Kinda blah: Just a sad day or depression?

Close-up of face of young Caucasian businesswoman sitting in deep thought with clasped hands

What is the difference between having a sad day and depression?

We know that the word “depression” is used in many ways.

“That movie was depressing,” is a common retort. And when something in the course of a day doesn’t go so well, we might hear someone say, “I am so depressed I didn’t complete the project,” or “I am so depressed the food did not taste as good as we had hoped,” or a student might say, “I am so depressed I bombed on the test.”

Depression and feeling sad or blue are two different things.

Two weeks of feeling blue can be a red flag. One definition of clinical depression means we see either an unusually sad mood or a loss of enjoyment and interest in activities that used to be enjoyed nearly every day for two weeks, according to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum, an internationally acclaimed public health education course provided at Community Reach Center.

In addition, the person may have these types of symptoms:

  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Feeling worthless or feeling guilty though not really at fault
  • Thinking often about death or wishing to be dead
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Moving more slowly or sometimes becoming more agitated and unable to settle
  • Having sleeping difficulties or sometimes sleeping too much
  • Loss of interest in food or habitually eating too much, leading to either weight loss or weight gain.

When the two-week timeframe and symptoms are evident, it might be time to reach out or encourage your loved one to reach out to a healthcare professional for assessment. One recent internet MHFA survey noted that the top three measures rated as most effective were: antidepressant medications, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and interpersonal psychotherapy. Engaging in self-help and support strategies is another important step. Self-help involves reaching out to available support, such as family, friends, faith communities, support groups or others who have experienced depression. And this can mean to encourage exercise, self-help books, relaxation training and light therapy.

For a case of the blahs, listening to music is often a good way to create a different mood.  Sometimes right after a vacation, we feel the letdown – so don’t hesitate plan something to look forward to. Heck, if it makes you feel better to count how many weeks until the next vacation, don’t hesitate. A few more ideas: Make a to-do list and work it. Spend time with people you love or do something for others. Exercise, of course.

The road to recovery is not often a straight line – like driving across a flatland state – so maintaining resolve and constant recommitment is important. We all have good days and bad days – as the saying goes we must take the good with the bad.   But if you are noticing symptoms persisting over a period of time – such as a two-week benchmark – it may be time to seek advice.

If you have concerns about depression or any other mental health questions, call Community Reach Center at 303-853-3500 to learn about our services. We have centers in the north Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

6 Tips for Letting Go of Regrets in Marriage Counseling

Couples who receive marriage counseling learn many skills for making their marriage stronger and more resilient. One of those skills is the ability to keep looking and moving forward in your relationship rather than focusing on the past. For some people, taking that approach means learning to let go of regrets. We’ve all said or done things we wish we hadn’t or encountered life events that didn’t turn out as we had hoped, however spending mental and emotional energy continually rehashing the past is unproductive.

Getting a Fresh Start

Being consumed with regret makes it hard to achieve the healing you are looking for in marriage counseling. Here are some strategies you can use to drop that baggage and move forward without it:

  1. Take steps to right your wrongs. It’s not always possible to “fix” something you’ve done that affected your spouse, but acknowledging it and offering a sincere apology is a positive step that can help you and your partner start moving forward.
  2. Keep in mind what you’ve learned. Just about everywhere you find regret you’ll find some wisdom as well. Rather than focusing on what was lost, reflect on what you learned and how it will make you a wiser person going forward.
  3. Get back in sync with your values. We often regret actions that we feel are “out of character” for us. Taking some time to remind yourself who you are and how you want to behave, and re-committing to living by your principles can help you let go of your embarrassment and disappointment in yourself.
  4. Broaden your perspective. Focusing on a single isolated incident can cause it to appear larger than it truly was. You may regret shouting at your spouse—and it’s certainly not a behavior you want to repeat—but when held up to all the times you’ve told them you love them, the incident may not be as damaging as you thought.
  5. Practice patience. No matter what strategy or strategies you use to let go of regrets, the passage of time is an important component. Regret is a strong emotion. Recognize that even when you stop reinforcing it, some time will have to elapse before it fades away.

