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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

There are a lot of things going on in this world right now that can make us feel anxious, worrisome, sad, upset, angry, and even defeated. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t felt any of those feelings in the last several months. Maybe you’ve experienced one of the following scenarios.

Pepperoni pizza in takeout box
  1. Showered a few minutes extra to cry so no one would see or hear you.
  2. Locked yourself in the bathroom to get a few extra minutes of tranquility.
  3. Felt like you can’t continue and just want to feel like yourself again.
  4. Cried in your room for a quick minute when everyone left just to let go.
  5. Ordered pizza for dinner because time escaped and you’re just too tired and emotionally drained to cook anything.
  6. Felt alone, even with others around you.
  7. Felt upset that something you were looking forward to was canceled.

The truth; I have done/felt all of those things over the last several months and I am here to tell you that you can find joy and even build hope. Once I wiped my tears away I began to use positive self-talk to tell myself that I am enough and that I can overcome any obstacle in my way. I wasn’t going to let my stress control me. The Mayo Clinic reports that if we continue to not deal with our stress then it can contribute to many health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Some of the strategies I have used to help me has been to:

Letter blocks spelling “rest”
  • Take a walk
  • Listen to a mediation
  • Take some deep breaths
  • Laugh- a lot
  • Talk with friends and family
  • Read a book
  • Listen to positive, uplifting songs
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Eat healthier foods
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Practice yoga

Please know that if your symptoms continue then you need to seek professional help. A healthcare provider may want to look into other causes or refer you to a counselor who can help you identify your stress and offer new coping tools. Several years ago I was in a very stressful job situation.  I let this stress go untreated. My personality changed and I needed to seek medical help. I felt defeated but my healthcare provider was very supportive and encouraging. She was able to prescribe me a medication to help me through that situation. It’s okay to ask for help, and pizza for dinner again is okay too.

You have worth.

You are important.

You are wonderful.

You are enough.

Bohlen, A. (2019, July 22). Finding joy Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/07/22/finding-joy/

Mayo Clinic . (2019, April 4). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

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As the world finds its way through the uncharted waters of this pandemic, you may find yourself navigating your own course. With stay-at-home orders, canceled events and limited gatherings, we are all experiencing isolation and loss on some level. Perhaps you have even suffered from depression at some point this year. You’re not alone.

Person sitting with hands folded, displaying stress symptoms

A mid-summer poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported over half of US adults indicated the pandemic has affected their mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the stress from pandemics can bring about these responses:

  • Fear and worry about health (your own and loved ones’)
  • Fear and worry about your job or finances
  • Concern about loss of support services you depend upon
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Decline of chronic health conditions
  • Increase of mental health problems
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol and other substances

With all of these stressful thoughts, it’s no wonder we may be feeling anxious, which can lead to depression. And while there is so much that is out of our control, there are some things we can do to take care of ourselves and those around us.

Cope with stress

  • Learn the facts about COVID-19. Just knowing the facts can reduce stress and help you feel more empowered.
  • Learn what to do if you are sick. The first step is to contact your healthcare professional.
  • Find out where to get treatment, support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telehealth services).
  • Take a break from news and social media. Constantly hearing news of the pandemic adds to your stress.
  • Distract yourself from the stress of the pandemic by taking up a new hobby or something that adds purpose or joy to your life.
person walking on road near woods

Take care of yourself

Connect with others

  • Talk with people you trust about your feelings and concerns.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting in different ways: online, social media, phone or mail.

This pandemic won’t last forever, even though it may feel endless at times. Until then, use these tips to take care of yourself and to live healthy AND well!

Sources:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html  

Robinson, L. and Smith, M. “Dealing with Depression During Coronavirus.” HelpGuide.org. Last updated: May 2020. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/dealing-with-depression-during-coronavirus.htm

Panchal, N. et. al. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” The Kaiser Family Foundation. August 2020.  https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.

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

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Photo by Pragyan Bezbaruah on Pexels.com

Over the last few weeks I have been pondering a difficult decision. With all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, I honestly do not know how I feel about my children returning to school – whether that means virtual learning or in the classroom.  

Many of these feeling came when our school district distributed a survey regarding back to school. I assumed it would be a survey with many questions regarding the return to school with several questions regarding virtual and classroom attendance. I was surprised the survey was one question: Are you sending your child to school or will they be doing virtual learning? This left me with racing questions! How can they have 75 students on a bus and social distance? How can they logistically serve the whole school lunch and maintain social distancing and food safety? If one student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19 are they going to quarantine that class or the whole school? If I choose virtual learning, how engaging will it be?  

