Category

mental health

High Functioning Depression: What Is It & What Are The Symptoms?

By | depression, Food for thought, mental health, Motivation, self, self-development

A common stereotype with depression is how it looks from the outside. 

Often these stereotypes are perpetuated by the media. For example, images of head in hands despair have long been linked with stories on depression or suicide, inspiring a campaign, Time to Change, to challenge these portrayals in the media.

Their campaign’s mission highlighted an important truth: “People with mental health problems don’t look depressed all the time.” So while yes, depression often is debilitating and stops people from functioning at a day-to-day level, it doesn’t always look this way. 

In fact, there’s a term for it: high-functioning depression.

What is high functioning depression?

Firstly, high functioning depression isn’t an official diagnosis. It’s a term given to people who are experiencing symptoms of depression while performing at a certain level of functionality. The difficulty with this type of depression is that it often goes undetected by friends and family, or even the person experiencing it themselves.

The closest diagnosis in the DSM-5 (the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental illnesses and mental disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association) is persistent depressive disorder. This is also known as dysthymia or chronic depression. Rather than acute and severe, this way this type of depression affects people is long-lasting.

According to Mayo Clinic, “though persistent depressive disorder is not as severe as major depression, your current depressed mood may be mild, moderate or severe.” Those with high functioning depression might maintain relationships, careers, pay the bills, build a family. But subtle feelings of disinterest, low mood, anxiety, apathy, or meaninglessness follow them around like a dark cloud.

Symptoms of high functioning depression

Because many people have internalized the misconception that depression has to look a certain way, those who experience high functioning depression might not be aware of it. 

A mental health professional might tell you that it could be that something simply “feels off,” or that happy moments in life, from big celebrations to simple joys, aren’t fully enjoyed or appreciated. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder

In the U.S., it’s estimated that around 1.5 percent of the population, close to 3 million people, feel depressed and experience persistent depressive disorder. When it comes to this type of disorder, a sign of depression is low mood that has persisted for over two years. 

Other symptoms of high functioning depression include:

  • Chronic sadness or feeling down, without an obvious cause
  • Self-esteem difficulty
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Low energy or motivation
  • Irritability and anger
  • Reduced social activity
  • Lack of or decreased appetite.
  • Poor sleep or insomnia

It’s common for people to think “I’ve got no reason to be depressed,” and to ignore chronic low mood when there’s no apparent cause. Because high functioning depression is present over a long period of time, many people even get used to, or adjust to, the symptoms, without knowing exactly when it started. 

Some people may feel that it’s just the way they are, and that they don’t need to seek treatment for a clinical diagnosis or emotional support.

How do I manage high functioning depression and boost my mental health?

I want to offer an unconventional view, one I stand by with every cell of my being. I believe depression is a great teacher, and if approached with curiosity and humility, it contains its own solutions. 

In the words of M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Travelled:

“Rather than being the illness, the symptoms are the beginning of its cure. The fact that they are unwanted makes them all the more a phenomenon of grace—a gift of God, a message from the unconscious, if you will, to initiate self-examination and repair.”

I grappled with depression for the majority of my life. At times it was more intense than others. In some peculiar way, the times when it was more intense, and really got in the way of life, were the most important, because they made me fully aware that I had to self-examine and repair. This is a catch with high functioning depression — it might not reach that tipping point, or it might take years of struggle to really begin to explore.

With that in mind, I’d like you to approach these steps with an open mind, and be willing to consider that high functioning depression has its own form of intelligence. In other words, to have faith that actually, you can learn to understand it, to grow, and heal through it. 

1. Accept its presence

Something called you to read this article. Maybe it was because you are concerned about a loved one. Or maybe there’s a part of you that suspects you’re experiencing functional depression and would like to dig a little deeper. 

That’s an incredible first step, as it shows a willingness to acknowledge where you’re at, a powerful first step in all change. By accepting that you are experiencing high functioning depression, you might feel grief, anxiety, or even relief. Start by being totally self-honest. 

The “persistent” in this version of depressive disorder is often due to the symptoms not being intrusive enough to seek immediate action. If you can acknowledge where you’re at, right now, you can take action before the symptoms increase.

2. Be honest about how high functioning depression impacts your life

The more subtle the symptoms, the more subtle the impact. Once you’ve accepted the reality of depression, the next step is to explore all the ways your life adjusts around it. Do you socialize less than you’d like to? Is your creative expression stifled? Are you unable to find joy in life’s simple pleasures? Do you lean on substance abuse to get through the days? Do you experience overeating, insomnia? 

signs of high functioning depression
(tommaso79 / Getty)

This process won’t be easy. But it will give you a clear idea of the way your life is affected and, on the flip side, the way your life will be improved once the healing process takes place. This can be used as motivation by the person struggling to get support or to place more attention and focus on doing the necessary work.

3. Consider your steps for support

The next step is to start to piece together a plan of action. 

It can be difficult to know where to begin, or what steps to take, once you acknowledge that high functioning depression is a problem. Consider getting professional support, whether through treatment programs, through talking therapy, or getting in touch with someone that can provide medical advice. Consider talking to a close friend about your experience. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved.

This process really depends on how much you feel you’re able to work through the symptoms. Often people with severe depression need support because they’re at such a low point, daily functioning is impossible. If you feel able to do the work, then a good starting point is to look at your life from a wide perspective, to identify what could be causing it.

4. Deconstruct the experience

An issue with stigma is that it can make a diagnosis feel overwhelming, or like a life sentence. I’d encourage you to view this kind of  depression as one part of a greater whole. Don’t worry about having to pinpoint exactly why persistent low mood is there, but instead, look at different life areas, such as:

Health

Do you have a healthy diet and avoid overconsumption of alcohol? Are you getting regular exercise? Do you monitor your screen and social media use?

Relationships

Are your relationships nourishing and mutually supportive? Do you have healthy boundaries, or are you overextending due to people-pleasing? Are you expressing your needs?

Spirituality

Are you spending time connecting to yourself, and to nature? Are you aware of your values and guiding principles? Do you know what’s most meaningful to you in life?

Career

Is your work fulfilling? Do you have a healthy work and life balance, or are you overworked? Do you feel supported by your team?

Emotional intelligence

Are you able to identify and process your emotions? Do you fully feel your emotions? Have you resolved grief or trauma?

