18-to 19-year-olds, the beginning of a developmental stage when opioid use vulnerability is highest, Barton says.

Among the more than 26,000 respondents in this age group, 5.6% (1,468 youth) indicated they had used prescription pain medication in the past year without a prescription or differently than intended; that is, non-medical use of prescription opioids.

Another 2.6% (682 youth) reported they had used prescription painkillers to get high. This addresses motive of use, which is an important part of understanding the issue."

Allen Barton, Study Lead Author and Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Illinois

Finally, 0.4% of the sample (105 youth) reported they had used heroin in the past year. Heroin is another form of opioid that is not in the form of prescription medication, Barton notes.

The researchers found clear differences in characteristics of opioid users versus non-users.

"The individuals engaging in opioid use are also engaging in heightened levels of other forms of substance misuse, primarily alcohol and cannabis. They have more mental health concerns and higher suicide intent. And those who are using opioids report much lower grades and much higher levels of being victims of bullying," Barton says.

As opioid use is closely linked with other forms of substance misuse, counselors and medical practitioners should treat it as part of a pattern, Smith states.

"This contradicts the typical image of a non-substance-using youth who one day decides to use opioids and then gets progressively addicted. That doesn't typically happen. These kids are already using other substances, often at levels indicative of problematic use. It seems more like a progression of general substance use than specific opioid usage," he notes.

The researchers also analyzed the data to look for profiles among the subset of youth using opioids.

"Our findings indicated three main profiles of individuals reporting opioid use. You have one group, comprising slightly more than half of this subsample, that's using opioids, but not specifically to get high. You have another group of individuals reporting a clear motive of use to get high. And a third, small group that's just using heroin," Barton notes.

While there were many similarities among the three groups, individuals who reported using opioids to get high also reported much more problematic substance abuse overall, as well as higher suicide risk compared to people who are engaged in non-medical use of prescription opioids without such motive, Smith adds.

The researchers say their study shows opioid use is a complex issue which needs tailored approaches to treatment and prevention.

"In order to address opioid use at this developmental stage, which is a transition to adulthood, we need to realize it is indicative of a broader pattern of factors related to other substance use and mental health issues that require attention. A one-step approach to just address the opioid use may not be sufficient," Barton states.

"The good news in this data is that opioid use rates are very low for this demographic across the state. However, for a subset of youth who do use, it appears to be making a difficult situation all the more challenging."

Barton and Smith say the correlation with other forms of substance misuse can help identify opioid use at an early stage.

"For any youth who is getting treatment for another substance, we need to be screening for whether they're using opioids, and we need to have a prevention program within a treatment program," Smith says.


University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

Journal reference:

Barton, A. W., et al. (2021) Opioid use at the transition to emerging adulthood: A latent class analysis of non-medical use of prescription opioids and heroin use. Addictive Behaviors. doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106757.

Posted in: Healthcare News

Tags: Alcohol, Bullying, Cannabis, Heroin, Mental Health, Opioids, Pain, Research, students, Substance Abuse

Comments (0)

Source: Read Full Article

Americans coping with pandemic stress report undesired changes to weight, increased drinking

As growing vaccine demand signals a potential turning point in the global COVID-19 pandemic, the nation's health crisis is far from over. One year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, many adults report undesired changes to their weight, increased drinking and other negative behavior changes that may be related to an inability to cope with prolonged stress, according to the American Psychological Association's latest Stress in America™ poll.

APA's survey of U.S. adults, conducted in late February 2021 by The Harris Poll, shows that a majority of adults (61%) experienced undesired weight changes – weight gain or loss — since the pandemic started, with 42% reporting they gained more weight than they intended. Of those, they gained an average of 29 pounds (the median amount gained was 15 pounds) and 10% said they gained more than 50 pounds, the poll found.

Such changes come with significant health risks, including higher vulnerability to serious illness from the coronavirus. For the 18% of Americans who said they lost more weight than they wanted to, the average amount of weight lost was 26 pounds (the median amount lost was 12 pounds). Adults also reported unwanted changes in sleep and increased alcohol consumption. Two in 3 (67%) said they have been sleeping more or less than desired since the pandemic started. Nearly 1 in 4 adults (23%) reported drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress.

