May is Mental Health Awareness Month with the Theme “Fitness #4Mind4Body”

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Mental Health Month. The observance was founded in 1949 by an organization called Mental Health America. Along with providers of mental health services around the U.S., Mental Health America shares the message that the issues around mental health and mental illness affect us all.

This year’s theme is “Fitness #4Mind4Body.” The idea is that mental health is affected by many physical factors including diet and nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress, and that positive changes can be made in all those areas.

Risk Factors for Mental Illness

Another of the important messages that is shared every year during Mental Health Awareness Month is that while mental illness can strike anyone, various factors increase a person’s risk. They include:

  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy and birth problems
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Family history of addiction
  • Personal history of abuse
  • Head trauma
  • Certain medical conditions including thyroid disorders
  • Lack of a support system
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Dysfunctional family dynamics
  • Involvement in negative peer groups
  • Homelessness
  • Learning disorders
  • Smoking

Knowing what these risk factors are can be helpful in different ways. For risk factors that can be changed, awareness is the first step in turning them into protective factors (see below). For risk factors that can’t be changed, such as family history, the knowledge that a person is more disposed to developing mental illness can help family and friends be more alert to recommend or arrange for mental health services if mental illness does develop.

Protective Factors for Mental Health

During Mental Health Awareness Month, participating organizations emphasize the importance of factors that can help protect people from mental illness and promote mental health and wellness. They include:

  • Genetics
  • Presence of a support network
  • Willingness and opportunity to discuss problems with friends, family and mental health professionals
  • Strong ties with immediate and extended family
  • Healthy expectations for school/work performance and life in general
  • Involvement in positive peer groups
  • Involvement in community activities Good physical health habits
  • Positive influence from religious or spiritual traditions

The encouraging thing about protective factors is that most of them involve choice, which means they can be initiated or amplified to provide great protection from mental illness. They can also have a positive impact even after a mental illness has developed.

Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness

Another important benefit of Mental Health Awareness Month is that the attention it brings to mental health issues helps to end the stigma of mental illness. Informational campaigns throughout the month provide strategies for eliminating the feelings of shame too often associated with mental health issues, making it easier for everyone to talk about these conditions.

It will be better for the individuals experiencing mental illness, and society as a whole, when it is universally understood that mental illness is no different than physical illness. Both types of conditions have a mix of known and unknown causes, treatments that are more effective in some cases than in others and a wide range of potential outcomes. And, all physical and mental health challenges are improved by compassion.

If you are in need of our mental health services, 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 more 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.

How Exercise Helps You Stay Centered

There are many definitions of what it means to be “centered,” but most contain elements of feeling calm, relaxed and confident. In general, it is a very positive state that can help us get the most out of good times and better navigate challenging times. So that’s what the term means, but as we tell people at our mental health center, there are as many ways to achieve that state as there are ways to talk about. One that many people find particularly helpful is exercise.

Your Unique Workout

The first thing to point out in talking about the mental health benefits of exercise is that every person’s “workout” is different. The type and amount of exercise that someone in their 20s can perform is probably much different than someone in their 60s. The point is that you don’t have to run 10 miles to achieve a more centered state. As long as you are moving to whatever degree your age and fitness level allow, exercise will be helpful.

How a Good Workout Can Change Your Perspective

Everyone from psychologists to physicians to exercise physiologists have studied the effect that a good workout has on the body, and there is agreement across the board: exercise can help you keep both your positive and negative experiences in perspective. Here are just some of the ways:

Elevated mood

Being centered doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. But, taking steps (literally) to support a more positive mood can help keep negative emotions from throwing you off balance. And the benefit is fairly immediate. Often within 10 minutes after moderate exercise, you will feel a lift.

Improved cognitive function

It can feel very jarring to realize you’ve forgotten something important like an appointment, a person’s name, etc. Exercise has been shown to help keep the brain healthy by preventing or slowing degeneration. The resulting confidence can leave a person feeling grounded and resilient.

