7 Reasons Girls Stay In Toxic Relationships When They Should Get The Hell Out

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1. He apologized. He said he was sorry. He promised he was never going to make the same mistake again. Even though it’s not the first time he screwed up, he seemed genuinely upset about hurting you this time. His apology seemed authentic this time. You love him, so you want to see the best in him. You want to believe him. You want to give him a second chance.

2. You have a long, complicated history. You’ve invested hours, months, years into this relationship. You fought to get this far, so you don’t want to give up on him now. You don’t want all of your hard work to be for nothing. Besides, you are a ride or die. You won’t walk away when there is something, anything, you can do to try to make the relationship work. You are willing to sacrifice for him. You are willing to put your happiness and mental health aside because you stubbornly want this relationship to work out, even if you’re the only one putting in effort.

3. You don’t want to admit he’s changed. You don’t like the way he’s been treating you lately — but it doesn’t matter. You still see him as the good guy you first met. You know he has a soft heart. You know he has a kind soul. You aren’t sure why he’s been treating you so terribly lately, but you are holding onto the hope he will change back into the guy you first fell in love with a long time ago. You know he’s in there somewhere.

4. You blame alcohol for his actions. He’s not himself when he’s drinking or smoking or shooting up. He’s fine when he’s sober. He’s nice when he’s sober. You love him when he’s sober. You don’t want to blame him for things he doesn’t even remember doing. You don’t want to leave him when he never actually meant to hurt you.

5. You think the single life would be too hard to adjust to. You don’t want to find a new place to live. You don’t want to split your belongings. You don’t want to change your entire lifestyle. You’re used to him, used to the arguments, used to the pain. You can handle it for a little longer.

6. You blame yourself for his actions. When he gets angry with you, you see his point. You know how frustrating you can be. You can’t blame him for screaming at you, cursing at you, hitting you. You consider yourself unlovable, so you are happy he sticks around at all. You are happy you’ve found someone who can deal with you. That’s what you keep telling yourself.

7. You are lying to yourself. You are making excuses. You are covering for him. You are telling yourself what you want to hear.

But you need to leave. It doesn’t matter if he apologized. It doesn’t matter if you have a history. It doesn’t matter if he used to treat you well. It doesn’t matter if he’s different when he drinks. It doesn’t matter if you get under his skin. It doesn’t matter if it will be difficult to live without him. You need to leave.

For All The 20-Something Girls Who Feel Like Screwups

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Apparently, I have been doing my twenties all wrong.

Apparently, I’m supposed to raise my standards in my twenties. I’m not supposed to fall for anyone and everyone who gives me the slightest bit of affection. I’m not supposed to stare at my phone for days on end, waiting for a specific text from a specific person. I’m not supposed to get excited when someone puts the absolute minimum amount of effort into me. I’m not supposed to accept such poor treatment when I deserve so much more.

Apparently, I’m supposed to stop caring about people who couldn’t care less about me. I’m supposed to remove toxic people from my world — and from my mind. I’m supposed to stop replaying the moments we spent together. I’m supposed to stop asking myself what went wrong. I’m supposed to accept they are bad for me. I’m supposed to move on. I’m supposed to forget about them, even though I loved them.

Apparently, I’m supposed to practice self-care. I’m not supposed to stuff myself with fast food and caffeine and alcohol. I’m not supposed to put off doctor appointments, hair appointments, therapist appointments. I’m not supposed to care about my work, my friends, my family, more than I care about my own mental health. I’m not supposed to treat myself so terribly.

Apparently, I’m supposed to love myself. I’m not supposed to delete selfies. I’m not supposed to criticize myself every time I walk passed a mirror. I’m not supposed to struggle with my self-worth. I’m supposed to stand tall. I’m supposed to feel comfortable walking around without my makeup or my hair done. I’m supposed to appreciate my authentic, true self.

Apparently, I’m supposed to take risks. I’m supposed to leave my comfort zone. I’m supposed to put myself out there. I’m not supposed to lounge in my bedroom all day long. I’m not supposed to cancel plans at the last second to watch Netflix alone instead. I’m not supposed to hide myself away when I could be seeing some friends, seizing the day.

Apparently, I’m supposed to travel. I’m supposed to see the world. I’m not supposed to spend all of my time in the same town. I’m not supposed to turn down vacation days. I’m not supposed to repeat the same routine day after day without any variation.

Apparently, I’m supposed to get my life together. I’m supposed to come up with a five-year plan. I’m supposed to figure out what I want from this world and how I’m going to work on getting it. I’m not supposed to fumble through each day. I’m not supposed to have so many questions and so few answers. I’m not supposed to feel like such a screwup.

Apparently, I haven’t been doing any of the things I’m supposed to be doing in my twenties. I haven’t been living up to expectations. But I am trying my best. I am putting effort into bettering myself every single day. I might not be able to call myself perfect — but I can call myself a work in progress. I can call myself a fighter.

Which Emotions Do Women Recognize Better Than Men?**

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Conventional wisdom and a litany of past research suggest that women have higher emotional intelligence than men. But is this really the case?

New research published in the academic journal Emotionexamined this topic in the context of emotion recognition. First, the research team asked both men and women to evaluate a series of photos. Each photo contained an individual expressing one of five basic emotions (anger, disgust, fearhappiness, or sadness). Participants were asked to identify the emotion each photo conveyed.

