Why the Autism Puzzle Piece Is Bad, and What to Use Instead
For many years, the autism puzzle piece has been one of the most widely used symbols to represent those on the spectrum. Despite its widespread use, however, many people in the autism community, especially autistic adults, have come out against this symbol. As an autistic adult, I have witnessed many debates, mostly online, about the puzzle piece. It’s a complicated issue, but an important one to discuss. Read on to learn why the autism puzzle piece is bad, and to find out about the infinity symbol autistic people prefer and how you can use it instead.
Why the Autism Puzzle Piece Is a Bad Symbol
The autism puzzle piece symbol suggests that autistic people are “puzzles” – incomplete or broken individuals who need to be “fixed” or “put back together” in order to be accepted by society. While it’s true that everyone needs support from time to time, this metaphor stigmatizes autistic people and can lead to feelings of isolation or exclusion.
The puzzle piece also implies that autistic individuals are not capable of making our own decisions without outside guidance or assistance to “solve” our “problems.” This ignores the unique gifts and abilities of those on the spectrum, which makes it particularly offensive for many autistic people and their supporters alike.
Representing autism as a puzzle also frames it from a neurotypical point of view rather than an autistic point of view. To neurotypical people, autistic people are puzzles to solve. Our behavior is complicated and confusing to them. Well guess what, it works both ways! I often find neurotypical people puzzling. They don’t say what they mean and they expect people to understand complicated unwritten rules without ever being taught. So if it were up to me, I would make the puzzle piece a symbol of neurotypical people, because it is like assembling a puzzle to figure out what they mean half the time!
The History of the Autism Puzzle Piece
The autism puzzle piece has an ableist and stigmatizing history. Warning, it’s even worse than you think!
The first puzzle piece logo was designed for Britain’s National Autistic Society in 1963 by Gerald Gasson, the parent of an autistic child. Here’s the original version:
And here’s how Helen Green Allison, one of the organization’s founders, described the reasons for the design in 1997:
“The puzzle piece is so effective because it tells us something about autism: our children are handicapped by a puzzling condition; this isolates them from normal human contact and therefore they do not ‘fit in’. The suggestion of a weeping child is a reminder that autistic people do indeed suffer from their handicap.”
I don’t know about you, but that went beyond throwing up a little in my mouth. I need a whole trash can.
Thankfully, the National Autistic Society has evolved since then to promote autism acceptance and uses a gradient letter “a” as their logo with no puzzle pieces in sight. But sadly, the same cannot be said for some notable autism organizations in the United States, who continue to depict autism as tragic and exploit autistic people.
The Connection Between the Puzzle Piece and Autism Speaks
You can’t separate the puzzle piece symbol from the most prominent and problematic organization that uses it — Autism Speaks. Autism Speaks is one of the most well-known organizations in the autism space, and is responsible for “Light It Up Blue” and other highly-publicized awareness events. However, many within the autism community have come out against the organization due to their focus on “curing” or eliminating autism and their long history of ableist and offensive depictions of autistic children and adults. In fact, many autistic people consider them to be a hate group.
At its core, Autism Speaks is focused on finding a “cure” for autism, a goal that was part of their mission statement for many years. They removed it after considerable public pressure, but they continue to fund and promote research that could be used to cure or eliminate autism, such as the SPARK for Autism program that analyzes the DNA of autistic people and their family members.
Most autistic people do not want to be cured — we want to be understood and included in society. And we want autism charities to raise funds for things we actually need, such as support services, training employers on how to empower workers on the spectrum, better educational opportunities, etc.
We also want to be the ones running organizations that represent us. Autism Speaks claims to be “family-centered” and “led by those affected by autism” but most members of their board are neurotypical, and notable autistic advocates who have tried joining their board ultimately resigned in frustration.
It’s clear that Autism Speaks still has a long way to go when it comes to representing and honoring those living on the spectrum. Unless and until they truly change, many in the autism community will remain wary about voicing their support for the organization — and the puzzle piece that has become inextricably linked with their image.
Why Some Autistic People Like the Puzzle Piece (or Don’t Care) and How to Respond
Some people believe that the jigsaw puzzle represents the complexity and diversity of autism. They say that puzzles are fun and learning to put them together is worthwhile. They say that like puzzle pieces, we each have our own unique way of fitting into the bigger picture of humanity. I can understand wanting to reclaim the puzzle piece since it’s so ubiquitous. But given its history and continued usage by harmful organizations, I’m not sure that doing so is possible or worthwhile.
Some autistic people and allies feel that we as a community have more important issues to deal with than the puzzle piece. I agree to an extent. When we’re still fighting for basic rights such as housing, employment, and societal acceptance, it does sometimes feel trivial to argue about a symbol. But I realized that at its core, getting rid of the puzzle piece is about more than that. It’s about self-determination and self-advocacy.
Who gets to decide how a group of people identifies and represents themselves? It should be the people with that identity. The community had and still has a problem with parents and neurotypical people trying to speak for autistic people. They chose the puzzle piece, not us, and it came to be associated with some bad organizations and bad people. So rejecting that symbol and choosing a different one is one way autistic people can take back our power.
Even if you believe there’s nothing inherently offensive about the puzzle piece, when supposed allies fight against using the infinity symbol autistic people have chosen for ourselves, that says a lot about them, doesn’t it?
The Infinity Symbol: An Alternative to the Autism Puzzle Piece
The rainbow infinity symbol was created by autistic people in 2005 to represent all forms of neurodiversity. Although it’s commonly used to represent autism, people with ADHD, sensory processing disorder, dyspraxia, and other unique ways of thinking can use it too. Since gold is Au on the periodic table of elements, the gold infinity symbol specifically represents autism.
Let me explain a bit more about the infinity symbol and why it’s a better representation of autism than the puzzle piece.
The infinity symbol helps to clarify the common but inaccurate depiction of the autism spectrum (and other types of neurodivergence) as a line. People imagine a gradient from so-called mildly to so-called severely autistic, but that’s not how it works. Autism is much more complicated than that. A person can have no challenges in one area, mild difficulties in another, and severe issues in yet another — and their needs can change from day to day or depending on the situation. Sure, there are people who generally need a lot more support than others, but you can’t assume that just because somebody can speak, their life is easy and autism barely affects them. That is simply not the case.
To use myself as an example, I have pretty good social skills. I was bullied in school but I also made friends who are weird like me (guess what, we were all neurodivergent). I’m smart and can be talkative in some situations. People don’t always guess that I’m autistic when they meet me. However, I have severe sensory issues. I can’t go to loud places without wearing my noise-canceling headphones. Some places are so overwhelming that I just don’t go, like amusement parks, unless it’s a very slow day and I can take breaks. I can work, but only from home where it’s quiet and I can manage my sensory needs. So you could try to say my autism is mild, but that doesn’t really cover it.
The infinity symbol represents this better by showing that a person can be at any point on an infinite loop, and they can move to different places on that loop depending on the circumstances. For example, if I’m tired or sick, I struggle even more with sensory issues and I don’t want to be around people. I don’t have many meltdowns anymore except when I am stressed or sick, but when I have one, suddenly people “see” my autism (or think I’m having a mental breakdown).
My autism isn’t puzzling. It’s actually quite logical and predictable once people understand me. It’s the world that is confusing and unpredictable.
Items Featuring the Neurodiversity Infinity Symbol
You can show your support for autistic people during Autism Acceptance Month (and all year round) by wearing shirts, pins, etc. featuring the infinity symbol instead of the puzzle piece. This section contains affiliate links so you can support these neurodivergent-owned businesses and The Ability Toolbox!
Looking for more? Check out Autism Acceptance Clothing and Autism Pins, Stickers, and Accessories
No matter what your personal views may be on the issue, it’s important to recognize that the autism puzzle piece is ultimately a source of distress for many members of the autistic community. As such, it’s crucial that we take steps towards finding alternative representations that more accurately reflect our understanding of life on the spectrum — ones that promote acceptance and celebrate difference instead of reinforcing stereotypes and antiquated mindsets.
What do you think about the autism puzzle piece?
Share your thoughts with our safe and supportive neurodiversity community in the comments.
Understanding Your Autistic Loved One: 6 Autistic Behaviors and How to Accommodate Them
When someone in your social circle is autistic, you might notice that sometimes they behave differently than non-autistic people. Some of these things, such as noise sensitivity, are easy to understand and easy to accommodate, but not everything they do might make sense to you. This article will go over six autism behaviors you might notice in your autistic loved one, and will give tips on how to accommodate them.
1. Autistic people tend to say what they mean.
Where a non-autistic person might try to beat around the bush in order to spare someone’s feelings, or in order to look good in the eyes of the other, an autistic person will most likely tell you exactly what they think. This can cause conflicts on both sides.
