My final course in my master’s program included a final project. The final paper is a thesis written about the execution of our capstone project. This was an extensive final project that was worked on here and there throughout the length of this program, but primarily worked on in this final course. My objectives for this course were to summarize everything learned from the program and to do a personal evaluation from my time here and to prepare for my future career.
This course was so much more than just summarize my learnings, working on this final project helped me to understand how I can make a difference with my writing. Working on my capstone project, Destigmatizing Mental Health, was enjoyable and made me feel like I had a purpose. Finishing this final project helped me to wrap everything all together after experiencing the creation of the capstone project.
While I didn’t do a formal personal evaluation, I mentally went through a lot this last month. There was a lot going on in my life, other than school, and it was the type of events that tested my strength. Going through those types of events helped me to evaluate what I wanted to do with my life, just in time to finish off the school year and start my career. This final project was the most effort I had put into any writing piece yet, and it helped me to understand the best methods for me as a writer to utilize moving forward. Working on this project made me reflect on what I did good with the capstone and what needed work on. This helped me to understand what areas I was lacking in. Knowing that helped me to understand what I will need to focus harder on during my career.
Imagine a life where you didn’t have any thoughts or emotions. Imagine a day where you just woke up, blindly completed your daily tasks and went right back to bed. The thought of not having a mental illness might appeal to some of those who suffer, but to be rid of these disorders means getting rid of the mental state all together.
Just like maintaining physical health, to keep up with good mental health can be hard at times. The most challenging might even be to get started, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean that it’s not important. Mental health has even shown to lead to decreases in mental health.
“The entire body repairs from the head down. The brain is responsible for all vital function through the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. We can think we are taking care of our bodies but if we are not taking care of our headspace, we are neglecting our bodies regardless of exercise and nutrition.”
– Michael Maiello, Fitness Professional
1 in 5 American adults every year experience a mental illness, but approximately two-thirds of the world population go untreated for a mental illness. This is why it’s also important to destigmatize mental health by normalizing the conversation around mental health.
My three goals before starting this course were to professionalize my social media accounts, increase online engagement and better understand the structures of different social media platforms. I feel like this course gave me what I needed to achieve all of these goals and I also learned other valuable information.
I was introduced to an entirely new platform, Reddit. This was beneficial to me both professionally and personally. I also learned the best platform to reach my demographic for woman’s mental health is Instagram. Another huge lesson I learned was how to find stories on social media by figuring out what’s trending and what people want to read about.
In our final week, I learned was how to track the metrics for my Facebook insights and Twitter analytics. I also learned how to take that data and use it to my advantage to make future posts better as well as bring more engagement to my website and social media pages
The most valuable thing I learned from this course to help my career as a journalist is how to find stories through social media. This was never even a consideration in my process of planning new stories. I know now that it is a reliable way to figure out what people will actually want to read by seeing which hashtags are being primarily used and what types of stories that my target demographic is interested in reading around the time of releasing my articles. This can also be beneficial in tracking to what kinds of content remain of interest throughout any period of time.
Throughout the course, I have learned how to utilize social media to make me a better journalist and gain more viewers on the content on my website. I have made my accounts more professional looking and learned techniques on how to utilize each one individually to get more content readers.
Alder Allensworth is a woman in Tampa, Florida who was diagnosed with a rare and fatal cancer when she was 32 years old. There were many things she had to overcome from the moment she was diagnosed, one of those things were her mental health.
Being a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, she knew she was going to need to speak with someone not only about the prognosis, but to cope with the major physical changes in her face. Another thing she wanted to work through was trying to figure out why she had cancer, why this was happening to her. Despite being devastated, Allensworth prevailed through the prognosis, through the surgery and through the aftereffects of the entire diagnosis.
“Not only will I have to get my looks messed up, they told me I probably wouldn’t live either.”
