Apps Apt to Fill Some Needs

Self-help apps continue to pop up everywhere with seemingly one for every occasion. They can help you remember to drink a glass of water when you wake up in the morning. They can help you learn basic meditation techniques or help to monitor vitals. They can do so many things.

Bookstores have wonderful self-help sections, but we have to admit a simple search to find a silent partner app at your fingertips offers convenience. They are available 24/7 to boot.

In our Mental Health First Aid course we provide at Community Reach Center, one of the five ALGEE action steps is to “Encourage self-help and support strategies.” Using a self-help app is one of the things you can do to help yourself or someone else. However, self-help is no substitute for therapy. So please be aware of the limitations of digital apps and the advantages or professional help, which may include specific treatments and prescriptions.

A few picks

So let’s tap into some apps.

As we mentioned last January, Garmin is an excellent fitness app. It sets health and exercise goals. When this app is paired with a smartphone, you can have your vital signs at your fingertips. As the saying goes “healthy body, healthy mind,” so please consider this one among the fitness options.

Here are a few other well-known apps to consider:

  • Pacifica helps with anxiety by tracking the user’s daily activities, providing relaxation techniques and setting goals to promote calmness.
  • Breath2Relax takes the user through breathing exercises for stress management. The exercises are intended to be beneficial for mind and body.
  • Happify targets stress and anxiety. This perky app focuses on positive thinking and setting goals.
  • Headspace is another popular app that helps with lack of concentration, stress, anxiety, memorization and relationships. It uses a variety of approaches to instill overall wellness.
  • Twenty-Four Hours A Day app is based on the book of the same name and offers more than 350 meditations with the intention to make it easier for people in recovery from addiction to find solace.

Nonetheless use caution

If you are unsure of an app or feel uncomfortable about what it asks of you, check into it. Groups like ClinicalTrials.gov have been testing and assessing more and more apps, according to an article titled “Mental Health: There’s an App for That,” in Scientific American magazine.

Knowing what you need

We know that sometimes a person is not quite ready to talk to a therapist or professional about their challenges, perhaps due to stigma or other reasons. Consequently, trying a few apps can amount to the first steps in a worthwhile direction, and the use of an app can help you think about how professional help may meet your needs or perhaps lead to a support group.

Please remember we encourage anyone experiencing significant depression and anxiety to visit a mental health center to seek a therapist. At Community Reach Center, our goal is to enhance the health of OUR community. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn more about our treatment programs. We also provide family counseling. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

Social Media and Mental Health: Tips on Setting Boundaries

Woman typing on computer

Social media platforms can be helpful for keeping in touch with family and friends. Seeing photos and videos of events you couldn’t attend or major life changes can make you feel more connected and up to date. However, social media use, especially excessive use, has its negative side as well. At our mental health center in the Denver area, we encourage the people we work with to set safe and healthy boundaries regarding the use of social media.

How Social Media can Hurt Your Mental Health

For all its positive benefits, social media can cause harm if not used properly. For example, social media use can:

  • Be addictive. For some people, social media use reaches a level where it has many of the characteristics of addiction, including that they are mentally preoccupied with it, they forego other life experiences to use it, they hide or downplay their use, and they use it to produce a mood alteration that they crave.
  • Decrease truly social behavior. While a person may have a large number of “friends” on social media, the hours required to maintain those online relationships will often cut into the amount of time spent with people in real-life settings.
  • Promote comparison. Frequently or continually comparing yourself to others is unhealthy. However, getting updates on all the fun things that your social media connections are doing tends to encourage that kind of behavior and the inevitable envy and jealousy.
  • Increase sadness and depression. There is growing evidence that social media use, which we believe will make us happy, can actually increase sadness, anxiety and depression.

5 Strategies for Setting Social Media Boundaries

Even when the intent of a social media platform is positive, excessive use can have a negative impact on mental health. Below are some ways to set boundaries.

