Tag Archives: mental health

Recognizing Unwanted Thoughts and Feelings

Recognizing Unwanted Thoughts and Feelings

Managing Unwanted ThoughtsExcerpted from Managing Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings & Actions Workbook

By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD

People who encounter unwanted thoughts, feelings, and actions face frightening experiences. They may have a difficult time distinguishing between what is real and what is not real. They usually regret what they thought and felt, and/or how they acted. They find that often this interferes with their work, school, family relationships, and interactions with friends and people in their community. Unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions can cause confusion, be difficult to deal with, and disrupt any setting. Mental health issues contribute to unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. When adults experience these symptoms, they are typically challenged by being and remaining in touch with reality. They have difficulty coping with the stressors and demands of their daily lives.

How Do Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings and Actions Issues Manifest Themselves?

Because there are so many bizarre ways these feelings can manifest themselves, disturbances can be very difficult to identify and manage. It is critical to be aware of, to understand, and to acknowledge how symptoms are commonly experienced. Although most or all symptoms do not have to be present, those that are present will typically cause significant distress and/or impairment in daily functioning. Listed below are some possible symptoms:

Agitation Cold manner Confused thoughts
Dangerous actions Delusions Detached from others
Difficulties in the workplace Disinterest in maintaining personal hygiene Disorganized speech
Feelings of entrapment Flat affect Forgetfulness
Hallucinations Inability to understand and accept reality Inability to communicate well with others
Inability to express emotions Inability to make good decisions and judgments Inability to think clearly and rationally
Inappropriate behavior Incoherent speech Increased drug/alcohol use
Intense anxiety Loss of appetite Loss of interest in everyday activities
Loss of touch with reality Mood swings Problems maintaining relationships
Problems in school Rigid actions Strange actions
Suicidal thoughts Unusual movements Withdrawal from others socially

Intense Anxiety

Sources of Unwanted Thoughts, Feelings and Actions Issues

As with many different types of psychological problems, the origin of these unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions issues are difficult to pinpoint. Because of their complex nature, these issues are often brought on by one or a variety of these sources:

Genetics and Biology

Psychotic disturbances often run in families and thus researchers believe that they are inherited, but that is not the only cause. A complete medical and psychological history should be collected by a medical professional to identify family members who may also have experienced disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions.

Brain Chemistry

The structure and functioning of the brain has been shown to have an effect on the incidence of psychotic disturbances. Chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters) that communicate between neurons, also seem to play a role. In addition, the structure of the brain found in healthy individuals is different from that of people who experience disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. An examination to explore the structure and functioning of the brain should be conducted by a medical professional.

Life Events

An inability to cope with major stressors can be a factor in disturbances in thoughts, feelings and actions. Some of the major stressors might include traumatic shock or abuse. An examination of the person’s life events that may be causing unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions needs to be conducted by a medical professional.

Medical Conditions

Disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions are more likely to occur in people with poor medical health in general, or those who suffer from an existing psychological problem. A medical history can reveal conditions that might induce problems in thoughts, feelings and actions, and should be examined by a medical professional.

Substances

A history of problematic drinking, tobacco, marijuana or other drug use has been associated with the development of disturbances with unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions. A history of a person’s drug, tobacco and alcohol use should be examined by a medical professional. People experience many different types of problems related to unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions.

In order to help participants deal successfully with unwanted thoughts, feelings and action issues, facilitators need to have a variety of assessments and activities to help their participants open-up and begin to feel they can manage the symptoms of their unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions and realize that they are not alone.

When to Worry?

Disturbances in unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions are difficult to manage because they blur the line between what is real and what is not real. The good news is that people can develop the skills needed to manage the symptoms and progress forward to begin enjoying life more. Unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions that accompany many of the mental health issues that people deal with daily can be a very frightening way to live. People who experience these issues over time are at risk of having a serious mental illness and need to seek a medical professional.

Suicide Warning!

People who experience severe bouts of unwanted thoughts, feelings and actions are often at risk for suicide. Sometimes they can become irrational and think that the only way to escape the pain is to attempt suicide. Remember to take any talk about suicide or suicidal acts very seriously.

Signs of suicidal thoughts
Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities of interest in the past Increasing use of harmful substances
Giving away possessions Expressing severe hopelessness about the future
Making a plan for dying by suicide Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
Getting legal affairs in order Engaging in reckless actions
Talking about killing or harming self Expressing feelings of being trapped with no way out
Purchasing a weapon

 

Serious Mental Illness

If participants have a serious mental illness, they need to be taken seriously. Facilitators can take an active role in their finding help immediately. All disturbances of thoughts, feelings, and actions need to be thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional, and then treated with an appropriate combination of medication and group and/or individual therapy.

Signs and Symptoms of Intense Anxiety

Intense Anxiety

By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD
Excerpted from Managing Intense Anxiety Workbook

Managing Intense Anxiety WorkbookAnxiety is an inevitable part of everyday life for most people. Some anxiety is actually an appropriate emotional response to a variety of situations that people encounter. It manifests itself in the life of most people in many different ways. Some of the most common types of everyday, “normal” anxiety:

  • Situational Anxiety – Feelings of apprehension and dread related to a specific situation such as starting a new job, moving to a new community, or learning about a new illness.
  • Anticipatory Anxiety – Feelings of apprehension and dread when one confronts something that has been frightening in the past, or that has resulted in a negative experience such as speaking in front of a large group of people.

