Sip smart during the holidays

Alcoholic beverages are served at many holiday celebrations. Just as there are a zillion types of holiday cookies, there are many festive alcoholic beverages. The creative drinks can be fun, but a challenge to moderation and good health.

Ready, set, go

During the holidays, it is easy to overdo it with alcoholic beverages, so take some time to think it through before you jingle out the door to events waiting for you. Perhaps consider who you would like to team up with throughout the holiday season to set your limits. Whether it is family member, significant other or a friend, this kind of partnership can be powerful and effective.

A few techniques:

  • Time: Arrive early and depart before the heavy drinking ensues. As a courtesy, it is a nice touch to alert the host or hostess when you plan to leave.
  • Travel: Make sure you have reliable sober transportation or be prepared to call for a ride. Choosing a designated driver is a practice that college students are encouraged to follow, and the practice should apply to everyone during the holiday season. Keep an eye on each other – even a little alcohol can impair driving skills and judgment.
  • Consumption: If you have decided not to drink alcohol, bring your favorite beverage and consider pouring it in a party glass to fit in with the crowd. If you will be drinking alcohol, make a pact to have one drink then switch to water or a soft drink.
  • Health always: Consider taking a walk now and then as a health break to mix with the merriment.

What is moderation?

Indulging in alcoholic drinks in moderation really means having no more than one standard drink a day for women and up to two standard drinks for men age 65 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It can be easy to exceed these limits, especially when someone else is topping off your glass. The CDC accepted measure long-term for moderate drinking means women who drink more than seven drinks per week and men who drink more than 14 drinks week after week are at risk.

Good to know

Okay, so why can men can drink more than women? What is the science? Two facts: 1) Women tend to have less muscle tissue than men. Muscle tissue contains water, and alcohol dissolves in water and is thus diluted. Due to the fact that men have about 10 percent more water in their bodies, they can drink more alcohol than women without becoming intoxicated; 2) Men also have more of an enzyme in their stomachs that metabolizes alcohol. This is important to know and important to share with young drinkers.

A question of openness

Perhaps you just want everyone to be safe in a general sense or you want to be part of setting good examples. If you are comfortable sharing your personal concerns with family and friends, consider being open with them. If you are recovering from alcoholism or another SUD (Substance Use Disorder), it may make sense to talk about triggers with your support circle Practice your pat response for declining a drink.   Recovery will be as private or public as you want it to be, depending on how much you want to share with others. Likewise, if you are coping with depression, it may make sense to talk about what makes you feel safe and supported during this time.  

Plan the season

Consider the overall events and activities of the holiday season.

  • Which activities make you feel good? Sometimes volunteering to help with various causes that are important to you intensifies your sense of purpose.. Check the mix.
  • Which activities foster genuine connection to the people in your life? Concentrate on taking part in events that involve little or no drinking. Perhaps a concert with holiday music or a tour of holiday decorations are among activities to keep everyone in a healthful state of mind.
  • What should your plan look like? Focus on a few key events and limit the amount of time at events that don’t support your values and your health. Your planning can be as simple or involved as you like.

Finding the right mix of healthy habits is key to mental health during the holidays and day to day. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Mental Health Center Emphasizes Importance of Physical and Mental Health

Life is made up of many components, and two of the most critical aspects are physical and mental health. It is challenging to have a healthy and balanced life without both. Focus on one at the expense of the other can be detrimental to one’s wellbeing. However, as we tell people at our Denver mental health center, with a little time and effort, you can improve both essential components.

Strategies for Staying Physically Healthy

Taking care of your body delivers a range of benefits, from fewer aches and pains to reduced risk of disease, to an increased energy level. Below are five things you can do to treat your body right.