 An Optimistic Outlook

Marriage counseling is a journey and the regrets that many people carry with them are very heavy. Take steps to let go of yours and you’ll find it much easier to heal your heart and your relationship. To learn about our marriage counseling services, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

While suicide may seem like the act of a person who simply no longer cares about life and doesn’t want to be helped, the truth is quite the opposite. People who attempt or complete suicide tend to care very deeply and desperately want to be helped.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a time of education and awareness, and an important reminder that we can support our loved ones by watching for signs that they are feeling suicidal and take action if we see them.

Understanding the Signs

In some cases, people kill themselves without conveying any observable indicators that they are planning to do so. However, in most cases, there are signs that someone is at risk of suicide. They include:

  • Lack of hope. Expressing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about life circumstances.
  • Talking about suicide. Talking or writing about self-harm or suicide—especially if it is frequent. 
  • Self-hatred. Expressing feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness.
  • Withdrawal. Pulling away from family and friends, and isolating themselves.
  • Seeking the means of suicide. Looking to obtain a weapon, drugs or other things that could be used to kill themselves.
  • Reckless behavior. Abusing drugs or alcohol, driving carelessly, taking unnecessary risks.
  • Preparing for the end. Actions like selling or giving away personal possessions and making out a will.
  • Saying goodbye. An increase in calls or visits to loved ones, and parting as if they won’t be seen again.
  • A sudden sense of calm. Unexpectedly being “at peace” when they had previously been anxious or depressed.

If you observe one or more of these behaviors, it should be cause for concern.

If You Are Worried, Speak Up

Talking with a person who you think may be suicidal can be difficult. However, it’s best to express your genuine concern. Here are some keys to having that conversation:

  • Be sympathetic. It’s easy to react in fear or anger when you think a loved one is suicidal, but it’s important to express yourself in a way that is as understanding and helpful as possible.
  • Ask the question. Ask the person directly if they are planning to kill themselves.  Not, “Are you thinking of hurting yourself” or any other non-specific question.
  • Listen more than talk. Allow the person to express whatever it is they’re feeling. Wait through pauses to allow them time to collect their thoughts.
  • Avoid the urge to “solve” the problem on the spot. Issues that lead to a person feeling suicidal are rarely the kind of thing that can be resolved quickly.
  • Offer hope. Depression, anxiety and other conditions that may lead to suicidal thoughts are treatable.
  • Provide consistent support. Knowing that they can count on you to help them as best you can will be a source of comfort to someone who is considering suicide.

Patience and understanding are key to helping a person who is considering suicide. However, if you feel a suicide attempt is imminent, take action. If the person will allow you to transport them to a hospital or mental health center, do so immediately. If they refuse, call 911, do your best to prevent access to any means of suicide, and stay with the person until help arrives.

Be Informed and Be Available
The best things you can do for a loved one you think may be considering suicide are to learn about the issue and let them know you are there for them. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn 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. And for immediate assistance for you or someone you know, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK(8255)

Tips for Overcoming Isolation Which Can Increase the Risk of Suicide

 

One of the behaviors of people with depression is that as the condition intensifies, they tend to isolate themselves. It can be difficult to be around people who are enjoying life when the ability to do so has been lost. While the desire to isolate is understandable, shunning contact with family, friends and the world, in general, can make a person more at risk for committing suicide.

This is especially true for seniors. Those who cut ties with loved ones are more prone to self-harm either through suicidal actions or inaction—such as discontinuing medication, foregoing food or hydration, etc. Loved ones should be especially proactive when a senior show signs of isolating. (Learn about our Senior Reach program.)

Ways to Overcome the Urge to Isolate

If you are depressed and find yourself wanting to pull away from the people who care about you, try these strategies:

Acknowledge that you are hurting. In our culture, there is a bias toward hiding our pain. Consequently, people with depression often want to spend more time alone where they can suffer without being noticed. When you are honest with yourself and your loved ones about your pain, it becomes easier to spend time with others since you are no longer hiding your condition.