Because autistic people don’t have a hidden agenda, they struggle to deal with people that do and tend to take things literally. This means that if you tell them that “everyone brings some food to the party, but you’re not obligated to do so,” while you actually want to say “it’d be nice if you’d bring some food,” you shouldn’t be surprised when they show up without food.
The other way around, you might be inclined to believe that your loved one also expects you to read between the lines, while chances are that they’re not. So if an autistic person tells you “I thought you would help me, but it’s fine,” chances are that it’s actually fine. They’re not being passive-aggressive.
How to accommodate
First and foremost, try not to get upset or angry when this miscommunication happens. You’re just working with two different communication styles, so conflicts will happen from time to time. Second, you can help by saying exactly what you mean, and by dropping the assumption that your loved one isn’t saying what they actually mean. When in doubt, just ask to clarify. Asking is always better than assuming.
2. Autistic people may do things in a way that is highly specific or seemingly illogical or inefficient.
Autistic people are often accused of being stubborn for wanting to do things a certain way. In reality, this has very little to do with being stubborn and is instead linked to the way their brain works. Being autistic means your brain is wired differently, so what seems logical and efficient for non-autistic people, might be confusing and complicated for autistics.
This is why you might catch your loved one doing something in a way that to you seems like it’s more work than needed. However, to them, this is the most efficient way of doing something, and therefore they might reject your suggestion on how to do it differently. Besides, it’ll probably take them longer to understand the non-autistic way of doing something than it’ll take them to complete the task in their own way.
How to accommodate
All roads lead to Rome, and unless the chosen method is a safety hazard, there’s no reason not to let your autistic loved one just do things in a way that makes sense to them. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.
3. Autistic people can experience task overwhelm.
Aside from getting overwhelmed by sensory input, such as noises, textures, or smells, autistic people can also get overwhelmed by tasks, no matter how small and simple they seem. This isn’t because they’re overreacting, but because their brains sometimes struggle to process information properly, if they process it at all. This is known as executive dysfunction.
At the root of this overwhelm is usually either confusion or a loss of oversight. For example, doing the laundry can be very overwhelming because it has multiple components: the washing instructions for the clothes, the settings on the washing machine, and the kind and amount of detergent to use. While a non-autistic person might just guess what the best combination of the three is, an autistic person usually likes certainty, and so they want to do it right. This uncertainty can cause them to feel overwhelmed and that might lead to a meltdown.
How to accommodate
First, be understanding of the problem. To you, it may seem like they’re overreacting, but to them, this is a very big and real problem. Second, help them figure out where the overwhelm comes from. If it’s because they’re confused about what to do, explain it to them or show them. If it’s because there’s no oversight, help them create oversight by splitting the task into steps. Lastly, if there are tasks your loved one has struggled with on multiple occasions, offer to do them for them instead. For example, if your friend gets overwhelmed whenever they have to order food, it might be more helpful to do it for them. With their consent, of course.
4. Autistic people often mask their neurodivergent traits and behaviors.
Masking is a term that’s very well known in the autistic (and neurodivergent) community, but less so among neurotypicals. Masking essentially means pretending not to be autistic. Many autistic people are told they have to adapt to the neurotypical way of life, and they get therapy where they learn to hide their autistic behavior. This is why “you don’t look autistic” is not the compliment you may think it is (it’s the opposite, really). There’s no way to “look” autistic, and many autistics are just very good at hiding their autistic traits.
But pretending to be someone else all day is, as you can imagine, incredibly draining. It can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Chances are that your autistic loved one masks sometimes, or perhaps even all the time, even if you don’t realize it. Some autistic people have been masking for so long that they’re struggling to take the mask off (unmasking) because they’ve become too disconnected from their natural behavior. Others can’t stop masking because it’ll put their job at risk, or their general safety, which is often the case for BIPOC.
How to accommodate
Most autistics have learned that the world isn’t accepting of the way they are, and so they often don’t feel safe unmasking outside of their home. As their loved one you can help by creating a safe space for them to unmask, for example by letting them stim* without judging, or accommodating them in their needs. The most important thing is to ask your loved one what they need to feel safe and accepted, as this is different for everyone.
*Self-stimulatory behavior, or stimming, is something many autistic people do to deal with overwhelm or to express their emotions. Examples are hand flapping, humming, rocking, and fidgeting, but it takes many forms. Autistic people are often told that stimming is bad, even though it’s something that often helps them regulate their feelings.
5. “Picky” eating is common among autistic people.
Autistic people are often known as “picky” eaters. This term has a negative connotation, and because of that autistic people are seen as difficult. In reality, autistic people aren’t “picky,” they’re just sensitive to certain tastes and textures. The autistic brain processes information differently, including sensory information such as taste. And where a non-autistic brain is often able to discard and muffle any information it doesn’t need, an autistic brain doesn’t have that filter, so everything gets processed and everything packs a punch. This is, in very simple terms, where the sensitivity comes from. With this in mind, it might then make sense that an autistic person wants to avoid foods they know they are sensitive to, because to them it’s not just a bad taste or texture. It’s something that can cause sensory overload.
How to accommodate
The simplest thing is to not make fun of your loved one for their eating habits and to actually support them. If they always pick the same food from the menu, don’t shame them for it. If they say they don’t like smoothies, don’t try to persuade them to try a different one. If they don’t like their food mixed, keep this in mind when cooking for them. It’s really that simple!
6. Info dumping is a way autistic people share interests they’re passionate about.
If you’ve ever witnessed your autistic loved one rambling on about something they’re passionate about, you might have experienced info dumping. Autistic people often develop special interests. These interests can be more mainstream, such as astronomy, sports, or a video game, but they can also be something super specific, such as a country, a fictional character, or even a single physics law. People with special interests spend a lot of their time researching everything there is to know about their favorite topic and they like to share that information with others. They get excited about this and it’s very important to them. Unfortunately, people aren’t always willing to listen, and more often than not, autistic people are told they are weird or annoying for always talking about the same thing, which can lead to issues such as social anxiety.
How to accommodate
If your autistic loved one starts talking to you about their special interest, they’d appreciate it if you listened and showed interest. However, if you’re not in the mood to listen, it’s best to be honest about that rather than to pretend, which your loved one will likely notice and take as rejection. An example of how to communicate this is by saying, “I’m not in the mood to listen right now, but I would like to learn more when I can fully engage. Can you tell me some other time?” This way you show them that you’re not rejecting them and that you understand it’s important to them.
Every autistic person is different, so this list won’t apply to everyone. In the end, the best way to support your autistic loved one is by asking them about their needs, accommodating them where possible, and celebrating the differences between the both of you. Communicating is the most useful tool one has in any type of relationship, especially when the person you love is very different from you.
Image by oneinchpunch via Deposit Photos
Cuddly Weighted Stuffed Animals for Kids and Adults to Hug
Weighted stuffed animals are a great way to bring comfort into your home. These cozy companions can help with sleep and improve the mental health of children and adults with autism, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and more. In this complete guide to weighted stuffed animals, you’ll learn about their psychological benefits and how to choose the right huggable gift for yourself or someone who could use emotional support.
As an autistic adult, I’ve learned you’re never too old to have a soft stuffed animal to hug! I have put together this guide based on research studies and my own experiences, and I hope it will help other neurodivergent people, their parents, and their loved ones.
The Benefits of Weighted Stuffed Animals
How does a weighted stuffed animal work?
Weighted stuffed animals are filled with glass or plastic poly pellets to make them heavy. Natural materials such as rice or flax seeds may also be used. Some can be heated in the microwave or frozen to provide heat or cold therapy; if that’s what you’re looking for, check out our article about Warmies weighted stuffed animals. The weighted filling provides soothing pressure that can alleviate a variety of mental health struggles including stress, trouble sleeping, autism meltdowns, ADHD overstimulation, and more.
Can a weighted stuffed animal help with sleep?
Weighted stuffed animals improve sleep quality by providing gentle pressure, similar to how weighted blankets work. They can help you feel calm and relaxed at bedtime. This makes them the perfect gift for nighttime cuddles!
Can a weighted stuffed animal help with anxiety?
Weighted stuffed animals offer therapeutic benefits for those struggling with anxiety or the aftermath of trauma. Deep pressure stimulation can reduce stress, as evidenced by multiple studies, including one where adults reported a 63% reduction in their anxiety from using a weighted blanket. If you are anxious, weighted products are well worth the small investment and can supplement treatments such as therapy and medication. If you get nighttime panic attacks or PTSD flashbacks, they can make going to bed a lot less scary.
Can a weighted stuffed animal help with autism?
