Advice with Annelies: girlfriend’s depression

This series will answer people’s questions or worries, either that have been asked to me or I wanted to give my opinion on. Of course, these are just suggestions, and if the problem is severe, you should seek professional help or advice. This addition’s topic of Advice with Annelies: girlfriend’s depression.

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend's depression

This is a long one and there is a lot to approach, but you can read the whole question (from reddit) below.

My girlfriend is depressed because of her parents. from Advice

Oh gosh, where to start? First of all, can I just say how great you’re doing at looking out for your girlfriend and that I’m so glad she can confide in you- especially when she doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s often easier to keep such thoughts to yourself, but you’re clearly a massive support for her.

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend's depression

“…she was unable to graduate on time this year because of her depression, which only made her parents angrier. Now she’s being pressured to find a full-time job when she is trying to improve her mental health first.”

It’s such an awful situation when parents don’t understand the severity of a mental health illness and acting in anger or disappointment definitely doesn’t help. As with the job, however, mental health does need to come first, and in the grand scheme of things, taking a year out will not hinder her future in any way, so I think that was the right move.

Regarding the job, is this a “to keep you occupied” reason or a “you need to earn some money reason?” If it’s the former, there are lots of other things she can do to keep her busy, especially as it may mean keeping her cognitively challenged and giving her goals and aims for the day. If it is the latter, then maybe it’d be a good compromise with the parents, to try and ease into part-time first and then full time later on. Alternatively, if there is angst about going into the world of work, perhaps, to help you both, you could research different methods of earning money. Depending on your location, there are many possible ideas such as participating in surveys, mystery shopping or ebay reselling etc.

“Long story short, I feel helpless. I don’t know what to do, if there’s anything I can do, to help her in this situation. I simply want to take her away from them but can’t afford to.”

By what you said, it definitely sounds like she could have depression, but taking medication should also be taken alongside therapy if this is possible. It is unfair for you to take the burden, speaking to a professional may really help her; especially concerning coping methods for being at home etc. In terms of what you should do next, it is difficult because I don’t know how much power you have/your age/your living situation.

If you live at home, is there a way for her to stay if she pays rent (maybe you could go halves?) or could you maybe rent out a very small place together? In the ideal situation, you would perhaps move in with each other so she can get away from the environment that is potentially the cause or trigger of her depression. However, I realise that this may not be possible, and visiting may not be often if you don’t drive etc. I’ve left some ideas on how to help in the next section.

Advice with Annelies: girlfriend's depression

“Are there any suggestions of what I could do to help other than being a shoulder to cry on? Should I confront her parents or just stay out of it?”

Personally, I would try and encourage her to seek professional help. If she has difficulty trusting adults as a result of her parents’ opinions and reactions to her mental health, try and reassure her that not everyone is like this and that they could genuinely help her. Another thing that could help, is with her mental and physical wellbeing. Especially if she can spend days in bed, try and encourage her to maybe take a walk occasionally and make sure she is eating correctly etc. Not only is it important for her to maintain her physical health, but exercise can also help give her a goal for the day and keep her busy, especially if she is not working.

I would not confront her parents about it, especially if they realise that she is in bed due to depression etc. but doesn’t take it seriously. She is still at home, and if unless you’re sure of how they’d react, you don’t know if it could potentially make the home environment even more awkward or tense for her.

I really hope this has helped and I wish you all the best! Hopefully, their understanding betters soon and that circumstances change for you both for the better!

The Frugal Frenchie

Advice with Annelies: loneliness

This series will answer people’s questions or worries, either that have been asked to me or I wanted to give my opinion on. Of course, these are just suggestion, and if the problem is severe, you should seek professional help or advice. Here’s the first Advice with Annelies: loneliness.

“I am 28 years old. I feel very alone and lonely most of the time. What should I do to overcome this? I don’t have friends or close relatives and am home 24/7.”

Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but to some extent, I understand how you feel. Last year, I studied a year abroad, away from family, and although I spoke to people at uni, I didn’t have anybody that I would see outside of it. I stayed at home whenever I wasn’t at uni, and only leave the house for grocery shopping.

In retrospect (because isn’t that a joyous thing) I think there are a few things I would change, which hopefully could help you.