This process is worthwhile for anyone. But if you’re experiencing high functioning depression, it can highlight where you need extra support from others, either through people you know, or through a professional.

In conclusion

The awareness levels around mental illness and mental health awareness is improving all the time. But there’s a long way to go, especially when it comes to misconceptions and stereotypes. 

And as important as it is for people to be aware of symptoms to understand and support others who are suffering, it’s just as important for people to be fully informed in order to make sense of their own experience.

I’m a big believer that there are always, always positive steps forward, no matter where you’re at. The basis from this “Ground Zero” is one of acceptance and compassion. But in acknowledging your experience of high functioning depression, there’s an opportunity for deeper understanding and exploration of all the factors in your life that could be contributing to this mental health condition.

Even if there’s a one percent boost by making one change, that’s a success. Even if you learn a small lesson about yourself by looking into your inner world, that’s a success. Acknowledging that you could be experiencing high functioning depression validates years of struggle, and is also a success.

Start from ground zero

Start from Ground Zero. Know that change is always possible.

what is high functioning depression
(arvitalya / Getty)

And, most importantly, know that YOU deserve happiness and fulfillment in this life. It is possible to learn how to beat depression. Acknowledgment is the first step in moving towards that.

https://www.goalcast.com/high-functioning-depression/

Depressed Teen Begs Hairstylist to Shave Her Matted Hair Off – What Happens Next Is A Lesson For Everyone

By | Food for thought, mental health, stories, uplifting news

Hairstylist Kayley Olsson was working when a 16-year-old girl came in with a horrifying story.

She said she had depression and “felt so down and so worthless, she couldn’t even brush her hair.”

As a result, her hair became unbelievably matted, so ahead of her high school pictures she wanted Olsson to “just cut it all off.”

Hairstylist wanted to help the struggling girl

In a Facebook post that went viral in 2017, Olsson wrote that meeting the teen, who she wished to keep anonymous, was “one of the hardest experiences.”

“I had a 16-year-old girl come in who has been dealing with severe depression for a few years now. She got to the point where she felt so down and so worthless she couldn’t even brush her hair, she told me she only got up to use the restroom. She starts back at school in a few weeks but she has her school pictures today.”

“When she walked in she told us just cut it all off I can’t deal with the pain of combing it out, she called herself worthless for it,” the post continued.

It honestly broke my heart and we tried everything we could to keep this child’s hair for her!

Kayley Olsson

A heartwarming makeover

Olsson wanted to share her client’s story as a reminder for all, especially parents, to be kind to those struggling with mental health issues.

At the end of the day, I want this to be a lesson to people. MENTAL HEALTH is a thing, it affects people all around the world and of all ages! PARENTS take it seriously; don’t just push your kids off and tell them to get over something they legitimately can’t. A CHILD should NEVER feel so worthless to not even want to brush their hair.

Kaley Olsson

Olsson put painstaking effort into making the teen feel like herself again.

“After being here 8 hours yesterday and 5 hours today we finally made this beautiful girl smile and feel like she IS worth something!”

Her last words to me were: ‘I will actually smile for my school’s pictures today, you made me feel like me again.’

Kayley Olsson

Ask for help

Telling someone struggling with depression to ‘get up and feel better’ definitely won’t work. Depression is an illness and we all need to be more mindful of the horrors of the mind that others around us are going through.

That’s why this story is so important to share. It shows the tremendous transformation that’s possible when someone struggling asks for help. It’s also a great reminder of the kindness of strangers.

More uplifting stories:

Be mindful of people’s Hidden Struggles

Mental health issues are real; extending a hand to people who are suffering can make a huge difference.

https://www.goalcast.com/shocked-hairstylist-refuses-to-cut-depressed-teens-hair-surprises-her-instead/

“The Bullies Did Me a Favour” – Woman Cruelly Bullied for Her Appearance Gets the Last Laugh

By | Food for thought, inspiring, mental health, Motivation, purpose, self-development, stories, uplifting news

At age 12, Jade Colcombe, a girl from Tonypandy, Wales, was cruelly bullied by her classmates who teased her – and sometimes threatened her – every single day.

As her peers spent their time in class, making friends and hitting the books, Jade’s life was a living hell. Little did she know that the tables would turn.

Torment 101

She was taunted and harassed by her fellow classmates and would be told she looked like a man and was made fun of for her ‘tomboy’ fashion. She recalled to the Daily Mail that it would start right from the opening bell.

”I’d walk into the room and the ‘popular’ gang would sit and snigger just because I didn’t have expensive clothes or wear make-up,” she said.

I was called ‘buck-tooth’, because of my teeth, ‘Dalmatian’, because of my beauty spots and ‘man’ because the hair on my arm was dark and noticeable.

– Jade Colcombe

“There have been times where I just felt like breaking down and crying.”

Desperate, she’d skip school and fake illness to avoid the torment. However, when it was clear it wouldn’t stop, the straight-A student quit school for a different one.

Sadly, the torment continued at her new school, with kids teasing her clothes and calling her ugly. For Colcombe, that was rock bottom.

“At my lowest point, I refused to talk to anyone because I feared that they would just laugh at me,” she admitted.

She found a new stage

Ironically, her family and friends urged Colcombe to enter the ‘Miss Radiant Photogenic UK’ pageant to help her build up her confidence and prove her haters wrong. With nothing to lose, she entered and, amazingly, won. Just like that, a switch was flipped and a queen was born.

Shortly after, Colcombe won the Miss Supermodel Great Britain title at Dream Street’s Miss United Kingdom pageant.

With that, the quiet girl had found her voice.

“For the first time at Miss UK, I actually spoke in front of an audience without getting upset or really nervous about it.”

Colcombe says that she has one special thank you for her success.

“To be honest, the bullies did me a favor.”

And now that I am entering national pageants all over the UK, I really feel like I’ve beat those bullies and proved them wrong.

– Jade Colcombe

Lean into your greatness

Next up for Colcombe: climbing 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Noah’s Ark – a children’s hospital in Wales. The cause holds a special place in her heart: Her little sister Lexi, who has an incurable form of epilepsy, was saved by doctors at the hospital after suffering several seizures.

While climbing the world’s highest free-standing mountain is a tall task, Colcombe says that she’s already conquered the worst.