  1. Give yourself permission to unplug. Checking social media can start to feel like a requirement. However, the reality is you have the right and the ability to choose when and how often you use it (or whether you use it at all). Simply acknowledging that fact can be very empowering.
  2. Set time limits. What’s a reasonable amount of time to spend on social media each day? Two hours? An hour? Thirty minutes? You have to decide. But once you choose a time limit, commit to sticking to it. Not only does that help you today, it also gives you a good baseline if you choose to cut back on social media at some point in the future.
  3. Cut ties with negative people and organizations. If interacting with or reading posts from a person or group doesn’t make you happy, but instead makes your blood boil, cut ties with them. It may feel good to vent after being fired up by their statements, but in the long term, that relationship is doing more harm than good for your mental health.
  4. Only contribute in a positive way. Lashing out at others or promoting negative thoughts or ideas do not just harm the target of your posts, it hurts you as well. The age-old advice that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” is very relevant with social media. Even if you are speaking out against something, you can do so in a positive way by offering alternatives rather than criticism. And sometimes prefacing with something like “I have another perspective” can prevent discussions from becoming adversarial.
  5. Provide and seek clarity in your communications. Social media doesn’t offer the physical cues we typically use to understand people. Consequently, a message where no offense was intended can easily be misinterpreted, and a negative reply can then create an escalation of tension that didn’t have to occur. Be as clear as you can in your communications, and if you feel a comment directed at you was negative in some way, politely ask for clarification. A question such as, “I took your comment to mean this… Did I have that right?” can help keep a conversation from spiraling into negativity.

Making Your Mental Health a Priority

The key to proper social media use is continually assessing how it is affecting your mental and emotional health. If your interactions are not encouraging and uplifting, you need to make a change. To learn more about our mental health center, visit communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

The Mental, Emotional, and Physical Health Benefits of Gardening

If you ask someone to name activities that provide mental, emotional and physical health benefits, it is unlikely that gardening will make the short list. However, this safe, low-impact form of exercise delivers all of the above. As a leading provider of mental health services in the Denver area, we encourage the people we work with to consider planting a garden if they have the time and the space in which to do so.

Great Reasons to Give Gardening a Try

If you have never tended a garden before, below are some reasons why you should consider giving it a try.

  • Aerobic exercise. Especially for those who find vigorous exercise too taxing, the walking, bending, reaching, and other actions associated with gardening provide an excellent way to maintain flexibility, increase muscle tone and promote better blood flow.
  • Stress relief. Not only does gardening help relieve stress, one study in the Netherlands found that it provides even more relief than other relaxing activities. People who performed a stressful task and then spent 30 minutes gardening reported being in a better mood. They also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Increased Vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight increases Vitamin D, which leads to an increase in calcium levels that benefits the bones and immune system. However, it is important to use sunscreen and wear sunglasses.
  • Elevated mood. As any gardener will tell you, a little time in the garden is an excellent way to improve your outlook. It has been observed that gardening may help improve depression symptoms.
  • Improved diet. People who raise fruits or vegetables in their garden tend to eat more of these healthy foods. Plus, no food is fresher or more healthful than food you grow yourself and take directly from garden to table.
  • Increased social connections. Whether it is talking with other gardeners at the supply store or sharing tips at the community garden, people who garden tend to have a higher number of social interactions than people who don’t.
  • Improved self-esteem. Seeing the seeds you’ve planted grow and mature into healthy plants produces a very positive feeling of pride and accomplishment. Those feelings are even more pronounced if you choose to share your harvest with friends and family.
  • Better brain health. From the increase in physical movement to the need to remember the watering requirements and other tasks associated with different plants in the garden, research suggests that gardening can lower your risk of developing dementia.

An Excellent Holistic Health Activity

Health experts have long known that physical health and mental-emotional health are very intertwined. Gardening is an activity that addresses many aspects of overall well-being. For people suffering from mental or emotional health issues, it can be very helpful when combined with counseling and other treatments.

To learn more about our mental health services, visit communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.