We've been concerned throughout this pandemic about the level of prolonged stress, exacerbated by the grief, trauma and isolation that Americans are experiencing. This survey reveals a secondary crisis that is likely to have persistent, serious mental and physical health consequences for years to come. Health and policy leaders must come together quickly to provide additional behavioral health supports as part of any national recovery plan."

Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA's Chief Executive Officer

The pandemic has taken a particularly heavy toll on parents of children under 18. While slightly more than 3 in 10 adults (31%) reported their mental health has worsened compared with before the pandemic, nearly half of mothers who still have children home for remote learning (47%) reported their mental health has worsened; 30% of fathers who still have children home said the same.

Parents were more likely than those without children to have received treatment from a mental health professional (32% vs. 12%) and to have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the coronavirus pandemic began (24% vs. 9%). More than half of fathers (55%) reported gaining more weight than they wanted to, and nearly half (48%) said they have been drinking more alcohol to cope with stress.

The majority of essential workers (54%), such as health care workers and people who work in law enforcement, said they have relied on a lot of unhealthy habits to get them through the pandemic. Nearly 3 in 10 (29%) said their mental health has worsened, while 3 in 4 (75%) said they could have used more emotional support than they received since the pandemic began.

Essential workers were more than twice as likely as adults who are not essential workers to have received treatment from a mental health professional (34% vs. 12%) and to have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the coronavirus pandemic started (25% vs. 9%).

Further, people of color reported unintended physical changes during the pandemic. Hispanic adults were most likely to report undesired changes to sleep (78% Hispanic vs. 76% Black, 63% white and 61% Asian), physical activity levels (87% Hispanic vs. 84% Black, 81% Asian and 79% white) and weight (71% Hispanic vs. 64% Black, 58% white and 54% Asian) since the pandemic began. Black Americans were most likely to report feelings of concern about the future.

More than half said they do not feel comfortable going back to living life like they used to before the pandemic (54% Black vs. 48% Hispanic, 45% Asian and 44% white) and that they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends (57% Black vs. 51% Asian, 50% Hispanic and 47% white).

"It's clear that the pandemic is continuing to have a disproportionate effect on certain groups," said APA President Jennifer Kelly, PhD. "We must do more to support communities of color, essential workers and parents as they continue to cope with the demands of the pandemic and start to show the physical consequences of prolonged stress."

Overall, Americans are hesitant about the future, regardless of vaccination status. Nearly half of adults (49%) said they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction once the pandemic ends. Adults who received a COVID-19 vaccine were just as likely as those who had not received a vaccine to say this (48% vs. 49%, respectively).

The full report and more graphics are available at http://www.stressinamerica.org.


This Stress in America™ survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association between Feb. 19 and 24, 2021, among 3,013 adults age 18+ who reside in the U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Data were weighted to reflect their proportions in the population based on the 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS) by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Weighting variables included age by gender, race/ethnicity, education, region, household income and time spent online. Hispanic adults were also weighted for acculturation, taking into account respondents' household language as well as their ability to read and speak in English and Spanish. Country of origin (U.S./non-U.S.) was also included for Hispanic and Asian subgroups. Weighting variables for Gen Z adults (ages 18 to 24) included education, age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, household income, and size of household, based on the 2019 CPS. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

Parents are defined as U.S. adults ages 18+ who have at least one person under the age of 18 living in their household at least 50% of the time for whom they are the parent or guardian.


American Psychological Association

Posted in: Medical Research News | Healthcare News

Tags: Alcohol, Children, Coronavirus, Education, Health Care, Language, Mental Health, Pandemic, Physical Activity, Psychology, Sleep, Stress, students, Trauma, Vaccine

Comments (0)

Source: Read Full Article

FDA warns 10 companies for selling unlawful dietary supplements that claim to treat mental health problems

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced warning letters to 10 companies for illegally selling dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent depression and other mental health disorders, in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). The warning letters were issued to: Enlifta LLC; Lifted Naturals; Mountain Peak Nutritionals; SANA Group LLC.; Wholesome Wellness; Dr. Garber’s Natural Solutions; ProHealth Inc.; Blossom Nature LLC; FDC Nutrition Inc.; and Silver Star Brands, Inc.

