Grief and the Holidays: 5 Practical Tips to Help Cope

Grief is complicated. It is ever-changing and unique for each person going through it. Coping can sometimes feel overwhelming… especially during the holiday season when certain songs are played or when special festive decorations bring back memories with that loved one. 

You are not alone.

Our hearts can feel conflicted between the joy of the season and the painful feelings of our own loss. Family gatherings, holiday traditions, and memories of years past all seem to contribute to these distressing emotions.

There is hope.

Although totally removing our feelings of loss is not possible; there are ways we can help reduce some of that internal conflict and even make our experiences enjoyable.

1. Plan Ahead

Psychology Today offers this guidance: “Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. So while that holiday dinner may only last two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish. Drive yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted friend who will take you home whenever you want. Just knowing you can easily leave at any time can help you enjoy the activity much more than you would if you felt stuck.”

Certain holiday roles may need to be filled when those have been vacated by loss. Planning ahead can help avoid unexpected sorrow. Consider who might fill those empty spaces before the moment arises.

2. Honor Traditions and Memories

A helpful way to keep your loved one’s memory present is to continue practicing holiday traditions. You can also find ways to honor those who are no longer here by dedicating time to remember and celebrate them. Grief.com gives us these examples:

  • A prayer before the Holiday dinner, about your loved one.
  • Light a candle for your loved one.
  • Create an online tribute for them.
  • Share a favorite story about your loved one.
  • Have everyone tell a funny story about your loved one.

3. Allow Yourself to Feel

We all grieve in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong way. You may even experience different emotions from year to year. That’s okay. Laugh and embrace joy when it comes. Grieve and mourn when those feelings arise. It is important to acknowledge all of our feelings and to not avoid them. 

Developing healthy coping skills can help walk us through these moments:

  • Go for a walk 
  • Start or continue journaling
  • Deep breathing
  • Practice yoga/meditation
  • Speak positive affirmations to yourself

4. Volunteer

Doing something to help another can lift a grieving spirit. We can draw comfort from doing good to others. Even in the midst of our grief, we have so much to offer to those in need:

  • Donate to a family in need. 
  • Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen. 
  • Invite a guest to holiday dinner that might otherwise spend it alone.
  • Support another who is also grieving a loss.

5. Ask for Help

Surround yourself with friends, family, and coworkers who love and support you. Reminding loved ones that this time is difficult and sharing your holiday plans with them can help. It can also be extremely valuable to reach out for professional talk therapy. If you are struggling with grief and the complicated feelings that arise during the holidays, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

Southend Psychiatry is here as you navigate the pressures, demands and triggers of the holidays. We can come alongside you to offer support and help. Contact Southend Psych today to inquire about appointment availability and get on your way to a better you.

Southend Psychiatry 

Schedule your appointment today with one of our SouthEnd Psychiatry clinicians. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.

 

How Do I Know When I Should Speak With a Psychiatrist?

Deciding when to see a psychiatrist can be a difficult decision. There are some key signs that you can look for that can help you to make the right choice. Keep an eye out for these signs to determine if you should start looking for a psychiatrist.

Your Feelings Are Affecting Your Work

If you find that your feelings are affecting your productivity at work or your relationships at work, connecting with a mental health specialist can help. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the course of a year, 20% of people will experience some sort of mental illness. Getting ahead of the problem by contacting a mental health specialist can improve your mental health and ensure you get back on track.

Your Family Relationships Are Suffering

Mental health psychiatrists can help you navigate your family relationships. If you find yourself often angry at family members or avoiding family gatherings, a psychiatrist can help you to get to a place of healing.

Your Physical Health Is Suffering From Your Mental Health

Physical health and mental health go hand in hand. If you find that you’re suffering from gastrointestinal discomfort, frequent headaches, body pains, and aches and there is no medical reason, it could be your mental health. Psychosomatic illness can be very detrimental to your health. It’s a clear sign that you need to speak to a professional.

If you are having a hard time sleeping or feel like you do not have any energy to do the things you want to do, these are also signs that your mental health is taking a toll on your body.