Anxiety Disturbances – These can be distinguished from the everyday, “normal” anxiety because they are more intense (panic attacks), last longer (often months or years instead of going away after an anxiety-producing situation), and interfere with a person’s ability to function effectively in daily life (i.e., inability to function in a job).

Different types of disturbances related to thinking and behavior are conveyed and expressed in different forms:

  • Panic Disorder: People have feelings of extreme terror that strike suddenly and often without any warning. People with panic disorder often experience sweating, chest pain, and/or heart palpitations. They feel as if they are out of control during one of their attacks of fear, and they attempt to avoid places where panic attacks have occurred in the past.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: People have feelings of overwhelming worry and experience extreme self-consciousness in everyday social situations. These worries include the fear that others will judge them harshly, they will do something that may be embarrassing, and the fear of being ridiculed by other people. People with this disorder often are very anxious being around people and have a difficult time talking to others. They will stay away from places where there are other people and have a hard time making and keeping friends.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: People exhibit excessive, extreme, and/or unrealistic worry and tension, even if there is nothing (or very little) to be worried and/or tense about. People with this disorder may be worried about just getting through the day and doing everyday tasks. They often have trouble falling and staying asleep, inability to relax, and trouble concentrating.
  • Specific Phobias: People experience intense, unwarranted fears about an object or a situation. The fear involved in a phobia is usually inappropriate for the object or the situation and may cause people to avoid specific everyday situations in order to avoid the object or the situation. Some common phobias include snakes, speaking in public, clowns, fear of situations where escape from bad things is perceived as difficult. This represents an intense fear resulting from real or imagined exposure to a wide range of situations.
  • Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder: People experience anxiety caused by substance utilization or withdrawal.
  • Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition: People have anxiety attacks that can be directly attributed to an existing medical condition (often diagnosed with cancer), and it often parallels the course of the illness.

Intense AnxietyWhen to Worry?

Symptoms related to intense anxiety can be very complex and difficult to cope with. The good news is that people can develop the skills needed to manage the symptoms and progress forward to begin enjoying life more. Undergoing the stress that accompanies many of the mental health issues can be a very frightening way to live. People who experience intense anxiety and stress over time are at risk of developing a serious mental or physical illness and need to seek a medical professional.

Suicide Warning!

People who experience intense anxiety may feel suicidal, have suicidal thoughts, and make plans for committing suicide. Sometimes they think that the only way to escape the physical, psychological, and emotional pain is to attempt suicide. Remember to take any talk about suicide or suicidal acts very seriously.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
  • Engaging in reckless actions
  • Expressing feeling of being trapped with no way out
  • Expressing severe hopelessness about the future
  • Giving away possessions
  • Increasing use of harmful substances
  • Talking about killing or harming oneself
  • Making a plan for dying by suicide
  • Purchasing a weapon
  • Putting legal affairs in order
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and activities of interest in the past

Serious Mental Illness

If there is a serious mental illness present, much more must be done than complete the assessments, activities, and exercises contained in this workbook. Serious mental illness must be taken seriously and professionals can take an active role in finding help immediately. All disturbances related to intense anxiety need to be thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional, and then treated with an appropriate combination of medication, and group and/or individual therapy.

*To download four PDF exercises from Managing Intense Anxiety Workbook, click here.

5 Components to Living with Mental Illness

Relaxation woman eyes closed5 Key Components to Living with Mental Illness

Living with mental illness is a little more complex than a person without mental illness may think. Daily life cannot simply be lived on the fly. Each day must be planned and oriented around the illness. For some who are still learning to cope with this diagnosis, each day is a matter of trial and errors. This trial and error, when not guided by professional help, can sometimes result in addiction due to self-medication. Learning how to live with the fewest limitations is a process that should be conducted with the help of a counselor. We have identified five key components to reclaiming your life after a mental illness diagnosis.

Cultivate Good Eating Habits and a Healthy Diet

breakfastWhat we eat has a huge impact on our mental state. A diet lacking in certain nutrients easily can amplify the symptoms of mental illness. It is important that you identify any nutritional gaps in your diet and modify accordingly. You should also ensure that you are eating enough calories and eating regularly.

Make Time to Exercise to Help Cope with Mental Illness

BicycleKeeping the body fit is a good way to reduce stress. When you physically feel good, your mind feels good, too. In addition to improving your level of fitness, exercise creates endorphins that are known to improve your mood and help you maintain mental regularity. Try to find a form of exercise you enjoy. You may find that you like walking, hiking, riding a bike, or lifting weights. If you look forward to exercising, it will be easier for you to get yourself out of bed or off the couch and moving.

Staying Social is Important

Alert circleMaintaining social ties is simply part of being human. For those with mental illness, it can be particularly hard to muster the will to see friends and take part in social activities. Though you should not force yourself into uncomfortable situations, you should make it a priority to spend time with other people.

