Wednesday, February 10, 2016

12 Tips to Prevent Broken Heart Syndrome

Valentine’s Day is not always a candy coated day of love and romance. For many who've lost a loved one, suffered a break up or are on the brink of separation or divorce, this day is anything but sweet. 

Learning about Broken Heart Syndrome can help you heal from your love trauma and make it through emotional calendar events like this.

Facts about Broken Heart Syndrome

Profound emotional sadness doesn't just weigh heavy on your mind. It significantly impacts your body. The depths of being heart-broken lowers your immune system, increases blood pressure and heart rate and causes significant muscle weakness, just to name a few. Stress from heartbreak grief can flood the body with hormones, specifically Cortisol, which causes that heavy-achy-feeling you get in your chest area. The heartache that comes from lost love can increase the likelihood of a heart attack. In fact, a recent study showed that a person who has a tendency to be depressed and has recently suffered a love trauma was 5 times more likely to die than a person with depression alone or a heart condition alone.

The actual medical term for this deeply emotional mind/body experience is called Stress Cardiomyopathy also known as Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy. The colloquial term: "A broken heart." And women are ten times more likely to suffer from Broken Heart Syndrome than men.

12 Tips for preventing “Broken Heart Syndrome”

  1. Take control. Prepare yourself for the holiday crush that comes from television, radio, online and in print. Limit your exposure to such things if the overblown seasonal attention becomes too much.
  2. Realize that you’re not alone in feeling lonely, letdown or unhappy during this time. Many are quietly suffering just like you.
  3. Don't hold in your emotional pain. Studies show that expressing emotions greatly reduces the body's stress response.
  4. Don't put a time limit on your grief. And don't let others set one for you either. Your healing time for this love trauma is uniquely yours.
  5. Make sure you tend to your physical needs. Softness, warmth and touch can be healing. Feed your other senses too – music, scents, beauty - don’t forget to taste the world.
  6. Don't ignore chronic aches or pains. Check in with your physician to make sure that you’re medically fit.
  7. Make sure you eat well, choosing healthy foods to keep you nourished during difficult times.
  8. Keep a routine sleep schedule. If you require medication to help you with sleeping, or to regulate moods or for cardiac management, don't feel ashamed. You're going through a significantly stressful time.
  9. A broken heart leaves many people feeling stunned and stuck. Move. Get out of bed. Take a shower. Go for a walk. Feel the sun on your face.
  10. If you feel fragile, limit your exposure to emotionally driven holiday events. That doesn't mean you should avoid people completely. Decide what social connections will give you support, and which ones may be too taxing.
  11. Don't forget your spiritual side. Prayer, even meditation, has been shown to comfort a broken heart.
  12. Above all, remember: A broken heart doesn’t make you unlovable. At this moment in time, you are healing. But remind yourself to be open when love presents itself again. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

5 Antidepressant Medication Myths

1. Antidepressants are “addictive”.

False. Antidepressants are not addictive in the way that most people would use the word. You don’t “crave” your antidepressant. However, the medicine that gets introduced to your central nervous system becomes something your body recognizes each day. So stopping medication without the guidance from a professional can cause your body to react to the loss of these neurotransmitters. This experience, called discontinuation syndrome, can be avoided completely when proper dosage-stopping is monitored.

2. Antidepressants are “happy pills.”

False. Antidepressants are not "uppers." Unlike drugs like speed or ecstasy which improve the mood of many, antidepressants only improve the mood of children or adults with a mood disorder. So, if someone who isn't depressed takes antidepressants, the only change they'll notice will be possible side effects...which, really, are not very happy inducing.

3. Antidepressants are a "quick fix" and don't really cure depression.

False. One thing antidepressants surely aren’t is quick. Most take a minimum of four to six weeks to work. And they are not meant to "fix" your depression, per se. Most people with depression need to address psychological, social and environmental issues that contribute to their depression. Treatment for depression is a two-step process: 1) Antidepressants change brain chemistry 2) As mood improves, healthier lifestyle choices and problem solving occurs.

4. Antidepressants will change your personality.

False. Antidepressants normalize the mood ranges of children and adults who have a mood disorder. Who you are doesn’t change, so your personality stays intact.

5. Once you start taking antidepressants, you're on them for the rest of your life.

False. For the majority of people, this is not true. Many who take antidepressant medication will stop their prescription when remission from depression occurs. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

January is National Mentoring Month

National Mentoring Month focuses attention on the need for mentors, as well as how each of us—individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, faith communities and nonprofits—can work together to increase the number of mentors to assure positive outcomes for our young people.

There are few relationships in life that are more influential than those between a mentor and a young person. I know this from both sides of the coin. I've had many mentors in my life growing up. A person who took a unique interest in me, fostered my growth and guided me onward.

I've also been a mentor to young children and young adults. The experience has been so rewarding and meaningful to me. In fact, research shows that mentoring is an extraordinary experience for all involved.

Be mentor.

Change a life.

And transform your own.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tips for Kicking Post-Holiday Blues

As the holiday season comes to an end, so, too, does the high octane way you've planned, shopped, traveled, and socialized.

The holiday momentum of go, go, go screeches to a grinding halt. Problem is, all the neurochemistry you needed to help you get through the holidays - stress hormones called cortisol and adrenaline – are leaving you feeling burned out, irritable, and just plain cranky.

