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.

COVID-19

on Thursday, 09 April 2020.

COVID-19

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, all of us have been put into situations we’ve never had to deal with before. Being quarantined to our homes, ruined plans, isolation, lack of supplies and looming uncertainty has finally gotten to most of us. This negativity can cause those with existing anxiety and depression to spiral out of control. With some positive pointers, you can combat the negativity during this difficult time and stay at peace with your mental health.

  • Rethink “I am stuck inside” 

Part of staying happy is a positive mindset. Look at the things you cannot control in a different light. Instead of thinking that you’re stuck in your home, think of it as time given to you to focus on your home and self. Even doing one productive task a day can help maintain a positive attitude. Reorganize a closet you’ve put off for the past year or create an art project you deemed you never had the time for. Use this opportunity to slow down and focus on your own needs.

  • Keep a routine

Though we all have new-found free time, it’s easy to fall into a lethargic lifestyle and live in a depressive mood. Try and keep the old schedule you used to follow, but if that’s not possible, make a new one! Wake up and go to bed at the same time, exercise, eat meals and get dressed instead of spending the days in your pajamas. Also make time daily to talk to your friends or loved ones to feel some normalcy. Not only will sticking to a routine keep you active and less likely to spiral, it will be easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to get back to work.

  • Limit news coverage

It’s important to stay informed during the pandemic, but too much bad news can awaken the worry you’ve worked so hard to keep at bay. Stick to credible websites, like the CDC, for information, or watch local coverage of the virus to keep your mind focused on yourself and where you live. Remember, use this opportunity to better yourself, so it’s okay to act selfishly during this time. You are in isolation with yourself, so it’s best to spend all the time and energy that you usually spend on others on yourself.

 

Coronavirus and Stress

on Monday, 23 March 2020.

Coronavirus and Stress

 

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread hysteria and panic across the world. This unavoidable surge of fear and anxiety can affect many emotions in adults and children. Properly coping with your emotions during a charged time will make you a stronger individual for yourself and family during these uncertain times.

In any stressful situation, everyone reacts differently. The outbreak of this virus is no different. Personality, background and community can all affect your behavior. Those who may respond stronger to the stress of a crisis are:

·         Elderly with chronic diseases making them a higher risk

·         Children

·         Teenagers

·         COVID-19 first responders

·         Those with previous mental conditions, i.e. substance abuse

Common stressors and anxieties during an outbreak may include:

·         Changes to sleeping/eating patterns

·         Fear for self/family safety

·         Difficulty focusing

·         Increased drug/substance use

To help combat your stress during this uncertain time, it’s important to focus on caring and maintaining for your mental health. To help distract yourself or calm your mind, try:

·         Communicate: talk with others about your concerns and listen to theirs.

·         Detach: take social media/TV breaks to upset yourself less by the news.

·         Health: focus on stretching, meditating, doing a face mask or anything you feel you usually don’t have the time to do for your body.

·         Unwind: do activities that slow you down. Puzzles, mind games and anything that involves critical thinking are great distractors.

Reduce stress for yourself and others. Educating yourself about the COVID-19 outbreak and understanding the actual risk to yourself and loved ones can make an outbreak less stressful for all involved in and out of your quarantine.

 

Stay safe!

 

ADHD Disorder

on Tuesday, 17 March 2020.

ADHD Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a childhood disorder affecting 1/10 of the children in the United States. Though common, many misconceptions and stereotypes surround the disorder.

Key takeaways:

1.      ADHD effects the brain.

a.      Brain chemistry effects everything about us. Children with ADHD cannot simply be told to just pay attention or to concentrate harder. ADHD involves a certain brain structure in individuals, showing symptoms before adolescence. Though ADHD could be diagnosed in preschool, most aren’t until later childhood. If a parent has ADHD, the child has a 40-60% chance of developing it as well. 

2.      ADHD has three core symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

a.      Most children show all three of these qualities at times. For an ADHD diagnosis, these symptoms must be interfering with and affecting the child’s life at both school and home. These symptoms may fade or change overtime, with inattention being more common in young adults while the other two remain consistent with children. 

