Sunday, November 27, 2016

Staying Positive During the Holiday Season

Sometimes it's a challenge to stay positive during the holiday season. 

Want to keep hub-bub and the hum-bug to a minimum? Try to stick to these simple rules:

1. Avoid over-scheduling yourself. Use a calendar to keep track of your holiday commitments so you can physically see what you're committing to. Give yourself room to say "No" to things that aren't important this holiday season and learn to delegate so you can get things done with help. 

2. Lower your expectations. Don’t strive for perfection, and learn that good enough is okay. Don’t expect family and friends to be on their best behaviors either. People who are toxic year round rarely take time off for the holiday. 

3. Make a budget and stick to it. Beware of the joy-to-stuff myth ratio: that more stuff equals more joy. It doesn't. Instead, work within a budget and use lists to keep track of presents. 

4. Spread your socializing in the months after the holidays. Don’t try to pack a year’s worth of socializing into a few weeks. Start a new tradition with friends or family to connect in the New Year if you can't get to see them during the holidays.

5. Get as much rest as you can. Schedule some pajama days for yourself or for the whole family during the holiday season. Stay home, rest and enjoy some time together without rushing about. Holidays are for celebrating what is truly important: being with loved ones. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dr. Deb for Best Health Blog at Healthline

Thank you to whoever nominated me for the Best Health Blog Contest at Healthline. I feel so happy to be mentioned along with many of the wonderful blogs listed in the contest.

I've been maintaining Dr. Deb well for over a decade now, starting it back in the day when blogging was new, and the internet was just booming. I remember writing every few days to highlight psychological topics, current events and new research. It was such an exciting way to learn and share with others from around the world.

I continue to write about important health topics - especially noting health awareness days. And while I work at microblogging sites like Facebook and Twitter, my Dr. Deb page holds a special place in my heart.

If you'd like to vote for this blog in the contest, just link here.

Should I win, I will donate 100% of the prize to a Mental Health organization in my county.

Go to the search bar and type in Dr. Deb - and then vote.

Voting ends December 12th.


Friday, November 18, 2016

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 19, 2016

In 1999, Senator Harry Reid, a survivor of his father’s 1972 suicide, introduced a new resolution into the US Senate. With its passage, the US Congress designated the Saturday before Thanksgiving as National Survivors of Suicide Day - an awareness day that reaches out to thousands of people who have lost a loved one to suicide.

National Survivors of Suicide Day has evolved into a global awareness day called International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day thanks to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. Sometimes called "Survivor Day," this November 19th will find children and adults affected by suicide loss gathering around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and heal.
Every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide. 
Every 41 seconds someone tries to understand that loss. 

If you need help, are suicidal or feeling hopeless, please call 1-800-273-TALK. 

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Children's Grief Awareness Day is November 17th

Grief is a powerful emotional experience that results from loss - be it from death, divorce, trauma or disaster. 

By the age of 16, over 5.4 million children will suffer the death of a parent, 50% of children will experience loss of a parent to divorce, and more than 68% of children will endure a traumatic event.

Children's Grief Awareness Day is observed every year on the third Thursday of November to help bring outreach to millions of grieving children. 

The National Alliance for Grieving Children offers some helpful facts about grief in childhood.
  • Grief is a normal reaction for a child to the death of someone in his or her life or a significant loss.
  • Grieving children can handle the truth, so be honest and open when talking about things.
  • Each child’s grief is as unique to him or her as was their relationship with the person lost.
  • Children who are grieving often feel alone and misunderstood. This is why talking to a child helps make sense of the loss and healing can begin.
  • Grieving children feel less alone when they can be with other children who have experienced the death of a parent or a similar loss. Contact your local community to find out where grief support groups meet in your town.
Here are some other tips and other recommended ways to offer comfort to a grieving child. And if these tools aren't helping to ease the pain, consider contacting a professional therapist who specializes in trauma and loss.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Big Election and Your Mental Health

Another big election, and it isn't pretty. Or easy to watch.

Democratic and Republican nominees bombard us with negative campaigns, fear-based rhetoric and constant press conferences. Nominee's speeches are generally scripted to persuade and influence - and are often peppered with an underlying message of danger... and that the only answer to ease your worry is to vote for them.

Other political groups find ways to shake up the electoral process by leaking videos or launching negative stories for their own interests. And then there's the news, broadcast television, social media and internet websites that perpetuate the negative campaigning atmosphere by telling sensational stories, challenging the opinion of others or poking at issues that challenge us as a country: unemployment, immigration, money, health, education. Before long, the general public splinters into polarizing groups. 

