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The 17th to the 21st June marks Loneliness Awareness Week in the UK; a week aimed at reducing stigma around loneliness and helping people to connect. Loneliness has been suggested to be as harmful to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and can have an enormous impact on our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Whilst loneliness is a massive issue across many groups of our society, including in elderly and sick people, it has also been highlighted that there is a massive issue of loneliness in the autistic community.

Some autistic people may find it more difficult to form and maintain relationships than neurotypical people. Struggles with busy areas, loud noises and overwhelming smells can leave some social spaces difficult to navigate for autistic people, especially in places like pubs, clubs and bars, which are sometimes overwhelming for most of us. This, combined with the anxiety that many autistic people manage daily, can make going out and meeting people socially quite inaccessible. In this way, if an autistic person doesn’t have strong social support and people around them, they can very easily become socially isolated.

Social isolation can lead to loneliness if there is a gap between the person’s desired and actual levels of social contact. There is a common misconception that all autistic people prefer being alone, and would not enjoy or seek relationships or friendships. Therefore, even when an autistic person becomes socially isolated, it is sometimes assumed that they may not get lonely.

On the contrary, many autistic people want more connections and enjoy social interactions, and therefore experience loneliness in a very real way. In fact, research in April 2018 found that autistic people are one of the most lonely and isolated groups in the United Kingdom. Autistic people are four times more likely to be lonely than the neurotypical population and as many as 79% of autistic people report feeling socially isolated.

Studies have found that increased loneliness in adults with autistic spectrum conditions is associated with increased depression and anxiety, and decreased life satisfaction and self-esteem, even when controlling for symptoms of autism. Therefore, it is a vital area that needs to be addressed when considering how to improve the daily lives of adults on the autistic spectrum.

There are many ways in which loneliness can be addressed in autistic people, and the national autistic society offer some great advice on reducing social isolation and increasing social interaction. You can find this here: https://www.autism.org.uk/about/communication/social-isolation.aspx

References:

https://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/media-centre/news/2018-04-25-hidden-crisis-autism-and-loneliness.aspx

https://www.autism.org.uk/about/communication/social-isolation.aspx

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1362361312474121?journalCode=auta

The post Loneliness and Autism: The Invisible Issue appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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Today, 17th June 2019, marks International Father’s Mental Health Day (founded in 2016 by Mark Williams and Dr Daniel Singley )- raising global awareness about the need for better support systems for new fathers as well as new mothers.

‘Perinatal’ is the term that refers to the period of time leading up to and after childbirth, usually defined as the time of pregnancy up to and also including one year after giving birth. The emotional and the physiological changes of pregnancy, labour and caring for a new-born can make this period of time a very vulnerable one for new mothers and fathers.

  • peri meaning ‘around’
  • natal meaning ‘birth’
  • You may have also heard terms used to describe the time before or after giving birth more specifically, such as:

  • postnatal or postpartum meaning ‘after birth’
  • antenatal or prenatal meaning ‘before birth’
  • There is no right or wrong term used to describe the period of time around pregnancy and after childbirth. There is also no right or wrong way to feel during these times.

    Becoming a father is considered to be one of the most rewarding and exciting life experiences, but this journey into parenthood can also prove be very challenging and at times, overwhelming. It is times like becoming a parent, when support from loved ones and friends is crucial and heavily replied upon.

    It has been reported, in a wealth of research, that around 10% of new fathers can experience mental health difficulties in the first year after the birth of their child. This figure can increase to a staggering 50% when the mother is suffering with mental illness herself following the birth. Parental postpartum depression is extremely hard for men to admit due to the higher levels of stigma against experiencing difficulties in early parenthood.

    Society views males as more tolerant, self-sacrificing, and above all else, strong.  When men feel none of those things as a new parent, it can be very difficult for them to admit it and ask for help and support.

    There is very little guidance available for men to understand the causes, risk factors, treatments and prediction of perinatal mental illness- apart from the information available in how they can support their partners mental health after having a baby, but sadly, research and support in this area is still relatively thin on the ground.