3.      ADHD can make social relationships difficult.

a.      School requires attention and organizational skills. This can be hard for those with ADHD, often making them seem scatter minded or unorganized for losing an assignment or forgetting about an event. While kids with ADHD don’t generally have a problem with social skills, difficulty controlling their emotions and impulsivity can affect personal relationships and make it hard to maintain friendships. It can also be difficult for them to follow social rules or say appropriate things. 

4.      There are treatment options for ADHD.

a.      Most children will grow out of their ADHD symptoms and not carry them into adulthood, though few do. Treatments are available to ease the interference of the symptoms into the child’s life. The most popular options are:

                                                              i.      Medication

                                                           ii.      Behavior therapy

                                                         iii.      Education and training

                                                          iv.      ADHD coaching 

Regardless if you or someone you know has struggled with ADHD, educating ourselves and others on a very common disorder can help eliminate misconceptions surrounding the diagnosis. With education comes understanding and acceptance for many young adults and children across the nation.

Support Systems: Why They’re Crucial

on Tuesday, 25 February 2020.

Support Systems: Why They’re Crucial

Life isn’t always easy, and we all deserve someone that we can depend on through thick and thin. Everyone needs to be listened to and offered truthful feedback.

Research suggests that having a support system has many positive benefits, such as higher levels of happiness, better coping skills and reduced anxiety and depression. Support systems look different for everyone; some small, others large, but all provide the basic need of giving and receiving emotional support.

The aim of a having a support group is to decrease stress. Start with who’s already in your life. Sort them into who is a positive presence and who is negative. These toxic relationships can emotionally drain you. Only invest your time and energy into people who make you feel good about yourself and support your goals and ambitions.

Tips

1.      Evaluate your current family and friends not currently in your close circle.
2.      Try new activities to meet different people.
3.      Join a club or class of interest.
4.      Stay busy using activity you’ll look forward to.
5.      Let important people in your life know that you appreciate them.
6.      Be okay with asking for help. 

Support can come from anyone – family, friends, teachers, pets, neighbors or a mental health professional. Support comes in many forms, and it is helpful to have a variety of different resources to lean on in times of need.

 

 

Social Relationships and Mental Health

on Wednesday, 12 February 2020.

Social Relationships and Mental Health

Research suggests that people live longer lives when they have supportive relationships. Studies show that these individuals have low blood pressure, heal more quickly and are less anxious.

Social relationships foster mental health in various ways:

  • Provide a purpose or meaning for an individual
  • These people (friends and family) encourage positive behaviors
    • Eating healthy 
    • Doing tasks you avoid
    • Your ambitions
  • Conversations with a good, empathetic listener can help relieve stress and help you feel better
  • Physical activities with friends increase your energy and release tension
    • Sports
    • Outside activities
    • Going for a walk 

Unhealthy relationships can easily cause stress and trigger mental illness. Because of this, it is a good idea to only continue relationships with people who don’t encourage bad habits and give emotional support.

Depending on your personal circumstances, you might want to consider:

  • Seeing your family more often
  • Joining social organizations that interest you
  • Texting an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while
  • Volunteering 

It is also never a good idea to limit your peer group to only family and current friends. You might be surprised to discover positive relationships with co-workers, associates or those with similar likes, hobbies or sports.

This Valentine’s Day, assess the social relationships in your life. A toxic relationship can cause stress, anxiety or recurrences of other various mental health issues. Cutting these relationships from your life can free your mindset to instead focus on your own mental health. In turn, fostering more loving relationships.

How Trauma Changes the Brain

on Thursday, 30 January 2020.

How Trauma Changes the Brain

Any type of trauma changes your brain. Car accidents, abuse, combat, natural disasters, etc., all leave a footprint on your brain’s cellular makeup. Every cell records memories and every embedded trauma-related memory has the chance to suddenly reactivate its neuropathway and no longer lie dormant. Some changes affect us initially but fade, others start to change and affect our lives. Understanding how trauma affects our brains and how these symptoms show can help toward recovery.

