Fighting the holiday blues

The holiday season is just around the bend. Often, we give community presentations directed toward older adults and combatting the holiday blues, and this blog is based on our presentations. We hope that everyone finds this helpful, and if you are interested in hosting us to share this presentation, our contact information can be found at the end of the blog.

What should I do to combat the holiday blues?

Get out and about: Ask family and friends for help traveling to parties and events. Invite family and friends over. Taking a brisk walk in the morning before you begin the day – or in the evening to wind down your day – is a great way to beat the blues.

Volunteering to help others is a great mood lifter: To volunteer, contact your local United Way (www.unitedway.org), or call places such as local schools, hospitals, museums or places of worship to inquire about volunteer opportunities in your neighborhood.

Drink responsibly: It is easy to overindulge around the holidays, but excessive drinking will only make you feel more depressed. Remember that 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor constitutes a single serving of alcohol. The recommended limit for older men is 14 drinks per week and 7 per week for older women. 

Accept your feelings: There’s nothing wrong with not feeling jolly; many people experience sadness and feelings of loss during the holidays. Be kind to yourself, seek support and even laugh at yourself every now and then.

Talk to someone: Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, and neighbors. Talk about your feelings; it can help you understand why you feel the way you do. A simple phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice e-mail, greeting card or letter can brighten your mood.

How can you help someone with the holiday blues?

  • Include them, invite them to get-togethers. Consider their needs, such as transportation or special diets.
  • Lend a hand, offer to help someone with their household chores, shopping, cooking and other tasks for get-togethers in their homes.
  • Be a good listener.
  • Be a supportive listener and encourage discussions about feelings and concerns. Acknowledge difficult feelings, including a sense of loss if family or friends have died or moved away. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand how they feel.
  • Encourage them to talk with a healthcare provider.
  • The holidays can cause people to feel anxious and depressed. But for some, holiday tensions can lead to full-blown clinical depression. Often, older adults don’t realize that they are depressed. If you suspect depression in someone you know, you may need to bring it up more than once. Let the person know that depression is a treatable medical condition and to not be ashamed.

Signs and symptoms of depression

  • Sadness that won’t lift; loss of interest or pleasure in doing things
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Frequent crying
  • Feeling restless or fidgety
  • Feeling worthless, helpless, or guilty
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  • Depression is treatable. Talk to your primary healthcare provider or get other professional help if you experience five or more of these symptoms every day for two weeks. If you have recurring thoughts of death or suicide, you should get help immediately.

During this time, and all year long, it is important for people suffering from mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance. Remember the Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours. And to learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center with numerous outpatient offices in north metro Denver, visit www.communityreachcenter.org or call 303-853-3500. If you have any questions about where to turn for help for older adults, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. Community Reach Center provides comprehensive behavioral health services for all ages at locations in Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City, Brighton and Broomfield.

In mental health: Just what is stigma?

 

Stigma often stands in the way of people benefitting from treatment.

This is a common refrain in the behavioral health field when pondering the significant number of people who sidestep an opportunity for professionally recommended treatment.

When a person doesn’t opt into treatment for some reason, stigma quickly comes to mind. Could it be something else? Of course, there could be other contributing reasons – such as ability to pay and time away from work or family. But let’s address the word “stigma” for what it is.

One definition of stigma is a mark of disgrace associated with a circumstance, quality or person. Nobody wants the weight of a “mark of disgrace.” Speaking to this definition, it would be natural to steer clear of certain situations, such as breaking the law; exhibiting a certain quality, such as greed; or interacting with someone who is known to be dishonest. It follows that some people rebuff mental health treatment for fear of being judged unfairly or labeled.

With this definition it’s easy to see why everyone wants to separate stigma from mental health care. Just as there is no stigma to check into a hospital and obtain treatment for a broken leg, stepping into a mental health center for treatment should be on the same level. Physical injuries and mental health illnesses are treatable, and we know that recovery is possible for both.

Considering the damages of stigma

Information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website notes stigma causes people to feel ashamed of something that is out of their control. It prevents them from seeking the help they need. For example, a friend might tell them that they are just going through a phase, and it is something they could control if they really tried.  Or to “just snap out of it!”

For many people who are already carrying a heavy burden, stigma adds to their pain. And what is doubly sad is the fact that the damage of the stigma they feel can be deepened when they are illegally discriminated against as well, such eliminated from a job opportunity.

What can we do?

