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.
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.
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.
Persistent relationship stress takes a toll, both emotionally and physically.
Every couple squabbles over finances, parenting, who does household chores, etc. But constant, unrelenting conflict can take a toll on both parties’ emotional and physical health. The quality of a relationship is important to a couple’s quality of overall health
You might notice common signs of stress when your relationship has hit a rough patch: headaches, irritability, stomach issues, muscle tension, changes in sleep patterns. If that persists and you have unremitting stress your immune system can become compromised and you are vulnerable to many potential physical problems.
Some studies have linked relational conflict and depression to poor digestive health. Others suggest that strained relationships may be connected to an increased risk for heart disease. Stress is also linked to high blood pressure and cancer.
This mind-body connection is well known among researchers and physicians. The impact on health is greatest when relationship stress becomes chronic. Stress, in general, produces a “fight or flight” response that is designed to help in emergencies. If it's constantly activated, the entire body’s internal balance can be disturbed. Continual stress can cause an increase in cortisol which can damage the heart muscle. The longer the time conflict persists over the course of months versus weeks, the more likely you are to experience some physical symptoms,
Couples counseling can help you learn to create an atmosphere of emotional safety for yourself and your partner, to take responsibility for stress relief so your nervous system shifts into “rest and digest” mode and all mind/body systems can function optimally.
Here are some misconceptions about Couples' Therapy published by The Gottman Institute.
From the Cleveland Clinic, Signs You May Need Couples Counseling.
Happiness is a transitory state usually resulting from accomplishments, unexpected gifts and "happy" events, once in a lifetime occurrences. Rather than seeking happiness pursue joy. There are small moments within each day that can lift your heart, such as, the glimpse of a loved one, the memory of past joys, a budding flower, a kind interaction. To use an over-used word, mindfulness can put you in touch with the tiny joys which present themselves through your surroundings; the beauty of nature, a well-done exercise routine, a hot shower, the aroma of fresh baking, favorite music, a delicious meal and connections with other people. The list is endless if you pay closer attention to your senses; the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches within easy reach. Becoming more conscious of the tiny joys around can habituate you to perceiving things differently, to gathering the pleasantries within even the grayest day and lead to a steady state of contentment. Then you don't have to wait for the happy events to come along. You have many joys whenever you tune into your senses to experience the present. Here are some easy steps to help focus on the joys around you.
The Cleveland Clinic has this list of 7 Secrets to Happiness.