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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Woman holding head
Do you ever feel like a hamster in the wheel just spinning around and around? Or like the world around you is always demanding something more from you? Life has a way of swallowing us up if we don’t manage our schedules. As I look at my monthly calendar, I feel overwhelmed by doctor’s appointments, volleyball games, meetings and more meetings, evening work programs, my daughter’s high school homecoming, house repairs, conference presentations, deadlines, webinars, family obligations, and traveling out of town for work 15 out of 26 days. 

As part of my job, I encourage people to practice healthy time management and stress management. Clearly, I have fallen victim to NOT practicing what I preach. I would like to say without hesitation, that I have not experienced first-hand how life responsibilities and demands can quickly create feelings of stress. That would be a lie. I am keenly aware of the warning signs and symptoms related to increased stress in my life. Like many people, I sometimes choose not to listen to my body’s cues.

Headaches and muscle tension are symptoms I experience when I am overwhelmed. The Cleveland Clinic identifies these other physical symptoms related to stress:

  • Dizziness or a general feeling of “being out of it.”
  • General aches and pains
  • Grinding teeth, clenched jaw
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
  • Increase in or loss of appetite
  • Muscle tension in neck, face, or shoulders
  • Problems sleeping
  • Racing heart
  • Cold and sweaty palms
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Upset stomach and/or diarrhea
  • Sexual difficulties

Do you know how stress affects you? I encourage you to take some time to identify the signs and symptoms you experience related to stress. Once you know your own warning signs, it will be easier to manage stress. There are a variety of ways to cope with stress.  The key is choosing what works for you and what fits your lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic offers these stress management tips:

  • Get regular physical activity
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi, or massage
  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Set aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music

If you practice healthy stress management techniques but your symptoms continue or worsen, please seek assistance from a healthcare professional. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available to anyone. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls are confidential.

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Belmont County, dunfee.54@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

References:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/clause-law-flood-stress-burnout-3213670/

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It wasn’t until recently that I came to realize that I most likely experience the winter blues, which is more mild than Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I have never been a fan of fall (I know all of you fall-lovers just took a collective gasp) or winter. In fact, it is more accurate to say I despise them. Up until a few years ago, I never really connected the dots of my dislike of fall and winter to the possibility that I have the winter blues, or perhaps SAD.

In 2017 I became a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor. MHFA is designed to help regular people be able to recognize and better understand if someone they know is developing a mental health issue and how to help them. MHFA also teaches how to respond to someone having a mental health crisis. It wasn’t until I started teaching MHFA that I realized that the symptoms of SAD are similar to things I experience as fall approaches.

While I experience many of the symptoms of SAD, I am still able to enjoy my life and carry out my daily activities. The milder form of SAD is often called the winter blues. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms someone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may experience include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

While fall and winter SAD are the most common, some people have symptoms during spring and summer. According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms related specifically to fall and winter SAD , also known as winter depression, are:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

The symptoms most often associated with spring and summer SAD, also known as summer depression, are:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

While the exact cause of SAD is not known, there are some factors that may come in to play. According to an article by Rush University Medical Center, these are some of the possible mechanisms:

  • Dips in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
  • Disruptions in circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock), which help control sleep-wake cycles.
  • Alterations in melatonin, a hormone associated with both mood and sleep.

Some risk factors for SAD include:

  • Family history.
  • Having major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Living far from the equator.

Some treatments for SAD include:

  • Exposure to sunlight.
  • Light therapy.
  • Psychotherapy.
  • Antidepressants.

In addition to these treatments, a University of Rochester Medical Center article gives these steps you can take to help ease symptoms:

  • Get help.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone.
  • Do things that make you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs.
  • Delay big decisions until the depression has lifted.
  • Realize that people don’t often snap out of a depression.
  • Try to be patient and focus on the positives.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

So, if you or someone you know experiences either the winter blues or SAD, there is hope beyond the longer, sunny days of spring and summer. Anyone who has severe symptoms should seek professional help, especially if there are ever any thoughts of suicide or harm. I have not sought professional help, as I do not have any severe symptoms. My symptoms mainly involve lack of energy, sluggishness, mild agitation, and cravings. I have made it a point to get more exposure to light, especially earlier in the day, and I try to eat as healthy as possible and be as active as possible. Being proactive in these ways is enough to help ease my symptoms.

Written by:

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Photo Sources:

https://pixabay.com/photos/man-face-confused-head-depression-416473/

https://pixabay.com/photos/desperate-sad-depressed-hopeless-2100307/

References:

More Than Just the Winter Blues? Rush University Medical Center. Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2017). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Found on 10/20/19 at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved 10/20/19 from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00755

National Council for Behavioral Health. (2019). Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

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Two snowmen on a sunny day

What comes to mind with the mention of the holidays or holiday season? For me, warm and happy thoughts and feelings fill my mind and my heart as I remember past holidays.  Anticipation for the upcoming festivities and celebrations also prevail. While many of you share my thoughts and feelings, not everyone has the same view of the holidays. For millions of people struggling with loss or some type of mental health challenge, the holidays are anything but jolly.

Since one in four Americans has some type of mental health challenge in any given year, it is very likely that each us knows or will interact with someone who may be struggling. According to a survey from 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness found that the holidays made their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse.” So, just because most people view the holiday season as merry and bright, does not mean everyone shares that sentiment.

The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions to help reduce stress and depression that can occur with the holiday season:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Here are some ideas:Hands with blue mittens on holding a snow flake
    • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
    • Give homemade gifts.
    • Start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Don’t forget to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
    • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
    • Listening to soothing music.
    • Getting a massage.
    • Reading a book.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

The holiday season can be stressful, but with some thoughtful planning and by using some of these suggestions, it doesn’t have to be.

 

Writer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension,  Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu

Photo:

https://pixabay.com/en/snowman-winter-snowmen-holiday-640366/

https://pixabay.com/en/snow-winter-mittens-snowflake-cold-1918794/

Sources:

National Alliance on Mental Health, (2017). Managing Your Mental Health During the Holidays. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/Managing-Your-Mental-Health-During-the-Holidays

National Alliance on Mental Health, (2014). Mental Health and the Holiday Blues. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues

Mayo Clinic, (2017). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544

National Alliance on Mental Health, (2015). Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2015/Tips-for-Managing-the-Holiday-Blues

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