When a behavioral health care professional is asked “what is stigma?” a spirited response might be “It’s something we should fight!” With that in mind, NAMI suggests several ways to fight stigma, so let’s consider a few:

  • Integration: As mentioned earlier, it helps to encourage equality between physical and mental illness. Recognizing that mental illness is a disease is the right perspective. We certainly wouldn’t discount the pain and discomfort of someone with cancer or an injured back.
  • Compassion: Be caring. Be present and thoughtful for those with a mental illness. Show compassion across the board to anyone who is suffering.
  • Communication and labels: Be aware of language. Separate the person from the illness. For example, Sara is recovering from a substance abuse disorder, rather than Sara is a stoner or Sara is an alcoholic. Watch this new video on labels: Liftthelabel.
  • Openness: Talk openly about mental health. Talk openly in families or social groups about mental health and how to be in overall good health. There may be a family story about a relative who overcame clinical depression. This can help as the same challenge could arise for other family members. Remember to include the value of self-care – all those healthful habits that are good for physical and mental health.

We are here to help

At Community Reach Center, we are always looking for ways to educate everyone about mental health in a dedicated effort to combat stigma. We have a full continuum of treatment options. We practice Feedback Informed Treatment (FIT), which raises the level of communication between consumers and clinicians. To learn more about Community Reach Center, a nonprofit mental health center, visit www.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, Brighton and Broomfield. Our Behavioral Health Urgent Care (BHUC) center, 2551 W. 84th Ave., in Westminster is open 24 hours.

Acronyms align to mental health

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is as good a time as any to consider acronyms and mnemonic devices.

Seems like there are acronyms everywhere. Some are playful and can be plugged in as needed. For example, FOMO (fear of missing out) and the opposite JOMO (joy of missing out) provides a choice. The question might be whether to binge watch past seasons of a show to catch up with work mates or instead focus on learning a foreign language. Or maybe, you choose to really, really test yourself with something that is a big-time commitment. That would be YOLO (you only live once).

Along with the fun acronyms are the ones that are important tools. For example, the mnemonic ABC (airway, compression, breathing) is key memory device to help people remember how to respond in medical emergencies. Having these mnemonic guides ingrained is key to remembering the important steps in CPR during stressful situations. Another common acronym, used in first aid response, is STOP (stop, talk, observe, prevent (further injury)).

Community Reach Center provides a Mental Health First Aid course at Community Reach Center. The free 8-hour course teaches signs and symptoms of mental health illnesses and delivers an action plan called ALGEE. Moreover, it also includes a section about how to talk about suicide ideation and how to talk to someone who may be experiencing thoughts of suicide.

Down to the letters

The action plan mnemonic for Mental Health First Aid is ALGEE. Briefly, it amounts to:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm
  • Listen nonjudgmentally
  • Give reassurance and information
  • Encourage appropriate professional help
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies

The fine points of these actions cannot be adequately covered in the space of a blog, so it’s best to visit the Community Reach Center website and sign up for a free 8-hour course.

The Mental Health First Aid course was developed in Australia, and it turns out there is another good program originating from Australia that advocates prevention of suicide, which is R U OK? day. This annual day filled with youth and general community activities is Thursday, Sept. 12. The mnemonic for R U OK?, like ALGEE, also aids in providing assistance person to person.

The R U OK? mnemonic is ALEC:

  • (Ask R U OK?)
  • Listen
  • Encourage action
  • Check-in

A quick search online and you can find more details about R U OK? and ALEC in connection with prevention of suicide.

Take time to learn more

Please have a look at ALGEE and ALEC and STOP and others. Remember, these types of mnemonic devices are helpful reminders of specific interventions that may be hard to draw upon in the heat of a crisis or even just day-to-day stressors.

Consider taking a day to take a Mental Health First Aid course. Please sign up at the Community Reach Center website. And please takes some time this month to visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website for good overview of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

At Community Reach Center, a leading metro Denver area mental health clinic, we are always prepared to help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday for more information about services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Ready for counseling? Let’s get started

Deciding to engage in counseling – especially for the first time – can feel overwhelming. Consequently, what to expect for your first initial intake appointment with a therapist can really help. Let’s talk tips. 

First, check out the agency's or therapist's website. You will likely find a lot of the answers to your questions about your intake appointment there. Most agencies and private therapists also have a lot of good information on their websites about their values, mission, services and areas of treatment.

You will likely also find FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about accepted insurances, intake forms and what you will need to bring with you to your intake appointment. Completing these forms from home may be helpful to lessen your anxiety when you arrive. You will also learn how to get your first therapy appointment. 

