Not to sound like a boring old fart, but I am one of those people who comes back from a holiday, feeling as though I need a holiday away from a holiday!
It all started at the beginning of December when I was due to go home to South Africa, and if you anything like me, you tend to find going on holiday more stressful than stress relieving!
With a few clicks on Amazon and a few pennies spent at the local health shop, I have come to find that these nifty little products not only helped with easing holiday stress but help with easing life stress as well:
1. Zhu Zhu Lavender Eye Mask
This is So totally cool in my opinion! Eye masks in general are quite good at creating a relaxed feeling and aid in sleep, but a sweet smelling one?
This mask contains lavender and if you know anything about aromatherapy, you will know that lavender has long been used for it's incredible relaxing properties.
So while your eyes benefit from the darkness of the mask, your nose gets a sweet smelling whiff of the lavender!
This is the mask that I use. This particular one is only available in the UK, however, a very similar one can be found here for people who live in the US.
2. Aroma ball stress relief oil
I loved this as it was small enough to just pop into my handbag.
The rollerball works just like a deodorant stick, so the ball moves as you wipe it against the skin, leaving a bit of product on the area of skin that you have wiped.
This is designed for the pulse points, and I dabbed it on my wrists and my neck pulse points, and could catch a whiff of the blended oils whenever I felt I needed it.
Currently, I am using the Dr organic Lavender Aroma Ball but I have used this brand before as well. However, if you live in the US, please click here.
3. Neck pillow
My husband reckoned that a neck pillow completely changed his travelling experience. They really just make travelling that much more comfortable, and if you are stuck with the rest of us in that awful 'economy class' on an aeroplane, this will basically make the difference between an okay journey (as okay as economy class can go) or a journey from hell!
Neck pillows come in different shapes and sizes, and can be very expensive!
But I have honestly found that there is no need to buy the expensive ones.
Something like this will work just as well and this is very similar to what I use.
4. Natura Rescue Remedy
I am a HUGE fan of rescue remedy. I have tried different brands and the drops and the tablets, and my absolute favourite has got to be the Natura tablets.
Within a few minutes of taking these, I can honestly feel that anxious 'edginess' subside and they don't taste bad at all. I just put two tablets on my tongue and let them dissolve.
The one and only drawback to this particular brand is that it is only available in South Africa, and since I am a South African, I buy a couple of bottles whenever I go to visit family and friends.
So if you live in South Africa...hey ho...happy days....
However, I have also made use of the Dr Bach Rescue Remedy and they are available in both the UK and the US
5 Guided meditation apps
If you are travelling by plane, all you need to do is put your phone on aeroplane mode and you are sorted! My phone is loaded with soothing music, positive affirmations and meditations. Instead of watching on board entertainment, sit back with your neck pillow and lavender eye mask, plug your ear phones in and listen to some guided mediations!
There are plenty of in-expensive apps that you can buy or try recording one yourself and saving it onto your phone! This technique is also great for social phobia sufferers.
Honest Policy: I do earn a commission if you choose to buy any products I hyperlinked in this post. If you do purchase through my affiliate links, thank you so much for your support!
There is nothing better than coming home to the sight of a wagging tail, a huge toothy smile and the pitter-patter of little paws. That's right, I'm talking about dogs, and specifically service dogs (also known as therapy dogs or companion animals). There is an increasing global trend of mental health patients either being assigned a service dog, or requesting one.
The SCAS (Society for Companion Animal Studies), have been getting a huge increase in the number of enquiries from people suffering from mental health disorders about owning service dogs to help ease their anxiety or depression. Some countries even have service dog training programs as a result of increasing demand for trained therapy dogs. Much research is still being done on the long term benefits of having a service dog, but positive results in short term studies are already revealing many benefits, not just for those of us with anxiety or depression, but physical benefits are being seen as well for those with heart disease or high blood pressure.
Here are 5 reasons why service dogs can treat your anxiety disorder:
1. Reduction in Stress
Dogs don't judge you, they don't care how you look or what kind of illness you have. They love you all the same. When you've had a really bad day, they can lift your mood by licking your hand. If you have been crying, they somehow seem to know this and will sit close to you, and even put their head on your lap. If you had a stressful day, had a fight with a friend or family member, just stroking your dog can soothe you and help you to relax. Spending just a few minutes with your dog will make you feel at ease and reduce cortisol levels (a hormone linked to stress). Dogs are often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in war veterans and are amazing with cancer patients too.
