Strategies for Managing Anxiety Caused by Holiday Spending

It’s the most wonderful time of year, or is it? The pressure around the holidays to spend money on gifts, host get-togethers or carry out other perceived obligations can cause or exacerbate anxiety. But, there are a number of steps you can take to minimize stress and maximize enjoyment of the season.

Tips for Keeping Your Seasonal Stress Level Low

Rather than resigning yourself to the “inevitable” holiday overspending and accompanying stress and anxiety, use some or all of these strategies to take charge of your actions and your outlook:

  • Focus on your physical health first. What does your health have to do with your finances? The holidays are busy times packed with events that often include delicious but unhealthy dishes. We tend to consume much more sugar and alcohol at this time of year. What’s more, your packed agenda may mean you choose to skip your workout occasionally or entirely until after the first of the year. As a result, your body isn’t as well-fueled or fit. And when our energy level drops, it’s easy for our stress level to rise. Be sure to eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep during the holidays.
  • Set a budget for every person on your gift list. Heading to the store or getting online with no parameters around what you’ll spend on a particular person is a recipe for overspending. Choose an amount in advance and stick to it. If you have a chance to go window shopping with your loved ones, this can be a good way to get gift ideas and discuss how much you are willing to spend, which helps to manage expectations. Window shopping is a little bit of an old-fashioned activity in our digital world, but the keep-moving combination of walking, talking, looking, chatting and laughing can be a stress reducer. Go soon, before the pressure builds.  
  • Do your research. Before making a purchase, do some checking to see if it can be found at another store for less, if there is a coupon that will reduce the price, etc. Not only will you save money, the feeling of being more in control of how much you spend is empowering. Shopping online provides a convenient way to compare products and read reviews. Having items delivered to your home can reduce the stress of holiday traffic as well.
  • Remind yourself frequently of the reason you are celebrating. Gift giving (and receiving) is fun, but the real joy of the season comes from our interactions with friends, family and even strangers on the street. You know this, and your gift recipients know it as well. Be confident in giving gifts of whatever amount you feel comfortable with.
  • Plan a one-day shopping blitz. For many people, repeated trips to the mall elevate their stress level. Always shop from a list, and if you can, plan a day when you can go from top to bottom in one outing.
  • Pay with cash. Whenever you can pay for holiday expenses with cash. Large credit card bills that come due in January are an unwelcome second serving of holiday stress and anxiety.
  • Don’t procrastinate. If shopping causes you stress, it’s easy to find reasons to put it off. Unfortunately, that delay tends to lead to even greater stress as your gift-giving deadline approaches. Make your list, do your shopping, and then sit back and truly enjoy the season.

One More Stress-Reduction Strategy

By using the tips above, you can better manage your holiday-induced financial anxiety. However, if you need to talk with someone about your mental and emotional health at the holidays or anytime, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Utilizing our services is another strategy for helping to make the holidays merrier. 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 north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Wellness and Pet Care Go Side By Side

Health Literacy Month is a good time to tackle medical terms and concepts, which we have covered in recent blogs. And it is also a time to think about healthy habits. The common activity of caring for a pet can play directly into good health. This blog from Scientific American points out having a pet increases interaction with family and community, helps to encourage routines and often provides regular exercise – all good for mental health. The article notes that pet owners describe receiving what psychologists call “social support” from those that they meet while caring for their pets, a type of interaction that often breaks the surface and can involve sharing a concern or advice. 

