How Plants Helped My Mental Health

By Morgan Clark

Recently, I became a full-blown plant mom, something that I am very proud of. My plants helped me stay sane during those long days of quarantine. I live by myself, unless you include my rambunctious puppy, Xena. For the most part, I enjoy having a place to myself. Not worrying if my music is too loud or asking myself how I can be considerate of the other person. To balance my time by myself, I usually step out to hang with friends, which enables me to power up my social battery. This could not be done since March of last year due to Covid, and, unconsciously, I developed a new hobby.

First, I bought one plant to liven up my house, Then I bought another one. And now I have 20 plus plants. There was a time when the employees where I bought my plants knew my face from the many times I visited there. Some would say I have an addiction, but I did notice something important. When I take care of my plants, I feel better. It is like I am taking care of myself, and I feel lighter each time I water and clip my babies. Days when I wanted to stay in bed (and there were many during quarantine), I got up to open the blinds for my plants. Which somehow put a battery in my back to start my day. When I feel lonely, stressed, or down, I go to my “green room” and tend to my plants. It calms my nerves and gives me something else to focus on. Nothing is more exciting than seeing a new bulb from one of your plants. My plants are a reflection of my mental health.

I grew up with plants in the house, because my daddy had many plants. At a young age, I did not understand why he cared for them so much, but I now realize that plants support one’s mental health. And, I am not the only one. I have friends who have realized this too. We now share a bond based on what plants are easy to care for and what plants are harder to grow. Whenever I can, I recommend for people to bring plants into their house, even if it a cactus. It can be a challenge at first, but nothing is more rewarding than having plants…trust me.

 

 

It’s Okay Not to be Okay Right Now.

By Mia Lukic

A global pandemic. Nationwide protests. An election. The everyday, mundane life annoyances. It is no surprise that most people are on edge and struggling right now. When will the pandemic end? When will we see our families and do the things we like again? Who will be the next president of the United States? Will we know immediately or will this take days, weeks, months? How will the choice impact my rights? The safety of our friends and families? The state of our environment?

A study conducted by CARAVAN and The Maple Counseling Center reported that 52% of people reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted by the 2020 presidential election. 64% when it comes to Gen Z and 57% when it comes to Millennials (healthline).

Not only that, but the Pandemic has been detrimental to mental health as well. A Total Brain survey announced today that 83% of women and 36% of men had experienced an increase in depressed moods. 53% of working women and 29% of men have experienced an increase in anxiety since February. The effects have been disastrous for everyone, including and especially women.

The CDC reports:

“Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.”

So what do we do when we feel like everything is awful and there’s little we can do?

Remember to put yourself first. Your mental health is important and self care is mandatory. Despite the world not pausing and deadlines and due dates persisting, find time to do what makes your heart happy. Go outside, draw, read, watch a show. Many websites suggest a social media cleanse or limiting news/politics.

Hopefully you can find time to pause and take care of yourself, and remember that you’re not alone in feeling this way. It is expected and okay to be frazzled, anxious, angry, or however else you are feeling. There are so many people that care and want to be with you through all of this. The UMKC Counseling Center has great resources and opportunities to speak with professionals, and know that 105 Haag Hall always has a listening ear and a helping hand.

 

SAD Winter Blues

By Abbie Lewis

It’s that time of year again where it’s dark all the time, or so it feels, and cold as all get out. Not my favorite of the weather options but we don’t get much of a choice living here in the Midwest, do we? I know that for a lot of us students, things are getting kind of stressful as well since we’re now over halfway done with the semester and things are piling up. People make a lot of jokes sometimes about the depression getting to them around this time, and about Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it is a very real disorder, and it’s never more important to monitor your mental health than in the cold months, especially for women.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a type of depression related to season and weather changes. People don’t always realize it, but the sun and good weather really can play a huge part on our moods and emotions! Going without them for a long time when things are already stressful can be very hard. I know that I personally go through this kind of depressive slump throughout the winter. When we get a random sunny day with even a glimpse of the 40s, I get beyond excited and feel the need to do my make up, get all cute and make the most of it!

This is especially crucial information for women.  According to Mayo Clinic, women are nearly twice more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men are. It’s partly due to our biology and our hormones, but it’s also due to the immense amount of social stressors women experience. A lot of women work a job as well as carry most of the weight in their home life, making depression a much more prevalent thing for them. During the cold seasonal changes, when SAD can occur, it can be very hard for women, especially the many of us who already battle with chronic depression.