According to American Cancer Society, there were 1,762,450 new cancer cases diagnoses in 2019. In the same study, there were 606,880 deaths from cancer in the United States. Although the death rate has dropped 27% over the past 25 years, cancer is still highly prevalent in the world. There are many things to consider when diagnosed or going through treatment, but one of the most ignored aspects is a person’s mental health.
According to Mental Health American, an estimated one-third of all people undergoing cancer treatment also have common mental health conditions; 8-24% of people with cancer live with depression. Having mental health conditions can worsen outcomes but maintaining a good mental health can also improve survival rates.
Maintaining good mental health can be as simple as practicing habits for better mental health, this can include journaling and meditating. Other steps to take are maintain face-to-face social interactions and seeking help from a therapist. In Allensworth case, she had to pay out of pocket to receive help from a therapist, but she understood that is was vital to her overall healing process.
Another important thing to remember is to not avoid the situation and to confront the diagnosis and the aftereffects properly. Allensworth didn’t want to look at her face after the surgery of removing her eye, but her family helped her to realize that it was something that needed to be done in order to move forward. When asked about how she dealt with others she came in contact with, she stressed the importance of letting them understand that she has accepted and is comfortable with it.
“If I’m uncomfortable with how I’m looking, then that projects out to other people and then the other people around me are uncomfortable. If I’m not even thinking of it, people around me are comfortable. It’s really what I project.”
Kim Chronister begins exploring toxic relationships by defining signs of toxic people. Some explanations she gives are feeling judged, a depleted self-worth, poor communication, hostility or chaos and competition.
Toxic relationships can be revealed through constant and unnecessary criticism; as well as self-worth being negatively affected by that criticism. One should be comfortable expressing oneself and feel safe from unpredictable outbursts by the other party. Additionally, she mentions that it’s unhealthy to be too competitive with family members, partners or friends.
Dr. Chronister continues to explain how toxic relationships can affect a person’s life, both mentally and physically. Some of the mental affects unhealthy dynamics can lead to are anxiety, depression, despair, anger and guilt.
Toxic relationships can also leave the victim with a fight-or-flight response, this is when the nervous system releases a sudden amount of hormones triggering adrenaline or noradrenaline. While it may seem like a good thing for your body to recognize this response in stressful situations, living in this fight-or-flight state for a long period of time can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health, as reported by the Cleveland Clinic.
The mind-body connection is so powerful that suffering long-term distress from a toxic family member, friend, or partner can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, fatigue and more.
Dr. Kim Chronister
A study that began in 1985 followed over 10,000 subjects and revealed the long-term effects of health problems associated with prolonged toxic relationships. These subjects showed a greater cardiac risk, some including fatal events.
Dr. Kim Chronister shares three key tips for healing after going through any toxic relationship. A person can overcome the effects of toxic relationships by identifying the good, practicing boundary setting and learning assertiveness skills.
In order to prepare your brain to be more accepting of positive traits in new relationships, it’s important to set an intention to look for the good things about the person being communicated with, not just the first time but in every interaction.
It is also important to acknowledge the positive traits in yourself; this can help you to maintain a higher self-esteem. This can be achieved by keeping record of your positive qualities with a ‘Positive You’ journal.
It’s also important to learn how to and practice healthy boundary setting. One can set boundaries with another by seeing them only at times that are convenient and in situations that are healthy. If the person is simply too toxic, it’s best to just avoid them.
Setting and upholding healthy boundaries in ALL of your relationships is not only necessary, but it’s the one thing that will either end or enhance those relationships right away. And no matter what the outcome… It is the greatest gift you will ever receive.
Finally, learning assertiveness skills can shift the dynamic. This can be used as a tool in dealing with a toxic party in a relationship. Becoming more assertive can be an easy process through practice and mental work. This can be achieved by valuing and voicing oneself, one’s needs and one’s wants confidently and positively. Understand that a persons behavior cannot be changed, be open to criticism and lear to say no.
