If there’s one thing that teens are known for, it is mood swings. As brains and bodies develop and hormones change, adolescents may exhibit behavior that is impulsive, impolite, and even dangerous. Because of this, it can be challenging for parents to discern whether a child’s “teenage angst” is normal adolescent behavior or the sign of a deeper emotional issue.
Many typical teenage behaviors are similar to symptoms of depression. Teens often withdraw from parents, other family members, and friends that they might have once been close to as they attempt to discover their emerging identities. They may participate in risk-taking behavior as they seek new experiences, or become irritable if they feel that their privacy is being threatened. At what point, then, should you consider seeking help?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are worried:
● Is my child isolating mainly from family, or has he or she stopped participating in normal social activities as well?
● Does sleeping in mean sleeping until noon on the weekends, or has it stretched into an all day activity?
● Has my child indicated that he or she feels bored, uninterested, or unmotivated by things that once held great interest?
Another tool for checking on your teenager’s mood is the BSAD (Brief Screen for Adolescent Depression), which you can take on their behalf at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.
Going to bed is not just something that you do after a long day. It is also something that rests you, refreshes you, sets the tone for the following day, and has a major impact on your physical and mental health. Despite the importance of getting a good night’s slumber, millions of Americans have failed to develop healthy sleep habits to such an extent that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has labeled insufficient sleep as a public health problem.
Sleep troubles can begin hours before falling asleep, or even getting ready for bed. Stress or anxiety during the day increases adrenaline, making it more challenging to shut your body down before bed. Stress and anxiety may make your thoughts race once your eyes are closed, and wake you up in the middle of the night. High levels of caffeine intake and screen time, staples of the modern lifestyle, can also be detrimental to getting some shut-eye.
So how can you fall asleep and stay asleep? Experts recommend a “settling period” of about one hour before bed each night. Block off this period of time and create a nightly routine that maximizes relaxation and minimizes stress, such as taking a bath, reading a book, meditating, listening to soft music, or doing breathing exercises. Avoid taking part in any stress-inducing activities before bed. And do not look at screens. While watching TV before bed might feel relaxing, the artificial lights slow melatonin production and impact your quality of sleep even if you do manage to nod off.
A pre-bed routine can solve many problems, but if other things are keeping you awake it might be time to take a look at your mental health. Try a free, online screening at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.
October is National Depression Awareness Month. One of the more common misconceptions about depression is that depressed people are simply very, very sad. Consequently, people suffering from depression are often told to “cheer up” or “try to think positively” as if that will make their symptoms disappear. The truth is that depression runs much deeper than a simple attitude change. It is a real medical condition that requires treatment.
● People who are depressed do not just feel unhappy: they may feel hopeless, helpless, and apathetic. They are often unable to imagine a positive future. Sometimes they do not feel anything at all.
● Unlike sadness, which lasts for a few days or even weeks, depression may never fully go away, though symptoms will abate. Once someone has experienced a depressive episode, it is likely that he or she will experience an episode again.
● Depression does not need to have a particular trigger. When someone is sad, it is because of something—loss, loneliness, pain. A depressive episode, on the other hand, does not always have environmental causation. Sometimes, a person may feel depressed with no inkling as to why the symptoms have emerged.
If you notice that someone is your life is perpetually “down” or “blue,” consider that it might not just be sadness but more serious depression. Encourage your loved ones to take an anonymous mental health screening at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com or take one on their behalf. Depression is treatable, but only if symptoms are recognized.
Once you hit middle age, growing older often has negative connotations. You hear phrases like, “Our best years are behind us” or “When I was in my prime…” enough to start to believing that this applies to you. Nip that thinking in the bud! Instead of complaining about all you’ve lost and lamenting over the loss of the “good old days,” focus on ways to improve your health right now. Positive thinking itself increases resiliency and happiness.
Healthy aging is, in many ways, up to you. While genetics and biological factors certainly play a role, you have the power to keep yourself in good physical and mental shape.
Lost touch with friends? There are always opportunities to expand your social circle through community clubs, religious groups, volunteering, and anything else that helps you meet new people. Socially connected people have been found to be happier and live longer lives.
Not as fit as you used to be? Explore a low-impact physical activity such as walking in the local park or swimming at the YMCA. Inactive adults are more likely to experience depression and feel less motivated overall than those who find ways to keep active as they age.
Worried about your mental health declining? Beck Psychotherapy offers free online mental health screenings at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com. The program will connect you to local resources and help you find treatment if you need it.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and while suicide is a difficult topic to talk about, it is important to learn more about suicide prevention, and to educate others. Many people who intend to attempt suicide give some clues to the people around them: knowing those clues and what to do if you notice them can save a life.
Signs include talking about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, or withdrawing from social support. You should never assume that a loved one is not serious – make sure that you are listening to what they are saying. If someone you know may be at risk for suicide, learn to ACT.
Acknowledge that something is wrong. Let them know that what they are saying has you concerned.
Care by showing your love and support. People often consider suicide when they feel alone in the world or think they are not understood. Let them know that you are there to listen, and help them avoid dangerous situations. Caring includes asking the hard question, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” While many people worry that talking about suicide will give a person the idea, scores of studies show the opposite. It actually gives them an opening to talk about something with which they struggle.
Treat the problem. Most people who die by suicide are dealing with mental illness or other stressors that make them feel hopeless. There are many resources available to people who are having suicidal thoughts, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Learn more about suicide prevention by visiting StopASuicide.org. To check in on your own mental health, you can take a free, anonymous mental health screening at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.
Show me someone who never gets stressed and I’ll show you someone who is kidding himself. Everyone experiences stress, even if they have different triggers. The good news is that you can control stress. Below are a few easy, positive steps you can take to wrestle control away from those stressors and get some peace of mind.
Move your body. There’s a reason that people say that taking a walk “clears your head.” Research shows that walking produces positive feelings — even if that walk is down a hallway. Of course, getting outside sunlight and taking in some nature is optimal, but if you can’t do that, just walk around the office.
Take deep breaths. Focusing on breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing out slowly through your mouth can imitate the relaxed feeling your body gets when it’s sleeping. Who doesn’t want that level of relaxation – especially when you’re stressed?
Practice acceptance. Next time you find yourself stressed out about something you can’t change, focus on acceptance. Long commute? Tell yourself you have accepted it, it’s part of your life, and you’re doing your best to make the most of it. Positive thinking is more empowering than you might think!
If stress is too much for you to manage, check your mental health with this screening at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.
If you find yourself feeling drained and tired a lot, you probably think about your need to sleep more and eat well. While those things can certainly increase your energy, you may be surprised to learn about other things that may be taking your zip.
Procrastination can be a major drain on your energy and mood. Who wants to go about their day worried about a task they need to get done, but can’t seem to start? Look into ways to bust the procrastination habit and you’ll find yourself feeling peppier!
Spending time with people who complain a lot can also sap your energy. It’s not necessary to get those people out of your life completely, but you can try to limit your exposure to them and steer the conversation toward something more positive. If you find yourself feeling inexplicably tired, it’s a good idea to look into why. You can start with a mental health self-assessment at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.