I beat my bullies, so with the support of my family, beating Kilimanjaro should be no problem.

– Jade Colcombe

No one should go through what Colcombe did. Sometimes children can be really cruel. However, past that struggle is the giant inside you. With help from family and friends, one timid girl tapped into a force stronger than any taunts or teases, and now she’s unstoppable.

Whether it’s your skin color, weight, or age, don’t let anyone make you feel less than the force of nature you are.

More uplifting news:

 

Look beyond appearances

Physical beauty is nothing compared to a good heart.

https://www.goalcast.com/woman-cruelly-bullied-for-looking-like-a-man-gets-the-last-laugh/

The Truth Behind Lil Kim’s “New Face” Will Change The Way You Think About Her

By | dating, emotional health, family, Food for thought, Inspiring Celebrities, lil kim, mental health, Motivation, stories

Lil’ Kim is undoubtedly one of the brightest, most influential women in hip-hop, yet her legacy remains controversial for one reason or the other.

For the past twenty-five years, she’s been pushing the boundaries as a female rapper and breaking records in the process. She’s considered to have pioneered mainstream sex-positive feminism in hip-hop and has carved a path for many contemporary artists, including Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Kash Doll. In addition to her unique sound and lyrical matter, she’s known for her breathtaking, flamboyant fashion style and advocacy work for various causes. 

While she’s been an inspiring figure in more than many ways, she’s also let her fans down in others. The rapper, also known as Kimberly Jones, was convicted of three counts of conspiracy and one count of perjury on Marcy 17, 2005. She’d been caught lying to a federal grand jury about not having seen her friends at a scene of a 2001 gun shooting — a testimony that was subsequently proven wrong via video surveillance footage. Kim served twelve months in prison as a result. 

But lately, the criticism leveled at her isn’t about her past as a convict — it’s about her face. Here’s what we can learn from Lil’ Kim’s struggles with beauty and expectations:

Kim wanted to cover the injuries from an “abusive relationship”

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Lil’ Kim has been fielding criticisms and judgment about her face since the beginning of her career. In 2005, she went on a radio show and explained that she had had her nose broken during a physically abusive confrontation with an ex-boyfriend. Kim told the listeners that she, like many other women, had been part of a violent relationship that left her with a “broken nose, black eyes, all that stuff.”

The New York native revealed that she had to “fix her nose” not once but multiple times — every time she’d go through a procedure and come back to her boyfriend, he’d hit her again and send her reeling into a tangle of insecurities and self-loathing. It’s not just her face that was damaged as a result of these brutal attacks. Kim had to undergo multiple MRIs because “he beat me up so bad I couldn’t even move.” She also suffered from blood clots in her back. 

Kim was so tired of lying about her injuries, pretending they were “an allergic reaction,” and burying her bruises in makeup that she thought it would be better to get professional work done and wipe out those physical markings for once and for all. 

I kinda prayed the whole time. I didn’t know what to do. And it has a lot to do with my maturity too. It’s been times I was in the car with my ex-boyfriend and he punched me in my face and [I was] bleeding all over the car […] The doctor had to fix my nose [because] it was almost shattered. 

Lil’ Kim to The Source

The trauma led her to start her charitable organization, Lil’ Kim Cares, which does extraordinary work in raising awareness and funds for issues such as homelessness, child neglect, and violence against women. She’s also keen on showing that just because she’s a celebrity doesn’t mean that she doesn’t go through the same trials and tribulations as anyone else suffering from abuse. Like any other survivor, she has to muster up tons of courage to leave a toxic environment and learn to love herself again. 

Kim admitted she “cheated” with plastic surgery and didn’t think she was “good enough”

(Photo by Thaddaeus McAdams /FilmMagic)

It’s truly been an uphill battle for Kim to love herself, but she’s finally at a stage where she can do so to her heart’s content. It’s also crucial to note that Kim hasn’t always set a good example for her fans — she’s said and done things that have caused a tremendous amount of distrust and pain among her friends, family, and fans. 

Whereas the initial plastic surgery resulted from a violent altercation, Kim has admitted that she’s gotten more surgeries over the years by her own choice. She said she “cheated” and got several facial features “fixed up” as she pleased. In a 2000 interview, Lil’ Kim shared that she’s faced insecurities for as long as she could remember; her boyfriends kept cheating on her with “European-looking” women, the “long-hair type.” 

The mother-of-one said she felt like she couldn’t compete as a “regular black girl” and thought she wouldn’t ever be “good enough.” It’s not just former lovers that triggered feelings of doubt and shame in her; she also endured verbal humiliation at the hands of her father. She claimed, “It’s always been men putting me down, just like my dad.” 

To this day, when someone says I’m cute, I can’t see it. I don’t see it no matter what anybody says.

Lil’ Kim to Newsweek 

The continuous barrage of disapproval made its way to her head, and she felt like she had no choice but to turn to cosmetic surgery. Kim said, “It was like I could do nothing right, everything about me was wrong — my hair, my clothes, just me.” The fact that she’s getting condemned for conforming to the same expectations that were imposed on her in the first place is hypocrisy at its cruelest. Lil’ Kim likely didn’t ask to be saddled with the weight of these debilitating insecurities — they were drilled into her from a young age and were continually reinforced by the men in her life. 

Plastic surgery is a contentious issue that has neither wrong nor a right side. We have to trust women that they’re aware of the health implications and that they understand the full extent of what they’re choosing to undergo. It’s a massive, irreversible decision, and so it should be treated as such. As long as the person comes out on the other side feeling confident and beautiful, we don’t have the right to chide the person. 

At the same time, no one should feel so pressured to look a certain way that they perceive plastic surgery as a necessity, not a choice. Lil’ Kim couldn’t overcome her anxieties and had been fixated on her so-called imperfections for so long that the only way to get peace of mind was to go under the knife. It’s perhaps even more frustrating to see that her career is dominated by rumors of skin bleaching, lip injections, boob jobs, so on and forth when there are far more substantive points to discuss — including her run-is with law enforcement and her illustrious body of work. 

I’m a person who may get bored with my look sometimes. I love what God gave me, but sometimes I want to dress it up.