You Are Using Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Some people will overeat when they are struggling with their mental health, while some people will drink or use substances to cope. There are a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms that will compound your mental health problems. If you notice that you are using unhealthy coping, it is a sign you need to contact a psychiatrist.

The fact is, if you’re considering connecting with a psychiatrist, then you very likely need to. If you are debating whether to call a mental health professional, you should make the call. Call SouthEnd Psychiatry today to get the help that you need.

Family, Stress & the Holidays

When you think of the upcoming holiday season, does it immediately raise anxiety and stress levels? If so, you are not alone. This season can sometimes bring unexpected gatherings with toxic family members, an overcommitment of gift-giving, streets full of impatient drivers, and the stress of managing it all.  

There is hope. Believe it or not, we can all still have a joyous holiday despite the stressors that come with this season. Here are some practical tips to help make this holiday one you can genuinely enjoy.

Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries.

Boundary issues can be the most difficult to handle at the family level. It can feel uncomfortable if we haven’t practiced this skill. Start with these 4 rules:

  • Set your boundaries. What will you tolerate and not tolerate? What behaviors will you accept and not accept? Include everything from protecting your schedule to how someone can treat you. Write them down and trust your decisions. 
  • Decide the consequences. Most of us have at least one “boundary breaker” in our family therefore decide ahead of time what the consequences will be if your boundary is broken…regardless of who breaks it.
  • Communicate clearly. Make your boundaries and consequences known…especially with family members who are known to cross the line. Be direct and clear. Their response or reaction is not your responsibility.  
  • Follow through. If a boundary is broken, you know what to do. Be firm yet compassionate. Honor yourself by not allowing people to treat you poorly.

Set Realistic Expectations.

For some reason, we can feel like the holidays have to be perfect or even better than last year. We try to top last year’s gift list or attend more parties. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real struggle for many however it comes at a cost. Consider these ideas:

  • Stick to a budget. Decide ahead of time how much you can afford and stick to it. If you are someone who loves showering people with gifts, think of ways to do this without overspending.
  • Plan ahead. Choose specific days for shopping, baking and family gatherings. Avoid last minute trips to the store by planning your menus and shopping lists in advance. 
  • Take time for yourself. This season is meant to be enjoyed by all…including you. Even setting aside 15 minutes a day alone to take a walk, read, or meditate can drastically reduce stress.

Know When to Seek Professional Help.

Talk therapy is always a good idea…especially when it is with a licensed therapist. If you are feeling persistently anxious, unable to sleep at night or focus during the day, let’s talk. 

Southend Psychiatry is here as you navigate the pressures, demands and triggers of the holidays. We can come alongside you to offer support and help. Contact Southend Psych today to inquire about appointment availability and get on your way to a better you.

Southend Psychiatry 

Schedule your appointment today with one of our SouthEnd Psychiatry clinicians. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.

6 Ways to Get Comfortable at Your First Therapy Appointment

Mental health in America is declining at a rapid rate. About 25% of adults are dealing with a mental health diagnosis, according to Johns Hopkins. This means that the demand for psychiatrists is at an all-time high. The good news is that this means you should have plenty of options for a certified mental health professional in your area.

If you’re someone who has never seen a psychiatrist before, you might be feeling a little apprehensive about your first appointment. Here are six ways to help you feel more comfortable and get the most out of your first session.

1. Research Psychiatrists Ahead of Time

It’s important to find a psychiatrist with the precise experience and training required to assist you. You can research a psychiatrist’s background and specialties online. This is a great way to ensure that they’re equipped to guide you on your healing journey. You should also find a psychiatrist whose personality matches or meshes well with your own. After all, you’re going to have lots of lengthy conversations with this person! Therefore, it’s ideal if your psychiatrist has a personality that makes you feel comfortable and at ease.

2. Consult With Other People in Therapy

If you know anyone who’s currently in therapy, ask them about their experiences and what they think makes for a successful psychiatrist-patient relationship. They might also be able to give you some insights on what topics to bring up during your first session. Speaking with someone who’s been down this road before is a great way to prepare yourself.