Advice with Annelies: loneliness

“Am home 24/7.”

I really went wrong here. When in a situation of loneliness, you have to go out. It’s what keeps you sane. I realise when not at university, sometimes it can be harder to meet people and have an incentive to go out but have a look at what’s around you.

It’s important to get out of the house, even when there’s no particular motive to do so. A change in routine and scenery, is, to be blunt, good for your sanity. Having fresh air, taking a walk… it all helps relax your mind, put things into perspective, for some, it even acts as a form of meditation!

“I don’t have friends”

If you have a particular interest, look up on Facebook, or through the local library, whether there’s an association or club for it: if you like reading, see if there’s a Book Club… that kind of thing! Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is a great way to make connections as you’re guaranteed to have a common interest and a conversation starter!

Furthermore, if you work or are in education, make sure to attend as many events or trips as you can. If there’s a work do, make sure you attend, and you could use the excuse to speak to new people by asking if they’re going etc.

Advice with Annelies: loneliness

“I don’t have… close relatives”

Thankfully, we live in a world where it’s possible to keep in contact with people across long distances. If they have access to a phone or computer, you can skype them or just ring them and hear their voices.

If worst comes to the worst, you’ll just have to wait impatiently for the next letter to arrive, but it can make them feel all that more precious!

I wish you all the best!

The Frugal Frenchie

 

 

Why young children can’t lie

As many of you may know, I study a BSc at Bournemouth University. Lately, we have been learning about developmental psychology- which I have to say has been one of my favourite topics so far! I learnt something interesting the other day, which I thought I would share with you all: why young children can’t lie? And why can they learn to do so later on?

The Frugal Frenchie

The answer can be found in a child’s theory of mind. The theory of mind is essentially the ability to realise that not everybody believes, desires and feels the same way you do (Premack & Woodruff, 1978). It’s also useful for predicting and explaining other people’s behaviours and allowing us to be empathic.

Theory of mind develops gradually throughout childhood, which means that some children may be at higher or more developed levels of theory of mind than others.

Why young children can't lie

Here are some examples to show you what I mean:

  • 3-4 months: social perception
    • You may be surprised, but here, children can already start showing signs of theory of mind.
    • They are capable of following another person’s gaze, which shows that they are aware of what other’s are looking at and that it’s not the same as them
  • 12 months: social referencing
    • For those of you with children, let me know in the comments if you’ve noticed this around this age!
    • An experiment called the visual cliff, shows this clearly
      • A child will make a judgement or a decision, based on the reactions of others
  • 12-18 months: intentions
    • In experiments, children around this age started to understand peoples’ intentions
      • E.g. When an experimenter was trying but failing to put a key on a hook, the child would do it correctly, rather than imitating the experimenter, as they instead their intention (Meltzhoff, 1995)

As you can see, the development is slow at first, but when children they get older, they’ll start to show obvious signs for the consideration of others, such as pretend play with toys, or showing empathy.

Why young children can't lie

Before this point, however, children are unable to understand that others know different facts or think different things. If a child knows that they stole the biscuits or drew crayon on the wall, they will assume that the parent will know this too, so they cannot lie.

Those tricksy puppets…. in an experiment by Peskin (1992), they asked 3-5 year olds, with a friendly puppet, what their favourite sticker was. Of course, with no motive to lie, they told the truth. The children were then told that a naughty puppet would come along and steal their favourite sticker. Sadly, when the naughty puppet asked the 3 (and 50% of the 4) year olds, their lack of theory of mind showed, as they told the naughty puppet their favourite sticker and it got stolen.

So there we have it! After the ages of around 3 years old, children can start to lie as their theory of mind becomes more developed, and they realise that you don’t know everything they do!

What do you think? Is this surprising? Let me know your thoughts!

Is anxiety and stress “all in your head?”

A lot of things can cause stress in everyday life: work, uni, family, lack of sleep… I feel like there’s a constant comparison of stress in society nowadays.  “I’m so stressed,” “yes but at least you don’t have… going on” etc. Isn’t that just the worst? Or when people think current stress and problems are nothing compared to what they experienced in their day? Some of those amongst us who may even suffer from mental health illnesses may have heard “it’s all in your head!” Because of this, I thought I’d look at what actually happens in the brain to produce stress and anxiety and prove that being stressed and anxious, is just as physically as a more visible illness.