To learn more about Community Reach Center services, contact us at communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Word by word: Learning about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Health Literacy Month provides an opportunity to focus on health information within the context of terminology. It’s important. Having an accurate idea about what a mental health word or concept means is key whether you are helping someone else or helping yourself. And why is mental health treatment so important? Because statistics tell us that left untreated, the person experiencing a mental illness will quite often get worse and even suffer a shortened lifespan.
We have introduced other terms during the month, so for this blog, let’s just take one item. How about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? That is quite a mouthful – 11 syllables – but in some ways the practice is not so complex.
A very short definition is: when someone considers their thoughts and reactions, and “changes the way” they think. In fact, a clinician could be considered a bit of a “coach” in the aid of a consumer on a journey.
The Mayo Clinic has a longer, excellent definition that reads:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common type of talk therapy (psychotherapy). You work with a mental health counselor (psychotherapist or therapist) in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions. CBT helps you become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.
CBT can be a very helpful tool in treating mental health disorders, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or an eating disorder. But not everyone who benefits from CBT has a mental health condition. It can be an effective tool to help anyone learn how to better manage stressful life situations.
In Mental Health First Aid courses provided by Community Reach Center, we share a cartoon that shows numerous perspectives several people at a bus stop can have when a bus is late. It ranges from a child who is happy to be late for school to an adult quite unhappy about being late for work. The cartoon illustrates how differently the eventualities of life are viewed by each individual.
The MHFA course notes that CBT has strong effectiveness that includes:
• Education about self-managing anxiety.
• Problem solving where the person and the clinician work to identify problems and design solutions.
• Exposure response therapy to feared situations to overcome avoidance behavior.
• Focusing on identifying automatic negative thoughts and considering alternative ways of thinking.
• Emotion regulation through relaxation and learning detachment from strong anxiety.
• Social skills development to use in anxiety-provoking situations.
• And a relapse prevention plan for coping with anxiety if it returns.
A person can undertake a CBT program in a number of ways - including self-help books. The National Council for Behavioral Health is a good place to begin research at www.TheNationalCouncil.org. 
To learn more about Community Reach Center services, contact us at communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Tips for Talking with a Loved One About Depression, Anxiety or other Mental Illness

Starting a conversation with a loved one who you believe needs treatment for a health condition can be challenging. When that condition involves mental health illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, it can be especially difficult. While people generally wouldn’t object if you encourage them to better manage an illness like diabetes, their reaction may be different if you try to talk with them about mental illness.

In the Mental Health First Aid program,  we encourage people to be gentle and patient when talking with a loved one. Often it takes time for a person to realize to seek help and make some changes that will be better for them and those around them in the long run. If you give them some time to process your conversation before talking with them again, it’s much more likely that they will be receptive to the idea.

How to Break the Ice

One of the most effective ways to start a conversation with a family member or friend about mental health treatment for conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and others is to ask questions. Here are some examples:

  • I’m concerned about you. Can we talk about what you are going through? And if you prefer not to talk with me, who would you be most comfortable talking with?
  • I want you to know that I care about you and will always listen if there are life challenges you are struggling with and want to discuss. Are there things you want to talk about now?
  • Can I help start a conversation with your friend/parents/significant other etc. about what you’re going through right now?
  • I’m asking because I care about you, and, have you thought about harming yourself? (which is a question to ask if you suspect a person is considering suicide.)
  • For most problems that we face, there are people, often called peers, who have gone through the same thing. Can I help you find someone who can share their experience with mental illness?

Of course, listening attentively as the person answers your question is critical, as is following through if they take you up on your offer to help connect them with mental health resources.

Key Considerations as the Conversation Takes Place

There are a number of things to keep in mind about talking with a person who you suspect may need mental health treatment. For example, it’s helpful to do some research in advance regarding how and where they can get treatment in case they ask. Also, you should initiate the conversation at a time and place that the person feels that they can open up to you.

As you talk with them, be sure to discuss the issue in a way that is age appropriate. Throughout the conversation, you should look for cues that may indicate they are struggling to understand you. If so, slow down or repeat things as needed. And, you should have a plan for what you will do if they volunteer that they have had suicidal thoughts, including transporting them to an emergency room or other appropriate care provider or calling 911 if you feel that a harmful action is imminent.

