Holiday Stress: Five Ways to De-stress during the Holiday Season

on Monday, 23 November 2020.

Holiday Stress: Five Ways to De-stress during the Holiday Season

2020 has filled the lives of many with grief and isolation. The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way everyone has had to live. As the season changes and the holidays approach, managing additional stress may seem like climbing a towering mountain. However, recognizing the stress you are feeling is necessary to manage it.

Although this Thanksgiving and following winter holidays are unlike any other, taking the time and effort to de-stress is just as important. We at ITM recommend these five tips to deal with stress:

  1. Disconnect and unplug

The stress caused by social media is not unknown. Between news outlets and the personal stories of those on your feed, social media can take its toll on your mental health. As noted by Pew Research, frequent internet users are more aware of “stressful events” in the lives of others. Taking even just 10 minutes to unplug from social media can help you de-stress. Instead of online, those 10 minutes can be used productively or even just to get some rest.

  1. Meditate

Meditation is an activity that allows you to spend time focusing inward and channeling out negative stress. The few minutes of quiet meditation can be a quick and easy way to de-stress in the moment. Including yoga or your preferred method of prayer can also add to your meditative experience.

  1. Exercise

Exercise is undeniably an important part of taking care of your body. Even a brisk walk once a week can have a significant positive effect on your mental health and body. The endorphins released during exercise can be an immediate mood booster and help you take a mental break away from stress in your life.

  1. Change your immediate environment

The isolation and quarantining of COVID-19 have been difficult for many to adjust to. Despite the need to stay home, it is still possible to use a change in your immediate environment to de-stress. For example, instead of spending an entire day in your bedroom, you can spend some time moving in the kitchen or relaxing in the living room. Even sitting in your yard and taking some time alone can be a great way to de-stress, especially if you are home with extended family this holiday season.

  1. Find a creative outlet

The winter season is the perfect time to take up a new creative hobby or fall back into one. The outlet of keeping busy while doing something that is not mentally or physically strenuous is a wonderful way to de-stress. For some, it can be an affordable way to prepare for gift giving.

It’s necessary to take time in your day-to-day life to de-stress. While this year has not been kind to many, it does not mean you can’t be kind to yourself. 

Types of Depression

on Monday, 16 November 2020.

Types of Depression

Depression is a serious mood disorder that shows itself in a variety of forms. It is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. The signs and symptoms of depression can be managed but can worsen or be debilitating if left undiagnosed or untreated.

Signs and symptoms generally need to be apparent for at least a few weeks in order to be diagnosed. Common symptoms include: anxious or “empty” moods, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, loss of interest, fatigue, feeling restless, struggles to concentrate, changes in appetite and/or sleep, thoughts of death or suicide and even aches or pains that do not go away with treatment.

Depression impacts millions in multiple ways and can be brought on by external events or seasonal changes. Some forms of depression are:

       Seasonal affective disorder;

       Postpartum depression;

       Persistent depressive disorder;

       Psychotic depression;

       Bipolar disorder.

Treatment for depression is a unique experience for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another person even if their symptoms are similar. Depression treatment and management can be sought out in the form of antidepressants, therapy and behavioral changes. Addressing a mental illness is never a one-size-fits-all experience, and it is important to be patient and listen to your body and mind’s reaction to any treatment.

The Approaching Winter Season and Seasonal Affective Disorder

on Thursday, 22 October 2020.

The Approaching Winter Season and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is known as a type of depression that is related to changes in the season. Typically, SAD occurs in people around the same time every year. For many people who are affected by SAD, the fall transition into winter months is when the symptoms become apparent. Less often do people experience the symptoms in spring or summer, but it is not unheard of.

As we enter the winter season, especially in the time of social distancing during COVID-19, don’t dismiss your emotions as being restless or cooped up. SAD affects approximately 5 percent of Americans, so it’s important to listen to your body and emotions.

