How to Support Someone Struggling with Anxiety and Depression

Knowing that someone you love is struggling with mental health is not easy. It takes a lot out of someone to deal with their own illness and ask for help, but it also takes a lot out of their loved ones to support them. It takes time, energy and one’s own mental health to provide support to a loved one struggling with mental health. So how can you safely and correctly support a loved one without jeopardizing your own mental health?

Understand exactly what they are struggling with

What does anxiety or depression typically look like for them? Anxiety and depression manifests differently in everyone who has it, so it is crucial to gear your support towards the specific person and their specific illness. What are their symptoms? What happens on a bad day for them? What happens on a good day? No matter how much research you do on anxiety/depression and how it presents, no one knows their illness better than them. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their illness is like for them specifically. This will let them know that you are committed to supporting them and will allow them to feel comfortable seeking support from you.

Ask what type of support they need

Anxiety and depression can have both emotional and physical effects on someone struggling with the illnesses. So, ask them what type of support they need – emotional or physical?

Emotional support: For some struggling with anxiety and depression, they need to be able to feel like they can talk about what they are feeling safely without being judged. Provide that emotional space for them to talk about their illness. When they need emotional support, ask them if they need advice, or if they just need a listening ear.It makes all the difference in the world to someone struggling with anxiety/depression to know that whoever they are talking to knows what they need out of the conversation and, in turn, helps them feel comfortable talking about it openly.

Physical support: Anxiety and depression can also manifest itself physically. They could be neglecting their hygiene, their physical space, their eating and exercise habits, etc. Look and see if you notice anything that may have been neglected and encourage them to take care of it, and even help them if they need it. If they have been neglecting their immediate surroundings, offer to help them clean up. If they have been neglecting eating, help them cook a healthy meal and sit down to eat it with them. If they haven’t been out of the house in a few days, encourage them to take a walk or just step outside to get the mail. Even the smallest movement can make a big difference.

Don’t make them feel embarrassed or ashamed for struggling

No one likes admitting that they have a mental illness. It is difficult in itself to know you have an illness but admitting it to others takes a different type of strength. So, if a loved one comes to you and tells you that they are struggling with anxiety/depression, be mindful of your language. Avoid telling them things like “Everyone feels that way,” “It could be worse,” or “We’ve all been there.” Phrases like this minimize the importance of their illness and contribute to harmful personal stigma surrounding mental health. Instead, use phrases such as “Thank you for opening up to me,” “How can I support you?” and “I am here for you when you need me.” These phrases let them know that you heard them and that you will not judge them for asking for help.

Take care of your own mental health

It can be triggering to some people to hear that a loved one is struggling with their mental health. So, as important as it is to support them in their own recovery, it is also important to know your own limits and what your mental health can take. Let your own support system know when you are struggling and don’t be afraid to set your own boundaries. Participate in your own forms of self-care and recognize that your mental health is just as important as everyone else’s.

Know that you are doing enough

Progress in mental health does not happen overnight, and it is a rollercoaster – full of ups and downs, twists and turns, and just when you think it’s coming to a stop, it flings you backwards. You have to be patient and understand that however you are supporting them, you are doing enough and they just appreciate having someone there for them who will love them and support them unconditionally as they navigate their mental health. It can be difficult to stay positive when you are not seeing any progress, but over time you will start to notice the little things. Believe in them and believe in yourself that you are doing the right thing.

When in doubt, if you notice that someone you love is struggling with their mental health, ask them what they need. If it is more than you feel you can handle, offer to help them find professional resources, and continue to support them through that journey.

This blog was written by Kayla Pray, a clinician at Community Reach Center.

How Yoga Can Help You Stay Centered

Yoga mat

Being “centered” is the idea of having a positive mental and emotional reference point to come back to when the world gets chaotic and stressful. When people hear the term, they often think of meditation, which certainly is an excellent way to bring your life and outlook back into balance. But, meditation isn’t the only way to do so. Another proven technique is yoga. Yoga is a centuries-old practice that we frequently recommend to clients at our mental health clinic.

