Trauma-Informed Care: Why Our Crisis Center Uses This Approach

Talking with doctor about trauma

Merriam-Webster defines trauma as “a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury.” This state can develop as a result of a wide range of stressors including abuse, witnessing violence, experiencing homelessness or being affected by a natural disaster. A large percentage of the people we see in our crisis center have had trauma-inducing experiences at some point in their life. The same is true for other providers of behavioral health services. This trauma often contributes to the development of mental illness and co-occurring conditions like chronic health issues, eating disorders and substance abuse, as well as contact with the criminal justice system.

 

Symptoms of Trauma

People who experience trauma may exhibit a number of symptoms. These signs can occur immediately after the experience or may not surface until a later time, and include:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Self-blame or guilt
  • Withdrawal from people and activities
  • Loss of memories
  • Inability to relax
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Disbelief
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Feeling emotionally numb or unable to relate to others

 

What is Trauma-Informed Care? 

Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) is an approach in which an organization like our crisis center ensures that all staff members understand the impact that trauma can have on a person’s mental and emotional health. Team members also learn about triggers that can cause the person additional stress and how to avoid them and prevent new trauma.

Behavioral health organizations trained in delivering TIC exhibit certain characteristics, including that they: 

  • Respect the need of survivors to be well-informed about their treatment and hopeful about their recovery
  • Educate all staff members, from care providers to business staff and leadership, on the effects of trauma so that a culture of compassion is developed and maintained
  • Have a deep understanding of the many ways that trauma can manifest in a survivor (depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Recognize the importance of collaborating with survivors, their loved ones and other human services agencies to support recovery
  • Work continually to destigmatize mental illness

 

How to Respond to Trauma

If you have experienced trauma, there are certain steps you should take to address it and lessen its impact on your mental and emotional health. First, if the trauma-inducing issue is ongoing, you should attempt to remedy it if possible. Next, you should talk about the trauma with a trusted friend or loved one. Simply expressing your thoughts and feelings can be very helpful. It is also important that you take care of your physical health while working to overcome trauma, including avoiding the use of substances as a coping mechanism.

Finally, please take advantage of resources like Community Reach Center. Remember our Colorado Crisis Services line at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) for immediate needs. We have a 24-hour walk-in center in Westminster at 2551 W. 84th Ave. and there are several other centers in the Denver metro area. As a highly respected crisis center in the Denver metro area, we use Trauma-Informed Care to help people take a proactive approach to their mental health challenges. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or call 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.

February is American Heart Month. What is the Connection to Mental Health Services?

Mother and daughter holding handsFebruary is American Heart Month. The federally designated observation puts the focus on heart disease and stroke, which are the number one and number five killers of Americans respectively. In Colorado, it kicked off recently with the Annual Wear Red Day to draw attention to the importance of achieving and maintaining good heart health. The month also emphasizes the importance of mental health services, as heart health and mental health are more intertwined than many people may know.

 

The Heart Health/Mental Health Connection

Heart disease and mental health challenges involving depression and anxiety are often what are referred to as “co-occurring conditions.” This means that a person suffers both from cardiovascular issues and, for example, depression. The relationship between the physical and mental conditions is complex, with each having the potential to be a cause and a result of the other.

For instance, a person who has had a heart attack and as a result has limitations on physical activity may become depressed about the situation. Or, a person who suffers from depression may stop exercising and develop a generally unhealthy lifestyle, which causes their physical fitness, including their heart health, to deteriorate.

And, depression isn’t the only mental health challenge related to heart health. A person who has been diagnosed with heart disease may fear a heart attack or other cardiac events and as a result develop anxiety. That anxiety may play a role in raising blood pressure, which worsens the heart condition.

 

The Good News: Both Heart Disease and Mental Health Conditions are Treatable

Fortunately, people can take steps to improve both their heart health and their mental health. The first is to evaluate where you are today. Ideally your physician and a trained mental health professional will work with you on these assessments. However, you should also be aware of the symptoms.