The 3-Part Brain Model

1.      Reptilian (brain stem): innermost part of the brain responsible for survival instincts and autonomic body processes

2.      Mammalian: midlevel of the brain processes emotions and conveys sensory relays

3.      Neomamalian: most highly evolved part of the brain, as this area controls cognitive processing, decision-making, learning, memory and inhibitory functions 

During a traumatic experience, the reptilian brain takes control and shuts down all non-essential body and mind processes, a.k.a. survival mode. During this time the sympathetic nervous system increases stress hormones and prepares the body to fight, flee or freeze. Normally once the threat is over the body goes back to a restorative mode and shifts the brain back to normal.

Twenty percent of trauma survivors develop some form of PTSD. With this, the shift from reactive to responsive mode never happens. Instead, the person is in a constant survival state. These cause confusing symptoms for people who don’t understand how they’ve suddenly become so out of control in their own minds and bodies.

According to scientific research, after trauma your brain goes through biological changes that it wouldn’t have experienced if there had been no trauma.

On the surface, changes to the brain can seem disastrous; the truth is that all of these changes can be reversed over time. Patients are unique and everyone finds different paths to recovery, though understanding the brain can better help us understand the process.

Bipolar

on Friday, 17 January 2020.

Bipolar

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that is currently affecting millions of Americans and many more people worldwide. The signs and symptoms include short depressive episodes followed by periods of euphoria and happiness that usually causes a wide range of these unwanted symptoms:

  • Being strangely upbeat, jumpy or wired
  • Having increased activity, energy or being agitated easily
  • Constant euphoria and high self-confidence
  • High sense of well-being
  • Very fast thoughts
  • Easy to distract
  • Insomnia, no need for sleep or sleeping too much
  • Poor decisions such as increased spending, taking risks or engaging in risky behavior

There are many ways people with bipolar disorder can help themselves improve these symptoms and live a much better life. Having this disorder can often be the cause of much stress and worry for a lot of people.

Many treatment options are available. Bipolar disorder can often come along with other mental disorders and require specialized treatment. The most common is using support and counseling sessions, along with the right medication depending on case. Common medications used to treat bipolar disorder are:

  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medications

People with bipolar disorder often find themselves making risky decisions that affect their life negatively. This is why treatment and understanding of this disorder is important. If a person thinks they have bipolar disorder, they should first ask themselves whether it is just normal mood swings or something more that could be harmful. While you may not want to seek appropriate help, there can be serious consequences if the problem is not addressed. So, it is vital to consult your doctor or a mental-health practitioner about your ongoing symptoms to find a treatment plan that’s right for you. Remember, seeking help always remains confidential.

New Year’s Resolutions

on Wednesday, 18 December 2019.

New Year’s Resolutions

 

 

Not every New Year’s resolution needs to be about weight, finances or material items. Focusing on improving what dissatisfies you regarding your mental health is a positive way to bring in a new year.

Resolutions to consider:

A. I will speak kindly to myself.

If what you say to yourself isn’t something you’d ever say to someone you care for, it’s time to reassess the way you think of yourself. Treat yourself with respect; you deserve it. Saying negative things and calling yourself names will only makes you feel worse. Treat yourself as well as you do others. 

B. I will set healthy boundaries.

Sometimes we give other people too much time in our lives by giving them the power to do so. Letting family, friends or coworkers make our lives more difficult can be hidden as kindness, though it’s completely overloading us. Define limits at work, home and within your relationships. Let this be the year you tell others how they’re affecting you through a constructive approach without anger. 

C. I will take action on my mental/emotional well-being.

Many shy away from mental health specialists due to stigmas around the topic. It’s common for someone to not address a mental health or emotional problem even when they know it’s needed because of these stigmas. This year, motivate yourself to seek help for things you cannot solve on your own. Investing time and care into you is never wasted time.

Regardless of your New Year’s resolution, working toward a happier, healthier you is always a great idea. Enter the New Year with a fresh mindset and positive attitude in order to help improve the lives of you and others.

 

 

 

Holiday Mental Health

on Wednesday, 11 December 2019.