There are ways to combat SAD though, cool things like a lamp that mimics the sun and you can set it to be an alarm for you in the morning so it’s more like waking up to sunlight. As always, therapy can help tremendously too! I’m no expert by any means but I think that making sure you go easy on yourself during these times and staying as positive as you can, can help a lot. Hang in there and we will make it through this cold winter and come out on the other side!

 

Loving Someone with Depression

By Elise Wantling

I have struggled with depression on and off, (but mostly on) for the majority of the past decade. My partner has struggled with it for even longer than that, probably close to 15 years now. We have been part of each other’s lives for a little over two years as of writing, and together we have taken turns caring for one another when the depression brain takes over and things seem too hard to bear.

First, let me explain what depression is. Depression is a catch-all term for a couple different mood disorders. The most common type (according to Harvard Health) is major depression, also known as clinical depression, which would be classified as the “worst” type, that carries with it changes to your sleep patterns, lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal thoughts and feelings. This can last for years before it goes away, if it ever does. There is also persistent depressive disorder/dysthymia, which is basically “depression lite”. It comes with most of the same symptoms as major depressive disorder, but they aren’t as intense or long lasting. It is characterized by a “low mood” lasting at least two years. The third kind is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which occurs during the fall and winter. I’d rank it as the “least bad” on the scale, as it usually isn’t as intense as major depression or PDD and only lasts a few months of the year.

There are other types of mood disorders or personality disorders that depression can fall into, but these three are the most common. Ryan, (my partner) and I both have standalone depression diagnosis (we both have clinical depression/MDD), but we both have other mental health issues as well (one of which is anxiety, which often comes alongside depression). We are both currently seeking treatment for our depression, taking meds and seeing our own therapists, but that isn’t always enough to keep the depression at bay. Depression can manifest in a number of ways, but for Ryan and me it manifests in a similar way. First, it starts with the gradual decline in energy. I’ll notice he sleeps more and seems less present during his waking hours. He wants to go out less and stay in more. When he sleeps, it’s restless and full of nightmares. He becomes disinterested in his hobbies, he stops helping around the house, his life starts to become a cycle of work and sleep with very little in between. It starts out slow, and gradually gets worse, and usually manages to escape detection until we reach a breaking point of either me or him getting frustrated with his lack of ability to function.

Then it usually hits us: the depression fairy visits and casts a nasty spell. This usually leads to a conversation about how he’s been feeling, which will reveal that emotionally he’s doing about as well as he is functionally (which is to say not doing well at all). We then draft a game plan: first, an appointment to get meds adjusted. Second, investigate therapy options if he isn’t already actively in therapy. Third, get back on a healthy eat/sleep/work schedule, making sure no meals are missed and that there is a healthy level of sleep being accomplished, not too little but also not too much. We check in daily on emotional levels, having candid conversations about suicidal thoughts or feelings and feelings of worthlessness or not being good enough. Little by little, together, we pull him out of the dark hole he has fallen into. Sometimes it takes just a few weeks, sometimes it takes a few months, but eventually he is able to wake up one day and tell me that everything is alright again.

It’s not always him that gives into the depression. Sometimes, just as often as it happens to him really, it happens to me. We’ve been lucky so far in that when one of us has needed to be carried for a bit the other has had the strength to do the carrying. In the beginning of our relationship I often worried what would happen if we both fell victim to depression at the same time. What I have learned is that love has given us the ability to rally when needed. Some days, even when I can’t manage to care much for myself, I find the strength and energy in me to care for him, and vice versa, he does that for me. I am by no means saying our love or our relationship has cured our depression. But I am saying it has made things more bearable. Through my relationship with Ryan I have found someone I can confide in and share my struggles with, who truly gets them and can relate. Someone who shares the feeling of triumph when after weeks of dragging yourself out of bed you finally wake up and find yourself excited to face a new day instead of dreading it. He reminds me to take my meds and takes me to my doctor appointments. He rejoices in my joy, and holds me in my sorrow, and I likewise am able to do that for him.

Loving someone with depression when you have depression isn’t easy. Some days it feels like the cycle of depression will never end. Other days, you feel like you’re free of it forever.  Just like every relationship, a relationship that is touched by depression still requires love, trust, and communication. It can be incredibly challenging, but also deeply fulfilling. Even with its’ challenges though, I wouldn’t trade my relationship for the world, and for those of you who can relate, I hope you can say the same.

5 Tips for Managing Stress During Finals

by Thea Voutiritsas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Okay, maybe not. High stakes and heavy books can be hard to handle, but don’t let finals week get you down! We’ve compiled a quick list of ways to help keep your stress level under control, so you can end your semester with a bang, not a fizzle… or a mental breakdown.