 

Signs of heart disease will vary based on the specific condition, but may include:

  • Pain, tightness, pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain in the neck, back, upper abdomen, jaw or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain, weakness, numbness or cold feeling in the legs or arms
  • Racing or slow heartbeat, or fluttering in the chest
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet
  • Fatigue, especially if it occurs easily with exertion or activity

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or irritability
  • No longer enjoying favorite activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Lack of energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering facts
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Excessive appetite or no appetite
  • Difficulty managing everyday obligations

Signs of anxiety may include:

  • Persistent worried feeling
  • Inability to relax
  • Unexplained intense fear or panic
  • Rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, trembling, sweating or feeling faint
  • Avoidance of potentially anxiety-inducing situations
  • Uncontrollable and recurring worrisome thoughts

 

Whether you experience any of the above heart health or mental health symptoms with another condition or independently, it is important to talk with your doctor about them. Both heart disease and mental health conditions are treatable, and the sooner you get help, the better your outcome is likely to be.

 

Mental Health Services for Whole-Body Wellness

At Community Reach Center, our focus is on providing mental health services. We know that mental and emotional health are a key component of whole-body health, and we strive to help people reach their holistic wellness goals. To learn more, visit communityreachcenter.org or call us 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.

 

Gain awareness of physical and mental health challenges for seniors

Various advertisements for seniors – often involving sailing or hiking – celebrate that it is no small accomplishment to live long enough to become old. It’s so true, and worth a smile every time. With mounting milestones, we know that aging doesn’t get any easier due to evolving physical and mental health considerations. It is important to understand this late-life stage for yourself and your loved ones.

Growing numbers

Services for seniors have advanced through the decades and the needs will be greater than ever. Due to the aging baby boomers and increases in life expectancy, the senior population is dramatically increasing.

The number of adults aged 65 and older will almost double between 2005 and 2030 from 37 million to more than 70 million, accounting for a population increase of 12 to 20 percent. Consequently, if the prevalence of mental health disorders among older adults remains unchanged, the number of older adults with mental and substance use disorders will nearly double from about 8 million to about 14 million over the next two decades, as noted in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum.

MHFA is a public health education training that teaches participants how to recognize symptoms of mental health problems, how to provide initial help, and how to guide a person toward appropriate treatments and other supportive help.

Information from MHFA points out that most older adults go through their later years in good mental health while they experience circumstances that can elevate their risk for mental illness. Depression and anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems that develop, and one in four people 55 and older experience a mental health disorder that is not part of the normal aging process.

A concerning statistic is that fewer than 40 percent of older adults with mental or substance use disorders (SUD) get treatment. Further, those who receive treatment from primary care physicians were provided adequate care only 15 percent of the time.

Health conditions

In any event, it is important to advance your general knowledge about common health conditions that raise the risk for late-life mental health problems. They include: heart disease and recent heart attack, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), migraines, thyroid disease, stroke, brain injury, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, acute chronic infection, dementia, conditions reducing mobility and function, conditions that are painful, and use of multiple medications.

Life circumstances

In turn, common life circumstances raise the risk for late-life mental health and substance use problems. Those include: onset of pain and disability, sensory deficits (vision and hearing loss), loss of loved ones, retirement or job loss, financial difficulties, mobility and functional challenges, change in lifestyle or living arrangements, threats to independence and autonomy, loss of social supports, challenges to self-esteem, cognitive changes, fear or prolonged distress, sleep disturbances, decline in health status, uses of certain over-the-counter or prescription medications or multiple medication use, prior depressive episode or family history of depression, providing care to a dependent person, and extended or longstanding bereavement.

So many factors

As you read these lists, you may instantly recognize signs and symptoms in yourself or your relations. For older adults, it is also good to know that mental health problems often “co-exist” with other health problems, and, most of all, remember that people are never too old to recover and have better quality lives.

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. Additionally, our website has a link to sign up for free Mental Health First Aid courses.  

Learn About Family Counseling as National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week Approaches

Father hugging sonNational Drug and Alcohol Facts Week  is Jan. 22-27. This important observance is designed to give teens and their families helpful, accurate information on drug and alcohol use. Too often a teen’s attitude toward substance abuse is shaped by influences in movies, TV shows, music and video games that don’t accurately depict the toll that substance use can take on them, their friends and families.  

A wide variety of events and the distribution of science-based materials aims to bust the many myths about drug and alcohol use during National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Many parents find that the observance can create positive momentum toward intervening in a teen’s substance abuse through treatments like family counseling.