Be kind to yourself. If admitting that you are in pain is the first step to overcoming an urge to isolate, the next is to go further and remind yourself that you are justified in feeling the way you do. Depression is an illness, not a choice. Give yourself credit for enduring all you have so far and resolve to stay connected with others.

Have reasonable expectations of yourself. People with depression sometimes set unachievable timelines for their recovery. “I need to be well enough to attend Sarah’s wedding.” Failing to meet these self-imposed deadlines is stressful, and that stress can make a person more likely to isolate and more prone to suicide. Consider gaining help from a clinician because they are skilled at identifying small achievable goals to make progress step by step.

Reach out to loved ones. In the same way that isolating is a decision, so is reaching out. It may be hard to do, but taking down the “Do Not Disturb” sign you’ve put up through your actions and asking to get together with the people who care about you can be a significant step in the right direction. 

Stick with these strategies. To be effective, all these strategies require persistence. For example, simply reaching out to a family member one time is not likely to send the message that you want and need ongoing connection. However, if you continue to show your interest in spending time with them, they’ll understand and start initiating the interactions.

The Power of Connection

If you have started to isolate but want to reverse that trend, it may be easiest to open up to a caring, compassionate person outside of your circle of family and friends first. And while these self-help strategies are helpful, a recent survey cited in our Mental Health First Aid manual notes that the top three measures rated most effective to address depression – antidepressant medications, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and interpersonal psychotherapy – require professional help. Do not hesitate to contact us for professional help or with any other questions if you or a loved one is grappling with these types of issues. Contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn about our services. We have centers in the north Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

What are risk factors of anxiety disorders?

Anxiety is caused mostly by perceived threats in the environment, but some people are more likely to react than others, we are informed in the Mental Health First Aid manual that accompanies our Mental Health First Aid courses at Community Reach Center.

According to the MHFA research, those more at risk include those who:

  • Have a sensitive nature and tend to see the world as threatening.
  • Have a history of anxiety in childhood or adolescence, including marked shyness.
  • Are female
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Have a traumatic experience

And the risks are increased by:

  • Difficult childhood
  • Family background that involves poverty or a lack of skills
  • Family history of anxiety disorders
  • Parental alcohol problems
  • Separation and divorce

Anxiety problems can also result from:

  • Medical conditions
  • Side effects to certain drugs
  • Intoxication with alcohol, cocaine, sedatives, and anti-anxiety medications.

There are many types of anxiety disorders, among them is GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), in the which main symptoms involve being overwhelmed, unfounded anxiety and worry about things that may go wrong or one’s inability to cope accompanied by multiple physical and psychological symptoms more days than not for six months. Numerous other anxiety disorders with similar symptoms can be described, but the things to consider are the general symptoms and whether to seek professional advice if needed. And it is importance to remember that anxiety untreated can develop into a range of adverse outcomes later in life.

At Community Reach Center, we are always glad to answer your questions. As was noted in an blog last week, mental health is an important part of your overall health and should have high priority.  If you would like professional advice for you or someone you care for, call 303-853-3500.

When to take a mental health day

Sometimes a mental health day is just what is needed notes author Amy Morin in Psychology Today. This article notes how mental health is part of our overall health and should be addressed proactively. 

Madalyn Parker, a web developer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, emailed her colleagues to say she’d be using two sick days to focus on her mental health. The company’s CEO, Ben Congleton, responded by thanking her for helping “cut through the stigma of mental health.” Parker shared his positive response on Twitter, and the story has gone viral as her tweet has sparked discussions across major media about workplace mental health.

Treat Mental Health Like Physical Health

If you had a cold, you might decide to power through your workday. But if you had the flu, you’d likely need to stay home and rest — and no one would call you "weak" for getting the flu. In fact, your co-workers would likely thank you for not coming into the office when you’re sick.

Mental health rarely gets the same respect. Instead, people are told to “get over it” when they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or similar issues. But mental health is part of your overall health. If you don’t proactively address it, you won’t be able to perform at your best.

When to Take a Mental Health Day

As a psychotherapist, I’ve helped many people determine whether they were mentally healthy enough to do their job. And much of it depends on the specific issue you’re grappling with and what kind of work you do.