2. Emotional Support
There are times when you might not be able to reach a friend or a family member for the support you need. Your canine friend is always available to you and can give you that support when you have no human company around. To me, my dogs are my best friends, and I see them as my little furry children. If I have been walking home and had a sudden onset of social phobia, I get home and immediately my dogs run down the stairs and jump all over me, wagging their tails and running around all over, and my mood just suddenly lifts. I've never seen someone not feel better when being greeted by their dog. A dog is there for you 24/7, always ready to provide mention support and comfort when needed.
3. Improvement in Overall Wellbeing: Mentally and Physically
Dogs need exercise and your companion dog will let you know when it's time for that daily walk. This is a great opportunity for you to join in the fun. Go to the park, throw the ball or go jogging with your dog. You can get some fresh air, a bit of sun and increase endorphin ("feel good hormone") levels. Improvement in physical wellbeing is also linked to feeling better mentally. Another example is getting a good night's rest. You'll sleep better knowing that your service dog is close by and keeping an "ear" out for anything strange. And we know how getting 8 hours of beauty sleep leads to an overall improvement in wellbeing the next day. Having a dog around just makes everything feel better in general.
4. Assistance with Panic Attacks
Dogs can be trained to fetch things for you in emergencies. They can also be trained to "dial" for help if needed. Most importantly, when you experience panic symptoms your dog can alert others to what is happening so that you can get support from a neighbour or friend. Dogs also can pick up on certain physical "cues" before the onset of an attack and will naturally try to comfort you. This kind of early symptom detection from a dog can be seen in people who suffer from strokes. At the time of a panic attack, your thoughts are all over the place, and its easy to become overwhelmed by the fear. A service dog can bring you back to the present moment through sense of touch and close contact.
5. Reduction of Social Phobia
If you suffer from social phobia, its a littler easier to get out there and face the world, just because you have your trusted furry companion with you. Also, you'll notice that people tend to acknowledge your dog rather than look straight at you, which really helps when you have a fear of people staring at you. On the flip side, it can also be a lot easier to make a friend, because a service dog is a great conversation starter. This may seem to be a negative, but most people tend to talk to the dog, rather than to you directly.
It's clear that there are many great benefits of having a service dog for anxiety and panic disorder sufferers, as well as sufferers of other mental health disorders. With the prevalence of anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social phobia, it seems that the demand for service dogs will rise over the coming years. But it's important to remember that a companion animal, or service dog, is not a means to an end, or just a therapy "tool". If you are serious about owning a dog to help ease your anxiety, make sure that you understand the responsibility involved in taking care of a dog. Most importantly, treat your dog with love and respect. After all, dogs are our best friend.
To read a more in depth article with lots of resources about service dogs for mental illness, please check out Little Dogs Rule.
After a few weeks of hard work, the website has been given a facelift with a new theme and better navigation overall. Some new sections have been added. The "Mel's Favorites" section has been populated with lots of interesting content written by Mel and will include more articles on tips, diet and remedies for coping with and reducing anxiety in the near future. There is also a "Types of Anxiety" page which we added and we will grow it over time to provide a reference and definitions on the different types of anxiety for new comers to the site...
Also with the release of Mel's book, My Anxiety Companion, we have added a Newsletter for the book on the Home page, which we would love for you to please subscribe to so that you can receive regular updates when new content is added to the site, as well as get news about My Anxiety Companion (including future releases of translated editions of the book and potentially an audio book version as well).
If there are any specific languages you would like to see the book translated to, please participate in the poll on the Home page. Please take a moment to view the "Book" section to find links to the various stores where My Anxiety Companion can be purchased, we really appreciate your support and hope that you enjoy Mel's book.
We are also going to be adding regular polls to the site, which will include questions on what kind of content you would like to see, or videos you would like to see Mel include in her weekly Youtube channel videos. If you haven't already, please subscribe to her Youtube channel to receive weekly videos which include anything from things to include in your diet to reduce anxiety, to travel tips for anxiety sufferers and recommendations on what to carry in your handbag to get you through those difficult anxiety stricken days. While you are at it, please like Mel's Facebook page and follow her on Twitter (the social media links can be found on the Contact page), we hope to see you there and providing you with helpful updates to get you through your day.