Products such as weighted blankets, lap pads, wearable vests, and stuffed toys are go-to coping tools for children and adults on the autism spectrum for good reason — they work! The famous autistic professor and advocate Temple Grandin has researched this topic extensively and even designed a “hug machine” to address her sensory needs.
People with autism and other developmental disabilities often struggle with sensory processing disorder. Our brains do not process sound, sight, and touch in the same way as neurotypical people. We are prone to misophonia and sensory overload; sounds and sensations that others can tolerate can trigger an autism meltdown. Deep pressure stimulation helps us with sensory self-regulation by providing proprioceptive input.
Deep pressure therapy can be especially helpful for people whose disabilities make it difficult for them to communicate their feelings. A study found that deep pressure has immediate calming effects on children and young adults who have autism with a co-occurring severe intellectual disability. Many autistic people with intellectual disabilities and high support needs struggle with insomnia, which in turn impacts their caregivers, so giving them a weighted plush to hug at night can greatly improve a family’s quality of life.
How to Choose a Weighted Stuffed Animal
These tips will help you and/or your child stay safe, get the most out of using weighted stuffed animals, and select the right snuggle buddy for your needs.
Are weighted toys safe for babies?
Weighted stuffed animals are not safe for infants and toddlers under age 2, as they can become a suffocation hazard if the baby does not have the strength or physical ability to push the item away from their face. Infants should always sleep on their backs in a crib with tightly fitted bedding and no plush toys or other items.
Are weighted toys safe for young children?
For young children over age 2, weighted products should be used with caution and supervision. Weighted stuffed animals should not exceed 10% of a child’s body weight. Parents, if your child has developmental delays, physical disabilities, and/or receives early intervention services, consult with their occupational therapist, physical therapist, and/or doctor to ensure they can safely use and free themselves from under a weighted blanket or heavy plush toy.
Before each use, check to make sure the stitching is secure so it won’t come apart. Check for loose eyes and other potential choking hazards. I recommend buying weighted stuffed animals that are machine washable or have a removable insert so you can wash the soft plush exterior. Spot clean only items aren’t a good choice for kids.
Are weighted stuffed animals good for adults?
Of course they are! You’re never too old to hug a stuffie in bed at night. They fulfill a universal human need for soothing pressure. If somebody gives you a hard time about it, that says a lot more about them than you.
How do I choose the right weight for my needs or my child’s needs?
Weighted stuffed animals typically range from 1 to 5 pounds. For kids, parents should choose a stuffed animal they can easily pick up and carry without assistance. If you’re an adult, as a starting point, consider whether you prefer gentle pressure or a strong bear hug. Consider your own weight and any physical limitations that could make a heavier plushie difficult to carry or use.
It’s often best to start off with a lighter weight and work your way up as needed. If you find that your insomnia, anxiety and/or sensory overload persist, you may need a heavier stuffed animal. On the other hand, if too much pressure makes you anxious or you wake up feeling overheated, you may need lighter weighted products. If you’re really not sure where to start, I recommend getting a stuffed animal with a removable insert that’s on the lighter side. Then you can add weight if needed.
What other factors should I consider before buying a weighted plush?
If you or your kid has sensory sensitivities, read about fabric texture and zoom in on photos to make sure the toy is soft enough to provide comfort. Most neurodivergent people hate the sensation of clothing tags touching our skin, so take a picture of the washing instructions and then cut off the tag before use.
Weighted Stuffed Animals We Recommend
I have many weighted stuffed animals of different brands and prices piled on my bed and couch, plus some cute weighted pillows, all of which I’ve recommended below. They make great gifts to honor your neurodivergent self-care needs or for a kid or friend.
This post contains affiliate links, so if you make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Classic Weighted Plush Toys
Looking for weighted stuffed animals with classic themes? You’ll find a bear, puppy, dinosaur, and more to ease anxiety and calm meltdowns. These can be well-suited for ages 3 and up.
Weighted Stuffed Animals for Kids
These weighted stuffed animals will appeal to your child — or your inner child. Disney fans will love their line of autism-friendly plushes from popular movies including The Lion King and Lilo and Stitch. I have a Stitch because I find his moods so relatable! I also have a Moon Bunny — I love her size and adorable face.
Cute and Kawaii Weighted Stuffed Animals for Teens and Adults
These cute and kawaii stuffed animals come in different weight options and make ideal sleep pals for kids, teens, and older. Cats that are also pickles? Why not!
Unique Weighted Plush Toys
If you need to axolotl questions about weighted stuffed animals before you buy, we’ve goat a lot of answers! If you’re bored of the usual teddy bears and puppies, a weighted toy from this section will be just what you’re looking for to sleep well at night or match your neurodivergent special interest.
Sloth Weighted Stuffed Animal
Sloths have their own section because they are one of my special interests, so I’m featuring several here and I hope you’ll love them as much as I do! If you have trouble sleeping at night, they’re the inspiration you need.
Animal Weighted Lap Pads and Pillows
Where is the line between a weighted stuffed animal and a weighted plush pillow? I find it tricky to decide, but if it’s a pillow with a face, you’ll find it here. I like to use a lap pad at my desk, or put it over my head and shoulders to help prevent an autism meltdown when I’m not at home because weighted blankets are too big and heavy to carry in public. A weighted pillow may be preferred by some neurodivergent adults to use in professional settings. They may also aid in sleep better than plushies.
Handmade Weighted Stuffed Animals
You can support a small business or even get a custom handmade weighted stuffed animal from these designers. I have a Mothman and it wraps around my chest perfectly. Maybe cryptid hugs aren’t for everyone, but I bet lots of our autistic and ADHD community members will love them.
I’ve featured items from three neurodivergent business owners below. You can also check out their stores directly: The Moth Mama, Auticraft, and Aleximals.
Weighted stuffed animals may be small, but they can make a big difference in our mental health. If you give them a chance, these snuggly pals will surely become your new best friend in no time!
The Benefits of an ABSN Program for People With Disabilities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment-population ratio for individuals with a disability increased by 3.4 percentage points to 34.8 percent in 2022. On the other hand, the employment-population ratio for individuals without a disability increased by 1.9 percentage points to 74.4 percent.
Individuals with a disability were found to be less likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to those without a disability. Additionally, those with higher levels of education were more likely to be employed as opposed to those with lower levels of education.
For individuals with disabilities looking to change careers, pursuing a career in nursing can provide a fulfilling and rewarding path. However, traditional nursing programs can be time-consuming and require a significant investment of resources.
Fortunately, Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs offer an alternative for career changers who want to quickly and efficiently transition into the nursing field. ABSN programs are designed for individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field and provide a streamlined path to a nursing career.
For people with disabilities, ABSN programs can offer unique benefits and opportunities to overcome potential barriers to entering the nursing profession.
In this article, we will explore the various benefits of an ABSN program for individuals with disabilities and how these programs are making nursing education more accessible and inclusive.
The Shorter Duration of ABSN Programs
The shorter duration of ABSN programs compared to traditional nursing programs can be beneficial for individuals with disabilities who may need to enter the workforce sooner.
Moreover, students with disabilities can also pursue the online acquisition of the program. Online accelerated second-degree BSN programs can offer several benefits for people with disabilities. These programs provide a flexible and accessible approach to education that accommodates different abilities and learning styles.
Students can complete coursework from home, minimizing the need for physical travel or accommodation. Online programs also allow students to work at their own pace, enabling them to manage their studies around health needs or disabilities.
Accelerated BSN graduates have high employment rates, offering opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enter the nursing field and contribute their skills and expertise.
Institutes like Marymount University also provide clinical placement support to their students. The admission requirement for Marymount University’s online ABSN course includes a writing sample, one letter of recommendation, and transcripts with a minimum GPA of 2.8.
The Hands-on Clinical Experience Provided in ABSN Programs
Hands-on experience in the clinical setting is an invaluable aspect of an ABSN program. The hands-on experience can help students build confidence, develop skills, and establish relationships with faculty and staff members.
As a result, this can be a supportive environment for individuals with disabilities to gain valuable knowledge about nursing practice.
A Range of Career Paths and Specialties
Nursing is a broad profession with many specialties. Nurses can work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and private practices. They can work as educators or researchers, they can specialize in pediatrics or geriatrics, and the list goes on and on.
In addition to providing direct patient care, nurses often assume leadership roles within their organizations and communities. As such, nursing offers individuals with disabilities a variety of career paths through which they may find professional satisfaction while also contributing positively to society at large.
Nursing Is a Respected and Rewarding Profession
Nursing is a highly respected and rewarding profession that can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment for individuals with disabilities. Nurses are highly regarded by their patients, who appreciate the care they receive from nurses.
In addition to providing excellent patient care, nurses also have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those they help by using their skills and knowledge.
