Category Archives: Mental Health


Behavioral Health Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Effects

Behavioral health disorders focus on daily habits, actions, and character traits that affect a person’s physical and mental health. They often involve a pattern of aggressive and disruptive actions that lasts longer than six months. They manifest in children, teenagers, and adults.

Several factors contribute to behavioral health problems. It could be changing schools, parents getting divorced, being bullied, etc. This often causes truancy, run-ins with the law, substance abuse, and mental health disorders like depression.

Malnutrition, genetics, and brain damage also cause behavioral health disorders. Adults dealing with this problem often have problems in their jobs and relationships. This article looks into behavioral health conditions, the types, causes, symptoms, and effects.

behavioral health disorders

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Types of Behavioral Health Disorders

There are different types of behavioral health disorders. They include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Disruptive behavioral disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Pervasive developmental disorders
  • Emotional disorders

We discuss examples of these conditions below.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is more common in children. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, 6.9 million (9.4%) children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Adults also develop this ailment, especially if their ADHD was not diagnosed when they were young.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adult ADHD symptoms may not be as apparent as ADHD signs in children. However, if diagnosed with this condition, you’ll experience decreased hyperactivity and struggle with impulsiveness, restlessness, and difficulty paying attention.

The treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and older people is the same. It includes psychological counseling (psychotherapy), therapy and, potentially, medication.

Emotional Behavioral Disorder

This condition affects a person’s ability to be happy, control their emotions, and pay attention in school or at work. It manifests as:

  • Inappropriate emotions or behaviors under normal circumstances
  • Unhappiness and depression
  • Learning difficulties without the impact of other health factors

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

ODD is an ongoing pattern of rebellious, uncooperative, and hostile behavior towards authority figures. Children diagnosed with this ailment are usually spiteful and are always in trouble with authority figures.

Generally, an oppositional defiant disorder isn’t diagnosed in teenagers or adults. But children with undiagnosed and untreated ODD may manifest it in late adolescence and adulthood. While the known symptoms stay the same, adults with ODD might exhibit a lot of anger.


Ordinarily, anxiety is an emotion everyone feels at some point in their lives. However, it becomes a behavioral health condition when it affects how you live your daily life. For example, if anxiety causes insomnia and panic attacks and affects your ability to function at work or school, it is considered a behavioral disorder.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, approximately 18% of people ages 18-54 have an anxiety disorder in a given year. It includes:

Anxiety disorders are severe and require accurate diagnosis and treatment.

What Causes Behavioral Health Disorders?

behavioral health

Behavioral disorders cannot be precisely identified with one factor. Instead, several environment and psychological elements influence it. The abnormal behavior associated with these conditions often have a biological, family, school, or work-related origin.

Some of these biological origins are:

  • Physical illness or disability
  • Malnutrition
  • Trauma
  • Brain damage
  • Hereditary factors

Parents are more likely to have children with behavioral health conditions if they suffer from:

  • Substance abuse
  • Mood disorder
  • ADHD
  • Anti-social disorder, and
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stress

However, people with behavioral disorders may also come from families without a history of the disease. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the cause of a behavioral health problem. To do this, psychiatric, mental health, or medical professionals would conduct an extensive examination.

What Are the Symptoms of Behavioral Health Disorders?

Several signs indicate when a person has a behavioral health condition. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • Hurting or threatening to harm themselves, other people, or animals
  • Damaging or destroying their property
  • Stealing or lying
  • Not doing well in school or at work
  • Substance abuse, e.g., drinking, drug use, or sexual addiction
  • Constant loathing toward authority figures or the world
  • Extreme shifts in conduct or character
  • Having problem handling frustration or disappointment
  • Frequent tempers and outbursts
  • Feelings of despair
  • Withdrawing socially and isolating from friends and family
  • Intensive anxiousness or worries that hinder everyday activities
  • Changes in weight, e.g. becoming anorexic or obese
  • Changes in appetite
  • Ignoring personal hygiene and appearance
  • Easily getting irritated or agitated
  • Frequently appearing angry
  • Blaming others

While there are no physical symptoms of behavioral disorders, people suffering from this condition while addicted to harmful substances like drugs may show signs like a burnt fingerprint. They may also be shaking and have bloodshot eyes. If you notice any physical signs with a family member or friend, get them help.

What Are the Long-Term and Short-Term Effects of a Behavioral Disorder?

effects of behavioral disorders

Failing to diagnose and treat behavioral health conditions on time may have short-term and long-term consequences. This affects a person’s personal and professional life. For instance, they may get into trouble for acting out.

Students may get suspended or expelled for fighting or lashing out against their teachers and other authority figures. Some children may have to switch schools and run out of options if the same problems continue. Similarly, adults may lose their jobs, and their marriages may fall apart due to strained relationships.

Adults may also have strained relationships with family, friends, and colleagues and cannot associate with other people. So, again, seeking help early is quite essential when dealing with behavioral disorders.

When Should You Seek Medical Help?

Firstly, we should point out that people with behavioral disorders, like most mental health patients, may not recognize they have a problem and will not seek help. This is common with people battling addictions, be it drugs, alcohol, or a gambling problem.

Therefore, it is often up to the people closest to them to show them how their character differs from what’s perceived as ‘normal’ and encourage them to get treatment. So, how do you recognize when it is time for an intervention?

As an individual, you should see a mental health professional if you are:

  • Contemplating suicide
  • Threatening others with violence
  • Harming yourself or others
  • Hallucinating or hearing voices

You should also see a doctor if you or a loved one exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Cruelty to animals
  • Criminal behavior
  • Engaging in bullying and intimidating others or impulsive behaviors
  • Withdrawing socially
  • Exaggerated feelings of isolation
  • Little or no interest in school or work
  • Inability to function in relationships

Note that people with behavioral health issues usually feel different from others. As a result, they believe they don’t fit in and have emotions they can’t understand or identify. This ultimately leads to frustration and more behavioral problems.

How Is a Behavioral Disorder Diagnosed?

When you visit a medical health practitioner, the first thing they do is conduct a test to arrive at a diagnosis before commencing treatment. They will ask about your health history and listen to a description of your symptoms.

Some of the questions the doctor will ask includes:

  • When did you start exhibiting this behavior?
  • How long does the behavior last?
  • How long has the behavior affected those around you?
  • Did you recently experience any significant life changes, trauma, or transitions that could have triggered the behavior?

Ensure you answer these questions honestly. Unlike physical illnesses that show on imaging tests, behavioral health disorders cannot be diagnosed by conducting an X-ray or MRI test. So, the information you provide helps the doctor pinpoint the possible cause and arrive at a diagnosis.

How Is a Behavioral Health Disorder Treated?

There are different treatments available for behavioral health issues. This includes:

  • Conflict Resolution Classes: Here, you learn how to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement. When a dispute arises, rather than lashing out, you negotiate until you find a solution.
  • Counseling: It focuses on assuming that the environment determines an individual’s behavior. The counselor helps you deal with thoughts of suicide, addictions, family, marital problems, stress management, problems with self-esteem, etc.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy is the treatment of multiple patients at once by one or more healthcare providers. It is an effective treatment for externalizing behavioral problems, anxiety, and depression. It works best when members experience similar difficulties and function at similar levels, and you can combine it with individual psychotherapy.
  • Medication: Although medication does not cure behavioral health disorders, it can help control and modify extreme behaviors. However, note that these medications have strong side effects.

Finally, if you are at risk of harming yourself or others, your doctor may recommend an inpatient stay at a hospital or treatment center.


A behavioral health disorder is not a death sentence. Many have gone onto lead successful and happy lives. It does not have to derail your life and ruin your relationships. Instead, speak to a qualified health practitioner and seek out a treatment plan tailored to you.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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What Is Behavioral Health and How Does It Differ From Mental Health?

Behavioral health and mental health are often used interchangeably. But they do not mean the same thing. While they both revolve around the mind and its ability to function normally, they are different in definition and types.

Mental health deals with an individual’s ability to handle significant life stressors, work productively, and function in society. On the other hand, behavioral health revolves around the impact one’s habits have on physical and mental health.

This article delves into the significant differences between the two. By knowing what sets them apart, you will better understand your psychology and its role in your life.

