Lately have you noticed you are forgetting things, feeling groggy even after a good night's sleep, irritable? Dr. Richard Friedman has some ideas about how social isolation may be making our brains duller. Check out this article he wrote in the Washington Post.
Our mental, emotional and physical health are all challenged during these uncertain times. Our confinement due to the Corona Virus and threat of Covid-19 has forced us to change our patterns. This has taken a toll. There are things you can do to feel better. Now is the time to create new habits to support our good health and well-being.
This article from The New York Times describes the risks and remedies for our labile emotional state. The opportunity we have is for a healthier life going forward.
Stop, Look, Listen, Smell, Taste, Touch.
What you know of the world comes through the 5 senses. Paying attention to your sensory input can focus the mind on the present. Living in the present can, momentarily, lower anxiety, relieve muscle tension and calm the mind.
Here's a quick exercise, The Senses Check, which takes about a minute to bring you into a tranquil space.
Do The Senses Check and experience the present moment completely.
Even one episode of mindful practice can be beneficial for your health.
Good Mental Health is no different than good physical health. In fact, good mental health contributes to better physical health.
Seeing a physician isn't embarrassing if we have the flu, a high fever, or other serious health problems. No one will criticize you for seeking medical help for a physical health problem and, indeed, most people would fault you if you didn't seek medical help.
Yet we often find that mental health issues bring a very different reaction. People sometimes see mental illness not as a health issue, but as a character flaw, a serious defect, something that marks a person as weak, unstable, perhaps even violent or dangerous.
Such reactions have serious consequences for millions of Americans who could be healthier and happier if they were receiving the mental health help readily available. But many don't seek such help out of fear of being "labeled" with a mental illness, feeling family and friends won't understand, or that it could lead to discrimination at work or school.
Too many people who could use help instead see their condition as a sign of personal weakness. They may mistakenly believe that they should be able to control whatever is wrong without outside help.
Please, work to correct this misinformation and encourage people to seek needed treatment. For example, researchers estimate that one in eight U.S. adolescents is suffering from depression. Each day an estimated 3,000 young people in grades 9 to 12 attempt suicide, yet only 30% of young people facing mental health issues ever receive any type of treatment or intervention. This lack of treatment helps lead to more than 4,600 suicides by young people each year. The statistics are even scarier among senior citizens and our military veterans.
What you can do:
If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental health issue, don't give in to the stigma, but rather take action for better health. Talk to a friend or family members about what's bothering you and look into assistance from a mental health professional. Seeking mental health help is not a weakness; it's as logical and right as seeing a doctor for the flu.
Adapted from American Counseling Association’s Counseling Corner Blog.
Here are some thoughts from Markus Howard on The Marquette basketball team about his mental health treatment as published in The NYTimes.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it's time to talk about confronting the stigma around therapy. Many people would benefit from therapy but won't choose it because they feel ashamed and weak when confronted with emotional difficulties. There is no shame in seeking professional help for emotional difficulties anymore than there is to visit a medical doctor for your physical health.
Physical and Mental Health are entwined. Ignoring either can lead to greater difficulties. Early intervention is the key to dealing with both physical and mental problems.
Men are particularly at risk from not talking about emotional issues. Men can perceive themselves as weak and inferior for feeling anxious, depressed, angry, overwhelmed and other uncomfortable emotions. Stuffing feelings down or ignoring them can be dangerous to functioning in relationships, can interfere with concentration at work, contribute to fatigue, irritability.
Here are some excerpts from an article by Sean Evans, "Not Talking About Mental Health is Literally Killing Men", May 2, 2018.
"Your mental health is inseparable from your physical health. Not a revolutionary concept, but what is astounding is the stigmatization that still surrounds men who dare to talk about their emotional struggles.
Men who are vocal about any kind of mental issues can be dismissed as weak. As inferior. As flawed, broken guys who are more likely to be ostracized for their honesty, instead of rewarded for their bravery. Instead of affording a fellow man compassion, we mock, belittle, and turn a blind eye. We freely spit the phrase, 'Man up', as though your gender alone should suffice to guide you through your darkest times.
Or worse the response can be 'Well, that sucks', then change the subject because talking about feelings is just too real.