Holiday Mental Health

Work and social calendars start to expand quickly as the holiday months approach. Work gets busier in anticipation for the upcoming time off, and social events now smother your down time to celebrate the season. As a result, stress and anxiety can easily overwhelm any situation. It’s important to manage your mental health during the busy holiday season and take time to focus on your wellbeing. Here are a few tips that can help manage your stress this holiday.

1. Don’t Slack on Sleep

Sleep deprivation can severely control or impact your mood. Physical and mental health will deteriorate without enough sleep, so be sure to catch enough zzzs for the best shot at having a good day.

2. Stay to Routine

Even with an influx of holiday invitations and social meetups, the more you stay within your normal routine, the more you’ll feel in control. When things start to disrupt routine, you’ll be less anxious and find it easier to adapt when it’s only a couple of disturbances vs. going about your day in a totally foreign way.

3. Stick to your Holiday Budget

One of the biggest stressors over the holidays is money. Eliminate this factor completely by setting a budget and sticking to it. Planning early also gives you more time to create meaningful gifts that don’t break the bank.

4. Don’t Rely on Drugs, Alcohol or Food

It is easy to rationalize taking a pill, pouring yourself a drink or going to the pantry to help relieve the stress and anxiety you feel this time of year, but there are other ways to decompress that are much more productive. Go for a walk or spend time with a loved one who is around for the holidays. You’ll feel much better in the long run.

5. Monotonous Work For Down Days 

Save any repetitive, boring work for down days and more creative work for good mental health days. Try to save the tedious work for tougher days, as it’s a good strategy to keep up productivity while you’re struggling.

The holidays can be a tough time. Hopefully, these suggestions can help. As always, if you get too overwhelmed, reach out to a mental health professional you know and trust.

Holiday Stress

on Thursday, 21 November 2019.

Holiday Stress

It’s common for the holiday season to cause more stress than joy for many people. Anxiety and depression symptoms can rise even though those around are enjoying the festivities.

While depression can come any time of the year, many studies show that stress and anxiety in November and December can be far greater for some people. Many things can trigger this “holiday stress.”

One factor can be social isolation. Many people have a relatively small social circle or none at all. People who feel disconnected from others will avoid social interaction more this time of year, as many around are celebrating with multiple social events. This personal, social withdrawal makes any holiday depression symptoms that much worse.

Another reason could be returning grief. If a loved one was lost earlier in the year, their absence can be felt more intensely around the holidays when family comes together. A previous loss during the holidays may spoil current celebrations as well, as this brings up difficult memories.

While isolation is not the best choice, there are times it may be better for you to excuse yourself from a social event if attending is going to make you more miserable. If you do skip a festivity, try to find an alternative to being alone at home.

Many people may find themselves feeling persistently sad or anxious this holiday season despite their best efforts. If unsuccessful in feeling better, consider consulting a professional. At The ITM Group, we regularly see people who may need to talk to someone with experience in order to climb out of that depression. The important thing is to take that first step to seek qualified professional help.

 

Postpartum

on Thursday, 07 November 2019.

Postpartum

While most pregnant women experience mild mood changes during or after birth, 15 to 20% of women experience severe symptoms of depression or anxiety. With proper care you can prevent the worsening of these symptoms and can fully recover.

Every woman has the possibility of developing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Symptoms can begin any time during pregnancy or the first 12 months post-birth. Though common, there are effective and well-researched treatment options to help recuperate.

Depression during and after pregnancy occurs more often than most people would think. Depression during pregnancy is also called antepartum or prenatal depression, and depression after pregnancy is referred to as postpartum depression. 

Approximately 15% of women experience significant postpartum depression, though the percentages rise for women who are also dealing with poverty or teen pregnancy. Ten percent of women experience antepartum depression in pregnancy.

Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone, and could include:

·         Feelings of anger or irritability

·         Lack of interest in the baby

·         Appetite and sleep disturbance

·         Crying and sadness

All forms of pregnancy mood disorders are treatable. If symptoms are making it difficult to enjoy your current pregnancy or newborn child, contact a doctor to find a treatment right for you. Having a child should be a joyous time; don’t let depression or anxiety get in the way.

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