Mental illness is something that affects 1 in 5 American adults every year, as reported by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 1 in 6 American youth experience mental health issues each year. 50% of all lifetime illnesses start by age 14. With more than 200 classified forms of mental illness, they are extremely prevalent in today’s society and it can have a huge effect on daily life and activities.
There are many ways to recognize a mental health issue before receiving an official diagnosis. Some warning signs to look out for can be a change in mood, difficulty or increased stress from completing regular daily tasks, going through a social withdrawal or any other trauma-related symptom. Mental Health America lists a number of other warning signs for mental illness here.
Because of the fact that mental illness is so widespread, it can affect everyday tasks just as any other type of physical illness. It can cause hardships in anything from social interactions to a person’s overall physical health and can expand to those close to the person experiencing a mental illness. If left untreated, it can lead to many other complications, as stated by the ADAA.
A huge part of everyday life that be affected are relationships and social interactions. Parenting and pregnancy can also have a huge effect. Romantic relationships can be hard to navigate when you are experiencing mental ailments. In relation to social interactions, having strong relationships and a face-to-face interactions can have a positive effect on a person’s mental health, as reported by Temma Ehrenfeld, author of Open Gently.
Education and careers are another part of life that can become affected. It can be hard to study or stay organized in a workplace when you are experiencing ADHD or OCD. Research also shows depression associated with a lower grade point average in student. These illnesses can have a negative effect on productivity overall. A number people facing mental illness are even more likely to be unemployed, as reported by the EOCD. They have also published Recommendation on Integrated Mental Health, Skills and Work Policy which provide guidelines for addressing mental health in the workplace.
A persons physical health can be affected my mental health issues. It can affect someone’s diet and sleep cycle. In a report done by Anne Marie Oberheu, a psychiatrist in Chicago, mental health can lead to negative changes in heart health, blood pressure and obesity. The University of Oxford also reported that mental illnesses can reduce a person’s life expectancy by up to 20 years. Also, depression and dementia can give a person great troubles while aging. Dementia is found to be associated with individuals who have depression and/or schizophrenia.
Mental illnesses can alter personality and behavior. A person can become distant or cut off from the world, some scared to even show the real them whether it be from not accepting their flaws or even as far as sexuality. The stigmas on mental health can leave people afraid to speak up about their illnesses resulting in not getting the right help when it’s needed.
A mental illness can be defined as a health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior (or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning.
Alder Allensworth, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a master’s in music therapy, was diagnosed with a rare and fatal cancer when she was 32. Not only did she faced with losing part of her face, but she was told at the time she probably wouldn’t live. At her age, this was devastating. She had only a week to make the decision of losing her eye because of the risk of the cancer spreading.
As a therapist herself, she knew it was going to be important to talk to someone about the changes that were coming. After insurance told her they can’t cover therapy unless her life was at risk, she had to pay out of pocket to get mental care treatment. She knew she needed to see someone, though, to learn how to cope with the changes and the prognosis and figure out why this was happening to her.
Even though she only had a week, the aftershock was the what she had to work with the most. At first, she didn’t want to look at her face so she avoided it. After her stitches came out, her father told her it was time to look at it. He told her to look at it in the morning so she can move on with the rest of her day instead of thinking about it right before bed. It took a while for her to come to terms with the extreme change of her looks.
After getting her eye removed, she found that if she didn’t think about the way she looked than it projected onto the people around her. The more comfortable she was with it, the more comfortable others were. Having to tell her story over and over again took a huge toll on her. She found that many people would offer suggestions such as getting a fake eye or tattoing an eye on.
“Everybody is trying to fix you, but I didn’t feel broken.”
There were many forms of therapy she utilized beyond talking to a therapist. Her family, friends and even coworkers helped to aid her mental recovery. She found music therapy greatly helped and continuing her love of sailing was a huge therapy in its own. She went from being a nationally ranked wind surfer to double handed racing.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, being strong is not all it’s cracked up to be. Everyone else is trying to be strong and you will miss out on wonderful human interactions. Allow yourself to be vulnerable or find a safe place where you can be vulnerable and share what’s going on with your feelings.”
