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.
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.
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.
Taking time to meditate might sound like a luxury but it may be as important for your well-being as pounding the treadmill or eating broccoli. And you don’t have to block off lots of time, either. Setting aside just a few minutes a day can improve your focus, and calm your mind and body.
If you’re a meditation skeptic, take a look at these four meditation myths that could (literally) change your mind.
Meditation myth #1: You have to practice at least 20 minutes every day.
Do you have a minute? Great! Then you have time to meditate. Here's a one-minute mindfulness meditation.
Breathe in for five seconds, then breathe out for five seconds. That’s your warm-up. Then repeat for one minute. It’s that simple, and you can work up from there.
Meditation myth #2: You need to clear your mind.
Can’t get your to-do list out of your head? It’s OK if it keeps coming back.
The goal of meditation is not to clear your mind of all thought. The goal is to return to the breath. Each time you discover your mind has wandered, return it to the breath. That is how your mind learns to benefit from meditation.
When you’re meditating and get distracted by a thought return your attention to your breath. You’ll increase your awareness of the present moment, creating calm and balance.
Meditation myth #3: It doesn’t do anything.
It’s true, meditation doesn’t do one thing for you- it does a lot of good things! Research suggests that meditation appears to boost whole-body wellness.
And you don’t have to stick with one type of meditation. Play around until you find one you like, or use a combination of techniques. You can even use several types of meditation during one session.
You can meditate in your car before leaving for work, while your children nap or even while you’re washing the dishes. Try to find a few minutes during your day to develop your meditation skills.
You’ll be joining the 18 million American adults who use meditation to boost health and focus the mind. And you just may find that meditation gives you a little sanity in a sometimes crazy world.
This is adapted from an article posted by the Cleveland Clinic, February 2019.
Having one of those days when it seems like everything that could go wrong, did? You needn’t give in to grouchiness or despair. Here are six suggestions to help turn your day around.
1. Be mindful of your feelings.
What feelings are beneath your stress and frustration: anger, sadness, anxiety, resentment?
Research shows that knowing and naming your feelings is helpful and soothing. Once you’ve identified your feelings, write them down or talk them out with someone you trust.
2. Get up and move.
In order to shake off a bad day, you need to be active. Sitting still gives your feelings time to fester.
Exercise and activity produce endorphins and serotonin. Just 20 minutes of physical activity will increase these natural mood-lifters and give a noticeable boost to your day. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Play fetch with your dog, walk outside with a friend at lunch, take a bike ride through the park.
3. Do something you love.
Distraction can be a blessing. Watch a favorite movie, listen to music, work on a craft project, plan a vacation. If your passion involves physical exertion (hiking, running, kayaking, etc.), all the better.
Avoid judging yourself or having strict standards. Enjoy the experience. Try to lose yourself in it.
If you can’t completely set the anger, depression or anxiety aside, don’t worry. Taking positive action even when your heart isn’t in it will benefit you. Doing what you love reduces cognitive dissonance and helps to lift your mood. Acting as if you feel better can translate into actually feeling better.
4. Do a mindset makeover.
Take a deep breath and reassure yourself that having a bad day is part of living on the planet. Consider the whole picture. Do you always feel this way? Will you feel this way for five minutes, five hours, five months or five years? Put things in perspective. Use positive self-talk and itemize the benefits around you and within you. Look at the whole picture not only your current irritations.
5. Connect with others.
It helps to close a bad day by getting out of yourself and helping someone else. Volunteer, or offer someone a kind gesture. Help a family member with a task, or play with a pet. When you’re feeling kind, loving and grateful, it’s difficult to hold onto sadness, anger and resentment.
6. Rest up.
The best thing to do at the very end of a difficult day? Get to bed at a decent hour and turn off/limit your use of cell phones, computers and tablets for the last hour before bedtime. Getting seven to eight hours of good quality sleep is one of the best ways to recover from a bad day. A good night’s sleep will help put it all in perspective. And you can start fresh the next day.
People use three basic responses to conflict. Fight, Submit, Flee. These can be used creatively but sometimes we get stuck in using just one strategy; become rigid and defensive and feel trapped and powerless. There is a fourth strategy, Resolution which can be learned and is mutually beneficial.
For most of us, asking for help can often be difficult. Yes, asking for advice on planting a garden is easy. But for a serious issue, such as your mental health, you may find that you don't want to admit to the problems you're facing.
It's not hard to understand why you may be reluctant. Admitting that you're struggling or feeling overwhelmed is like admitting you're weak or inadequate. Many of us learned as children that it's important to be independent, strong and self-sufficient. That background makes it difficult to tell someone else that you're really not okay.
The result is that people often decide to just try and do the best they can by themselves. In some cases things might just turn out fine, though there are no guarantees. But going it alone could involve considerable amounts of stress and anxiety, and may even lead to bigger and more serious problems.
Another common option is to turn to family or friends. This can be a good idea if those you trust with your problems and fears are truly understanding and are able to offer meaningful support and help. Sometimes they can, but often times they just can't be objective enough.
If you're facing a difficult time or situation, something that's causing depression, high stress and anxiety, and is making it difficult or impossible for you to enjoy life, it may be time to seek out professional help. Doing so can be a difficult choice, since it means asking for help from a stranger, and usually will involve a fee.
However, realize that a professional counselor is someone who has gone through extensive training and has many tools to help those feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to go on. Despite the way it's often portrayed on TV, counseling is not something just for "crazy" people. Most counseling assists perfectly normal people who are simply facing issues and problems that are negatively affecting their lives. There are no reasons to suffer emotional pain when licensed, professional counselors are available, willing and competent to help.
There are many ways to find a counselor. You can ask a friend, your doctor or dentist, teacher or someone you respect to give you a referral. Many communities have counseling centers. If there is a resource at your job you can ask about the Employee Assistance Program. You can find a counselor by simply Googling "Find a Counselor". There are many referral sites that you can search geographically and by topic, e.g., stress, anxiety, depression, marital conflict, parenting.
Asking for help is never a sign of weakness but rather of the strength to recognize when your problems are real and that you need help to do something about them.
Here are some reasons NOT to ignore your Mental Health from the Cleveland Clinic as well as some signs to help you decide if you need professional help.
Adapted from American Counseling Association’s Counseling Corner Blog.