The decision of sending my children to school or learning virtually has been difficult. My husband and I are not alone. Parents across the world will make this decision, and even if it is different than ours, I am sure that this has been difficult for all parents! As parents navigating in an uncertain world, we need to support each other and our children. Here are some tips to help support your child going back to school whether they are returning to school or learning virtually:

  •  Empathize with your child(ren) and understand they may be feeling anxious or worried about COVID-19. Remind them that there are many effective things we can do to keep ourselves and other safe such as washing our hands, not touching our face, and social distancing. 
  • Children do better with structure. Routine gives children a sense of security so even when there are abrupt changes, they know some things in their day will be the same. Allow your children to help design the schedule.  
  • Encourage your child(ren) to feel their emotions. Just like us they are missing out on events that are important to them. Acknowledge their feelings of anger, frustration, and sadness when they have missed out on ball games, dances, sleepovers with friends, etc. In a child’s eyes these are major losses. Tell them it is ok to feel the way they do. 
  • Find distractions and balance. Kids need relief from feeling frustrated. Be creative with your distractions. You can have a family game night, picnic supper outside, virtual play date with friends, or listen to music and dance!

As parents we are feeling overwhelmed and anxious too. Make sure you exercise self-care, so your children can rely on you to provide safety and security. 

Written by: Kellie Lemly, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Dr. Roseanne E. Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Resources:

Bailey, B. (2020, March 18).  COVID-19:  Five Helpful Responses for families.  Retrieved on July 23, 2020 from https://consciousdiscipline.com/covid-19-five-helpful-responses-for-families/?mc_cid=2df75cbd90&mc_eid=ca6418d16f

UNICEF, (2020). Supporting your child’s mental health as they return to school during COVID-19. Retrieved on July 23, 2020 from https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/supporting-your-childs-mental-health-during-covid-19-school-return

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, (2020). Schedules and Routines. On Our Sleeves. Retrieved on July 23, 2020 from https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/giving/on-our-sleeves/find-help/tools-for-you/coronavirus/schedules

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During this time of unknowns, are we forgetting to check in on our teenagers? Do we sometimes think, “they have their video games and phones” and don’t bother to check in on them anymore than that? I have many friends with teenagers who share how self-sufficient their teenagers have become in the midst of COVID-19. Sure they sleep in too long, stay up too late, and may not be eating as healthy of a diet, but overall they appear to be happy and healthy. However, is that truly the case for our teenagers?

A recent study conducted by the National 4-H Council shared startling statistics. Of the 1,500 youth who were polled, 7 out of 10 identified they are struggling with their mental health. One key indicator found that teens report more pressure to hide their feelings than to do drugs. The Harris Poll conducted on behalf of the National 4-H Council was published by multiple outlets including HuffPost. For more detailed statistics, the 4-H National page provides more.

While concerns of suicide are on the rise in our youth already, this global pandemic has increased the importance for us to check in with our youth to see how they are feeling. A statistic from the Youth Mental Health First Aid course shares that if a youth feels they have one trusted adult they can seek out to share feeling with, it decreases their chance of suicide drastically.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital has a campaign called On Our Sleeves that offers a place to begin a conversation. Resources are available to help parents, educators, and healthcare providers talk with youth about mental health. Honest and open conversations allow young people to share openly and honestly with you, a trusted adult.  This helps them so they don’t feel like the 65% of youth that are “dealing with it on their own”.

on our sleeves

Our youth are resilient, but they need your help to navigate these difficult years. Whether it is from a parent, guardian, or family friend, our youth need to have advocates when it comes to their own mental health. What are you waiting for? Invite that teen you know out to lunch (virtually or in-person!) and let them know how much you love and care for them.

References:

National 4-H Council. (2020). https://4-h.Org/about/Research/#!Healthy-Living. https://4-h.org/about/research/#!healthy-living

Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (2020). Nationwide Children’s Hospital. https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/giving/on-our-sleeves

Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid. https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

Written by: Bridget Britton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Carroll County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

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I feel like I have a lot on my plate right now, maybe more than that jam packed month of May.  Which in May of 2019 that was saying a lot. . .

Now my plate is full! Full of balancing home and work, bored kids, canceled activities, trying to socialize, staying involved with social issues, questioning my already made decisions, checking in on the mental health of my family, finding time for hobbies, and more.  This list could go on!

Life is hectic right now in a way it never has been before. 

I’ve learned in my (more than a) few years as an adult that I can’t control what is swirling around me but I can control my response to it.  My favorite new series of words to string together to help me with this mindset: and that’s ok!

 

Today was a hard day being a parent. . . and that’s ok!

I completely dropped the ball on that. . . and that’s ok!