Dietary supplements that claim to cure, treat, mitigate or prevent depression and other mental health disorders are unapproved new drugs that could potentially harm consumers who use these products instead of seeking proven treatments from qualified health care providers. This is especially concerning during the ongoing pandemic, when consumers are even more susceptible to depression and mental health issues. The agency is committed to taking action to protect the public from unlawful dietary supplements.”

Steven Tave, Director, Office of Dietary Supplement Programs, FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

Under the FD&C Act, products intended to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent disease are drugs and are subject to the requirements that apply to drugs, even if they are labeled as dietary supplements. Unlike drugs approved by the FDA, the agency has not evaluated whether the unapproved products subject to the warning letters announced today are effective for their intended use, what the proper dosage might be, how they could interact with FDA-approved drugs or other substances, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.

In general, consumers should be cautious of products marketed and sold online with unproven claims to prevent, treat, mitigate or cure diseases. The FDA advises consumers to talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional before deciding to purchase or use any dietary supplement or drug. For example, some supplements might interact with medicines or other supplements. Also, if claims sound too good to be true, they probably are.

If a consumer thinks that a product might have caused a reaction or an illness, they should immediately stop using the product and contact their health care provider. The FDA also encourages health care professionals and consumers to report adverse reactions associated with FDA-regulated products to the FDA using MedWatch or the Safety Reporting Portal.

The FDA has requested responses from the companies within 15 working days stating how they will address these issues, or providing their reasoning and supporting information as to why they think the products are not in violation of the law. Failure to correct violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure and/or injunction.


U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Posted in: Healthcare News

Tags: Cosmetics, Depression, Doctor, Drugs, Food Safety, Health and Human Services, Health Care, Mental Health, Nutrition, Pandemic, Pharmacist, Public Health, Seizure, Supplements, Tobacco, Veterinary

Comments (0)

Source: Read Full Article

Does your mind feel like it’s moving in slow motion? You could be dealing with brain fog

Written by Lauren Geall

Feeling tired all the time and struggling to concentrate? You could be dealing with ‘brain fog’. Here’s what you can do about it.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected our wellbeing in a variety of ways. From disrupted sleep and screen fatigue to anxiety and loneliness, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hadn’t been affected by the stress, isolation and uncertainty of the last year.

For many people, the pressure of the pandemic has also manifested in the form of ‘brain fog’.

Even if you’ve never heard of the term before, chances are you’ve experienced it at some point over the last couple of months – characterised by mental fatigue, confusion and a general struggle to process information, it can make it hard to concentrate and transform the easiest of tasks into a real challenge. You might find it hard to remember simple facts or interpret what people are saying, too.

It’s almost as if your brain is coated in a thick, syrupy liquid – you’re able to go about your daily life, but there’s a palpable disconnect between your body and the world around you.

Experiencing brain fog for the first time can be an overwhelming experience, but it’s important to note that it’s a completely normal thing and can happen for any number of reasons, including stress.

“Although it isn’t a medical condition, brain fog can be a symptom of mental health conditions (like stress, anxiety and depression), or poor lifestyle habits,” explains Caroline Harper, specialist mental health nurse at Bupa UK.  “Not getting enough sleep may cause brain fog throughout the day and a poor diet lacking in vitamins can also leave you feeling foggy, too.”

Harper also points out that brain fog can be a symptom of medical conditions such as coeliac disease, the menopause and lupus. However, if you’ve experienced brain fog for the first-time during lockdown, it’s more likely that stress or lack of sleep is the cause. 

How to prevent brain fog 

On top of identifying and trying to avoid whatever is causing your brain fog, Harper says there are a number of things you can do to prevent it from developing – many of which you can incorporate into your day-to-day routine.

1. Eat the right foods

Your nutrition doesn’t just play an important role in keeping your body healthy – it affects your brain health, which can impact your wellbeing.

“Make sure your diet is full of fresh fruit and vegetables – it’s an easy way to get the right vitamins into your body,” Harper explains. 

“Slow-release energy foods (like pasta, oats and nuts) can keep you energised throughout the day. If you’re not eating enough, you may experience brain fog and feel irritated easy.”

She continues: “Avoid alcohol, smoking and drinking coffee after 3pm, too.” 

2. Take five

Taking regular breaks throughout the day is crucial because it gives your brain the time it needs to relax and recuperate and ensures you’re not pushing yourself too hard.