Lil’ Kim on One World Music Beat

Don’t let assumptions guide your judgment 

Sometimes it’s just best to see something and move on without asserting your opinion about it. People have been berating Kim for a long time — both before and after her plastic surgeries. If they had kept their assumptions at bay from the get-go, Kim wouldn’t have felt forced to go under the knife. 

Conventional beauty doesn’t determine the value of a person; what matters is the person behind the face and the work they’re doing to improve their lives and their collective society around them. Lil Kim has all but transformed the world of her hip-hop through her intuitive, thoughtful, and powerful music. Why must we let our presumptions drive our opinion of the artist? Especially since the artist herself had deeply personal and medical reasons to get many of these surgeries in the first place. Lil’ Kim has her own flaws, but choosing to love herself despite the criticisms shows endurance. And that’s something we can take away from her journey. 

More inspiring stories:

https://www.goalcast.com/2021/05/11/lil-kim-plastic-surgery-truth/

How To Combat Body Image Issues Without Actually Changing Your Body

By | challenging, emotional health, Food for thought, goalcast originals, mental health, purpose, stories

When coronavirus lockdown and social restrictions were announced in Germany, my first reaction was that it wouldn’t cause a huge change to my lifestyle. I have a fairly simple life, I work as a freelancer in my home office and cafes, I spend lots of time in solitude and my social calendar is fairly low-profile.

Yes, I’d miss the small things that are part of my routine, but this was a good excuse to deepen my meditation practice and step-up for those in need of emotional support. Then it dawned on me: the gym’s closed. My sacred space between the dumbbells and the squat racks, out of bounds, for months.

There may appear to be a conflict for a meditation teacher and coach who emphasizes our identity is not linked to the body. Whilst I’d love to profess I knew I’d miss the gym exclusively for the mental health benefits (of which there are many) I also knew it was going to challenge my relationship with my body, a familiar foe from the past.

Bigorexia, body image, and self-worth

I’ve been a regular gym-goer for over 10 years. The longest I’ve spent without going to the gym in this time was just under two months, when I first moved to Berlin. I’ve grappled with various issues in my relationship to exercise; from unintentionally punishing my body, to obsessively trying to get as muscular and defined as (super)humanly possible.

It’s a risk that comes with a hobby linked to the way you look. Combined with Hollywood images of the hyper-jacked, from Chris Evans to Hugh Jackman, and links between physical appearance and self-worth, it’s no surprise body image issues are a huge cause of emotional distress.

Women are most commonly associated with bodily insecurity, though eating disorders in men have risen 70 percent, and 45 percent of men said they’ve experienced “bigorexia,” the term given to an obsession with muscle-building. With the lack of gym access, high levels of stress, change to routine, and comfort eating, lockdown has created what Mayo Clinic psychologist Leslie Sim refers to as a “perfect storm” for body image issues.

Gyms are open again in Berlin, and it’s good to be back. However, towards the end of the three months’ with no access, the return of familiar thinking-patterns and feelings towards my body (not to mention the genuinely noticeable change in how my body felt and looked) led me to return to a familiar issue with a fresh perspective.

So what’s the link with body image and identity, and how do we develop a skillful approach that will benefit, not hinder, spiritual growth?

Judgment and the root of body image

This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.” — Kāyagatāsati Sutta

To identify with the body means mistaking our physical structure as who we are. The process of mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual growth is to understand that who we are is much wider and more extensive than the confines of the body itself. From this perspective, the body can be compared to a vessel which provides a “home” for your individual, unique expression of consciousness.

When we identify with the physical body, we might become attached to its sensations, emotions, and sense of separation. Body image issues arise when we place our inherent value on our physical appearance. Suddenly, self-worth is linked to the way the body looks.

Such a hierarchy of values is largely dictated by a culture that pervades the collective psyche with images of bodily perfection and unattainable beauty standards. From Hollywood to the advertising and beauty industries, the message is clear: here’s the way you should look, and good looks are the recipe to happiness and success.

This creates a vicious cycle of judgment. We judge the value of our appearance and, perhaps unconsciously, do the same to others. The body becomes objectified, a malleable object to sculpt, censor, change, to fit the standards that exist outside of ourselves.

In doing so, it’s possible to lose all appreciation for the gifts the body bestows — legs that move us from one place to the other, a heart that beats for a lifetime, a stomach that extracts nourishment from the food we eat, lungs that inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, eyes that see the beauty of the world… these are overlooked and obscured by one determining factor: physical appearance.

Developing a healthy relationship with the body

The body is a beautiful thing: it’s incredibly intelligent, wise, and adaptable. Having undergone a lot of work to improve my relationship with my body, I can tell you meditation is a powerful tool. I can also tell you that saying “you are not your body” as a seeming antidote offers very little value. It’s one thing knowing this, but it doesn’t offer a practical solution to what can be a very invasive and life-altering challenge.

I believe in making spiritual practice practical and accessible. So here are 5 steps I find helpful in improving your relationship with your body:

  1. Challenge judgmental thoughts: Mindfulness allows you to gain greater clarity on your thoughts. Notice how often judgemental thoughts arise: remember, they aren’t truths, but inherited thoughts from cultural values. When these thoughts arise, as well as observing them, challenge them gently. I challenge thoughts by reframing my self-talk in the same manner I would talk to a close friend.
  2. Meditate on the feeling of the body: Use meditation to simply sit and notice the rich universe of sensations that ebb and flow throughout the body. See if you can notice without labeling “good” or “bad” or “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” See how the body communicates and sense its aliveness. You can sample this now: close your eyes, breathe deeply, and spend a few moments paying attention to the sensations in your hands.
  3. Communicate with the body: You might feel a bit silly, but this works. One of my big breakthroughs came during meditation. I instinctively started an inner-dialogue with my body, and apologies for the way I’d been treating it. I was taking it for granted, exercising excessively, and taking little time to send appreciation. When I said the words “I’m sorry, thank you for all you do for me,” I burst into tears — my body responded to my apology and expression of gratitude with a chorus of chills.
  4. Develop a mindset of fascination: When viewed through the perspective of physical appearance, we look at the body with a judgemental eye, scanning its contours and curves looking for imperfection. Instead, see if you can shift your mindset to one of fascination. Explore the magic of the body: how it heals, how it provides you with the nutrients you need to stay alive. If you sense a change in your appearance, try and apply the same mindset. For example, “ah, look at how my body has adapted to less exercise.”
  5. Send loving-kindness towards your body: The loving-kindness meditation is a powerful, heart-opening practice. In meditation, I found a shift in the way I connected to my body when I visualized a bright, white light (representing unconditional love) throughout my body, whilst extending gratitude for all it offers.

