February 17 is Random Act of Kindness Day. What does being kind mean to you? Perhaps it is helping a stranger carry a heavy bag. Or, maybe you define it as making sure you call family members who want to hear from you. No matter what act of kindness you perform, you’ll be making someone feel good and doing something good for yourself, too.
Studies show that the simple act of showing another person that you care about them makes you feel emotional warmth, which releases oxytocin, the body’s “feel good chemical.” Research has also shown that performing acts of kindness can lower your blood pressure and be good for your heart.
Some days, performing a kind act can seem like a monumental challenge. If you are feeling so emotionally taxed that you can’t be kind to anyone, be kind to yourself by checking in on your mental health. Beck Psychotherapy free and anonymous mental health screenings at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com. Take one today.
Managing work, family and other obligations can make maintaining a healthy weight particularly challenging. Sometimes, the effort to lose weight, maintain weight, or meet some standard of ideal weight can lead to eating disorders.
The most common eating disorders are the following:
• Anorexia nervosa, characterized by someone seeing themselves as overweight, even when they are dangerously underweight. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves often, severely restrict the amount of food they eat, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
• Bulimia nervosa is characterized by someone who, while often maintaining relatively normal weight, practices ‘binging and purging’, where they frequently eat unusually large amounts of food followed by forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviors.
• Binge-eating disorder occurs when a person goes through periods of binge-eating but does not purge afterwards.
A commonly held view is that eating disorders are a lifestyle choice. They are actually serious mental illnesses that can seriously compromise a person’s health, including lowering the heart rate, causing muscle weakness, loss of bone density, and – too often- death.
While untreated eating disorders can be tragic, the good news is that they are treatable. If you or someone you know is preoccupied with food and weight, you may have the symptoms of an eating disorder. Take a free and anonymous self-assessment at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com and find local resources. February is Eating Disorders Awareness Month, so share the news about this free resource with friends and loved ones.
Each January, we recognize and consider the works civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. His name has become synonymous with quietly standing up for one’s beliefs and forging change. What many people don’t realize is that MLK fought his own demons – namely depression.
People who worked with Dr. King have told the stories of his depression. His demeanor went from ebullient to morose; he was constantly exhausted, and often worried that the civil rights movement would fail. Some historians point to the intense stress he was under as the reason for his depression.
However, mental health experts suggest that stress later in life does not explain the suicide attempts he made as a youth, or the periods of hospitalizations he had for being “exhausted.” Historians now surmise that he struggled, undiagnosed, with depression for many years. The very fact that many people are not aware of Dr. King’s history point to the stigma associated with depression.
We’ve come a long way since then towards reducing the shame surrounding depression, but must continue to work towards making talk about mental health as straightforward and open as is talk about physical health. With that in mind, http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com, has resources you can share with family and friends, including a mental health screening.
January is time for a fresh start. It’s a new year and you’re probably loaded with resolve to do as well as possible in 2018. Did you know that one of the best things you can do for yourself is to help others? Finding a cause and community really does bring its own benefits, including:
• Decreasing symptoms of depression. Some 40 studies show that volunteering can decrease depression symptoms, and one survey of more than 3,000 volunteers showed that 94% of them reported an improved mood.
• Making social connections improves physical health and psychological well-being. Social connection strengthens our immune systems, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen life. Conversely, studies have shown that a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
But where to start?
You can begin by recognizing that you don’t need a particular skill set to become a volunteer. Rather, think about what causes you care most about and who you would feel most happy to support. Look online for organizations that are local to your area and then pick up the phone can call, or send an email to inquire about volunteer opportunities. Many nonprofit organizations need various types of help. Still stumped? Look online at organizations such as volunteermatch.org that are specifically designed to help connect volunteers to organizations that need support. If you think your mental health needs more than the benefits of volunteering, check it at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.
Your family is (hopefully) your built-in support system. They cheer on your accomplishments and encourage you when you are struggling. They listen to you when it seems like no one else cares what you have to say. Family is your first social connection when you enter the world and will continue to be there as others come and go.
The mental health benefits of a strong support system are vast:
● Studies show that social support helps fight anxiety and depression by lowering stress.
● Talking about personal problems with a trusted family member helps you understand your own emotions. You are then able to brainstorm solutions together.
● Individuals are more likely to learn about and access treatment options in their community when people close to them introduce them to services
As with any relationship, it is important that you nurture your bond with your family if you want it to flourish. Just because you live with someone does not mean that you are spending quality time with them; in fact, you might be less likely to make plans with family members because you feel that they will always be there for you.
Make an effort to set aside designated family time when you can put everything else aside and focus on each other. Take a hike, go for a bike ride, or just watch a movie together. Strengthen those roots! As a supportive family member, you can also encourage your parents, children, and siblings to take an online mental health screening. If someone in your family seems like they could use a little help and support, direct them to http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com and they can take a free and anonymous mental health screening and find local resources.
The winter holidays are not always merry and bright if you struggle with your mental health. Family stress, social pressure, and the temptation of festive food and drink often intensify current issues and may incite new ones. The holidays are particularly difficult for those who have suffered a recent loss or who cannot be near their loved ones.
Things to remember this season…
The holidays are not a competition, even though social media may make them feel like one. They are not about who got the nicer gift or whose family light display uses the most bulbs. Focus not on the material or aesthetic elements of your holiday celebration, but rather the bonds and memories that make this time of year so special.
December is one of twelve months and does not need to be the “most wonderful time of year” for you. If you expect absolute holiday magic, you are bound to be disappointed. Take the pressure off the season and enjoy whatever comes.
Consider all that you have to be grateful for. There will always be someone who has more than you, but that is not what is important. Keeping this in perspective may help you appreciate the uniqueness of your holiday experience.
The holidays can be trying for many reasons, but if the bad starts overwhelming the good it might be time to take a step back and evaluate your own health. Take a brief online screening at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season, and with the holidays comes food, food, food. With all the pies, gravy, and mashed potatoes around, making healthy eating choices can be extra challenging. On top of this temptation is the social pressure to indulge and the mentality, “Holiday calories don’t count, right?” (Unfortunately, they do.)
Beck Psychotherapy has some Dos and Don’ts for making it through the festival buffet:
● DO indulge a little. Part of healthy eating is allowing yourself the room to enjoy the more delicious, less nutritious options from time to time. Restricting yourself completely will only lead to frustration and a higher likelihood to binge later on.
● DO eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. A table laden with food makes it easy to eat more than you normally would and to continue eating as long as the food is in front of you. Don’t make yourself sick – there will be leftover turkey tomorrow.
● DON’T skip meals. Even if your sleeping clock is off during holiday break, your body still needs the same amount of food to function properly. Not eating will make your thinking foggy and may lower your mood.
● DON’T let eating be the focus of a holiday gathering. There is so much more to the holidays—even Thanksgiving—than the spread. Catching up with friends and spending time with family will take your mind away from temptation. Social interaction also helps fight mood disorders and gives you a sense of support.
If the holiday temptations don’t subside after the holidays are over, or if you find yourself restricting too much, you may want to evaluate your eating habits. Check in with yourself at http://www.BeckPsychotherapy.com.