    Until recently, there had been no official acknowledgement that fathers (in the UK) need support for their mental health. However, after years of campaigning, we are beginning to see this change. Back in December 2018, the Government announced that new dads (whose wife/partner had been seen by/under perinatal mental health services) will now be screened in order to assess if they too require or would benefit from support. This modification, ran by NHS England, was spurred on by the evidence that fathers are more likely to need help and/or support for their own mental health if their partner was experiencing difficulties.

    Thankfully, this was just the beginning!  January 2019 saw the launch of the NHS’ Long-Term Plan. Included in that, for the first time, proposals were put in to support fathers’ mental health. Mark (along with Andrew Mayers) have been selected to an expert reference group to offer suggestions and advise NHS England on what these much-needed services should look like.

    Support for anxious and depressed dads will be part of the 10-year plan for the NHS!

    Advances such as these, have been mainly influenced by researchers and campaigners across the United Kingdom, but the tireless work of both Mark and Andrew through campaigns such as International Father’s Mental Health Day has played a huge role.

    Let’s keep the awareness building today and every day, until all new dads have all the necessary support and help that they need.

    Know that it is ok not to be ok. Talk. Seek help and get support.

    There is strength in showing weakness.

     

    Mark Williams – Fathers Reaching Out

    Mark is the UK’s leading advocate for fathers’ mental health. Mark’s wife encountered mental illness not long after the birth of their son. Mark had little support, and feared that he could not talk to anyone about his wife’s illness (due to the possibility of associated stigma). Without support, Mark’s own mental health subsequently suffered too. Now, armed with that experience, Mark creates and runs campaigns, writes blogs/articles, and provides much needed support to fathers experiencing mental health difficulties themselves.

    The post International Fathers’ Mental Health Day 2019 appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    Today is Transverse Myelitis Awareness day!

    …Transverse- what, sorry?

    Transverse Myelitis (TM) is a rare neurological condition, so you will be forgiven for not having heard of it before. The average GP sees a case of TM once every 100 years.

    TM is thought to be the result of the immune system mistakenly attacking the spinal cord, causing inflammation. This damages or completely destroys myelin (the fatty protection of our nerves) and then goes on to interrupt the communication between the nerves in the spinal cord and the rest of the body.

    ‘Within hours I had lost all ability to move my legs. I had little to no feeling or sensation below my belly button…. Unfortunately, they were unable to diagnose me for another three weeks. I was one of those rare cases and the doctors had to do some research.’ (1)

    It isn’t always possible to work out why this happens. It has been noticed that TM tends to develop at the same time or soon after someone has had a viral or bacterial infection, and – very rarely – after vaccinations.

    Facts about TM:

    1. TM usually occurs as a single episode. TM only occurs as a single episode (it can occur more than once for some people, but this is very unlikely). It is the long-term effects, however, that can be on-going for a third of those who experience TM. These can include pain, spasticity, immobility/paralysis and bowel and bladder complications. Approximately one third of make a fair recovery with minor long term affects, and another third do make a good or full recovery.
    2. TM is not hereditary. You cannot pass an increased risk of TM to your family.
    3. Anyone can have TM . TM can affect anyone, of any age, at any time. Men are just as likely to be diagnosed as women.
    4. TM onset is often very sudden. What starts as lower back pain, muscle weakness, or an unusual sensation in the toes and feet can quickly progress into more severe symptoms such as developing paraparesis (partial paralysis of the legs) that might even progress to paraplegia (complete paralysis of the legs). This loss of spinal cord function can last over several hours to several weeks.
    5. There is no cure for TM at the moment.  As with many spinal cord disorders, there is no definitive cure that currently exists. However, there are many ways to manage symptoms such as steroids, plasma exchange therapy and physical therapy to help strengthen muscles.