Learning to change your relationship is a slow process, which involves exploring the body from the perspective of gratitude and fascination. Though it may seem irrational to be concerned about physical appearance during a global pandemic, body image issues are one of the most prevalent and pervasive causes of emotional distress – so be easy on yourself.

Rather than aiming to sculpt your body to perfection or learn to love your physical appearance, aim to gradually improve your relationship over time. Listen to your body’s form of communication. Be inquisitive. Sooner or later, this leads to greater harmony, connection, and gratitude, as you become receptive to the body’s inherent wisdom.

More inspiring articles:

https://www.goalcast.com/2020/09/23/self-esteem-body-image-issues-mindset-change/

I Realized My Relationship With My Mother Was Actually Toxic And Learned to Parent Myself

By | Food for thought, goalcast originals, inspiring, mental health, self-development, stories

My mom prefers to act as though we have a great relationship. She pretends, she tells stories, then she covers up her lies with bigger lies. And back when I thought it was possible to move the dial on our relationship, her default move was to play the victim.

Outgrowing my childhood wounds

I shouldn’t have been surprised though, because after all, she was the self-proclaimed ‘best mom’ who did ‘everything for her kids.’

The truth, unfortunately, was far from it.

So, with her strong denial of my reality and her inability to let go of the selfishness, control and manipulative behavior that caused so much pain in the first place, healing the fallout from our relationship was a journey I walked alone.

Sometimes, the apple can fall far from its tree

Healing from my relationship with my mom meant being brutally honest about my childhood. As anyone who has a tough relationship with a parent will tell you, it’s not easy to admit. You almost feel ashamed that your story is different than the beautiful nuclear family that’s so readily advertised, so your first instinct is to hide it.

Shortly after my mom’s divorce, her best friend (and our aunt) came for a visit. She sat with me and asked how long I knew about my mom’s affair (which, to make things more complicated, was with my dad’s sister’s husband). I let her know that my mom told me about their relationship when I was about 5. She was baffled that an adult would share something so heavy with a child.

Granted her surprise, I skipped the details about how my mom not only blatantly continued her affair in front of my sibling and I, but she also used us to lie to our dad on her behalf, treat her lover like a father (while she vilified our dad), and spend the majority of our free-time with the two of them while they played house.

“Promise, to never be like your mom”

Even with the little my aunt did know, she still found it revolting enough to have me promise that I would never be like my mom.

I think about that day often. It was about 15 years ago, and I’ve come a heck of a long way. I’ve put in a lot of work to end the generational trauma of affairs, violence, chronic lying and shame induced manipulation tactics– and frankly, it’s the best gift I could have given myself.

So, no matter what your pain, how similar or how different it may be than mine, I wish the same healing for you.  

Learning to re-mother myself

With a mother that was entirely preoccupied with her affair and her societal image, and a father I watched dwindle into an alcoholic, then into a violent threat in the household, good parenting was hard to come by.  

But none of that really became apparent until I entered my first serious relationship. It was then that things started bubbling up. I was anxious. The feeling of someone walking away felt like being abandoned. My anger was always just one misunderstanding away and I had a complete inability to self-soothe. I felt like a child masquerading as an adult.

It was only when I started walking the path of self-development that I learned the vocabulary I needed to address the root causes of my issues, many stemming from my upbringing.

I learned about my attachment style and how it repeated itself in romantic relationships, I learned about co-dependency and the necessity of boundaries and I learned about how my anger was really just poorly veiled sadness.

But, I didn’t just wake up with that knowledge, I found them in the pages of books that changed my life. Here are a few of the books:

-Healing the Wounds of Childhood by Don St John, Ph.D.

-Unconditional Forgiveness by Mary Hayes Grieco

-Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves

-Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix

-Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson

Through this work, I found validation, empowerment through information and the tools I needed to parent myself.

I also combined this with journaling and affirmations, a powerful combination of tools that allowed me to rewire my psychology and take small, daily steps towards betterment.

Positive change slowly but surely happened

It was only when I was well on this journey of understanding and resolving my earliest experiences that I started to find relationships that were of a higher quality.

Since then, many mentors have appeared in my life who later shared about their similar childhoods, I’ve stumbled upon podcasts and other nuggets of information that have helped me change in massive ways, and best of all, I’ve learned to love in a way that doesn’t hurt.

I guess it’s true what they say, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,’ and I believe that you being here and reading this is a cornerstone to your healing journey.

It will not be easy, but it will most definitely be worth the inner peace that you find on the other end.

In my journey, I’ve learned to own my story and integrate it into my life’s narrative in a way that strengthens my purpose. Now, when I see dynamics similar to my own, I can’t look away. So, here I am creating. I hope this helps.

Your friend,

Ivy Gill

More inspiring stories:

https://www.goalcast.com/2020/02/19/healing-toxic-mother-daughter-relationship/

Lady Gaga Tells Oprah How She Made It Through Her “Psychotic Break”

By | Food for thought, inspiring, Inspiring Celebrities, lady gaga, mental health, news, oprah, self

Lady Gaga has never been one to shy away from the tough topics, and she got seriously intimate and real this past week when she was interviewed by Oprah during the kickoff event of her wellness tour, 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus.

Gaga, who is now sporting shocking pink hair, cut short her own vacation to join Oprah and open up about mental health.  

The pop star, who first rose to fame with her wild pop music and fashion, explained her new perspective: “The most shocking thing I can possibly do is be completely vulnerable and honest with you about my life, what I’ve been through, the struggles that I’ve seen that I have also been a part of, and share that with the world so that I can help other people who are suffering.”

Gaga opened up about her mental health struggles

In conversation with Oprah, Lady Gaga confessed to having suffered a psychotic break in the past due to PTSD that stepped from a serious trauma she experienced at the age of 19.