Create and Stick to a Routine

clockThe human mind loves routine. Every person will benefit from forming a daily or weekly routine. For people with mental illness, a routine can decrease the symptoms of the illness. When the mind has the ability to know what is coming next, it is less prone to display abnormal behavior. This is particularly true with bipolar disorder.

Spend Time with Animals

PetsPets have been shown to reduce stress, improve symptoms of mental illness, and help us live longer. Spending some quality time with an affectionate animal can work wonders for your mental state. For those with more severe forms of mental illness, a psychiatric service dog may be the best way to go. Psychiatric service dogs are specially trained to help their handlers cope with their unique challenges while providing love, comfort, and support. For example, PTSD service dogs might learn to bring their handler out of a flashback, guide him to an exit in a public place, or alert a loved one of the situation.

Even if you have perfected all five of these components to living with mental illness, you are likely to continue feeling the effects of your illness. This is where professional help comes in. Working with a counselor is also important to the process of learning to cope with a mental illness. Though streamlining your daily life will certainly help, you may need medications or talk therapy to thrive in your daily life. Consult with your counselor and figure out what your next step should be.

 

Adam Cook has a strong understanding of the devastation that can be caused by addiction. He recently lost a close friend to an addiction-related suicide. In an effort to better educate himself and to help others, he created AddictionHub.org, a site that provides addiction and mental health resources. When he isn’t working or adding to his website, he’s prepping for his first triathlon.

Children and Stress

Children and Stress: The Effects of Stress on Children

Excerpted from Children and Stress: A handbook for parents, teachers, and therapists 
By Marty Loy, PhD

Stressed child

Stressed child

A child’s age, personality, and coping skills affect how he or she will deal with stress and react to it. The type of stress, its duration, and its intensity will determine how taxing it is. Support from family and friends and, in some instances, teachers and professional counselors can—if available in sufficient amount and quality—enhance skills and help the child gain perspective. Some research suggests that stress in children has a synergistic rather than a cumulative effect, multiplying the negative effects of stress by as much as four times with each added stressor present in a child’s life.

Children and Stress: Short-term effects

One of the first indicators of stress in children is changes in behavior. Such changes may include anger, backtalk, fighting, hitting, bullying, teasing, and increased hostility toward siblings, family, or peers. Parents and teachers may notice communication problems, decreased concentration, compulsiveness, depression or general sadness, withdrawal, friendship problems, or resistance toward school attendance.

Stress can show Stressed childimmediate effects through a wide range of emotions. Some children become easily tearful, whiny, anxious, demanding, distrustful, fearful, and nervous. Some have mood swings or express feelings of being lonely or unloved. Physical symptoms may include complaints of upset stomach, headache, or sore throat. Episodes of vomiting, loss of appetite, or a frequent need to urinate may be observed. A variety of unusual physical behaviors such as fidgeting, stuttering, tremors, or shaking legs may arise from stress. Colds and other viral illnesses can be a sign of a stress weakened immune system.

When under stress, some older children revert to behaviors characteristic of younger children, such as baby talk, thumb-sucking, nose-picking, or wetting clothing. Stressed children may bite their nails or bite, twirl, pull or suck their hair. Parents should also be aware of changes in sleep behaviors such as insomnia, extended sleep periods, fear of the dark, bad dreams, or bed wetting; or changes in eating patterns such as increased or decreased consumption of food or an increased interest in junk food.

Reverting to tantrums

Reverting to tantrums

Overt signs of stress are also common and are sometimes described as “calls for help.” Examples include self-induced sickness or threats of suicide. Those affected with the good little girl syndrome do everything they are asked; on the opposite extreme, rebels may break all the rules or take part in high-risk behaviors, such as the use of drugs or alcohol, shoplifting, or skipping school.

Specific reactions are highly individual to the child. One might get a stomachache and cry, while another might become irritable and angry. Stress symptoms in some children happen immediately after the stressful event, while in others reactions may not show up for several days. Some children communicate their thoughts and feelings readily, while others have difficulty naming their feelings. They may use general terms or vague statements, such as “I’m worried,” or “I have butterflies in my stomach.” Some—typically younger children—may show anger only briefly while others—usually older—demonstrate longer-lasting effects, holding on to their feelings of anger, disillusionment, distrust, and low self-esteem for weeks, months, or even years.

Children and Stress: Long-term Effects

Recent research on childhood stress has contributed to a growing understanding of the long-term physical and emotional consequences of mismanaged stress. Stress can impair a child’s self-image, self-confidence, self-esteem, academic performance, and social skills. Stress also plays a role in a child’s tolerance and self-control. Childhood stress can increase long-term social anxiety and insecurity; it can contribute to substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and suicide.stressed child sad (2)

Unidentified and untreated stress in children contributes to physical problems ranging from lowered immune function and migraine headaches to obesity, type II diabetes, respiratory-tract illness, asthma, and several psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, and developmental delays both physical and emotional.
Some evidence suggests that many long-term consequences persist well into adulthood. They may manifest themselves in a range of adult emotional and physical problems such as insecurity, low self-confidence, social anxieties, poor self-esteem, substance abuse, and depression. Stress may influence everything from physical health and memory to social competence, marital success, and academic and socioeconomic attainment.