You are Doing the Right Thing

If you feel that someone is suffering from depression, anxiety or any form of mental illness, your willingness to talk with them about it may be just the encouragement they need to seek help. Don’t hesitate to start the conversation. To learn more about our 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 north side Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

October is Health Literacy Month

In order to properly manage our physical and mental health, it is critical that we are able to communicate effectively about related issues. For example, it’s important that you and your doctor understand that you are talking about the same condition when one of you uses the term “anxiety” and the other says “stressed out.” That is the idea behind Health Literacy Month. Founded in 1999 by Helen Osborne, who is an occupational therapist, educator and author. This annual, worldwide event raises awareness about the importance of being knowledgeable in the language of health and wellness.

Health Literacy Month is often recognized with educational programs for students, wellness programs for patients, workshops for professionals and other events put on by government agencies, colleges, community service groups, health literacy coalitions and healthcare organizations. “Be a Health Literacy Hero” is the theme for Health Literacy Month. It’s meant to recognize and celebrate the efforts of people who are furthering the cause of health communication. This involves both identifying problems in this area and taking steps to resolve them. If you know a Health Literacy Hero, we encourage you to thank them for their efforts.

Five Key Health Terms

There are, of course, hundreds of physical and mental health terms that everyone should be aware of. But, in honor of Health Literacy Month, here are five examples:

1) Resting heart rate - This is how many times per minute your heart beats when you are at rest. The healthier your heart is, the more efficiently it moves blood through your body and the fewer times per minute it has to beat. A healthy resting heart rate for adults is 68 - 80 beats per minute.

2) Anxiety disorder - Anxiety is the feeling of excessive nervousness or worry, often described as feeling “stressed out.” While anxiety is a normal part of life, repeated bouts of intense worry may be an indicator of an anxiety disorder.

3) Blood pressure - This is the force with which your heart moves blood through your body. When your blood pressure is too high, it can cause damage to your blood vessels and other problems. If your blood pressure is too low, you may lose consciousness. A healthy blood pressure for adults is 120/80 mmHg, the two numbers representing the pressure as your heart beats and relaxes respectively.

4) Major depressive disorder - Also known as depression, this condition is marked by ongoing feelings of severe sadness and despondency. It can lead to many emotional and physical problems.

5) Psychotherapy - Also referred to as “talk therapy,” psychotherapy involves a trained mental health professional helping a patient resolve mental and emotional issues through communication, as opposed to using medication.

Knowledge is Power

Whether you are anxious and stressed out, depressed, in need of marriage counseling or suffering from insomnia, the more you know about your condition and the more clearly you are able to express yourself to your caregiver, the more efficient and effective your treatment will be. If you are in need of our 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.

Understanding the nature of suicide

(Brought to you by the Community Reach Center Suicide Prevention Committee)

As we wrap up Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we want to help increase awareness around myths of suicide. We know that when it comes to the complexities of mental health, there is more than meets the eye.

So as we care for those around us, it is important to be mindful of changes in behavior and to become well educated about warning signs.

Here is a partial list of some myths, as well as a few of links to more information:

Myths of suicide

  • Suicides peak during holidays.
  • Adolescents are at the highest risk.
  • Depression is always the cause of suicide.
  • Suicide is more common than in the past.
  • Few people call hotlines.
  • Asking about suicide puts the idea in the mind.
  • Talk of suicide is attention seeking.

More details on commonly held incorrect beliefs about suicide

http://suicideprevention.nv.gov/Youth/Myths/

Six myths vs. six facts

http://www.suicidology.org/resources/myth-fact

 

Populations at higher risk for suicide

(According to  National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare)

 

White males age 65-plus

 

3 to 4 times more at-risk than general population

Veterans/military

2 to 4 times more at-risk than general population

Alaskan natives/American Indians

2 to 4 times more at-risk than general population

LGBTQIA+ youth

2 to 3 times more at-risk than general population

Individuals with serious mental illness

6 to 12 times more at-risk than general population

 

If you or someone you know needs support, please don’t hesitate to:

  • Ask a family member or friend for help.
  • Call your doctor’s office.
  • Call 911 for emergency services.
  • Go to the nearest crisis center.
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline – 1-844-493-TALK.

If you have concerns about suicide, 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.

 

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.