What did they find? For one, they note that some emotions are better recognized than others. Here is a rank order of the accuracy with which people identified the five emotions tested:

  1. Happiness (Most accurate)
  2. Fear
  3. Anger
  4. Sadness
  5. Disgust (Least accurate)

As for gender differences, the researchers found more parity than they expected. There was, for instance, no clear accuracy advantage for women, as might have been hypothesized. They did, however, show some interesting nuances:

  • Women were significantly better at identifying disgust and sadness.
  • Men were significantly better at identifying happiness.

Two follow-up studies replicated these results using slightly different methodologies.

What is to be made of these results? While conventional wisdom might have led one to expect bigger gender differences in emotion recognition, this research suggests that it might be time to recalibrate preconceived notions. The authors write:

“Why do our findings diverge from what might be thought of as conventional wisdom, i.e., that there is an overall sex difference in emotion recognition? One possible explanation is that of publication bias in this field. This account is supported by a recent meta-analysis of sex differences in emotion recognition ability that reported evidence for an excess of significant findings in the literature (Thompson & Voyer, 2014). For the field to move towards a consensus state, this suggests a need for strongly powered confirmatory studies with pre-registered experimental protocols.”

Even if past literature has overstated gender differences, as the researchers suggest, the current research still finds significant differences between the groups. These, they hypothesize, might best be explained through the lens of evolutionary theory. Because women are the child-bearing gender, they may have a heightened sensitivity to potential contaminants in their environment and might, therefore, be more likely to identify signals of disgust. Conversely, men may show less disgust sensitivity as a way to emphasize their strength and virility.

Whatever the reason, for your next cocktail party, perhaps let the women be the judge of what’s unappetizing and let the men decide who had a good time.

Going Her Own Way: Adventure and Solo Woman Travel

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I’ve had an adventurous spirit for as long as I can remember.

My first solo trip was at 19 years old, when I boarded a plane for Honolulu, Hawaii, to celebrate the end of high school. I booked a stay at the YWCA and spent my days exploring the beaches and haunts of spring breaks past: International Village, Duke’s Lane, the Waikiki strip.

It was a memorable adventure because I was free. Free to wander, lie on the beach, check out the shops at the Ala Moana Center and watch Dallas with the ladies back at the Y. That trip was the beginning of many incredible solo adventures to come.

photoClaudia Laroye

Adventure means different things to different people. Adventure can be jumping out of an airplane and sky-diving, but it can also be camping in the backcountry or taking that first solo trip to Honolulu.

Though you may not be ready for hard adventure yet (or ever—I’m not planning on jumping out of a plane anytime soon), adventure is in the eye of the beholder. It’s about going beyond your comfort zone and embracing the spirit of adventure, as much as the actual adventure itself. And you’re in good company.

photoClaudia Laroye

The rise in female solo and adventure trips is a major travel trend that has taken off recently. The Conference Board of Canada and Allianz Global Assistance Canada published statistics showing that in the winter season 2018/2019, just over eight per cent of respondents intending to travel were women travelling on their own. That’s nearly double the number from eight years ago.

It’s not just the new crop of Generation Z travellers. It’s moms, wives and women over the age of 50.  Women are embracing adventurous solo travel as never before as an extension of freedom, and in the spirit of internal and external exploration.

Anything that takes you out of your comfort zone can be an adventure, and that’s where the fun lies. But preparation is key to ensuring a safe and memorable adventure. This applies to all solo travellers, but travelling while female comes with its own set of challenges. Proper planning has ensured that my solo adventures have remained free of major pitfalls and disasters. These practical tips may help you do the same.

 

Tips for Solo Women Adventure Travellers

photoClaudia Laroye

Know the Risks

Being familiar with the risks of an adventure activity or destination is important. Activities like skiing and zip lining have inherent risks, but we sign waivers declaring that we’re going to do them anyway.

There’s a thrill in trying an activity for the first time or overcoming a fear of heights, tight spaces or other phobias. Once you’ve conquered one fear, you may be emboldened by a new confidence to continue on that path.

As far as destinations go, be informed. Certain countries and cities may contain more risks than others, and that risk can change over time. Check the Government of Canada’s websites for up-to-date health information and travel advisories when assessing your destination choices.

 

Plan Ahead

Book your accommodations in advance so you know where you’ll be sleeping each night. Plan your transportation and walking routes as much as possible so you know where you’re going and when you’ll get there. Try to arrive before dark, particularly in a new and unfamiliar destination.

photounsplash

Travel Light

I’m a big fan of travelling light and only use carry-on luggage. Backpacks are great depending on trip style and duration.  The less you carry, the more you can manage on your own and keep a free hand. Wear clothing with concealed pockets and consider using a money belt or neck pouch. Stash copies of passports in your suitcase and keep your luggage locked.

 

Travel Smart

I’m positive that my spidey senses increased when I became a mother, and I use that vigilance when travelling to ensure my own well-being. Stay on higher floors in hotels, wear minimal jewelry and take extra precautions at night. Being aware of your surroundings is important. Listen to your gut.

 

Communicate

It’s easier than ever to keep in contact with loved ones and friends. Even if you want to stay off-grid, check in every once in a while. Register with the Canadian consulate so they can reach you in case of emergency. Connect with other women travellers and the local women’s community to share travel advice, or cabs, meals and even hotel rooms.

photoClaudia Laroye

Ride a camel in the desert? Check. Climb a 60-metre ice tower? Check. Kayak through a mangrove forest? Check. My taste for adventure has only increased as I’ve gotten older. I want to try new things, and I don’t care what people think anymore (a happy side benefit of aging?).