Decreased fight-or-flight sensitivity

The physiological and emotional changes that take place when what’s known as our “fight-or-flight” reaction is triggered are normal. They evolved to help us challenge or flee threats. Some people have a heightened sensitivity to those changes that produce fear and anxiety. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce that sensitivity, allowing a person to be more alert as needed while still being calm and centered.

Increased self-esteem

The simple act of making a commitment to exercise regularly and then following through on that promise can be very rewarding. Whether you do a vigorous cross-training program or go for a daily walk around the block, sticking with it in good times and bad times can be a way of maintaining an important sense of control over your circumstances.

Take the First Step

One of the perplexing things about exercise is that even people who have experienced its many benefits can be reluctant to get started on any particular day. We know we’ll feel great when we finish a workout (and for hours or days after), but yet we drag our feet.

The best way—and sometimes the only way—to beat that sense of inertia is simply to start moving. For example, if you intend to go for a run, don’t envision the whole process, especially those first few minutes when your body is adjusting to the exertion. Just say to yourself, “I’m going to change into my running clothes right now.” Then, “I’m going to put on my shoes.” Before you know it, knocking off these easy initial steps has given you the momentum to head out the door.

Helping Denver-Area Residents Stay Centered

Guidance and support from a skilled counselor can be another important resource in your efforts to secure good mental health. Contact our mental health center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn more 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.

70th Annual World Health Day is April 7; Benefits of Health Homes

The vision of the World Health Organization (WHO) is that “all people should be able to realize their right to the highest possible level of health.” That includes both physical health care from a hospital or doctor’s office and mental health care from a mental health clinic.

As part of its mission, WHO sponsors World Health Day annually on April 7 to increase awareness about important health topics. This year’s theme is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere.” By organizing and coordinating international, regional and local events, WHO will be sharing information and promoting the slogan “Health For All” and the #HealthForAll hashtag.

Some of the eye-opening details from its Universal Health Coverage Fact Sheet that WHO will be making people aware of include:

  • At least half of the world’s population still do not have full coverage of essential health services.
  • About 100 million people are still being pushed into “extreme poverty” (living on $1.90 or less a day) because they have to pay for health care.
  • Over 800 million people (almost 12 percent of the world’s population) spent at least 10 percent of their household budgets to pay for health care.
  • All UN Member States have agreed to try to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

While many countries are making progress toward the goal of universal health care, it is important that all countries strive to increase the pace of change and also commit to maintaining improvements as they are made.

What is a Health Home?

One of the ways that healthcare can be improved is through the concept of what is called a “health home.” Not a location, a health home is a care model that emphasizes a holistic approach to health and wellness. The characteristics of a health home philosophy are that it is team-based, comprehensive, integrated across physical and mental healthcare disciplines, accessible and focused on safety and quality.

The health home philosophy is widely accepted and helps providers deliver excellent, comprehensive care that addresses all challenges that a person faces. In this way, situations are prevented where certain health issues are resolved but one or more lingering problems produces ongoing consequences and can even cause the return of issues previously resolved.

For example, consider a person who has both high blood pressure and anxiety. Having a physician treat the high blood pressure but leave the anxiety unchecked does not provide the best possible outcome. In fact, while treating the physical causes of the high blood pressure might resolve it somewhat, the untreated mental health issue can continue to promote hypertension. With the health home approach, both conditions are addressed, which tends to produce better outcomes in both cases.

CRC and the Health Home Model

Community Reach Center embraces the health home philosophy. In particular, the center has a health clinic inside the Commerce City mental health center. This makes it easier for patients to see the appropriate care providers if they face multiple physical and/or mental health challenges.

However, a health home model can be used even across facilities in different locations. For example, patients at our Mountainland Pediatrics office in Thornton can have their physical needs addressed at that location and integrate treatment for mental or emotional health issues at one of our other sites. The end result is the same: comprehensive and attentive whole-person care.

Contact Us to Learn More

If you have questions about our mental health clinic or our health home approach, 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.

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.