Maybe your hopes for holidays with family and friends were unmet, and you now have to deal with emotional let-down.

Or maybe the march of the holiday bills is on its way -and thinking about paying the piper is not only depleting your bank account but your emotional well-being.

All of these experiences are symptoms of Post Holiday Blues. Well, here are some tried and true tips to help you ease this post holiday down time.

 5 Tips to Kick the Blues 

  1. Sleep. After prolonged periods of stress, the body needs more sleep to slow the production of cortisol and adrenaline. Schedule a pajama day to just do nothing and rest. Consider unplugging from technology to give yourself some time to refuel. 
  2. Exercise. Moving your body at least 30 minutes a day will help rid excess adrenaline and cortisol that keep you from relaxing and/or sleeping soundly. Walk, run, and play with the dog. Have a catch with the kids. Just move your body. 
  3. Look forward. Keep your eyes on the next prize. The next birthday, an upcoming concert, a sporting event, etc. This keeps you forward-looking into the year rather than concentrating on the past.
  4. Relive the Memories. Objects and experiences help us embrace memories. Make sure you wear that new shirt or have the holiday photos somewhere in view. Taking time to appreciate the best-loved holiday moments will offset sadness. 
  5. Talk about it. Sharing your emotional experiences about the holidays with others with can help you avoid feeling stuck post-holiday. Talking is also a great way of revisiting happy moments, making sense of sad or frustrating experiences and solidifying self-decision making in the new year.

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Holidays and Depression

Take a listen to this terrific radio show devoted to understanding how the holiday season ramps up depression.

Join me, psychologist Dr. Steven J. Hanley, and author Christopher Scott Downing as host Dr. Suzanne Phillips explores the kinds of stressful issues that happen during the holiday season.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Understanding "Disaster Reactions"

When news of a disaster hits, it can cause suffering not only to those at ground zero, but others who witness the aftermath.

Watching a traumatic event unfold on television, radio, the internet or social media sets into motion a variety of psychological reactions, called Disaster Reactions. These psychological reactions have physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral presentations

The list below shows you some of the many kinds of experiences children, teens and adults can have. 

Psychological Reactions

• Anger
• Anxiety
• Apathy, diminished interest in usual activities
• Appetite change
• Avoidance
• Blame
• Confusion
• Criticalness
• Decreased sexual interest
• Denial
• Depression
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty making decisions
• Difficulty using logic
• Difficulty naming objects
• Difficulty focusing
• Disorientation
• Distortions in time perspective
• Exaggerated startle reaction
• Excessive worry about safety of others
• Emotional numbing
• Fatigue
• Faintness or dizziness
• Fearfulness
• Feelings of being unappreciated
• Feelings of inadequacy
• Feelings of loss
• Feelings of gratefulness for being alive
• Feelings of isolation or abandonment
• Feeling high, heroic, invulnerable
• Feeling a “lump in the throat”
• Feeling uncoordinated
• Forgetfulness
• Frustration
• Grief
• Guilt
• Headaches
• Helplessness
• Hyperactivity or an inability to rest
• Increased heartbeat, respiration, blood pressure
• Increased alcohol use or substance abuse
• Intense concern for family members
• Inability to express self verbally or in writing
• Irritability
• Letdown
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of objectivity
• Lower back pain
• Memory problems
• Muffled hearing
• Nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea
• Nightmares
• Numbness
• Pains in chest
• Periods of crying
• Persistent interest in the event
• Persistent or obsessive thoughts
• Sense of being in a bad dream
• Sense of unreality or being in a movie
• Shock
• Sleep disturbance
• Slowness of thinking, difficulty comprehending
• Social withdrawal, limited contacts with others
• Soreness in muscles
• Stomach and muscle cramps
• Strong identification with victims
• Strong identification with survivors
• Sweating or chills
• Tremors, especially of hand, lips, eyes
• Trouble catching breath
• Visual flashbacks
• Withdrawal

Tips for Coping with Disaster Stress

1. Stay active. Falling into passivity can worsen psychological and physical disaster reactions.
2. Stay on track. Resume a normal routine as soon as possible. Tending to your daily schedule helps ground you in normalcy. For children, this is especially important.
3. Understand trauma. Remind yourself that it's expected to have these kinds of reactions in the face of the disastrous event. It's especially important to teach children that reactions like these are normal.
4. Don't numb your pain. Be aware that reducing or avoiding pain with drugs or alcohol will only lengthen your traumatic response. 
5. Express yourself. Whether it's talking about your experience or expressing it in other forms, releasing your thoughts and feelings about the disaster will help you heal. 
6. Reach out to others. While it's expected that you may want to be alone to deal with the trauma you've witnessed, studies shows that connecting to others helps us recover more quickly from disaster. 
7. Unplug from media. When disaster strikes, the media tends to over-report and over-saturate the public with images, misinformation and high anxiety information. Limit your internet, television and radio experiences to help shield yourself from over-exposure.
8. Be patient with others. Realize that those around you are also under stress and may not act or react in a manner you would normally expect. 
9. Watch your caffeine. Avoid caffeine as its effects can amplify anxiety and disaster stress response. So limit your intake of coffee, tea and chocolate.
10. Celebrate goodness. Remind yourself that there is exponentially more good in the world than bad. Celebrate kindness and beauty, and revive your connection to humanity so your mind, body and soul can heal.