Understanding Behavioral Health

Most people are familiar with mental health issues, as it is a common social topic backed by several campaigns to raise awareness. However, very few people know and understand behavioral health. Interestingly, the behavioral health concept has been around for over 40 decades.

Over time, the term’s meaning has changed, making more people mistake it for mental health. So, what does behavioral health mean?

behavioral therapy

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Behavioral health deals with how your daily mental habits affect your overall well-being, biological emotions, and behavior. Everything from what you eat to how you stay fit impacts your mental and physical health.

This is why behavioral health manifests in several ways. Also, several factors affect this condition, namely:

  • Trauma
  • Medication
  • Chronic health issues
  • Relationships
  • Diet
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Exercise habits

Behavioral patterns are crucial in assessments conducted by healthcare professionals. For instance, a behavioral health therapist treating an anorexic person will first look at the behaviors that triggered their weight loss. The identification helps in developing treatment methods that address the core issues.

Examples of Behavioral Health Disorders

The following are examples of behavioral health issues:

Substance Abuse/Addiction

substance abuse

Data shows that about 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, but only 10% get treatment. Addiction is a severe disease that sometimes has fatal consequences. Unfortunately, people addicted to drugs or alcohol often fail to acknowledge their addiction even when it affects their relationships and causes health problems.

Common symptoms of this behavioral health disorder include:

  • Using the additive substance more than once daily
  • Spending money on the addictive substance even when unable to afford it
  • Driving under the influence
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you fail to consume the substance or after quitting

Addiction also affects one’s physical health and cognitive ability. If you are struggling with substance abuse/addiction, you will experience a lack of energy or a weight change.


Gambling in moderation is socially acceptable behavior, as evidenced by the casinos in Las Vegas. However, the story is different when dealing with gambling addiction. Approximately 1% of the adult population in the U.S. has a gambling problem.

People with a gambling addiction feel an uncontrollable urge to buy lottery tickets, play slot machines at casinos, bet on sports, etc. The severity of the behavior varies, but if you have this condition, you will keep gambling despite financial, social, and legal consequences.

If you have a gambling problem, you will exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:

  • Obsession with any gambling type
  • Taking large and insensible risks when gambling
  • Skipping work or other commitments to gamble
  • Stealing money and selling possessions
  • Gambling to feel better about life

Sex Addiction

Sex addiction was excluded in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This is because there remains controversy on the diagnosis of sex addiction as a mental health problem. But it qualifies as a behavioral health condition.

Sex addiction is a compulsive need to perform sexual acts to achieve the type of feeling or emotion a person with a substance addiction gets from drugs or alcohol. It negatively impacts a person’s mental and physical health, including relationships, life quality, and safety.

Common symptoms include:

  • Chronic, obsessive sexual thoughts and fantasies
  • Feelings of remorse or guilt after sex
  • Lying to cover sexual behaviors
  • Compulsive intercourse with multiple partners
  • Inability to control or stop sexual behaviors

Eating Disorder

Eating disorders qualify as behavioral and mental health conditions. Statistics show that it affects at least 9% of the population worldwide. Also, 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.

This condition causes severe health problems and, in extreme cases,  death. Common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, binge eating, and avoidant and restrictive intake disorders. Others are night-eating syndrome and purging disorder.

Understanding Mental Health

Mental health deals with one’s ability to relate with others, their environment, and develop skills in managing stressful behaviors. It revolves around social, psychological, and emotional health. As a result, it plays a crucial role in your overall well-being.

This is why there are several conversations on ways to manage one’s mental health effectively. Usually, this involves knowing how to manage personal relationships, deal with stressors, and embrace positivity.

So, no matter your age or stage in life, ensure you take active steps to protect your mental health. Failure to do this has long-lasting consequences that affect different areas of your life. You can, do the following to maintain your mental health:

  • Getting therapy and counseling
  • Following a healthy fitness routine
  • Staying in contact with friends and loved ones
  • Eating gut healthy meals
  • Dealing with relationship problems in a healthy and productive way

Some mental health disorders are moderately linked to behaviors like:

However, there are mental health problems that are strongly connected with behavior. These include:

Personality Disorders

A person with this ailment deals with thinking patterns and behaviors that stray from the norm and cause problems with their day-to-day functioning. Some of the common personality disorders are:

Symptoms vary from one to the next, and medical professionals classify them in different clusters.

Psychotic Disorders

People with this disease deal with abnormal thoughts and perceptions about other people. One common psychotic ailment is delusional disorder. These often result in delusions and hallucinations, and the person affected loses touch with reality.

This explains why people dealing with psychotic disorders see and hear unreal things. Early warning signs of these disorders include:

  • Feeling suspicious when with other people
  • Trouble differentiating between fantasy and reality
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

The Link Between Behavioral Health and Mental Health

Unhealthy habits tend to characterize most behavioral health disorders. But, since behavioral health problems usually co-occur with mental illness, it makes it hard to draw a line between the two.

For instance, anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder are two conditions commonly diagnosed as a behavioral health disorder and a mental health illness. This is because the two share a common cause: trauma.

Also, constantly engaging in harmful behaviors like using drugs and alcohol might result in behavioral disorders and mental health conditions. These similar triggers make it harder to diagnose the two accurately. As a result, diagnosis is primarily subjective and conducted on a person-to-person basis.

Therefore, to effectively develop a treatment plan for behavioral health and mental health disorders, the medical practitioner must be able to draw a line between the two. Usually, they do this by asking specific questions related to your symptoms.

The Importance of Getting Treatment

At present, the gold standard for treatment plans for behavioral health and mental health problems is the collaborative approach.

Collaborative care focuses on improving the overall quality of care patients receive by ensuring that healthcare professionals work together to meet their physical and mental health needs. This treatment approach involves employing a team of experts to consider all the aspects of a patient’s wellbeing.

The treatment is multi-faceted and includes medical interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy, group counseling, etc. Collaborative care is particularly important when dealing with dual diagnoses. For example, where a person is experiencing mental health problems and has a substance use addiction.

So, if you are dealing with both disorders, yourself, together with a team of doctors and therapists using collaborative approach will endeavor to find the best possible treatment for you. This way, you get the help you need to live your best life. Ensure the healthcare provider you choose is compassionate with a stable and supportive environment.


Remember, regardless of how unwell you may feel now, recovery is probable and there are treatments that help you get better. But you are not alone. You can choose to surround yourself with a positive support system and engage in collaborative care. With commitment, discipline, and dedication you will succeed.

Want to know more about mental health, wellbeing, and resilience? Visit our extensive resource page to learn more.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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peter diaz a bipolar story

A Story of Recovery from Bipolar Disorder

This story of recovery is from none other than our CEO at WMHI, Peter Diaz.

He now travels the world, has a healthy and prosperous family, lives a pleasant life beyond survival, and works passionately towards his mission of bringing Mental Health Awareness to the world, helping as many people along the way as he can. But, his life wasn’t always like this.

Peter Diaz’ Early Life

Growing up he always had challenges with identity and belonging. He was raised in Germany but with Spanish heritage, he was always identified as the ‘Spanish kid’ and was bullied growing up. Back in Spain, he was identified as the foreigner- ‘the German kid’.

He was also raised in a strict religious family. That meant he didn’t get to mix well with the other kids because they were considered a risk to his inherited faith.

All this resulted in him feeling lost and unable to identify with the things around him when growing up.

peter diaz a bipolar story

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Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Later in his life, he was made the Minister of a church. Although he was good with his duties and was living a comfortable life, he didn’t find it fulfilling.

In this current state of life, he gradually started experiencing stomach issues and some mental disturbances which later became severe enough to the point that he was unable to perform his day-to-day duties.

Eventually, Peter was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

He shares that at that time, he was relieved after hearing the diagnosis as now he had hope. He felt hopeful that something could be done about his situation. But, later he realized that getting a diagnosis and going to a mental health specialist is just the start and that bipolar disorder was a call to change his life drastically, and to discover parts of himself that had been hidden in an effort to ‘be a good person’.

In retrospect, he goes even further to say that he considers Bipolar Disorder to be his teacher.

Recovery From Bipolar

Peter´s seemingly perfect life situation at the time weren’t so perfect at all. The gravity of the whole situation was ‘behind the curtains’ as it were, ‘hidden from plain view’. Hidden from himself too behind a significant amount of denial.