Symptoms of SAD vary for everyone, but these are the common symptoms to be aware of:

     Low energy or low interest in activities;

     Changes in diet and appetite;

     Excess or the inability to fall asleep;

     Feeling hopeless, sluggish or unmotivated;

     Increased anxiety.

The effects of SAD can be detrimental if left untreated. COVID-19 has brought on additional concerns surrounding mental health as thousands are struggling with grief, financial inconsistency and social withdrawal. Having a few days occasionally where you are feeling down is normal. But, prolonged symptoms are a cause of concern.

In this unprecedented time, it’s necessary to be honest about your emotions and to check in on those around you.

The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

on Tuesday, 13 October 2020.

The Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

When managing trauma or mental health concerns, turning to a variety of coping mechanisms is common. Each person manages their mental health differently, but it is important that the coping mechanisms used are healthy.

Coping skills are an essential part of managing mental health and recovering from trauma. Often used to stabilize mood, decrease the intensity of one’s emotions and minimize stress, these skills can be recommended by therapists and mental health professionals to be accustomed to your needs.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms can provide quick, intense relief from overwhelming emotions. However, long term, there can be serious damage done. Examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms include substance abuse, self-harm, procrastination, drastic diet changes and withdrawal. For each of these, and other examples of unhealthy coping mechanisms, problems will worsen. A key aspect of unhealthy coping mechanisms is that they are used to distract or numb the emotions toward a situation.

Healthy coping mechanisms may not provide the instant gratification that unhealthy ones do, but they help provide positive healing and can lead to strides in managing your mental health. Examples of healthy coping mechanisms are moderate exercise, relaxation techniques, starting productive hobbies, seeking out professional help and making a daily calendar.

Choosing the right coping skills to incorporate into your daily routine is important. Using unhealthy coping mechanisms can add stress to your life. Coping skills are not a one-size-fits-all approach. If meditation is not right for you, then maybe journaling or exercise are. It’s necessary to keep an open mind and to listen to your body and positively address your mental health.

How Aging Affects Mental Illness

on Tuesday, 22 September 2020.

How Aging Affects Mental Illness

Mental health should be a prioritized concern regardless of age. According to the CDC, over 20% of people over the age of 55 experience some type of mental health concern. This number is on the rise, and the severity of concerns experienced by the elderly lead to troubling statistics. For example, men over the age of 85 have one of the highest rates of suicide. The reasons behind how aging impacts mental illness are vast, but it’s important to be aware of the concerns.

Socialization is a great way to help manage mental health. Being surrounded by friends, coworkers and family members can be a positive influence and can help one maintain a schedule. As people age and enter into retirement, there can be a decrease in socialization. This can negatively impact managing depression or anxiety, along with mood disorders.

An unfortunate part of aging is grief. Losing friends, siblings and parents are devastating hardships that take time to recover. As one gets older, the experience of death tends to happen more frequently. It doesn’t hurt any less, and it is important for those experiencing grief to seek therapy or counseling.

Another part of aging that can drastically affect mental health is the physical impairment that comes with aging. Decreasing mobility, hearing and vision impairments, and complications with medications can create symptoms of anxiety.

Even if someone spent their entire childhood and adult life without experiencing concerns regarding mental health, it is possible and increasingly common for aging people to experience late onset depression for a variety of reasons including the ones discussed above.

The concerns surrounding mental health and aging are serious, and it is important that elderly people are able to seek resources to help manage their symptoms. At ITM, our team of licensed therapists and counselors can provide the right treatment and services for you or a loved one who is experiencing concerns about their age and mental health.

Normalizing Therapy

on Wednesday, 16 September 2020.

Normalizing Therapy

Mental illness in the United States is a growing issue. Unfortunately, mental health and recovery are plagued by stigma.

Due to misinformation, fear of being socially rejected and the lack of societal recognition of the severity of mental illness, many do not seek out therapy or other forms of treatment. For those who do seek out therapy, some are faced with expensive bills and high insurance copays. The need for the normalization of seeking out therapy is a necessity in order to address the growing crisis surrounding mental health.

