This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Globally, an estimated 284 million people experienced an anxiety disorder back in 2017, proving just how prevalent the mental health concern is on a worldwide scale. However, in addition to using breathing techniques, yoga, and other relaxing activities, music may offer another way to effectively aid in relieving stress and anxiety. Whether you’re looking to supplement methods that are already working to help your anxiety or you want to try something new, here’s how music can help.

The clear health benefits 

Music is well known for having a positive effect on our health, in regards to being able to help heart health, boost exercise performance, and decrease fatigue — to name just a few. Though, it’s also important to recognize that music can also have a profound effect on emotions, too. For instance, researchers at Stanford University note that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication”. While it’s certainly not a replacement for prescription medication, different types of music are known to have an effect on mood. For example, while a slow tempo can induce relaxation, upbeat music can help you to feel more optimistic and positive, proving its effects to be quite impactful.

Music and anxiety

When it comes to music and how it can help relieve anxiety specifically, one study brings to light just how helpful it can be, especially when dealing with stressful situations. In the study, participants attempted to solve different puzzles as quickly as possible while connected to sensors and listening to different music. While the puzzle challenge induced stress, researchers measured brain activity and physiology status in order to gauge the effects of the music. According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International (which conducted the research), the top song, titled “Weightless,” produced a greater state of relaxation than any others, resulting in an impressive 65% reduction in participants' overall anxiety.

Where to begin

While many benefits can be taken simply from listening to music,  making music can also bring benefits, too. Suzanne Hanser, chair of the music therapy department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, notes that music-making is linked to a number of different health benefits, particularly in older adults. In fact, research shows that playing music can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and lessen anxiety and depression, effectively highlighting a wide range of benefits. Whether you plan on learning to play the piano, guitar, or violin, there is a myriad of high quality online resources that can aid in the learning process, meaning that you don’t need to invest in a formal education to become a serious musician. Comprehensive apps include regular content updates in addition to lessons for both beginners and advanced players — not to mention the inclusion of 20 different genres. Other resources, such as the Tom Morello Masterclass, include features that are better geared towards aspiring songwriters, and are ideal for newer performers with sections on developing creative voice.

While music has been long known to have a number of health benefits, it’s important to realize that it can also be utilized in managing stress and anxiety. From listening to music to making some of your own, getting started is as easy as consulting high quality online resources.

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Stress levels have been up by 56% in South Africa since 2020, and depression rates are also on the rise. If you have a partner who is experiencing long-term stress or depression, you may be concerned and wonder how you can help. The first step is undoubtedly encouraging them to seek professional help. This is because depression can lead to suicidal thoughts, and stress itself is a trigger for anxiety and depression. Your partner’s therapist can determine which approaches - including psychotherapy and/or pharmacotherapy - are suitable for your partner, but there is plenty you can do to help.

Spending ‘Green Time’ Together

Outdoor activities such as walking in green areas can help battle depression and stress, as found in a study by researchers from the University of Michigan Health System. Exercising outside with others is ideal, and is linked to lower depression, less perceived stress, and better mental health and wellbeing. All you need to do is take a few minutes of your day to head out with your loved one to a park, forest, beach, or other nature-filled area. A Cornell University study showed that just 10 minutes in this type of setting boosts happiness, and reduces the effects of physical and mental stress.

Expressing Your Support Through Small Details

If your partner is a die-hard romantic who loves small, meaningful details, find ways to let them know that they are not alone and that you can affront life’s difficulties as a team. You might decide to leave them an uplifting note in their lunchbox, plan an unexpected weekend getaway (or even a romantic meal), or surprise them with stress-busting gadgets, accessories or games. Just a few affordable ideas for presents include a vibrating massage ball roller, a Lumie Bodyclock (which gently wakes people up by making the room brighter over the course of 30 minutes), or an essential oil diffuser. Use essential oils like bergamot to cheer them up, and lavender to calm them down when they're feeling stressed-out.

Encouraging Social Interaction

Did you know that couples that integrate other couples into their social lives are likely to have happier relationships? Building strong friendships and networks can benefit people battling stress and depression in many ways, helping them feel like they have more than one person to talk to, spend time with, and enjoy hobbies and activities. As stated in research by Allen & Badcock (2003), disconnection from others can be particularly tough for people with depression. Steger and Kashdan (2010), meanwhile, have found that people with depression “find greater satisfaction and meaning in their lives when they meet their need to belong, suggesting an important role for positive social relationships in buttressing these important cognitive perspectives on life.”