I hope you find this informative and feel free to rub this in the faces of somebody next time they doubt you!

The Frugal Frenchie

Firstly, it might be useful to talk about certain areas for clarification.

Is anxiety and stress "all in your head?"

  • Hypothalamus: this area, despite being small compared to other brain parts, is actually responsible for a lot of functions and processes. For example, it has a role in hormone release, expression of aggression, control of food intake and of course, stress.
  • Pituitary gland: it’s linked to the nervous system by the hypothalamus

Is anxiety and stress "all in your head?"

  • Hippocampus: like the amygdala and the hypothalamus, it is part of the limbic system. Like all brain areas, it is involved in many processes in the body, but especially long-term memory, spatial navigation and a “mediator” in stress responses
  • Amygdala: the amygdala is another part of the limbic system, traditionally known for its role in the fear response (flight/fight/freeze) and negative emotions

Stress, in general, leads to the release of corticotrophin-release hormone (CRH) in the hypothalamus. As the pituitary gland is linked to the hypothalamus, it releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACCH). Being very brief, this leads to the adrenal gland releasing cortical (the hormone that gets all the praise for stress).

This, after all that jargon, is the important part. Cortisol leads to increased sympathetic activation which is basically the activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that is responsible for all these physiological bodily responses like fight/flight/freeze, increased heart rate, sweating and so on.

The amount of cortisol that gets released is what affects how much/or little we react to feelings of stress. Why some people may just sweat a little, or others may have a panic attack or freeze. The amount of cortisol produced depends on the activity of the amygdala and the hippocampus.

Is anxiety and stress "all in your head?"

The amygdala is critical for fear response. Sensory information from the thalamus and cortex are processed in the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala and is passed onto the central nucleus. This activates the HPA-axis (which is a more formal term for stress response and its effects, including cortisol release).

The role of the hippocampus in this HPA-axis is actually that it measures cortisol levels. It’s the glucocorticoid receptors in the hippocampus that do this. When the cortisol levels are too high, the hippocampus inhibits the CRH release in the hypothalamus (if you remember from the first step) and this in turn stops the HPA-axis activation. It may not seem important, but without this, our body would not behave differently to whether we were being chased by a dangerous animal or if somebody made us jump by shouting “boo.”

Now why is this all important to know? Well, not only is it good head knowledge, but it’s to prove that our behaviour and feelings aren’t a part of our thoughts, but several processes and chemical releases in the brain. It’s important to know that this is normal, and we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it.

In those who have diagnosed anxiety or phobias, this happens as there is an overacitvation of the amygala, which means that their fear responses are a lot more powerful.

I hope you found this post interesting and if you learnt something new today, or enjoyed this post, please leave a comment below.

What does positive body image actually mean?

Society nowadays encourages us to embrace our bodies and to commit to activities that boost our self-esteem and encourage self-care. Nevertheless, we all have those days where we experience a negative body image and feel down about ourselves. What does positive body image actually mean? Despite what you may think, it’s not actually the opposite of negative body image. Let me explain….

What does positive body image actually mean?

In psychology, we would define positive body image as:

  • Appreciation for your body and the functions that it performs
  • Accept and admire the majority of their body, including parts not in line with society’s ideals
  • Feel beautiful/handsome, comfortable, confident and happy with their body
  • They can be viewed as having an “outer glow”
  • Emphasise body assets rather than dwell on imperfections
  • They can interpret incoming information in a body-protective manner
    • Ie. they will internalise positive information and reframe or reject negative information received
  • Favourable opinions of the body
  • Respecting your body by attending to its needs and engaging in healthy behaviours
    • E.g. if you’re hungry you’ll eat and not threat over “I’ve eaten too much today I might gain weight”
  • This links to protecting  the body by rejecting unrealistic ideal body images portrayed in the media

If it’s still not very clear, here’s what positive body image isn’t:

  • Being highly satisfied with all aspects of appearance, people can still hate a certain part of their body they’ve just learnt not to emphasise that area and have learnt to counteract it with what they find positive about their bodies
  • It is most certainly not expressed as narcissism or vanity
  • Positive body image isn’t foolproof against all body image-related threats. People might still feel a bit down after seeing a very thin model in a magazine, however, they can overcome it and focus on the positives
  • It’s not linked to disengagement from self-care, sometimes, people may have a positive body image because they engage so much in self-care
    • E.g. regularly moisturising etc.
  • Another important thing to note is that positive image isn’t aided by frequent appearance-related compliments from others, confident and appreciation for one’s body has to come from oneself.