According to a MoneyWise report, for 16 consecutive years, Gallup has recognized nurses as the most ethical practitioners. They are widely regarded as devoted, compassionate individuals who derive pleasure from their job. A career in nursing can yield a median salary of $68,450.
The Demand for Nurses Continues to Grow
Nurses are in demand, and individuals with disabilities need to understand the benefits of a nursing career. Nursing is a stable profession that can provide job security and stability for people with physical and cognitive disabilities who may face additional barriers to employment.
According to a report on Fierce Healthcare, the American Nurses Association (ANA) has announced that to fulfill job positions and replace retirees, the United States will have to generate 1.1 million fresh registered nurses by 2022. ANA statistics show that nearly one in five nurses are due to retire shortly.
To cope with the aging population, wider healthcare access following healthcare reform, and the latest value-based healthcare model, ANA has suggested that the government invest in federal funding, nurse education, and recruitment practices to guarantee that the industry satisfies demand and prioritizes quality.
The Skills and Knowledge Gained Through the Program are Transferable
The skills and knowledge gained through an ABSN program can be transferable to other healthcare fields or provide a foundation for future education and career advancement. For example, you may decide that you want to work with children who have special needs in their homes or schools. Or perhaps you’d like to specialize in pediatrics or geriatrics but don’t want to pursue nursing as your main career path.
In either case, the training received in an ABSN program will help an individual with a disability in this area as well as many others.
We hope that this article has provided you with a better understanding of the benefits of an ABSN program for people with disabilities. The nursing profession can provide a range of career paths and specialties, which can provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to find a niche that aligns with their skills and interests.
Nursing is also one of the most respected and rewarding professions in today’s world, so there’s no shortage of reasons why someone should consider pursuing this career path.
Image via Pexels
Care for Your Loved Ones: Essential Tips for Hiring a Nurse for Disabled Seniors
As your loved one ages, it is not uncommon for them to experience physical or cognitive disabilities that require additional support and care. Hiring a nurse to provide assistance and medical attention can be a helpful solution for many families.
However, finding the right nurse for your disabled senior loved one can be overwhelming. There are many factors to consider, such as credentials, experience, and personality fit.
This article aims to provide essential tips and guidance for families considering hiring a nurse for their disabled senior loved ones. By following these tips, families can ensure their loved ones receive the best care and support from a qualified and compassionate professional.
1. Determine Your Needs
Begin by assessing the care required for your loved one’s disabilities or medical conditions. For example, consider medication management, wound care, physical therapy, and mobility assistance. You should also consider your loved one’s preferences, lifestyle, and cultural or language requirements.
Additionally, consider the frequency and duration of care needed and the caregiver’s availability and flexibility. A clear understanding of your needs will help you narrow your search and find a qualified and experienced nurse. It will also ensure that you and the nurse have clear expectations and goals for your loved one’s care.
2. Conduct Research
Start by asking for referrals from friends, family, or healthcare providers who have experience with similar situations. You can also search online for local nurse agencies or organizations that provide care for seniors with disabilities.
Evaluate their qualifications, certifications, and experience, and check if they have any reviews or testimonials from previous clients. According to Hubspot, reviews and testimonials are used by individuals as a means of assessing the credibility and reliability of a product, service, or vendor before deciding to trust them.
Conducting a background check is essential to ensure they have a clean criminal record and appropriate licenses. In addition, don’t hesitate to ask for references and follow up with them to better understand the nurse’s work ethic, reliability, and communication skills.
3. Check Credentials and Education
When hiring a nurse for a disabled senior loved one, it’s crucial to check their credentials and education to ensure they have the qualifications to provide appropriate care. Look for a nurse who has completed a nursing program and holds a valid nursing license. It’s also essential to check if they have additional certifications, such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Registered Nurse (RN).
If your loved one requires specialized care, consider nurses with relevant credentials, such as a degree or specialization in Adult-Gerontology, which provides advanced training in caring for older adults with chronic illnesses.
When searching for qualified nurses who have received specialized training in wound care, physical therapy, or other relevant areas, it’s worth considering those who have completed advanced education programs. For example, you might want to look for nurses who have completed the adult gerontology nurse practitioner Master’s program at a reputable, accredited institution like the University of Indianapolis.
This institute is accredited by CCNE and requires 46 credit hours of coursework. Furthermore, the University of Indianapolis was recognized as a Nursing School of Distinction in 2021 and is nationally ranked according to the US News & World Report.
4. Consider Experience
When searching for a nurse for your disabled senior loved one, it’s crucial to consider their experience. Look for a nurse who has worked with seniors with similar disabilities or medical conditions. A nurse who has worked in a hospital or rehabilitation center may have experience with various medical issues and emergencies.
You can also look for nurses who have worked with seniors from diverse cultural backgrounds or who have experience working with individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s crucial to mention here that according to Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6.7 million people over the age of 65 will live with Alzheimer’s in the US in 2023.
Hiring an experienced nurse will give you peace of mind and ensure your loved one receives high-quality care.
5. Conduct Interviews
Interviewing the potential candidates allows you to better understand their experience, qualifications, and personality fit. During the interview, ask specific questions about their experience working with seniors with disabilities, their approach to care, and their availability. It’s also essential to discuss your loved one’s needs and expectations and ensure that the nurse is comfortable providing the required level of care.
Consider how the nurse’s personality and communication style align with your loved one’s needs and preferences. Remember that hiring a nurse is not just about their qualifications but also about finding someone who can build a sturdy and positive relationship with your loved one.
6. Discuss Payment and Logistics
When hiring a nurse for a disabled senior loved one, discussing payment and logistics upfront is important. Determine the hourly or daily rate for the nurse’s services and whether they will be covered by insurance or paid out of pocket. You should also discuss payment schedules and any additional fees, such as transportation costs or overtime fees.
It’s also essential to discuss logistics, such as scheduling and communication methods, and ensure that the nurse is comfortable with the arrangement. According to a recent survey by Genworth, the national median annual cost rate for homemaker services is $59,488, while the average yearly cost for home health aide services is $61,776.
Consider how these costs fit into your budget and whether any financial assistance options are available, such as Medicare or Medicaid.
Discussing payment and logistics will help you avoid any misunderstandings or conflicts down the road and ensure a smooth and stress-free caregiving experience for you and your loved one.
7. Follow Up
Following up with the nurse you hire is essential to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care. In addition, establishing open and clear communication channels and scheduling regular check-ins to discuss your loved one’s progress and any concerns or issues is necessary.
You can also provide feedback on the nurse’s performance and address concerns or issues. Regular follow-up will not only help you ensure your loved one’s well-being but also provide emotional support and reduce caregiver stress.
To Wrap it Up
Hiring a nurse for a disabled senior loved one can be challenging and emotional. However, by following these essential tips, you can ensure that you find the right nurse to provide the best possible care for your loved one.
These steps will help you find a nurse who is qualified, experienced, and a good personality fit for your loved one. Additionally, following up with the nurse regularly will help you ensure that your loved one is receiving the best possible care and providing emotional support.
Remember, hiring a nurse is not just about their qualifications. It’s also about finding someone who can build a robust and positive relationship with your loved one.
How to Use Self-Care to Manage Stress: Prioritizing Your Mental Health
Stress is a common experience in modern life, and it can have negative effects on both mental and physical health. While stress is a natural response to challenging situations, it can become chronic and lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression.
As per The American Institute of Stress, a significant number of individuals experience chronic stress in their workplace, with 94% of workers acknowledging feeling stressed while on the job. To cope with this stress and prioritize one’s mental health, practicing self-care is an essential and valuable tool.
In this post, we will discuss the significance of self-care and offer practical methods for implementing it into your daily routine.
Why Is Self-Care Important?
Self-care is essential for managing stress because it helps to reduce the negative effects of stress on the body and mind. Self-care activities promote relaxation, reduce tension, and improve mood.
By taking care of yourself, you are better able to cope with the challenges of life and maintain a positive outlook. Additionally, self-care helps to prevent burnout and promote resilience, allowing you to bounce back from stressful situations more easily.
The following are some self-care resources and routines that can help with stress management:
Online Stress Management Help
The internet is full of resources to help you manage your stress. Blogs, websites, and social media groups dedicated to stress management can provide tips, advice, and support from others going through similar experiences.
One online resource that can be helpful for stress management is The Art of Living website. This website offers a variety of free resources, including a blog section that covers a range of topics related to stress management, including mindfulness, self-care, and resilience.
Furthermore, there are several online therapy and counseling programs accessible to assist you in developing coping methods and working through any underlying issues that may be contributing to your stress.