I hope you’ll embrace your own spirit of adventure and plan a solo adventure soon.

 

 

PS. Do you want to live a more adventurous life?

Claudia is an Ambassador of the ‘Live the Adventure’ Club Gear Box.

Every four months, we send over 4,000 explorers across North America a subscription box filled with exciting, new and seasonal gear.

photoClaudia Laroye

Join the ‘Live the Adventure’ Club today!

This Is How Women Get Stranded In Unhealthy Relationships

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Woman alone
Image by Alex Tan / Death to the Stock Photo

The idea of “unconditional devotion” is in many ways a beautiful one—and one I’ve personally bought into for most of my life and still somewhat align myself with today. To love someone without conditions, without prerequisites, without concern for what they give you in return, and in spite of all their faults, flaws, mistakes, and hurtful altercations to come. It’s the stuff our entire Western conceptualization of love is based around these days, as well as the movie narratives featuring grandiose displays of passion and sacrifice.

But for all the beauty and intimacy that can come from forging a bond based on unconditional devotion, that type of commitment can also be what keeps people trapped in otherwise unhappy relationships—particularly women.

How women get stranded in relationships that no longer serve them.

When you’ve committed to loving your partner no matter what they do, it makes it easy and acceptable to put up with unsavory behavior even when it goes too far—or to go along with an unsatisfying relationship that may not hurt but still drains, numbs, or simply doesn’t quite feel right.

Women, in particular, receive tacit encouragement to make their relationships work, even those that are flawed, harmful, or simply not serving them. This happens in two specific ways:

Women have been taught to prioritize having successful relationships.

In most cultures, women are raised to place more importance on having successful relationships than men are. It’s the reason every heroine in a movie needs a male love interest, why professional women are asked questions about “having it all” when men aren’t, why women not married by age 30 are called “leftover women” in some parts of China—the list of examples goes on and on.

“Women have a harder time ending relationships in general than men do—and yes, that’s absolutely because of socialization,” Kara Loewentheil, master confidence coach and host of the UnF*ck Your Brain podcast, tells mbg. “Women are socialized to believe that their value comes from male approval and that being in a romantic relationship is their highest aim and goal in life. Even women who are raised with feminist values and who care about their career and personal happiness are still growing up in a culture where romantic ‘success’ is constantly portrayed as a woman’s highest calling and fulfillment.”

In her book Hard to Do: The Surprising, Feminist History of Breaking Up, journalist Kelli María Korducki outlines the social, economic, and political historical events that led to women finally being able to not only choose the relationships they wanted to be in but also leave unsatisfactory ones freely. Although women are no longer tied to unhappy relationships because of a lack of property rights or moneymaking power today, Korducki points out that the advent of love marriage as a replacement for economic marriages didn’t necessarily free women from the pressure to find a husband. The social ostracization inherent in “spinsterhood” was still too great.

“With the emergence of a companionate, affectionate marriage ideal came increased social pressure for women to endeavor upon the project of cheerful domesticity,” Korducki writes. “Marriage and the family became recoded as arenas for women’s spiritual actualization, the locus for pure fulfillment as opposed to a plane of existence largely grounded in duty. In a sense, post-Enlightenment wifehood took on the set of signifiers we still see reinforced by a certain style of mommy blog and lifestyle Instagram account in the 21st century.”

Today, women experiencing a breakup are still often seen as personal failures (see: the whole hoopla over Jennifer Aniston “losing” Brad Pitt to Angelina Jolie back in the day). Add that to the myth of how rare a “good man” is to find, Loewentheil points out, and it’s not surprising that women might be reluctant to leave a relationship they’ve already secured.

“Of course a woman is going to be more inclined to stay in a relationship that isn’t really what she wants because the alternative she sees is feeling lonely, used up, not good enough, invalidated, and having to start the process all over again,” Loewentheil says. “The real tragedy is that in encouraging women to believe that happiness and worth come from their romantic relationships, we actually end up creating a situation where so many of them stay in unhappy relationships because they would rather be with someone than no one.”

Women are raised with more empathy and caretaking intuition.

Women tend to be more empathetic than men, and genes don’t explain much of it. As a society, we expect girls and women to be more understanding toward other people’s feelings, have better people skills, and be better caretakers—it’s why girls are encouragedto speak softly, be more accommodating, participate in kitchen and household tasks, and play with baby dolls and toy kitchens.

These emotional skills are key to having better self-awareness, healthier relationships, and more compassion for others throughout your life, of course—but that empathy can also sometimes backfire. Research shows people are more likely to stay in unhappy relationships when they feel the other person needs the relationship, and because of the way they’re raised, women are all the more likely to be hypersensitive to their partner’s needs and to prioritize their partner’s happiness above their own.

It’s not hard to see why this socialization might lead to a lot of women sticking it out in relationships that don’t really bring them much personal happiness.

“Empathetic people are great at explaining other people’s crappy behavior away,” psychotherapist and executive coach Perpetua Neoexplains. “In unhealthy relationships, sometimes the other party pays lip service, saying they’ll change. And as the nurturer, we want to help them change. Except that keeping them accountable is what gets us sucked in.”