The effects of therapy not being a normalized option for those struggling with mental illness or varying types of recovery are long-lasting and harmful. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly 50% of people with mental illness, regardless of severity, struggle with a form of substance abuse. Statistics such as that highlight how lack of access to treatment can hurt people’s livelihood permanently.

Therapy for many is a safe path for diagnosis. Especially for youth and young adults, finding out early a correct diagnosis is imperative for the successful management and treatment of mental illness. For those struggling with trauma and PTSD issues, therapy is typically the main aspect of recovery.

Normalizing therapy is a multifaceted process that must include all sides of the issue. Not only does it have to include the spread of factual information about the vast benefits of therapy, but it also must include perspectives from therapists themselves. Resources to different types of therapy, including trauma, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and mental illness counseling, must be widespread and readily available.

The hill to climb in managing mental illness can be overwhelming. But you’re not alone. Therapy exists to provide a safe environment that gives treatment.

At ITM Group, we can assure you that our services exist to help you. Our team of mental health professionals only includes qualified professionals with the resources to help you enhance your life experience.

A Review of the Prevalence of Mental Illness as Seen in National Statistics

on Tuesday, 25 August 2020.

A Review of the Prevalence of Mental Illness as Seen in National Statistics

Despite the widespread issues relating to mental illness experienced by nearly every demographic, there is still a taboo nature in the discussion of how prevalent mental illness is. Especially for people of color, the discussion surrounding mental illness rarely considers just how common varying forms of mental illness are.

For the millions of people who directly experience or see a loved one experience the negative effects of mental illness, it can be isolating. Reviewing just how many people share those experiences can be reassuring that you are not alone. Additionally, being aware of the prevalence of mental illness can help you identify the warning signs.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in 2017, approximately 47 million people in the United States had a mental illness. Yet, less than half received treatment.

Without treatment of any kind, such as group therapy or medication, mental illnesses can worsen and begin to have detrimental effects on one’s physical health.

Beyond the effects on physical health, untreated or mistreated mental illness can lead to suicide. There are over 47,000 deaths each year due to suicide, with about 15 deaths per 100,000 people.

For those with a serious mental illness, estimated at roughly 5% of Americans, causing daily impairment, women are more likely to receive treatment than men.

Anxiety disorders and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses. These two illnesses range in severity and may appear in individually distinct behaviors. This can make diagnosis difficult for some.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people experience some form of mental illness, while 1 in 25 experience serious mental illness. Ages 14-25 are incredibly important for monitoring mental illness. Nearly 75% of mental illnesses begin by age 24.

Additionally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

How Social Media Can Impact Mental Health

on Thursday, 13 August 2020.

How Social Media Can Impact Mental Health

Social media apps have become a part of daily life. Since the introduction of popular platforms such as Facebook and Instagram in the mid-2000s, social media has continued to grow in popularity every year.

Especially since the beginning of social distancing guidelines toward the start of the year, social media apps have grown to be essential in keeping people connected with each other. Despite its obvious benefits of bringing people together in real-time and allowing important information to be shared rapidly, social media has been seen to have negative effects on mental health — especially in teenagers and young adults.

The widespread use of this newly integral part in our society has brought on issues surrounding mental health. According to multiple studies from the National Institutes of Health, the excessive use of social media can lead to increased anxiety, self-esteem issues and worsening symptoms related to depression.

Social media provides an instant gratification for users. Once you post something, followers and friends can react and comment on the post. On apps like Instagram, users can see the amount of likes and comments other users receive. Additionally, users can upload “stories” and live videos where people can see what they are doing in real-time.

Between the instant gratification and the constant updating of people’s statuses and stories, it is not uncommon for people to feel left out or not as popular as the people they follow online. Fear of missing out, or commonly known as FOMO, can be an isolating feeling.

For many teenagers and young adults, still trying to figure out who they are, social media apps can be platforms filled with comparisons. With the use of filters and photoshop, young users can struggle with self-esteem as they scroll online through hundreds of edited photos.

