5 Tips to a Healthy Mental Wellness Practice

The phrase “mental wellness” is becoming more and more common as we enter into this new year. Mental health in general is now widely accepted and for good reason. 

Alison Seponara, a licensed professional counselor and author of the book “The Anxiety Healer’s Guide” says that mental health helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. This month, we’d like to encourage you to embrace a healthy mental wellness practice.

Nurturing our mental wellness can help with self-esteem, improved mood, reducing anxiety, clearer thinking and managing stress which ultimately leads to overall better health. Let’s dive into 5 ways we can develop and maintain mental wellness.

1. Sleep

Improve your memory, reduce stress and stay alert with good sleeping habits. Did you know that the CDC reported, people who averaged 6 hours of sleep or less per night were about 2.5 times more likely to report frequent mental distress than those who averaged more than 6 hours of sleep? 

  • Start by creating a quiet, cool, relaxing environment for sleep. 
  • Try to keep the same sleep pattern of when you go to sleep and when you wake up.
  • Put the caffeine down in the mid to late afternoon.

2. Physical Health

Keeping your body active by getting outside for a nature walk, starting a new exercise routine or simply stretching daily can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. This increases blood flow which helps get more oxygen through your body.

Another way to improve your physical health is through the foods you eat. Incorporating foods into your diet that are packed with mood-boosting nutrients like berries, omega-3 fatty acids (fish) and whole grains will naturally increase your defense against stress.

3. Nurture Relationships

Cultivating positive connections and nurturing our existing friendships can have a great impact on our mental health. Psychology Today says that when we show love and compassion to other people, it releases chemicals in the pre-frontal cortex and reward center of the brain that professionals refer to as the “Helper’s High.” People who help others report many positive mental and physical health benefits, including lower levels of stress, lower blood pressure, and relief from depression and physical pain.

4. Mindfulness 

Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., Director of Emory University’s Adult Outpatient Psychotherapy Program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science in the School of Medicine says that mindfulness allows you to have conscious awareness of what you are doing, so you can make choices to override automatic thinking and make positive changes in thoughts and behavior. 

When you are mindful, you are able to observe events in a non-judgmental way, which allows you to detach from negative emotions, as opposed to being controlled by them. As a result, the way you respond to events in your life starts to change. Your emotions are better regulated, and you stop getting so upset, angry, or fearful over things you can’t control. You are also not flooding your brain with fear and worry about the future or resentments from the past, which has the profoundly positive effect of resetting your emotional state to calm and peaceful.

5. Stimulate The Brain

Learning a new skill or hobby this year can keep the brain healthy and active. These activities involve a combination of memory, decision-making and strategizing, which keeps the brain active and prevents dementia.

Know When Its Time to Reach Out

Southend Psychiatry is here as you navigate this new year. 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.

Suicide Prevention: Know the Warning Signs

Currently in the US, there is not an effective and accessible central crisis response system that will connect people to the treatment and the support they need. This needs to change and The National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) is dedicating September’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to advocate for better mental health care including support systems and accessible treatment.

Noticing signs of possible mental illness isn’t always easy since there is not a generic test one would take on their own without a professional. Feelings and thoughts of suicide happen in just about every background, race, age and demographic and is often the result of an untreated mental health condition.

NAMI teaches readers about the warning signs listed below of mental health distress.

Each illness has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following: 

  • Excessive worrying or fear 
  • Feeling excessively sad or low 
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning 
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria 
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger 
  • Avoiding friends and social activities 
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people 
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy 
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite 
  • Changes in sex drive 
  • Difficulty perceiving reality (delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality) 
  • Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack of insight” or anosognosia) 
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs 
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”) 
  • Thinking about suicide 
  • Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress 
  • An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance 

Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, children’s most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following: 

  • Changes in school performance 
  • Excessive worry or anxiety; for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school 
  • Hyperactive behavior 
  • Frequent nightmares 
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression 
  • Frequent temper tantrums 

If you or someone you love is displaying some of the warning signs above, there are proven steps to take when navigating a crisis.

