The Day is Coming- Let’s Cope with Heading Back

For most companies and schools, Labor Day is THE day. The day that offices and classrooms will begin to fill again. The day that many are looking forward to while others are dreading. The day where so many worries will surface and anxiety will take hold. 

Working from home and remote learning offered a safe haven.

With the deadline approaching to re-enter the world not as we knew it, there are elements that are likely to cause more worry. Public transportation, no reliable childcare, getting sick and lack of space are the most mentioned concerns when surveyed. Just like adults, kids have worries too, and we all need to know how to navigate through their feelings. Remember, that any anxiety you feel is normal. We love order, making plans and following routines. Upon returning, order-plans-routines may all be up in the air.  However, humans are exceptional at adapting. Remember that when you walk into the office or you’re preparing your children for class next week. 

How can we make it a smooth return to the physical workplace or classroom? 

  • Dress Rehearsal – Make lunches, lay out clothes, set the alarms and practice a dry run of an actual day back to work and school. Iron out all the kinks. This means stepping on to the subway or hailing a cab, socially interacting with others in public and then coming home to work through the feelings. 
  • Schedule a time to relax – As busy as we can find ourselves, make sure that you schedule in some time to breathe, take a bubble bath, read to the kids, go for a walk or just sit. Getting back into the groove is going to be exhausting and this time of relaxation is imperative for you and the kids. 
  • Maintain a routine – Being home means the routine may have gone right out of the window. You’ve taken breaks when you needed one, made an afternoon tea and possibly even had a lunchtime nap while at home.  The office and school setting is quite different and an adjustment will take time. Give yourself and the kids that time by establishing the routine now. 
  • Ask for the employer’s or school’s COVID 19 policy – Prior to returning, make sure you are well versed in what is in place to protect you and your children. If you feel uneasy, this is the time to reach out and ask the questions. This also gives you time to prepare yourself and the kids on how to handle situations that may arise as you re-enter. 
  • Show yourself some mercy – Don’t enter back in full force and go 100 mph because you’ve got a to-do list a mile high. Take it slow. 
  • Practice calming methods – Breathing exercises are key to calming down and easing your mind. Teach these to your children as well. Equip them with the same tools that you intend to return with next week. 

Remember, emotions and feelings are real.

It’s normal to be cautious, nervous or even weary, but it’s also important to be prepared to re-enter the world with a toolbox filled with the right tools. These strategies will help you feel some much-needed ease this fall as we try and learn how to navigate in another new normal. 

Staying Abreast of What’s Best for Your Mental Health

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and it’s necessary to take a look at how it can affect one’s mental health, both positively and sometimes negatively. As a mother, we want to do what’s best, but does that always mean the breast?

What do the Experts Say?

For babies, breastfeeding is recommended by the American Pregnancy Association as the most nutritionally balanced meal as it helps protect against common infections and increases the survival rate in the first year of life. But, how does it benefit the mother? From increased confidence and self-esteem to lowering the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, there are many benefits to breastfeeding.

Additionally, there are two hormones produced when breastfeeding: oxytocin and prolactin. These two hormones promote stress reduction, positive feelings and lessen the risk of postpartum depression. The American Psychological Association reports that 1 in 7 will be diagnosed with what is otherwise known as the “baby blues,” and breastfeeding is a great way to combat this disease that has affected many new mothers. 

The Pressure to Breastfeed.

On the flip side, can the pressure to breastfeed exclusively affect your mental health? Psychologists and real-life moms say YES! When it comes to what is best for the baby, a healthy mother takes precedence.

“Breastmilk does not care for, nurture and bond with the baby. A mother does. I am not arguing the health benefits of breastfeeding. Those are known facts. I am talking about the part that just isn’t talked about enough: a mom’s mental health.”

Carrie Bruno, a lactation specialist, writes in a Today’s Parent article

Viable options are available now more than ever to help supplement and dissolve the feeling of inadequacy, stress, or pure exhaustion. When the pains and strains of exclusively breastfeeding feel overwhelming, it may be time to take a step back and make a new plan. In the end, you have to let go of the societal pressures and do what is best for you.

Moms, this is your decision!

We recommend you surround yourself with supportive people. Discuss options with your doctor and lactation specialist, join a support group online or in-person, and most importantly, trust your instincts!

If you think you may be struggling with postpartum depression, please reach out to someone that can help – schedule an appointment with our team or call or text the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773

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.

Debilitating to Rehabilitating: Overcoming COVID Fear and Embracing the Social Scene

Dating. Backyard Barbecues. Open mic night at karaoke. Concerts. 

Oh how we’ve longed to get back to these events, but in the same breath, we’ve worried and allowed fear to claim authority over our lives. How do we slowly get back to that comfort zone that diminished overnight? What can we envision? 