I didn’t cross anything off on my list today. . . and that’s ok!

I feel sad today. . .and that’s ok!

I’m having a hard time processing all the events right now. . . and that’s ok!

The dishes are piled all over the kitchen. . . and that’s ok!!

 When we tell ourselves and those around us that we love that it’s going to be ok we are creating HOPE.  We don’t know how long it will be ok.   We don’t have to commit to how it will be ok, but we can create HOPE and we all need that hope right now. 

With just a few changes in our words and thoughts, we can build HOPE right now in our families and community:

  • Join with others in your community who can provide emotional support and encouragement by texting, calling, or by dropping a letter in the mail.  We had some friends drop by some simple treats one evening.  We had an enjoyable visit with them at a safe distance while wearing masks.
  • Reach out and ask a good friend or a family member how they have maintained hope in troubled times. They may offer some helpful suggestions.
  • Make a list of your strengths and talents, and then list your options and resources. Help family members do the same. Ever heard of count your blessings?  You’ll be surprised and grateful when you start to add them up.
  • Learn the true facts about the crisis or economic situation, so you don’t just act on people’s opinions. Look for reliable and unbiased sources of information. 
  • If you are feeling suicidal, get help. Reach out to your family or call SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Holding on to some HOPE right now might be just what we need to make it through tough times, exist together, and pull ourselves from so much uncertainty.  Or maybe you need something completely different right now. . . .and that’s ok too.

Written by:  Alisha Barton, OSU Extension Educator, Miami County barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Dan Remley, PhD, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Coping in Hard Times: Fact Sheet for Parents. (2007). Retrieved from https://www.maine.gov/ems/sites/maine.gov.ems/files/inline-files/coping_in_hard_times_parents.pdf

Marrison, E. (2020, May 20). It’s Time to Unplug. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/05/21/its-time-to-unplug/

 

(2020). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/location/ohio

GALILEO@UGA Subject Guides: Finding Reliable Sources: What is a Reliable Source? Retrieved 2020, from https://guides.libs.uga.edu/reliability

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Today is often considered the “unofficial” start to summer. That means longer days and warmer weather for getting outside. However, this summer brings a new and unsettling guest: COVID-19. To help you stay safe while you are outdoors, the Ohio Department of Health and the National Recreation and Park Association have made the following recommendations:

  • Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on personal hygiene. Wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, and stay home if you have any symptoms.
  • Follow recommendations for face masks and physical distancing.
  • Only go outdoors with those who live under the same roof.
  • Visit places that are close to your home. Refrain from travel that requires you to stop along the way or be in close contact with others.
  • If a parking lot is full or blocked, move on. Do not park in grass or on roadways.
  • Warn others of your presence and step off trails to allow others to pass safely.
  • Expect public restrooms to be closed.
  • Bring water or drinks. Drinking fountains should not be used.
  • Bring a bag for trash and leave no trace.
COVID-19: Physical Distancing in Public Parks and Trails

Plan Your Trip Before Heading Out

Currently, most outdoor spaces in Ohio state parks, wildlife areas, forests, natural areas, and preserves are open. This includes trails, dog parks, docks, fishing piers, and boat ramps.

At this time, state lodges, visitor centers, playgrounds, and rest rooms remain closed. Visit Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for the most up to date information about what state facilities are open and closed.

If you plan to go somewhere other than an ODNR facility, do some research before leaving. Most places have a website or a Facebook page with updated visitor information.

Expect places to be crowded. If you step off a trail, avoid poison ivy or tall grass that might have ticks. Practice sun safety to protect your skin and your eyes.

Find New Places to Explore

If you need help finding new places to explore, try these tips:

  • Start local. Ask neighbors and friends to recommend their favorite places to explore. A quick internet search can help you find local destinations, depending on what you want to do. Try a search such as “places to hike near me” and you will quickly find destinations, reviews, and images.
  • Visit Ohio Trails Partnership. Click the “Find a Trail” tab to find destinations based on geographical regions.
  • Diversify your destinations. In addition to state wildlife areas, forests, and nature preserves operated by ODNR, there are also private nature centers and preserves. For recommendations, try a search such as “nature areas near me.”

Get Outside and Experience the Great Outdoors

Remember to be safe and do some homework before leaving home. Be sure to check the CDC, ODH, and ODNR websites since COVID-19 updates happen frequently. Then, get outside, breath in some fresh air, and reap the physical, mental, and psychological benefits of being outdoors. Enjoy!