 

7 Tips for Talking With Teens About Drugs and Alcohol

At the core of National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is the idea that teens who have accurate information about substance abuse and open lines of communication with their parents and other adults are empowered to make smart choices about their behavior. To make that vision a reality, parents must initiate a dialog with their adolescent children.

Below are seven key concepts to keep in mind as you take that first step:

1) Give your teen ample notice. Conversations about drug and alcohol use can be difficult. If a teen is caught off guard, a common reaction is to become defensive and uncommunicative. On the other hand, a teen who has some time to gather their thoughts is much more likely to be open and engaged in the conversation. 

2) Start talking with your children when they are young. Many children have their first experience with drugs or alcohol earlier than parents might think — before they are even teenagers in some cases. Ideally, you should open a dialog before they begin experimenting.

3) Don’t make accusations or demand information. Unless you know for certain that your teen is using drugs or alcohol, you should not accuse them of doing so. You also should not demand that they disclose information about their behavior or that of their peers. The goal of this conversation is to encourage openness going forward and to indicate your willingness to be a resource for your teen.

4) Avoid scare tactics. While there are many serious consequences of drug or alcohol abuse, you should not attempt to shock your teen into abstinence. Doing so may make them hesitant to have conversations with you in the future. 

5) Set expectations and discuss consequences. Be sure your teen is clear on your rules regarding substance abuse and what the consequences are for breaking those rules. Then, be sure to follow through if the need arises.

6) Give your teen a safe way out of difficult situations. Let your teen know that they can call or text you at any time of the day or night and you will come to get them, no questions asked. 

7) Consider professional help. If you think opening a dialog with your teen will be too difficult, it may be helpful to have a therapist participate in the conversation.

 

Helping Teens and Families Find Common Ground Through Family Counseling 

Community Reach Center provides a wide variety of mental and emotional health services to help teens and families come to an agreement on issues around drug and alcohol use. This includes individual counseling, family counseling and other treatments. To learn more, visit communityreachcenter.org or call us 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.

Mental Health Apps? A Mental Health Center Highlights Some Helpful Tools.

Woman using mental health appThere is no substitute for the assistance of a trained mental health professional in some situations. In other scenarios, however, a mental health app may provide all the insight and encouragement a person needs. At our mental health center, we encourage people to take advantage of the full spectrum of mental health treatments as needed, from regular in-person counseling sessions to free or low-cost mobile apps.

 

There’s an App for That

The number of digital tools that can be used to supplement professional therapy is growing rapidly. For people who can’t get in to see a counselor as often as they would like to, these apps can serve as a bridge between sessions. While no one is predicting that mental health apps will ever be sophisticated enough to empower the kind of results that come from highly-personalized sessions with a therapist, they are improving with each iteration.

Here are just a few of the low-cost or free apps that may be helpful for people with mild mental and emotional health challenges:

 

MoodKit

Based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), MoodKit offers more than 200 unique mood improvement activities. The app was created by two clinical psychologists, and helps users generate self-awareness and practice more effective self-care.

 

Quit That!

This app is designed to help users break bad habits and beat addiction. From alcohol and drugs to cigarettes, Quit That! makes it easy to monitor and track your progress toward being addiction-free.

 

Stigma

What are the words you use most often when describing your mood in the app’s journal? Stigma uses a “word cloud” to help you visualize your emotional landscape as an aid in navigating it more successfully.

 

Headspace

Headspace is a popular app that provides guided meditation instruction. There are hundreds of lessons covering everything from basic techniques to specific meditations designed to help with stress, sleep issues, focus and much more.

 

Mind Shift

Created for use by teens and young adults, Mind Shift doesn’t encourage users to avoid anxious thoughts and feelings, but instead to change the way they look at anxiety. Its goal is to encourage people to take charge of their lives and to make it through the tough periods that inevitably arise.

 

Rise Up and Recover

Designed for people who are recovering from an eating disorder, this app enables users to log the meals they eat and how they feel in general, with an option for generating a printable PDF of their progress. It also provides quick coping skills for users who are feeling the urge to skip a meal or binge eat.