    Experiencing TM can be incredibly overwhelming and scary. One day you are feeling fine, and the next you suddenly cannot move. The rarity of the condition means that the person probably didn’t know of it beforehand, or know of anyone else who has had TM. Psychological support is therefore vital in managing the sudden shock of the symptoms experienced, the diagnosis of TM itself and also the adjustment to any long-term effects throughout life.

    Sharing this information, even if it reaches a few people, will help spread awareness of this rare neurological condition and get the word out there!

    Read more about Stacy’s story she shared on the Transverse Myelitis Association website: https://yoocanfind.com/Story/986/my-transverse-myelitis-story

    The post Have you heard of Transverse Myelitis? appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    It is that time again. 9pm, every evening millions will be tuning in to ITV2 to watch a group of singletons couple- up, and re-couple over and over again- Love Island is back.

    It seems to be everything we love and hate at the same time. If you have been living under a rock the past few summers and have no idea what is going on- all you need to know is that 12 single ‘hotties’ are all thrown into a villa together and have eight weeks to find love and couple-up to be in with a chance of winning 50k cash.

    However, it doesn’t take a lot of digging into the show to uncover one major flaw.

    Everyone has the same, certain type of look… For the guys: a six pack, gleaming white teeth, large biceps, waxed chest, and tiny little swimming shorts. For the girls: A flat stomach, either large boobs or an impressive bum, cute hair, plump lips and thighs that don’t touch.

    Watching identical Barbie and Ken doll bodies parade around a pool in nothing but swimwear all summer is all fun and games, until I realise that I have just finished a family share-size bag of crisps and now feel terrible about my own body.

    Personally, I don’t agree with all the negative press that Love Island receives. Some, but not all. I would not say that the body type of contestants this year are unhealthy, they are just unrepresentative. What is misunderstood is that in reality, the tanned and slim bodies we see on Love Island- only represent the minority of the general population. The average dress size in the UK is a size 16, not a 6, and it is not promoted enough that THIS IS OK.

    Reality TV is feeding unrealistic expectations of how young people should look, and this is creating unhealthy expectations and leading to negative falsifications of body image in young people. Portraying fit and healthy individuals is not the issue, the issue is the lack of body diversity and the promotion of the unrealistic aspects of the individuals parading across the TV. Okay, if we all worked hard enough, we could be slimmer if we wanted to be, but our lips will never look like Anna’s (2019 Love island contestant) without the aid of filler and a syringe.  Plastic surgery, tucks here and there, fillers, synthetic enhancement are all examples of things that we cannot naturally achieve and promoting these girls as beautiful based solely on this is wrong.

    As one of TV’s most high-profile reality shows, there have been numerous calls for the show to feature a wider range of body types in order to properly reflect society. The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has raised concerns about the impact television programmes, such as Love Island, have on their viewers, particularly those that are targeted at predominantly younger audiences who are most likely to develop feelings of anxiety about their bodies.

    Almost one in four people aged 18-24 confessed that reality TV makes them worry about their own body image, according to the YouGov survey of over 4,000 UK adults released by the MHF. More than 15% of them also said they had self-harmed because of concerns about their body image, and 23% had experienced suicidal thoughts because of concerns in relation to their body image.

    What is needed, for both men and women, are body confident role models in a varied range of body types that we can truly relate to and possibly identify with. It is then that we can start to foster healthier relationships with our own bodies, accept that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect body’ and learn to appreciate and celebrate body diversity in all its full beauty.

    Within society, the spiralling pattern of youth mental health can largely be attributed to the impact of the internet; reality TV and social media has on the mindset of our younger generation – the target audience for Love Island. The contestants that are tailor picked for the show are valued and chosen for their bodies. So, Love Island are implying that it is okay for women to be judged on their bodies when it’s really not! Likewise, for males: suicide is the biggest killer of young men in the UK. By trivialising the body image pressures that men experience, we’re essentially saying that it is okay for these suicide rates to exist and continue…

    Another facet of the show is the emphasis that is put on having to be with a partner, whether that is in a sexual sense or the life partner that the contestants claim they’re looking to find over the 8 weeks. Why not advocate individualism, the idea we’re self-sufficient without the support from another man/woman stood by our sides?