  • Get regular aerobic physical activity. Some people have a negative opinion of “exercise” for one reason or another. However, you don’t have to run five miles a day or do hours of yoga or Pilates every week to improve your physical health. Just taking a brisk 20-minute walk daily can make a difference.
  • Eat a balanced diet. What and how much you eat has a major impact on your health. Fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish and whole grains are good for you. Sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates are not. And, all foods should be consumed in moderation.
  • Stay hydrated. Not only does your body need water to function properly, but staying hydrated can also boost your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit (or don’t start) smoking. It’s not easy to quit smoking, but there are counseling programs and medication that can help. If quitting cold-turkey feels impossible, start small by smoking one less cigarette a day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Being tired isn’t the only consequence of getting inadequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause everything from cognitive impairment to hormone problems and weight gain.

Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health

Most people know that there are actions you can take to improve your physical health. However, many are surprised to learn that the same is true of mental health. Too often we assume that our mood and outlook on life simply fluctuate and there is nothing we can do about it. On the contrary, there are many steps you can take to help achieve and maintain a state of wellbeing. Some of the most effective are listed below.

  • Practice living “in the moment.” In our busy lives, it is easy to think about anything other than what we are doing in the present. It can be a tremendous stress reliever to learn to practice “mindfulness.” That means when you are washing your hands, focus on the simple pleasures of washing your hands, like the coolness of the water running through your fingers and the smell of the soap, When taking a bite of a sandwich, focus on the freshness of the ingredients and how the flavors blend together. Learning mindfulness requires some work to make this a habit, but the payoff is significant.
  • Create and maintain positive relationships. The connections we have with our family members, friends, coworkers and others in our life are crucial to our mental health. It is important to invest time and effort in ensuring they stay strong.
  • Keep track of what you’re grateful for. Even in the toughest of times, there are things we can be thankful for. Making a mental note of them (or better yet, recording them in a gratitude journal) on a regular basis can keep you focused on the positive.
  • Do something nice for someone. Even the smallest acts of kindness can deliver big mental and emotional benefits, both to the recipient and to you.
  • Think positive thoughts about yourself. How you think about yourself affects how you feel about yourself, and that affects your sense of confidence and overall perspective within the world. Reminding yourself regularly that you have many positive qualities and avoiding comparison to others, helps build a solid foundation for your mental and emotional health.

Important Resources from a Denver Mental Health Clinic

The strategies above can be very useful, but when you need expert insight into mental health challenges, our team at Community Reach Center can help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

What Kids Need to Know About Bullying From a Leading Mental Health Clinic

Kid with braces smiling

There was a time when being bullied was considered a rite of passage some children simply had to endure. The prevailing thinking was that they would “get over it” and it might even “toughen them up.” Fortunately, parents, schools and the U.S. government now have a more proactive view of addressing this behavior, which can be very painful for the victims and leave lasting emotional scars. That awareness is reflected in a number of weeks - or month-long, anti-bullying observations, typically occurring in the fall as children return to school. At our mental health clinic, we encourage parents to learn more about what can be done to prevent bullying.

Tips for Standing Up to a Bully

While teachers, parents and adults, in general, have an obligation to take action when they become aware of bullying, it is also helpful for children to know how to handle a bully on their own. Below are some strategies children can use to stop a bully.

  • Find supportive peers. If a school has a bully, it is likely that there are multiple victims. By supporting, and getting support from, those students and others, a child can give a bully second thoughts about continuing threatening behavior.
  • Talk to adults. Bullying behavior that seems obvious to victims may not be immediately detected by parents and teachers. Children should know that telling adults about bullying isn’t “tattling” but is instead speaking up about a dangerous behavior and that doing so may help keep other children from being bullied.
  • Take action right away. The longer a child submits to bullying, the more empowered the bully will feel and the more aggressive their actions are likely to be. If a child takes a stand immediately, a bully will be more inclined to discontinue the behavior.
  • Be assertive. Often children who are being bullied either put up with the abuse or go the other way and lash out at the bully. Both of those approaches tend to elicit an elevated level of abusive behavior. Assertiveness sits between those two extremes and is the best way for a child to show a bully they won’t be intimidated.
  • Use logic rather than emotion. Bullies tend to feed off the emotions of their victims, whether that is fear or anger. Children who learn to control their emotions and respond to a bully with confidence are less likely to be targeted.
  • Portray confidence through body language. Bullies look for physical signs that their abuse is having an impact on a victim. Children should learn that looking the bully in the eye, speaking slowly and in a calm voice and using the bully’s name are some of the best ways to show that they won’t put up with this behavior.

