Taking Care of Mental Health in Quarantine

While the coronavirus pandemic shakes the world, we have all been ordered to social distance and stay quarantined. Being in quarantine greatly lowers a person’s chance of catching or spreading the virus. Although quarantine can greatly protect your health and the health of others, it can worsen someone’s mental health. 

Self-isolation during a pandemic can easily cause stress, insomnia, irritability, depression, and anxiety. However, there are a few ways to take care of your mental health while in quarantine:

Create a Daily Routine

Being a quarantine puts a major halt on the daily schedules and routines we have all become accustomed to. When stuck home all day, it can easily lead to someone feeling directionless when trying to fill all the hours of the day. To combat this, create a new routine to break up the day and add direction. If you are working from home, it’s important to treat it as a regular workday and hours the same way you would if you were in an office. When you have kids at home as well, make sure they are treating it as a regular school day. It doesn’t have to be a strict routine, just one that adds direction to your day.

Stay Active Throughout the Day

Many of us become guilty of binge-watching TV shows, sleeping in, and spending most of our time on the couch when being stuck inside all day. As relaxing as this is at first, this kind of behavior can lead to feelings of depression. When stuck inside for most of the day, it’s important to still be as active as possible. Do chores around the house, play with your kids, and get in some exercise through at-home workouts. Not only does this help with mental health, but it can also better your physical health. Whenever you are feeling bored, shut off the TV and put the device down to get more active.

Don’t Become Overwhelmed with Information

While it is important to stay informed on the coronavirus and have updated information, looking too much at the news and reading online stories is not good for anxiety. It is easy to become overwhelmed and start to panic when spending every minute of the day reading inaccurate or overly negative information. Instead, look to sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), as well as state and local health departments. By relying on information from credible sources and checking updates once a day or so, it can keep you informed without negatively affecting your anxiety.

For more information, check out the New Horizon Counseling Center!

Discussing Mental Health with Your Child

Whether you as a parent or a family member have a mental illness, it can be a tough subject to discuss with your child. At such a young age, they can have a tough time understanding what it all means and how it will directly affect them. It’s important to have this conversation early to help them understand. Instead of putting it off because the discussion is hard, follow these helpful tips to start talking:

Finding the Opportunity

One of the hardest parts of discussing mental health with your child is finding the best time to have the discussion. An easy way to find an opportunity for discussion is by looking at everyday events or circumstances. For example, if there is a character in a movie or television show that has a mental illness. This can be a great gateway to talking about mental health and answering any questions they may have. Or if there is a situation involving a family member with a mental illness, take the time to talk to them about the incident and what it all means. These can be less intense entry points for a healthy discussion.

Answer Any Questions

Children are naturally curious and will most likely have questions during the discussion. Try your best to be as prepared as possible to have an answer for them. Take time to do some research beforehand so when it comes time to discuss the topic of mental illness, you are able to answer their questions with well-informed and honest answers. Even if you don’t have an answer for them at the moment, make sure to find it for them. By answering the questions, they will feel more comfortable with the discussion and gain a better understanding.

Language is Important

When discussing mental health, it can be easy to get mixed up in the medical terms and sayings. However, there is a big chance your child will not understand any of it. In order to have an effective conversion with them, you need to say it in a way they will understand. By using age-appropriate language when having this discussion, it puts them in the right frame of mind, It’s also important for the conversation to be tailored to their specific age group. Discussing tough topics in an age-appropriate way will ensure they won’t feel overwhelmed or confused about the topic.

Discussing mental illness is a hard by necessary conversation. By talking with your child, this will have a better understanding of mental health and mental illness. 

How Self-care Can Improve Teens’ Mental Health

Nowadays, there are countless articles encouraging adults to take care of their mental health in the workplace and to always find time to treat themselves with self-care. This is a major step forward in improving and prioritizing mental health. However, the younger generation, specifically teens, can be overlooked. 

They are at a time in their lives when schoolwork, social life, and home life can cause a major hindrance to their mental health. In order to help improve teens’ mental health, it’s important to prioritize self-care.

 

Eating Healthy

A healthy mind first begins with a healthy body. Parents and schools need to be encouraging healthy eating habits for teens. Teens are far more likely to spend their days eating whatever they want and not considering the repercussions of a junk food diet. When they eat better, they will start to feel better too. Studies confirm that a teen with an unhealthy diet is at risk for developing depression. In order to prevent this, encourage healthier eating. 