Navigating a Mental Health Crisis (cited from NAMI.org)

  • Talk openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like: “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?” 
  • Remove means such as guns, knives or stockpiled pills 
  • Calmly ask simple and direct questions, like “Can I help you call your psychiatrist?” 
  • If there are multiple people around, have one person speak at a time
  • Express support and concern 
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice 
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong 
  • If you’re nervous, try not to fidget or pace 
  • Be patient 

Southend Psych 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.

How to Establish Healthy Boundaries

Who wouldn’t like to say that they have perfect relational boundaries?

While perfection might seem pie-in-the-sky, working on boundaries truly does strengthen them. The effort definitely pays off. Many times, the most difficult part of boundary work occurs when the boundary is established. Calmly and directly stating the boundary to your friend, colleague, or family member can seem intimidating; however, this step sets up the boundary to truly have a positive impact on your own mental health.

We all need healthy boundaries in our lives.

A boundary is where one person ends and you begin. If you feel yourself succumbing to agreeing to events you would rather not attend or people-pleasing your way through life, you need to take the first step and set a boundary.

Boundaries are not mean.

They help you grow and care for yourself. Many people and families have dysfunctional ways of relating, and in the beginning it can feel mean or generate guilt to establish firm boundaries. But, boundaries serve to strengthen the individual setting them and allow others to make decisions about their own lives, leading to more contentment and lower anxiety and depression.

An example of a simple boundary might be, “I am unable to attend the event this weekend.” Terri Cole, author of Boundary Boss lists in her “Boundary Boss Bill of Rights” that “you have the right to say no (or yes) to others without feeling guilty.” Taking the first step and deciding for yourself the best use of your time is boundary work that can reap dividends in peace of mind. 

Whether you are dealing with a co-worker who relies on your advice too often or a family member who is disrespectful, boundaries can make an impact on the quality of not only how you feel about your interactions with others and relationships in general, but also help your confidence increase as you begin to set healthy boundaries with those around you. 

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.

New Year: New Anxieties, Old Regrets

It’s a new year—a time to pause, plan, reflect, look forward, and dream before life picks up and the days and weeks start to blur together again. It’s what many would consider the second most wonderful time of the year—a fresh start, a clean slate, a moment of optimism. For others, though, the New Year isn’t so inspiring. It’s a reminder of setbacks and shortcomings, a reason to feel sorrow over decisions and events of years past. And, for at least 20 percent of the US adult population, it’s also a time of heightened anxiety over the months ahead. 

So, what’s the secret to actually enjoying the start of a new year—to fighting the regret and anxiety so many of us are feeling?

Be more positive! And no, we don’t mean “Cheer up, buttercup.” After all, emotions, whether positive or negative, aren’t bad. They’re just human. We mean finding a balance between the two by mitigating the never-ending flow of negativity in our lives in very intentional ways. This, research suggests, makes our minds more resilient, leading to less anxiety, regret, and an improved quality of life overall.

To help you get started, here are a few resolutions you can make to kick off your New Year right:

  1. Trade two for one. It won’t be easy to reverse your negative thought processes, but that old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race,” really does apply here. When you find yourself ruminating on past failures—the school you didn’t go to, divorce you never wanted, 30 pounds you didn’t lose—remind yourself that the past is the past, and you can only work on today to have a better tomorrow. The same goes for negative thoughts about the future: When expecting the worst, speak truths about the situation to yourself, remembering the positive possibilities and the strength you’ve developed from situations in the past.
  2. Aim to replace every negative thought with two positive affirmations, observations, or gratitudes that counter it. By trading two for one, you’ll be teaching your brain to see situations in a better light.
  3. Similarly, practice thankfulness. If you’re tired of focusing on the past or future, redirect your mind to the present by listing the people and things for which you are thankful today. Be thankful for a good night’s sleep, a steady job, a friend who cares about you, your education, yummy lunch, the task you just completed, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, just give thanks! Keep a list in your notebook or phone, and glance at it throughout the day. You’ll notice a difference in no time.
  4. Want to get out of a mental rut? Prove it in your posture. It’s old news that the body affects the mind and vice versa, but studies have found that it’s not just healthy eating and exercise that make a difference, but the small habits too—like posture. On the days when you’re in a lull and can’t break out, stand up tall, pull your shoulders back, and stretch your arms out wide. This posture will not only get your blood pumping, but it will cause you to produce endorphins, much like exercise, that boost your positivity.
  5. To take this a step further, try power posing! A social psychologist at Harvard University found that there are “high power” and “low power” posture poses that affect our mood. By holding high power poses for about two minutes, we cause hormonal shifts in our bodies to take place, sparking feelings of self-confidence. The next time you need a coffee break, break into a power pose instead (like the Wonder Woman pose!), and feel more positive and empowered instantaneously.
  6. Set firmer boundaries. Distance yourself from negative people, and surround yourself with more positive ones—ones that are on the same journey towards self-improvement as you. We all know that phrase, “You are the sum of the people closest to you.” That’s because it’s true. Being around negative people for an extended period of time can rewire our neuronal connections. When this happens, the networks in our brains begin to respond negatively to situations that we once considered positive. These “re-wirings” can cause long-term depression and anxiety. It can take time, sometimes years, for our brains to learn to think differently again.
So, who uplifts you? Who pushes you towards your goals? Who is kind, patient, and genuinely concerned for your wellbeing? Choose them, and take measures to limit your time with the rest.
 