How to know when your devotion is holding you back.

Are you staying in your relationship because it’s one worth fighting for—or because you feel a subconscious pressure to make it work, even if it’s not really want you want? It’s a tough question to answer because it involves deeply interrogating the roots of your beliefs around love, how you were raised to view relationships, and the true nature of your bond with your partner.

Here are a few ways to help you reflect and recognize when it’s really time to leave:

1. Consider where you learned your style of commitment.

We all learn how to love from somewhere or someone, Neo says: “Who were your models of unconditional devotion? For instance, if Mom and Dad are extremely devoted to each other, it may be because they both deserve it! They both may be the types who make things work and love and respect each other.” Can you say the same for your partner?

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2. Ditch the belief that your partner needs to be full-on toxic before you have a reason to leave.

“It isn’t about whether someone is ‘full-on toxic’ or not. They exist on a spectrum,” Neo explains. “It isn’t about whether you sometimes exhibit toxic behaviors; we all do.”

Here’s the real question you need to ask yourself, according to Neo: Is this person good to me and for me?

You don’t need a reason to leave. If you want to leave, that’s reason enough.

3. Ask yourself this: Is your partner as invested in you as you are in them?

Even if you’re still investing energy in the relationship, it’s important to recognize whether you’re getting that same investment back from your partner, clinical sexologist and sex therapist Cyndi Darnell tells mbg. This is especially important for highly empathetic women who feel deep devotion to their partner. Is your level of devotion matched and returned to you? If it’s not, you need to be able to release yourself from the commitment you’ve self-created.

“If your partner has already given up on you, it’s hard to give them up too,” Darnell says. “It’s important to remember relationships are a choice, not an obligation.”

4. Make lists and write letters. Lots of them.

Contrary to lessons you may have taken away from Ross and Rachel’s relationship on Friends, Darnell is a big proponent of making lists to help you weigh your decision to stay or leave. “Write a pros and cons list. Literally,” she recommends. “Reflect on the contents of the list and ask yourself, Is this worth it? Write the reasons why and why not. Write a letter to yourself defending the relationship. Then write another prosecuting it.”

Pay attention to your gut—the physical sensations inside you—as you go through this process. As you make a case for both possible paths forward, Darnell says the answer may just come to you: “Check in with your body—which process resonated more? The body holds deep wisdom in these situations.”

5. Get some distance.

Darnell recommends taking some time to separate yourself from the situation. “Imagine it was a friend telling you their story,” she suggests. “What advice would you give your friend? Sometimes it’s more effective when we take ourselves out of the equation a little bit.”

6. Get real.

Here are a few powerful questions Loewentheil recommends asking yourself:

  • “If I knew there was plenty of love out there for me, and I could meet someone else, would I stay in this relationship?”
  • “If I knew I could be happy as a single person, would I stay in this relationship?”
  • “What feelings and thoughts am I afraid I would have if I left this relationship? Do I want to believe those thoughts? Am I willing to have those feelings in order to experience what might be on the other side?”
  • “If I knew I could feel good about myself however my partner acted, would I stay in this relationship?”
  • “What thoughts and feelings am I wishing I would magically think and have if I had a different partner?”

“What all these questions have in common is that they are ways of asking your brain to separate your thoughts and feelings from your circumstances,” she explains. “No relationship causes your feelings or actually validates you or means anything about you. All of that is caused by your thoughts. So asking questions like these can help illuminate why you are staying in a relationship or why you are leaving it to make sure that you aren’t making these decisions based on wanting someone else to deliver validation, confidence, or worth to you—because they never can or will.”

Why More Men Than Women Die By Suicide

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Six years ago my brother took his own life. He was 28 years old.

Tragically, suicide is not as rare as one might think. In 2016, the last year global data is available from the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 793,000 suicide deaths worldwide.Most were men.

In the UK, the male suicide rate is its lowest since 1981 – 15.5 deaths per 100,000. But suicide is still the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45. And a marked gender split remains. For UK women, the rate is a third of men’s: 4.9 suicides per 100,000.

It’s the same in many other countries. Compared to women, men are three times more likely to die by suicide in Australia, 3.5 times more likely in the US and more than four times more likely in Russia and Argentina. WHO’s data show that nearly 40% of countries have more than 15 suicide deaths per 100,000 men; only 1.5% show a rate that high for women.

The trend goes back a long way. “As long as we’ve been recording it, we’ve seen this disparity,” says psychologist Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice-president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a health organisation that supports those affected by suicide.

Suicide is a hugely sensitive, complex issue with a tangled multitude of causes – and the very nature of a death by suicide means we can never fully know the reasons behind it.

Still, as mental health awareness has grown, there is greater public understanding about potential contributing factors. One of the questions that has persisted, though, regards this gender gap. It seems especially large given that women tend to have higher rates of depression diagnoses.

Why are men struggling? (Credit: Getty)

Why are men struggling? (Credit: Getty)

Women also are even more likely than men to attempt suicide. In the US for example, adult women in the US reported a suicide attempt 1.2 times as often as men. But male suicide methods are often more violent, making them more likely to be completed before anyone can intervene. Access to means is a big contributing factor: in the US for example, six-in-10 gun owners are men – and firearms account for more than half of suicides.

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Men may also choose these methods because they’re more intent on completing the act. One study of more than 4,000 hospital patients who had engaged in self-harm found, for example, that the men had higher levels of suicidal intent than the women.