She was starkly honest about what that felt like: “This part of the brain where you stay centered and you don’t disassociate, right? It slammed down… It’s very difficult to describe what it feels like other than that you first are completely tingling from head to toe and then you go numb, but what is essentially happening is that the brain goes, ‘That’s enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. I don’t want to feel this anymore.’ Boom. You break from reality as we know it.”

Gaga shared her experiences in an effort to destigmatize mental health struggles and to encourage those who are suffering to seek medical treatment.

Where her PTSD came from

She gave a birds-eye view into how she experiences PTSD and how she mistook her chronic illness, fibromyalgia, which afflicts her with frequent, agonizing physical pain for a symptom of that trauma.

Gaga told Oprah, “I was raped repeatedly when I was 19 years old, and I also developed PTSD as a result of being raped and not processing that trauma.” She explained, “I did not have a therapist, I did not have a psychiatrist, I did not have a doctor help me through it. All of a sudden, I started to experience this incredible, intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked, actually, the illness that I felt after I was raped.”

How she handles it all

Lady-Gaga

Lady Gaga says she wouldn’t be where she is today without truly addressing the pain and illness she was experiencing.

She credits, “Medicine, therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), cognitive therapy,” as well as transcendental meditation, daily exercise, and “radical acceptance.”

It’s also about accepting there’s something bigger than yourself.

“I consider myself a spiritual, religious woman. I don’t go to church every Sunday but I do pray every day,” she said.”All the things I’ve been through, I think they were supposed to happen. I was supposed to go through this.

“I think it happened because God was saying to me, ‘I’m going to show you pain, and then you’re going to help other people who are in pain because you’re going to understand it.’ Now when I see someone in pain, I can’t look away.”

Lady Gaga’s courage in sharing her story and her struggles is a powerful reminder that we can get through all kinds of suffering if only we are able to seek help. Once we get healthier and grow even stronger, we’ll be in the best position possible not just to achieve our dreams but to help others in pain as well.

More inspiring celebrities:

https://www.goalcast.com/2020/01/08/lady-gaga-tells-oprah-about-her-psychotic-break/

Struggling With Your Mental Health During the Holidays? Try This

By | Food for thought, how-to guide, inspiring, mental health, personal essay, self

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Isn’t it?

The truth is, despite the obvious benefits, the holidays can be a stressful time. From sorting presents, endless socializing, unrestricted indulgence and sky-high expectations, it takes skill to flourish during the festive season.

Although most of us feel pressure as the end of the year draws closer, those whose mental health is already strained may particularly struggle.

I know this all too well; during my darker years of anxiety and depression, part of me dreaded Christmas.

The pressure of holiday happiness

In an attempt to fit in with the Christmas spirit, I went to great lengths to sustain a facade of happiness, which exhausted my energy. Below the surface, I felt anxious and guilty for not feeling a certain way.

Why can’t I enjoy Christmas? Everyone else is happy, what’s wrong with me?

These 4 tips have helped me flourish during the festive break; they’re applicable to everyone, but particularly those feeling a little anxious about the upcoming period.

Here’s how to handle holiday struggles:

1. Embrace imperfection

Experiencing depression or anxiety is hard any day of the year. But added pressure to be merry and socialize may make symptoms stronger. Excessively high standards around how we feel at Christmas are created by “shoulds” — statements of the way things should be.

This is emotional perfectionism. For example, you may hold beliefs such as “I should be happy on Christmas Day,” “I shouldn’t feel anxious relaxing with friends,” “I shouldn’t get annoyed during social events with family.”

Anytime we hold to such “should” statements, we deviate from our reality. Expectation creates distance from reality and resistance to how you really feel.

What’s the solution?

Simply bringing awareness to your should statements eases perfectionist tendencies.

Ask yourself: what way do I feel I should be?

In addition, many of us have perfectionist ideas of how the day will unfold. How do you feel the day should unfold? Write your answers down in a journal or talk them through with someone you trust.

Then, using cognitive rationalization techniques, challenge those should statements.

For example, “I should be happy on Christmas Day,” can be altered to “I’m not feeling too happy, and that’s okay. I’ll be with what I’m experiencing and try my best to enjoy the day.”

2. Set boundaries

Expressing and setting healthy boundaries was a massive breakthrough in my mental wellbeing, particularly around Christmas.

I live away from home, so I don’t see my family much. When I’m back, it’s an adjustment. I love my family to bits, but they’re a lot more talkative and active than I am. At one point, this used to frustrate me. A lot.

One Christmas when I was struggling in my personal life, it reached the point when I snapped.

I realized I was expecting them to just know I was struggling to keep up with conversation. I engaged in difficult conversations, but expressed that this was simply a difference in character and it didn’t mean there was a lack of love if I needed a break.

My family were great about it, respected my honesty, and things improved.

When setting boundaries, I remind myself to do so with compassion and not resentment.

The longer we go without expressing boundaries, the more we place blame, and this opens the door to resentment. Instead, we have to take responsibility and express with heart.

A note on this topic: if your loves ones encroach on your boundaries and there’s no room to express that, or your boundaries are completely disrespected, remember there is no obligation on your part.

You can leave the situation if this feels like the right thing to do for you.

Friends-toasting-to-the-holidays

3. Care for your physical health too

Do you have a sweet tooth? A recent study by the University of Kansas discovered added sugars contribute to depression. Those sweet Christmas delights trigger metabolic, inflammatory and neurobiological processes that can further decrease low mood. 

While that’s not to say treats have to be canceled, it’s worthwhile paying attention to your diet if you are prone to depression.

Be aware of how certain foods affect your mood. Adjust if necessary.

Additionally, alcohol consumption is a hot topic in relation to mental health. I quit drinking 18 months ago, and I’ve noticed an increased sense of ease around Christmas. Years before, I had become aware that I had anxiety due to the constant opportunities to drink. They felt like obligations, really, and I didn’t have enough conviction in saying no. 

As I socialized over beer and mulled wine, my mental health deteriorated, and I didn’t feel strong enough to abstain. If you’d like a break, I recommend talking to a loved one and explaining why, if you’re comfortable.

Lastly, getting in the gym when I can, even if only for a moderate session, keeps my body in check and creates more ease in my psyche.

4. Embrace impermanence

When you’re a kid, the holiday build-up seems to last forever. Every advent calendar door opened or candle lit feels like the equivalent of a few months as an adult.