3. Choose a Convenient Location

It’s essential that you choose a therapy model that suits your own comfort levels. If you have anxiety or apprehension about traveling long distances, then you should ensure you find a psychiatrist within close proximity to your home. You may even be interested in telehealth appointments. This allows you to receive counseling right from the comfort of your home. Many patients find this ideal for the convenience and comfort it provides.

4. Prepare Before Your First Session

You’ll want to have an idea of what you want to talk about going into your first session. Many psychiatrists will ask you why you’re seeking therapy and what your goals are for treatment. It can be helpful to write these answers down ahead of time so you don’t forget anything important. This can also help you feel more prepared to tackle your therapy session with confidence.

5. Be Open and Honest

For therapy to be effective, you need to be transparent with your psychiatrist about what’s going on in your life. Such honesty can be difficult, but try to remember that your psychiatrist is there to help you and is not there to judge you. Be prepared to disclose details of your life that you might not share with others. Remember that your psychiatrist is a professional who is bound by privacy laws to keep everything you say confidential.

6. Ask Questions

Your psychiatrist will ask you lots of questions during your first few appointments. However, you should use this time to ask questions yourself! Therapy is not, in fact, a one-way street. Treat your first session like a conversation or a getting-to-know-you session with your psychiatrist. Ask them about their specific credentials and approaches to therapy. This will help you gauge their ability to assist you with your specific goals.

Seeking therapy can be a big step, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. By doing a little research and preparing ahead of time, you can ensure that your first therapy appointment is a comfortable and productive one. If you’re ready to experience the tremendous benefits of therapy, give SouthEnd Psychiatry a call today. We look forward to helping you.

Fighting Depression Together

In the US alone, about 1 in 10 people experience depression. From the pandemic to social unrest, there are many factors in today’s society that contribute to this rising mental health condition.

Psychology Today states:

“The trigger for depression can be almost any negative experience or hardship. Triggers can be external—losing a parent (especially when young), losing a job or developing a debilitating disease—or they can be internal and invisible, such a brooding over that most common of experiences, a failed relationship. People differ in their susceptibility, both by virtue of the biological heritage, their parenting heritage, their styles of thinking, the coping skills they acquire or deliberately cultivate, and the degree to which situations afford them the ability to control their fate.”

What is Depression?

Webster defines depression as a mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness and that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Signs of Depression

According to the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, depression can be considered an illness when at least five symptoms occur together for at least two weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or low frustration tolerance
  • Loss of interest in or ability to enjoy usual activities, from sex to sports
  • Sleep disturbance, whether inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
  • Fatigue and lack of energy; everything feels effortful
  • Appetite disturbance, including loss of interest in eating and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, moving, or talking
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt, a focus on past failure, self-blame
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions
  • Recurring thoughts of death
  • Physical pain such as headaches or back pain that has no clear cause.

How Can Therapy Help?

At SouthEnd Psychiatry, our therapy team first helps patients understand what thoughts, feelings and beliefs are contributing to their depression. We then begin to develop healthy coping skills to combat and prevent depressive episodes. 

Negative thought patterns directly affect our mood. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps us understand these patterns. We learn how to reframe our thoughts through newly developed skills including meditation.

How Can We Help a Loved One With Depression?

Helping someone with depression can come in many forms. Acknowledgment, understanding and empathy are a great place to start! Here are five ways you can help a loved one battling depression:

  • Encourage therapy treatment. Depression is a complex disorder. Talking to someone who is trained and experienced can mean all the difference in the world. SouthEnd Psychiatry has many different therapy plans and means of communication to help make seeing a therapist easy.
  • Get active. People battling depression tend to loose motivation yet physical activity is a great form of behavioral activation. Invite your loved one on a walk. Exercise, sunshine and companionship all have antidepressant qualities.
  • Intentional sleeping habits. Our sleep patterns can be negatively affected by depression. Encourage your loved one to be intentional about getting a good night’s sleep through meditation, a healthy night time wind down routine and consistent bed times.
  • Keep talking. Maintaining regular contact with someone battling depression is key. Take time to listen without judgement or criticism. Social contact helps prevent alienation and seclusion.