Deep breathing is a simple and efficient technique to manage stress and can be practiced at any time and in any place. MedicalNewsToday reported in a 2023 article that there is research that supports the claim that deep breathing techniques have a positive impact on an individual’s anxiety and stress levels.
Place yourself in a peaceful, undisturbed spot to start by lying down or sitting down. Feel your stomach expand as you take a slow, deep breath through your nose.
After holding your breath for a short while, slowly let the air out of your mouth while relaxing your body. With your attention on your breath and the sense of calm in your body, repeat this process many times. Your heart rate will be lowered, your muscles should relax, and your mind can be calmed with deep breathing.
There are numerous ways to practice meditation, which is a potent stress management technique. It emphasizes calming the mind and regulating emotions, and can aid in reducing chronic stress in the body while also lowering the risk of its negative consequences.
One of the simplest forms of meditation is mindfulness meditation, which involves focusing on your breath and observing your thoughts without judgment.
To begin, sit comfortably with your eyes closed in a peaceful spot where you will not be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths and then concentrate on your breathing, imagining air going in and out of your body. Bring your focus back to your breath as soon as it starts to wander.
Meditation on a regular basis can help to reduce stress, promote feelings of relaxation and wellness, and improve attention and concentration.
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to benefit from exercise. You can experiment with several workout methods to see which ones are most effective for you. If you would rather be outside, you can take a stroll or jog in the park. If you’d rather stay inside, try yoga, Pilates, or strength training.
One of the most frequent excuses for not exercising is a lack of time. Yet, you must prioritize exercise by including it in your daily schedule. Even half an hour of exercise a day can reduce stress considerably.
In summary, stress is a common occurrence that can have a detrimental effect on both physical and mental health. Self-care is a crucial strategy for stress management and giving mental health the attention it deserves. People can lower their stress levels and foster calm and resilience by using online methods, deep breathing exercises, meditation, and exercise.
Never forget that taking care of yourself is not selfish but rather an essential part of living a healthy lifestyle. Self-care can help you feel better overall and handle life’s obstacles better if you incorporate it into your daily routine.
Image by Omid Armin via Unsplash
How Online MSN-FNP Programs Can Improve Mental Health Care
The increasing number of people seeking assistance for mental health problems highlights the growing importance of this profession. Moreover, the need for trained experts in the field of mental health is growing in tandem with the rising demand for such services. This is where online master’s degrees in family nurse practitioner (FNP) come in.
Programs leading to the Master of Science in Nursing in Family Nurse Practitioner prepare students for careers in mental health care. Also, thanks to the development of distance education, an MSN FNP can now be obtained without ever leaving one’s house.
In this article, we’ll discuss how online Master of Science in Nursing for Family Nurse Practitioner programs expand access to high-quality education and training, thereby enhancing mental health care delivery.
Pros of Online MSN FNP Programs
Adaptability and Ease
The simplicity and adaptability of MSN-FNP programs online are two of their key advantages. Online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner programs like the one offered by Carson-Newman are playing an important role in improving access to mental health care services for individuals who may be unable to access traditional in-person care due to geographic or time limitations.
By providing a flexible and convenient online learning environment, these programs enable students to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to become competent and compassionate family nurse practitioners or advanced practice nurses, thus helping to address the growing demand for mental health care services.
For students who have to juggle school work with employment, family, or other obligations, the flexibility offered by online programs can be a boon.
Reduced Costs and Fewer Impediments
Getting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in nurse practitioners online might be cheaper than getting your MSN the traditional way, on campus. Students can save money on tuition, transportation, and other costs of life by taking online courses rather than on a traditional campus.
More students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds may be able to take advantage of online education because of the reduced expenses associated with doing so.
Guaranteed Access to Higher Education
One of the numerous benefits of MSN-FNP programs online is the flexibility they provide in terms of study time and location. Online programs are comparable to their on-campus counterparts in terms of curriculum, teaching quality, and student outcomes. Online courses frequently combine cutting-edge pedagogical resources like live chat rooms, virtual laboratories, and immersive simulations.
MSN FNPs’ Essential Responsibilities In Mental Health Services
Diagnosing and Evaluating Psychological Disorders
MSN-FNPs have an important role in the assessment and diagnosis of mental health problems. Diagnosing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia requires attentive care of patient symptoms and medical histories, as well as the use of standardized diagnostic methods.
Mental health disorders can manifest in both the body and the mind, and MSN FNPs are equipped with the knowledge to recognize both sets of symptoms.
Planning and Executing Therapeutic Interventions
MSN FNPs are responsible for designing and implementing treatment regimens for patients with mental health conditions after conducting assessments and making diagnoses. Medication, talk therapy, and behavioral adjustments are only some of the methods that may be used.
MSN FNPs learn how to tailor care to each patient’s specific condition and history. They are also able to make changes to treatment regimens in response to patients’ evolving conditions and responses.
Working with Other Doctors and Nurses
Mental health is an area in which MSN FNPs are uniquely qualified to assist patients and their families. To achieve this goal, it is often necessary to collaborate with other mental health specialists, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and others.
When patients seek help for mental health issues, MSN FNPs are generally the initial point of contact; they can assess the situation and recommend the patient to the appropriate specialist. In addition, they are crucial in ensuring that patients receive the best treatments and care possible.
In the field of mental health treatment as a whole, MSN FNPs are indispensable. Mental health specialists have extensive training in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment, and they collaborate with other medical staff to give patients the best possible care.
Now more than ever, mental health professionals may get the education and training they need to make a difference thanks to the proliferation of online Master of Science in Nursing for Family Nurse Practitioner programs.
In conclusion, healthcare professionals are gaining access to the knowledge and skills necessary to make an impact in the mental health field thanks to online master’s degrees in Nursing Family Nursing Practitioner programs.
These courses provide professionals with convenient and adaptable ways to gain the skills they need to assess, identify, and address mental health illnesses. More people nowadays are able to pursue careers in mental health care thanks to the accessibility and affordability of online education.
The rising need for mental health treatment makes it clear that online MSN-FNP programs will play an important role in meeting the needs of patients and communities. As long as money and effort are put into expanding online training for mental health professionals, the field has a bright future.
Tips for Installing an Accessible Shower
If you’re looking to install a walk-in shower to make your home more accessible, but are worried about the costs of hiring someone to do it for you, why not install it yourself?
Simply ensure your environment is safe to work in and get prepared by having the correct electrical tools to get the job done. That way, you’ll have your own walk-in shower before you know it!
Location and measurements
Choose where you want to place your walk-in shower to ensure it is located in the most convenient and accessible place for the intended user.
If you are adapting an existing shower, be sure to accurately measure the space you have available to check that the adaptations will be possible. Switch off the water supply before demolishing any walls or floor tiles to make way for any new plumbing additions.
Mark out the exact location and measurements of your new walk-in shower with a pencil so you can accurately install your shower fixtures in the desired spot.
Choose your shower fittings to match your existing bathroom décor – it will look stylish and offer complete practicality, too.
You should be able to purchase a standard walk-in shower kit that includes everything that you’ll need. Don’t forget to grab key plumbing essentials for your new shower, including a shower tray and a drain with a cover.
If you’re a keen DIY-er, you’ll likely have the majority of the equipment you’ll need. If not, ensure you have all the necessary tools to begin with, such as power tools for drilling holes for support brackets and saws to get your panels down to size.
Having a tape measure and spirit level handy will ensure that your measuring is completely accurate. You don’t want an uneven shower tray spreading all the water across your bathroom.
Tiling and glass
Installing a new shower offers the perfect opportunity for you to choose some new, contemporary tiles for your bathroom. Be careful when cutting these out to accommodate your new fixtures, and be sure to cut them to size to deliver a smooth, clean finish.
You’ll need to be more careful when installing the large glass panels due to their fragility. Once your tiles have been set in place, install your glass enclosure and apply a waterproof sealant to the bottom and all sides of the glass to prevent any leakages.
Image by ABBphoto via Deposit Photos
The Ultimate Exercise Guide for People Living With Depression
Many people in the United States live with depression. In fact, according to the CDC, 4.7% of Americans have regular feelings of depression. And statistics from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that about 21 million Americans have had at least one major depressive episode before.
Depression is a very serious disease that can affect you mentally and physically. It can even lead to suicide.
The good news is that it is treatable. There are various treatments available that can help patients fight the disease. One such treatment is exercise.
Some studies have shown that exercise can help people fight depression. For example, a review published in the Journal of Neurology in 2019 revealed that exercising can help improve the symptoms of depression when used together with standard depression treatments. A recent study, a large review of 1039 trials and 128,119 participants that was published in February 2023 in the British Journal of Medicine suggests that exercise is more effective than medications to manage depression and other mental health diseases.