Counseling Starts With Listening Without Judgement

Judging is a natural tendency in interpersonal communication. We tend to judge everything from the truthfulness of what is being said to the way in which it is being said in order to “measure” the person with whom we’re having a conversation. Unfortunately, while judging may be an innate trait, it can’t be described as a helpful one in many situations. When providing family counseling services, we encourage people to develop the ability to listen without judgement. That skill can produce more productive conversations and help create stronger relationships.

Benefits of Listening Without Judgement

It takes time and practice to move away from judging and toward more attentive, non-judgmental listening. But the effort pays off in many ways, including:

Fewer misunderstandings

When we are judging what someone says, our thoughts become consumed with trying to assign value to statements. Consequently, we may miss the meaning the person wants to convey. By listening without judgement we remove that distraction and can better understand the message.

Greater openness from the speaker

When we perceive that we are being judged, in family counseling or any setting, we tend to hold back information. When a speaker determines that her words are not being judged, she feels more comfortable openly sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Reduced conflict

Speakers who get “pushback” from a listener (whether expressed or suppressed) tend to try harder to make their point, which can quickly turn a healthy conversation into an uncomfortable confrontation. By simply allowing a person to “say their piece” without evaluating their statements, you can help defuse a potentially contentious interaction.

Easier identification of areas of agreement

When a listener judges a speaker, areas of agreement between them can be easily overlooked in the heated debate that ensues. More mindful listening allows both parties to find agreement in opinions and outlooks. And those places of common ground can serve as a foundation to build a stronger and healthier relationship.

Increased receptiveness to new ideas

The most productive conversations involve give and take on both sides. By listening without judgement, a person increases the chances that the speaker will respond in kind and be more open to consider a different point of view.

Tips for Better Listening

In addition to listening without judgement, there are other ways you can help make conversations more positive and productive. For example, do your best to enter a conversation without preconceived ideas about the outcome. Instead, tell yourself that you will assess what has been said after the fact.

Maintain eye contact so the other person knows you are interested and engaged. Find a good place to converse without interruption. Also, set aside ample time for the discussion, and allow for pauses during which the other person can collect their thoughts. And, restate what you hear from the other person so they can confirm or correct your understanding.

Family Counseling Based on Attentive Listening

Listening without judgement is an important skill for all, and is included in our Mental Health First Aid courses. And it is certainly at the core of our family counseling services. If you and your family are looking for guidance in resolving relationship issues, 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.

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week® is January 22-28, 2018

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week®

National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) is an annual observance focused on helping teens understand drug and alcohol use based on facts rather than myths. It is common for teens to have opinions about substance abuse that are influenced by social media, movies, TV, music and friends — sources that may or may not be truly knowledgeable.

To give teens a more factual perspective on this issue, scientists at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) created this observance in 2010. In 2016, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism became a partner.  

Informational Events and Powerful Partnerships

It comes as a surprise to many parents and others who interact with teens that despite how “worldly” and experienced they may seem, they often don’t fully grasp the negative impact that drug and alcohol use and abuse can have on them and those around them. That’s why NDAFW is about sharing information and educating teens. Locally planned school and community events encourage teens to get the scientific facts they need to make smart decisions.

To help spread the word on NDAFW, organizers partner with other government agencies, media organizations and leading organizations around the country. This collaboration makes the observance more impactful and better able to achieve the stated goal: “Shatter the Myths.”

Addiction is a Treatable Illness

One of the most damaging myths that NDAFW seeks to dispel the idea that drug addiction is a choice or a character flaw. The scientific fact is that while a teen may choose to start using drugs or alcohol, once addiction has taken hold, it is no longer a matter of choice. At that point, what is driving the teen’s behavior is a diagnosable illness. Thankfully, they can beat addiction through counseling and substance abuse treatment.

However, it generally takes significant time and effort to recover from addiction. This is because addiction actually creates changes in the brain. The normal “reward” system that humans have, where the neurotransmitter dopamine is released in response to certain positive behaviors, is effectively rewired by the substance. The chemical creates a shortcut to the brain’s pleasure centers along with other changes that ultimately make it very hard to kick an addiction. Consequently, a teen’s belief that they can give up drugs or alcohol whenever they choose to is fundamentally flawed.