“Take regular hourly breaks for five minutes each time – even if you simply look out the window and change your focus,” Harper says. “It will give your brain a break from constantly focusing.” 

Harper also recommends carrying this habit through to your weekend. While it’s easy to assume you don’t need to take breaks when you’re not working, your brain still needs time to stop focusing – even if your ‘focus’ is watching Netflix.

“It can be tempting to scroll endlessly on social media right now, so make sure you take regular breaks away from your digital devices,” Harper suggests. “Remember: if what you are reading or listening to is causing you to feel overwhelmed, it’s time to switch off.” 

3. Prioritise your sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t always easy, but try to put in place some relaxing activities and habits that increase your chances of nodding off.

“A relaxing activity, such as a hot bath or reading your favourite book, can leave you feeling relaxed and ready to drift off,” Harper explains. 

“Switch off your digital devices at least an hour before bed, too.”

She continues: “If racing thoughts in your mind are keeping you up, try writing down anything that’s on your mind. Not only can this help you to organise your thoughts and leave you feeling calmer, but it can stop any worries or stresses building up inside your head.”

4. Seek support

If your brain fog is getting overwhelming, it’s important to seek extra support.

Harper explains: “If you’re struggling with your health or wellbeing right now, sharing your concerns with someone you trust can really help, even if they can’t change what you’re experiencing.

“Your GP will always be available to discuss support for your mental health, too.” 

How to treat brain fog 

Sometimes it’s not always possible to prevent brain fog from developing – so what can you do to ease symptoms in the meantime?

“If you find yourself feeling fuzzy or you’re struggling to concentrate, take yourself away for a break until your symptoms begin to ease,” Harper explains. 

“It’s your body’s way of saying that you need a break, so listen to it.”

On top of this, Harper recommends moving your body (“exercise or stretching can help to reduce your symptoms”) and giving your brain a boost via snacks.

“Eating high-energy snacks – like nuts, a banana and dried fruit – can reduce your symptoms of brain fog and provide you with a much-needed energy boost.” 

Although brain fog can be frustrating to deal with, taking these steps to prevent and reduce symptoms should help you to feel more in control.

And remember: as much as we hate to be cliché, these are unprecedented times – so don’t be too hard on yourself if your brain isn’t playing along.

If your brain fog persists for a couple of weeks, it’s important to speak to your doctor, as they’ll be able to support you.  

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with anxiety, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website or visit the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations and the NHS Every Mind Matters resource hub.

You can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected]

Images: Getty

Source: Read Full Article

It's not just you. A lot of us are hitting a pandemic wall right now.

Within the past couple of weeks, many of us have been slammed with major pandemic fatigue. We’re burnt out. We’re expected to be productive at work or to parent (or oftentimes both) as though we haven’t been living in hell for the last year. The winter has been bleak and could potentially get bleaker. And even though the vaccines are bringing us some much-needed hope, our feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness are swallowing any positive emotions whole.

It makes sense. We’ve been at this for a year now, and our fight-or-flight system ― the emotional reaction to stress that has been otherwise energizing us throughout the pandemic ― is now totally overloaded. When that happens, the constant flow of adrenaline starts to drain and apathy settles in. It seems that we’ve all gone over that tipping point.

Hey, today I told my therapist that the adrenaline I’ve been relying on for the past 10 months or so has kinda… run out.

He said he’s been hearing that from like every other client this month, so if you’re feeling that too, you’re not alone.

— Erynn Brook (@ErynnBrook) January 31, 2021

I dunno. Maybe I’ve hit the pandemic wall.

Don’t know if it makes sense to push through, climb it, dig under it, or just stare at it for a long time.

— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) January 30, 2021

Feeling emotionally zapped, especially in this stage the coronavirus crisis, is very normal, mental health experts say.

If you find yourself stuck in a pandemic-fueled rut, first take a moment to pause and acknowledge your feelings. Go easy on yourself as you sit with these dismal emotions — the pandemic’s been brutal, and it’s time we all cut ourselves a break.

The pandemic has over-activated our stress system.

When we experience a stressful event (like, say, literally any and everything that’s happened during the past year), our brain sends a burst of energy through our body that enables us to respond to nearby threats.