Imagine what it would feel like to move past the trauma that hinders the enjoyment of everyday life. Picture yourself calm around large dogs or having no fear upon entering a packed elevator. In that hair-raising moment, moving beyond that anxiety may feel unrealistic. What is one to do when a phobia turns into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
Exposure Therapy has long been a treatment for phobias, but it wasn’t until the 1990’s that PTSD was actually recognized as a mental disorder in DSM – lll. The difference between phobias and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is that PTSD has an actual traumatic memory, it haunts the person through flashbacks. One of the worlds top PTSD experts, Edna Foa, began to wonder about the process of overcoming stressing events. She realized that the original exposure therapy had to be modified to take into account these traumatic memories, thus developing Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE).
Edna Foa, PhD, is a professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry and the Director of the Center for the Study and Treatment of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania. She was one of the Time’s 100 Most Influential People of the World in 2010 and has won many awards from SAMHSA and numerous other organizations.
PE is split into four components. The first is educating about the situation at hand followed by learning breathing techniques to work through the anxiety. Next the client revisits the experience through imaginal exposure, then they revisit the experience in real-life during the in-vivo stage of the therapy.
PE is one of the most studied treatments and has proved to be highly effective for patients with PTSD. In one clinical trial, PTSD symptoms proved positive PTSD screenings to decrease from 87.6% to 46.2%. Another clinical trial shows 53% of patients no longer meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD. If you’re struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, take the first steps towards healing and ask your therapist if Prolonged Exposure Therapy is right for you.
There are a lot of habits that can be utilized for a healthier mind. Some of the simpler ones that almost everyone has heard are exercising and getting enough sleep. Everyone is different and while some habits don’t work as well for one person, there is always another one to try.
Breathing is a life necessity, but there are different techniques you can try to relieve stress and anxiety. Michigan Medicine lays out three different exercises to help relax, belly breathing for beginners, and, more advanced techniques, roll breathing and morning breathing. An article medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg introduces another technique labeled 4-7-8 breathing technique where you breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.
Smiling is an easy way to improve mood and reduce stress. Smiling tells the brain to release dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, which will make you feel happier. Ronald E Riggio, a professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, stated in an article that the endorphins released can actually act as a natural pain-reliver. While smiling can be great way to feel better, don’t forget to work thing things that make you upset.
Face stress head on and acknowledge unhappy moments. Often when bad things happen to a person, they want to just get over it but they forget to take the steps towards actually moving on from the situation. Facing problems from the get-go will help to ensure the stress doesn’t come back later. Acknowledging what caused the unhappy feeling can help you to determine what steps need to be taken to move forward. Amy Morin, LCSW, shares ways mentally strong people deal with stress in this article, techniques to keep problems in perspective.
Journaling can be a great stress and anxiety release; it can be utilized as a form of meditation. Journaling can be as simple as just writing what comes to mind, it can be a place to write down what you are grateful for or tracking food, exercise and sleep. Making journaling as a ritual can be a tool for self-improvement and discovery. For people who don’t know where to start, there are many planners that can help such as Silk + Sonder, a monthly planning experience full of unique features to enhance all aspects of life.
Having an organized space goes a long way for an organized mind. Decluttering once a week will leave you with a clean home and a happy mind. Set a timer for how long you want to spend each week and take it one room at a time. Sort everything into categories such as recycle, fix, trash or donate. Don’t forget to take a moment afterwards to appreciate the work you’ve done. Unplug for at least an hour every week, whether it be all at once or spread out in smaller time increments. Use this time to meditate or exercise. Take a nature walk or write in your journal. Explore new forms of meditation to find which one works best for you. Not only is unplugging good for mental health, but can lead to an improved physical health.