Why are men struggling – and what can be done about it?

Risk factors

One key element is communication. It’s too simplistic to say women are willing to share their problems and men tend to bottle them up. But it is true that, for generations, many societies have encouraged men to be “strong” and not admit they’re struggling.

It often starts in childhood. “We tell boys that ‘boys don’t cry’,” says Colman O’Driscoll, former executive director of operations and development at Lifeline, an Australian charity providing 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. “We condition boys from a very young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is to be ‘weak’.”

Mara Grunau, executive director at the Centre for Suicide Prevention in Canada, points out it’s how we talk to our children and how we encourage them to communicate about themselves too: “Mothers talk way more to their girl children than their boy children… and they share and identify feelings” more, she says. “We almost expect women to be emotional.”

From a young age, we condition men to think that crying is a sign of weakness

From a young age, we condition men to think that crying is a sign of weakness (Credit: Getty)

But men may be less likely to admit when they feel vulnerable, whether to themselves, friends, or a GP. They also can be more reticent than women to see a doctor. A UK British Medical Journal study found general primary care consultation rates were 32% lower in men than women. (Consultation rates for depression, assessed by whether patients received antidepressant prescriptions, were 8% lower in men than women).

“Men seek help for mental health less often,” Harkavy-Friedman says. “It’s not that men don’t have the same issues as women – but they’re a little less likely to know they have whatever stresses or mental health conditions that are putting them at greater risk for suicide.”

Men seek help for mental issues less often (Credit: Getty)

Men seek help for mental issues less often (Credit: Getty)

If a person is not even cognisant they have a condition causing their distress, then they’re less aware anything could be done to help them. Only a third of people who take their own lives are in mental healthcare treatment at the time, says Harkavy-Friedman.

Dangerously, rather than seeking help through established channels, some men may attempt to “self-medicate”.

“There tends to be more substance use and alcohol use among males, which may just reflect the distress they’re feeling – but we know it compounds the issue of suicide,” says Harkavy-Friedman.

Indeed, men are nearly twice as likely as women to meet criteria for alcohol dependence. But drinking can deepen depression and increase impulsive behaviours and alcoholism is a known risk factor for suicide.

There tends to be more substance and alcohol use among men

There tends to be more substance and alcohol use among men, which can be a dangerous attempt to ‘self-medicate’ (Credit: Getty)

Other risk factors can be related to family or work. When there’s an economic downturn that results in increased unemployment, for example, there tends to be an associated increase in suicide – typically 18-24 months after the downturn. One 2015 study found that for every 1% increase in unemployment there is a 0.79% increase in the suicide rate.

Having to worry more about finances or trying to find a job can exacerbate mental health issues for anyone. But there are elements of social pressure and identity crisis, too. “We’re brought up our entire lives to judge ourselves in comparison with our peers and to be economically successful,” says Simon Gunning, the CEO of Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), a UK-based award-winning charity dedicated to preventing male suicide. “When there are economic factors we can’t control, it becomes very difficult.”

There can also be a spiralling effect. In the US, for example, health insurance often is linked to employment. If a person is being treated for depression or substance use, they may lose that care when they lose their job.

Another risk factor is a sense of isolation, as physician Thomas Joiner writes in his book Why people die by suicide. This can manifest itself in every walk of life. The outwardly successful professional who has prioritised career advancement to the detriment of all else, including social relationships, may find himself “at the top of the pyramid, alone,” says Grunau.

One potential risk factor is a sense of isolation (Credit: Getty)

One potential risk factor is a sense of isolation (Credit: Getty)

Of course, it is important to remember that while an external factor might precipitate suicidal behaviour in a person who’s already at risk, it’s never the sole cause.

“Millions of people lose their jobs, almost all of us have lost a relationship and we don’t end up dying by suicide,” says Harkavy-Friedman.

Possible solutions

There are no straightforward fixes for an issue this complex. But a number of programmes, policies and nonprofits are making inroads.

In Australia, for example, mental health and suicide prevention groups are trying to shift the cultural paradigm. One initiative that has gained traction is RU OK? day, which encourages people to support those struggling with life by starting a conversation. Another approach is the “shoulder-to-shoulder principle” – encouraging men to talk while otherwise occupied, like watching football or going for a bike ride. Mates in Construction, a training and support programme, raises awareness of high suicide rates in the industry and shows construction workers how they can help be part of the solution.

Overall, there’s an emphasis on “making it okay for men to talk about how they’re feeling – and for that to be acknowledged as a sign of strength”, says O’Driscoll.

In Australia, the programme Mates in Construction is raising awareness

In Australia, the programme Mates in Construction is raising awareness of the industry’s high suicide rates (Credit: Getty)

Technology is presenting new options too. Not everyone might want to unburden themselves to another person, even over a helpline. But artificial intelligence – such as chatbots – might allow a vulnerable person to communicate and get the help they need without fear of judgement.

Another strategy is to focus on the impact a suicide has on loved ones. Calm’s campaign Project 84 – so named to represent the 84 men who die weekly by suicide in the UK – stresses the devastation left behind. This can counteract the sense by some men that “it’s the ‘right’ thing to take themselves out of the equation”, Gunning says. He emphasises: “Staying is always an option.”