“While I agree that physical activity is vital for mental health, I disagree that it should be the only frontline treatment for depression,” says Supatra Tovar, Psy.D., RD, a clinical psychologist who is also a registered dietitian and accredited fitness expert in Pasadena, California. “Taking a holistic approach, utilizing a combination of measures to combat depression is the best thing to do.”
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Ways Exercise Can Help You Fight Depression
However, it’s a good thing to add exercise to your depression treatment plan for a number of reasons.
Exercise can give you psychological benefits. “Psychologically, exercise has been found to increase the release of endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain that help to relieve pain and improve mood,” says Bruce Bassi, MD, a psychiatrist at Telepsychhealth in Jacksonville, Florida. “Exercise can also help to regulate the sleep cycle, which can be disrupted in people with depression. Getting enough sleep is important for overall mental health and can help to reduce symptoms of depression,” he says.
Exercise can give you physical benefits as well. “Physically, exercise can improve many areas of fitness and give you benefits, such as improved strength, higher energy, less fatigue, and better sleep,” says Ada Tang, Ph.D., a physiotherapist, Associate Professor, and Assistant Dean, Rehabilitation Science Graduate Programs at Mcmaster University.
Exercise can also boost feel-good hormones in your body and that can make you feel better. “Low dopamine levels are linked to depression. Exercise gives a feeling of “pleasure” for the next 24 hours by increasing the release of dopamine,” says Michael Dermansky, senior physiotherapist at MD Health. “As you do more exercise, dopamine builds up over time in the body. As you exercise more, over time you tend to increase serotonin and dopamine hormones. People that exercise consistently to manage their mood generally report a higher level of satisfaction, feel more capable mentally, and feel they have achieved a lot more,” he adds.
Exercising is the last thing you want to hear about when you are struggling with depression. Sometimes, even getting out of bed can be hard, let alone motivating yourself to go for a walk or run.
A Common Challenge for Depression Patients: Motivating Yourself to Exercise
It can be very hard for depressed patients to motivate themselves to exercise for a number of reasons.
“Depression can sap a person’s energy and motivation, making it hard to find the drive to exercise,” says Dr. Bassi. “Moreover, depressed individuals often experience negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness, which can lead to a lack of confidence in their ability to exercise. Furthermore, physical symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, and body aches, make it uncomfortable to engage in physical activity,” Dr. Bassi adds.
“People living with depression have nervous systems that are “dysregulated” (meaning the nervous system stays more persistently in a “sympathetic” state rather than being balanced by the parasympathetic system), most likely in a “freeze” state,” explains Tawny Kross, Ph.D., a licensed physiotherapist at Kross Centered Care in N.C. “Most of the body and nervous system’s energy is focused on processing the subconscious’ worries and concerns, and the idea of moving the body beyond basic activities of daily living — survival — can feel like a monumental task,” he adds.
“It’s also possible that side effects of your medications may be causing your lack of motivation,” says David Rakofsky, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Chicago. “Consult with your doctor to rule this out. Mood alteration can be the result of sudden changes in medications regimen. Ask yourself: Have I been on antidepressants but now take them inconsistently or have just stopped? Is this event the result of withdrawal? Do I need to consult my medical provider to revisit my dosage and consider an increase or a change of medications?”
How to Motivate Yourself to Exercise
Dr. Bassi recommends that you remind yourself that doing something small is better than doing nothing at all. He advises that you start with something small, a small goal. “For example, if you find it hard to go out and walk, have a small goal such as putting on your walking shoes,” he says.
“Don’t think of the walking exercise as a chore that someone told you to do, but find something you intrinsically appreciate about walking – the fresh air, nature, checking out birds, trees, new scenery, or clearing your mind, etc.,” Dr. Bassi says. “In addition, finding a friend you can walk with can also help,” he adds.
Dr. Tang agrees that social support can make it easier for you to find the desire to exercise. “Finding support from others can also help with exercise goals,” she says. “Social support can take different forms, from a walking partner or an exercise buddy to just having someone to check in with about exercise goals.”
You may also consider using technology to help you. “For those that might find it helpful, exercise/fitness apps or reminder alarms can be useful,” says. Dr. Kross. Another strategy he recommends is habit stacking. “For example, sometimes I have clients pair quick exercise routines with their meals (“go for a quick 5-minute walk right after you eat something.”),” he says.
Having a mantra is another thing that may help you, according to Dr. Rakofsky. “Your mantra should be ‘just for today.’ Make a promise to commit to some form of exercise just for today. Try the fitness class, walk around the block, or do some lunges across your living room. There is a reward, a feeling of relief, for the sometimes uncomfortable work you are doing and you can feel it almost immediately,” he says.
Another strategy you can use is to use routine things you have to do every day to remind you to exercise. “It’s helpful to find an existing routine behavior we do every day to attach to this new exercise, like brushing your teeth. You can use the behavior of brushing your teeth to remind yourself to do 10 minutes of exercise,” says Dr. Tovar.
I Have Depression. What Should I Consider Before I Start Exercising?
“Some important factors to consider include the activity itself (For example, Do I like walking or jogging? Swimming or weight training?), the format (Do I like group fitness classes or exercising on my own?), and the environment (Do I prefer indoor or outdoor activities?),” says Dr. Tang.
It’s also advisable to take a physical activity questionnaire before you start any exercise program, according to Dr. Tang. “It can help guide whether you need to seek further assessment or guidance from a doctor, physical therapist, or other health or fitness professional,” says Dr. Tang.
Start with Small Exercise Goals
“Setting goals and action plans are a great place to start. It helps to develop goals that are SMART: SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE (to know when a goal has been reached), ACHIEVABLE (to be realistic for success), RELEVANT, TIME-LIMITED (goals set in small bites will be easier to achieve),” says Dr. Tang. “An example of a SMART goal might be: I will go for a 20-minute walk, 4 times this week: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday over lunch hour, and Saturday morning at 10:00 am,” she says.
“I suggest for people to start very small. It is important to be realistic as to how many minutes you can handle in a week,” says Dr. Tovar. “In addition, it is better to undershoot rather than overshoot. Any type of exercise for any length of time that feels easy to achieve is a good start. For someone with depression, if 10 minutes of light stretching is all you can handle, do only that,” she says.
“The most important element is to start,” Dermansky says. “Start small, keep things simple, set realistic goals, and pace yourself. Regular exercise has the best long-term effect on mood, not getting there faster. Consistency is key,” he says.
Recommended Foods to Support Your Anti-Depressant Exercise Regimen
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, changes in appetite are one of the symptoms of depression.
“[When you’re depressed] you may not pay attention to your diet,” says Dr. Tovar. However, according to Dr. Tovar, improving your diet is one of the best ways to lower depression.
“When we are in a depressed state, we usually lack the amount of glucose the body needs to help sustain itself and to lift our moods,” she says.
“I encourage people to make sure they consume something containing a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables before they begin exercising. For some, it might be easier to make or buy a fruit and vegetable smoothie to ensure they are getting a large quantity of both. Whole grains like oatmeal can also be a wonderful way to energize before a workout,” says Dr. Tovar.
And depending on the intensity of your workout, you may need to eat some animal or plant protein in order to build muscle, according to Dr. Tovar. She adds that people tend to consume too much protein, so it’s important that you ask your doctor or dietitian what quantity is suitable for you before you start exercising. “I also discourage overconsumption of fat, since it is very difficult for your liver to assimilate,” she says.
How to Make It Easier to Start Exercising
“Build physical activity into your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking a little farther from your destination, or holding walking meetings,” says Dr. Tang. “Building in these physical activity ‘snacks’ throughout the day can help break up long periods of time sitting and can be beneficial to your health.”
And then you’ll have to take a step. “The simple act of getting out of bed, making your bed, or walking for even five minutes has been clinically shown to relieve depressive feelings,” says Dr. Tovar. “The first step is the hardest, to break from the feeling of doing nothing. Like pushing a car on a flat road, that first push is going to be the hardest, but once momentum is on your side the next steps are easier (though not easy).”
How to Prepare Your Body Before You Start Exercising
“It is helpful to do breathing exercises to help regulate the nervous system and to help you visualize the task positively to make it easier for you to do it to achieve your goals,” Dr. Kross says.
And after you’ve done the breathing exercises, it’s advisable for you to warm your body.
“Dynamic warm-up can include walking or slow jogging, or gentle, dynamic stretching that starts with smaller ranges of movement before gradually moving into larger movements as the body warms up,” says Dr. Tang. “Be sure to warm up the upper and lower body, as well as the neck and trunk, focusing on the parts of the body that will be used during exercise. For example, runners will perform whole-body warm up but focus more on the lower body. Warming up can help reduce the risk of injury,” she says.