With Christmas music starting mid-August and adverts incessantly invading personal space from September, the day itself can feel really significant.

While it can be, remember that, like everything in life, this too will pass. In the blink of an eye, it’ll be New Years, then January, then summer, then Christmas music in supermarkets again.

I find this a useful reminder to avoid creating “fixed” concepts in my mind.

No matter how the day unfolds, soon it’ll be yesterday, then last week, then a few years ago.

Not only does this put the magnitude of the festive period into perspective to alleviate unnecessary pressure, it will remind you to compassionate towards yourself, too.

It’s also a gateway to appreciating the days as they come– and to going into the new year stronger than ever.

https://www.goalcast.com/2019/12/18/holidays-mental-health-struggles/

What the Frozen Movies Teach Us About Living With Mental Illness

By | empowering, Food for thought, frozen, goalcast originals, mental health, movie, stories

It’s not uncommon for dramas to depict what it’s like to live with mental illness — but to paint a picture of mental illness in a compassionate and realistic way for the big screen is no easy feat.  That said, such films do exist — and surprisingly enough, Disney’s Frozen is one of those them.

Six years after Disney’s Frozen melted the hearts of audiences of all ages, its much awaited sequel — Frozen II is finally upon us.

Introducing us to Princesses Elsa and Anna, the original 2013 movie became the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, which could easily be attributed to its standout song “Let It Go” or its unique story about a princess coming into her own power.

On the surface, Frozen appeared to be just another of Hollywood’s feel-good fairy tales, which in a lot of ways it is, but it offers something more than your average Disney movie.

The movie tells the story of Elsa and her younger sister Anna, the two orphaned princesses of Arendelle. Elsa and Anna aren’t your typical Disney princesses. They are relatable, complex, and flawed.

Here’s how Elsa’s storyline, more specifically, gave young and old audiences alike a glimpse into what it is like to battle mental illness, while delivering powerful messages of acceptance, empowerment and hope.

What Frozen teaches us about mental health

Elsa struggles to accept herself

Elsa is born with magical powers that she cannot control. Everything she touches turns to snow and ice, and she feels different and excluded because of it.

Just like someone who lives with mental illness struggles with their personal demons, Elsa fights to control her unique powers.

She is taught to keep her powers a secret

After she accidentally hurts her little sister Anna with her powers, the King and Queen advise Elsa to keep her powers hidden so that she never hurts anyone again. She is given gloves to hide her fingertips and is taught to suppress her feelings:

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know…

Even with the best intentions, parents often neglect to validate what their children are experiencing, leading them to bury their emotions instead of working through them and developing healthy coping mechanisms.

She lives in fear

After their parents die at sea, when the girls are teenagers, Elsa continues her isolation, shutting everyone out, including Anna. Not only does she fear hurting others, but she fears herself.

In the same way people experiencing mental illness often fear judgement because of the stigma that surrounds their condition and choose to isolate themselves, Elsa kept in solitude for years.

She feels shame

She was able to keep her dark secret until, on the day of her coronation, Elsa unintentionally sent her Kingdom into never-ending winter. Filled with shame and fear, Elsa flees Arendelle, seeking refuge in the icy mountains, where she can be alone.

For someone living with mental illness, stigmatizing attitudes can lead to deep feelings of shame, which can be as hard to cope with as the symptoms of the disorder itself.

She has a breakthrough and learns to love herself

Alone in her beautiful ice castle, Elsa eventually removes the gloves that hid her magical powers for so long and lets her hair down, embracing her true self.

Feeling empowered, she belts out “Let It Go” as she releases her past and the fears that have been holding her back. People who suffer from mental illness often struggle with accepting themselves for who they truly are.

Frozen’s biggest lesson

The Frozen franchise has done a great job of representing the experience of living with mental illness in a way that children can accept and adults can relate to.

In seeing a hero like Elsa struggle with her emotions, kids learn that they too can be heroes, even if they– or their parents– are dealing with mental illness.

Elsa’s story is one that so many of us can relate to– but by accepting her weakness and opening up to others, she unlocks her true strength and accepts what makes her most powerful of all: her ability to feel.

More inspiring movies:

https://www.goalcast.com/2019/12/07/frozen-movies-mentall-illness/

How Emma Stone’s Mom Turned Her Daughter’s Crippling Anxiety Into Her Superpower

By | emma stone, empowering, Food for thought, mental health, parenting, profile, relationships

You’d never know it from the many self-assured and sometimes ass-kicking characters she plays in movies like Zombieland 2, but there was a time early on in Emma Stone’s life when she found herself living in an anxiety-ridden Zombieland of her own.

No, she wasn’t being chased by mobs of ragged hipsters with mad zombie disease. But when she was seven years old she got bitten by a panic bug and found herself part of the growing epidemic of anxious kids.

The way she learned to overcome her anxiety holds some powerful and inspiring lessons for kids and parents alike. As it happens, the basic approach she used can also be applied with equal effectiveness to a multitude of other issues, like perfectionism, self-criticism and procrastination.

Emma’s anxiety hit her hard

Like many anxious kids, Emma was born sensitive. In fact, her mom often says she was “born with her nerves outside of her body.” While there isn’t always a link between sensitivity and anxiety, in Emma’s case there certainly was. And when she was seven years old this link got so strong it nearly turned into a heavy chain that prevented her from becoming who she is.

As a second-grader, she was hanging out in a friend’s bedroom when she suddenly became absolutely convinced that the house was burning down. Rationally, she knew it wasn’t happening. But emotionally, in every fibre of her being, she believed it was.

After that, she refused to go over to her friends’ houses, she stopped wanting to hang out with her friends in general, she clung to her mom as much as possible, and she started asking her mom to tell her over and over again what was going to happen with her day.

“I’m bigger than my anxiety!”

Finally, her mom took her to see a therapist, a decision that Emma emphasizes she is “so grateful” for.

Her gratitude is well-founded. As Lynn Lyons, co-author of the book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents says, “If you have [untreated] anxiety as a kid, it will likely get worse as you get older.” She also adds, “Untreated anxiety disorders in children are one of the top predictors of depression in young adulthood and adolescence.”

So what did Emma find most “transformative” about her sessions? A story book she wrote called I Am Bigger than My Anxiety!

