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Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:44 am
Review of "Silver Linings Playbook" in the Perspective of Mental Illness
Winning many awards and nominations in the Academy Awards, "Silver Linings Playbook" offers an interesting, at times controversial, view on mental illness. Featuring a main character, Pat, who suffers from bipolar disorder and experiences manic and depressive episodes, the film also includes a few other characters—ranging from the Pat's father to his love interests, Tiffany and Nikki—who display hints of mental illness.
The irony of the movie is that Pat at times seems to be the sanest character in the film, because other characters who have not been diagnosed as mentally ill clearly have mental health issues.
A hardcore football fanatic, Pat's father believes that his favorite team winning a game was dependent on his son being present. He shows symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): needing to keep his office organized to the point of counting the number of envelopes in his office. When his team loses a game, Pat's father becomes hysterical and even violent, demonstrating he also suffers from mental instability.
A few other characters also display mental health issues. For example, Pat's best friend confides in Pat from time to time telling him he is unhappy with his marriage and that he sometimes punches the wall. Tiffany is Pat's indirect love interest and is suffering from depression due to the death of her husband. Tiffany is prone to mood swings throughout the film; she also accuses Pat of trying to harass her when he was not.
One of the take-home messages of the film is that every person likely exhibit some forms of "deviant" behavior or emotional "disturbance" sporadically. In other words, we are all a little crazy.
One of the questions raised by the film is one theme revealed toward the end, which follows along the lines of "love conquers all." After a sudden wrap-up in the form of a Hollywood happy ending, Pat's mental illness is no longer addressed. It is unclear if he began taking medication or if he simply got better on his own through his therapy sessions or support from his family. This ambiguity leaves some experts and psychiatrists wondering if this is sending the wrong message to those struggling with actual bipolar disorder.
It is important to remember that although love certainly can help those suffering from mental illnesses, it can neither hide nor eliminate diagnosable mental illnesses. Professional help is often necessary.
In the end, it is up to the viewers to decide if they like the film, but these points should be taken into consideration when watching "Silver Linings Playbook." The media can occasionally propagate stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness, and it is important to critically think about these issue in all films.
Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:44 am
Ladies, let's be honest. At one point or another, we've all experienced this. Your period is late, you're not sexually active, and yet pregnancy scares have your convinced that you're the next Virgin Mary.
First of all, the Virgin Mary thing? That doesn't happen very often.
Second of all, irregular periods are common, especially before the age of 20. If your period occurs with approximately the same number of days between each cycle, your period is considered regular.
Periods can be earlier, later, lighter, or heavier. They can last longer/shorter than usual or not occur at all. Caused by hormone imbalances, these discrepancies can result from factors other than pregnancy, including:
- Stress or fatigue: For us students, these may be the most common factors. Cortisol, the stress hormone, directly influences estrogen/progesterone production and alters the time/flow of your cycle.
- Illness: The medications you take can interfere with hormone production or cause stress/fatigue.
- Weight fluctuations: For example, women with anorexia or bulimia tend to have irregular periods.
- Intense exercise: For instance, endurance athletes can sometimes have irregular periods.
- Excess alcohol consumption: The liver helps regulate the menstrual cycle by metabolizing the sex hormones and can be damaged by drinking. This can lead to irregularity or absence of periods.
- Birth control pills: Your body will need time to adjust to the new doses of hormones.
Depending on the cause of the irregularity, there may not be much you can do to mitigate the problem other than ensuring that you make time to relax throughout the day, eat regularly, eat healthy, and exercise moderately. If you've been experiencing irregular periods for a relatively short amount of time (less than 7 months), your period should regularize by itself in time. However, if the problem persists, you should go see a doctor or gynecologist. Consistently irregular periods may be an indicator of an underlying medical condition such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid disorders, endometriosis, or menopause.
However, if you have had sexual relations within the last month, the best course of action to take is an at-home pregnancy test. Taking the at-home pregnancy at least a week after your missed period and in the morning when your urine is most concentrated will provide you with the most accurate results. If the test is negative, consult a doctor immediately, and refer to this article for further advice if needed.
Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm
The Diet Industry Lies
A few weeks ago, after seeing yet another TV commercial for some miraculous weight loss program for women, I published a Facebook status about being fed up with the diet industry's incessant advertising of products that supposedly help women lose 17 pounds in 10 days without exercise or watching what they eat.