In short, he was living the life he had created, he’d ticked all the boxes but didn’t feel it was him. He felt we was living someone else’s life.

At this point, even suicide became an option, even though it was one he didn’t really want to take. He decided that suicide was too final.

In his own words, “I had hit rock bottom and, I didn’t know it at the time but that was my advantage. So, I couldn’t fall any further and I couldn’t kill myself because of my kids. So, I decided I could only go up”. And so he did.

Here is an online course that shows the many ways to treat bipolar disorder without medication

beating bipolar disorder online course

Steps to Recovery

In short, Peter became aware of all the things that weren’t really working for him, and that needed to change. And he took action to make those difficult changes.

He had to create a new identity. This time, an identity he could live with. And, he didn’t know really know what his interests were. So, first he had to discover himself and find things that were meaningful to him.

He was on a disability pension at the time and started working on himself. He started reading books which he just started as a ‘thing to do’, something to accomplish and teach him self-discipline, which now he sees were instrumental in helping him discover new and better aligned interests.

Later, he made the decision to invest in therapy, coaching and other personal and professional development activities.

He gathered strength and first faced the fact that, while he loves religion, the guidance and the lessons to be gained, he’s not a religious person in the institutional sense, and didn’t fit well in that context. He knew that changing that could mean losing friends and family members. But it was something that needed to be done.

Peter was right. It disrupted his life, his connections fell away and his relationship with his family was also affected. But, he forged ahead, regardless.

Some time later, one of his friends offered him the opportunity to become a support worker at a Mental Health Facility. Peter reluctantly and with some apprehensions, acted on the opportunity and went with it. That’s where he fell in love with mental health and helping people out of the throes of mental suffering.

Later he completed his degree from the Australian Catholic University in Social Work. From there, like one domino after another, he acted on the professional opportunities he saw in front of him and he is now living a life well and truly beyond his diagnosis.

He is completely free from any Bipolar Symptoms, feels better than he ever did, and lives a happy, fulfilling life.

His main message to the world is that recovery from Bipolar is not only possible but highly probable. And not just mere recovery, but living a pleasant and meaningful life beyond survival and he is a living example of what is possible.

He looks back at his diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder as a wake-up call to change his way of life.

Conclusion and More

Peter Diaz is an inspiration for anyone drowning in the ocean of their life situation.

He is an inspiration that recovery from Bipolar is possible. And not just living free of symptoms, but living a meaningful and happy life, no matter what challenge life presents you, is possible if you apply self-discipline and take charge of your situation. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

overcoming bipolar disorder

Peter shares his experience with Bipolar Disorder in his own words, in the video here.

bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder: Different Approaches to Recovery

In this article, we will discuss what Bipolar Disorder is, the types of Bipolar Disorders, a bipolar diagnosis, is it possible to take charge of Bipolar Disorder, and the different approaches toward recovery from bipolar Disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder

Put plainly; Bipolar Disorder is a series of life-disrupting cycles of extreme highs and lows.

The word “Bipolar” means two poles referring to the extreme high and the extreme low.

How is it different from what we call a “Mood Swing”? Bipolar Disorder is a type of Mood Swing.

Mood Swings are quick changes in one’s emotional state. In other words, you are not experiencing a reasonably constant emotional state.

Bipolar Disorder is when a person experiences mood swings that go from a very excited, energized, and often irritable emotional state to a sad, depressing, and lifeless emotional state in an unexpected time frame.

bipolar disorder

Note: We are focusing on the emotional aspect of Bipolar as that’s how most people experience it, but the effects are often felt on a physical and mental level as well.

Generally, in Bipolar Disorder, the Highs are referred to as Manic Episodes, and the Lows are referred to as Depressive Episodes. In this article, we will be referring to them as simply “Highs” and “Lows” Or “High” and “Low”.

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Peter Diaz talks about his recovery from bipolar disorder

Types of Bipolar Disorders

Now, let’s discuss the types of Bipolar Disorders.

Bipolar Disorders are of many types depending on the subtle nuances experienced by the individual, but there are primarily two types: Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2

Both Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 Disorders are very similar; we can also loosely say that Bipolar 1 is a succession of Bipolar 2.

The main differentiator of Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 exists in the Manic Episodes.

If the Manic Episodes are severe enough to need hospitalization or some other person’s assistance, this is called Bipolar 1. In Bipolar 1, the depressive episodes tend to be more severe.

Using the Roller Coaster analogy commonly associated with Bipolar: “the higher you go, the lower you fall”.

Several other classifications are drawn based on the severity of the Disorder and the length of the periodic cycles, but these classifications are of lesser significance.

Do I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Mary Lambert, a Musician and a fellow Bipolar sufferer, says: “Even when I am in a very great, steady, stable place… I am clinically Bipolar so that always exists – darkness always exists.”

Ronald Bassman, a renowned Psychologist, says, “Too often when carrying a diagnosis, one is required to act more normal than normal, with ultra-sensitive antennas to subdue or hide signs that in others could be swiftly dismissed as benign eccentricity.”

In diagnosing people with mental health disorders, we ask for caution. The problem is that, while some people may benefit from a temporary diagnosis and allow them to seek help, labelling can have its problems. When we diagnose or label someone, a new identity of sorts is created. If we label and don’t take certain precautions, this could prompt the person with the label to live their whole life under its shadow. Hardly a recipe for success.

At the WMHI, we teach people to look past the label, have it as a reference point but not attach it to their identity.

One thing you can do right now is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you experiencing extreme highs and lows that you can’t explain?
  • Are these extreme highs and lows distressing?

If the answer to both of these questions is “yes”, then all you need to know now is that you are experiencing overwhelming waves of highs and lows that are disrupting your life, and it’s possible to take charge of them.

The Different Approaches to Treat Bipolar Disorder

There are many different approaches to treat Bipolar Disorder, but all have the same aim of flattening the wave of extreme highs and lows into a manageable wave of highs and lows.

When basing our approach on Medicine, there are two methods:

  • Non-Medicinal: This is the approach that we discuss in our online courses. In a non-medicinal approach, we take charge of our thoughts and behaviors to help regulate our high-low waves.
  • Medicinal: The highs and lows are managed with medication, which tackles the problem chemically, making the emotions stable on a chemical level, resulting in stable thoughts and behaviors.

Depending on the severity of your Disorder, the best route could be a mix of a medicinal and non-medicinal approach. We recommend staying off the drug route if you can manage your highs and lows well since these have many side effects. PLEASE NOTE: if you are already taking medication, DO NOT STOP TAKING IT SUDDENLY. These are potent drugs, and you will need your doctor’s assistance to wean off them.

Based on how you decide to tackle your Bipolar, there are three options:

  • Working with a Psychiatrist
  • Working with a Psychologist or Mental Health Professional
  • Working on your own

A psychiatrist is a doctor that has specialized in mental health. In many countries, they are the ones that will be able to prescribe medication and provide you with medical support.

A psychologist or mental health professional will focus primarily on talking therapies that require no medication.

The Non-Medicine Based Approach for Bipolar Disorder

Two main Non-Medicine Approaches are ECT and CBT.

ECT or Electroconvulsive Therapy is a short-term treatment for any Major Depressive or Manic Episodes. ECT is a process of altering the state of the brain with the use of electric stimulation.

CBT or Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a long-term treatment for Bipolar Disorder. CBT works by regulating bad habits and replacing them with good habits.

A Mental Disorder is an accumulation of thoughts, habits, and emotions that work against a person and causes dysfunction and distress.

CBT involves identifying these destructive thoughts and behaviors and replacing them with constructive thoughts and s, which positively affects the emotional state.

Here is an online course that shows the many ways to treat bipolar disorder without medication

beating bipolar disorder online course

More Help and What Now?

If you are still reading, it means that you are trying to look for ways to help others or yourself recover from Bipolar Disorder. Reading this far of the article is evidence of that, and we commend you for it.

Now, if you keep taking action, recovery is almost inevitable. Research shows that a significant number of people eventually recover with no lasting signs of mental ill-health.

At the WMHI, we provide videos and information that promote recovery. You can access some of these recovery-based videos and mental health & wellbeing articles here.