Typically, the brain and body calm down and rest once the stressor is removed. Throughout the pandemic, however, we’ve been exposed to so many stressors that our system hasn’t been able to catch a break. Cortisol is just pumping through our bodies at rates we haven’t had to contend with before.

When our fight-or-flight system has been totally overworked like that, even little things that might not have bothered us before can get to us, explained Amy Cirbus, a licensed mental health counselor in New York and the director of clinical content at Talkspace. Eventually, those feelings build up and can become emotionally exhausting.

“We’re at more risk for burnout because of the circumstances and because of the fact that we’re continually re-traumatized and [reactivating] that cortisol spike,” Cirbus said.

We’re at more risk for burnout because of the circumstances and because of the fact that we’re continually re-traumatized and [reactivating] that cortisol spike.Amy Cirbus

Uncertainty also plays a huge role in hitting this wall.

Jessica Gold, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, said it can be difficult to process the fact that we’ve been at this for essentially a year now and there’s still no clear end in sight.

Every measure or milestone we’ve reached — like the one-year mark of when we first heard about COVID-19 — makes us more aware of how long we’ve been enduring the pandemic and the uncertainty of how much longer it’ll last.

Even now that there’s promising news about the vaccines, any optimism may be shielded by a layer of doubt and pessimism since so many things have gone wrong, Gold explained.

“People are afraid of getting their hopes up in some capacity because there are so many ways to be let down, and overall, it’s been disappointing in a lot of ways,” Gold said.

How can we get through this period?

It’s normal for burnout to occur after a period of chronic stress and uncertainty. Emotional endurance dwindles over time, and given the nature of the pandemic, we don’t have the same sense of security we could fall back on during pre-pandemic times. Those traditional outlets — the gym, a vacation, going out with friends, visiting family — aren’t necessarily options right now.

Most of us have had to learn new ways to cope with everyday stress since our usual coping skills may not be working.

Cirbus advises her patients to first identify the things stressing them out the most — maybe it’s the news, a job, or toxic convos with a friend — and make a plan to address them and set some healthy boundaries. From there, she recommends focusing on one or two things a day that you can accomplish.

“It’s the accumulation of those small things over the course of time that are going to make a difference. They do add up,” she said. Gradually, things will change and you’ll eventually feel like you can walk through that wall again.

It might also be a good time to work with a therapist if you don’t have pandemic-friendly coping skills or if what you’ve been doing the last few months isn’t working for you now. A mental health professional can provide you with specific techniques that work with your life. (A tip from Gold: Don’t rely on what works for other people; try on different things and figure out what brings you some relief.) Of course, mental health care is incredibly expensive; if it’s a financial burden, try looking into some affordable or free resources that can help.

Lastly, cut yourself some slack. No matter how the pandemic has disrupted your life, recognize that this is hard and that hitting a wall is a completely valid response to totally irregular circumstances.

“Have compassion for yourself and don’t belittle your feelings,” Gold said. “At a certain point, we’ll all get through it.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.


Signs Your Anxiety Over Avoiding People Is Turning Into Something Worse

5 Things To Do When You’re Stressing Over The ‘COVID 15’

Common Mental Health Advice We Should Actually Ignore Right Now

Also on HuffPost

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

Source: Read Full Article

Does Walking Help with Mental Health Problems?

The increasing number of persons affected by obesity, stress, and mental illness is of increasing concern to governments who struggle with the demands placed on the health systems. Strategies to address these issues are areas of active research. A variety of factors play roles in improving mental health.

Image Credit: Joe Besure / Shutterstock.com

The positive correlation between walking or other physical activity and mental health has been long-known by general practitioners and mental health specialists. According to Sports England, the benefits of physical activity on mental health include improved mood, reduced risk of depression and anxiety, and a more balanced way of life.

Furthermore, risks of developing chronic diseases including cardiovascular-related diseases, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis as well as hypertension, depression, and mental health problems are all reduced among people who are physically active.

What is mental illness?

Mental illness can occur in many different forms, but all affect the feeling, thinking, and behavior of a person. Anxiety and depression are the most common types of mental illness. Symptoms of depression include low mood, which lasts for at least two weeks.