This relatively new channel for human connection is a two-sided coin. A great way to help manage feelings of anxiety and isolation caused by social media use is to limit the amount of time spent on the apps. Even if you are quarantining, finding hobbies separate from social media can be a great way to maintain a positive mindset. Spending time on your phone does not have to mean being on a social media app. In the time of social distancing, facetiming and having phone calls is a great and safe way to stay engaged with friends and loved ones. 

Surviving the Isolation of the Pandemic

on Thursday, 23 July 2020.

Surviving the Isolation of the Pandemic

It’s now late July, and we are still thinking about the COVID-19 pandemic – something we started back in late February.

COVID-19 has changed life for all of us. There is, of course, the challenge of trying not to get sick. That means keeping your distance from others, and that’s something none of us can do easily.

Isolation is not normal for any of us. Keeping your distance over the short term is hard enough. But now, with the number of positive cases increasing – especially in Florida – we’ve been at this for five months with no end in sight.

The result is you’re likely feeling lonely and stressed. That doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It just means you are experiencing normal human personality traits.

Most of us feel a need to be around other people. That’s natural. When that doesn’t happen there can be long-term health issues. Some studies show being socially connected can result in a 50 percent reduction in early death. Isolation can also lead to an increased risk of stroke or coronary artery disease.

It’s important to remember you can meet that need for togetherness and interaction with others even when you are practicing social distancing.

You may be getting tired of them, but ZOOM meetings, Facetime and other avenues for connection are available and, at least for now, are a good alternative to isolation.

However, it doesn’t have to be all ZOOM all the time. Try arranging some in-person social contact while practicing social distancing. Sitting outdoors at a restaurant or a walk in the park may be perfect example of how to do just that.

Think about the people you miss and want to see face to face. Work out a plan to do that while practicing social distancing. Doing that occasionally may make the online get togethers a little more tolerable.

It’s hard to know how long things will remain this way. Our “new normal” is likely to be with us for many more months, probably into 2021. We all have to do everything we can to maintain our mental health while we take the necessary precautions to protect our physical health.

Discussing Mental Illness

on Tuesday, 14 July 2020.

Discussing Mental Illness

When you’re not feeling like yourself, the first step toward feeling better is finding a way to explain how you’re feeling to someone who can help.

It’s difficult to speak up, and even harder figuring out how to approach the conversation. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) one in five young adults are dealing with a mental illness, but as many as half are enduring this personal struggle in silence.

There’s no right person to talk to. What’s important is speaking to someone that you’re comfortable sharing your emotions with. Talking to people who you can rely on to be understanding and supportive early on will help you practice and gain confidence.

Friends are a great steppingstone on opening up, but the ultimate goal is to find someone who can lead you toward treatment. Perhaps these people could be a teacher, guidance counselor, religious leader, therapist or your primary doctor. The key is persistence, and to not give up until you find the right person who can help.

Once you feel comfortable enough to speak with someone, keep these tips in mind.

·         Go at your own pace. Sharing emotions can be overwhelming, take it slow.
·         Don’t downplay your feelings to make serious emotions seem lighter. This can make it harder to find someone who can really help. Communicate that you’re more than sad or anxious and that it’s affecting your everyday life.
·         Don’t worry about messing up. If you feel yourself losing focus or oversharing, an easy go-to is, “I feel awful, and I don’t know what to do.”

Once you open up about your mental health, it’s important to set some boundaries for yourself. You don’t want your mental health to define you. It’s important to set personal boundaries of how much you’d like to share and discuss the issue with others. A key to this is also knowing your audience. This will help you stay in control of the conversation and avoid oversharing.

Building a team, or support system, allows you to rely on people in different ways. A best friend is a good listener, but a parent helps make tough decisions. A mental health professional is best for getting treatment. Above all, avoid sharing with people who make you feel worse. If you feel judged or worse after a conversation with someone, they probably aren’t the right person to continue to confide in.