You can also check out this inspirational story of the CEO and the Co-founder of the WMHI, Peter Diaz, who has gone through Bipolar Disorder and came out stronger and happier than ever.

WMHI wishes you all the best in your recovery. Feel free to drop a comment down below or reach out to us at

unleash your voice

Find & Unleash Your Voice

The Never-Ending Search for Health and Agency at Work

When it comes to health in the workplace, most people immediately think of physical health, including preventing accidents, slips, falls, etc. However, research shows that worker´s mental health is just as important, if not more so, than their physical health.

For example, take an office worker who is supremely unhappy with their job. They’re so sad, in fact, that they become clinically depressed and have severe bouts of anxiety. They start showing up late, are disengaged on the job, and call in sick frequently. Some may even consider self-harm or harming their co-workers.

Most would agree this is an unhealthy situation. While physical health may be more readily observed, the fact is that employee´s mental health is just as vital to an organization as their physical health. The question then becomes; what can be done to improve the overall mental health of all employees?

There are of course, a number of different avenues to improving mental health, resilience and wellbeing. But one that is so often overlooked, but which is becoming ever so critical in the modern workplace, is the importance of Freedom of Expression.

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Freedom of Expression and the Mental Health Connection

In The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 10 declares that the right to freedom of opinion and expression is one of the fundamental human rights. Indeed, it may be the most essential human right, as freedom of expression ties deeply into the human psyche.

But what, exactly, is freedom of expression, and why is it so crucial to a person’s mental health? The answer lies in the fact that, while an employee is under the organization’s auspices for whom they work, they are expected to do their work and be productive. However, they are still an autonomous individual with their own opinions, beliefs, and values.

Freedom of expression is the right to express those opinions, beliefs, and values without fear of reprisal, oppression, and censorship. However, the challenge for an employer is to balance an employee’s individual right to expression with the organization’s values, rules, and expectations.

Employees Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Free Speech

One of the most surprising facts for many people is that, while on the job, freedom of speech laws of the outside world don’t always apply. Even though some may disagree, as an employee, the right to freedom of speech is relatively limited. For example, an employee who publicly says or writes something inflammatory about the company can face legal charges.

Of course, the average employee is never going to do anything of the sort. Many enjoy their job,but, without the freedom to express themselves, languish at their jobs while anxiety and depression take their toll. That’s a problem that has with nothing to do with free speech but rather an employee feeling that their voice, opinions, and ideas have no value.

Methods to Empower Freedom of Expression

Giving employees the ability to fully express their ideas and opinions on the job isn’t something that happens naturally for most organizations. Frankly, it’s ingrained into most workers that “rocking the boat” isn’t a good plan (especially if they want to remain employed).

In the industrial age, we had a very different approach to work. People who got hired to work on a factory line, exchanged their time and physical labor for money. There was no need nor expectation that they would have an input into the systems or procedures. But now, we are no longer in the industrial age. Times are very different.

In the current pandemic/post pandemic workplace, more and more employees are re-evaluating their work and lives, with many opting out of the workforce entirely (heard of the Great resignation?). Those who remain are demanding greater flexibility, greater collaboration, and greater opportunity to contribute their perspectives and ideas in the workplace. At the very least, to be our selves at work. Many workplaces too, are providing support for the ´whole person´, recognizing that as human beings, the personal does impact the professional and vice versa.

For that reason, an organization must make a point of allowing their employees to express their ideas, needs, wants, and any problems they’re having on the job. This is a key element of a psychologically safe workplace. More importantly, action has to be taken that proves their opinions and ideas are being taken seriously. Below are a few excellent methods to do that, including:

  • Show That Speaking Up is a Positive, Not a Negative

Allowing employees the regular opportunity to give feedback without fear of reprisal is one of the best methods of allowing them to express themselves. The truth is, speaking up takes courage. Getting valuable feedback when that happens can be an incredible ego booster that keeps an employee engaged, happy and productive.

  • Create a Culture of Feedback in the Workplace

A quick online search for the term “feedback” will reveal millions and millions of results. Why? Because humans love giving their feedback about anything and everything, especially when they feel that they have something to add to the conversation.

This holds true in the workplace as well, where it’s guaranteed that many employees would love to give their feedback about a wide variety of work-related topics. The key as an employer is to provide them with an open forum to do just that.

This requires much more than a simple “Suggestion Box” on the wall, it is about communicating that the feedback is heard, genuinely considered, and acted upon in one form or another.

When your organization has a culture of seeking feedback and taking action on it, the response from employees is highly positive. One reason may be that, by allowing unfettered feedback, an employer (or manager) showcases their humility. This, in turn, elevates the status of the team member who was seeking feedback. The result is a standard of psychological safety that doesn’t just allow for freedom of expression; it actively encourages that expression on behalf of all employees.

  • Look at Complaints and Grievances as Important Data

It’s easy to see complaints and grievances as nuisances, especially if they aren’t particularly true or correct. On the other hand, if you look at the information provided as data, you can often learn valuable information that, in the end, helps the organization.

Indeed, many a positive change has come from an employee expressing themself about a negative situation. Without freedom of expression in the workplace, these positive (and frequently profitable) changes would never occur.

  • Employee Agency and Mental Health Are Closely Tied Together

By ´agency´ we mean personal agency – the sense of confidence that staff member has that they can influence, and make an impact on their world – in this case, the workplace.

At the end of the day, an employee’s agency and mental health while on the job are closely related. One compliments the other, with more fulfilled, engaged, and productive employees as a result.

For these reasons, giving all employees a voice is vitally important to an organization’s success. Yes, limits and structure need to be put in place, but the resulting changes will contribute to a workplace where mental health issues are low, and satisfaction levels are high. That’s a win-win situation for all involved.

In short, when an organization allows its employees to unleash their voice, the entire organization benefits. In the never-ending search for health and agency, freedom of expression in the workplace is a proven, profitable solution.

Psychological Safe Defense image

Learn To Survive And Thrive Despite Narcissists, Sociopaths And Psychopaths

Have you ever had an interaction with someone that wasn’t quite violent or blatantly rude but left you feeling ‘off, rattled or shaken? What was going on there?

Have you found yourself falling for liars, con artists, or manipulators on more than one occasion? We have too.

What about psychopaths? Ever wondered if someone you know is a psychopath? Sometimes it’s essential to know.

We are seeing situations where people face more extreme and antisocial behavior- and master manipulators end up using them and pulling their strings.

Having delivered mental health and resilience training across the world, to organizations of all sizes and in all industries, and to individuals from all walks of life, we know very clearly that one of the things people struggle with most, in maintaining their health and wellbeing, is dealing with difficult people.

Everyday interactions and relationships with friends, family and colleagues can be tricky enough, even when everyone involved has the best intentions at heart.

Psychological Safe Defense image

But more and more, we see more extreme antisocial behavior to the point where they could be dealing with psychopaths, sociopaths, and other master manipulators.

Suppose you are not prepared, not alert, or not equipped with techniques to deal with these people and situations. In that case, you could be at risk – sometimes physically, sometimes financially, but often psychologically too.

Therefore, for good mental health and so many other reasons, we need to build our awareness and understanding of people who may not have our best interests at heart. And develop a skill set to deal with these people, behaviors, and situations more effectively.

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We want to raise awareness and help people develop their psychological toolbox. We want good people to feel confident and in control when dealing with bad people out there – knowing that most people are good, well-intentioned people, but that, from time to time, they will come across dangerous people to their psychological and physical health. We also want them to know how to handle them.

We want to be aware and prepared to be able to:

  • identify different types of manipulators and understand their inner psychology
  • know how to spot other signs of manipulation and how to respond effectively to nip those in the bud
  • understand the dozen or so different strategies people can use in an attempt to shape your behavior, and how to neutralize them
  • look after your psychological safety and mental health effectively and securely when dealing with these people and their behaviors
Psychological Self Defense course

So, what are some things you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones or your teams at work?

Well, here are four things you can do, in a nutshell (we go into more detail and more strategies in our Psychological Self Defense course):

  1. Spot it early and leave, but if you can´t go, then…
  2. Get clear and confident in your own beliefs and knowledge
  3. Don´t try to play their game. Don´t try to outsmart them or trick them, or play pretend to catch them out. You´re not likely to win.
  4. Communicate in a way that is very clear, firm and transparent.
  5. Don’t try to control their actions, but stay cool, calm, and collected no matter what happens.