Indoor Exercises to Help You Fight Depression
If you have depression, consider these expert-recommended indoor exercise tips.
“Deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and anxiety,” says Mike Hamlin, NSCA, CSCS, a personal trainer at Everflex Fitness. “Deep breathing can help you destress if you tend to overthink your problems. The more we focus on something positive or at least neutral (like breathing), the more we aren’t thinking of the hard parts of life,” Mike adds.
How do you do this exercise? “Inhale deeply through the nose, hold for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth,” Mike says.
“This exercise involves building muscle and strength in different muscle groups of the body. For the beginner and the person that has no access to equipment, using body weight only can be a good place to start. This can be simple like air squats; planks; going up stairs; and push-ups,” Dr. Kross says.
How can this exercise help lift your mood? “Strength and muscle growth can help with the improvement of negotiating daily life functions. To that end, some people might find that mentally and emotionally encouraging,” Dr. Kross adds.
When is the best time to do these exercises? “These are perfect for first thing in the morning. Starting your day with something challenging can be a great way to prepare yourself mentally for the rigors of life so that you feel mentally strong to deal with life’s inevitable difficulties,” Hamlin says.
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“A quick walk is always easy and beneficial; more and more research now shows that getting the heart rate up for just a few minutes is beneficial,” Dr. Kross says. He adds that functional movements (movements that a person naturally makes throughout the day) can also be something to add. “For example, if someone is getting up from their chair to go to the bathroom, I would suggest they go from sitting to standing as an exercise for a few repetitions before they actually go to the bathroom,” he suggests.
“Stretching is a wonderful way to relieve tension in sore muscles, often tight because of depression inactivity,” says Dr. Tovar. “Stretching the tight neck, shoulder, and back muscles can be very helpful in relieving anxiety and lifting your mood.”
Calisthenics and Cerebellar Exercises
Calisthenics is one kind of exercise that you can do easily. “There are a variety of calisthenics videos on YouTube that are completely free,” Dr. Bassi says. “You can start a video and then just follow along. Also, cerebellar exercises for balance are found to help with focus and concentration. You can search for these, which are also free and require no exercise equipment,” he adds.
Strength Training Exercises
“Exercises that strengthen the major body parts will be effective in getting you working and having a physical benefit,” says Dermansky. “This may include push-ups, wall squats, bridging exercises, lunges, and calf raises,” he says.
“Both resistance and cardio training have the same hormonal benefit for depression, so if you can’t go out for a walk or do a run, these exercises can be just as effective,” he adds.
Pilates exercises can help relieve depression symptoms, according to a small study that was published in March 2020 in the Complementary Therapies In Medicine.
“Mat Pilates is a wonderful mind-body exercise that combines strength training with tension-relieving stretching while simultaneously focusing on controlled breathing,” says Dr. Tovar. “Pilates has been shown to have positive effects on mental health by lowering anxiety, worry, tension, depression, anger, and fatigue,” she adds.
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Mini Trampoline Rebounding
Looking for an exercise you can enjoy? One fun exercise is to bounce on a mini trampoline.
“Mini Trampoline (rebounding) exercise is very helpful because the act of jumping helps to release endorphins, the feel-good hormone that produces a calm and happy state of mind. In addition, rebounding can help to drain your lymphatic system and loosen sore muscles,” says Dr. Tovar.
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Outdoor Exercises That Can Relieve Depression
There are added benefits you will reap if you exercise outdoors instead of staying indoors.
A small study which was published in March 2016 in Mental Health and Physical Activity suggested that people with depression felt more active and experienced better moods when they engaged in outdoor exercise than when they did indoor exercises.
But why does exercising outdoors give these benefits? “Exercising outdoors can help boost Vitamin D levels, and help lower stress levels, making it feel less strenuous than indoor exercises – as anyone who’s ever tried running on a treadmill will know!” says Smriti Joshi, a licensed clinical psychologist at Wysa.
Here are some exercises you can do outdoors to help you.
“Hiking is a wonderful way to get out into nature. Studies have shown that walking or hiking out in nature has an anti-anxiolytic effect and can be depression relieving. The Japanese even coined the term “Forest Bathing” to describe the mental health benefits of walking in nature,” says Dr. Tovar.
Ride a Bicycle
Cycling has many mental health benefits according to a study, which was published in August 2021 in the Journal of the American Planning Association.
“Cycling is a wonderful low-impact form of exercise that has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, such as increasing mental health and life satisfaction,” says Dr. Tovar.
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“Aerobics of mild to moderate intensity has been shown to increase mood, reduce anxiety and decrease depression,” says Dr. Tovar.
For example, a review published online in October 2018 in the journal Depression and Anxiety found that aerobic exercise significantly reduced depression symptoms.
Walking, jogging, running, swimming, and using cardiovascular gym equipment such as step machines and stationary bicycles, were the exercises used in the study. On average, the study participants engaged in these exercises for 45-minute sessions three times per week.
“Get your heart pumping, and focus your eyes on the beauty or novelty of the world around you,” says Dr. Rakofsky. “Granted, breaking a sweat and soaking up the great outdoors doesn’t sound appealing when you’re feeling listless and down, but exercising releases endorphins, the body’s natural anti-depressants. The sudden rush of these hormones can be the thing that flips your mood around.”
Practice Yoga Together with Other Treatments to Fight Depression
Yoga is another exercise that can help you to fight depression, especially when you do it in addition to standard treatments, according to a study published in May 2019 in the American Family Physician.
“Eastern traditional forms of exercise like tai chi, qigong, yoga, and even the western exercise form of Pilates, are classified as mind-body exercises because they all employ the active use of breath work, mindfulness, and focusing on the flow of energy while performing the exercises. All these factors have been shown to be effective in lifting mood and reducing depression by calming the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system,” says Dr. Tovar.
How can yoga help lift your mood? “As with all gentle exercise forms, endorphins, the feel-good chemical hormone that promotes contentment and well-being, are released,” says Dr. Tovar.
Easy Yoga Poses to Do When You’re Depressed and Your Energy Levels Are Low
The right yoga technique that can help lift your mood depends on your unique circumstances, according to Brandt Passalacqua, C-IAYT and E-RYT500 certified yoga instructor and yoga therapist. “People who are feeling depressed and struggling to motivate themselves to get up and go out may find that slow movements that open up the body may help you release tension and help them gain more energy,” Brandt says.
Brandt adds, “There are many poses that can be performed seated or lying down if you’re feeling low on energy to start, such as Corpse Pose, Legs Up the Wall Pose, or Seated Forward Bend.”
To practice Corpse Pose:
- Lie face-up on your yoga mat.
- Spread your arms and legs in a starfish shape so that your limbs are parted but comfortable. Leave your hands open with the palms facing up and allow your feet to drop gently to either side. If needed, support your head or neck with a pillow or cushion.
- Pay attention to how each body part feels, starting with your toes and slowly moving throughout the entire body.
- Stay in this pose for 2 to 10 minutes.
- Release any tension you feel.
Legs Up the Wall Pose
To perform a Legs Up the Wall Pose:
- Lie face-up on your yoga mat near a wall with your feet in front of the wall.
- Scoot your buttocks closer to the wall and walk your feet up the wall.
- Keep your feet around hip-width apart.
- Lay your arms comfortably at your sides with the palms facing up.
- Hold this pose for 2 to 10 minutes.
- Release any tension in your arms, legs, or spine.
Seated Forward Bend
To perform a Seated Forward Bend:
- Start by sitting on your yoga mat with your legs straight out in front of you and your toes pointed toward the ceiling.
- Hold your back up straight, then start leaning forward from your hips, stretching rather than hunching your back.
- Reach forward with your hands and walk them out as far as you comfortably can, loosely holding onto your ankles or feet if needed.
- Hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes.
Brandt recommends that you start out by holding the poses for 20 to 30 seconds, gradually increasing to 1 minute and then 2 minutes if desired. “Stop if you experience pain while performing these poses,” Brandt says.
If you’re looking for individual support or group classes, you can search for a certified yoga therapist near you on the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) website.
What You Should Do After You’ve Finished Exercising
“Cooling down after exercise is also important to help the breathing rate or heart rate and blood pressure back towards resting baseline levels,” says Dr. Tang.
What are some ways you can cool down? “Walking slowly, or slow pedaling on a bike with minimal tension, or gentle stretching, can help,” says Dr. Tang.
How to Organize Fitness Groups If You Feel Lonely Exercising Alone
There are many benefits to exercising with others.