Businesses are opening back up, the CDC has made modifications to the guidelines they suggest we follow, and the amount of vaccines being administered is climbing. However, the American Psychological Association reports that 49% of Americans are still uncomfortable with returning to in person interactions and activities. That number is 48% with those who are vaccinated. 

We got ourselves vaccinated. Now, how do we move from a feeling of debilitation to rehabilitating our social life?

“One small step…” 

Think about where one small step can take you. There is no reason to jump right back in, full force. Take baby steps and start small. Expose yourself in small increments until that feeling of fear or anxiety subsides. And remember, it’s not a race. 

“Sooner rather than later…“

Haven’t we always found it to be true that when we put things off, the anticipation, anxiety and worry builds?  Along with the small steps, take a tiny plunge back into the world of people. Venture to the grocery store or instead of the drive-thru, break the threshold and walk in for your coffee. It’s quick, but gives you some exposure and begins to build the confidence you may have been lacking.  

“Partner up…” 

If we’ve learned anything over the last year, we need companionship and support. Doing things together adds a sense of security. Maybe you’ve conquered walking in to grab your coffee. Now, you can sit and have the coffee with a friend, even if it’s on the patio.  

We’ve heard the word essential more times than we count this year: Essential workers. Essential items. Essential services. 

We also heard the word isolate.

What we didn’t hear enough of was that social interaction is ESSENTIAL to our well-being, emotionally and physically. 

“Fear is the mind-killer” and can completely debilitate us. It did exactly that this past year. To quell our fears and risk not being about to rehabilitate ourselves, the slow immersion back into the social scene is paramount. 

Sources:
Quote- Frank Herbert
American Psychological Association 

Helping Someone Cope: Providing Hope

Grief is not our friend but is certainly not a stranger to most of us. It has knocked on our door and walked right in without an invitation, never facing a warm welcome. When those we love are grieving a loss and trying to cope, words can fail us. While there is no perfect response to one of the most challenging emotions we experience as humans, we can offer hope in the ways we help.

Communicate

Someone suffering a loss will feel alone and may even want to be alone, but a phone call, text, or card can provide a sense of comfort. Fear can sometimes creep in, making us think we will say the wrong thing or convey the wrong message. Don’t let this prevent you from reaching out. The reaching out is the comfort. A smile, hug, and just being present and available helps those grieving know you see their grief and remember their pain.

Serve

Cook a meal, pick the kids up from school, mow their lawn, or run errands. It helps the griever when we do, rather than ask. Acts of service speak for themselves when words are lost.

Listen

Hear their words. Hear their cries. Hear their laughs. Hear their silence. Be available and make it known that you are there to listen.

Provide

Ongoing support is critical. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, any way you choose to do this will provide a sense of hope and a brace of connection. Mark important days such as birthdays on your calendar, and send a text or make a call to let those grieving know you remember their loss. 

Helping Someone Cope

Grief will almost always overstay its welcome. When we communicate, serve, listen, and provide comfort to those suffering an unwelcome visit from grief, we offer validation while acknowledging that what they are feeling is important and real. And although we know the process of grieving takes time, the time we take to help someone cope will offer them something they desperately need during this time: HOPE.

Our Resilient Children Need Healthy Parents

As we trudge (seems an appropriate verb, some days) through the first months of a new year, we’re still blanketed by many of our old stresses. The environment is hard for mothers and fathers who have seen their routines and schedules materially disrupted.  And so I’m led to remind you all – THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. So, what in the world do I mean by those words, exactly?

I mean…. Breathe. Pause. Be patient. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. Our socio-political landscape remains volatile. Unemployment won’t be a quick fix either. Further, our children are still challenged with the uncanny mixture of in-person vs. remote class learning.  The point is that we have a chance to set our expectations properly, for the long term, so we can be the best parents we can be for our children. So, to be direct, I encourage you to settle in, accept this new normalcy and stop waiting for things to be “normal” again. Our kids are resilient and they need us to be well strong and healthy! 

UNPLUG

If you are unbalanced and unwell as a mother or father, it makes sense that you won’t be fit to best care for your children and healthily guide them through these rough waters. One option we all have from time to time is to unplug, whatever that means for you. And do it without guilt! Not always easy as a parent, I know… But the fact is we are all juggling so much and every person must have a healthy path to recharge and reset. Just do so with open communication… but taking the necessary “me time” is a MUST!

POSITIVITY IS A CHOICE

This is the one which sometimes hits me between the eyes, figuratively speaking. Specifically, we all have the ability to choose where our mental + emotional focus lie – in the negative or the positive. The world isn’t going to change, but where I spend my energy can, and I want to be sure to spend it well. For a real-life example, I have a high-stress career which I absolutely love with all of my soul. One trade-off is that for several years of my young son’s life I didn’t see him very much. A little bit in the morning, and an hour or two before bedtime in the evenings at best. Ugh. But today, as so much of our lives (including my practice!) is remote/virtual, I’m blessed to be with my son at home more, knowing he’s just in the other room. This is precious time to me and I’m choosing to find the GRATITUDE in it.