You will likely need to bring basic information, such as your ID, insurance card, Social Security number and a list of medications (which is extremely helpful). This information is essential for knowing any medical information that may impact your mental health, and for care coordination with your primary care physician.

If you would like to bring a friend, family member, spouse or partner to your first session, feel free to – this person should make you feel comfortable and allow you to speak your truth, not dominate the session or make your feel shamed or judged. Note that you will likely need to complete a release of information, dubbed an ROI, to allow the therapist to exchange personal health information with this person.   

First appointment

Know that therapists are trained professionals, and what you tell them is confidential. The first session with them is to review and sign off on clinical paperwork, to gather information about why you are seeking treatment, discuss your symptoms, how long you have experienced these symptoms, and consider your goals for treatment.

Therapists have heard and helped navigate a variety of issues, so their job at this initial visit is to lay the groundwork for your treatment. Be honest about what you are struggling with.  

Finally, bring an open mind and be patient with the treatment process.  The reasons you are seeking treatment did not happen overnight, so the solutions to your problems may not resolve that quickly either. 

Available assistance

At Community Reach Center, we continuously work to streamline our intake process. We want you to have a good experience with the initial steps and paperwork, and once you start appointments with a counselor, we use seek your comments in FIT (Feedback Informed Treatment) practices to fine tune your treatment every step of the way.

We are always prepared to help at Community Reach Center, a leading Denver mental health clinic. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday for more information about services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

This column was contributed by Adrienne Sines, MA, LPC, NCC, who is a program manager for the Intake Team at Community Reach Center in Thornton.  She has a history of serving in school-based, residential, in-home and outpatient settings. Thank you Adrienne.

Men increasingly serve as caregivers

Almost half the people who care for an elderly, disabled or chronically ill family member or friend are men, but the way they cope is usually different than women.

According to the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA), more than 54 million Americans have provided care for an elderly, disabled or chronically ill family member or friend during the past year. Even though caregiving is often thought of as a primarily female role, an NFCA survey found that 44 percent of caregivers are male.

This emerging trend for men to increasingly serve as primary caregivers presents unique challenges and is requiring adjustments, such as new support groups, to make sure all caregivers are supported regardless of gender or family role.

Whether an ill relative has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease or a stroke, male caregivers often find their new role to be daunting and all-consuming. Most men have grown up in a household – and certainly a culture – in which females are perceived as the primary family nurturers. Yet often by necessity, more men than ever are rolling up their sleeves and helping an ill loved one with day-to-day tasks such as dressing, toileting, bathing, eating, changing dressings and managing medications.

To compound the stress, baby-boomer men may find themselves sandwiched between elder care and child care. As they juggle work, family, and the needs of an aging parent, stress and frustration can often turn into anger, despair, exhaustion and burnout.

Help is emerging

Studies have documented the ability of support groups to ease the emotional pain and anxiety associated with caregiving and to fight the social isolation. But even though these support groups for caregivers are available in many parts of the country, men lag behind women in their willingness to take the initiative to participate.

To attract more men, the Alzheimer's Association sponsors support groups solely for male caregivers, which are becoming increasingly popular. The association offers services in more than 300 communities in the U.S. Some men prefer participating more anonymously in online support groups through the organization's website.

Importance of self-care

Men also tend to react differently to the depression that can accompany long-term caregiving. They are less likely than women to admit that they feel depressed, talk with their doctor about it or take antidepressant medication. Men, in fact, are more likely to deal with depression by working long hours at the office or turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol.

Male caregivers may neglect themselves in other areas – eating an inadequate diet, ignoring their need for exercise, having too little sleep and postponing visits to the doctor for their own medical ills. The consequences of these behaviors can be serious.

The strains of caregiving

Research at Ohio State University found that the chronic stress associated with caring for a family member with dementia can weaken the disease-fighting immune system of elderly caregivers.

At the University of Pittsburgh, investigators evaluated elderly individuals (48 percent of whom were men) who were caring for an ill spouse. The strain of caregiving increased their risk of death, compared to counterparts who were not caregivers. As a result, many doctors and social workers advise their patients not to take on caregiving responsibilities unless they're willing to also care for themselves.

More information

If you find yourself in the challenging role of a caregiver, remember to care for yourself as well, because if not, your ability to function as a caregiver will be adversely impacted. If you have any questions about where to turn for help, please reach out to the Senior Reach team at Community Reach Center at 303-853-3657. We can assist with emotional support for caregivers and connect you to appropriate local resources for additional help.