Last but not least, seek out a licensed counselor or therapist. Nobody should have to face regret and anxiety alone, and it’s important that one of the people standing next to you through these struggles has a deep understanding of their causes and effects. Friends and family are great for advice, consolement, and encouragement, but when it comes to chronic emotional distress, treatment is necessary. A professional will be able to break patterns of negativity on a more individualized basis—that is, according to your unique situation and needs.
So, begin implementing the habits above. If these feelings of regret and anxiety continue, schedule a time to talk to someone who can navigate these new habits with you, and maybe even help you identify more that will make this year worthwhile.
Here’s to a more positive 2022! Happy New Year to you and yours.

Finding Freedom in your Future: Mindset Matters

Our eyes sometimes see more than they can handle, our ears sometimes hear the unexpected, our hearts sometimes feel broken and our paths sometimes seem off course. How we respond can either hold us back or push us forward. It’s about mindset and some of us may need a shift, especially from the aftermath of a 2020 pandemic, a rise in racial tension and questionable sustainability. 

The pandemic infused fear about health, finances and our normal way of life. The rise in racial tension infused fear of the unknown for populations of color. The question of sustainability infused fear about the economy. Fear is a natural reaction and an OK reaction, but the response can trigger panic if we don’t step back. 

Be upfront about feelings.

Not everyone is going to feel the same way you do about issues, but subduing those will only lead to mental and physical exhaustion. In the same breath, be open to what others have to say and let them know you are listening. A conversation is a two way street and you’re actually damaging relationships when you are not upfront about the way you feel or don’t reach out to check on others. For example, race is not an easy topic to discuss, but it’s imperative and the only way to move forward, understand and heal. Are you uncomfortable when others aren’t wearing masks? Tell them. No one is a mind reader, but the hope is that when we are upfront, our feelings will be received and respected. 

Focus on what you can control.

So much is out of our hands, but the way you respond is all up to you. We are in control of our mindset, work ethic, the way we treat others, our language and how we take care of ourselves. 

Be mindful of where you are seeking information.

Credibility is key. Focus on the facts and where to find those. Go to the experts, not friends who Google information and say they’ve read study after study. We wouldn’t go to a dentist to help us understand why we have stomach pains or our hairstylist to find out the best way to cure an infection. Who is providing the information and what are their credentials?  

Practice self-care.

This can reduce the stress brought on by your fears. Developing a regular sleep time, eating healthy, going for walks AND taking a sick day from work are all paramount to keeping your stress levels down and controlling reactions to fear.

Ask for help.

This is key to our overall mental health and stability. It’s also a sign of strength, not a sign of surrendering control. We have to realize that life was not meant to be lived alone and those who surround us, can help. Reach out to someone you trust or you feel confident will listen, leaving judgement to the side. If you feel like you need to take baby steps in asking for help, a great way to start is anonymous helplines. Their job is to listen and guide. Once you find this to be comfortable, you realize the ease that comes with talking to friends about your feelings towards masks, racial protests and tensions, the economy and so much more. 

When we are able to shift into a healthy mindset, no matter what our eyes are seeing, our ears are hearing, our hearts are feeling and where our paths are taking us, the investment in our future will result in freedom.