Further – from a well-being perspective – numerous studies indicate that psychoactive substances can alter or damage brain development in teens. The substances can affect neurotransmitters, or messengers to the brain, and damage developing functions in a way that can stay with a person throughout his or her lifetime. For some teens, this type of scientific information can be what really compels them to the utmost in healthful lifestyles.  

The More We Learn

Thanks to the efforts of researchers, each year we know more about how addictions develop, what makes certain people more susceptible and how to make substance abuse treatment more effective. And thanks to NDAFW, each year that information is shared in order to better equip teens with the facts that bust the myths. There is much more work to be done, but it is encouraging that the programs that have been put in place in recent years are having a positive impact.  

We Help Teens and Families Beat Addiction

At Community Reach Center, we understand the challenges of beating drug and alcohol dependence and have excellent evidenced-based treatment programs. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday to learn more about our substance abuse treatment programs. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Postpartum Depression and Suicide in New Mothers

Although being a new mother can be a wonderful experience, it can also be mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. In some cases, the stresses associated with motherhood, and other factors, can cause a woman to experience what is known as postpartum depression (PPD). Also called postnatal depression, this is a serious mental health condition that can lead a mother to attempt or complete suicide. Consequently, it’s important that mothers and those around them understand what PPD is, and if they observe signs of it, seek help, including suicide prevention assistance if necessary.

Causes of Postpartum Depression

There is no one cause of PPD. Experts believe it results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. New mothers tend to experience a number of physical challenges ranging from pain and discomfort produced by the birthing process to dealing with intense sleep deprivation. The result tends to be exhaustion, which can be a contributor to PPD. Hormones are believed to play a role in the condition as well. Following childbirth, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels drop rapidly. This results in chemical changes in the brain that can produce mood swings.

While PPD is not fully understood, there are identified risk factors, including:

  • Symptoms of depression in the past, whether associated with childbirth or not
  • Depression or mental illness in other family members
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Troubling life events during pregnancy or soon after giving birth (e.g., domestic violence, personal illness, death of a loved one, relocation, job loss)
  • Difficult or premature delivery
  • Health problems with the baby
  • Lack of assistance and/or emotional support in caring for the baby
  • Uncertainty about being a parent (whether the pregnancy was planned or not)
  • But, one thing is clear: PPD does not result from anything a woman does or fails to do.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Postpartum depression should not be confused with the “baby blues,” which affect up to 80 percent of new mothers and leave them feeling tired and sad. Baby blues involve mild symptoms and resolve in a week or two. PPD is a serious mental illness that the National Institute of Mental Health describes as having these symptoms:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty or overwhelmed
  • Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Worrying or feeling overly anxious
  • Feeling moody, irritable or restless
  • Oversleeping or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems and muscle pain
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
  • Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Thinking about harming herself or her baby
  • PPD typically develops between a week and a month after delivery, and only a healthcare professional can diagnose it. So, it is important that new mothers or their loved ones seek help if the condition is suspected. And, as with any form of depression, it is critical that family members and healthcare providers take suicide prevention steps if needed.

Treating PPD

Postpartum depression can be treated with different forms of counseling (also called talk therapy) including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). It can also be addressed with antidepressant medication. And, the two types of treatment can be used together. A woman’s healthcare provider determines the proper approach based on her individual situation.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

Too often women feel pressured by the expectation that motherhood will be a “joyous” experience and consequently don’t feel comfortable taking action when symptoms of postpartum depression appear. The fact is, PPD is common and very treatable. If you or someone you know is experiencing it, seek help promptly. And if you feel the urge to harm yourself or your baby, call 911 or a suicide prevention hotline like the Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK(8255) immediately. You will receive caring, compassionate support and assistance. If you have a non-urgent desire to talk with someone about how you are feeling after childbirth, 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.