 

Prioritizing Sleep

Staying up late to watch television, finish schoolwork, or talk to friends can easily lead to teens not getting enough sleep. Many times this kind of habit can be bushed off and people believe that since they are young their body can handle it. On the contrary, teens not getting enough sleep can lead to damaging their mental health. It is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation that teens between the ages of 14 to 18 sleep eight to 10 hours a night. However, on average, most teens get about 7.5 hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation takes a toll on their mood and can lead to depressive symptoms.

 

Meditation

The younger you are, the faster you will go. Many teens do not take the time to slow down and get in touch with their own mental wellbeing. A teen will carry their daily stresses around with them without taking the time to unwind and relax. Instead of being mentally weighed down, meditation could be an excellent way to distress and improve mental health. It can even help with getting better sleep.

 

Taking Time for Hobbies

Studying and homework are very important and should be prioritized, but so should taking time to do the things you love. By partaking in activities that they truly enjoy doing, teens can greatly reduce anxiety and stress. It can be skateboarding, watching television, spending time with friends, or even sitting down to read a book. Parents should encourage their teens to take a break and indulge in what they love to do. This can make a major improvement in their mental health and a great way for teens to feel greater happiness.

Mental Illness Portrayal in the Media

More often than not, the media tends to get a few things wrong. When it comes to mental health, there is a lot of misconceptions and misinformation. This can have a negative effect on how people view others with mental health as well as discouraging someone with a mental illness. Here’s how the media’s portrayal of mental illness gets it wrong:

 

Criminals and Violence

 

Often times on TV shows and movies, a person effect by a mental illness will be labeled as the bad guy of the villain. However, there are studies to prove that individuals with mental illness less likely to commit violent crimes and are more likely to be victimized. Even with this fact, the media continues to show people with mental illness as evil individuals who are aggressive, dangerous, and inhuman. With this misconceived image in people’s minds, they are far less likely to treat someone in real life with a mental illness fairly and with respect. 

 

The Severity

 

There is a lot of stigma around mental illnesses that are a direct result of media. When it comes to the severity of some illnesses, the media will often dramatize it. They are often shown to be s either not being severe or being less severe than it really is. A good example of this is bulimia or anorexia. This condition is often portrayed to be less severe and can also be used as a joke or punchline. Portraying it as less severe than it really is or glossing over the horrible mental effect it has on a person can lead to an individual not seeking help or their condition not taken seriously. 

 

Recovery is Impossible

 

In books, TV shows, movies, and even in magazines, there is a stigma that there is no recovery for someone with mental illness. A character with a  mental illness in films and TV shows are never shown in recovery, conveying the belief that no hope for those with mental illness. What the media rarely shows is that therapy, medication, and peer support aid recovery from a mental illness. In reality, it is more than possible for a person with mental illness to go on to live a very normal and happy life.

Discussing Mental Health in a New Relationship

When finding yourself in a new romantic relationship, there are so many new things to learn about each other. Some of these topics can be harder to talk about than others. One of these being mental health. If you are someone who suffers from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mental health issue, it can be scary to tell a new partner this.  Sometimes we worry whether or not they will be okay with this information or know how to support you. Here are a few tips on discussing mental health in a new relationship:

When to Start Talking

Because there is a lot of stigmas surrounding mental health, many people who suffer from it can feel reluctant to discuss it. They also wonder when, if ever, they should tell their romantic partner. If you are in a relationship, it is important to discuss with your partner about any mental health disorders or struggles you deal with. While you do not have to share the information right away, if you see your relationship as long-term it is important to have the talk. Once there is more commitment between the two of you, start having the discussion. 

Have an Honest Conversation

More likely than not, especially with someone who has never experienced mental health issues, they will have some questions. It is important to not feel attacked and offended by their questions and to answer them honestly. Also, go into the discussion understanding there may be more than one conversation regarding this. Give them time to process the new information and be there to answer their questions. The only way to have an honest conversation and have your partner fully understand is by actually talking with them, not dropping the news then leaving it like that. 

Ask For Their Help

The people in our lives play a major role in our mental wellness. In order to remain as mentally healthy as possible, it’s important for the people you love to support you and be there for you. Often times people with mental health issues need help from their loved ones. When discussing your mental health with a new partner, don’t be afraid to ask for their help. Address the kind of help you might need if you were to go into an episode and make sure they are prepared to do so. This will help build a stronger, healthier, and long-lasting relationship between you and your partner.