I try not to take these ads personally, but I do have a problem with their many conflicting messages. First of all, I know what a struggle it is physically and emotionally to lose weight and to keep it off. Since my freshman year of college, during which I gained a little bit more than the freshman 15, I have lost and kept off about 30 pounds. Over the years, I've been asked many times how I did it. It's boring, but it truly has been about watching what I eat and exercising regularly, as well as about having patience. It took about two years to lose all of the weight, and keeping healthy involves commitment to staying active and eating my greens.
I think I was always a bit overweight, certainly always a bit body-conscious, and never athletic by any definition. In middle school and high school, I was among the last stragglers to finish the dreaded weekly mile in PE, and I never thought twice about what I ate. After my first semester of college, I realized none of my old clothes fit, and when I finally dragged myself to the gym, not only could I not run a mile, I could barely run half.
Sound like anybody you know? Unfortunately, the first few months of exercising and retraining your appetite and taste buds is painful and difficult. As a former couch-potato, however, I can promise that the long-term results are well worth the initial suffering. Since freshman year of college, I have run at least half a dozen 10K races and three half-marathons; I learned how to lift weights; I've tried yoga, pilates, kickboxing, step, and cycling classes at the gym, and I get to categorize myself as "in shape" for the first time in my life.
My most important advice is none of this came from any kind of special fad diet. I learned about nutrition from my Nutritional Science 10 class at Merritt College; it's also offered at UC Berkeley. If you're as clueless as I was about what and how much to eat, taking a class is a great place to start. That said, here are some of my most valuable secrets to health. They are also my biggest problems with the diet industry as a whole.
Results take time and commitment. Losing twenty pounds in thirty days sounds impossible because it is. Although I believe losing weight involves much more than simply counting calories, the above promise from many fad diets is simply not mathematically possible, and here's why. One pound equals about 3500 calories. To lose that much weight, you need a net deficit of that many calories. For example, to lose one pound in a week, you will need to eat 500 calories less per day than normal, or burn 500 calories more per day over one week, or use some kind of combination of both. To lose twenty pounds, on the other hand, you need a deficit of 70,000 whopping calories. In a thirty day period, that means an average deficit of 2134 calories per day. In one day, this means either eating nothing (and if you do this for thirty days, you might actually die) or intense cardiovascular exercise pretty much all day (and trust me, if you do this, your muscles will fail).
Being in good health is not just about your weight. It's a common belief that being fit means weighing a certain number of pounds. The number on the scale can be a good checkpoint of where you're at, but ultimately it doesn't mean much. What's more important is your ratio of lean body mass (muscle) to fat. For a woman, a healthy body fat percentage is about 25%. For men, it is more like 15 to 20%. I'm sure you have heard that muscle is denser than fat. I found that as I was losing weight, the number on the scale dropped at a pretty fast pace for the first months (about a pound per week), then slowed, and eventually plateaued, but my pants were still getting looser. Now I rarely weigh myself. I can feel and see the difference not only in how I look (e.g., I have triceps) but also in how strong I feel day-to-day and at the gym when I lift weights.
Find an activity that you enjoy, or you'll never stick with it. Switching your routine not only works many muscle groups but also keeps your body guessing. It makes working out much more enjoyable. And if you're excited to go to the gym, you can skip that whole argument with yourself about how you should go even though you really don't want to. As much as I hated running at first, I eventually turned into a fan of jogging. For me, signing up for a race is a great motivator, and running them with friends is an awesome experience. I also like lifting weights and always save some babysitting money to book the occasional personal training session. Group exercise classes at the RSF might seem intimidating or embarrassing at first, but I've never regretted going. My favorites are cycling, yoga-lates, and "tease aerobics" dance.
The words "colon" and "cleanse" do not belong in the same sentence. Stop forking out money for weird diet products. I cringe every time I hear someone say they are trying some new "cleanse" or, heaven-forbid, the Adkins diet. These products are making someone money, which means that if they actually worked long-term, the diet industry would be out of business. These diets are designed to get you to lose weight and then promptly gain it back as soon as the program ends so that you eagerly fork over even more money to participate in a plan that is destined to fail. Ultimately, your common sense about what eating healthy and being active means will be worth much more than any expensive diet system you can find.
You won't get the results you want if your actions are motivated by self-loathing. Looking in the mirror for flaws is not a healthy or fair way to live. You won't all of a sudden love yourself when you see a particular number on the scale. Regardless of what you weigh or how fast your mile is, give your body a little gratitude for what it does—getting you to class on time, helping you stay up late finishing that assignment you procrastinated on, recovering from last night's party, and on and on and on. Which leads me to…
To be happy is to be healthy. Take care of yourself, because your body and mind deserve it. No thanks to the diet industry, I get to consider myself healthy and fit today. All it takes in the end is devoting some time out of each day to exercise, eat my veggies, and appreciate the fact that I am young, healthy, happy, and mobile.
Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm
Natural Ways to Improve Your Mood
It's that time of the semester again, and no doubt about it, stress levels are sky-high. You have a research paper due next week and three finals in the week after, and on top of that, you can't find a seat at the library. It seems like there aren't enough hours in the day to fit in everything, and your mood is at an all-time low. Stress negatively affects your ability to focus and leads to anxiety, restlessness, and lack of motivation. Sometimes. all you need to do is take a breather and take some steps to lessen the stress and boost that mood.
Exercise. We all know that exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for us, but many of us don't take the time out of our packed schedules of back-to-back classes, club events, and internships to work out regularly at the RSF. However, research shows that getting your heart rate up triggers the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that produce feelings of euphoria and seriously boost your mood. Next time you're thinking about skipping the gym to cram at the library, put in an hour in on the treadmill instead.
Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates. Simple sugars such as those in candy, soda, cookies, and white bread give you a sudden spike in blood glucose—resulting in that sugar rush—but then cause you to crash quickly. This results in tiredness and irritability. You're certainly in no condition to get any studying done. Load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat yogurt, and whole-grain breads and pastas instead.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acid rich foods. A study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine shows that people with lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids have a significantly higher chance of developing mood disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and biopolar disorder. Consuming foods such as salmon, wild rice, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, flax seed, beans, edamame, and other soy products can help stabilize your mood and alleviate those feelings of "too much to do and too little time."
Eat foods rich in vitamin B12 and folate. Research that shows that vitamin B12 and folate (folic acid) help your body synthesize serotonin, a natural mood-boosting neurotransmitter. Oatmeal, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, poultry, certain cereals, and shellfish are foods rich in these nutrients. Reaching for that bag of chips as a study snack? Opt for some low-fat yogurt instead. You'll feel better in the long term.
Get enough sleep. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. College students get an average 6 hours a night. Especially during midterm or final season, most of our sleeping schedules are pretty irregular. However, getting those needed hours of sleep have been shown to improve memory, decrease stress, and even protect cardiovascular health. Take half an hour to recharge in between classes or during cram sessions at the library—it'll boost your overall mood and help you get through the rest of your day.
Cuddle up. Cuddling with a pet or significant other has been shown to release oxytocin, a natural hormone that enhances our ability to feel empathy and other emotions such as happiness and surprise. Low oxytocin levels are actually associated with ADHD, depression, and social anxiety. Even though Valentine's Day's already passed, grab your boyfriend or girlfriend, your pet, or your favorite stuffed animal and cuddle up.
Friday, May 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm
The Strength of Self-Compassion
It's common to beat ourselves up for faults big and small, but it's vital to remember that self-criticism comes at a price. That is, it makes us anxious, dissatisfied with our life, and even depressed. College students often undergo waves of self-criticism due to the constant stress and competition that surround them. When our self-worth depends on out-competing others, we actually become more insecure, and in turn, when we fail, our self-criticism hits an all-time high and adds to our misery. So what can we do to avoid such circumstances?
While self-criticism leaves us feeling powerless and distraught, compassion for ourselves is at the root of empowerment and learning. With self-compassion, we value ourselves not because we've judged ourselves positively and others negatively but because we are aware that we, too, deserve care and concern just like everyone else. Self-compassion means treating ourselves as we would a friend. Some great ways to ensure that you are truly caring for yourself and reminding yourself that you are important include:
- Writing yourself a letter: Write yourself a letter that you would expect to receive from a compassionate friend. What would their words be? Later, come back and read the letter and receive it from yourself.
- Writing down your self-talk: If you are self-criticizing because your jeans don't fit or you said the wrong thing in a situation, write down the self-critical words and ask if would you ever say them to a friend.
- Doing some meditation: Meditation is a process that, through contemplation and relaxation, helps us begin to let go of self-critical thoughts and emotions. It is a great a habit to meditate for at least 20 minutes every day (I'm sure that wouldn't put too much of a dent in your packed schedule!) to reap the benefits of having a calm and collected mind that is ready to take on the world with confidence.
It is essential to remember that self-compassion is distinct from self-esteem, a trait that can shade into narcissism. Nor should it be confused with self-pity or self-indulgence. Those low in self-compassion think that unless they are hard on themselves, they will not amount to much. That is not true; being kind to yourself does not lower your standards. With self-compassion, you can reach just as high, and even if you don't happen to reach your goals, you'll still know that your sense of self-worth isn't contingent on success or dictated by grades.