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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Mental Health

In Elemental. More on Medium.

It’s okay if your mental health is not bouncing back. Here’s why.

Photo: valentinrussanov/Getty Images

At first, Lindsay Pearson felt hopeful. She was getting the Covid-19 vaccine, and case rates around the country were going down. The pandemic was, by many accounts, finally getting under control. Like many of us, Pearson, 23, who lives in Bakersfield, California, has had a miserable year — she has struggled with mental health problems her entire life, but being unable to work as an actress, her main creative and social outlet, made things so much worse. After Pearson got her first jab, she did feel some relief — until, suddenly, she didn’t. Her depression began to bear down on…


My Therapist Says

Excavating those ‘little t’ traumas has helped me chip away at the bigger ones

Image: Boce/Getty Images

When I first started going to therapy at 19, I had a pretty good idea of the traumas I wanted to excavate: divorce, parental addiction, eviction — the “big T” traumas that are easy to define in a word.

I used to think the only reason to go to therapy was to talk about trauma like this. I sat in the offices of half a dozen therapists, balling wet Kleenex in my hand and sipping on lukewarm chamomile tea in paper cups, while trying to get them to talk about these big things and changing the subject whenever they wanted…


Why you might want to stop talking about your anxiety and try this instead

Photo of a woman putting her hand to her collarbone
Photo of a woman putting her hand to her collarbone
Photo: Kittiphan Teerawattanakul/EyeEm/Getty Images

Let’s back up 50,000 years or so. Imagine you’re a Neanderthal taking a leisurely stroll through the fields. Suddenly, in the nearby bushes, you hear a tiger. In a nanosecond, your entire body starts reacting. Your pulse quickens, your breathing gets shallow, your eyes dilate, your body starts producing adrenaline.

Everything happening in your body is good; you’re prepared to survive this tiger encounter. There’s just one small problem. It wasn’t a tiger. It was a tiny prehistoric weasel. …


Monday Move

Go back to basics for your body and brain

Illustration: Jaedoo Lee for Elemental

I had a big and difficult decision to make last week, and as the little bubble of anxiety in my gut grew bigger and bubblier as the deadline approached, I could just feel it in every cell: I had to move. I was accomplishing absolutely nothing by refreshing Twitter and checking for new Slack DMs, and my body knew my only option was to expel the nervous energy on a walk.

I downloaded a calming playlist, set off on a brisk pace, and spent a few minutes just moving fast, breathing deeply, and doing a body scan to tap into…


The phone is better at reducing stress, too

A woman laughing while talking on phone.
A woman laughing while talking on phone.
Photo: Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images Plus

When it comes to technology, many of us reflexively assume newer is better. So when Covid-19 forced us into isolation a year ago, we turned to our digital devices to stay in touch with family and friends.

New research suggests our instinct to communicate via video chats and social media may not be the optimal choice. Rather, the technology that is proving most effective at reducing pandemic-induced stress and loneliness is one that was already available during the influenza outbreak of 1918: the telephone.

In a U.S. survey of almost 2,000 adults last May, participants responded to questions about their…


A call to broaden the mental health standard of care

Photo: Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

America is in the midst of a mental health crisis that will have lasting effects. In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than one in three adults were experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, a number which has steadily increased since April of 2020. The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, concerns about racial injustice, climate change, and state of the economy, among other stressors, are creating an unprecedented storm. People are hurting.

The need for mental health support is becoming even more critical, yet many still face significant barriers. As a clinical psychologist and executive at…


Who came up with the most damaging theory of why mothers were to blame for mental illness? A man, of course.

Mimi Galvin and six of her 12 children. Image courtesy of the Galvin family.

When it comes to psychiatry and brain science, moms haven’t had it easy. Autism once was blamed on “refrigerator mothers.” Obsessive-compulsive disorder use to be blamed on mothers who got toilet training wrong. Even homosexuality, back when psychiatry considered it to be a sickness, was said to be caused by… guess who? Ever since Freud, it’s been hard to find any emotional or mental disorder that, in one way or another, therapists haven’t tried to plant right at the feet of your mom.

They were wrong, of course. But it took until a raft of population studies in the late…


Vaccination offers protection against the viral threat, but your brain needs time to reset after a year living with the fear

Multicolored photo of covid-19 vaccine.
Multicolored photo of covid-19 vaccine.
Photo: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Rachel Gersten is a licensed mental health and wellness counselor and, as she says, a believer in science. All throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the co-founder of a New York–based wellness company followed official public health guidance on safe behavior and avoided illness. She’s on the other side of peak risk now because she is fully vaccinated. Even so, having reached this stage, the 34-year-old is experiencing dissonance: Gersten’s foundation in science tells her on an intellectual level that she’s largely protected from the coronavirus; emotionally, however, her brain can’t catch up.

“If you fall off a horse, you get back…


Drugs like ketamine and psilocybin offer patients a new perspective on their experiences with racism

Photo: Emma Miller/Unsplash

In a handful of clinics across Canada and the United States, therapists are administering ketamine to their patients to help them explore the psychological trauma left by racism. Ketamine, a psychedelic drug used in hospitals as an anesthetic and recreationally for its dissociative effects, seems to help people view their trauma through a third-person perspective, writes science journalist Emma Betuel in Future Human. In turn, they are able to extend compassion to themselves and learn to heal.

At the heart of this burgeoning field of study is the long-overdue understanding among mental health professionals that trauma due to racism is…


For the people considered too far gone, was recovery ever possible? The latest research — and innovative strategies — are offering hope.

Donald Galvin in the 1960s. Photo courtesy of The Galvin family

One night in the early 1960s, when he was about 17, a high school football star and all-state wrestler named Donald Galvin smashed 10 dishes to pieces — all at once, while standing in front of the kitchen sink.

His father wrote it off. So did his mother. Donald was a teenager, moody. It was the ’60s. Other kids were doing worse.

But Donald knew there was something wrong. He’d known for a while. He knew that being a star on the football field and having a friendship with another person were two very different things. Sometimes, he would say…

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