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.

Mental Health Day

on Monday, 21 October 2019.

Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day was celebrated Oct. 10. While the day has come and passed, we can still remember it as an opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues and advocate against social stigmas. This year’s theme focused on suicide and suicide prevention to bring light to the issue and start a discussion within not only organizations, but also communities and social circles.

Globally, nearly 800,000 people take their own life each year, though there are many more people who attempt to. It is also the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29-year-olds.

Every suicide is a tragedy. They affect families, communities, friends and peers long-term. This World Mental Health Day and through October, consider how you can help educate others on their overall level of understanding of mental health, and specifically discuss the stigmas surrounding suicide, to support those who might most need help.

Everyone has their own battles – stress, grief, sadness – and all these emotions add up. World Mental Health Day allows a chance to step back and assess our own mental health and to encourage us to make changes where needed. Chances are, there’s more to anxiety, OCD and depression than you thought you knew. Inform yourself on statistics and facts and use this info to help inform and educate those around you.

You don't need to suffer or experience any mental illnesses to make a difference on the topic. Educating yourself and offering support to your community can better the health of those around you, while also contributing to the conversation.

Pursuit of Happiness

on Thursday, 17 October 2019.

Pursuit of Happiness

Being on the pursuit of happiness and seeking inner peace are very different goals. Here are some ways in which our journeys differ depending on what we’re pursuing.

 

·         Attaining happiness is reaching a point where we enjoy and appreciate our lives. This is a product of an enjoyable life situation (things go well) combined with an ability to appreciate our circumstances regardless by maintaining a positive mindset.

·         Attaining inner peace means that we feel at peace with our life regardless of if things go well or not.

 

How to view external circumstances:

·         Part of attaining happiness is to focus our efforts on improving the negative aspects of our lives. This way, we can be truly happy.

·         Instead of trying to change our life situation (as is the case for happiness), inner peace focuses on changing our attitude and reactions toward life.

 

How to view positive experiences:

·         Seeking happiness assumes that we can reach a point when we have mostly positive experiences; it’s a constant search for that “feel good” feeling.

·         A pursuit of inner peace is not a pursuit of enjoyable experiences or situations; it’s a journey toward creating an attitude of acceptance and appreciation, regardless of the obstacles or situation.

 

How mindset plays into it:

·         To be happy, we need to approach situations from a positive place. Some argue that a positive mindset not only impacts how we experience life, but can also change circumstances within our lives.

·         Inner peace goes beyond the mind. It’s not a matter of changing how we think, but a path toward taking a different approach at experiencing and relating to the world you live in.

 

If you’re pursuing happiness, you’re on a self-improvement journey.

 

If you’re pursuing inner peace, you’re on a spiritual journey.

 

Both happiness and inner peace can be found. Pursuing happiness and inner peace are not mutually exclusive, and for most of us they are likely to merge over time.

Downtime

on Friday, 27 September 2019.

Downtime

Feeling overwhelmed by work? Have you skipped out on vacation plans this year or the past few years? Taking a vacation is much-needed downtime that your body needs – both mentally and physically, to maintain a happy work and play balance.

Research shows that Americans work more than anyone in the industrialized world. They also take less vacation, work longer days and retire at older ages. But people who take vacations have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, are happier and have more motivation to achieve goals. 

Mental and Physical Benefits

Improved Physical Health: The New York Times reports that taking a vacation every two years will lessen the risk of coronary heart disease or heart attacks. Stress is known to bring on such ailments.

Improved Mental Health: Feelings of calm come with time away from work and relieve stress, which allows the body and mind to heal in ways that it couldn't if it were still under severe pressure.

Greater Well-Being: One study found that three days after vacation, participants' physical complaints, quality of sleep and mood had improved compared to before vacation. These positives were still present five weeks later, especially in those who had more personal time and overall satisfaction during their vacation or downtime.

Decreased burnout: Workers who take regular downtime to relax are less likely to experience burnout. This makes these employees more creative and productive than their overworked, under-rested counterparts.

Planning: Research shows the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation. A vacation can serve as daily motivation toward something fun and can help keep a positive mindset through difficult obstacles and workplace stress.