Small Life Changes for Better Mental Health

When falling into the routine of our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to not to realize whether or not your mental health is taking precedence. After a while, your habits and way of life can start to affect your mood and make you feel depressed. In order to avoid that, it’s important to be put your mental health first. That means changing your life in just a few small ways in order to improve your mental health:

Healthy Eating and Exercise

The feeling of sadness and depression is often linked back to your diet. If you are putting unhealthy foods in your body and not getting regular exercise, your mood can have a significant decline. This is why it’s important to eat more healthy and start exercising more. This small change to your diet can improve your mental and physical health. Start by adding more fruits and vegetables. Focus on foods rich in polyphenols, like berries, tea, or dark chocolate, because this helps with brain function.

Get Your Sleep

Another small change that can have a big effect on improving your mental health is getting more sleep. Not many people are prioritizing getting their rest when they should. If you are not getting enough sleep, this can greatly put you in the risk of feeling depression or anxiety. It’s important to not only get enough sleep, but also quality sleep. To achieve quality sleep, try reducing your exposure to blue light from laptops and smartphones before going to sleep. 

Go Outside and See Nature

One of the greatest ways to improve your mental health is by simply stepping outside your front door. Get outside, take a walk, go for a run, or even a hike to immerse yourself in greenery. Studies have proven that seeing nature can have major effects on your mental health and improve mood. It can make you feel happier just by being out in the sunshine and soaking up the benefits of boosting vitamin D levels. 

Cut Out Negative Habits

The use of drugs and alcohol is one of the biggest components of mental health. Using drugs or drinking on the regular can quickly put you into a downward spiral. These substances can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction and make mental even worse. By cutting out these negative habits, you will see an incredible improvement in your mental health. Becoming a happier and mentally healthy person can be as easy as these small lifestyle changes.

Shining a Light on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter doesn’t officially begin its frigid reign until December 21st, but the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer much sooner than that. As the hours of daylight begin to decrease, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) becomes much more commonplace. While the exact causes are as yet unknown, most research points towards a lack of light as a cause. 

Just because SAD only occurs in certain months, does not downgrade its impact. Any form of depression should be taken seriously no matter the season. Treating seasonal affective disorder with light is becoming more and more common. Learn more about SAD, its causes, and its treatments below.

What Is SAD

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter months when daylight hours are shortened. To be officially diagnosed, several criteria are considered. Common symptoms include: feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, losing interest in activities that once brought you joy, disrupted sleep, changes in appetite, and feeling sluggish. 

How Does SAD Occur?

Exposure to sunlight stimulates a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which controls your circadian rhythm. Lack of light due to the shorter days in the winter can throw off your circadian rhythm and create chemical imbalances in your brain that can lead to the decreased production of serotonin, the chemical that makes us feel happy. 

This lack of sunlight and decreased levels of serotonin typically leave people feeling sluggish and sleepy. Even your cognitive functions can become impaired. Decreased concentration and memory are both common symptoms. 

How Light Therapy Can Help

The foundational idea behind light therapy is replacing natural light with artificial light to boost your body’s production of feel-good hormones. Light therapy uses light box technology to produce a bright white light which tricks your brain into thinking it’s getting the benefits of natural sunlight. 

While you shouldn’t solely use light boxes to replace all exposure to sunlight, it can help supplement your exposure and even prevent the onset of SAD. For the best results, follow the tips below to get the most out of your light therapy. 

  • Light boxes should have at least 10,000 lux exposure as regular sunlight is about 50,000 lux
  • Do not look directly into the light as it could damage your eyes. Keep the box near you and go about your normal routine while making sure you are within a few feet of it for longer periods of time.
  • Total exposure times throughout the day should be about 30 minutes. You can use the box’s light all at once or break up the time over the course of the day. 
  • Start your day off with a little exposure to light. This will automatically begin to boost your mood and create a healthier mindset.
  • Consult a doctor before beginning any treatment to ensure you are as safe as possible.

How to Help a Friend’s Mental Health

Whether your friend is dealing with depression, anxiety, or bipolar symptoms, it’s common to often feel helpless in supporting them. When it comes to mental health struggles, it’s important to have someone there to understand and help through difficult times. As a friend, being a support system can often be difficult and overwhelming at times. Even though you want desperately to help, you don’t know how to. These are the best ways to help a friend struggling with mental health:

Identify When Something is Wrong

When it comes to mental health, there are highs and lows. Somedays a friend will seem fine and then the next their mood and behavior have completely changed. In order to be able to help them, it’s important to identify when something is wrong or they’re feeling more triggered than usual. Many ways to know is if they are being withdrawn or distant, not eating, conducting self-harm, displaying risky or endangering behavior, sudden overwhelming worries or fears, and intense mood swings. If your friend is displaying any of these signs, reach out and talk to them to let them know you are there for them.