Southend Psychiatry is here as you navigate the complexities of today. We can come alongside you or your loved one to offer support and help. Contact Southend Psych today to inquire about appointment availability and get on your way to a better you.

Southend Psychiatry 

Schedule your appointment today with one of our SouthEnd Psychiatry clinicians. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.

Achieving an Optimal State of Mind

Worry and anxiety are on the rise in our homes. We have been living in a state of seemingly insurmountable odds with the pandemic, a charged political arena, as well as everyday bumps along the road of life. While overcoming worry and anxiety may seem impossible, tried and true practical steps can be taken in order to live a life centered on contentment and growth. 

Get Quality Sleep

One such practical step is simply to document your sleep schedule. While we all have internal rhythms that may vary, many of us fail to realize the importance of adequate sleep. Sleep provides our bodies with essential time for maintenance and repair of many of our life-giving organs, including our brains. When we miss sleep, our minds are not able to function at the highest levels, and that off-kilter feeling can give way to both worry and anxiety. 

Make Easy Changes to Diet

Another practical habit to help you battle worry and anxiety is eating well. Anxiety induced by any number of toxins can take away a sense of balance and stability in your life. Take our addiction to caffeine for example. As a worried people, should we really be consuming vast quantities of products that increase our on-edge feelings? Sugar is also known to affect both our mood and our sleep patterns. Taking a close look at how your diet could be contributing to your feelings of worry and anxiety may uncover ways you can calm your mind and live a steadier life. 

Release Endorphins Daily

And the third in the practical ideas line-up is, of course, exercise. Spending time working out can help reduce worry and anxiety as well. Humans burn energy, and it seems we can either burn it through the exercise our bodies need or through worrying endlessly in the middle of the night about things often beyond our control. So get outside, get active, and release those endorphins- you will be amazed at how this one change can help you sleep better and have less anxiety! 

Again, these simple reminders – adequate sleep, diet, and exercise – may help you reduce worry and anxiety in your own life. A steady, prepared mind is something that we all strive for, and working on these three areas of your life will perhaps enable you to achieve that optimal state of mind.

Schedule your appointment today with one of our SouthEnd Psychiatry clinicians. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.

Understanding Codependency: What, Why, & How COVID-19 Has Made it Worse

Unless you have gone to therapy or been close to someone seeking help for codependent tendencies, your perception of codependency is likely inaccurate in some ways. Aside from popular belief, the term does not refer to the behavior of people who “can’t do anything on their own” or “had parents who did everything for them growing up.” In fact, it often means quite the opposite.

And, believe it or not, codependency doesn’t just affect a small portion of the population! Some estimates suggest that close to 90% of people demonstrate codependent behavior in relationships, with many having realized they struggle with codependency only during and after COVID-19.

So, what is codependency, why do so many of us experience it, and how has COVID-19 made it worse? Keep reading for the answer to these questions and more.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a pattern of behavior characterized by a mental, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual reliance on another person in a close relationship (e.g. spouse-spouse, friend-friend, coworker-boss, sibling-sibling, etc.). It can also be thought of as an imbalanced relationship in which one person (“the giver”) assumes the responsibility of meeting the needs of the other person (“the taker”) and, in doing so, cannot acknowledge their own feelings and needs to the point of personal detriment. 

Codependent people are typically empathetic, highly capable, and independent in that they take care of everyone, including themselves, without asking for help. The problem with this ultra-independence is that it is impractical; we all have needs, and they can only go unmet for so long. And while codependents can maintain complacency for extended periods of time (months, years, sometimes decades), they do eventually become resentful of the lack of reciprocation from others and explode—either internally or externally.

At their core, codependents want to feel secure and wanted for their true selves, but in pursuit of this safe connection, they self-sacrifice so much that they end up losing all sense of themselves. In other words, by making others “need”/depend on them, they make the very thing they crave, authentic connection, impossible. 

What Causes Codependency?