    Love Island goes against this- promoting the desperate need for the contestants to be in a ‘couple’… at all times! Contestants cannot be single (they have to be coupled-up), throughout the entire running of the season or they face being ‘dumped from the island’.

    In more recent years, Love Island producers have been placing a much larger focus on the wellbeing and aftercare of their contestants in the wake of Mike Thalassitis’ death. The reduction of body image pressures, for both men and women, will not only play a role in benefiting us viewers at home, but also benefit the mental wellbeing of the contestants themselves during their time in the villa and after they leave.

    The post I’VE GOT A TEXT… along with an unrealistic perception of body image. appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    National growing for wellbeing week – 3rd-7th June

    It is said that growing your own produce {fruit/veg} can improve your physical and mental wellbeing. There are health benefits to gardening e.g. improved mental health, improved physical health, confidence, communication, concentration, self-belief. You can develop new skills when gardening and work with other people. Garden centres and brands will be running events and workshops, and there’ll be discounts available.

    Tourette’s syndrome awareness day – 7th June

    This aims to raise awareness about the syndrome and bring people who have the condition together. Tourette’s is a neurological condition that is most recognisable by tics and involuntary sounds and movements. It is more common in boys and affects over 300,000 people. Last year, the week was marked by people doing their own challenge, this is mostly activity based. They pay an entrance fee and after the challenge they receive a medal and certificate with all monies raised going to Tourette’s Awareness charities. There will also a large social media campaign taking place on the day, where campaign supporters will be asked to change their profile picture to the awareness week’s ribbon with a picture of themselves with one eye closed accompanying it.

    Transverse Myelitis awareness day – 9th June

    Transverse Myelitis is the inflammation of a section of the spinal cord and this can cause severe pain, sensory problems and sensation changes. It particularly affects the nerve fibres in the spine and can destroy the myelin substance part, which wraps around and protects the spinal cord. The condition has no known cure but the day is all about raising awareness and helping those who suffer from the condition. The condition is rare and is often misdiagnosed. Sufferers can feel isolated and lonely.

    Cupcake day for Alzheimer’s and Dementia day – 13th June

    This is your chance to unite with people in the fight against dementia whilst having fun. It’s easy to make cupcakes, there are a million ways to make one. The day aims to raise funds and awareness for the fight against Dementia with the help of cupcakes. 850,000 people in the UK have dementia and by 2025 this is set to rise to over 1 million. The cupcake day is a brilliant way to support the work of the Alzheimer’s Society. Recent events to mark the occasion include the building of a six-foot Big Ben replica and a building of a structure of cupcakes totalling 240.

    Global Motor Neurone disease awareness day – 21st June

    This is a special day for recognition of MND around the world. It marks the start of a season of hope. The International ALS Alliance encourages all ALS/MND Associations around the world to undertake a range of activities to express their hope that this day will be another turning point in the search for cause, treatment and cure of ALS/MND. Motor Neurone Disease is a condition that affects the brain and nerves, it causes weakness in these areas that worsen over time. It’s a fatal condition and can significantly shorten life expectancy, but some people live with it for many years, and there is no cure.

    National post-traumatic stress disorder awareness day – 27th June

    June is PTSD awareness month. But June 27th is a day to recognise the profound effects post-traumatic stress has on the lives of those affected. The statistics are staggering. The people who most commonly suffer from the condition are army veterans, people who have experienced violent crime or experienced catastrophic events. The day originates from the US, when an army member wanted to designate a day of awareness in memory of a colleague who suffered from PTSD but later committed suicide. His birthday was chosen as the date to mark the event. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental illness that can develop after a car accident, a shooting or combat incident, a natural disaster or a sexual assault. Sufferers will have painful memories, they may feel nervous or have trouble sleeping. People normally get better and make a full recovery but there are some cases where people struggle for months or years. It’s unknown how PTSD develops in some people, why it doesn’t in others and why it does at different lengths of times after the event. PTSD is not a sign of weakness in someone and is not a reflection of the person. Organisations work with employees, consumers, and patients to get information about symptoms and treatments, then they spread the information in the aim of informing people about the disease and helping more people who suffer from PTSD get treatment. 