 

These are just a sampling of the long (and growing) list of mental health apps available. If you are struggling with a particular mental or emotional health challenge, it may be beneficial to search the app store on your mobile device to see if there is a digital tool that can help.

 

A Mental Health Center That’s Here When You Need More Than an App

Apps are great for encouraging and enabling self-care. However, some mental or emotional health challenges reach a level where you need guidance from a trained professional. Community Reach Center is a mental health center staffed by skilled and experienced counselors who can provide the help you need to bring your life back into balance. 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.

A regular general health check-up makes a good mental health move

One of the best items to put on your new year calendar is an appointment with your primary care physician or PCP. This habit is so very important for your general health and – as it turns out – for your mental health.

When you have concerns about your mental health it can be understandably tough to seek advice. It helps to have an established relationship with someone you trust – ideally someone who knows you and your past.

One answer? Look to your family physician or PCP when you have mental health concerns. They play an important role in your overall health – general and behavioral. In fact, the development of integrated care, the systematic coordination of general and behavioral health care, has been advancing for many years. PCPs are becoming more and more skilled in identifying behavioral health concerns in their patients..

Once you describe what you are facing, a physician may ask a few questions about signs and symptoms, and your environment in general terms. Ideally, PCPs are trained to know when to refer a problem to someone else when it goes beyond their expertise or ability to address. At the same time, mild physical or behavioral issues can be appropriately cared for in a primary care setting without specialists.

If you are given a referral and you acquire behavioral health care services, perhaps with prescribed medication, it is always comforting to have your PCP still guiding your general health care on the road to complete good health.

Additionally, a good PCP can be of help even when you might not be aware you need assistance because he or she has established the trust to obtain candid responses from general questions, such as: How are things at home, do you feel safe, how much do you worry, how well do you sleep or how well are you eating?

What if I don’t have a primary physician?

Finding a primary care physician can be a challenge. Sometimes people get off track when they move, switch doctors or providers, and they simply need to make a concerted effort to reconnect. Sometimes securing a PCP has just not been happening for a variety of reasons, so establishing a new habit requires a lifestyle shift.

But let’s stop right there for a moment. If you have a pressing mental health concern, don’t worry about securing a PCP first, please call our Colorado hotline at 1-844-493-(TALK) 8255. These very helpful confidential services are provided 24/7 and associated with six walk-in crisis centers throughout the Denver-Boulder metro area. 

Now back to a PCP search. First, allow plenty of time to research and make your decisions. Many people find it takes longer than expected. Most insurance companies have a “find a doctor” tool to help sure you stay within your insurance network and consider the options. There you will find information about experience and perhaps patient reviews. Or to reach Colorado’s Medicaid Program, the link is Colorado Health First.

Secondly, when you secure a first visit, it is very smart to do some prep work: 1) Have a good grasp of your health care history: prescriptions, chronic conditions and previous procedures; 2) Write down questions you have well in advance, so you cover them all. Appointments can go rather quickly; and 3) Ask the best way to share medical information with the office ahead of time. Sometimes sending information in advance is very helpful.

Here to help

Integrated care is making significant strides. Consequently regular visits with a primary care physician goes a long way toward peace of mind in good general and behavioral health. If you have a mental health concern about yourself or a loved one, we are glad to consult with you at Community Reach Center. Further we can assist with integrated care options through our Mountainland Pediatrics center and through our Health Home program. 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.

 

Finding the right words to help

One big key to helping someone is providing a good mix of listening and well-chosen words.

When you are concerned about someone who may be struggling in the aftermath of a traumatic event, depression, substance use disorder (SUD) or just plain having a garden-variety bad day, trust your instinct to reach out. Of course, the natural worry is always what to say, what words to use.

You might first ask: “How are you feeling?” or perhaps a little stronger, “I am concerned about you, are you okay?”

Then just listen. Listen some more. If a long pause seems a little uncomfortable, just wait and be patient in the silence. It’s not uncommon for someone who is not feeling well to need a bit more time to express their thoughts. Perhaps ask a question again, but be prepared to respectfully pull away if through active listening you get a sense that the time is clearly not right for this conversation.