Children can appear outwardly resilient to the immediate effects of stress but, if the timing of the stress is during a critical period of personality development, they can carry the long-term effects with them for the rest of their lives. Many studies link trauma and chronic stress with poor physical and mental health over the long-term.

Marty Loy

Author Marty Loy

Marty Loy PhD: Dr. Loy is professor of Health Promotion and is the Dean of Professional Studies at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. He teaches and publishes in the areas of stress management, learning, and childhood grief and loss. Marty won the University Excellence in Teaching Award in 2001. He currently serves as the President for the Board of Directors of the National Wellness Institute.

Marty and his wife, Becky Loy, founded Camp Hope, a camp for grieving children in 1986. Becky is the president and camp director. Camp Hope has served as a model for similar camps nationally. The Loys were one of three national recipients of the 2007 Champions of Children Award sponsored by Johnson & Johnson in recognition of their work with grieving children. Learn more about Camp Hope at www.camphopeforkids.org.

Marty, originally from Spring Green, earned his doctorate in education administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s in education counseling from UW-Oshkosh, and a bachelor’s from UW-Madison.

Spring Lilac

May is Mental Health Month

May Mental Health Month?

Spring Lilac

Photo by Deb Lutkevich

Oh whoopee! Another special cause.

Do we really need Mental Health Month? Yes, we do.

Here are some sobering statistics about mental health in America:

  • 1 in 5 Americans are affected by a mental health condition in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 25 Americans will suffer from a serious mental illness.
  • One-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24.
  • 1 in 100 (2.4 million) American adults live with schizophrenia.
  • 2.6% (6.1 million) of American adults live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% (16 million) of American adults live with major depression.
  • 18.1% (42 million) of American adults live with anxiety disorders.
  • Approximately 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness.
  • Approximately 24% of state prisoners have “a recent history of a mental health condition”.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.
  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year.

Thank you to the NIMH for most of these statistics, and to NAMI where they were collected into easy-to-use documents. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers.

Coming up next…where help is available and how professionals can be more accessible to those in need.

 

Patty Duke

The Stigma of Mental Illness

Patty Duke

Patty Duke, March 2016

We lost an advocate fighting the stigma of mental illness this week. Patty Duke died at the age of 69. She suffered with bi-polar disorder.

Long before celebrities shared their private struggles with mental illness on talk-show couches and social media feeds, actress Patty Duke broke a Hollywood taboo by speaking publicly about her personal struggles.

Duke, who died on Tuesday morning at age 69, was diagnosed with manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) in 1982. Known at the time as the goody-two-shoes child star of “The Miracle Worker” (for which she won a best supporting actress Oscar at 16) and “The Patty Duke Show,” Duke revealed revealed a much darker reality in her 1987 memoir, “Call Me Anna,” written with L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan. In the book, she graphically detailed her turbulent life, drug and alcohol abuse, and childhood mistreatment at the hands of cruel managers.

In talking candidly about her mental illness, Duke took on the stigma long attached to the issue. In the years since Duke’s disclosure, actresses such as Catherine Zeta Jones, Carrie Fisher, Rene Russo and Kim Novak have spoken publicly about their own bipolar diagnoses, while countless other public figures have talked about their depression.  Many celebrities such as Glenn Close advocated for loved ones suffering from mental illness and helped the fight against stigma.

The text above is excerpted from “How Patty Duke broke a Hollywood taboo and became a mental health pioneer” by Rebecca Keegan in the LA Times. Downloaded March 31, 2016.

We’ve talked before about what a stigma is or is not. A stigma is extreme social disapproval of some type of personal characteristic or a belief that is not considered socially “acceptable.” People who have a particular attribute considered unwanted by society are rejected or stigmatized as a result of the attribute. People who have experienced traumatic events in the past are often judged unfairly to be crazy, violent, unpredictable, explosive, aggressive and/or unstable. These judgments, or social stigmas, can cause people who experience these issues to feel devalued as human beings. They are often ostracized from activities, rejected in social situations, stereotyped, minimized in the workplace, and shunned by others. People experiencing the stigma of reactions to traumatic events often feel extreme physical, emotional and psychological distress.

People who stigmatize and/or stereotype others bring about unfair treatment rather than help. This unfair treatment can be very obvious. For example, people make negative comments or laugh. On the other hand, this unfair treatment can be very subtle. For example – people assume that a person who experiences trauma and or mental health issues is detached, emotionless, irritable or grumpy and they avoid or shun that person.

Stigmas affect a large percentage of people throughout the world. Some of the more common stigmas are associated with physical disabilities, age, body type, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, family, ethnicity, race, religion, financial status, social sub-cultures, and conduct. Stigmas set people apart from society and produce feelings in them of shame and isolation. People who are stigmatized are often considered socially unacceptable, and they suffer prejudice, rejection, avoidance and discrimination.

What Can Be Done to Combat Stigma?

Fear of judgment and ridicule about suffering from a traumatic experience or mental illness often compels individuals and their families to hide from society rather than face the criticism, shunning, labeling and stereotyping. Instead of seeking treatment, they struggle in silence. Here are some ways you can combat stereotypes and stigmas.