“Group exercise offers the opportunity to socialize with others who share similar interests. It can be a great way to make new friends and build a sense of community. Participants can also provide support and encouragement to each other. We know that people with a strong friendship group are less likely to feel depressed,” says Joshi. “Group exercise can be a fun and enjoyable way to get in shape. Classes often incorporate upbeat music and a sense of camaraderie that can make exercise feel less like a chore and more like a social activity. There’s nothing like a good dance to get the endorphins going,” she adds.
It may feel and look daunting to meet with others to exercise. “Simply asking your friend group to form a weekly exercise pod can be a great way to start,” says Dr. Tovar. “If schedules do not align, there are several exercise groups that can be found through Meetup or Facebook who meet weekly in virtually every exercise form.”
Optionally, you may set up your own exercise group. “If you can’t find what you’re looking for, set up your own group. You could use Facebook, MeetUp, or HeyLo to promote it and find like-minded individuals. Remember that everyone is in it together, so even if you’re nervous, chances are someone else will be too,” Joshi says.
How to Make the Exercise Habit Last
What can you do to develop the habit of exercising regularly?
“Adding positive reinforcement can be very helpful in making the behavior last,” says Dr. Tovar. “After your 10-minute workout, reward yourself with a healthy smoothie, a gold star on your calendar, or anything else that makes you feel good about sticking to your new routine.”
How to Get the Most Out of Exercise with Depression
“Regular exercise has the best long-term effect on mood, not getting there faster,” Dermansky says. “Again, consistency is key. I have too often seen “very keen” participants start with high-intensity exercises for the first week and either lose momentum very fast (after the first week) or injure themselves,” he says.
“At least 3 months of consistent exercise will be much better than 1-2 weeks of intense exercise that will NOT lead to a good long-term outcome,” Dermansky adds.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself When You Have Bad Days
It’s possible you may fail to meet your goals and that may make you feel bad. “Even the most successful athletes have good and bad days and may find themselves unable to follow through with their exercise routines on some days and for someone struggling with depression this could happen more frequently,” says Joshi. “On these days be kind and compassionate to yourself and don’t be overly self-critical. And then try and pick up where you left off the next day or next week,” she says. “It’s not as catastrophic or bad as your mind may tell you. Remember Thoughts are not Facts,” she adds.
“When people first start an exercise program, they may see more dramatic improvements in fitness at the beginning that will plateau over time,” says Dr. Tang. “This might feel discouraging but it doesn’t mean that exercise isn’t helpful anymore. It just may be time to progress the exercise program to match current fitness levels,” she says.
Is It OK to Rely Solely on Exercise to Manage Depression?
No. Although it may help you feel better, you must use it together with other strategies, Dr. Tovar cautions. “Have multiple forms of depression relief in your toolbox to combat slumps in energy and will,” she says.
“For example, if a person’s energy is low, they may benefit less from exercise as it may be stress-inducing rather than stress relieving. That is when some mindfulness or meditation, seeing a therapist, focusing on stretching or breathing, or even getting a massage might help,” she says. “The more tools you have in the toolbox, the better equipped you will be at handling life’s ups and downs and the increase or waning of your energy.”
Does exercise help you cope with depression?
Share your experience with our safe and supportive mental health community in the comments.
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The Importance of Early Intervention in Addressing Addiction and Mental Health Challenges
Based on statistics by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, almost 30 percent of the US population aged 12 years and older has used an illicit substance. That’s over 61 million people. With timely intervention, it’s possible to prevent occasional substance use from becoming an addiction. This article will look at the link between addiction and mental health, the benefits of early intervention for mental health, barriers to early intervention, and how to overcome them.
The Link Between Addiction and Mental Health
Based on reports by the Journal of the American Medical Association, about half of the people diagnosed with a severe mental disorder struggle with substance abuse as well. Meanwhile, over 53 percent of people with a drug problem have a mental disorder. Statistics like these prove how mental health and addiction are intertwined. While it’s difficult to predict which one comes first, each one is a risk factor for the other.
Impact of Untreated Mental Health Issues on Addiction
The self-medication hypothesis states that drug use stems from an underlying cause. In most cases, illicit substances and alcohol are a means to cope with unpleasant emotions, intrusive thoughts, and stressful environments. Therefore, mood and anxiety disorders such as chronic depression and PTSD are precursors to substance abuse and subsequent addiction.
Impact of Addiction on Mental Health
Long-term substance abuse can permanently alter structures of the brain associated with pleasure and rewards. Moreover, it affects the body’s ability to produce endorphins on its own, depending on pleasurable feelings that occur due to substance use instead. Such changes make you more vulnerable to depressive feelings and unpleasant thoughts when the effect of alcohol or drugs wears off.
Early Intervention for Addiction and Mental Health Challenges
When you’re displaying the early signs of substance use or mental health disorder, early intervention involves providing professional support before symptoms exacerbate. Specifically, providing early treatment for addiction prevents the risk of developing a mental health disorder and vice versa.
Benefits of Early Intervention in Addiction and Mental Health
Giving individuals early treatment for their mental health or addiction symptoms can help prevent the issue from getting worse while building resiliency. Benefits of early intervention include:
- Reduced negative impact on academic and vocational development
- Lower risk of hospitalization
- Lower risk of suicide
- Less dramatic effect on relationships
- Quicker recovery with a low risk of relapse
- Reduced negative impact on heart, brain, and liver
Other benefits include fewer arrests, emergency room visits, and a lower risk of overdosing.
Different Types of Early Interventions
There’s no one way to provide early interventions. These can be informal, such as with family members or loved ones, or formal. Formal interventions are held by professionals who speak to you about the benefits of getting professional treatment.
Start With Communication
Every attempt at an early intervention should start with an open and honest conversation with a loved one. Knowing that the person speaking to you is only looking out for your best interests is crucial for understanding that you have a problem.
Screening in Healthcare Settings
Primary healthcare settings are a common way to provide early interventions. Medical professionals can identify different signs that indicate you or a loved one has a substance use or mental health concern. Or physician or practitioner will then speak to you about the issue to help you understand how disruptive mental health or substance abuse symptoms can be.
Brief Interventions to Provide Feedback
After undergoing a screening by a healthcare practitioner, you can attend a brief intervention. This can fall anywhere between informal counseling and structured therapies. In this type of early intervention, you receive feedback about your drug use habits and/or mental health symptoms. Getting insight into your habits will help you make informed decisions about getting treatment.
Various studies indicate that a lack of social support can exacerbate symptoms of poor mental health. Therefore, surrounding yourself with people who you can talk to can do wonders for your mental health.
Research indicates that mindfulness can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety in people suffering from mood and anxiety disorders. It has also been a part of programs at many luxury addiction treatment centers to help you relax.
Barriers to Early Intervention
But despite the availability of various early intervention methods, there are certain barriers that prevent people from seeking the help they need. Some of the most common reasons why people delay seeking help or fail to get appropriate assistance include:
- Denying that you have a problem
- Systematic issues like long wait times
- Lack of knowledge about available treatment options
- The perceived burden of committing time to treatment
- Having doubts about the effectiveness of treatment
At the same time, some barriers are more common and typically include the social stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. It also includes the lack of access to treatment options, resources, and support.
Stigma Surrounding Addiction and Mental Health
Even though substance use disorders are prevalent among many people all over the world, estimates show that the rate of treatment is lower than one in six people. One of the most common reasons for this is stigma, which can include prejudicial beliefs and subsequent discrimination.
Limited Access to Resources and Treatment Options
Another reason why people may delay seeking treatment is that they lack access to appropriate services. In most cases, it meant that they didn’t have the resources or coverage to seek treatment despite trying to get it.
Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Early Intervention
Although there are certain barriers that keep people from seeking early interventions, there are strategies to overcome them. These can include:
Having an Honest Communication About Addiction and Mental Health
It’s common for people to delay seeking treatment because they worry about what others will think. In this case, having an honest discussion about your addiction or mental health concerns with loved ones will help you gain the necessary strength and support to start treatment.
Providing Education and Resources to Reduce Stigma
Whether you battle with self-stigma or live in a community that discriminates against people with mental health and substance use disorders, raising awareness is quite effective. Awareness campaigns provide communities with the information to be more compassionate and empathetic.
Encouraging Regular Mental Health Checkups
Certain behavioral and psychological symptoms can be a predictor of mental health and substance use disorders. Taking regular mental health checkups and encouraging your loved ones to do so will help detect susceptibility to developing more severe concerns.
Despite how difficult it may be to accept that you or your loved one has a problem, remember that early intervention is the best way towards a quicker recovery. Mental health disorders and addiction have high rates of comorbidity, but early intervention can help prevent further problems. There are plenty of early intervention strategies, as well as ways to overcome the barriers preventing people from seeking help. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction or a mental health disorder, seeking professional help can make a world of difference. With the right guidance and support, recovery and improved well-being are possible.
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