Staying is always an option (Credit: Getty)

Staying is always an option (Credit: Getty)

Other solutions have to do with simply making suicides more difficult to complete. After barriers were installed on the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol, England, for example, one study found that deaths from jumping the bridge halved – and there was no evidence that suicides from jumping from other sites in the area increased in response.

Still, more work obviously has to be done.

O’Driscoll compares how there’s often more attention paid to reducing road fatalities than to suicide prevention, despite suicide taking more lives. In Australia, for example, the overall suicide rate in 2015 was 12.6 per 100,000 – the highest rate in more than a decade –compared to 4.7 per 100,000 for road deaths.

More research is needed too. “Clearly,” says Harkavy-Friedman, “there are differences between women and men in our biology, our hormonal structure and the way our brains develop and function.” But men and women are often studied together, and despite attempts to statistically control for the differences, it is not enough. She believes we need to study men and women separately.

But there are positive signs. Harkavy-Friedman notes a huge change on the professional side, recalling at the beginning of her career it was hard to get a paper accepted on suicide because it was thought that you couldn’t prevent suicide, she says. Now, we know that to be wrong.

She also points to more government involvement than ever before. On World Mental Health Day in 2018, the UK government announced its first suicide prevention minister. “The UK has been ahead of the game, every step along the way,” she says, adding that she believes there has been a decrease in the UK suicide rate because a national strategy has been implemented.

The situation is getting better, but there is more work to be done (Credit: Getty)

The situation is getting better, but there is more work to be done (Credit: Getty)

For Grunau too, the situation is unquestionably getting better. “We are seeing momentum we’ve never seen,” she says. “You can actually talk about suicide and people still flinch, but they’re more willing to have the conversation.”

That has had positive effects, as the decline in UK suicides shows. Still, it’s not enough. Any life lost to suicide – whether male or female – is a life too many.

Solo Travel For Women Is About Freedom, In Every Sense Of The Word

Author Article

‘The first time I travelled alone was by default, when I was 19.’ Photograph: Poike/Getty Images

For years, decades in fact, I’ve puzzled over the knee-jerk response most people have when I tell them I (mostly) travel alone.

“You’re so brave.”

Why is it that a woman travelling alone, as I have often done for months at a time, is perceived to be “brave”, whereas men who travel alone are entirely unremarkable? Besides, in my case at least, it’s not true. You are only brave or courageous when you are afraid of something but still do it anyway. I have never been afraid of travelling alone. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t things along the way that cause me deep fear, such as overloaded buses with bald tyres on mountain roads with sheer drops, but being by myself out in the world has never scared me.

Rosita Boland
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 Rosita Boland. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimon
Elsewhere cover

The chief joy of travelling alone is the simple act of just doing it: crossing that invisible border in your head before you ever leave home, by deciding you want to see the world anyway, even if it means doing it by yourself. What’s the alternative if you don’t happen to have a partner at certain times in your life but still long to travel, as I do? Stay at home and never go anywhere? Deny yourself all those incredible experiences you will definitely have, in addition to the more difficult ones, which you will also definitely have? It’s that prospect, the one of self-imposed stasis, that has always incited true fear. Travel has always been far too important to me to sit around waiting for a partner in crime to come along and join me.

The first time I travelled alone was by default, when I was 19. I was due to go Interrailing with a friend at the end of the summer. She was an au pair in Germany at the time, and announced by letter two days before my departure that she would be ditching me halfway through the month, at Vienna. She had made a more-exotic new friend, Freya, a fellow au pair, who had invited her to Finland. It was too late by then to rope in another friend, so it was either go home after Vienna, or keep going by myself. I kept going. I got on trains by myself, checked into hostels by myself, found my way around by myself. It was weird, initially, and then I got so subsumed by the atmospheric glory of Venice and the exhilaration of the overnight trains that I stopped fretting about travelling alone without even noticing.

When I got back to Ireland after that trip, I felt proud of myself. I had done something I had assumed would be hard and not much fun, and it had turned out to be not hard at all and mostly astounding. My one souvenir was a necklace of colourful gold-infused glass beads I bought at a tiny shop in Murano, from an Italian woman I somehow communicated with in my dire French. She explained her son sourced the beads, and she strung them. I survived on bread and bananas for two days after buying them, so tight was my budget.

Boat on a canal outside a parade of shops in Murano, Veneto, Italy.
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 Murano. Photograph: Getty Images

Years later, while browsing at a London market, I came upon a stall run by an Italian couple selling Venetian-sourced items. The man spotted the beads, which I wore coiled around my wrist as a bracelet. He asked to examine them and, thrillingly, pointed out six beads that were more than 100 years old. I still have those precious, storied beads; evidence of my first solo adventures.

That was three decades ago, and since then I have travelled all over the world, usually alone. I’ve carried the same rucksack I have had since the age of 25: a modest 45-litre-capacity one, that is now more or less knackered, but I cannot bear to replace it. It has become as familiar to me as a carapace. It’s small and light enough, even when full, to walk for miles with but large enough for all the essentials.

Travel to me is about freedom, in every sense that the horizons of that immense and beautiful word suggests. Hence the small rucksack that I don’t have to depend on anyone else to carry. I don’t like carrying anything valuable and until I had an iPad, never did.

I got an iPad in 2015 and so now I also have a camera by default, though I still don’t take many pictures. In 2007, I went travelling overland through Argentina to Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, so that I could buy a (relatively) cheap last-minute ticket to Antarctica. Although Antarctica was in fact the seventh continent I would visit, I did not have a single photograph of anywhere I had been before that.