BOUNDARIES ARE OK

This idea relates to my previous thoughts on unplugging. I’m giving you room, right here, right now – to set healthy boundaries when and where you need them. One boundary may be taking the room to be imperfect. To make mistakes. To get bad news. Please let me remind you – SETBACKS DO NOT EQUAL FAILURE. Setbacks do not equal failure. I said it twice because I’m making a point. And as always, when considering your partner and loved ones, keeping open communication is healthy when defining what your boundaries are, but self care cannot be understated these days.

Self care tips for parents

I hope you took even a bit of encouragement away from this article – I know firsthand how hard parenting in this environment can be. But I thank you for being part of the SouthEnd journey!

Healthy Coping Skills for Stress

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, these times are making life more difficult for nearly all of us. We identified several areas of negative impact on our emotions and how it can ultimately show up in our behavior. But today let’s take a look at a few things we can do to cope and be proactive while we weather the extended social distancing.

Be You

What “Be You” means is take some time to get in touch with yourself, to identify and reconnect with what makes you… YOU! Make a list, on your phone or the old fashioned paper way, of some of the values you have and how you can still carry those in your community. If you are a naturally generous person then KEEP BEING GENEROUS to people around you. Do you have a gift of making people laugh? Then really grab hold of it and spread some cheer in your neighborhood. Embracing these things about yourself will help keep you grounded and out of too much negative thinking. 

Self-Care

This is easy for some folks, and not so easy for others. Look at it this way… You’re going to be no good to encourage, support, be present for your relationships if you’re a wreck yourself. Be intentional about making time for YOU. What is refreshing to you? Recharging? What gives you energy? The activities you come up with are a great place to start with self-care. 

This is also a great time to focus on eating fresh, nutritious meals when possible and staying fully hydrated. SLEEP!! Sleep is well-documented to reduce stress levels and we ALL need a little less stress in our lives these days, so don’t feel bad about a quick afternoon nap from time to time if it leads to a better you!

Avoid the Panic

Lastly, there seems to be ample opportunity to be alarmed if one just browses the national news feeds on any given day, with headlines often appearing to indicate the “sky is falling”. But it never does… So, we suggest you stay informed and educated during the pandemic but use caution against over-saturating your brain with repetitive negative news feeds or inflammatory op-ed articles/posts.

Here are a few things you can consider doing on your own to keep anxiety and stress at manageable levels:

  • Breathing exercises + Mediation
  • Journaling
  • Spend time in nature
  • Stay connected (isolation often leads us to “stinking thinking”!)

SouthEnd Psychiatry wants you to be well and to feel well in life, but we know these days are especially challenging. We invite you to start a conversation with us, on your terms, in-person or online and want you to know you’re not alone.

Keeping Your Head in a Pandemic

While we are all (rightly) focused on the physical and medical impacts and risks of the Coronavirus, SouthEnd Psychiatry will continue to serve the community in the area of mental health as we all navigate through this pandemic. But to get right to the point, the social distancing we’re currently adjusting to is unprecedented and many experts believe many of these measures may be long-term. 

The Impact.

This is worrisome because of the negative, lasting psychological impact it WILL have on many people, regardless of their physical well-being. We have seen a sharp rise in patients struggling with many of these negative feelings they may not otherwise typically experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Feelings of frustration
  • Boredom

These feelings, when left unchecked and untreated, can lead to destructive behavior as fighting, drinking, physical abuse, chemical abuse, etc. 

It’s also true a few people may actually experience some positive feelings during the pandemic, although it may appear counterintuitive at first glance. A person may enjoy the increased family time and togetherness, or a slower, simpler pace of life. Of course we are all individual and we’re all in our own unique situations. Some factors linked to an individual’s subjective perception are: housing security, employment status, frequency of remote social interaction (FaceTime, Zoom calls), attitudes about relationships, etc. 

Life Got Harder.

What we do know is, for the vast majority of us, life has gotten harder since March and this kind of long-term stress will exaggerate and expose even seemingly minor issues in our lives and relationships, and make just “living” day-to-day an emotional chore. Please start a conversation, we’d love to hear where you are and what you’re feeling.

If you are struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, or other symptoms, a number of helpful resources exist. SouthEnd Psychiatry offers exceptional and convenient care utilizing a variety of tele-psychiatry, tele-therapy and traditional in-office visits giving you the option to choose how you want to see a psychiatric provider.

Our team of Psychiatric providers are experienced, licensed and nationally certified, professional mental health providers that pride on working with each patient in order to provide team oriented and consistent care at all times.