I once worked with a bus driver who was struggling with depression. She struggled to maintain her concentration and would sometimes grow forgetful. It was clearly a safety concern, and she needed more than one mental health day — she needed a leave of absence to work on herself. Fortunately, most people in need of a mental health day aren’t in such a dire condition. Instead, they’re struggling to handle stress, regulate their thoughts, or manage their emotions. And a day or two away from the office might give them an opportunity to practice the self-care they need to get back on track.

Here are a few times when you might decide you need a mental health:

  1. When you’re distracted by something you need to address. If you’re behind on your bills and taking a day off to tackle your budget could help you feel as though you’re back in control, it may make sense to take a day to address it so you can reduce your anxiety.
  2. When you’ve been neglecting yourself. Just like electronic devices need recharging, it's important to take time to charge your own batteries. A little alone time or an opportunity to practice some self-care can help you perform better.
  3. When you need to attend appointments to care for your mental health. Whether you need to see your doctor to get your medication adjusted or you need to schedule an appointment with your therapist, taking a day off to address your mental health needs is instrumental in helping you be at your best.

Why Leaders Should Care About Employee’s Mental Health

It would be wonderful if all employers supported employee efforts to take care of their mental health in the same way Congleton did. But clearly the tweet went viral because most employers wouldn’t have had the same reaction, and that’s unfortunate because workplace mental health is important not just to individuals, but to the entire workforce.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services estimates that only 17 percent of the U.S. population is functioning at optimal mental health. And one in five people live with a diagnosable mental health condition at any given time.

The Center for Prevention and Health estimates mental illness and substance abuseissues cost employers as much as $105 billion annually. Reduced productivity, absenteeism, and increased health-care costs are just a few of the ways mental health issues cost employers money.

Fortunately, conversations like the one sparked by this tweet can be key to reducing the stigma that surrounds mental health. Clearly, people aren’t either mentally healthy or mentally ill: Mental health is a continuum, and we all likely have room for improvement. Taking a mental health day every once in a while could help you build mental strength and improve your mental health.

If you would like professional advice for you or someone you care for, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Summer Travel Tip: Managing Nocturnal Panic Attacks and Insomnia

Summer trips can be a fun way to see other parts of the country and create lasting memories. However, for those who suffer from anxiety disorder, being away from home and familiar routines can cause a worsening of symptoms that lead to other issues. In particular, heightened anxiety can lead to nocturnal panic attacks and insomnia. Thankfully, these issues can be addressed and increase the odds of getting the restful night’s sleep you need.

Nighttime Panic: More Common than You Might Think

People tend to think of panic attacks as episodes that occur exclusively during the day. However, nocturnal panic attacks are not uncommon. When they strike, it can be especially disorienting as you are half asleep and trying to understand what’s going on. They may result in you feeling especially vulnerable in darkness and because your family is sleeping and not available to comfort and reassure you.

Needless to say, a nighttime panic attack disturbs your sleep.This can be true both as the attack is underway and on subsequent nights if you get into bed fearing another attack may occur. This can result in recurring insomnia.

How to Manage a Nocturnal Panic Attack

Ideally, you should minimize the chances of a nocturnal panic attack while traveling by addressing your daytime anxiety. This may include things like having a detailed daily agenda, planning plenty of downtime between events, taking some of the comforts of home with you such as favorite snacks, etc. However, if you nevertheless experience a nighttime panic attack, there are things you can do to minimize the impact it has on you and on your chances of developing ongoing insomnia.

  • Wait a few minutes to see if you are able to fall back asleep relatively quickly. However, don’t wait too long, as frustration will only make matters worse.
  • If a rapid return to sleep is not an option, get out of bed and fully wake yourself.
  • Some people benefit from distraction techniques like reading a book or watching TV until they become sleepy.
  • For others, the best approach is to address the attack directly by accepting and observing it. In that case, it can be helpful to describe the attack and thoughts associated with it in a journal entry.
  • Use relaxation technique like meditation to create a calm state.
  • Don’t return to bed until you feel ready to sleep.