What’s real is the fact that 9 percent of men experience depression. That’s more than 6 million men. More than 3 million men struggle with anxiety, daily. Of the 3.5 million people diagnosed as schizophrenic by the age of 30, more than 90 percent are men. An estimated 10 million men in the U.S. will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. One in five men will develop and alcohol dependency over a lifetime. Male suicide is rising at such an alarming rate that it’s been classified as a 'silent epidemic.' It’s the seventh leading cause of death for males. That’s a staggering statistic.
It’s okay to feel depressed. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not have everything figured out, to feel a wave of uncertainty come crashing over you and not know which way is up, or when your next gulp of air will come. These are perfectly normal feelings that every man experiences. And it’s okay to talk about it. What’s not okay is suffering in silence." You can read the full article here.
Freud called therapy the Talking Cure. It's time to talk!
Here are some misconceptions about therapy which may block someone from seeking help.
In these strange times, this is the best advice I've seen to help you and your family manage anxiety. Please check out Eileen Feliciano's List.
Hoping you and your family remain well and contented.
Most people experience a slump in January and February after the frenetic end-of-year and new year festivities. Some of this is merely fatigue but the Winter Blues can leave you feeling, sad, irritable, unmotivated. If these feelings intensify and lead to sleep problems, changes in appetite or weight, depression, you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
If your symptoms are in the milder category of Winter Blues there are several things you can do to help yourself feel better.
Just about everybody goes through stressful times at work. Projects pile up, you stay late and take work home with you and the flow of emails doesn’t slow down. When this becomes the norm, it’s time to re-evaluate your work-life balance and make some healthy changes to avoid job burnout.
How do you know when it’s time to examine how your job fits into your life?
Become a Time Realist as this article from The NY Times says.
Here's some information from the Cleveland Clinic about the illusion of multitasking.
During a busy schedule you can find yourself transitioning from one task, activity, or group to another without taking a breath. Your stress escalates and accumulates and you may not be at your best. It's good to pause for a minute to bring your stress level closer to your baseline before proceeding.
Here's a quick, 30-60 second, exercise to put you back in touch with your Best Self.
It's not unusual for parents to feel overwhelmed by the demands their children may be making for all the latest in toys and gifts. The holiday season is a time of massive amounts of advertising, a great deal of it aimed at our children. Few parents are able or willing to say "yes" to all the toy requests their children may present, but if you approach it correctly, saying "no" doesn't have to make you feel like a Scrooge.
The holidays can make all of us feel like "kids" again. It's mostly a happy time, but also a season with heavy doses of marketing pressure. As adults we're able to control the impulses brought on by all those "buy stuff now!" ads, but our children face the same tidal wave of advertising without the experience to help temper the desires the ads create.
There are real reasons why the latest, heavily advertised toys can seem so appealing to our kids. It's a normal part of development for children to fantasize and jump from reality to a make-believe world with ease. Watch small children dressing up or acting out elaborate games and you can see how real those fantasy worlds can be for a child.
This ability to engage in fantasies is also why all the newest and "hottest" toys can seem so appealing. Children can easily dream about owning that exciting new game or toy, something they can imagine playing and sharing with friends, and maybe even be envied for owning.
These childhood dreams can be very strong during the gift-giving season, and when we have to let our kids down and say "no" to the latest requests it can leave us feeling like we're bad parents. This, however, may be an emotional reaction, but not a realistic evaluation.
As a parent there may be legitimate reasons why agreeing to a child's demands simply isn't practical, or desirable, or maybe even possible. While those reasons may make sense for you, for the child looking to fulfill his or her fantasy, your adult reality has little or no meaning.
Our normal parental response to a child's over-the-top request, or "demand," might be something like, "No, that toy is simply too expensive." Such a response often will lead to escalated tension that makes the child cling even harder to the fantasy of how wonderful it could be and how you just don't understand.
Instead, it often works better to allow the child to hold on to and enjoy the fantasy. Respond by showing you understand how wonderful and fun it might be to have that toy. Don't resist the fantasy, but give your child the time to return to reality at his or her own pace. Save the discussion of why the toy is not a good decision for a calmer time when the fantasy is not as strong.
Adapted from the American Counseling Association’s Counseling Corner Blog