Learn How to Talk About It

Although identifying their mental health issues is one obstacle, talking about it with them is a whole new challenge. When speaking with them about their mental health, it’s important to let them know they can trust you and that you will be there to comfort and listen to them. Let your friend know you have been worried about them and ask what you can do to help. It’s also important to encourage them to talk to their parents depending on their age or a professional. They must understand that although you are always going to be there for them, they must connect with people who can help.

Validate Their Emotions

As you’re listening to your friend’s struggles, thoughts, and emotions, remember to remain as understanding as possible. Even if their emotions are something you have never gone through, it’s important to let them know they’re thoughts and feelings are valid. This will help them to feel heard and less alone. This doesn’t mean pretending you feel the same way as them, but simply listening to what they have to say without judgment and offering helpful words such as, “That sounds hard.” Letting them know that what they are feeling is not an overreaction and completely valid will help them in so many ways.

The Mental Health Effects of Hurricanes on Survivors

Hurricane Dorian left destruction in its wake when it passed through the Bahamas. While recovery efforts have started in combing through the physical wreckage, it’s worth noting that Dorian left behind less visible damage, too: the mental health effects that hurricanes have on their survivors. As one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in history, the terror of the storm lingers in the minds of many. 

According to the Associated Press, mental health counselors have been dispatched to the affected communities to help those traumatized by the storm. A local pastor Robert Lockhart in Grand Bahama encouraged his congregation at Calvary Temple to share their experiences. One community member, Carlos Evans, hoped that his story would bring encouragement to others. 

Dorian is not the first storm to highlight the mental health difficulties of survivors. Research has indicated that hurricanes and similar natural disasters can be detrimental to mental health. A recent study found that people living in England whose homes had been damaged by storms or floods had a 50% higher likelihood of poor mental health than those whose homes hadn’t been damaged. Studies on previous North American hurricanes showed results that were consistent with these findings. 

Of those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas in August and September 2017, 48% of Harris County residents whose homes were severely damaged showed signs of serious psychological distress. Eoin Ryan, a mental health specialist, said that it will take weeks or even months to determine Dorian’s psychological toll. While many are still seeking resources like food, water, and shelter, the emotional impact may settle in once they are out of shock. 

The stress of coping after a natural disaster can be compounded, and current storms can trigger the emotional and physical sensations that people experienced when they survived previous hurricanes. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), common behaviors that exhibit around the time a hurricane strikes include persistent worry, anxiety, and sleep issues, as are intrusive memories, thoughts, and nightmares related to the storm. 

Department of Education Seeks to Improve Mental Health

The Department of Education of Louisiana publicized that the state was lucky to receive a $9 million grant that was set to be directed on improving and expanding mental health services primarily to students. This aid is aimed at supporting healthy development. The funding was also aimed at preventing violence that originates from the youths. The donation was given through the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

 

Commenting on the Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education grant, the State Superintendent John White said that the education department is obliged to understand and meet the learning needs of every child to genuinely serve them all. Mr. John White also emphasized the understanding and improvement of the social and emotional needs of students. John White continued that Louisiana State has received an exciting opportunity to ensure that the learning, social, and emotional needs of all children across the State are taken care of, and the learning is propelled.

 

The Project AWARE looks forward to awarding Louisiana State with $1.8 million every year for the next five years. The Department of Education is set to partner with the Louisiana Department of Health with the aim of ensuring proper utilization of the funding in the bid to establish and equip a complete Louisiana School Mental Health Support Program. The programs will be targeting to increase awareness of mental health problems among the school-going children. The program also aims at offering customized training to equip school personnel on ways to detect and give an appropriate response to mental health challenges.

 

The aid come following a drastic increase in mental health problems among the school-aged youths that attend school from 6th to 12th grade across Louisiana. According to Dr. Janice Peterson, the mental health cases in 12th grade increased from 21.7% in the year 2014 to 24.7% in 2016.

 

The program is set to begin its services by prioritizing 34 most affected schools in Jefferson Parish, St. Bernard Parish, and the City of Monroe school systems. The listed schools were in the past identified by the state as struggling with the highest rates of out-of-school obedience. The same schools were asked to come up with plans on how they intend to improve every site and submit those plans during the 2018-19 school year.