There’s a lot to talk about, and it’s imperative we do. But it’s hard to put this much detail here in writing. That’s why we created the Psychological Self Defense course where people can discover the strategies, tools and skills, to better deal with difficult people and to develop a type of “psychological armor” to protect themselves and their team from harm.

This online course shows you how to spot the different types of manipulators, the signs of manipulation, the ten sneaky strategies they use to pull the wool over your eyes, and the best ways to respond to this manipulation.

We consider this essential knowledge for everyone.  Of course, suppose you’re a manager or supervisor. In that case, this is even more critical knowledge to protect the wellbeing of your team – and avoid the legal implications these types could create for your company.

Please, do yourself a favor and check out the Psychological Self Defense course

It could be the best thing you do this year.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

Caring For The Carers

Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips For Health Professionals (and everyone else too!)

Sarah is a caring 36-year-old nurse working long hours at the local hospital. Sarah is also a wife and a mother to two gorgeous kids. Yet, Sarah is at her wit’s end. You could say that ‘her candle has burned at both ends’.  Sarah is exhausted. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. She feels burnout. She remembers fondly the time she started her nursing studies. She loved the idea of becoming a nurse. These days she shudders at the thought of having to get off the bed to go to work. See, the shifts are just too long, the demand too great and her life seems an endless procession of chores, even with the help of her husband and the grandparents. But what could Sarah do?

Sad as it is, Sarah’s plight is far too common.

Here at the WMHI, we work with organizations from a whole range of different industries. From the public sector, through to private corporations and not for profits, and with people in engineering, finance, education, construction, mining, defence, IT, you name it!

In recent times, we’ve seen much more attention paid to the work of health professionals and those in caring roles.Along with that, we’ve also seen an increased awareness of the importance of the mental health and mental wellbeing of those health professionals themselves. After all, they are people too, and in order to be best able to serve and support their patients, they need to be well themselves.

We were recently asked about mental health and wellbeing for staff in the health & medical industry. Below is our response to three questions we were asked. I think you’ll find many of the ideas can be translated across to any industry. What do you think?

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

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Why is it so important for a workplace in the medical sector to be aware of the mental wellbeing of their staff, as well as their patients?

  • Staff in the health and medical sector, and caring professions in general, are well known to be at higher risks of stress, burnout, and mental health issues themselves.
  • Part of this is due to the nature of their work, where staff are often dealing with people in highly emotional contexts and also because of the long hours and shift work. Most people came to the sector because they care about people, and want to help, but without the right working conditions, skills and tools, they can often end up suffering ‘compassion fatigue’ where they simply become tired of caring. For some people this means, they become less effective at their jobs, no longer able to give the patient the emotional support, nor the bedside manner, that benefits the patient so well. For others, this can lead to frustration, angry outbursts, conflict within teams, and even an end to their employment in a particular role (either by choice or following an incident) and, at the more extreme end of the scale, suicide.
  • Another contributor to the increased stress amongst medical staff is that as a customer facing role, they are also many times subject to those people in the general public who may take out their fears, frustrations and anger on service providers. In the worst cases, this can escalate to outright aggression and abuse, where the medical staff are required to maintain their emotional maturity, stay calm and handle each situation appropriately and respectfully. That can be a tall order for someone who is already stressed.
  • These two elements combine with what is often a very busy working environment, with a high volume in terms of workload, time sensitive job tasks, and high stakes work, coupled with many legal obligations and consequences.

Do you have any advice for workplaces in the health industry, about a few ways that they can prioritise mental health for their practitioners?

  1. Make mental health and mental wellbeing a part of the conversation and make people mental health aware from Day 1 of working in your clinic or practice. E.g., make it part of your induction training, share tips for staying calm under pressure, managing stress, and building resilience in your meetings or newsletters, put posters around the office.
  2. Don’t wait for people to be stressed or develop mental health problems before doing something about it. Have conversations early, provide training in personal resilience, managing stress and compassion fatigue, and mental health.
  3. Make sure the leader practices what they preach, use a strengths-based approach when interacting with their practitioners at all times.
  4. Make sure the job demands are doable within the time frames provided. Don’t ask one person to do the work of three people with no extra time (or pay!) provided.
  5. Make sure people have time during the day to get out of the practice, and get fresh air, sunshine, a bite to eat, stretch their legs and have a change of scenery. It does wonders for productivity as well as mental health.
  6. Make an Employee Assistance Program or independent counselling available for staff and their family members, should they need a safe, private and confidential space to get further support.

 What would your top 3 tips be for health practitioners to prioritise their mental health?

Yes! We have more than three tips:

  1. Remember WHY you got into this profession and WHAT you love about it. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see often.
  2. Practice your Self Care activities daily – encompassing the basics like good nutrition, movement, sleep, enjoyable hobbies, and also more advanced strategies like making daily gratitude lists, mindfulness or meditation practice,
  3. Notice ways of talking to yourself that make you feel good, and ways you talk to yourself that make you feel bad. Then do more of the first and less of the second.
  4. Every time you have a success, get a thank you, or positive feedback from a patient, capture it. Put it on a pinboard somewhere, or keep it in a file you can go to whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, disillusioned, or have had a difficult patient/procedure/day.
  5. Make sure to keep talking. Debriefing with colleagues, friends or family members (while ensuring confidentiality is maintained) can be vital for maintaining a healthy perspective. And if you need to get more professional, objective help, reach out early. The sooner you get support, the quicker and easier it is to get back on track.


Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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The real dangers of Work-From-Home burnout and how to properly tackle them

Work-from-home (WFH) burnout is a real, serious, and increasingly common risk for remote workers across the globe. Learn the signs of WFH burnout, how to combat it, and where employers/virtual managers and employees can reach out for help.

The world is grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic that continues to take a toll on nearly all aspects of people’s lives. The vast majority of the workforce across the globe has willy-nilly adapted to a new work environment — the new “normal” in the context of the pandemic. But working from home has also opened a Pandora’s box of workaholic tendencies, anxieties and fears, proneness to overworking and burnout, and potential mental health problems.

While the virus itself poses a risk to our physical health, the impact of the whole unnerving situation on our mental health is anything but negligible, and this is especially true for remote workers whose home has transformed into their office. Between working harder and longer hours from home and juggling family responsibilities, people who have been working remotely due to government-imposed restrictions are facing an increased risk of WFH/ lockdown burnout, with potentially long-term repercussions.


Different Remote Workers in Different Industries, All Overworked and Burned Out

What used to exclusively be their own oasis of relaxation where they’d spent quality time with their loved ones and unwind has also become their work environment for several months now. In a recent BBC News video, three professionals working remotely in different industries share their WFH experiences in terms of feeling the signs of burnout and overworked during lockdown in the UK.


“When I used to work at the gym I’d finish my work at the gym and then get home and rest but this just feels like there’s no end”.

Ana, a young personal trainer living in the UK, has been intensely working from home since March. Stuck at home, she started posting more educational content and live streaming workouts on Instagram, which quickly increased the number of clients from different countries. To provide her services online to clients in different parts of the world, such as the US and Australia, she’s been working almost round the clock. “I’m constantly working”, confesses Ana. From 30 sessions per week, Ana now manages 50-60 sessions per week.


“Because I lost all the gig income, I had to really buckle down”.

For David Altweger, a middle-aged musician and owner of an independent record label, the pandemic has had a devasting impact on his gig income. Running a record label online requires a lot of hard work and longer hours, so it’s no wonder that David’s workload significantly increased. He starts his day at 5 a.m. with a strong coffee. David’s workday is around 16 hours, as he’s got to handle every aspect of his business himself, including design work, office work, and, with his distributor closed due to lockdown, even CD deliveries, which are quite time-consuming, taking him at least 2 hours a day.

“Sometimes I feel like Covid Father Christmas delivering music to people’s door”, confesses David. His Moka pot is his “secret weapon”, but at the end of the day, he feels “completely knackered”.