    The post June’s psychology awareness days appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    With the summer holidays fast approaching, children, parents and schools alike are gearing up for the 6-week school break. Thinking back to this time of year when I was younger, I remember excitement and anticipation around all the fun things I could do without the strict and monotonous routine of school. For many children, the school holidays are a freeing and joy-filled time, with weeks of lie ins, seeing friends and visiting new places.  Whilst some parents might be worried about how they are going to entertain their little ones over the holidays, many are relieved about avoiding the school run or not having to encourage reluctant kids to get out of bed in the morning. However, for autistic children and their parents, the inevitable approach of the school holidays can be extremely anxiety provoking.

    Many children with autism benefit greatly from routine and structure in their day. Knowing what is going to happen next, who they are going to see and what time they will be performing activities can help them make sense of their world and reduce anxiety around what they might experience in their day. The rigid structure of school provides just that to many autistic children; they have set lesson times, lunch times and play times that rarely differ day to day, and they know what to expect from their classes and teachers. They can also see how their entire week will be structured, with 5 days of school and 2 days of weekend. Therefore, a sudden and dramatic finishing of this structure can be overwhelming and confusing; a 6-week expanse of uncertainty is a lot to handle.

    Fear not: there are many things that can be done to help some autistic children (and their parents or carers) to cope with the transition between school and the school holidays. Of course, as always, every autistic child is different. Therefore, what might work brilliantly for one child may be disastrous for another. Consequently, it is very important to understand each autistic child’s unique needs, and implement strategies tailored to them personally. However, some of these tips could be a great place to start:

    Keep a visual holiday calendar or timetable

    Sitting down with an autistic child and planning for the week ahead together can help ensure that the child knows what is coming up for them and enables them to prepare for this, often reducing anticipatory anxiety. On top of planning, turning this into a visual timetable for each week can be a really useful tool for the child to use on their own to remind them of their schedule that day or week.

    For example; if you know that every Tuesday of the break Grandma will be providing childcare while you are at work, this could be scheduled in every week, with a picture of Grandma, what time she will be picking them up and dropping them off, and what activities they will be doing together that week.

    Use the internet to show them places you will be visiting

    If you are planning a holiday abroad, or a trip to a theme park or zoo, it can be really helpful to go on the internet and show your child where they will be going in advance. Most websites will offer pictures of the places they will be staying or activities that are available, and this can help make it seem much more familiar when they arrive and reduce their anxiety.

    Use alarms

    If you child struggles with understanding time cues, it can be really useful to use an alarm or timer to help them know when it is time to finish an activity or leave the house. This way they know that when the timer goes off, it is time to finish what they are doing and move on to the next thing they have planned. This can help reduce your stress, stick to your schedule and get them to Grandmas on time.

    Use social stories

    Social stories are “ways to help people with autism develop greater social understanding.” They are short descriptions of a particular event, which include specific information about what might happen and an appropriate social response. You could make one yourself about a particular event or situation that is coming up, or find one online, and they should aim to offer positive and clear reassurance about a situation in a way accessible to the age of your child.

    Maintain one routine event every day

    There will inevitably be a huge number of differences between your child’s holiday routine and school routine. Therefore, it can be really helpful to keep at least one thing routine every day, if that is at all possible. For example; if your child usually eats dinner at 5:30 pm, try and keep this routine throughout the holidays if you can to allow your child to have at least one concrete plan or routine in their day.