Starting a conversation about your mental health can be very difficult. If you organize your emotions to at least convey them productively to a close confidant, it can help you find the right person to lead you toward improvement. The first step is opening up and letting others know that you need their help, and many are waiting to be that help.

Relapse

on Tuesday, 23 June 2020.

Relapse

Mental health symptoms can come and go for those diagnosed with any kind of mental illness.

Relapses are periods when the symptoms return so severely that they begin to affect your quality of life or day-to-day functioning. Relapses are more common under stress or a stray from a healthy routine. Avoiding relapses is all about knowing yourself and what triggers them within you, as everyone is different.

A tool most used is a relapse prevention plan. This outlines what unique qualities make you vulnerable to suffering from your mental diagnoses and how to spot them quickly before suffering.

1.        Triggers

Identifying situations or events that triggered past relapses can help prevent future ones. A variety of variables can trigger relapses. A few examples of these are stress, isolation, physical health, insomnia, substance abuse or abandoning activities that usually balance and maintain your mental wellbeing.

2.        Warning Signs

Triggers can become so consuming that many may stop caring for themselves how they normally would. To recognize warning signs early, identify what symptoms you experience. These may differ from anyone else’s and are often very subtle. For example, changes in your behavior or emotions are common warning signs. Take a look back on your experiences and see if you can detect any in retrospect.

Red flags also include insomnia, loss of appetite, low emotional stability or decreased intellectual functioning, problems concentrating, disengaging from usual activities, change in thought processing or difficulty getting along with others. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has unique warning signs and that a red flag for one may differ for another. It’s also vital to be selfish and introspective in this process. Before anything, focus on your own mental wellbeing. By looking at your situation from an outside view, you may find answers to help you in warding off a relapse.

If unable to resolve the symptoms yourself, you’re never alone. Sometimes symptoms are so severe that some need hospitalization. If you can’t note your triggers, symptoms or simply function in your day-to-day life, schedule an appointment with us at ITM to work towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

COVID-19 Changes Mental Health

on Friday, 05 June 2020.

COVID-19 Changes Mental Health

Since the beginning of COVID-19, many have encountered changes in their lifestyles. Quarantine brought different daily routines, financial fear and forced isolation. It’s unrealistic to think life can go back to how it was and to think the time of isolation has no effect on your mental health. In reality, COVID-19 affected the entire nation’s mental health.

The media informs the public about the physical health related to COVID-19 and how to preserve your physical well-being, including masks, social distancing and limiting stores to only “essentials” being open. Since the start of quarantine, people have been hit with a new reality, one very different from the reality they felt comfortable in previously.

What has been overlooked is the mental health decline accompanying the pandemic. Anxiety has risen with the continued uncertainty about the future, getting infected and losing incomes. Being isolated with anxiety can drive some crazy with negative thoughts and even lead to depression. The news can also spread misinformation and rumors, leading individuals to spiral out of control and become emotionally exhausted.

The longer in quarantine, the higher the chance of developing PTSD. Though many have these feelings, speaking about your mental health may still seem taboo and becomes overlooked, only worsening your health. In a recent study, the results showed that one-third of Americans reported the pandemic taking a serious toll on their mental health, and 60% reported it affecting their now day-to-day life. It is important to remember during this time that we’re all together – you’re not alone!

In order to feel better, you have to address the emotions causing you to be unwell. Do not be afraid to seek help from a mental health professional. Remember that you’re not the only one feeling this way. If you want to try other outlets first to better your mental health, minimize your news and social media coverage, take walks to absorb the sunlight, exercise or start a new hobby. Keep your mind busy! If you still feel like each day is harder than the last, let someone close to you know. During times of uncertainty, it’s OK to not be OK.

Don’t let an event out of your control completely dissolve your mental health by worsening established diagnoses or creating new ones. Eventually, the world will reopen again without the same limits, and you’ll want to enjoy it! Try your best to stay positive, and if not, ITM is ready to help.