  • You and your loved ones have choices. You can decide who is to know about your trauma and what to tell them. You need not feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed.
  • You are not alone. Remember that many other people are coping with a similar situation.
  • Look into or start a support group to meet others who experience what you do.
  • Seek help and remember that the activities in this workbook and treatment from medical professionals can help you to have a productive education and career, and live a satisfying life.
  • Be proactive and surround yourself with supportive people – people you can trust. Social isolation is a negative side effect of the stigma linked to reactions to traumatic events. Isolating yourself and discontinuing enjoyable activities will not help.

Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity.  ~ Thomas J. Watson

If we stamp out the stigma attached to mental health issues, shed the shame and eliminate the fear, then we open the door for people to speak freely about what they are feeling and thinking.   ~ Jaletta Albright Desmond

“The most powerful way to change someone’s view is to meet them … People who do come out and talk about mental illness, that’s when healing can really begin. You can lead a productive life.”  ~ Glenn Close

The material above is excerpted from the Managing Trauma Workbook by Ester Leutenberg and John Liptak, PhD.

Help End the Barriers to Mental Health Treatment

How can we end barriers to mental health treatment and reduce the stigma associated with it?

An article published on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website states that “In 2010, the Affordable Care Act extended health insurance coverage to individuals aged 19 to 25 whose parents had employer-sponsored private insurance. Thanks to this extended coverage, more young adults have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services through their parents’ employer-sponsored health insurance.”Person receiving mental health treatment

The article goes on to say that from 2004-2012, average yearly treatment costs for 19-25-year-olds who received mental and substance use treatment remained constant at approximately $1,600. However, the source of those payments changed significantly. Private insurance took on a much larger share, increasing from $520 to $822 annually, while treatment paid by Medicaid and other public sources (such as Medicare, Veterans Affairs/Civilian Health and Medicaid Program for Uniform Services) declined from $698 to $417. (February 16, 2016) Retrieved from http://blog.samhsa.gov/2016/02/18/more-young-adults-use-private-insurance-for-behavioral-health-treatment-following-the-acas-dependent-coverage-mandate/#.VsspKPkrI5c. February 22, 2016.

Although this data indicates that private insurance is covering more of the cost for those seeking treatment, there is not a corresponding statistic that shows an increase in young adults seeking mental health care. Is that because there aren’t more young adults who need mental health or substance abuse care? Are there significant barriers for those who seek mental health treatment?

Joel L. Young M.D. in Addressing Mental Health Treatment Barriers  (January 29, 2014) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201401/addressing-mental-health-treatment-barriers published on Psychology Today’s blog page lists the following barriers to seeking mental health treatment for people of any age:

  • Refusing Treatment – I don’t want/need help.
  • Balancing Life and Treatment – I don’t have time.
  • Financial Issues – I can’t afford it.
  • Family Support – I’m the screw up of my family. My family doesn’t want to admit I have a mental illness.
  • Geographic Barriers – There isn’t any place to receive treatment that I can get to.
  • Finding the Right Treatment – I can’t find a therapist that I can work with.
Graphic of barriers to mental health treatment

Graphic view of barriers to seeking mental health treatment.

Another barrier to seeking treatment must not be overlooked. Stigma. Refusing treatment, balancing life and treatment, a lack of family support are frequently the result of the stigma of mental illness, and the “Black Sheep” point of view are informed by that stigma. It seems incredible that in this age of enlightenment, of ready access to the internet, and of celebrity espousal of the cause, the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse is still so prevalent. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201401/addressing-mental-health-treatment-barriers. February 22, 2016.stigma symbol stop

Here are some suggestions of how to help from an article found on Shatter the Stigma Mend the Mind found at http://www.mendthemind.ca/stigma/seven-important-things-we-can-do-reduce-stigma-and-discrimination, on February 22, 2016.

1. Know the facts.

Educate yourself about mental health problems. Learn the facts (“Top 11 Myths about Mental Illness”) instead of the myths. Visiting our website is a great place to start!

2. Be aware of your attitudes and behaviour

We’ve all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking. But we can change the way we think! See people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes. See the person beyond their mental illness; they have many other personal attributes that do not disappear just because they also have a mental illness.

3. Choose your words carefully

The way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Don’t use hurtful or derogatory language.

4. Educate others

Find opportunities to pass on facts and positive attitudes about people with mental health problems. If your friends, family, co-workers or even the media present information that is not true, challenge their myths and stereotypes. Let them know how their negative words and incorrect descriptions affect people with mental health problems by keeping alive the false ideas.

5. Focus on the positive

People with mental health and substance use problems make valuable contributions to society. Their health problems are just one part of who they are. We’ve all heard the negative stories. Let’s recognize and applaud the positive ones.

6. Support people

Treat people who have mental health problems with dignity and respect. Think about how you’d like others to act toward you if you were in the same situation. If you have family members, friends or co-workers with substance use or mental health problems, support their choices and encourage their efforts to get well.

7. Include everyone

In Canada and the US, it is against the law for employers and people who provide services to discriminate against people with mental health and substance use problems. Denying people access to things such as jobs, housing and health care, which the rest of us take for granted, violates human rights.