Bullying and Anxiety

One of the most serious consequences of bullying is that it can create or exacerbate an anxiety disorder in a child. Parents, teachers, coaches and other adults should pay attention to signs that a child — especially one who they suspect might be the victim of a bully — is suffering from anxiety. If a child starts withdrawing from friendships, avoiding activities they previously enjoyed and in general isolating himself or herself from others, it may mean that treatment for anxiety is needed.

Helping Families

Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or by calling us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Making mental health part of everyday conversations

The campaign to reduce mental health stigma is a topic covered often in our blogs, and we proudly report progress is being made. The 2017 Colorado Access Survey of more than 10,000 households reported that stigma as a reason for not receiving services decreased to from 47.7 percent in 2015 to 38 percent. On that good note, we will keep working on it.

In continuing efforts to reduce stigma, the comment is often made that mental health issues are like other health issues. Further, they should be talked about openly to share information and in turn help those experiencing a mental health problem. The idea is that when we can talk about mental health as openly as we talk about a stomach ache, we are making progress. Increasing open conversations about how we feel is a positive shift.

Many parallels exist in considerations between general health and mental health. Interestingly a person with a mental health or a general health challenge does not always know they need help. That is where people need each other and need to watch out for each other. And while we want to talk openly as possible about mental health there is another parallel in privacy to remember. When someone is in treatment, he or she might not want to discuss all the details and symptoms that they are working through with their mental health professional, just as someone with a physical health issue may want some privacy. Compassion and paying attention are always key.

Upping your knowledge

We tend to talk about caring for our general health openly. To stay healthful in the winter, we talk about washing hands. All year round we talk about drinking enough water and eating vegetables. We talk about having enough exercise and the importance of walking. As it turns out all these habits support good mental health. Habits so key to mental health, such as having enough down time and a support system, connect with general health as well, and we should always encourage these conversations.

To counteract stigma and improve the environment, take time to sharpen your mental health knowledge and vocabulary. For example, it is good to know that someone who is clinically depressed would have at least one of two symptoms for at least two weeks: An unusually sad mood or a loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Statistically, a depressive disorder like this effects about nearly 7 percent of the United States population is a given year, and with professional help this can often be treated before the symptoms worsen.

Much in the way we discuss aches and pains before we make an appointment with a primary care physician, we should discuss: sadness, anxiety, guilt, mood swings, lack of emotional responsiveness, feeling of helpless, hopelessness and irritability in relation to mental health.

There are numerous sources online and in bookstores to learn about mental health, and if you would like to take a Mental Health First Class, which is often free, please visit Mental Health First Aid. The class teaches general mental health signs and symptoms, and how to assist someone who is facing a mental health challenge until help arrives.

Language skills

And as you learn more about mental health, please notice how to show respect to people with mental health concerns. For example, it is better to say, “Emily has schizophrenia,” than “Emily is a schizophrenic.” The label equates the person with the illness and perpetuates a negative label. Emily is a person, not a diagnosis. She has a mental illness, but it doesn’t define who she is as a person. Put the person first no the illness.

Other phrases that are preferred include saying someone is:

  • “being treated for” instead of “is suffering from”
  • “has a mental illness” as opposed to “is mentally ill”
  • “died by suicide” over “committed suicide” (because the word “committed” can be associated with committed a crime)

If you have a concern about yourself or one of your loved ones, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. To get more information about our metro Denver mental health centers visit communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.