The bottom line is, taking time away from work and daily life can improve health, motivation, relationships, job performance and perspective, and give us the break we need to return to our lives, jobs and responsibilities refreshed and better equipped to handle anything.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

on Monday, 23 September 2019.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the "winter blues," is a subtype of depression or bipolar disorder that occurs and ends around the same time every year. Seasonal depression typically starts when the seasons change during fall and goes through winter. Seasonal depression can still occur in the summer or spring but is less likely.

Prevention

Since seasonal depression has a predictable time of arrival, preventative measures can be taken to reduce symptoms. Prevention can include beginning light therapy in the early fall before the onset of symptoms, exercising more or visiting climates with more sunlight. 

Statistics

1.      5% of Americans suffer from SAD per year

2.      4/5 diagnosed with seasonal depression are women

3.      Typical age to experience is 20-30 years old

4.      Further from the equator, the more likely to experience symptoms of seasonal depression

Symptoms

Symptoms of seasonal depression are typically similar to those that occur with depression, making it sometimes difficult to diagnose SAD. Unlike other forms of depression, SAD increases hunger. Larger appetite, excessive sleepiness and weight gain are all common symptoms of seasonal depression. A diagnosis of SAD can be made after two consecutive occurrences of depression that occur and end at the same time every year, with the symptoms subsiding the rest of the year. 

1.      Mood changes: extremes of mood and sometimes mania during spring and summer

2.      Lethargy: fatigue and inability to carry out daily activities

3.      Overeating: craving for sugary or starchy foods causing weight gain

4.      Anxiety: tension and inability to handle stress appropriately

5.      Depression: misery, guilt, no self-esteem, despair, diminished interest in activities

6.      Social problems: irritability and aims to avoid social contact

Treatment

Phototherapy, or bright light therapy, has been proven to slow the brain’s release of melatonin. Although, there have been no research findings to definitely link this therapy with an antidepressant effect, light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases. Antidepressant drugs may prove effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms, but many come with unwanted side effects. Discuss your symptoms with your family doctor and/or mental health professional to find the right path of treatment for you.

Back-To-School Stress

on Monday, 26 August 2019.

Back-To-School Stress

Stress plagues both kids and parents alike during back-to-school transitions. Being proactive to these stressors will combat negative stress early on and make back-to-school time easier on everyone.

Listen to one another

In order to be able to recognize heightened, school-related anxiety in your child, listen to their specific grievances. If your child is complaining about attending school or having difficulty doing their work, get to the root of the problem. Suggesting solutions and solving problems early on will relieve unnecessary stress.

Bedtime

Kids need a lot more sleep than most people think. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children in kindergarten to 3rd grade should be sleeping up to 12 hours per night, while high schoolers need 8-10 hours. Cut nighttime habits that are timewasters, such as TV or video games, to get a good night’s rest. Better sleep will help make the school day the best it can be.

Contact the teacher

Contact your child’s teacher respectfully for their side on what's going on at home if schoolwork seems to be stressing their mental health. For example, if homework seems to be taking much longer than expected, check-in with their teacher to see how long it should be taking them to complete X assignment; are they falling behind? The teacher might then be able to clarify what your child should and shouldn't be focusing on in order to be more productive. At home, work on bettering nighttime habits and positive reactions to stress to relieve negative associations with homework.

Combating the back-to-school season with various tactics and preparations can reduce stress and help keep both your student’s stressors and mental health in-check. That way, they’re set up for success in the new school year.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

on Monday, 12 August 2019.

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

Children and teenagers with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may live with symptoms into adulthood without ever being diagnosed. Although SAD is the third most common mental health disorder, many parents and teachers are not familiar with the signs and symptoms in children and teenagers.

 

Those with SAD experience an intense fear or phobia of social situations. Although most teenagers go through periods of normal anxiety related to the changes, those with SAD experience fear that is out of proportion to the situations that they face. For some adolescents, social anxiety becomes chronic and affects everything – doing well in school, making friends and extracurricular activities.

 

Symptoms

It’s important to note that not all of the following behaviors mean your child or teen has a social anxiety order, but it’s important to look into it with a specialist if the behavior repeatedly occurs.