Drake Passage near Antartica.
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 Drake Passage near Antartica. Photograph: Arpad Benedek/Getty Images

On that journey out to the fantastical ice I was the only tourist on our ship not to have a camera and, 12 years on, I still don’t regret my lack of pictures from the White Continent. Everyone wants different things from their travels; I have never wanted to be distracted from living in the moment. Not taking photographs didn’t begin as a conscious decision when I went away for the first time on an extended trip – a year in Australia, in 1987 – but it has become one over the ensuing decades.

Mobile phones, the internet and social media did not exist when I first went travelling. I still do what I did then, which is to keep a diary. I never post anything on social media when I’m travelling; I want to feel far away, not to know my thoughts are popping up in real time on screens at the other side of the world.

The greatest gift of solo travel has been those I’ve met along the way. I may have set off alone each time but I’ve encountered many people who became important to me: other travellers, whom I would never have met had I stayed at home; people who changed the course of my life. I met my ex-fiance in Kathmandu and a long-term partner in Palenque, Mexico. I met lifelong friends in Australia, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, India, Indonesia and many other places.

When you’re travelling alone, you have to make an effort to talk to other people. I have always loved this part of travel. (Or rather, loved it until everyone started looking at their screens instead.) You might know from guidebooks what you can expect to see but you can never know who you will meet. In Bali, halfway through my last extended period of travel (six months), I saw a sign outside a cafe that read, “We have wifi so you don’t have to talk to each other”. It was one of the most depressing things I’d ever seen. But I kept on talking to people anyway.

Rosita Boland is senior features writer at The Irish Times. Her book Elsewhere: One Woman, One Rucksack, One Lifetime of Travel (Doubleday Ireland, £14.99) is published on 30 May 2019. To order a copy for £13.19, including UK p&p, visit The Guardian Bookshop or call 0330 333 6846

Science Says Today’s Girls Are More Anxious Than Ever

Author Article

Parents worry that their daughters constantly seem pressured and stressed. Turns out, most are. Studies show an alarming increase in anxiety and stress experienced by girls starting at age 10 and through college.

If you have a daughter, you know: They are under enormous pressure to do well in school, to be socially engaged and accepted, to look good—anyone of which can at times cause what feels like crippling stress or anxiety.

According to new Pew Center research, 7 in 10 teens see anxiety and depression as a major problem among their peers ages 13 to 17. Pew notes, “Girls are more likely than boys to say they plan to attend a four-year college…and they’re also more likely to say they worry a lot about getting into the school of their choice.” The Center’s research confirms “a larger share of girls than boys say they often feel tense or nervous about their day (36% vs. 23%, respectively, say they feel this way every day or almost every day).”

Adding to and percolating beneath those stressors are worries about bullying, drug addiction and alcohol use, relationships with boys, and, understandably, school shootings and what feels like a constant barrage of negative news. For young girls, many of whom are prone to overthinking a situation or incident, the pressure can feel relentless.

Ask any young lady you know and she may tell you she feels anxious at a party or she’s stressed by a disagreement she had with her best friend. She might be terrified by a speech she has to give in class or a test she doesn’t feel prepared to take. Or, she could be nervous about what she will see the next time she opens Snapchat or Instagram. She might be stressed or anxious about an upcoming athletic competition or musical performance, or what to do about a boy who is pursuing her (or isn’t).

If you have a daughter, you have to be asking yourself, “How can all this stress and anxiety be good, even beneficial?” As a parent in the trenches and the recipient of the outbursts, meltdowns, sulking or silent treatment, you have to also be asking yourself, “How can I help effectively?”

Stress and Anxiety are “Fraternal Twins”

Your daughter may hate feeling stressed or anxious; she may see these strong responses only as a plague. But, they’re not necessarily a bad thing. It’s important to first understand how stress and anxiety play a role in anyone’s day-to-day functioning. Although stress and anxiety often merge in people’s minds and are used interchangeably, parents can help their daughters use both to their advantage.

Know that these “negative” emotions and the body’s natural response to protect itself, can actually be harnessed for good. Lisa Damour, author of Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls refers to stress and anxiety as “fraternal twins…they are both psychologically uncomfortable.” She defines stress as “feeling of emotional or mental strain or tension;” anxiety as “the feeling of fear, dread, or panic.”

Because stress and anxiety have become epidemic for young girls doesn’t mean stress and anxiety can’t be helpful—even good—especially if we reframe them as tools for moving in the right direction, instead of bad feelings that hold us back. Damour makes these points to keep in mind as you assist your daughter:

It might be easier to run away at the first sign of stress or anxiety. But, by teaching our daughters to face stressful situations, we help them build resilience.
Stress and anxiety are byproducts of stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Operating beyond their comfort zone helps girls grow, especially when taking on new challenges.
Analyzing an anxiety-producing situation with daughters helps them better evaluate if they are over reacting to how bad it is or underestimating their ability to deal with it.
Dr. Damour documents just how profound and weighty that pressure is at the same time she delivers strategies to alleviate the pressure. She reassures parents that stress and anxiety can be a positive to help girls learn to take upsets and setbacks in their stride.

Transition Time Needed

In guiding your daughter, Dr. Damour recommends you think of your daughter’s brain as a snow or “glitter” globe turned upside down. The adolescent brain needs time for the “snow” to settle before it can think straight.