And when the talking starts, your acquaintance or loved one may gush with comments or slowly measure each word to share thoughts. Either way, let him or her have the floor. Listen and let your words be calm and of comfort. Good listening is key to helping you find the words you need.

The Mental Health First Aid course, offered across the globe, coaches participants to “Listen Nonjudgmentally,” as a key step in a five-step action plan. When you respond, be empathetic.  Your acknowledgement of that person’s emotional pain can be a tremendous source of comfort to them. Resist the temptation to tell a story about something similar that you may have experienced. Instead concentrate on understanding what he or she is sharing. Most importantly, not judging also means avoiding cliché responses like “man up” or “snap out of it” or “stop thinking about it” as if what they are experiencing is minor.

Mental Health First Aid courses involve a mix of listening and responding skills with knowledge and identification of signs and symptoms. The five steps in full are: 1) Assess for risk of suicide or harm, 2) Listen non-judgmentally, 3) Give reassurance and information, 4) Encourage appropriate professional help, 5) Encourage self-help and other support strategies.  Visit Mental Health First Aid Colorado to locate a class at a date and location that is convenient for you.

Words and phrases

Here are a few more tips:

1) Show you are listening. Sit together. Perhaps offer to go to a quiet place. Some good words might be “I am here for you. Let’s go for a walk and talk.”

2) Be empathic. Some good words might be “I can see that that is painful for you.”

3) Clearly offer to help. Some good words to express your sincere offer might be, “How can I help you right now?” or “Let me bring you dinner tonight, would that okay?”

4) Breathe. Offer to breath together. Perhaps suggest taking three deep breathes. Maybe it will work or maybe you both will crack up and start laughing. Either way the power of doing something together moves the discussion forward.

Trust your intentions along the way

Give yourself permission to show you care, knowing you might not muster the perfect words at the right time – especially following a traumatic event. A passage in the Mental Health First Aid manual sums it up this way:

“When talking to someone who has experienced a traumatic event, it is more important to be genuinely caring than to say the right things. Show the person that you understand and care and ask how you can best help. Speak clearly and avoid clinical and technical language, and communicate with the person as an equal, rather than as a superior or an expert. If the person seems unable to understand, you may need to calmly repeat yourself. Providing support doesn’t have to be complicated; it can involve small things like spending time with the person, having a cup of tea or coffee, chatting about day-to-day life, or giving a hug.”

As to giving a hug, it’s courteous to first ask permission if it’s someone outside your immediate family, but the point is to trust yourself. Showing you care will help to make your words ring true.

Finding the right words is key to helping someone with a mental health challenge or anything else. 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.

6 Ways to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Woman going over her new years resolutionsThe arrival of the new year is a great time to make a fresh start in how you address your physical, mental and emotional health. Many people make New Year’s resolutions to get more exercise, quit smoking, eat better, start a meditation practice, etc. Unfortunately, too often our initial enthusiasm quickly fades, and we abandon those health initiatives. Does that mean we simply shouldn’t make resolutions in the first place? No, not at all. As we tell people at our family counseling center, committing to improving your health and your life in general is a very good thing. The key is to approach those promises in a way that helps you keep them. 

 

Six Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

Even before you set your first goal for next year, resolve to read this list of tips for sticking with your resolutions!

  1. Be selective. Most of us have many areas of our lives where we could make improvements. However, changing behaviors takes significant effort. Choose too many objectives and you will likely struggle to have the time or energy to achieve any of them.
  2. Start slowly. If your goal is to exercise regularly, and ultimately you want to be working out five days each week, start by committing to one or two. Gradual changes in your routine are much more likely to become habits and then ongoing behaviors.
  3. Discuss your intentions and your progress. Letting a friend or family member know what you are attempting to do can both help you feel a sense of accountability and give you someone to talk to about your successes and setbacks.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Few people have ever made a New Year’s resolution and then stuck with it without fail. When you backslide a bit, know that you are not alone and also that there’s no reason you can’t pick up right where you left off on the resolution when you’re ready to do so.
  5. Keep a journal. Jotting some quick notes regularly about how things are going with your resolution can be very enlightening. For one thing, it can help you identify patterns that may be useful in making changes to your routine. For example, if you frequently indicate that you didn’t enjoy your Monday trip to the gym, perhaps Monday should be a rest day and you would enjoy the workout more on Tuesdays.
  6. Give yourself a pass for real-life interruptions. You get the flu and can’t work out for a week. Your work schedule gets hectic and you have to eat fast food on the run more than you’d like. While you need to hold yourself accountable to keep your resolutions, there will be times that life makes it essentially impossible. Don’t count those instances as “breaking” your resolution; think of them as “pausing” it!