Conversation

on Monday, 18 May 2020.

Conversation

We all want to be a good friend to those close to us. Sometimes, checking in on a friend or peer can seem intimidating when conversations can get emotional. To start a productive, positive conversation about mental health, start with these tips.


1. Act Normal

It’s important that conversations about other’s wellbeing feel natural. Don’t wait for a “perfect” moment. If approaching the topic seems difficult to say, try bringing it up while doing something else like getting breakfast, driving in the car or exercising together. The more normal the setting, the less uncomfortable the conversation can feel. Being busy during this also helps fill silences and wrap up the conversation when needed.

2. Ask Twice

“I’m fine,” is the most common response when people are actually not OK. It’s important to take the time to let them know you want to check on their wellbeing because you care. Many will give a quick response to, “how are you?” to be polite. Follow up with, “No really, is everything okay?” Even if they don’t feel ready to talk about it right then, they’ll know you’ll be there if they need someone to talk to.

3. Talk about yourself

Others feel safe when you share your own feelings. You don’t have to talk about a mental health problem, you may not have any experience. But, it’s important to share so they feel comfortable. Sharing a recent worry or something that’s been bugging you will make it clear that you’re happy to talk about feelings with them and are acting out of compassion.

Mental health can be a very daunting topic for many to approach, but we care about the wellbeing of those around us. Keeping these points in mind, approaching a positive conversation can lead to very rewarding places within our health and relationships.

Mental Health in Children

on Monday, 04 May 2020.

Mental Health in Children

Mental health applies to all ages, including children. Mental illness amongst the younger demographic is actually very common. Although one in five children have a diagnosable mental health problem, nearly two-thirds of them get little or no help. Most of the common diagnoses are very treatable, if seen.

Untreated mental health can cause long-term effects for a child at school, home or within their community. Without treatment, children increase their risk of contact with the criminal justice system, suicide and failure to graduate.

Those closest to the child are most likely to witness the warning signs of mental illness. Parents, friends, teachers or any type of caregiver can note vital observations in behavior. The following may hint that professional help is needed:

·         Weak school performance

·         Constant worry or anxiety

·         Refusal to attend school or take part in activities

·         Hyperactivity or fidgeting

·         Persistent nightmares

·         Temper tantrums

Once with a professional, an evaluation may include a consultation by a child psychiatrist, some psychological testing and medical tests to rule out any physical condition that could be causing the symptoms. It’s also important when diagnosing children to distinguish possible mental health conditions from learning disabilities or developmental delays in order to properly treat the issue. Regardless, there are resources and professionals ready to help your child grow into a healthy adult.

Quarantine

on Friday, 24 April 2020.

Quarantine

With the uncertainty accompanying the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be overwhelming to acknowledge the difficulties of quarantining yourself for an extended time and the toll it can take on your mental health. Isolation affects:

·        Connectedness

·         Autonomy

·         Competency

With daily routines broken and quarantine imposed, loss of control can make many spiral. Feeling cut off from others and unable to perform usual duties can cause feelings of incompetence or low self-worth. Quarantine becomes more daunting as schools close, employees work from home and large events are cancelled. Even with others, the sense of isolation and cabin fever can be too powerful and creative a toxic environment.

The American Psychological Association reports that social isolation involves various risks to your health. Extended isolation can cause lack of sleep, low immune system, depressive symptoms, low cardiovascular health and impaired executive function, making it difficult to manage focus, emotions and direction.

Though a temporary situation, even brief periods of loneliness can have negative effects on your mental well-being. If you are not in quarantine with others, take time to call or video chat with friends or positive people in your life. Watch live streams of concerts, celebrities or of games to feel as if you’re hanging out with others in real time. Anything that makes you feel positive in a negative situation is worth investing your time in.

Fortunately, there are people, like those of us at the ITM Group, who want to help and can help foster a supportive environment to push away feelings of loneliness during isolation.

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