    Be aware of sensory needs

    The beach, swimming pools and sun cream can be great fun for everyone in the summer months. However, for some children with autism this can provide special sensory challenges that you could try to keep in mind when going out and about in the holidays. For example, for some children with autism beach sand can be extremely unsettling, especially if they are not used to having bare feet. A good tip here could be to try water shoes instead, which protect the child’s feet from direct contact with the sand. Similarly, the sensation of thick sun cream can be a lot to handle for some, thus a water-based spray sun cream could work a lot better.

    Again, every child is different, so this is one that will be very specific to each individual.

    Just do your best, and don’t be too hard on yourself

    We have given a lot of tips and tricks in this blog which could be useful in helping you and your autistic child thrive throughout the school holidays. However, inevitably things will come up suddenly which can throw all your plans, organisation and best intentions out of whack. Occasionally things are inevitable, and life will sometimes just happen. Remember it isn’t an exact art; all you can do is try your best and make adjustments where you can.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re doing great.

    References

    https://www.autism.org.uk/about/strategies/social-stories-comic-strips.aspx

    https://nj1015.com/children-with-autism-spectrum-should-keep-a-summer-routine/

    https://www.verywellhealth.com/summer-fun-for-you-and-your-child-with-autism-260216

    http://www.autismnetworkscotland.org.uk/summer-holiday-hints-and-tips-for-parents/

    https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/understanding-autism/understanding-autism-out-and-about/autism-summer-holidays-with-autism

    https://www.autism.org.uk/about/strategies/social-stories-comic-strips.aspx

    The post A Blissful Break instead of Holiday Havoc: Tips for a Happy Holiday from School for Autistic Children   appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    Resilience; it’s a word that we’re all familiar with and a popular topic within psychology. The positive outcomes that come with increased resilience have led psychologists to strive to explore the thoughts, behaviours and actions that make up ‘resilience’.

    There are many definitions of resilience that attempt to capture the essence of this skill, one of the most common is the ‘ability to bounce back’ in the face of hard times, stress or adversity. We all face difficulties at one time or another, in our relationships, at work, with our health; in order to be able to maintain our wellbeing at work and at home we need to build on our ability to cope in the face of these difficulties.

    Why is it important for us to learn to be more resilient? Well, in 2018 the Mental Health Foundation conducted an online poll of almost 5000 people in the UK. They found that in the past year 74% of participants felt overwhelmed and unable to cope due to their stress levels. Of those who reported feeling this way, more than half also admitted to feeling depressed or anxious, and 32% said they had had suicidal thoughts and feelings. This level of stress can impact not only psychological health, but physical health too; increasing our intake of alcohol, smoking and unhealthy food. Interestingly, higher levels of resilience have been shown to improve our immune functioning.

    There are a number of factors that contribute to our resilience, the primary one being supportive relationships. A strong network of family and friends to encourage and support us is key to increasing our ability to bounce back when we are facing difficult times. In addition to this, a positive view of ourselves, confidence in our strengths and the capacity to manage strong feelings are all involved in our ability to be resilient. Finally, communication and problem-solving skills and the capacity to make realistic plans are also factors which help us to cope with hardship. It is important to remember that being resilient doesn’t mean we don’t feel strong emotions when adversity strikes, it just means that we are better equipped to deal with the situation and move on more quickly.

    Bearing this is mind, how can we cultivate our resilience and tap into its benefits? According to the American Psychological Association there are 10 ways we can build on our resilience:

    Make connections: Good relationships with close family members, friends, or others are important, accept help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you.

    Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems:  We can’t prevent bad things from happening, but we can change the way we interpret and respond to them.

    Accept that change is a part of living: As a result of adverse situations certain goals may no longer be attainable. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.

    Move towards your goals: Develop some realistic goals and do something regularly – even if it seems like a small accomplishment.

    Take decisive actions: Act on difficult events as much as you can rather than detaching completely from problems and stresses and wishing they would just go away.