We will be keeping the videos section up to date with an archive of all Mel's Youtube videos for easy reference. Now that it's a new year Mel will start blogging more regularly and will add her thoughts, day-to-day experiences with anxiety, and any news related to mental health.
Thanks so much for visiting the website. We hope to make it a place that you can come back to frequently to learn useful ways of coping with anxiety and reducing overall mental stress in your life. A lot of new content is planned for 2016, so please check back regularly!
So it has now been a few weeks since I published my book about my struggle with anxiety and panic disorder, and I wanted to quickly touch on a topic that many are wondering about when deciding to write their first book: should you go with a traditional publishing house or self-publish?
There are pros and cons to either method but I chose to self-publish and here are 5 reasons why:
1. You Are in Control
I have heard stories from other authors in the industry about how they had issues with their agents or the editor at the publishing house they chose to go with. Often times they were asked to change the story, characters or the cover of the book. It's understandable that these things are sometimes necessary when you consider the experience that editors have with stories that will "fly". But even after many of these changes were made, I have heard of authors who still didn't make a success. Some writers actually leave their publisher and go self-publish and end up making a better success. But I think it comes down to what kind of material you are trying to publish, and honestly, the choice really is yours. But I like the fact that I am in control of my story as well as the style of my writing. I am not pressured into writing towards a certain deadline as I can stick to a timeline of my own choosing. I still have my material edited and proof read by professionals from a self-publishing company, so there is no loss of quality.
2. The Cost to Publish is Smaller
The cost to publish is significantly smaller. I won't mention any prices here but I do recommend that you contact some self-publishing houses to find out what kinds of packages they offer. Packages are basically catered according to your budget. So you can start with anything from a basic package with some editing and proof reading or go for premium packages that include things like cover design and even additional rounds of editing for further quality control. You can design your own cover though if you choose and there are tons of templates to choose from to suit your kind of book. I really enjoyed designing the cover for My Anxiety Companion, and I think it is the perfect fit for a book about anxiety and panic disorders. It has a sort of chaotic look to it, which is really how most of us with anxiety feel in our darkest moments. So yes, it definitely is a huge saving, especially if you are writing your first book.
3. Higher Royalties
Generally royalties are higher, so the self-publishing house might take 40% of your sales price, and traditional publishing houses might take up to 85%. You can see this is a huge difference right? You get to keep more of the money that you earned by working hard to write your book. Bear in mind that traditional publishing houses have higher overheads such as printing costs, distribution costs and would have to print quite a few copies in advance to get into book shops. Some traditional publishers do offer 50% royalties on ebooks, so you would need to do some research. But self-publishing still works out less expensive in the end.
4. Self-Publishing is Gaining Popularity
There are a lot of self-publishing houses setting up shop. One of the better known ones (and the one I used), is called CreateSpace, and they are an Amazon company. They offer a wide variety of services to suit different budgets and needs. You may need to approach them to see if they would be interested to publish your kind of book. Some self-publishing houses specialize in certain topics or themes, e.g. Psychology books instead of crime thrillers. There are many self-publishing houses out there that work with specific types of categories of books, so just do a little research on the Internet. I do recommend CreateSpace though as they are very helpful and have excellent customer service. No I am not promoting them nor am I getting any kick backs for mentioning them, I've just personally enjoyed using their company.
5. Freedom to be Creative
Lastly with self-publishing, your book is yours and yours alone. You won't have anyone telling you to change the plot, or trying to change the book's contents to fit their own sales goals. You are free to be creative and add in any content you desire. Remember that your book will still be edited and proofread, and helpful suggestions are made to tighten things up, or to correct grammatical and spelling errors. Even things such as idioms that might make sense in English UK language, but not so much in US language are taken into account and changes for those are recommended to you as well.
Writing and self-publishing My Anxiety Companion has been one of the greatest joys but also one of the most challenging things I have ever done! However, I highly recommend writing and self-publishing your first book. Just write on anything that you have personal experience with and share it with the world. My goal is to use my personal experiences with anxiety and panic disorders to help as many people as possible around the world. And I am already looking forward to writing a second book. I wish you luck with your writing should you wish to pursue it further.