Codependency is not a personality disorder or clinical diagnosis but rather a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. Those who struggle with codependency usually developed the condition by watching and imitating other family members who managed situations of abuse, neglect, illness, addiction and other traumatic situations (usually within the family) the same way—by “fawning” (repressing one’s own needs in order to be loved and accepted, i.e. people-pleasing).
But it goes deeper than that. At its root, the compulsion to self-deny is the result of a complex form of attachment disorder and PTSD developed in childhood. As children, codependents received inconsistent attention, affection, and emotional support from their parents—a sort of hot and cold dynamic interpreted by children as a reflection of their own inadequacy. To cope and thus reduce these feelings of abandonment, they learned to attain more consistent love through people-pleasing, a softer form of manipulation and control.

Unfortunately, as these children become adults, the fear never goes away (PTSD), driving them to continue fawning in hopes of never being abandoned again. What they don’t realize, though, is they are still being abandoned—only now by themselves. For these reasons, codependency can be considered a symptom or defense against PTSD.

…AKA relationship addiction

When we think of addiction, alcohol, drugs, sex, and gambling are the first words that come to mind, but a less commonly known form of addiction is the addiction to people, which is codependency in of itself. As codependents begin to only think of the thoughts, needs, and desires of the one they are pleasing (“the taker”), they are no longer able to identify their own. This enmeshment means that their only sense of worth derives from the praise, recognition, or affection they receive from the other person. Over time, this creates an addiction to the highs of validation and affirmation, much like the highs you would see in any other addiction. The codependent looks for ways to help, and they are rewarded with praise in return. On the flip side, when their help goes unnoticed and the other person withdraws, the codependent fears the relationship will end and falls in a state of severe emotional distress until they feel valued again. With time, the caretaking becomes compulsive, and the codependent experiences feelings of helplessness in the relationship, unable to break free.

Signs of Codependency

  • A tendency to do more than your share all the time.
  • Never asking for help; overwhelming yourself with tasks that others could do.
  • Fear of losing relationships/abandonment.
  • Fear of rejection.
  • Doing way more than the other person to hold onto your relationship.
  • An overwhelming need to be reassured and recognized.
  • A compelling desire to control others.
  • Lack of trust in yourself and/or others.
  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others.
  • A tendency to love people you can rescue.
  • Excessive concern with loved ones’ behaviors.
  • Constant feelings of hurt when people overlook your efforts.
  • Guilt after asserting yourself.
  • A tendency to apologize to keep the peace.
  • Difficulty naming your feelings or fully feeling them.
  • Minimizing your feelings when you do feel them.
  • Worrying about what others think of you.
  • Problem with creating and keeping boundaries.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Dishonesty.
  • Doing things you don’t want to do to make others happy.
  • Poor communication in relationships.
  • Idealizing loved ones to the point of maintaining relationships that don’t fulfill you.

The Link Between Codependent Tendencies & COVID-19

COVID-19 has taken its toll on couples with underlying, previously unnoticable or manageable codependent tendencies. Without breaks from one another and access to other sources of fulfillment and support (such as exercise classes, lunch with friends, in-office work, etc.), many report feeding off of each other’s emotions more than ever and relying heavily on the relationship for every emotional need. Couples who don’t live together have also experienced strains on their relationship but for the opposite reason: not being able to spend enough time together due to shutdowns, quarantine, and limited date nights.

Amidst traumatic circumstances, slipping back into old ways—natural instincts—is normal. Just like with PTSD from childhood, PTSD from the accumulation of stresses caused by COVID-19 can cause codependent habits to resurface, worsen, or appear for the first time. If that is you, rest assured that there is hope. As mentioned above, codependency is a learned behavior, meaning it is possible to unlearn the compulsions causing you distress and negatively affecting your relationships. The best course of action is to seek help. A therapist can show you how to form healthy attachments in your relationships, establish your own identity, and assist you in healing from the triggering experiences you have had, whether in childhood or more recently.

The good news is, post-pandemic, our environments and circumstances are changing. With that, and professional support, how you are feeling will change too. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.