Severe depression can be life-threatening as it can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Feeling worried, tense, or afraid, especially when thinking about the future is normal; however, if these thoughts persist, a person may be experiencing anxiety.

Benefits of walking with mental health problems

Can walking really help to overcome these feelings and lead to a normal life?

One qualitative study used interviews and different comparison parameters for the analysis of walking and mental health. This study documented that being physically active plays a major role in the improvement of the quality of life in patients with mental illness.

Furthermore, researchers explain that these activities may be integrated into health regimens. In line with these reports, Sport England stated that with physical activity, stress could be reduced, and a more balanced lifestyle between work and private time can be achieved.

Self-esteem is an important component of mental health. Physical activity can help to boost self-esteem to decrease stress and improve social interactions. Additionally, physical activity is effective in preventing and managing symptoms of depressions. Thus, general practitioners often recommend physical activity alongside medication.

A population-based cross-sectional study by Bertheussen GF. et al. from 2011 used health-related quality of life (HRQoL) to assess the effects of physical activity and mental health directly from the study participants.

This study concluded that exercise is always related to an improvement in mental health when compared to groups who did not exercise at all. This study included 4500 participants from different age groups and showed that improvement in mental health is not age-related, but that anyone can benefit.

Positive effects of physical activity upon depression

A large study that evaluated already published research showed positive effects of physical activity on patients with depression. Many of the studies did not assess fitness. Thus, it was demonstrated that the act of participating in physical activity was an important factor.

Physical fitness level was not the determining factor in mental health. Other researchers have shown in a large study that the absence of exercise is associated with the onset of depression. Several similar studies were carried out, and all concluded that depression improved with walking or exercise.

Can walking improve anxiety?

Although extensive studies have been carried out to measure the impact of walking on depression, the effects on anxiety have been less frequently studied. Furthermore, anxiety can appear in many different forms, making it complicated to interpret study results.

Several studies have, however, indicated that walking and other forms of exercise benefit patients with anxiety. There is some evidence that patients with agoraphobia, who fear certain places or situations, may benefit from cardiovascular exercise as a method of overcoming some of this fear.

In summary, walking has a positive impact on patients suffering from mental health problems. Walking and other exercises can help to improve self-esteem to decrease negative thoughts and improve overall mental well-being. Although it might not be suitable for all types of mental health problems, all studies confirmed that it helps to manage and reduce the symptoms of depression.


Crone, D. 2009. Walking back to health: A qualitative investigation into service users´experiences of a walking project. https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840601096453.

Sport England. 2002. Why we invest in mental health? www.sportengland.org/…/.

Robertson, R. et al. 2012. Walking for depression or depressive symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Mental Health and Physical Activity.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK99429/.

Bertheussen, G.F. et al. 2011. Associations between physical activity and physical and mental health–a HUNT 3 study. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/21131869.

Thirlaway K. and Benton D. 1992. Participation in physical activity and cardiovascular fitness have different effects on mental health and mood. Journal of Psychosomatic Research.  https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-3999(92)90055-7.

Abu-Omar, K. et al. 2004. Mental health and physical activity in the European Union. International Journal of public health. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-004-3109-8.

Muller, B. and Armstrong, H.E. 1975. A further note on the running treatment for anxiety. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0086465.

North, T.C. et al. 1990. Effects of exercise on depression. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2141567.

Orwin, A. 1974. Treatment of situational phobia—a case for running. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.125.1.95.

Broocks, A. et al. 1998. Comparison of aerobic exercise, clomipramine, and placebo in the treatment if panic disorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1176/ajp.155.5.603.

Strohle, A. 2009. Physical activity, exercise, depression and anxiety disorders. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00702-008-0092-x


Further Reading

  • All Mental Health Content
  • World mental health support and the effect of stigma and discrimination
  • Pollution and Mental Health
  • Mental Health Nursing
  • Treatment Options for Intrusive Thoughts

Last Updated: Nov 7, 2019

Source: Read Full Article

Talking about your mental health is an important first step – but what comes next?

Written by Lauren Geall

When it comes to looking after our mental health, talking is a great first step. But what comes next?

When you’re struggling with your mental health, one of the first pieces of advice you’re likely to come across is to talk about how you’re feeling.

The only thing worse than struggling with your mental health is struggling alone – and whether you choose to speak to your friends, family, colleagues or a trained professional, verbalising what’s going on in your head can be a huge relief.