“Lockdown has brought out the workaholic in me”

Abbey, a young art director working remotely for an ad agency in the UK has been feeling the pressure to stay productive and has been experiencing the effects of overworking due to fear of losing her job too. “I’m doing ten times more because there’s so much uncertainty around jobs and everything”, laments Abbey, for whom “the need to keep working” at all costs is so strong and deeply embedded that she oftentimes refuses to tend to her physiological needs for food.

She finds it difficult to take a break just to have lunch because she “doesn’t know how to switch off”. A major contributor to her inability to switch off is the fact that work and relaxation take place in the same environment i.e her home. Separating the two is as difficult for Abbey as it is for other remote workers around the globe.

In America, where over 30 million people have filed unemployment claims since March, the pressure to stay productive and even be more productive than prior to the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of overworked people working from their homes. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll , 45% of US adults say that this whole situation associated with the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

I find myself working all the time, even when I should be getting ready for bed”

41-year-old New Jersey resident and mother-of-two Alana Acosta-Lahullier is overworked and feels burned out to the bone. Alana says she feels “an obligation to get everything done right”, even if doing so is detrimental to her mental health and well-being. Between her full-time job, working remotely for an electrical contractor, parenting, and helping with the schooling of her daughter and son, who has ADHD on the autism spectrum, she’s “constantly on the verge of a panic attack”.

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Panic-Working Is a Manic Defense

Even Gianpiero Petriglieri, a psychiatrist, MD, and associate professor of organizational behavior at the Business School for the World (INSEAD) admitted in late March that “by the time I went to bed at 3 a.m., I was exhausted, edgy, and miserable” due to “panic-working” from home.

The obsession with staying productive at all costs is considered a “manic defense” by psychoanalysts. Panic-working gives us a false sense of security and the illusion of being in control. It numbs us in the short term but this defense comes at a high price – feeling disconnected from reality, our experiences, and other people, and completely burned out.

Fighting Fire with Fire: A Vicious Cycle

Remote workers are oftentimes pushing themselves too hard as a way of coping with their anxieties and fears caused by the pandemic and the recession. But overworking in an effort to stay productive does not serve them well; in fact, it’s akin to self-sabotage because it eventually leads to burnout, more anxiety, depression, and other repercussions on their mental and overall health.

Both employers/virtual managers and remote workers need to be aware of the increased risk of burnout associated with working from home, recognise the (early) signs, and effectively combat it as early as possible.

Working Harder and Longer Has Become the Norm

Transition to a work-from-home culture has been challenging for managers across the globe. Finding new ways to ensure that their remote teams stay productive is one of their main priorities. However, instead of worrying about their teams’ underperformance, virtual managers should be on the lookout for overperformance, which has been found to be productivity’s enemy rather than its ally.

According to a 2017 working paper published by researchers at Harvard Business School, task selection is a common way through which workers manage their increased workload. More specifically, they tend to complete easier tasks, a behavior labeled as Task Completion Bias (TCB). Although TCB has been found to improve short-term productivity, it negatively impacts long-term performance measured by revenue and speed alike. Workers who do not exhibit this behavior tend to be significantly more productive than those who exhibit TCB.

Research shows that the vast majority of remote workers are more productive than their in-office counterparts. They work harder and longer hours than ever before for different reasons, including the fact that employers apply increasingly more pressure for efficiency purposes. for financial rewards, and out of fear. Remote workers fear for many things – they fear for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones; the economic fallout and uncertainty of the future; they fear for losing their livelihood/financial security and no longer being able to provide for themselves and their family, and more.

But the reality is that overworking makes a remote worker more prone to WFH burnout.

The Warning Signs of WFH Burnout

Work-from-home or lockdown burnout refers to a state of exhaustion on physical, emotional, and mental levels caused by prolonged and excessive stress associated with panic-working/overworking from home and disruption to the work-life balance.

Although burnout is still not classified as a medical disorder, the World Health Organisation (WHO) included it in ICD-11 last year as an occupational phenomenon and is defined as “a syndrome” that results from chronic and unsuccessfully managed workplace stress.

What to watch out for:

  • Chronic fatigue/exhaustion and apathy
  • Depression and/anxiety worsening over time
  • Constantly elevated stress levels and reduced energy levels
  • Feeling overwhelmed and mentally drained all the time
  • Inability to focus and forgetfulness/memory issues
  • Lack of motivation, feelings of negativism toward one’s job
  • Declining performance, avoiding work or inability to switch off
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath and/or heart palpitations
  • Irritability, anger, and sleep disorders (e.g. insomnia)
  • Dizziness and headaches/migraines
  • Loss of/reduced appetite and/or gastrointestinal issues

Early recognition of these signs via virtual channels such as chat apps and video calls is of the utmost importance. It’s worth noting that a worker who is affected by WFH/lockdown burnout does not necessarily have to exhibit all of the above signs, because it manifests differently in different people.

Burnout can also weaken a remote worker’s immune system, which in turn may increase the risk of getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

Tips To Combat Lockdown Burnout

  • Establish clear boundaries that separate work from personal life to prevent work-life balance disruption
  • Set office hours and create a schedule designating work, free and family time to regain control
  • Avoid the tendency of being the perfect worker, which adds extra pressure
  • Take time off to unwind and discover a new hobby
  • Maintain social interactions/connections to avoid social isolation and detachment
  • Don’t suffer in silence -Talk to your team, virtual manager and reach out for help
  • If you are a manager or supervisor, make sure you can provide first aid for mental health incidents involving anxiety, stress and burnout.
  • As an organization, provide workplace mental health training and resilience building skills training for your managers, supervisors and leaders.

Reach Out For Professional Help From Therapists

It’s absolutely crucial for virtual managers to learn to recognise the telltale signs of work-from-home burnout as early as possible in order to minimize its long-term impact on remote workers’ mental well-being as well as to properly address it in a timely and efficient fashion. The Workplace Mental Health Institute ( WMHI) is here to help virtual managers across the globe with a suite of tailored, top-tier and results-driven telehealth training courses and services, counseling, and coaching sessions on mental health, well-being, and resilience of employees working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

If you’re an employee working from home and you’ve been feeling the effects of burnout and overworked during lockdown, it’s in your best interest to take some time off to decompress and to speak with a qualified therapist. In case your job offers free counseling sessions through an employee assistance program (EAP), then do yourself a huge favor and take full advantage of it for the sake of your mental health and well-being in these uncertain and difficult times.

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Social Isolation: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Workers Worldwide?

Dr. Greg Iacono was 46 when he decided that his career as a chiropractor was, sadly, unfulfilling, and started to contemplate a new career path. “As an admitted extrovert, I really loved being around people all day, including my staff and patients. At the end of most days, however, I was unhappy and, often, in pain from my own low back issues.” After 17 years in the field, including 6 years in Belgium and 4 in Peru, he made the decision to sell his practice and become a writer, something he dreamt about since being in high school.

Like many, for Dr. Greg the lure of working from home was strong. “I loved the thought of working at home and being able to truly be on my own schedule. No set hours, no early morning stress to be on time.” Divorced and living alone in his 3 bedroom ranch in Kennesaw, Georgia, about 30 miles north of Atlanta, the former “Dr. Greg” converted a spare bedroom into his writing room and, in 2011, began his new career as a blogger and copywriter. At the same time, he also started self-taught lessons on how to write a screenplay. He quickly started picking up clients and learned the intricacies of writing for the big and small screen.

Everything was going well until the loneliness and isolation starting setting in.

“The silence, to quote an old saying, was deafening”, he admitted. “There were many days when I longed for someone, anyone, to talk to about the day’s events, politics, movies, anything.”

Social Isolation: How the Coronavirus is Impacting Workers Worldwide

Although he was a father of 2, Greg rarely saw his adult children and had few close friends to pass the time with, and so the loneliness became worse. “There were days when I felt like a prisoner in solitary confinement, locked away from the world. I would go out to the grocery store just to be able to say hello to the cashier or make conversation with one of the other employees.”

After almost a year working and writing at home by himself a number of things had drastically changed. Greg found that he slept a lot more hours every day and, unfortunately, drank and smoked marijuana a lot more as well. “I was definitely self-medicating and in the throes of depression, something that I never in a million years would have guessed would happen, especially to me as I had always had such a positive, outgoing personality.”