Speak up when you hear someone using stereotypical statements and/or making derogatory remarks about folks with mental illness. Keeping quiet is tacitly agreeing to what is being said. Sometimes it takes courage to speak up, but it is your duty to do so.

Click here to go to the National Alliance of Mental Health’s graphic describing how children and teens are affected by mental health issues.

Check out these websites. They offer great information and ideas for stamping out the stigma of mental illness.

http://bringchange2mind.org/
https://www.nami.org/stigmafree
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mental-illness/in-depth/mental-health/art-20046477
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brick-brick/201405/the-stigma-mental-illness-is-making-us-sicker
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dustin-demoss/combating-the-stigma-of-m_b_6834980.html
https://wholeperson.com/store/mental-health-stigma.shtml

Animal Assisted Therapy – How Animals Help Humans Heal

Animal Assisted Therapy Works!

My dog at work

Those of us who own pets know they make us happy. But a growing body of scientific research is showing that our pets can also make us healthy, or healthier. Animal assisted therapy is gaining more impetus every day.

That helps explain the increasing use of animals — dogs and cats mostly, but also birds, fish and even horses — in settings ranging from hospitals and nursing homes to schools, jails and mental institutions.

What, exactly, is animal therapy? According to the Mayo Clinic,  “Animal assisted therapy is a broad term that includes animal assisted therapy and other animal assisted activities.” Animal assisted therapy can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people with a range of health problems:

  • Children having dental proceduresAnimal assisted therapy with veterans
  • People receiving cancer treatment
  • People in long-term care facilities
  • People hospitalized with chronic heart failure
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder

And it’s not only the ill person who reaps the benefits. Family members and friends who sit in on animal visits say they feel better, too. Animals also can be taught to reinforce rehabilitative behaviors in patients, such as throwing a ball or walking. (From Mayo Clinic Consumer Health Retrieved 2-10-2016 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342?pg=2.)

Dogs trainingn for Animal Assisted Therapy waiting for play time

Waiting for play time

Take Viola, or Vi for short. The NPR website tells us her story  in an article entitled “Pet Therapy: How Animals And Humans Heal Each Other” by Julie Rovner: (Julie is now with Kaiser Health News.)

The retired guide dog is the resident canine at the Children’s Innhttp://www.aubreyhfine.com/faithful-companion/ on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Families stay there when their children are undergoing experimental therapies at NIH.

Vi, a chunky yellow Labrador retriever with a perpetually wagging tail, greets families as they come downstairs in the morning and as they return from treatment in the afternoon. She can even be “checked out” for a walk around the bucolic NIH grounds.

Thelma Balmaceda, age, 4, [loves to] pet Viola, the resident canine at the Children’s Inn on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Families stay at the inn when their children are undergoing experimental therapies at NIH.Little boy enjoying animal assisted therapy

“There really isn’t a day when she (Vi) doesn’t brighten the spirits of a kid at the Inn. And an adult. And a staff member,” says Meredith Daly, the inn’s spokeswoman.

But Vi may well be doing more than just bringing smiles to the faces of stressed-out parents and children. Dogs like Vi have helped launch an entirely new field of medical research over the past three decades.

Aubrey Fine, a clinical psychologist and professor at California State Polytechnic University says that use of animals in medicine dates back to Egyptian times where dogs and serpents were often symbols of powerful healers.  “One could even look at Florence Nightingale recognizing that animals provided a level of social support in the institutional care of the mentally ill,” says Fine, who has written several books on the human-animal bond, including his latest  “Our Faithful Companions: Exploring the Essence of Our Kinship with Animals.”

But it was only in the late 1970s at a conference in Dundee, Scotland researchers started to uncover the scientific underpinnings for that bond. In a study published in October of 1988 authors Vormbrock and Grossberg reported “Results revealed that (a) subjects’ BP levels were lowest during dog petting, higher while talking to the dog, and highest while talking to the experimenter and (b) subjects’ heart rates were lower while talking or touching the dog and higher while both touching and talking to the dog.”Blood pressure patient enjoying animal assisted therapy

Rebecca Johnson, a nurse who heads the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, explains that interaction with animals can increase our level of oxytocin, the renowned “feel good” hormone.

“That is very beneficial for us,” Johnson said. “Oxytocin helps us feel happy and trusting. Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.”

But Johnson says it may also have longer-term human health benefits. “Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.” From an article by Laurel Johnson to downloaded on Feb. 9, 2016 from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/07/29/pets-as-therapy/.

Johnson is now working on a new project with likely benefits for dogs and humans. Military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are providing shelter dogs with basic obedience training.Animal Assisted Therapy Dogs Work with PTSD Veterans

And while it’s still early in the research, she says, one thing is pretty clear: “Helping the animals is helping the veterans to readjust to being at home.”

Animal assisted therapy with pigeon

Animals act as therapists themselves or facilitate therapy — even when they’re not dogs or cats. For example, psychologist Fine, who works with troubled children, uses dogs in his practice — and also a cockatoo and even a bearded dragon named Tweedle.