What does positive body image actually mean?

It could be said that positive body image is more body acceptance than anything. It’s really the start to loving yourself and who you are. There are other benefits though, which can only encourage us to seek positive body image even more:

  • Less depression
  • Higher self-esteem
  • Fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours
  • Lower drive for muscularity
  • Greater intentions to protect yourself from UV exposure and damage
    • This might seem like an odd one, but in many places, the ideal is also to look slightly more tanned than is our natural tone. Some people go as far as to say that people who are too pale naturally look ill, which definitely doesn’t help the situation!
    • As a result, those with a negative body image might spend time in sun beds, applying darker foundation or even spending unhealthy amounts of time in the sun, whereas those who have a positive body image won’t do such thing as they’ll want to protect their skin from damage over appealing to the ideal

It’s easier said than done to achieve a positive body image, so if you struggle severely with a negative body image, there’s help you can seek (links I’ll leave below), however, if it’s just a matter of feeling self-conscious and loving yourself a bit more, here are some tips you can try to help increase just that!

  • Engage a little more in a technique called “Protective filtering.” This is where the body is interpreted in a self-protective manner,  so you learn to filter out negative information that’s potentially harmful to your body image.
  • This mentality is slightly linked to the next technique which is called “Media Literacy,” where you critically evaluate the media’s depiction of appearance ideals and try not to internalise the ideal but instead to ignore or reject it. I’ve written out some actual examples that participants came up with in an experiment, just so you get the gist.

– “The advertisements have clearly been digitally altered.”

– “The women in the adverts had hair and make-up done by professionals.”

– “The women aren’t a true representation of women in society.”

– “The women look the way they do as it’s their job.”

– “The women might not necessarily be healthy or happy.”

  • Another thing you can do is to engage with people who have positive body image and who don’t engage in fat talk
    • By doing this, you can avoid making comparisons between peers and there’s no “reference point” established for your group-weight-norm.
  • Unconditional acceptance of any defects you might have or areas you don’t like

What does positive body image actually mean?

Remember, your size, shape, look, hairstyle… none of that defines you. Let your personality and behaviour be the things to stand out at people and let that be what you put the emphasis on when you go out. Avoid opening the makeup bag but instead, open the door to people discovering your true self.

The Frugal Frenchie x

 

Links for help (including interesting articles to read on different treatments):

 

References:

  • Tylka and Wood Barcalow, 2015 :

What is and what isn’t positive body image? Conceptual foundations and construct definition

  • Wood-Barcalow, Tylka and Augustus-Horvath, 2010 :

Positive body image characteristics and a holistic model for young-adult women

  • Gillen, 2015 :

Associations between positive body image and indicators of men’s and women’s mental and physical health

  • Andrew, Tiggemann, Clark, 2015:

The protective role of body appreciation against media-induced body dissatisfaction

  • Mirror exposure:

Delinksy et al. (2006) Mirror Exposure for Body Image                                                    Disturbance

  • Cognitive dissonance:

Stice et al. (2001) Randomised trial of cognitive                                                                    dissonance  programme

  • Acceptance and Commitment:

Pearson et al. (2012) ACT intervention for                                                                              body image and ED (eating behaviour)                                                                                      attitudes

Diary post: my first week of university

As it’s the first week of my university experience here in the UK, I thought I would make a little diary post about it. Hopefully, this will appeal not only to my old uni friends from abroad, who are wondering what it’s like but also for anyone who is just starting university this year.

Diary post: my first week of university

Monday 25th September

Today was my first day of uni. Surprisingly, my timetable seems quite empty with actually Mondays’ being one of the “longest” days of the week. Always bright and cheerful, I started the year with a statistics (or what they refer to as EMSA) workshop and a recap test.