Sources:

Cloth Face Coverings (Masks) COVID-19 Checklist. Ohio Department of Health. Retrieved from https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/checklists/english-checklists/cloth-face-coverings-covid-19-checklist

Dolesh, R.J. and Colman, A. (2020, March 16). Keeping a Safe Physical Distance in Parks and on Trails During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.nrpa.org/blog/keeping-a-safe-social-distance-in-parks-and-on-trails-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Ducharme, J. (2019, February 28). Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier. Here’s What Else Being Outside Can Do for Your Health. Retrieved from https://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness

Social Distancing. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

Symptoms of Coronavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

WRITTEN BY: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County.

REVIEWED BY: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food Nutrition and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension.

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Good Mental Health is a Precursor to Good Physical Health

It’s no secret that our society is living longer.  Based on the U.S. 2017 Census Report, by 2040 the number of individuals 85 years old and over are projected to increase by 129%.  The thought of my friends and family living longer is certainly appealing to me.  However, with the aging process comes added physical and mental health concerns for caregivers.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the most common chronic physical conditions aging adults experience include:

            Health Disease

            Cancer

            Chronic bronchitis or emphysema

            Stroke

            Diabetes mellitus

            Alzheimer’s disease

Many of us are familiar with the physical conditions but did you know, mental conditions can be just as debilitating if not treated?  Mental health issues are often overlooked or viewed as a “normal” part of the aging process.  Let’s be clear, mental health problems are not a normal part of aging and should not be overlooked!  One in four (6 to 8 million) older adults age 65 or older experiences a mental health disorder and the number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030.  The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and depression/bipolar. 

Good physical health is a precursor to good mental health and good mental health is a precursor to good physical health.  To age at our full potential, we must place the same value for treatment of mental conditions as we do on physical.  Recognizing the warning signs and seeking treatment can improve quality of life.  Signs and symptoms can vary but examples include:

            Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

            Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

            Increased worry or feeling stressed

            Anger, irritability or aggressiveness

            Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

            A need for alcohol or drugs

            Sadness or hopelessness

            Suicidal thoughts

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Engaging in high-risk activities

            Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

            Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

            Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one, please make an appointment to discuss these concerns with your doctor.  Treatment works and the earlier the intervention the better the outcome for recovery and improved quality of life. 

Please remember if you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.  Both hotlines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls/texts are confidential! 

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, M.S., Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Emily Marrison, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness – The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce. store.samhsa.gov/system/files/new_older_adults_living_with_serious_mental_illness_final.pdf.

“Older Adults.” Older Adults | Healthy People 2020, http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/older-adults.

“Behavioral Health for Older Adults: Mental Health.” NCOA, http://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health/.

“Older Adults and Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/older-adults-and-mental-health/index.shtml.

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“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”   Winston Churchill

As we move into the new year let’s think about the “Power of Positivity” and the role that it can have for a potentially wonderful 2020.

smiling woman

Did you know that positive people are more resilient, adaptive, innovative, healthy and engaged in their work? They have more successful relationships too. Positive people also have fewer colds, longer lives, more successful marriages, have fewer heart attacks, a higher pain tolerance, and even have more friends. Makes sense, who wants to spend hours with people who grouch and complain all the time? Of course, if the negative person is your mother, you can’t say I’m never spending time with you again.

A study from Michigan State University found that negative workers become more mentally fatigued and defensive. They are also less productive. Several studies have found that those negative workers may cost the US Economy $250 to $300 million per year in lost productivity. Research also finds that positive teams are more effective, efficient, and successful. They outperform other teams in work speed and quality.

My personal favorite positivity author is Jon Gordon. He combines research with messages that are easy to understand and make me think. He has a number of books that you can borrow from your local library, download on an e-reader, or purchase if you really like them. He also has free online video’s and newsletters. In one of his more recent newsletters he challenged readers to “Be Positively Contagious”. He states that emotions are contagious – so sincere smiles, kind words, and encouragement will spread through your home, workplace, school, or organization. While negativity can infect others. If you are having a negative day, think about taking a sick day for an attitude adjustment. In the same way you don’t want to infect others with the flu, why infect them with your negative attitude?

I challenge you as we move into 2020 to find ways to build your own positivity and encourage others to be more positive too. Possible tools include:

  • Accepting that change is part of life.
  • Trying the “No Complaining Rule” – Can you avoid complaining for even a day? Build to a week?
  • Use the “Tell Me Something Good” Technique – When family or friends are sharing, encourage them to tell you something good that happened and not focus on the negative.
  • Watching positive/humorous shows, movies, or videos that make you laugh.
  • Use affirming/positive self-talk.
  • Let go of things you can’t control.
  • Smile more, even a fake smile will reduce your heart rate and blood pressure!

“No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” Tom Schulman

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County.

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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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