The negativity keeps rolling on and on - and research tells us that it not going to get any better anytime soon. You see, emotions win elections. Though positive campaigning can heighten your feelings on enthusiasm and hope, it's fear, anger and anxiety that gets you in the voting booth. You're more likely to make sure to get out and vote if you worry that you'll lose things in election times.

Why It's Stressful

The reason the general public's mental health is challenged is because negative campaigning heightens stress. And when your body is faced with stress, particularly fear-based stress, the adrenal glands secrete glucocorticoid hormones to help you cope. Specifically, your body launches cortisol to help you get away from danger, where your heart rate increases, blood flow goes to everything you need to run away or fight. This fight-flight response is meant for short term stress - and becomes wearisome if it's elongated. You'll eventually get irritable, anxious, and even depressed because you are in a prolonged "state of emergency." And during the long campaign season, that's exactly what happens.

Tips To Reduce Anxiety and Depression

I encourage my patients to follow these tips to help bolster mental well being, and I also practice what I preach. I do all of the following each and every year before the campaign season begins
Limiting your exposure to media. Turn off the television, power down from the internet. Give yourself a break from negative campaigning. I rarely watch broadcast news anymore, and when I do, I generally watch news shows that give an overview of the day's highlights. This way I can stay informed without getting overloaded by too much drama.
Choose print media: If you have to plug into election news, consider choosing print media rather than visual media. This can reduce the likelihood that you'll get exposed to emotionally laden material. You can always put down the paper or turn the page.
Take charge. Remember that you have the power to turn off the remote, link out of a website or change the radio station. Don't let yourself be passive when you feel negative campaigning is overwhelming you.
Know your limits. Other people will have a different tolerance for election issues than you. If you've reached a saturation point, where you don't want to talk about politics, make your feelings known, walk away or change the subject. Try to avoid getting into political debates or wasting your passion about issues to a person who doesn't share your beliefs. 
Feed your senses. Consider having an electronic-free day. Unplug from the phone, the computer and don't watch television or linger on social media. Let your senses take in the simpler things in life. Shift your focus to your loved ones, and invite pleasant experiences into your day. 
Vote early. Did you know that one out of three voters in the 2012 presidential election voted at home rather than at traditional polling places?  And did you know that research shows that those who vote at home experience significantly reduced stress? When campaign season rolls along, get your absentee ballot - or if your state has online voting, get registered. I've been voting early for years now, and I know it helps me feel grounded and empowered, instead of stressed with getting to the polls on election day.

Brader, T. "Striking a responsive chord: How political ads motivate and persuade voters by appealing to emotions." American Journal of Political Science 49.2 (2005): 388-405.

Neiman, J., et al. "Can the Stress of Voting Be Reduced? A Test within the Context of the 2012 US Presidential Election." APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper. 2013.

Waismel-Manor, I., et. al."When endocrinology and democracy collide: Emotions, cortisol and voting at national elections." European Neuropsychopharmacology 21.11 (2011): 789-795.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 2-8, 2016

Though mental illness has a long-standing history in the annals of human nature, it was only in the 1980’s when groups like the National Alliance on Mental IllnessThe American Psychological Association and The American Psychiatric Association were able to convince state and federal governments to publicly address the needs of those with mental illness. 
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan, along with the Congress passed Joint Resolution 322, designating the week of October 7, 1984 as Mental Illness Awareness Week. 
Luckily, this awareness campaign has continued on for decades both here in the United States and in Canada – as well as sparking similar awareness campaigns in countries all over the world.
Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) doesn’t just help educate the public about the truths and myths surrounding mental illness... or what the warning signs of suicide are... or how the cruel sting of stigma keeps many from getting treatment that can be life changing. 
MIAW also promotes resources for those who are struggling with mental illness or love someone with a disorder. Such outreach offers support, healing, information and empowerment. 
And perhaps more important is that during Mental Illness Awareness Week action programs are offered, like free mental health screenings.
Why Screenings are Useful
Screenings for mental health offer tremendous advantages. Here are just a few:
  • Screenings are fast and simple; taking only a few minutes to complete.
  • Screenings are a cost effective way to identify at-risk children and adults.
  • Screenings NOT ONLY identify those at risk, but children and adults who may already be experiencing significant symptoms.
  • Screenings can also highlight subclinical symptoms, enabling early intervention.
  • Screenings lead to lower disorder rates, reduced employer health care costs, reduced absenteeism, enhanced job and school satisfaction, and increased productivity.
  • Screenings results can provide accessible mental health services and supports to those in need.

To find a free confidential screening where you live, link here.