After a Nocturnal Panic Attack

If you experience a nighttime panic attack, you may feel compelled to take action the next day to ensure it doesn’t happen again, such as wearing yourself out through exercise or consuming alcohol or medication close to bedtime. However, keeping these plans at the forefront of your mind can raise your anxiety level and actually increase your chances of another attack. To whatever degree you can, it’s better to adopt a wait-and-see attitude and repeatedly remind yourself that if another attack occurs, the worst thing that happens is you lose some sleep — and that will actually make it easier to sleep the following night. The key is to resist the natural inclination to fear another nocturnal attack and to avoid putting too much effort into preventing it.

If you have questions about anxiety, nocturnal panic attacks, or insomnia, especially as you prepare for a summer trip, don’t hesitate to contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn about our services. We have centers in the Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Mental Illness More Common Than We Knew

Many of us experience a mental illness at one time or another, and treatment is often the answer to what is often a temporary condition. This Scientific American article notes “society should begin to view mental illnesses like bone breaks, kidney stones or common colds—as part of the normal wear and tear of life.”

By Aaron ReubenJonathan Schaefer

Most of us know at least one person who has struggled with a bout of debilitating mental illness. Despite their familiarity, however, these kinds of episodes are typically considered unusual, and even shameful.

New research, from our lab and from others around the world, however, suggests mental illnesses are so common that almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their lives. Most of these people will never receive treatment, and their relationships, job performance and life satisfaction will likely suffer. Meanwhile the few individuals who never seem to develop a disorder may offer psychology a new avenue of study, allowing researchers to ask what it takes to be abnormally, enduringly, mentally well.

Epidemiologists have long known that, at any given point in time, roughly 20 to 25 percent of the population suffers from a mental illness, which means they experience psychological distress severe enough to impair functioning at work, school or in their relationships. Extensive national surveys, conducted from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s, suggested that a much higher percentage, close to half the population, would experience a mental illness at some point in their lives.

These surveys were large, involving thousands of participants representative of the U.S. in age, sex, social class and ethnicity. They were also, however, retrospective, which means they relied on survey respondents’ accurate recollection of feelings and behaviors months, years and even decades in the past. Human memory is fallible, and modern science has demonstrated that people are notoriously inconsistent reporters about their own mental health history, leaving the final accuracy of these studies up for debate. Of further concern, up to a third of the people contacted by the national surveys failed to enroll in the studies.Follow-up tests suggested that these “nonresponders” tended to have worse mental health.

Our new study, published earlier this year in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (whose very name suggests an outdated understanding of the prevalence of mental illness), took a different approach to estimating disease burden. Rather than ask people to think back many years in the past, we instead closely followed one generation of New Zealanders, all born in the same town, from birth to midlife. We conducted in-depth check-ins every few years to assess for evidence of mental illness occurring during the preceding year.

We found that if you follow people over time, and screen them regularly using simple, evidence-based tools, the percentage of people who develop a diagnosable mental illness at any point in their lives jumps to well over 80 percent. In our cohort only 17 percent of study members did not develop a disorder, at least briefly, by middle age. Because we can’t be certain these individuals remained disorder-free in the years between assessments, the true proportion that never experienced a mental illness may be even smaller.

Put another way, our study shows that you are more likely to experience a bout of mental illness than you are to develop diabetes, heart disease or any kind of cancer whatsoever—combined. These findings have been corroborated by data from other similar cohorts in New Zealand, Switzerland and the U.S.

If you ever develop a psychological disorder, many assume you will have it for life. The newest research suggests, for the most common psychological complaints, this is simply not true. “A substantial component of what we describe as disorder is often short-lived, of lesser severity or self-limiting,” says John Horwood, a psychiatric epidemiologist and director of the longitudinal Christchurch Health and Development Study in New Zealand. (Horwood has found that close to 85 percent of the Christchurch study members develop a diagnosable mental illness by midlife).

This may be a useful message to spread. According to Jason Siegel, a professor of social psychology at Claremont Graduate University, people tend to be more sympathetic and helpful when they believe that a friend or co-worker’s health problems are temporary.