It was when he started contemplating suicide that Greg knew something had to change, and fast. “When I started thinking about self-harm I knew that something had to give”. The problem was, he had no idea what that change could, would or should be. The solution came from an unlikely source; the local dog park.

“I was at the local park where they have an area for dogs to play with other dogs, and there was someone there with their dog and its puppies, giving them away to good homes.” Greg adopted one of the pups and named her Xena, Warrior Princess, after the beloved TV show of the same name. Never having owned a dog, it was a brand new adventure, teaching Xena basic commands, learning about dog habits and dealing with ‘accidents’. But something happened during those first few weeks and months that Greg never expected; his despair and loneliness faded.

Today, Greg and Xena are inseparable and can be seen around the park in Kennesaw nearly every day, running and playing together. “I never knew how important companionship really was until Xena came into my life,” he says, “but thank my lucky stars she did, because I was really a mess. I think Xena might just have saved my life.”

The Effect of Social Isolation on a Person’s Mental Health

Right now, as COVID-19 wreaks its wrath on humanity, millions of people find themselves in a similar situation to Dr. Greg, working from home, isolated and, in many cases, lonely and in despair. Some of that despair comes from the fact that the world is in crisis, which is understandable, but some of it also comes from the simple fact that human beings are social animals and, when the ability to socialize is taken away, a negative impact almost always occurs.

For example, while writing her doctoral thesis, academic Frances Hollis, a professor at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design in London, found that people who worked from home shared many distinct disadvantages. These include anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, Isolation, lack of self-discipline, little or no exercise, difficulty setting boundaries.

Evolutionary psychology shows us that humans, like many other animal species, rely on each other for survival. Think about the times of cavemen and women, we needed a tribe so that the tasks of survival – hunting, gathering food, maintaining shelter, and keeping the children out of harms way could be shared amongst the group, with the tasks allocated to the most appropriate tribe members for the job at hand. While a lone individual could not protect against a dangerous predator, as a group they could protect the tribe and ensure their survival. To be excluded from the group pretty much equated to death. These days, that same social isolation and disconnection (especially in the form of rejection – but that is another story) can feel like a social death.

Not only do we need and want to be around other people, it seems these days many of us actively avoid being alone. In fact, in a study at the University of Virginia, 25% of women and 66% of men chose to subject themselves to electric shock rather than be alone with their thoughts.

So while it is certainly true that working alone at home brings a certain level of freedom and flexibility, the lack of human interaction, however small, can be problematic. The nuances of even small interactions with colleagues, let alone large meetings, working one-on-one with a partner or sharing stories with workmates, simply cannot be replaced by the disembodied avatars that are so popular in today’s virtual, online world.

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Does Isolation Affect Introverts and Extroverts Differently?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. While there is nothing wrong with being either an introvert or extrovert, per se, isolation seems to affect extroverts more adversely simply because they seek out companionship and are energized when around other people. When isolated for an undue amount of time they can become tired, depressed and even desperate. lacking the human interaction they crave.

On the other hand, studies have shown that brain activity in introverts is higher than extroverts. Introverts are ‘deep thinkers’, so to speak and, in times of isolation, all of that thinking and internalizing their thoughts can lead to overthinking. That includes both positive and negative thoughts. During an extended period of isolation, introverts may find themselves dwelling on their negative thoughts which can lead to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and even feelings of worthlessness.

In short, whether extrovert or introvert, long periods of isolation like we are now experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic can be detrimental to their mental health and thus solutions must be found to overcome this pressing challenge.

Could isolation it be beneficial?

Besides the obvious health rationale in the current context, it is a common theme in stories of personal development and spirituality, that people have often chosen to spend a period of time in social isolation, in order to reflect, meditate and engage in a process of self discovery. Many great thinkers such as Lao Tzu, Moses, Nietzsche, Emerson and Woolf have championed the intellectual and spiritual benefits of solitude.

In the 1980s, Italian journalist Tiziano Terzani holed himself up in a cabin in Japan, passing the time with books, observing nature, and enjoying silence. He reported feeling free from the incessant anxieties of daily life at last I had time to have time¨. Not dissimilar to what many of us experience when on holidays or vacation.

Jack Fong, sociologist at California has studied solitude and speaks of éxistentialising moments´. ´When people take moments to explore their solitude,not only will they be forced to confront who they are, they just might learn a little bit about how to out maneuver some of the toxicity that surrounds them in a social setting´.

Similarly, Matthew Bowker, and psychoanalytic political theorist argues the ´a person who can find a rich self experience in a solitary state is far less likely to feel lonely when alone´. An interesting thought.

However, the research tends to agree that there are certain preconditions for solitude to be beneficial. And they seem to be a) if it is voluntary, 2) if we can regulate our emotions effectively, 3) If we can join a social group when desired, and 4) if we can maintain positive relationships outside of it.

So with that in mind, and given that at least at the individual level, the current restrictions may not be entirely voluntary, how can we cope with the social isolation during the COVID pandemic, without experiencing loneliness?

Tips For How To Cope with Social Isolation and loneliness during the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you’re reading this, and are one of the many people now confined to home while the world deals with COVID-19, the tips below will help you to cope, stay healthy both physically and mentally, and maybe even learn something new and valuable.

1- Use Video & Technology To Keep In Touch with Family, Friends and Colleagues

Many people today, especially under the age of 30, use their smartphones to communicate with loved ones and colleagues, usually in the form of text messages. While this is good, it lacks the face-to-face interaction that humans need and desire. For that reason, using a video-chat software, like Skype, Whatsapp and Facetime, is vital. Being able to actually see the face, or faces, of the people you’re talking to, adds the human element to your conversation that no amount of texting can replace. The smiles, the joy and even the tears of those you love and care about simply carry more weight when you can actually see their face.

2- Keep Social Media Use to a Moderate Level

Here’s a fact about social media; it’s been found that when people tend to scroll endlessly through their social media feed on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms, they feel more left out than included. The biggest drawback to social media is the lack of actual face-to-face communication, which can lead to further feelings of isolation from friends and loved ones. In times of isolation like these, it would be better to use social media sparingly and instead use video chat and phone calls (see Tip1).

3- Make a Plan, and a Schedule, and Stick With It

Being forced to stay at home and shelter in place is abnormal, to say the least. It simply doesn’t ‘feel right’ and can add to your anxiety and stress. That’s why you should start every day by making a plan for your day and writing/typing it down so that you know what you’re going to do in the hours ahead. A schedule is also important because that’s what you ‘normally’ have to follow, so set one for yourself and stick to it. Doing these things will help you to feel more centered and calm, as well as proactive, about the situation, which can be quite helpful for your mental state.

4- Reach Out to Those Who may Need Your Help

One of the best ways to boost your mood and feel useful is to help others and, during this crisis, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. Check on an elderly neighbor (while abiding by social distancing and using protective devices) or call a friend or relative who is sick. If possible, visit your nearest animal shelter and volunteer or send an email to someone you know might be vulnerable.

5- Go Outside and Get Some Sunshine

It’s long been known that sunshine helps the human body create valuable Vitamin D, which can boost brain function and improve a person’s mood. Plus, getting outside (if possible) gives one the feeling of being more connected to the community, can be quite exhilarating and lets a person know that, while things right now are a bit frightening, the earth is still turning and, soon enough, better days will be upon us.

6- Exercise

If you’re not positive for COVID-19 and physically able to do so, exercise is one of the best ways to stay both physically and psychologically fit during this crisis. Being isolated is bad enough but being isolated and inactive is even worse since our mental and physical state often goes hand-in-hand. Below are a few things you can, and should, do while stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Walk around your neighborhood, if possible
  • Practice Yoga, Tai-Chi or another stretching type exercise
  • Ride a stationary bicycle or another indoor exercise machine
  • If you have a pool, swim. (The CDC says that properly maintained pools are safe.)
  • Work out with weights
  • (What other in-home exercise ideas can you come up with?)
7- Engage in Activities that are Comforting and Enjoyable

It’s important that you feel good about yourself and your situation and the best way to do that is to do something that brings you joy. Playing with your dog or cat can be very comforting, as well as taking a nice, soothing bath. Catching up on your favorite TV shows or streaming movies can be very enjoyable, as can cooking or baking something delicious to eat. Hobbies are especially good at this time as well, like working with wood or building with Lego bricks. Anything that brings a smile to your face is good and valuable during this time.

