Learn About the Role of Sleep in Mental Health

Man enjoying good sleepEvery year, researchers discover new links between sleep and health, and it's become apparent that sleep is something that everybody needs to take seriously. There are a number of health complications that can arise as a result of disturbed sleep, a lack of sleep, and a slew of other factors. At our mental health clinic, we emphasize that restful sleep is essential to good mental and emotional health. 

 

Physical and Mental Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

Everyone experiences occasional sleeplessness. However, people who fail to get seven to nine hours of sleep on a regular basis and consequently have an ongoing “sleep deficit” are at a higher risk for a number of medical problems including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Sleep difficulties can also cause or worsen mental and emotional health issues. This includes:

  • Decreased ability to think clearly
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased reaction time (which is especially problematic when driving a motor vehicle or operating machinery)
  • Increased symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Strained personal and professional relationships

 

Sleep and ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that is closely linked to sleep. While the relationship is not fully understood, most experts agree that there is a connection. The National Sleep Foundation quotes multiple studies in pointing out that in children in particular:

  • Children who have ADHD have higher rates of daytime sleepiness than children without ADHD
  • About 50 percent of children with ADHD exhibit signs of sleep-disordered breathing as compared to just 22 percent of children without the disease
  • Periodic leg movement syndrome and restless legs syndrome are common in kids with ADHD

Making matters worse is the fact that while adults tend to get lethargic when they don’t get enough sleep, children often compensate for feelings of daytime sleepiness by being more active. Consequently, sleep disorders and ADHD may both mask and magnify one another, making it more challenging to assess and treat either condition. However, treatment can be effective, and it is critical as both conditions can lead to other health problems.

 

10 Tips for Better Sleep

Whether sleep issues are causing you to have health concerns or simply impacting your quality of life, there are steps you can take to get more restful sleep. They include:

  1. Sticking to a regular sleep/wake schedule, even on weekends
  2. Avoiding long or irregular daytime naps
  3. Increasing exposure to sunlight or bright light during the day
  4. Reducing caffeine consumption later in the day
  5. Sleeping in a room that is comfortably cool, dark and quiet
  6. Avoiding late meals and minimizing water intake in the evening
  7. Reducing “screen time” as bedtime approaches
  8. Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing, visualization, taking a hot bath or shower, meditating or reading a book just before going to bed
  9. Getting regular exercise, but not in the evening
  10. Being evaluated for physical or mental health concerns that may be affecting your sleep

 

Helping Clients Understand and Improve Their Sleep

At Community Reach Center, we know how valuable it is to get restful sleep on a regular basis. Our counselors also understand that sleep, mental health and physical health are intertwined and can help you address the challenges you face. Learn more about our services at communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have mental health centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

Mental Health Center Emphasizes Importance of Physical and Mental Health

Life is made up of many components, and two of the most critical aspects are physical and mental health. It is challenging to have a healthy and balanced life without both. Focus on one at the expense of the other can be detrimental to one’s wellbeing. However, as we tell people at our Denver mental health center, with a little time and effort, you can improve both essential components.

Strategies for Staying Physically Healthy

Taking care of your body delivers a range of benefits, from fewer aches and pains to reduced risk of disease, to an increased energy level. Below are five things you can do to treat your body right.

  • Get regular aerobic physical activity. Some people have a negative opinion of “exercise” for one reason or another. However, you don’t have to run five miles a day or do hours of yoga or Pilates every week to improve your physical health. Just taking a brisk 20-minute walk daily can make a difference.
  • Eat a balanced diet. What and how much you eat has a major impact on your health. Fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish and whole grains are good for you. Sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates are not. And, all foods should be consumed in moderation.
  • Stay hydrated. Not only does your body need water to function properly, but staying hydrated can also boost your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit (or don’t start) smoking. It’s not easy to quit smoking, but there are counseling programs and medication that can help. If quitting cold-turkey feels impossible, start small by smoking one less cigarette a day.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Being tired isn’t the only consequence of getting inadequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause everything from cognitive impairment to hormone problems and weight gain.

Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health

Most people know that there are actions you can take to improve your physical health. However, many are surprised to learn that the same is true of mental health. Too often we assume that our mood and outlook on life simply fluctuate and there is nothing we can do about it. On the contrary, there are many steps you can take to help achieve and maintain a state of wellbeing. Some of the most effective are listed below.

  • Practice living “in the moment.” In our busy lives, it is easy to think about anything other than what we are doing in the present. It can be a tremendous stress reliever to learn to practice “mindfulness.” That means when you are washing your hands, focus on the simple pleasures of washing your hands, like the coolness of the water running through your fingers and the smell of the soap, When taking a bite of a sandwich, focus on the freshness of the ingredients and how the flavors blend together. Learning mindfulness requires some work to make this a habit, but the payoff is significant.
  • Create and maintain positive relationships. The connections we have with our family members, friends, coworkers and others in our life are crucial to our mental health. It is important to invest time and effort in ensuring they stay strong.
  • Keep track of what you’re grateful for. Even in the toughest of times, there are things we can be thankful for. Making a mental note of them (or better yet, recording them in a gratitude journal) on a regular basis can keep you focused on the positive.
  • Do something nice for someone. Even the smallest acts of kindness can deliver big mental and emotional benefits, both to the recipient and to you.
  • Think positive thoughts about yourself. How you think about yourself affects how you feel about yourself, and that affects your sense of confidence and overall perspective within the world. Reminding yourself regularly that you have many positive qualities and avoiding comparison to others, helps build a solid foundation for your mental and emotional health.

Important Resources from a Denver Mental Health Clinic

The strategies above can be very useful, but when you need expert insight into mental health challenges, our team at Community Reach Center can help. Visit communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for more information about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.

How to Care for Your Mental Health in Retirement

Mature man sitting at desk

Most people who have full-time careers look forward to the day that they can retire. Reaching that milestone is certainly an accomplishment and something to be celebrated. However, the transition into retirement is a major life change, and like any change, it can present mental and emotional challenges. At our mental health clinic, we encourage those approaching retirement age to give some thought to steps they can take to stay happy, healthy and well-adjusted as they advance into this new phase of life.

Tips for Making the Move Into Retirement

For most people, the number one concern as their chosen retirement date approaches is whether they will have enough money to take care of their physical needs after they stop working. That is an important determination to make. However, it is also crucial to think about how you will address your mental and emotional needs. Below are 10 proven tips for increasing overall well-being in retirement.

  1. Decide what you want out of retirement. Do you want to travel extensively? Spend most of your time with family? Start a second career? Having a goal can keep you challenged and focused, and both are good for your mental health.
  2. Do the math. As noted above, there should be more to retirement than simple survival. If you can, be sure you have the funds you need to support an enjoyable lifestyle.
  3. Confirm your plans with your partner, if you have one. Happiness starts at home. If your partner isn’t on board with your approach to retirement, it can be a stressful situation.
  4. Pick your retirement date and stick to it. Whether out of a sense of obligation to keep working or a fear of what comes next, it’s easy to put your retirement on hold indefinitely. Unfortunately, doing so may leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.
  5. Tend to your physical health. Do your best to stay healthy. Medical concerns – especially about conditions that could have been avoided – can adversely affect your mental health.
  6. Consider part-time employment or volunteer work. Having endless days with no obligations may sound like a dream come true. However, most people find that they are happier when they have some recurring items on their calendar and are making a contribution to society in some form. A sense of purpose is key to happiness.
  7. Stay connected with old friends and ideally make some new ones. The love and support you feel when you spend time with people you care about is good for your mental health. Making new acquaintances is also good for your wellbeing and provides some variety.
  8. Maintain a schedule. Even if you aren’t working or volunteering, it is a good idea to stick to a schedule to some degree. Committing to tasks like gardening every other morning for an hour and walking the dog daily in the afternoon provides a healthful lifestyle.
  9. Spend time with family regularly. If you live near your children or grandchildren, make time to see them on a regular basis. Even if you or they only have time for short visits, maintaining those relationships is very important.
  10. Pursue a new hobby or interest. Learning new things takes on a whole new feeling when you aren’t pressed for time and can relax and immerse yourself in the activity.