The Many Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice

Regular yoga practice is known to improve flexibility, balance and core strength to name just a few of the physical benefits. But, the mental and emotional changes that result from ongoing yoga sessions are equally impressive. For example, yoga can:

  • Calm your nervous system. Yoga’s emphasis on slow, restorative breathing and keeping your mind in the present moment helps you move out of “fight-or-flight” mode and into a calm, relaxed state of mind.
  • Improve self-esteem. Anyone who has taken a yoga class or even just attempted yoga poses in a living room understands that it is not an easy practice. As your ability to get into, and hold, more difficult poses grows, so does your confidence and the feeling that you have the power to change your life.
  • Increase focus. Mastering yoga poses requires that you be fully aware of your breathing, the position of your limbs, your center of gravity, etc. And, rather than an intense awareness, it’s a powerful but soft focus that you can return to whenever you are stressed.
  • Increase happiness. Research suggests that yoga can produce positive changes in the hormones that affect our state of well-being, thereby decreasing the symptoms of depression and increasing happiness.
  • Improve sleep. Regular yoga practitioners may find that the state of calm it produces during the day translates to better sleep at night. 
  • Lead to better self-care. People who practice yoga frequently discover that it creates a positive trajectory for their health in general, and they start eating better, getting aerobic exercise, etc.
  • Create better impulse control. Sudden or erratic movements are no friend to yoga practitioners, who can quickly find themselves in a heap on the mat if they are not cautious. The restraint to move slowly and with forethought has as much benefit in our interactions with others as it does our interaction with gravity. 
  • Connect you to other like-minded people. Whether you take a yoga class or practice on your own, your knowledge of the benefits that come from challenging your body is something you share with an enormous yoga community around the world.

Yoga as a Free Refuge from Life’s Storms

As we tell people at our Denver-area mental health clinic, yoga is a powerful tool for helping you stay grounded in the face of adversity. And with instruction readily available on the internet, it is a tool that is essentially free of charge. If you have questions about mental health services at Community Reach Center, 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.

International Friendship Week is February 18-24, 2018

Two friends having coffee

International Friendship Week 2018 will be Feb. 18-24. The observance was created to emphasize the importance of friendship in helping people lead happy lives where they feel connected to others in their area and around the world. It also encourages us to be mindful of cultural differences and how they enrich our lives.

If you are affected by anxiety and depression, International Friendship Week serves as a reminder that it is important to build and maintain a strong support system. Having friends you can lean on when your condition is at its worst can help you weather the storm more effectively.

Support Groups Come in Many Forms

The term “support group” has multiple meanings. In its more formal sense, it can mean an organized group of people, often between five and 15 members, who gather on a regular basis to talk about the challenges they are facing and to provide encouragement to one another. A support group might also be a less formal collection of friends that you connect with individually or in smaller numbers more randomly to talk about life.

In many cases, a group from which you receive support wasn’t really formed for that purpose. For example, if you exercise regularly with a group of friends, simply spending time with those people who share your interest in fitness provides an important connection that can give you strength when anxiety and depression strike. Spiritual groups are another example of a collection of like-minded people from which you may derive a sense of support. Whether a support group is formal or informal, the benefits can be equally powerful.

Support Groups and Other Self-Help Resources

Support groups are a type of self-help you can use as an aid in managing your mental health. Other forms of self-help include books on topics like relationships and personal transformation, wellness apps, relaxation techniques and exercise. While professional counseling can be an essential tool in achieving better mental and emotional health, augmenting that guidance with a support group and other self-help techniques can be very effective.

Tips for Getting Involved in a Support Group

If you are considering joining a support group, there are some things to keep in mind. First, if you are receiving counseling, your therapist can be a great resource for helping you find a group that meets your needs. However, remember that you are not required to remain in a group if after a few sessions you don’t feel like you are clicking with the other members or getting any benefit from attending. It’s critical to find the right fit.

It’s also important to consider how much you want to discuss with a support group. While being open about your struggles can be very cathartic, know that unlike your therapist who has a legal obligation to keep your conversations confidential, support group members are not similarly bound. Often there is a stated agreement that “what is said in the room stays in the room,” but keep in mind that that is not as secure as conversations with therapists. That said, it is also true that you get out of a support group what you put into it. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings and provide positive feedback when others do the same, as that is what a support group is all about.

If you are interested in learning more about our 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.

A Proven Strategy for Staying Grounded: Journaling to Minimize Anxiety

On any given day, you likely experience success but also make some mistakes. That’s part of being human. However, it’s easy to focus on places where you did something incorrectly and let that have a lasting effect on your outlook, which can promote or amplify unhappiness and anxiety. Thankfully, there are a number of techniques that can be used to override our natural tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing how and why we have fallen short of our expectations.