 

Okay, Okay, But Can I Make it Fun?

These six tips will work for you. However, not all resolutions in the mix have to be entirely earnest. Sometimes a playful resolution mixed with the serious ones can help you stay mindful of all your resolutions. It can be fun. Here are a few: 1) Play a board game with your family once a month; 2) Send a birthday card to all your relatives; 3) Improve your handwriting; 4) Have a Super Saturday with each family member through the year in which each picks a fun activity to enjoy with you; or 5) Write down the best jokes you hear through the year on your smartphone to share at the end of the year. Remember laughing is good for your mental health. You get the idea.

 

Helping Make Steady Progress Toward Your Goals

New year’s resolutions can improve your mental and emotional health, but sometimes the insights of a skilled counselor are required to overcome mental health challenges. Please don’t hesitate to seek help. Contact us online or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our family counseling services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

 

9 Tips for Enjoying Stress-Free Holidays

Woman deep in thought

The holidays can be a wonderful time of joy and celebration with family and friends. However, they can also be a source of anxiety and stress. Fortunately, steps can be taken to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable. As a provider of mental health services, we encourage our consumers to be proactive and to celebrate in the ways that work best for them.

 

Festivities That Fit Your Lifestyle

Too often the holidays are focused on pleasing others in everything from the way we decorate to the gifts we give. That feeling of being “out of control” is one of the main reasons that the holidays can be stressful. Use the nine tips below to make the season more fun and festive.

  1. Make decisions early. Should I serve ham or turkey? White lights or colored lights outside? Real tree or artificial tree? There are no right or wrong answers to these kinds of questions. Rather than pondering them endlessly, give them brief consideration, make a decision and move on.
  2. Set a gift budget and stick to it. Financial stress is an unfortunate aspect of the holidays for many people, especially when they spend more than they had intended. Set a reasonable budget for gift purchases, write it down and stick to it.
  3. Consider a break from tradition. Enjoying the holidays in the same way each year can be a source of comfort, but it can also start to feel restrictive. Don’t hesitate to break from certain traditions if doing so will lower your stress level.
  4. Take care of your mind and body. In the last few months of the year, it’s easy for all the activities and obligations to push the things you do to maintain your mental and physical health to the back burner. Don’t let that happen. Eat well, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, pray or meditate and in general make an effort to be good to yourself.
  5. Learn to say “No.” The demands on your time during the holidays can be overwhelming. Make a list of all the activities you could participate in and then scratch items off the list until you have a reasonable agenda. It may be hard to do, but it is well worth the effort.
  6. Overcome perfectionist tendencies. Trying too hard to make everything about the holidays “perfect” is a major source of stress. Remind yourself frequently that letting go of perfectionism lets you get a better hold on happiness!
  7. Ask for help. As they say, “Many hands make light work.” Get other family members involved in decorating, cooking and cleaning. They may groan at first, but they will likely find that shared tasks bring a sense of camaraderie that makes the holidays more fun.
  8. Go tech-free now and then. Especially during holiday meals and events, put your smartphone away and ask that others do the same. The constant distraction of alerts and updates can keep your body and mind in a perpetual “fight or flight” state that can be exhausting.
  9. Focus on gratitude. If the holidays have been stressful for you in the past, it’s easy to have expectations that the same will be true this year. Rather than thinking about the negative aspects of prior holidays, keep redirecting your mind to the things you are grateful for. It can be difficult to break free from pessimistic thought patterns, but if you are persistent, you can do it!

 

Social Anxiety Disorders and the Holidays

The holidays can be especially stressful for people who have a social anxiety disorder. Using the tips above can be helpful, but consider professional mental health services for you or a loved one. A skilled counselor can talk about specific situations and help to develop strategies for navigating the unique challenges of this time of year.

Fill out our contact form or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our counseling services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

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.