8- Make Plans for the Future

Here’s a fact; the pandemic won’t last forever and things will slowly get back to normal. Until they do, you can make plans for the future and the things you want to do, see or create. Plan your garden for the spring, for example, or a trip to visit your friends in another state. Make a list of goals or things you want to accomplish before year’s end or even plan an event for your family and friends when this is all over. Planning for the future helps you to forget, at least for a short while, about the present problems we’re all facing. As Victor Frankl wrote about in ´Man´s Search for Meaning´, having a future purpose can be the difference in physical, as well as mental survival.

9- Be Intentional with Your Time

When isolated many people tend to simply let days slip by, wasting away the hours doing next-to-nothing, which can lead to increased feelings of desperation and regret. A much better plan would be to use all of this extra time we’ve been given to learn something new, whether it’s a skill, a hobby or even a new language. President John F. Kennedy suffered a number of horrible sicknesses as a child but, alone and bedridden for months at a time, he became a voracious reader. As President, he was a skilled orator and learned historian, likely due to all of those months in isolation that he used to read as many books as he possibly could.

Working from home, whether you choose to or it’s been forced upon you, has it’s ups and downs, no doubt. If you feel like you’re unable to cope, the above tips and message will hopefully give you some solace, as will the fact of knowing that you’re not alone during this crisis. We are all in this together.


Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Create certainty in uncertain times

As a mother of two teenage daughters, business owner and CEO, Montessori educator, loving wife and caring homeowner, I know what it means to “juggle chainsaws”. During times of uncertainty, like this pandemic, it is my duty – better yet, our duty – to stay informed on the topic of safety, take the best safety measures, stay home, wash hands and make the best of the situation. The latter is probably one of the hardest tasks for most people. “How in the world do I keep a safe and sound mind during this uncertain time?” you probably ask. The answer is: “Create as much certainty as you possibly can in your own environment. That starts with your mindset, your clarity, and your time ownership.”

Right now, parents are either working from home amongst all the other family members and chores that are waiting to be done, or in the worst case one or both parents lost their jobs and entrepreneurs are struggling to keep their business afloat.

Teachers are asked to move their curriculum to an online version and students are asked to stay focused in front of a computer screen (if they’re lucky enough to have a computer) for an entire day – day in, day out. Daycares have been closed for safety pre-cautions, toddlers, pre-kindergartners and kindergartners are expected to stay entertained while mommy and/or daddy work from home. In worst cases, mommy and/or daddy are trying to figure out how to pay rent, groceries, utilities because the income is no longer coming in.

Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong
Keeping our KIDS healthy and strong

Financial stress, lack of communication and constant arguing are some of the main reasons families fall apart. This stress is heightened through this time of uncertainty as emotions are raw and amplified.

We (the parents and guardians) are asked to stay calm, figure out our “new normal”, maintain “socially distant” and remain calm for the sake of ourselves and our family.

Amongst all, we yearn human connection!

To add insult to injury, being annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious, makes our kids annoyed, stressed out, frustrated and anxious as well.

This means, if you want your children to stay mentally strong, you, the parent have to  take care of yourself first, gain clarity, find joy, be grateful and stay/become calm. Sounds simple. I personally use two apps to gain more calmness and clarity, especially in times of uncertainty. Your contentment will reflect on your environment and the people that live in it:

So the question now is HOW? How to make time and space to juggle all these TASKS? How to create a NEW NORMAL? How to deal with UNCERTAINTY? How to COPE? How to stay CALM?

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The answer is simple and complex all in one: Create elements of CERTAINTY:

  • Have family meetings: dump all your thoughts on a big piece of paper, talk about your ideas, thoughts, fears and hopes with each other – be free of judgement.
  • Create a time-system with chores and responsibilities for each child, each family member, make specific time slots for specific tasks, love on each other, be grateful for one another
  • Set boundaries: in time & space, outline working hours and family-time hours.
  • Let everyone in the family have a voice and allow them to be part of this process and find agreement in it. Put it in writing and hang it on the fridge.
  • Plan free time for fun & balance.
  • Make time for family activities, create & play games, give all family members ownership for specific tasks (see meaningful task list).
  • Move, make intentional time do yoga or a workout routine (either together or separately)
  • Create clarity and certainty: talk & listen, strategize and give gratitude for the things
    you have (rather than focusing on the things you don’t have at the moment), be intentional

You are in this together, your children are an active part (or at least that’s the goal) of your family. Allow each family member to be a contributing member and watch how this time will draw you closer together. It is work and it will be worth it.

  • Give your child/ren meaningful tasks, allow them in the kitchen and integrate them in everyday chores. Rebellious behavior comes from frustration and frustration is caused by meaningless tasks.
  • Have a clear daily structure and allow time for creativity. Allow boredom to spark creativity.
  • Make time to spend outside (keep your distance to others, use all safety measures to not be exposed), walk in the rain, go bike riding, jog, play ball with your family, plant a small garden or plant some seeds – all of this will make your inside time more bearable.
  • As a family, create boundaries, make a day planner with the tasks that each family member wants and must complete.
  • Make a vision board with the things everyone would like to do, once this time is past, be specific and write it down what each family member is looking forward to.
  • Create an individualized space for reading, to study, to work, to play, to be by oneself and also intentionally create time and space to come together, create new games and play them, be creative, paint, sculpt and cut.
  • Identify home improvement tasks that you can do together.
  • Cook meals together, bake, make easy recipes, picnic, work out, do yoga via YouTube or an app.
  • Laugh! Hug. Talk, listen, sing and make up songs, dance, learn a new language together, read a book together, watch funny YouTube videos, go through your old pictures together and scrapbook a photo-book.
  • Write or draw letters to friends and family, create a book together (draw, write and be creative).
  • Build a fort,
  • Create your own funny videos on your phone.
  • Create a gratitude jar where everyone gets to write something that they are thankful for each day on a piece of paper, fold it and put it in the jar.

In simple terms: create balance and get harmony.


Balance and harmony

As a parent, this all starts with ME, my communication. I am in charge of my kindness, wellbeing, calmness, my joy and therefore I am in charge of how my children are kind, well, calm and joyful. My inner peace will flow over to my children, my environment and my family. It starts with ME. I take care of myself, remind myself daily that the quality of thoughts, words, feelings and tasks are my choice. I reap the results. I connect with kindness, understanding, knowledge, structure and fun to the people that are closest to me. I create the ripple effect that I yearn for. It starts with me.

AGES 2 - 3

  • Pick up and put away toys
  • Make bed
  • Dust with a cloth or swiffer
  • Put away Silverware
  • Wipe down baseboards
  • Wash doorknobs
  • Fold rags and dishtowels
  • Put clothes in hamper
  • Put clothes up in dresser

AGES 4 - 5

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Set & clear table
  • Feed pets & water plants
  • Wash windows & sills inside
  • Wipe kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Match socks
  • Simple garden work
  • Prepare simple snacks
  • Use handheld vaccum

AGES 6 - 8

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Put away dishes
  • Clean up spills
  • Prepare and pack lunches
  • Sort, wash & fold laundry
  • Take out trash & recycle
  • Simple meal prep:
    – Wash produce
    – Weigh ingredients
    – Simple cutting

AGES 9 - 11

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Clean stove & microwave
  • Mop & sweep * Vaccum
  • Clean toilets
  • Tightening screws
  • Make smoothies
  • Simple baking
  • Volunteering in neighbourhood

AGES 12 - 14

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Mow lawn
  • Babysit siblings
  • Cook
  • Clean full bathroom & kitchen
  • Keep environment tidy
  • Change lightbulbs
  • Simple sewing & mending

AGES 15+

In addition to previous tasks:

  • Babysit for pay
  • Organize home office
  • Sort & file documents
  • Iron clothes
  • Wash car
  • Trim hedges
  • Simple home repairs
  • Make meal plans

Brigitta Hoeferle

Renowned Montessori educator & parent, International Speaker, Founder of The Montessori School of Cleveland, and Owner and CEO of the NLP Center of Atlanta