But once you’ve taken that positive (and incredibly brave) first step, knowing what to do next is often less clear. So much emphasis is placed on talking that doing so can sometimes feel like a bit of an anti-climax – while talking can certainly make a big difference and give you someone to turn to, chances are it won’t make everything better straight away, and you might need to seek additional support.

And that’s where this article comes in. Because while looking after your mental health may not be as simple as having a conversation, there are plenty of resources, experts and support systems in place to help you cope if you’re struggling. 

To find out more about what to do next after you’ve started talking, we spoke to Rosie Weatherley, information content manager at the mental health charity Mind, and Clare Perkins, director of the mental health programme at Public Health England.

From free resources to help you look after your mental health at home to seeking additional support, here’s what they had to say.  

1. Prioritise self-care

Taking small, daily steps to look after yourself and your wellbeing can make a big difference in the long-run, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

“There are many things we can do to improve our mood and wellbeing, even during lockdown,” Weatherley explains. “Try to follow a routine, maintain a healthy diet, get enough sleep and incorporate some physical exercise into your day – whether that’s doing an online workout, or even simply dancing around your home, cleaning or gardening. Exercise releases feel-good hormones such as serotonin and reduces the stress hormone cortisol. 

“If you are able to, get outside. Physical activity in nature has even more mental health benefits, as well as boosting our vitamin D, which can improve our mood, even in winter when light levels are low.”

Perkins echoes Weatherley’s advice and stresses the importance of trying to take every day as it comes – especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

“Creating a routine or structure in your day can help reduce any uncertainty and can be a way to build in positive activities such as exercise or hobbies,” she says.

“Focusing on the short term and the day-to-day events can be a really useful way to reduce any nervousness around the future. When everything feels up in the air or overwhelming, it is good to focus and acknowledge what is working, no matter how small. This could include a new song, a nice meal, or even just talking to someone that makes you feel good.”

2. Keep talking

Just as that first conversation can help to take some of the weight off of your shoulders, continuing to talk about how you’re feeling – and talking to a range of different people alongside the first person you spoke to – can make a big difference.

“Lots of us depend on social contact to help us stay well, and although we may not be able to see our loved ones in person perhaps as much as we’d like right now, it’s important that we reach out as much as we can – whether that’s via text, email, phone or video call,” Weatherley says.

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to a friend or family member or want to get something off of your chest in a non-judgmental environment, accessing a peer support network is also a great option. 

“Peer support networks provide a place to listen and share with others who have similar experiences,” Weatherley adds. “Our online mental health community Side by Side is a safe, moderated platform where anyone aged 18 and over with experience of a mental health problem can share their story, connect with others, and access Mind’s wider information and resources.”

3. Access online resources

If you’re looking for more information to help you look after yourself and your mental health at home, there are a number of brilliant (and free) online resources which could help, including the NHS Every Mind Matters hub.

Perkins explains: “On the Every Mind Matters website, there are lots of practical tips and advice for people who are struggling right now. People can answer five simple questions on the free NHS-approved Mind Plan and will get a personalised action plan to help them deal with stress and anxiety, boost their mood, sleep better and feel more in control.”

She continues: “The Every Mind Matters Covid-19 hub also includes practical tips and support on how adults can deal with uncertainty, how to cope with money and job worries and how to look after both their own and their family’s mental wellbeing while staying at home.”

Mental health charities such as Mind, The Mental Health Foundation and Rethink Mental Illness also have great resources on their websites – and local charities will also be able to signpost you to further advice and support.

To find out more about the free mental health and wellbeing resources you can access at home during the pandemic, you can check out our guide.

4. Seek support

If you feel like you’re unable to cope on your own, you should consider seeking professional support from a trained professional.

“While loved ones can offer emotional support, it’s important to recognise when you might need support from mental health services,” Weatherley explains.

“If you notice changes to your feelings, thoughts and behaviours that last longer than two weeks, keep returning or are having an impact on your daily life, talk to your GP who can help outline the support that’s available. Most GP surgeries are offering appointments via phone or online, so check to see what they can do.”

Perkins echoes this sentiment: “For those who are struggling with anxiety or depression, NHS talking therapies are here to help and have been open throughout the pandemic. Speak to your GP for a referral, or you can self-refer.”