Editor’s Note: We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for this blog and its important insights. The writing team contributes monthly columns concerning older adults. 

 

Positive self-talk is a big plus

 

Securing healthy habits is key to physical and mental health.

Most everyone has messages that play again and again in their minds. Sadly some of those messages are not so positive. Consequently, taking time to recognize and intentionally replace negative patterns of self-talk with positive perspectives can be very beneficial for mental health.

Positive self-talk can take many different forms – it can be as simple as thanking yourself for practicing a coping skill or making a positive decision. 

An example of this might be thinking or saying, “I did a great job practicing deep breathing when I got that difficult phone call at work today,” or “I chose to eat breakfast this morning because I am devoted to improving my health.” 

Notice in these examples, there is no use of the words “can’t, won’t or shouldn’t.”  While these words can have good intent, such as “I won’t skip my workout today,” they are not actually good examples of positive self-talk and can sound quite punitive. 

Reframing the words with positive intent, such as “I am going to the gym after work today as a part of my wellness plan,” allows one to take ownership with determination, rather than as just having one more thing that can contribute to a negative head space if skipped. 

Another great way to practice positive self-talk is to come up with a short saying or specific words that resonate with you. Consider the words of a mentor, a positive quote from a movie or even a lyric from a song that gives you a boost.

Changing habits

A simple one that I often find myself using is “you got this.” I say this to myself before presentations and interviews. Sometimes all it takes is a little self-reminder that you are indeed good enough and can handle what life brings your way.

I sometimes hear clients say positive self-talk seems “too easy” to actually work. I reply with a question: “How often do you really practice it?”  It might seem easy and, at times, silly, but our words are powerful. Affirmations allow our brains to be “re-routed” toward more positive thinking and can even improve our relationships with others. 

In sum, positive self-talk is a way to take better care of one’s mental health, and we could all use being a little nicer to ourselves.

You got this.

If you need more

While considering how to improve your lifestyle, self-talk is a tremendous self-care activity, but remember elevated mental health challenges require guidance from a trained professional. For example, if you experience sadness for an extended period you may be experiencing depression and should consider talking to a professional.

At Community Reach Center, a leading Denver mental health clinic, we are always prepared to help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday for more information about services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

This blog was written by Jenna Bogan, LPC, LAC, Program Manager of CRC’s Behavioral Health Urgent Care in Westminster. She is also a Community Reach Center featured Ask A Therapist columnist.

 

Understanding mental health apps

 

Mental health apps just keep popping up. They swim in a vast pool of other apps that cover nutrition, exercise and a mind boggling array of topics. Mental health apps continue to gain favor as self-help tools and even as a bridging device between therapy sessions.

Mental Health First Aid courses includes a self-help action step, which is “Encourage self-help and support strategies.” With this perspective, a mental health app can be an appropriate option for mild mental health concerns. However, there is little belief that apps can replace the results that come from highly specialized sessions with a therapist. When someone is experienced sustained sadness or other mental illness symptoms, an app is no substitute for therapy.

From the perspective that an app is a place to start for initial concerns, here are several well-known apps we have mentioned in previous blogs:

  • Pacifica, which tracks the user’s daily activities, providing relaxation techniques and setting goals to promote calmness.
  • Breath2Relax, which features breathing exercises for stress management. The exercises are intended to be beneficial for mind and body.
  • Happify, which targets stress and anxiety. This app encourages positive thinking and setting goals.
  • Headspace is a popular app intended to help with concentration, stress, anxiety, memorization and relationships. It focuses on overall wellness.  

Other apps catching our eye

What’s Up is a free app for iOS and Android that contains questions to pinpoint feelings and identify patterns with the goal to stop negative internal monologues that can be counterproductive. Like many apps it utilizes some basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) concepts.

In the category of addiction apps, Quit That!, which is free on iOS, helps users track how long they have quit specific vices. It is a straight forward way to track and monitor progress in breaking away from vices.

And for teens and young adults with anxiety, Mind Shift, free on iOS and Android, stresses the importance of how to change the way we think about anxiety. It coaches how to ride out intense emotions and face challenging situations.

Be cautious

If you are unsure about an app, especially for what it is asking you to do, be skeptical. Many apps are not backed with scientific evidence or peer-reviewed research. Groups like ClinicalTrials.gov test and assess apps, according to an article titled “Mental Health: There’s an App for That,” in Scientific American magazine. This website may have information about an app you are interested in that can save you time.