Putting the Shine on Your Golden Years

Even though you’ve stopped working, a happy, healthful life does require some work. Make a plan for how you will care for your mental health after retirement and you will get much more enjoyment out of the next chapter of your life.

If you are facing mental health challenges before or after you retire, you can connect with our mental health clinic at communityreachcenter.org or contact us by phone at 303-853-3500 to learn more about our services, and please have a look at our array of Senior Reach services located on our website. We have centers in the northside 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.

Understanding and Navigating Conflict While Maintaining Your Mental Health

Understanding Conflict

Conflict is involved in most facets of our everyday lives and can really pack a negative punch on our mental wellness if we don’t know how to manage it well. It’s paramount to learn and implement effective coping skills to manage conflict.

In general, our bodies have a physical response to conflict. Poor management can lead to higher production of the stress hormone cortisol and can cause hardening of the arteries, leading to increased risk of heart attacks as well as high blood pressure.

Each of the following scenarios stirs anger inside of us. But, how we choose to approach each situation can impact our mental health.

You’ve had a long day and still need to pick up groceries before heading home, but the grocery store parking lot is packed. Finally, you see a spot and put your signal on. Some other grocery shopper speeds up and swerves into YOUR spot just as you approach. 

Your son saunters through the door at midnight. You know because you waited up for him. His curfew was hours before, and you know he hasn’t done his homework yet either. You’re exhausted and frustrated.

Your boss has been piling work on you for days, yet your co-worker seems to not be receiving any extra projects. She leaves for an hour long lunch each day as you work through the day, trying to get everything done. Today, she smiles and tells you to work faster and perhaps you could join her for lunch.

 

When conflict arises, try some of these conflict resolution approaches:
Active listening

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is focused on something else? You don’t ‘feel’ heard. Make good eye contact. Also, to fully understand where the other party in the conflict situation is coming from, listen before speaking, and try not to be assembling a retort in your head while they’re talking.

Let’s go back to the curfew scenario. Before yelling at your son for coming through the door hours late, ask him if he has a reason why and actively listen to what he has to say. He may or may not have a good excuse, but giving him the benefit of the doubt before immediately expressing your frustrations may help diffuse the tension.  

Elevate your EQ

Your emotional quotient (EQ) is like your IQ for understanding and effectively using emotion. When we try to understand why we feel how we do and appropriately display our emotions, it’s easier to get through conflict successfully.

Utilize Empathy

Sometimes, we get so caught up in how we’re feeling, we forget the other party’s needs and emotions. Truly try to put yourself in their shoes, and you may find yourself empathetic to their cause. Finding middle ground will have less roadblocks when you attempt to be empathetic to others.

You know that rude grocery shopper that stole your parking spot? Maybe he had a child at home with a high fever and needed to get to the store ASAP to get medicine. Thinking about why he may have needed the spot just as badly as you might make you feel a little less angry.

Know Your Limitations

Conflict can escalate easily and quickly. Discern when to walk away, and/or when to call in a professional. Take a few deep breaths, assess, and remove yourself from the situation if need be. There are many local and online resources to help you mediate a situation. 

When your work colleague smiles at you and tells you to work faster, despite not understanding or caring about your workload, you might feel the need to quip back with an unkind response. Instead of acting in the moment, take a walk and ask yourself how to best approach this situation. You don’t have to ignore it altogether (in fact, that’s not a great strategy), but think about the communication type that will be effective, yet respectful.

Keep in mind, conflict isn’t called ‘peace.’ It can be a challenge. But don’t feel too bad about struggling through it--t’s natural to be frustrated. But, don’t give up. Your mental health will thank you for your diligence.

 

RESOURCES:

http://www.kdheks.gov/hcf/healthquest/download/resource_downloads/conflictresolution.pdf

http://www.edcc.edu/counseling/documents/Conflict.pdf

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/conflict-resolution.html