The power of storytelling

Here’s how Emma summarizes the story she wrote: “I drew a little green monster on my shoulder that speaks to me in my ear and tells me all these things that aren’t true. And every time I listen to it, it grows bigger.”

If I listen to it enough, it crushes me.

“But if I turn my head and keep doing what I’m doing – let it speak to me, but don’t give it the credit it needs – then it shrinks down and fades away.”

It was this little tale that ultimately allowed Emma to pivot out of her distress: “Once I could externalize [my anxiety] and get more perspective, things really started moving.”

Reid Wilson, one of the world’s leading authorities on panic and anxiety, explains: “Externalization puts anxious worry outside of you, allowing you to see the worry and its messages from a different perspective. With the help of a little distance, worriers can hear and see how anxiety operates without immediately accepting the validity of its fears and demands.”

During her first panic attack, Emma said, “there was nothing in me that didn’t think we were going to die.” But learning to personify her worry as a character outside of herself helped her realize that her anxiety is “something that is a part of me but is not who I am.”

So who is she? She’s the one who can see and hear the little green monster.

She’s the one who can tell that all the fears it incessantly whispers in her ear “aren’t true.” She’s the one who understands that turning away from the monster and focusing on the task-at-hand makes the monster shrink.

Your own little monster

actress-emma-stone-at-cannes-festival
Photo Credit: Ben A. Pruchnie / Getty Images

While Emma chose to personify her anxiety as a little green monster, kids can get creative about this to suit their own needs.

They can, for example, picture their anxiety as a cruel bully, a fascist dictator, a slick salesman, a master storyteller. Or they can personify it as Voldemort from Harry Potter, Fear from Inside Out, or a supervillian like Birdman from, well, Birdman. The options are endless.

In addition to giving them some distance from their worries, personifying anxiety in these sorts of ways can also help kids (and their parents) understand what makes it tick.

For instance, as far as characters go, anxiety is a bit of a one-hit wonder, a one-note Johnny, a one-trick pony. Sure, the content of what it says may vary, but whether it’s piping up about a scary dog, a soccer try-out, a thunderstorm, bad grades or the dark, the process is always the same.

It has one main message: you can’t handle it! It wants two main things: certainty and comfort. And it makes the same single demand over and over again: avoid!

Other tools for dealing with childhood anxiety

Understanding how worry operates in turn opens up a bunch of other ways of responding to it. While Emma found it helpful to “turn [her] head away” from the little green monster on her shoulder, other kids may find it more effective to turn toward it and actively talk back to the monster.

As Reid Wilson and Lynn Lyons explain, “Children can choose three broad ways to talk to their anxious worry: assume worry will show up this time (expect it), offer reassurance to the insecure part of them (take care of it), or if they’re annoyed by bothersome worry, tell it to get lost (boss it around).”

Another thing that helped Emma handle her anxiety was finding acting at the age of eleven. Why was this so incredibly helpful to her?

Anxiety as a superpower

First of all, after isolating herself from her peers for nearly three years because of her anxiety, acting gave her both a sense of community and “a sense of purpose.”

Second, she found the “absolute presence” and “intent listening” required of acting to be so “meditative” that, at times, it completely silenced her little green monster.

However, acting also allowed Emma to operationalize the upside of anxiety. As someone who always had big feelings, for example, she found the theatre “a safe, great place to feel a lot.”

It gave her a “productive,” redemptive and socially-useful outlet into which she could channel many of her feelings from previous life experiences. As she says, “Then it at least feels productive to have all these feelings, which is why I started acting in general.”

Fourth, it allowed her to leverage another upside of anxiety: a heightened capacity for empathy. In her view, anxiety grows out of the same soil – smarts and sensitivity – that also produces the high degree of empathy necessary to understand characters deeply.  

Finally, her anxiety is the fuel that has driven her high-energy personality and her high-achieving career. Just as it ensured she got “all As” even though she never liked school, it also motivated her to nail each of her roles.  

From burden to blessing

In all of these ways acting helped her flip her perspective on anxiety and shift from viewing it as a “burden” to seeing it as something “invaluable” that she’s actually “grateful for.” In fact, she says, “If you don’t let it cripple you and you use it for something positive or productive, it’s like a superpower.”  

But Emma is also careful to emphasize that you don’t have to be an “actor” or a “writer” to overcome anxiety: “You just have to find that thing within you that you are drawn to.”

In fact, she sometimes calls theatre “my sport,” a nod to the fact that many other kids find a similar sense of presence, purpose and belonging in athletics. Still others may find it in music or science or spirituality or counseling. 

Avoid avoidance by being uncertain and uncomfortable on purpose.

How Emma faced her fears

Emma-Stone

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, after learning to externalize her anxiety, turn away from its harmful messages and leverage its upside, she began turning toward the situations she feared.  

This was precisely the opposite of what she was doing when she was in the depths of her distress as a child. After her first panic attack, for example, she says, “I would ask my mom to tell me exactly how the day was going to be, then ask again 30 seconds later.” 

How did her mom initially respond? Initially, Emma says, “She would repeat it over and over to me.”  

Like most parents and teachers who try to soothe anxious kids with reassurance, she meant well. But Emma’s therapist knew this response was not only unhelpful but potentially harmful to Emma. So she told her Emma’s mom, “You’re allowed to tell her once and then you can’t say it anymore.”

Why? Because she knew that Emma needed to practice tolerating discomfort and uncertainty, on purpose.  As Lynn Lyons says:

Letting your child be uncertain and uncomfortable is the key.

This sends worry the message that you can not only handle it, but want more of it. 

Embracing the fear

This is another crucial element of Emma’s inspiring story.

Since the age of eleven, she has bravely plunged into a dizzying array of uncertain roles and uncomfortable interviews. And this is something she continues to do on the daily.

Despite the fact that she was thrown from a horse as a kid, Emma learned how to horseback ride for her role in The Favourite. Despite the fact that she finds sports “stressful,” she nevertheless managed to nail her role as a tennis player in Battle of the Sexes and even hit a ball around with Billie Jean King.

It’s precisely this spirit of willingness that has allowed Emma Stone to appreciate the many blessings inside her burdens. As she once said:

What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not.  And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.

https://www.goalcast.com/2019/10/22/emma-stones-mom-turned-her-crippling-anxiety-into-superpower/