And individuals with mental illness need support. Even short-lived or self-limiting disorders can wreak havoc on a person’s life. To be classified as having a disorder, “an individual typically has to meet fairly stringent symptom criteria,” Horwood says. “There needs to be substantial impairment of functioning.”

To some, though, the new statistics on mental illness rates can sound a lot like the overmedicalization of “normal” human experience. Advocates for individuals with mental health concerns tend to disagree with this perspective. “I’m not at all surprised by these findings,” commented Paul Gionfriddo, president of Mental Health America, a national advocacy group. His organization views mental illnesses as common, “though not always enduring.” Three years ago Mental Health America launched a Web-based tool to allow individuals to discreetly screen themselves for possible psychological disorders. Since then over two million people have used the tool, with over 3,000 people a day now logging on to determine if they may have a condition that could benefit from treatment.

The widespread nature of mental illness unearthed by careful longitudinal research holds some implications for the way we study and treat disease in this country. To Gionfriddo, a former lawmaker who watched his son end up homeless and incarcerated following undiagnosed childhood schizophrenia, “one implication of these new studies is that we as a society will get tremendous benefit out of ubiquitous mental health screening.”

Although the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends mental health screening on a regular basis for everyone over age 11, such screening is still far from routine. “At a time when we have recognized the importance of early intervention for cancer or for diabetes or heart disease, why would we say, ‘Okay, for mental illness we aren’t going to screen or do early intervention’?” Gionfriddo says. “This should be as common for adults as blood pressure screening. Putting our head in the sand and waiting for a catastrophe is not a health care plan.”

Another implication stems from the fact that individuals who never develop a mental illness—those who experience what we call “enduring mental health”—are actually quite remarkable. These people may be the mental health equivalents of healthy centenarians: individuals who somehow manage to beat the odds and enjoy good health for much longer than we’d expect. It’s possible that studying the mentally robust more closely could provide insight into how we can help more people to enjoy lives like theirs.

Who are these extraordinary people? In our New Zealand cohort we found that those with enduring mental health tended to have two things going for them: First, they had little to no family history of mental illness and, second, they tended to have what we called “advantageous” personalities. As early as age five, individuals who would make it to midlife without an episode of mental disorder tended to display fewer negative emotions, get along better with their peers, and have greater self-control. Perhaps just as striking, we found that these individuals were not any richer, smarter or physically healthy than their peers, at least in childhood.

Ultimately, the most important suggestion from the newest research is that mental health concerns may be nearly universal. As a result, society should begin to view mental illnesses like bone breaks, kidney stones or common colds—as part of the normal wear and tear of life. Acknowledging this universality may allow us to finally devote adequate resources to screening, treating and preventing mental illnesses. It may also help us go easier on ourselves and our loved ones when we, inevitably, hit our own rough patches in the road.

If you would like professional advice for you or someone you care for, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tips for Tackling Insomnia So You Can Enjoy Your Summer Trip

Insomnia can be frustrating and exhausting at any time of year. But struggling with sleeplessness when you want to be enjoying the summer trip you’ve been looking forward to is especially irritating. So, before you hop on a plane or head out on your road trip, take action to get into a good groove with your sleep. That way you’ll have plenty of energy to enjoy your adventure.

Great Ways to Get More Zzzzzs

When you’re tossing and turning at night, it might feel like insomnia will never loosen its grip on you. However, there are a number of things you can do to increase your chances to have longer and better quality sleep. Try these proven strategies:

  • Create the proper sleeping environment. If possible, your bedroom should be dark, quiet and relatively cool. Those conditions signal the body that it’s time to rest. If noises outside your room catch your attention, you might consider playing some soft “white noise” to mask the sound. Consider purchasing a sleep mask to keep the light out when a dark room is not available.
  • Establish a consistent rhythm. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day helps your body understand when it should rest and when it should be active. Stick to a set schedule as much as possible.
  • Limit or eliminate naps. Your lack of sleep may make you want to nap during the day, but unfortunately, napping can make the insomnia worse. Your best bet to achieve a good night’s sleep is to go to bed feeling tired, and remember napping can mean you have more energy than you should at bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try not to consume caffeine late in the day. Or better yet, remove it from your diet altogether. Alcohol has a sedative effect on the body. However, that effect only lasts for a few hours after your last drink. After that, alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to get restful sleep and can cause frequent awakenings.
  • Don’t eat or drink just before bedtime. Activating your digestive system just before trying to sleep is a bad idea for multiple reasons, including things like heartburn that can make it hard to drift off. And, consuming fluids may result in one or more trips to the bathroom overnight.
  • Get regular exercise. Working out consistently can improve both the quality and the quantity of your sleep. And while the advice has always been to avoid exercising within three or four hours of bedtime, some recent studies are questioning that age-old wisdom. You should experiment to see what’s best for you.
  • Limit your activities in bed. Your bed should be used for sleeping and romance only. Watching TV, reading, paying bills and other activities teach your brain that this is a place where you should be doing other things, which makes it hard to “switch off” when you’re ready to sleep.
  • Reduce your stress. Worry is one of the main causes of insomnia for many people. There are a number of ways to decrease your stress including things like meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing, biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation to name just a few. Journaling about your concerns can also be beneficial as you get anxious thought onto paper and out of your head temporarily.

Get Some Sleep Before You Get on the Road

Your summer vacation is no time to be struggling with insomnia. Prepare for your trip by taking steps to manage it. We have programs for treating sleeplessness and associated. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to learn about our services. We have centers in the Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Self-Care Tips for Parents Traveling with a Child Who Has an Anxiety Disorder

Traveling with children can be challenging. Their natural energy can make it very difficult to sit still in a car or on a plane for extended periods. And taking them out of their normal routine can lead to issues like trouble sleeping and lack of appetite. When a child has an anxiety disorder, going on a trip can be especially stressful for them and their parents.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

There are multiple types of anxiety disorders. They include:

  • Panic disorder in which an episode strikes at random and can make the person feel like they are having a heart attack or suffocating
  • Social anxiety disorder in which a person experiences overwhelming worry about everyday social situations
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in which a person has ongoing unrealistic worries
  • Phobias in which a person has an intense aversion to a specific object or action

While these disorders differ somewhat from one another, all anxiety disorders share some common symptoms such as:

  • Fear and uneasiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Inability to remain calm or to be still
  • Sweaty, numb, cold or tingling hands or feet
  • Excessive muscle tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea

In children with an anxiety disorder, traveling can intensify one or more of these symptoms. And if it does, parents can feel the effects as well.

Take Time for Self-Care

If your travels involve flying, you will see the presentation from flight attendants about using the oxygen mask and how you should apply yours first before helping someone else with theirs. That concept applies to mental health situations as well. In order to help your child have a travel experience that is as positive as possible, you need to ensure that you tend to your mental and emotional health too.

Here are some things you can do to address your own needs on a trip with a child who has anxiety:

  • Include plenty of downtime in your agenda. Ensuring that there are many “rest times” in your days will help your child be more calm, which in turn will help you be more relaxed.
  • Tag-team care. If you are traveling with another adult, find times when each of you can get off on your own for a bit while the other person takes care of the child.
  • Consider taking a trusted caregiver with you. If you have a babysitter or nanny that your child trusts, you can take them with you on the trip so you and your spouse or significant other can have some time away from parenting together.
  • Have a fun way to fill nap time. If your child naps during the day, take advantage of that time to read a book, watch a favorite TV show or movie, play cards or do anything you enjoy.
  • Be aware of meal times. Meal times during vacations may fluctuate. While adults can skillfully skip meals and/or go with late dinners, this suspension from routine is not as comfortable for some children who may understandably become irritable when hungry.
  • Plan a post-vacation vacation. Schedule some time for after you return from your vacation when you can relax before resuming your normal routine. Having that time to look forward to can make it easier to handle the challenges that come up on your trip.

Your Strategy for a Successful Summer Vacation

Your child’s anxiety doesn’t have to diminish the fun of your vacation. By coming up with a strategy, you can ensure that the whole family enjoys the trip. If you have questions about childhood anxiety or any mental health concern, please contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.