Depression and stress are both common among adults in South Africa. If your partner is battling these conditions, it is important that they seek professional help, since depression, in particular, is linked to suicidal thoughts. Partners can do many things to help ease the burden on their loved one. These include spending time together outdoors, surprising them with meaningful details, and encouraging them to spend time with friends and family.

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham.

At present, up to one in every six South Africans is living with a common mental health concern such as stress, anxiety or depression, according to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). Although the stigma attached to poor mental health has been somewhat reduced over recent years, the connection between mental and physical health is still largely misunderstood. They are often envisioned as completely separate entities, when, in fact, they are very closely related. Neglecting your mental health can lead to an array of physical health concerns, including heart disease, a compromised immune system, and high blood pressure. 

The heart and mind are closely connected

Your mental health can impact your cardiac health in numerous ways. Stress can increase the risk of a heart attack by increasing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation in the body. Additionally, anxiety and depression can increase the chances of sudden cardiac arrest considerably. While your chance to recover from a heart attack is good, sudden cardiac arrest has a much lower survival rate. By identifying any underlying risk factors, including mental health concerns, and dealing with them swiftly and effectively, the risk of sudden cardiac arrest can be decreased.

Stress can weaken your immune system

Although stress can, at times, act as a motivator to get something done, it can also consume you completely. When this happens, it can lead to severe anxiety and depression, which, in turn, can wreak havoc with your immune system. When you are stressed, cortisol is released into the body. In small, infrequent amounts, this can boost your immune system and overall health by reducing inflammation. When your body gets accustomed to high cortisol levels, however, the risk of inflammation increases exponentially. Anxiety and stress also decrease the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells that ward off infection) in the body, making you more prone to illness and infection. By addressing any stress, anxiety and depression concern you have, your immune system will also be given the chance to get stronger and keep you healthy.

Obesity is linked to depression

Depression and obesity are both very heavy burdens to carry, and are often closely linked to one another. If you are obese, you have a 55% chance of becoming anxious or depressed because of it. This happens because people who are obese tend to experience a decrease in self-confidence while shying away from social interaction, which may lead to even more anxiety and depression. When you are living with depression, you have a 58% chance of becoming obese. This is a vicious circle that is often very hard to break, and also one that can lead to serious medical conditions, including diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. 

Despite many obvious differences, our mental and physical health have a direct impact on each other. By taking care of your mental health and being proactive about obtaining treatment where needed, you can reduce your risk of contracting various medical conditions considerably.

This is a guest article by Lucy Wyndham

Letting go of a relationship is almost never easy. Even if there were more ‘downs’ than ‘ups’, getting over an ex is often described as one of the hardest things to do. As painful as letting go may be, however, it is one of the most empowering things you will ever do for yourself.  Not only will you be able to reclaim control over your own life again and regain your confidence, but you will also learn to accept that not everything is within your control. If you have been struggling to let go of an ex, there are a number of things you can do to make it easier to let go of the relationship.

Make peace with the breakup

One of the most important things to do in order to move on from a relationship is to make peace with the breakup. While this may be extremely hard, it is also one of the most important steps you will be required to take. In order to process the grief and loss associated with the breakup, you need to be present in the moment and acknowledge what has happened. If you find yourself starting to dwell on the past, make an effort to focus on the here and now instead. If you need to vent, do so, but instead of trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, make peace with it. Also, as tempted as you may be to get your ex back, always keep in mind why you broke up in the first place. There may be many methods and guides that claim to be able to help you win back an ex, but ultimately making peace with the breakup is probably in your best interest.

Be kind to yourself

It is very natural to blame yourself, not only for your breakup, but also for every argument or misunderstanding you had during your relationship. While this is a common road to venture down after a relationship has come to an end, it is a very dangerous one. Instead of beating yourself up over what could have been, accept that you are human and that you are not perfect. Show kindness to yourself by forgiving yourself for what has happened, and pay attention to both your physical and mental health. If you find yourself overwhelmed with pain, consider seeking out a therapist, who will be able to help you deal with your anguish.

Start living again

The sooner you can fully embrace life again after your breakup, the sooner you will find yourself moving on from the relationship. You more than likely lived a very happy and fulfilling life prior to the relationship, and you can do it again. Focus your attention on things that make you happy, and surround yourself with close family members and good friends that are supportive of you. Make a bucket list of things you want to see and do, and make an effort to tick them off. Spend time doing things that make you happy, whether it is taking a long bubble bath or going for a long hike in nature. It may be difficult to readjust to a new lifestyle, but the sooner you make an effort to do it, the sooner you will realise that you are able to be happy again.  

Dealing with a breakup is never easy. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to help your heart heal faster. 

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