Documenting Your Day to Maintain a Realistic Perspective

Taking a few minutes each day to make a written record of the things that have gone well and those that have not can help you be more balanced in your evaluation of yourself. Specifically, journaling can help you:

  • Understand yourself. What makes you happy? What makes you experience tension and anxiety? Stopping to think about that on a daily basis can ensure you have a firm grasp on what is driving your feelings and your behavior so that you can make changes if needed.
  • Lower your stress level. Describing what is stressing you doesn’t immediately fix the problem, but it does help you release your feelings, which can allow you to be more relaxed and more focused on the “here and now.”
  • Explore solutions to interpersonal problems. The emotions that arise when you are in the presence of someone with whom you are having relationship challenges can make it difficult to see how the problem can be resolved. Writing about what you are feeling and also what the other person might be feeling (and why) can help you perceive a better path forward.
  • See how an issue has evolved. Looking back at past journal entries can allow you to realize that an issue that caused you great stress months ago is less stressful (or completely gone) today. If the reverse is true, reviewing the “paper trail” for an issue can provide insight on a better approach to resolving it.
  • Use the other side of your brain. Writing is an activity that can help you switch from the left-brained (analytical) approach to problem solving that we tend to use to right-brained (creative and intuitive) thinking.

To get started with a journaling practice, simply set aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to create an entry about what you have been thinking, feeling and experiencing. You can jot down random, unrelated thoughts or create an entry on a particular theme (love, anger, frustration etc.). And, it’s best to write quickly, with no concern about spelling and grammar so your internal “censor” doesn’t have time to make you question what you’ve put down.

Staying Centered is the Key to Emotional Wellbeing

Coming to the realization that your efforts on any particular day are, on balance, rarely at one end of the succeed/fail spectrum but more often somewhere in the middle can keep you from focusing too much on your mistakes. Putting your thoughts on paper is a great way to achieve that realization. Another effective way to address your anxiety is to talk with a counselor. 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.

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.

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.

What are risk factors of anxiety disorders?

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

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

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

And the risks are increased by:

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

Anxiety problems can also result from:

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

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

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

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

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

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

There are multiple types of anxiety disorders. They include:

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

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

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

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

Take Time for Self-Care

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

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

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

Your Strategy for a Successful Summer Vacation

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

Managing Anxiety and Depression: The Power of the First Step

People who struggle with mental health challenges like anxiety and depression often feel trapped by their condition. They know they should take action to address it, but symptoms like a lack of energy or fear of the future may make it difficult to seek help. One way to break free is to take one small step forward. This can create momentum toward taking additional steps and ultimately lead to fully embracing treatment and recovery.

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

Taking even a small step toward achieving better mental health tends to create a positive, hopeful feeling in the person fighting the illness. It also signals to those around them that they are ready to make a change, which can lead to encouragement and offers of support that make it easier to take the next step. While the process of seeking help for conditions such as anxiety and depression is different for everyone, here are some actions to consider:

  • Lower your defenses. If you have been reluctant to talk about how you’re feeling when approached by loved ones, try listening to what they have to say rather than avoiding the conversation. Saying “Yes, that’s something I should think about” can be a great first step.
  • Start or resume a prayer or meditation practice. Any self-care activity that helps calm your mind so you can think more clearly is a good thing. Over time, it can give you the mental clarity you need to make a plan for addressing your condition.
  • Approach one person. If family and friends are no longer trying to initiate conversations with you about your illness, try opening the door to discussion with just one person. A statement like “I think I have a problem and may need to talk with a counselor” tends to be all it takes to get the eager assistance of a loved one in finding help.
  • Take action to improve your physical health. Recovering from mental illness is a process that requires a significant amount of energy. Eating healthful, nutritious foods, getting adequate sleep and exercising regularly can help give you the strength you need to pursue treatment.
  • Assess where you are and where you want to be. When struggling with anxiety or depression, you may seek to cope simply by not thinking about your situation. While it may be uncomfortable to do so, taking the time to look at what your life is like today and envision how you want it to be in the future can be an excellent first step.

Start Making Progress toward Better Mental Health

 Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are treatable conditions. The key to addressing them is creating some forward momentum. We’re here to help. 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.