“One of the things that we have always know is that the animals help a clinician go under the radar of a child’s consciousness, because the child is much more at ease and seems to be much more willing to reveal,” he says.

Horses have also become popular therapists for people with disabilities. Animal Assisted therapy horse“The beauty of the horse is that it can be therapeutic in so many different ways,” says Breeanna Bornhorst, executive director of the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program in Clifton, Va. “Some of our riders might benefit from the connection and the relationship-building with the horse and with their environment. Other riders maybe will benefit physically, from the movements, and build that core strength, and body awareness and muscle memory.”

Animal assisted therapy dogs at the University of California

Therapy dogs at the University of California

 

 

 

 

Bell

Mental Illness Stigma – A long-fought battle

Stigma of Mental Illness

Folks have been fighting the stigma of mental illness since before mental illness was a diagnosis. Recently, I found the following article describing the creation of the symbol for Mental Health of America of the Heartland. Incredible as it seems, as late as the 1950’s mental health patients were bound with iron restraints.

Story of the Bell

From http://mhah.org/who-we-are/story-of-the-bell/, downloaded January 28, 2016.

Mental Health Stigma Bell

“Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.” – Inscription on the Mental Health Bell

During World War II, future leaders of the National Mental Health Association worked in state mental hospitals. There, they witnessed the deplorable and inhumane treatment of patients with mental illnesses who were chained by their wrists and ankles to the hospital walls. This experience inspired the men to devote their time to improving the lives of all those who suffer from mental illnesses, and changing the way America thinks about persons with mental illnesses. They believed with better understanding and treatments, the cruel practice of using shackles and chains to restrain people with mental illness would eventually stop.

In 1950, the National Mental Health Association chose a bell as their symbol. Two years later, Mental Health America issued a call to asylums across the country for their discarded chains and shackles. Volunteers at the Mental Health Association’s National Headquarters in New York collected the metal restraints from hundreds of mental hospitals across the country and piled them in the building’s lobby. These restraints were then shipped to the McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland, where on April 13, 1956 they were dropped into a crucible and cast into a 300-pound bell. Nothing could proclaim hope for those who have mental illness more dramatically than a bell cast from the actual chains and shackles used as restraints for persons with mental illnesses.

To many, a bell symbolizes freedom and liberty for the 40 million Americans affected by mental illnesses. The bell serves as a powerful reminder that the invisible chains of misunderstanding and discrimination continue to bind people with mental illnesses.

Over the years, national mental health leaders and other prominent individuals have rung the Bell to mark the continued progress in the fight for victory over mental illnesses.

Today the Mental Health Bell stands as a national symbol for the mental health movement.

Bring Change 2 Mind is a great place to learn about stigma.

Sacramento, CA sponsors another good site.

Psychology Today also addresses the stigma of mental health.

Tell us what are your favorite sites to fight the stigma of mental illness.

Card Decks for Therapy Sessions

Using Card Decks in Therapy Sessions

Ester Leutenbergby Ester Leutenberg

Liven up your groups and teach by doing: use cards decks with open-ended questions. Integrating knowledge while playing a card game! WPA’s cards correspond with our teen or adult mental health books.

These unique cards can be used in a variety of ways with groups exploring one or all of the corresponding books’ topics or on their own. Specific cards can be used in conjunction with identified pages, groups of cards can be used to address the theme of a section in the book or all the cards can be used to explore the overall concept of the topic. Individual cards can be selected to begin a specific session or used as an activity during a predetermined intervention.  The group facilitator may wish to pre-select cards on a specific subject choosing those that are most appropriate for the members within that particular group session.  The facilitator can also encourage participants to select the topic of discussion and then select the appropriate cards.

Group Arrangement – Group members can be seated in a circle with group facilitator holding the cards or around a table with cards placed in the middle of table.  If group members have a difficult time with verbal communication offer options like writing answers on paper prior to sharing.  You can be creative in establishing a safe environment for sharing.

Number of Participants – Recommended group size is 4-14 to allow all members the opportunity to share and interact with each other.  If there is a larger group you may consider breaking into smaller groups for sharing.  Upon returning to the larger group ask each small group to share what they learned from their small group discussion.

Format of the Cards – The cards are written to address each of the sections of the corresponding book.  While some cards could be used to address a specific concept on a given page, the majority are written to initiate conversation around thMental Health and Life Skills Card Deckse concept of the section.  Numbers on the bottom right corner of the cards correspond to the corresponding section of the book.

Activity Suggestions – The use of the cards is limited only by the creativity of the group leader.  The unique quality of the corresponding cards is you may use a section of cards to discuss a specific topic or all of the cards to discuss the topic of each book  as a larger concept. The follow is the most traditional manner using cards for group facilitation.  Group interaction and personal disclosure can be enhanced by using cards to begin a group session, tackle a difficult subject in the core of group process or to create a thoughtful closure.

Prior to using the cards set the group framework. To maintain a safe atmosphere highly encourage participants to share but to not force them to respond.  Options may be to ask the participant if they would like to select another card or tell them you will give them more time to think and you will come back to them later.