Once a parent understands how the adolescent brain functions, it is easier to allow your daughter transition time before rushing headlong into “bailouts” or making comments that are unproductive. This approach is valuable in the middle of an immediate “crisis.”

The transition time may be when your daughter races home after school, clearly upset, and heads to her room. Give her the space she needs and when she emerges discuss the situation or predicament she feels she’s in and options she might have. Allow her to complain, then ask her what she thinks might help…or happen. The goal is have her understand that her stress or anxiety is in Damour’s words, “only a thought or only a feeling.”

As we know dismissing her fear or avoidance isn’t the right path, strive to help her brainstorm her own solutions. Ask for ways she thinks she can handle or solve the problem. You will be surprised at her ability to figure it out with your composed guidance.

It’s Not About Rescuing Your Daughter

As parents our first instinct is to bail out our daughter. And, considering how strong these anxious emotions can feel, it’s natural to feel compelled to swoop in and save the day. We want nothing but comfort and painlessness for our children. This, however, can lead to a parent becoming a crutch. We may make an excuse so she doesn’t have to take the test she says she can’t pass, or have her stay home from a party because some friendship drama may be afoot, or even let her skip out on a recital or a play rehearsal or performance she committed to, all to protect from these endlessly stressful or anxiety-provoking situations that have created a meltdown.

Who hasn’t at times been at a loss in how to help? In her book, Dr. Damour offers parents a roadmap to step in and alleviate some of the pressure, but not in ways that parents are prone to believe are helpful.

Helping her avoid a situation will likely make the problem worse. Avoidance is only temporary relief. At some point, she’s going to have to face the test, face the boy, talk to her friend, join the conversation on Facebook, or perform in a recital or on an athletic field.

Instead of rushing to smooth the path to whatever a daughter’s conflict, drama, or worry of the moment, in most situations, parents can pause and lead them through it. Realize it’s better help to step back, calm their own alarm system, and encourage your daughter to find alternatives, think about what might happen, and come up with solutions she feels that can handle or execute. Guide her to form long-lasting habits that empower her to handle her stress and anxiety instead of trying to erase it altogether (which, as we know, won’t happen).

Tamping Down Perfectionism

Gently steer your daughter away from perfectionism if she leans in that direction. This is one common route to anxiety in the first place. The idea of being perfect particularly doing well in school is a toxic pressure that both society and parents place on their daughters, Dr. Damour points out. It’s time for parents to help their overly stressed daughters pull back on the time and intensity she may be devoting to academics.

Under Pressure not only helps calm parents but also gives them the tools to be supportive when daughters face obstacles. The work done now will help build resilience for the inevitable upsets they will face in the future. I highly recommend this book.

Copyright @2019 by Susan Newman

What Women Find The Most Attractive In Men, According To Science

Author Article

Straight men have pondered the answer to this not-so-simple question since the beginning of time: what do women want? The answer will not be found in a Mel Gibson rom-com, but it might be lurking in a research paper.

Science is doing its best to solve the age-old puzzle of the female brain. Scores of experiments have attempted to name things women find attractive in men, with varying degrees of success. The studies are often small, and rely on iffy self-reported feelings for results, but at worst they provide food for thought, and at best they offer real insight that could take you from dud to Don Juan.

Here are six science-backed traits that women find irresistible.

Good Looks, But Only Sometimes

Take the abs of Matthew McConaughey, the biceps of Chris Hemsworth, and the flowing locks of young Brad Pitt, and you have the perfect man – right? Physical attractiveness can be a factor, but it’s not as important as you might think. Study after study after study has confirmed that while women choose better looking guys for flings, they fall for other qualities for long-term relationships.

A Sense Of Humour

Ask a woman what she like in her partner and she’ll almost always say “He makes me laugh.” It’s not news that ladies love a man who can tickle their funny bone, but science helps explain why. One study found that a good sense of humour is sexually attractive because it reveals intelligence, creativity, and other ‘good genes’ or ‘good parent’ traits.

A Furry Friend

No, it’s not just a stereotype – women really do love men with dogs. Studies suggest that dogs facilitate social interaction between humans. Another experiment found that dog ownership can increase the long-term attractiveness of men, as it indicates the ability to nurture and suggests tendencies for relationship commitment.

Risk-Taking

Time to brush up on your CPR and sky-diving skills. A studyconfirmed the prediction that women would prefer physical risk-takers (brave, athletic, fit) over risk-avoiders as long-term mates, but only if the risk was taken during an altruistic act. Another experiment discovered that modern risks are considered unattractive for either sex, while risks that harken back to our hunter-gather history are attractive when undertaken by men.

Altruism

study published in The Journal of Social Psychology observed that both males and females significantly preferred altruistic mates for long-term relationships, and the size of this preference was greater than for other traits in mate choice. Women are especially likely to choose a mate based on his tendency for prosocial behaviour.

Wearing Red

Last but not least, one that doesn’t require a complete personality overhaul or the commitment of owning a pet: wearing red can make you more attractive to women, according to research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. A man sporting the vibrant hue is perceived as better looking, more sexually desirable, and higher status.

Empowerment, by definition, is “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” I can pair this definition so well to the change I’ve seen in myself over the last couple of years since leaving school. I can physically feel how much more confident I am, as…

via 5 things that empower me as a woman — LIFE STORIES FROM LINCOLN

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