More than an app

While apps represent a way to practice self-care, remember elevated mental health challenges require guidance from a trained professional. For example, if you experience sadness for an extended period you may be experiencing depression and should consider talking to a professional. At Community Reach Center, a leading Denver mental health clinic, we are always prepared to help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday for more information about services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

The power of the great outdoors

Senior Reach program staffers Nicole Hartzog and James Kuemmerle share healthful insights.

Regardless of our age, it is vital to our overall health that we spend some time outdoors. Humans have an innate connection and attraction to nature, often referred to as “biophilia.” Exposure to nature and physical activity outdoors improves mental health and well-being. Greater enjoyment and opportunities for more social interaction may contribute to the outdoor activity experience.

Studies have shown that going outdoors can have long term health benefits for older adults. Older adults often have low levels of Vitamin D. We can get this from sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is related to many chronic conditions including cancer, heart disease and poor bone health.

Fewer than 3 percent of older adults meet the medical recommendations of 150 minutes per week of activity. Older adults can benefit greatly from physical activity; improving physical, emotional and cognitive functioning. Limitations in physical functioning, fear of falling and neighborhood design may prevent older adults from being active outdoors.

Five reasons to get outdoors

  • Boost Your Creativity and Focus

If you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with a brilliant idea, take a walk outside. One study found walking increased 81 percent of participants’ creativity, but walking outside produced “the most novel and highest quality analogies.”

  • Improve Your Mood and Self-Esteem

Green exercise, which is exercise in the presence of nature, has unique benefits above and beyond indoor exercise. One meta-analysis of 10 studies found that physical activity outdoors for as little as five minutes leads to measurable improvements in mood and self-esteem.

  • Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

It's estimated that over 95 percent of US senior citizens may be deficient in vitamin D, along with 85 percent of the American public.

Researchers have noted that vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in adults of all ages who have increased skin pigmentation (such as those whose ancestors are from Africa, the Middle East, or India), or who always wear sun protection or limit their outdoor activities.

Increasing your vitamin D levels is important, as researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half.

Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. Research indicates about 30 minutes exposure twice a week for older adults is a sufficient amount, and remember to take common sense precautions with sunscreen, hats and the like, especially for extended periods of time outside.

  • Improve Your Workouts

Exercising outdoors yields increased benefits over indoor exercise. In addition to boosting your mood, outdoor exercise can be more challenging, leading to greater physical gains. For instance, if you walk, jog, or cycle outdoors, you’ll have to expend more energy to overcome wind and changes in terrain.

Among older adults (a population that generally tends to spend very little time outdoors), those who exercise outdoors accumulated significantly more physical activity than those who exercised indoors. There’s even research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lower when people exercise outdoors as opposed to indoors.

  • Healing Potential

There’s something inherently healing about spending time outdoors. Part of it has to do with exposure to natural light. One study found people exposed to 46 percent more sunlight after surgery used 22 percent less pain medication per hour.

However, there are likely benefits even beyond the light exposure. Research shows, for instance, that older adults who spend more time outdoors have less pain, sleep better and have less functional decline in their ability to carry out their daily activities.

Take action

As you can see, with an increase in time spent out of doors enjoying the fresh air and nature, older adults can experience many benefits. Try adding a short walk in your neighborhood or nearby park a couple times a week and see how it improves your mood, focus, and overall health.

We would like to thank Wellness and Care Coordinator Nicole Hartog and Program Manager James Kuemmerle with the Senior Reach program at Community Reach Center for these insights during Mental Health Awareness Month. During this special month, and all year long, it is important for people suffering from mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable, and there is no shame in seeking assistance. In fact, asking for help is a sign of strength and a positive step forward that should be applauded.

To learn more about our Senior Reach program, visit our website at communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. Community Reach Center provides leading Denver mental health centers to visit. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County, including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

What’s positive about negative emotions?

Many of us have heard a pop song that dates to 1944. The opening lyrics are: “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive, e-lim-inate the negative, an' latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with mister in-between!”

These are good words to live by but beware the advice to “eliminate” the negative. As it turns out, negative emotions have their place in well-being. A common goal to be positive all the time is not all good. While it is important to generate positive emotions, problems can arise when people believe they must always be upbeat, and they must suppress their fears and emotions.

Psychologist Jonathan M. Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering confirmed that anger and sadness are important aspects of life in a "Scientific American" magazine article titled, “Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being.” He noted that, “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being.”