Although I wasn’t happy with the surprise at the time, I’m kind of glad they did one as it made me realise just how much I’ve forgotten! It’s definitely time to get those stats notes out from last year! Compared to my last university, Maastricht, I found statistics much more understandable. Don’t get me wrong, they were fab over there and so intelligent, but here, they simplify everything, gave us a workbook with exercises and a step to step guide.

I really hope they don’t teach the whole degree like this as it may get slightly patronising, but for maths-related topics, which to say the least, were never my forte, this was definitely helpful!

In my introduction lecture, I met with another girl who had transferred from the University of Winchester, so it helped that we were in the same boat. During the summer, I manage to get in contact with a girl that’s already on the course so I hope to finally meet her at some point, despite not having the same schedules.

Tuesday 26th September

Not going to lie, although my lecture today was interesting, I think it’s very irritating being at uni for only an hour. An hour?! Plus, the lecturer ended 10 minutes early so it kind of feels a little pointless.

My motivation is definitely still high and it was about personality, a topic that greatly interests me, but I can imagine in 6 months time, coming in for just 50 minutes will seem a lot more of a chore.

Nevertheless, I finally put a name to my personal tutor too which was useful. I believe I have a meeting with him in a couple of days time so hopefully, he can answer my many questions about essays and the like.

Today he covered the humanistic approach to personality which talks a lot about free will, what our desires are (self-fulfilment, worth etc.) and different theories. Really very interesting! I found one theory in particular rather curious and this was the “hierarchy of needs” (Maslow, 1943), if you’d like more information or a post about it do let me know.

Oh also, I finally met that girl I’ve been chatting on facebook with! I met with her a little earlier before the lecture and she showed me around a little. From an outside glance, the library seems a little disappointing but the new building, called the fusion building, is absolutely gorgeous!

Diary post: my first week of university

Wednesday 27th September

Well, I’ll definitely remember Wednesday’s as “science day!” From 9am until 11am every week, I will be bombarded by two hours of neuroanatomy/biopsychology. This is essentially the scientific study of the biology of behaviour.

In this lecture, seeing as it was the first one of year 2, it covered mostly a recap of everything we should already know. From the basics of “there are 4 lobes,” to a slightly more in-depth look at the components of the hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain.

It was a nice, slow start and easy to follow and understand (a relief)! I always find it difficult to take notes in a more biological lecture as there are always diagrams attached to the slides which obviously can’t be drawn out but always seem relevant and important! Still, I think it went well for a first shot.

Thursday 28th September

I spent the majority of last night doing some extra reading for today’s seminar. This will be my first ever seminar (as the concept wasn’t really used in Maastricht) and I have no idea what to expect!

It ended up being quite a short but sweet summary of Wednesday’s lecture. It did feel a little like being in primary school again, what with working in pairs etc. but I’m hoping that once the difficulty increases, I’ll appreciate that a lot more.

This afternoon, I have a long break and then have a personality seminar. It’s with the same lecturer as Tuesday and afterwards, I’ll have a meeting with my personal tutor. It’s a good time to get some focused studying done and socialise with my new friend!

The personality seminar didn’t add anything new, it mentioned a few assessment techniques with role play, but apart from that nothing of value was added. The meeting ended up being a generic one about how to behave and what not but it ended up being over an hour because of a “plagiarism checker” sheet we had to complete and a worksheet on how to practice shortening sentences. I personally hate things like that so so close to dinner, I wasn’t in the best of temperaments!

Diary post: my first week of university

Friday 29th September

Today’s another long day. To avoid walking an hour, I have to get a lift almost an hour early at the same time as the sibling’s school run. This meant a 7:15 am wake up call for a 9 am lecture. It’s difficult haha.

I had a 9-10 lecture on personality again (we have 2 hours a week per topic) and then later a lecture on statistics, from 2-3pm.

The statistics lecture was one I was dreading in all honesty. Back in Maastricht, they would go step by step but only showing us the formulas as they went. Trust me, once you reach an equation that has 5 or more steps before even reaching the point you want, it gets so confusing!

The guy who ran this lecture spoke with no microphone. He was confident, passionate and it actually put a smile on his face. Through his waffling, I could really take in what he was saying, as well as keeping on track with the slides of the presentation.

I left that lecture hall and my first week on a high!

Do you remember your first week of uni? What was it like? If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below.

The Frugal Frenchie x