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.
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.