She continues: “NHS mental health staff can provide care via phone or online from the comfort of your home, and face-to-face appointments can also be arranged in many areas. These services are a free and confidential way to get effective help.”

If you find yourself on a waiting list for help or simply want some more support while you wait for your first appointment, helplines are also a great place to turn. The people at the end of the phone may not be doctors and therapists, but they’re trained listeners who can help you to work through any difficult emotions and listen to what you’re going through. 

Mind’s Infoline (0300 123 3393) provides an information and signposting service from Monday-Friday 9am to 6pm (except for bank holidays), and if you need 24-hour support, call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. For more information about the different helplines that are available, you can check out the NHS website.

Seeking support privately is another route you might also consider. You can find out more about choosing a therapist and what to expect from therapy (both NHS and private) by checking out our articles. 

Although this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you can do to look after your mental health after talking, it’s a great place to start if you’re not sure what to do next.

Remember: talking about how you’re feeling and sharing those emotions with others is incredibly brave, and although the road ahead might not always be easy, you’re on the right track. 

You can find additional support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website or visit the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations and the NHS Every Mind Matters resource hub.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected]

If your life is at risk and you feel unable to keep yourself safe, call 999 or go to A&E.

Images: Getty

Source: Read Full Article

How to pick a counsellor or psychologist, based on your child’s needs

Does your child refuse to talk, throw tantrums, cry or get panic attacks on being alone? Read this article to know whether you need to approach a child psychologist or a counsellor.

As someone rightly said, children are like clay in our hands; like a sculpture, we can chisel and carve their personalities. Children may not always express themselves with caregivers due to the fear of consequences or letting them down. Hence, talking to someone like a child psychologist or counselor helps. Child counselling thus becomes important in helping children better understand their problems and cope with it.

But how do you identify whom to approach – a child psychologist or a child counsellor? Here is a difference between the two. Apart from the degree and specialisation with extensive study, child psychologists are experts who diagnose, do various psychological assessments as well as treat a wide range of psychopathology/ psychological disorders seen in children. Meanwhile, a child counsellor is an expert helping children guiding with their career choices and with distress and adjustment problems.

I remember my first few years working with children where an adolescent walked off from the door saying “I don’t need help and don’t call me” banging the door behind, a child struggling to sit on the chair in front of me, while another child running from the class when distressed with me, security guard as well as the floor ancillary staff running behind him trying to pacify him. So, do only children exhibiting behaviour issues need help? The answer is no. Children who are quiet, withdrawn, struggling academically, socially or emotionally need support too.

Also Read |The Early Years: Mental health issues are real, even for toddlers

The common myth that people have is that children can seek help only when they are in crisis. In fact, children can seek help at three stages:

1. To learn a new skill to be equipped with the skills when the issue is faced as we all know prevention is better than cure. Example: learning to tackle bullying with assertiveness.

2. When they are in crisis. Example: difficulty getting along with friends.

3. Post the crisis, as a way to cope with it. Example: grief/ managing emotions post failure in exams.

As a psychologist, I have worked with children for almost a decade. I have enjoyed the journey and the enriching experience I obtained through this journey. It comes with its own perks and challenges. Perks include receiving naïve and random unfiltered compliments, random hugs for no reasons, and most cherished handmade cards. Challenges include children refusing to talk, throwing tantrums by yelling, crying, sleeping/sitting on the floor, getting panic attacks on seeing they are missing from the room as they believe in playing hide and seek at their convenience. Plus, once in a while taking a slap from them, running behind them round and round, deciphering their babbling, protecting them from getting hurt, negotiating, etc. Mind you, I have been through all of these (phew). But never giving up on them, building a relationship, using more activities and believing in the superpowers of counselling helped me to mould these very same children into their better selves with time.

Hence, it will not be wrong to say that these counselling and therapy sessions have helped me to get in touch with the creative side of myself, keeping the child within me alive, as well as having taught me to be empathetic, non-judgmental, accepting of others as well as more patient.

Whether psychologist or counselor, they cannot be kept forever but the magic they created in counselling sessions can never be forgotten. That’s the beauty of counselling.

(The writer is Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower – The Foundation.)

Source: Read Full Article