    Look for opportunities for self-discovery: People often learn something about themselves and may find that they have grown in some respect as a result of their struggles.

    Nurture a positive view of yourself: Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.

    Keep things in perspective: Try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.

    Maintain a hopeful outlook: An optimistic outlook enables you to expect that good things will happen in your life.

    Take care of yourself: Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy, find time to relax and exercise regularly.

    It is easy to forget how much influence we have over the circumstances in our lives; how we choose to respond to events can determine our success and happiness. Building resilience is a skill that may take a little time and effort, but with that, comes the power to tackle whatever life throws at us.

    References.

    https://www.apa.org/practice/programs/campaign/secure/road-resilience/build-resilience

    https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience

    https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/resilience/resilience-definition-and-how-to-increase-it/

    https://www.boingboing.org.uk/resilience/definitions-resilience/

    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress

    https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/what-is-resilience/

    https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-resilience/

    https://psychcentral.com/lib/building-resilience/

    * Developmental psychologist Ann Masten’s definition of resilience.

    The post Resilience: The “Ordinary Magic”* appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    Autism Spectrum Conditions are gaining far more exposure in popular news media in recent times than ever before. There are many brilliant people speaking out about their experiences of being an adult on the autistic spectrum, and more employers and policy makers are beginning to understand the importance of recognising the unique abilities and difficulties many autistic adults experience.

    With this increased exposure has (thankfully!) come increased awareness and understanding of autism in the general population. Many people who had never heard of, or thought about autism may find themselves exposed to information surrounding it very regularly. Some adults reading about autism may find themselves identifying very strongly with the experiences and difficulties that adults with autism describe, and wondering whether an autism diagnosis may apply to them.

    Whether this kind of story applies, or someone has been thinking about exploring an autism assessment for a while, they may be wondering what a diagnosis in adulthood would mean for them.

    For some adults, even if they identify strongly with the descriptions of autism they come across, the idea of seeking an autism diagnosis may seem inconsequential. Many have ‘made it’ through their child and some adult years without a diagnosis, have happy relationships and good jobs and employment prospects, and thus they may wonder what an autism diagnosis could possibly change for them. This is a very valid feeling and for some, exploring an autism diagnosis may not be the best thing for them.

    However, having an autism diagnosis in adulthood can have huge impacts on some individual’s lives. An article recently published by nextavenue.org, titled “How an autism diagnosis as an adult can change everything” by Patricia Corrigan, explores this topic and what an autism diagnosis meant to various people who were diagnosed in mid to late adulthood.

    The article describes how for Barbara Moran, a graphic artist diagnosed in her late 40s, an autism diagnosis “felt like being forgiven”. Barbara for a long time felt that the difficulties she was experiencing were “character faults”, and learning that in fact they were “legitimate complaints” brought a sense of understanding and relief.

    This can be the case for many adults diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions; many felt that they never fit in, and felt weird or different growing up and in their adult life. Receiving a diagnosis of autism for some helps to explain and validate many of these feelings, and can help to piece together some of the things that never made sense to them before. This is also reflected in the article’s recount of the experience of Peter Street, a man diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions in his late 60s. He explains being diagnosed as an “enormous relief” and that it made his life “suddenly make sense.”

    Whilst this sense of relief is a very common account of the feelings after an autism diagnosis, every individual will of course have unique thoughts and reactions to being diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition. It may raise some confusion and questions about what it means for their life going forward. This is why it is so important that post-diagnostic support is available to help individuals and their families understand autism and explore solutions and difficulties around their diagnosis.

    Here at Psychology Chartered, we are passionate about providing diagnostic assessments and post-diagnostic support to adults seeking an autism diagnostic assessment, or who have received one elsewhere and are wondering what it means for them. To find out more about how we can help, please visit the autism service section of our website https://psychologychartered.co.uk/services/adult-autism-services/, email me at lily@psychologychartered.co.uk, or call us on 02392377399.