 

Pre-School Children

·         Fear of new things

·         Irritability, crying, or whining

·         Freezing or clinging

·         Refusing to speak

School-Aged Children

§  Fear of reading aloud or answering questions in class

§  Fear of talking to other kids

§  Fear of being in front of the class

§  Fear of speaking to adults

§  Fear of musical or athletic performance activities

§  Fear of ordering food in a restaurant

§  Fear of attending birthday parties

§  Fear of having friends visit

§  Refusal to participate in activities or school

Teens

Look for a teenager who...

§  is quiet

§  keeps to him/herself

§  becomes more withdrawn if encouraged to talk

§  is hesitant

§  fears being embarrassed or humiliated

§  crosses his/her arms

§  keeps his/her head down

§  displays few facial expressions

§  has nervous habits such as hair twirling or fidgeting

 

Treatment

Treatment of SAD in children and teenagers is aimed at helping to alleviate anxiety and allow the student to cope with school and day-to-day functioning. Effective treatments under the watch of a professional may include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Medication

In addition to standard treatments, there are a number of coping strategies that can be employed by teachers, parents and students to manage social anxiety both in and out of school. This, in addition to professional help, can really help combat SAD in children and teens.

Schools can play an important role in this process, as it is the place where social anxiety disorder can often have the most negative effect on a child. School-based interventions led by psychologists that teach social skills training and academic skills training are helpful ways that schools can intervene in cases of SAD.

If you worry your child or teen is suffering from a social anxiety order, get help! If not treated, SAD can worsen into more anxiety issues or depression.

Self-Care and Mental Health

on Wednesday, 24 July 2019.

Practicing self-care isn’t always convenient. Most of us are crazy busy, have stressful jobs or are too consumed with technology to make time to focus on ourselves. Alone time is usually last on the agenda, or nonexistent. Practicing self-care can improve your mental health, calm your moods and improve confidence. Getting started with self-care can be challenging, though it’s actually very simple.

 Getting started:

1.      1.         Make sleep part of your self-care routine. Stress and other distractions can wreak havoc on our sleep, causing us to lose control of our emotions when tired. Make time to set yourself up for success the next day with a good night’s sleep.

 2.      Daily exercise can help you both physically and mentally, boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety. The gym is an intimidating environment to some. Find an activity that you enjoy and will look forward to doing to ensure you’ll stick to it.

 3.      Say no to others, and say yes to your self-care. Learning to say no is difficult, as many of us feel obligated to say yes when someone asks for our time or energy. However, if you’re already stressed or overworked, saying yes to even loved ones or coworkers can lead to burnout, anxiety, and irritability. Be realistic about how much you can handle at once.

 4.      Taking a self-care trip can make a huge difference in your life. Getting away for a weekend every now and then can help you disconnect, relax and feel recharged. A change of scenery and a little fun can really help improve motivation and productivity throughout your lifestyle.

 5.      Schedule time for self-care and stick to it. Improving or maintaining both your mental and physical health by taking the time to focus on your needs is not a selfish task. Anything that improves your mood, makes you happy or feel a little better is worth spending the time doing. The more you can work self-care time into your schedule, the better you’ll be able to thrive and be happy.

 

Positivity and Mental Health

on Thursday, 11 July 2019.

Positivity and Mental Health

A new field suggests choosing to focus on the positive in all situations can combat mental illness. The science of happiness, or positive psychology has opened a new way of looking into problems. It recognizes happiness and wellbeing as an “essential” human skill. Choosing and practicing positivity is simple through these actions.

1.Learn from negativity.

Negative encounters can teach plenty of positives. Past experiences make a person more resilient to stress. When we eventually overcome the challenge, we become more aware and thankful of the things and people we have. 

2.Practicing gratitude

Gratitude is a great way to better you, but also bring an ease of mind. Just list the people and the things you are grateful for, or take time to show or say your thankfulness to someone aloud. This can bring self-peace. If you choose this activity daily, consider gratitude journaling, visits or notes.

3.Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Happiness does benefit your lifestyle, but research also shows how putting a healthy lifestyle in place can create happiness too. A positive lifestyle can act as a natural healing mechanism. Positivity helps the body rid harmful toxins and can lead to lesser susceptibility to illness and psychological distress.

4.Monitor your mood

Your thoughts and actions are dependent on your mood. If your moods tend to be inconsistent, try tracking them. Research suggests mood charts are a great way to track your ups and downs, and later understand why we act and feel the way we do. These can later lead to a more consistent mood and stronger ability to combat stress.

 

 

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