  1. Exercise – Short exercise breaks can relieve stress, help you socialize, and burn off extra sugar you may be consuming. It’ll also help you focus, and release endorphins to improve your mood. It can be hard to make time for it when you’re busy studying, but I like to listen to audiobooks of what I’m studying, or you can rest a book on a bike or a treadmill. If you’re really short on time, even a walk around the block can help clear your head.
  2. Breathe– That should be obvious, but it’s so easy we often forget to do it at all. When you’re feeling especially overwhelmed, just take a deep breath until you can’t fill your lungs anymore, then exhale with gusto! Make a noise! Just let it out. It seems silly, but sometimes just 4-5 seconds to slow the thoughts running through your head can help. Maybe just don’t do this during a test.
  3. Sleep – It’s easier said than done. Studying before bed can help with retention, but staying up all night studying only dulls your short-term memory. You’re better off studying earlier and getting a good night’s rest.
  4. Hydrate – It’s tempting to stick with caffeine when you’re in a rush and short on sleep, but it dehydrates you in the long run. Match what you’re drinking in coffee with water. You may need a lot of bathroom breaks, but your mind will be clearer, and your body will thank you.
  5. Eat nutritious meals and snacks – Don’t just settle for the quickest bite to eat when you’re in a hurry. Stick with healthy snacks with natural sugars to keep your mind clear and your blood sugar even. The last thing you need is a major crash. Plus, Monday, May 8 through Friday, May 12, the Women’s Center will be providing free snacks! You can find our baskets at the Women’s Center in 105 Haag Hall, the 3rd Atrium in Flarsheim Hall, 1st floor lounge of Block Heritage Hall, and the 2nd Floor of the Health Sciences Library on Hospital Hill!

Binge Eating: The Invisible Eating Disorder

by Danielle Lyons

When the topic of eating disorders come up, one thinks of the notorious two; Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa. But alas there is another we tend to forget: Binge Eating Disorder. According to The National Eating Disorders Association It is the most common disorder in the US. So why isn’t it talked about? Many women experience other’s denial that Binge Eating Disorder exists. It’s just written off as gluttonous behavior. This disorder is much more than a mere character flaw. It deserves to be recognized in an equal light.

The National Eating Disorders Association says: GetFileAttachment

“Binge Eating Disorder is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. Binge eating disorder is a severe, life-threatening and treatable eating disorder.”

It is important to remember that weight or weight gain is different in each case. It isn’t strictly a disorder affected by the obese. That is where we make our mistake; we make that assumption. Eating disorders do not discriminate. If that were the case, one could argue that every person who is overweight struggles with the disorder. The fact of the matter is most overweight individuals do not have Binge Eating Disorder.

It is important to remember for eating disorders that root of the problem isn’t the food. Binge Eating Disorder is no exception. According to Melissa A. Fabello of Everyday Feminism, “Eating disorders are bio-psychosocial in nature, which means that there are biological, psychological, and sociological factors at play that make a person susceptible to, and triggered into, eating disordered thoughts and behaviors. Eating disorders are seriously complex. But at its root, your eating disorder is a mental health issue.” Although each eating disorder is unique with their own complexity, they have one commonality. Recovery is a tough process differs from person to person.

If you suspect you or someone you care about might be suffering from binge eating disorder, there are resources available. Some resources include but are not limited to The UMKC Counseling Center, Binge Eating Disorder Association, And National Eating Disorders Association.

Ready or not…

by Logan Snook

It is the second week of school. Schedules are finally coming together. We are getting used to our new routine (read waking up more than fifteen minutes before that 8:00am class). The shadow of future papers, group projects, and daily assignments looms overhead. Getting back into the swing of the semester after a month with no deadlines, staying up late, and sleeping in late can be difficult, so here are some tips to get yourself back into school-mode:

080Give yourself more time in the morning: Instead of hitting the snooze button ten times, wake up a little earlier to give yourself more time in the morning. Not rushing in the morning will help you start your day more smoothly.

Use your time well: Do you have five minutes in between classes that you normally use for checking Facebook? Instead, try answering a few emails, or read that article for class that you have been putting off.

Multitasking is not always a time saver: Organizing your workload so you focus on one assignment or project at a time can really help with time management. Try blocking off certain times during the day solely devoted to one task.

Take time for yourself: Do not forget, taking time off to relax can help you accomplish more throughout the day!

Having a hard time finding ways to relax during a long day at school? Come visit us at the Women’s Center and take advantage of our comfy lounge area, and allow yourself to recharge so you can get back out there and conquer your day! While you are here, create a personalized stepping stone with a phrase or word that inspires you to help you reach your goals every day!