    If you wish to read the full article spoken about above, please find it here: https://www.nextavenue.org/autism-diagnosis-adult/

    The post What an Autism Diagnosis in Adulthood May Mean for You. appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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    With one in every four people suffering with mental health difficulties each year, it is more important than ever that we ensure we are setting aside enough time to focus on our own mental wellbeing. With work, relationships and family commitments often taking precedence in our lives, it is easy to focus our energy on making sure the people around us are happy, forgetting about ourselves…but this can become very unhealthy.

    Self-care, at its most basic description, is simply identifying self-desires or needs and then taking steps to meet those needs, regardless of how small the steps may be.

    Self-care and self-love can sometimes sound a bit cliché. ‘Have a long soak in a bubble bath, go for walk, read a book’, but maybe this isn’t for you. You might also be thinking ‘well who has the time for that, I have a shower to get clean and then I’m ready to go again…’ But self-care is important. It is extremely important! It needs to be set as a priority.

    After sustaining a brain injury, survivors and their families often report having trouble adjusting to their ‘new’ lives, the changes they have to face and the losses. Family members often give most of their energy and time to their relative who has sustained a brain injury and the other people around them and are left feeling as though they do not have enough left-over energy and time to properly care for themselves. They may feel guilty if they take time away from being a caregiver in order to do something for themselves. For those supporting an individual with a brain injury, it is extremely important to find the right balance between what they need for themselves, and what others need from them.

    Maintaining good health and wellbeing provides the energy and the capacity to ensure you and your friends and family can face the challenges that you may encounter when supporting someone with a brain injury.

    In the aftermath of a brain injury, loved ones and families often put their lives on hold in order to focus everything on the individual who has sustained an ABI (Acquired Brain Injury). It is only natural that when a close relative or loved one suffers something as devastating and life changing as an ABI they want to do everything they can in order to help and support them. Parents, siblings, grandparents and partners alike will all want to spend every ounce of their energy and time visiting, supporting, and caring for the individual with an ABI.

    We need to be in the best frame of mind in order to care for another individual. This is only possible when you take care of number one, maintaining good health and wellbeing.

    Anger, guilt, resentment, stress, anxiety, fear and grief are just some of the many emotions that might be encountered when someone close to us sustains an ABI. With time, these emotions will begin to subside. It is normal to feel as if you’re going crazy with worry at times, but it will not help to supress these feelings. The best way to deal with them is to face them head on and accept them. Talk to others around you, talk with someone who understands what you’re going through and understands your emotions. Depression is always a major concern for those close to someone who has sustained an ABI, if it becomes a serious issue- seek professional help by talking to your GP.

    Good health and wellbeing mean that you can provide the best care and utmost support to your loved one. Some of the most important tips for maintaining this include:

  • Ask for help as and when you need it, don’t be ashamed. You’re doing an amazing job and everyone needs a helping hand every now and again. Let trusted friends and family take on some of the load, no man is an island.
  • Take time for yourself. This should be time to do something that relaxes you, something that you enjoy and can do alone.
  • Exercise, eat healthily and make sure you’re getting enough rest/sleep.
  • Relax regularly, make sure you’re not trying to do too much.
  • Keep up social relationships- make sure you still see your friends, go shopping, have trips away. You need and deserve it.
  • Attend a carers group for support, you’ll be able to share experiences with people who understand what you’re going through.
  • Access all available services and funding that are offered to you.
  • Acknowledge and deal with your feelings and emotions. Don’t let them take over, remember you are in control.
  • To best help other people, you have to first take care of yourself. Some people often find it hard to know where to begin. If this is the case, consider talking to your close friends and family to get some ideas. These will be coming from someone you know and trust, and who know you best. Support groups are often very beneficial because they allow you to interact with other people who have been through similar circumstances and experiences to you and to learn what worked/didn’t work for them.

    The post Put Yourself First To Ensure No One Gets Left Behind: Self-Care & ABI. appeared first on Psychology Chartered.

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