The article further notes that unpleasant feelings go hand in hand with enjoyable ones to make sense of life. Further, negative emotions also aid in survival, because bad feelings can be a sign that something is “not right” and something needs attention.

One of the purposes of therapy in mental health is to learn to acknowledge and express a range of emotions. And by the same token, it’s important to learn to identify and cope with the inevitable ups and downs of life.

Some techniques

Techniques to facing emotions include questioning the emotion when it becomes present. When anxiety arises, ask yourself what you fear. Or when sadness arises, ask what makes you feel the loss. When anger arises, ask yourself what triggered the feelings. And when happiness arises, ask yourself why you feel so good and be grateful.

Overall, taking time to consider feelings as they arise helps to identify triggers that generate the emotions. This helps to gain better skills for anticipation of emotions in a variety of situations.

Mindfulness

There are a variety of mindfulness techniques to recognize emotions and find balance. If you feel angry frequently, commit to calming activities each day. In general, those who practice these techniques feel better over time. Also giving your time to activities with others increases feelings of connectivity, which often helps to recognize and face emotions as they arise.

Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer or Negative Ned, but it is crucial to realize negative emotions have value, which just needs to be put into perspective. So, let your emotions breathe, but if the intensity of feeling sad continues for a week or two, it may be time to act. Self-help often comes first, but if you are really struggling, don’t waste any more time. Talking to mental health professional is a wise move to see if signs and symptoms of a potential mental illness need to be addressed.

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, including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton

Recognize Challenges Facing Moms as Mother’s Day Approaches

Mother playing tambourine with her sonFlowers, a nice meal out or simply some time being pampered at home by family are great gifts for any mom on Mother’s Day. However, along with those signs of love and gratitude, what many women who come to our mental health centers say they could benefit from throughout the year is for people in their life to better understand and acknowledge the high degree of stress they face.

In fact, in a recently released book titled “Making Motherhood Work: How Women Manage Careers and Caregiving,” sociologist Caitlyn Collins shares her findings after five years studying parenthood in four wealthy western countries. Her conclusion: mothers in the U.S. have it the worst of those studied. The additional countries evaluated in this study were Sweden, Germany and Italy.

 

Understanding the Different Types of Stress

To get a better sense of what moms go through, it is important to understand the different types of stress. We explain at our mental health clinics that not all stress is bad. A surge of hormones and elevated heart rate is a normal, healthy response for a person who is excited but not afraid, such as when they are publicly thanked for their efforts at a school event or are interviewing for a new job. Sometimes this is called good stress.

Stress that is temporary but negative is what is called acute stress. When a rude driver cuts someone off in traffic, that person’s stress response kicks in briefly to help them prevent a crash. As long as they then allow (or encourage) the stress to dissipate, it typically is not harmful. 

The biggest stress-related danger to moms (and people in general) is chronic stress. This is stress associated with repeated or continual difficulties in life. Over time, it can cause a wide range of physical, mental and emotional problems.

 

Motherhood and Chronic Stress

Many mothers today experience chronic stress. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most common is that they feel overwhelmed by all the “hats” they feel they must wear to support their family. These include roles like:

  • Nurturing mother
  • Schedule keeper
  • Disciplinarian
  • Cook
  • Devoted wife
  • Housekeeper
  • Youth sports fan/manager/coach
  • Veterinarian

Plus, many women work outside the home and must face the pressure that comes from feeling like the two commitments conflict and consequently either their performance at work or their performance at home (or both) suffers.

 

Great Ways to Improve Mom’s Days

Fortunately, here are a few steps families can take to lighten mom’s load and help her enjoy life more fully. For example:

  • Take a task permanently off her plate. Even something simple like having another family member be responsible for feeding the family pet every day can be freeing to an overworked mom.
  • Initiate stress-relieving activities. While mothers should learn to take action to relieve their stress, it is certainly appreciated when a family member encourages mom to go for a walk, do some yoga or enjoy a creative outlet like painting or knitting.
  • Ask questions and listen attentively to the answers. “How are you doing? Tell me about your day?” These kinds of questions encourage a mother to open up and relieve some of the pressure that chronic stress creates.
  • Encourage her to get help. If a spouse or another adult feels like a mom could benefit from professional counseling, it is a very loving thing to do to gently encourage her to seek help from a mental health center.

At Community Reach Center, a leading Denver mental health clinic, we help mothers and anyone who feels overwhelmed by stress take immediate action to address their stressors. Then, going forward, we teach strategies for being proactive in minimizing or preventing stress to enjoy a happier, healthier life. 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.