How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

By Anxiety, General No Comments

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

By Depression No Comments

It has long been believed that having faith is key to getting through some of life’s greatest challenges. A spiritual practice can often give people the strength and confidence to push through obstacles and make positive changes.

But can faith have a positive effect on depression and anxiety? According to new research, it can.

Your Brain on Spirituality

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, meditation or any other form of regular spiritual practice (such as prayer or religious contemplation) has been linked to a thickening of the brain cortex. The study, which was the first to investigate whether there is any physical evidence in the brain linked to the protective effects of faith against depression, looked at 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.

At the end of the study, magnetic resonance was used to view participants’ brains, and the images clearly showed thicker cortices in those participants who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.

But even more significant was the fact that the thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had shown thinning in people with a high risk for depression.

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

Every individual requires unique treatment methods to combat their symptoms of depression. While cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications work well for many people, many others may be helped by embracing a spiritual practice.

If you are suffering with depression, here are three reasons why you may want to focus more on your faith:

1. Faith Offers Hope

A belief in a loving power greater than ourselves can help us feel hopeful, even in our darkest hours. Faith turns wishful thinking into great expectations. And when we start to expect goodness in our lives, we naturally feel hopeful for our future.

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

Whether it’s through praying, meditating, or attending some sort of spiritual service or gathering, faith-filled people tend to experience positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Where once you may have had a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation, you might now be able to center yourself instead and face situations with calmness and clarity.

3. Your Perception Changes

Faith has a way of helping us see ourselves and our lives differently. Problems turn into opportunities, enemies into friends, and impossibilities into possibilities.

 

While it may take some time before you feel relief from your depression or anxiety, by embracing faith, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or anxiety and would also like to explore treatment options, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/for-many-with-severe-mental-illness-spirituality-plays-role-in-well-being/137462.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/19/how-spirituality-protects-the-brain-against-depression/64698.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1792140

Finding the Sweet Spot: Is Your Child Over-Scheduled?

By Adolescents/Teens, Children No Comments

Families are busy these days. Between a parent’s busy home and work life, and kids in school with after school activities, it can be hard to figure out a balance. Certainly activities outside of school will enrich your child’s life, but at what point is it adding value, and when is it pushing your family over the edge?

 

Lack of Sleep

It’s important to make sure your child is getting enough sleep. After they’re done with school and their extracurricular activity, they should have enough time to do homework, eat dinner, and get at least eight hours of sleep. If you have trouble getting them out of bed in the morning, if they’re lethargic all day or sleeping in class, your child may be over-scheduled because they’re not getting enough sleep.

 

Lack of Down Time

Kids benefit from unstructured time. Unstructured time helps them relax and decompress. It’s important to note however that screen time is not unstructured time. Time spent using electronics doesn’t relax them or help them decompress from the day. It doesn’t add stress, but it doesn’t take it away, either.

 

Your Child Acts Out When They Get Home

One of the biggest signs that your child is over-scheduled is if they come home from school and have a meltdown. When kids are at school, there’s much that’s expected from them. They have to have self-control all day, and a lack of unstructured time over the week can make them feel like they can’t take it anymore.

 

Finding a Balance

It can be difficult to find that sweet spot between a healthy number of activities for your kids, without your family having to sacrifice in other areas. First, evaluate how much time you’re spending on an activity. Include time spent at the activity, the time preparing, time spent at practice and driving to and from. Research shows that eight hours a week works best for children. Five to seven activities over the course of a year is at the top end of the “sweet spot” before extra activities start to have a negative impact.

 

Make a conscious decision to have some down time over the course of a year. Maybe pick a season not to have any activities scheduled for your children, so you can all enjoy some structured family life. Things like doing chores, helping with dinner, etc. is a boon to both children and families. Everyone benefits from family engagement.

If you’re a parent and you’re struggling or just need some support, call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

3 Ways to Minimize Seasonal Depression

By Depression No Comments

Seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, is a form of depression that typically impacts people during the winter months, when exposure to sunlight and temperature changes naturally occur.

Research indicates that about six percent of the American population, primarily those people living in northern states, suffers from SAD. It is also believed that one in ten Americans experience subsyndromal SAD, a milder form of seasonal depression, also called the “winter blues.” And, though the disorder can affect both men and women, it is more common among women.

Symptoms of seasonal depression include:

  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Increased weight gain
  • Lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Social withdrawal
  • moodiness

Though some people confuse SAD as simply moodiness, it is a real form of depression that is dependent on an individual’s hormonal state, as well as seasonal characteristics like exposure to light and temperature.

If you or a loved one are affected by seasonal depression, here are three ways you can reduce the symptoms that impact the quality of life.

Get Outside

While the temperatures outside may be a bit harsher than you’d like, it’s still a great idea to bundle up and get some sunshine, as much as you can. Our bodies need sunlight to boost our levels of vitamin D. Among other things, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to mood swings, headaches and fatigue.

Exercise is also one of the best ways to release the feel-good hormone, serotonin. But it is much better to walk for a half hour outside in the sunlight than to get on the treadmill inside. So, if you can bare the chill in the air, head outside and get that body moving.

Use a SAD Light

Of course, there will be those days when the sun refuses to show its face and the weather is too severe to spend much, if any, time outside. The use of a SAD light can help reduce the symptoms of seasonal depression.

SAD lights are also called light therapy boxes, and the light they produce mimics natural outdoor light. Light therapy is believed to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, like serotonin and melatonin, easing SAD symptoms.

Eat More Produce

Feelings of anxiety are common among those suffering with seasonal depression, but according to Dr. Uma Naidoo of Harvard Medical School, relief may be found at the end of your fork. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of essential nutrients like magnesium and zinc that ease anxiety and make people feel calmer. While you may be tempted to eat starchy comfort foods like bread and pasta, your best bet is to load up on as many whole foods as you can, with an emphasis on organic produce.

While the cold weather is likely to have most of us dreaming about spring, winter doesn’t have to be an emotional trial. By following these tips you may be able to lesson your SAD symptoms and get through winter unscathed.

If you or a loved one is currently feeling overwhelmed by SAD symptoms, and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.