  1. Introduce the subject of the group, (example: “Relationships”) and discuss the predetermined goals for the group session.
  2. Pass the deck of cards to your left or right and ask the group participant to select a card from the pile, read the card silently, and think about their answer.  Then ask participant to read the card out loud and share their answer with the group.
  3. Continue passing the deck, repeating the process until all members have had a chance to respond to a card.
  4. Some of the cards might lend themselves to being passed around with everyone responding or reading it out loud and asking for volunteers.
  5. It is often beneficial for the facilitator to be part of the group and also select a card.  It may be helpful if they select first to set the example and expectation that everyone can share or just be intermingled within the group sharing.

Process – The magic of card decks is that processing happens through the answering of the questions so a formal processing session after using the cards is often unnecessary.  However, if ensuring that the group intent is being communicated asking a few general questions to the group may be beneficial.

  1. What is one thing you learned about_____(the topic identified -example: Stress)
  2. What is one thing you learned from another group member about…(coping with Stress)?
  3. What is something you learned about yourself?
  4. What is a topic you would like to explore?
  5. What is a goal you could set for yourself that reflects something discussed in this session?

 Alternatives

  • While the cards are most often used for group facilitation keep in mind they can also be extremely helpful in individual sessions when establishing a therapeutic relationship or initiating conversation.
  • The cards can be used as great journal questions or a Theme-for-the-Day.

Cards encourage thinking, getting in touch with feelings and communications.

Coping with Anxiety – Featured Product

Coping with AnxietyCoping with Anxiety

By Dr. John J. Liptak and Ester A. Leutenberg

Facilitator Reproducible Guided Self-Exploration Activities

Anxiety is becoming increasingly prevalent in our modern society. Research indicates that the number of people suffering from anxiety disorders continues to increase. Many trends and forces are at work to contribute to feelings of fear and anxiety in people. Fear and anxiety are experiences that are familiar to us all, but for many people anxiety becomes a serious problem.

The Coping with Anxiety Workbook contains assessments and guided self-exploration activities that can be used with a variety of populations to help participants cope more effectively with various forms of anxiety. Each chapter of this workbook begins with an annotated Table of Contents with notes and examples for the facilitator. Each chapter contains two primary elements:

1. A set of assessments to help participants gather information about themselves in a focused situation, and
2. A set of guided self-exploration activities to help participants process information and learn more effective ways of behaving to cope with anxiety in their lives.
The activities are divided into four chapters to help you identify and select assessments easily and quickly:

Chapter 1: Anxiety Triggers helps participants identify and learn to recognize their anxiety triggers.
Chapter 2: Fear Factor helps participants identify and explore the intensity of their fears.
Chapter 3: Anxiety Symptoms helps participants identify and explore how they experience symptoms of anxiety.
Chapter 4: Coping with Anxiety helps participants understand how effectively they are preventing and coping with anxiety in life.

All of the guided activates are fully reproducible for use with your clients/participants.

Relationship Skills

Just as laughter is a part of relationships, so are tears. We are reluctant to talk about fighting as a relationship tool, but a clean, fair fight can help. Avoiding fights isn’t a good solution. People who bottle it up are just as stressed as those who constantly bicker. Don’t fight over everything; compromise and pick your battles and words carefully. Be sure you know exactly why you want to fight. It’s easy to get caught up and not understand what’s wrong.

Don’t pick a fight at a time or place that gives you the upper hand. Pick a time when you can both sit down and talk logically, and wait until you’re both calm. Don’t be petty and take a cheap shot to get the last word. If the fight has lost steam, let it go. Don’t hit below the belt, but also, don’t wear your belt around your neck. Being too sensitive will close off things you may need to fight about. You know where the line is; there’s no need to be disrespectful and hurt someone for the sake of gaining ground in an argument. Don’t drive the other person into a corner either. Cornered people panic and don’t fight fair, and this just ends up hurting you both. Avoid always or never (you never listen, you always make me feel like this). Fighting isn’t something that we want to do, but clearing the air is better for everyone involved.

Honesty and time to think can help alleviate a lot of the stress that causes unnecessary fights. Assertive, Flight, and Nest-Building skills help prevent fights that you don’t really need.

Assertive skills maintain honesty. Respect yourself and your partner. Don’t be afraid to say no if you mean it. Practice saying it in a mirror if you have to — it becomes natural with time. Saying no doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s ok to say “I can’t now, but in the future if I can”. However, don’t use this as a cop out, and only say this if you mean it! Making excuses opens a door for a fight later on.

Flight skills help you put some distance between you and your stress long enough to calm down. It can be as simple as taking a nap, or letting your mind relax. Give yourself a few moments to decide how you really feel about something. If you need more time, sleep on it – give yourself 24 hours before acting on any major decisions you make.

Nest-building skills supply you with a place to retreat to when you need to get away. It gives you security and comfort. Is there a place in your home where you can really relax? Try rearranging your home so things that help you relax are all in one spot. For a quick and easy fix, repaint a room a color you enjoy. It gives you a space your own to go to.

New Whole Person Website!

Whole Person Associates is excited to announce a new look & design for our website at wholeperson.com! Beginning with our newly updated logo, we’ve endeavored to create a fresh, streamlined, professional and user-friendly web experience for our customers.

Our new bookstore features the diverse catalog of Whole Person products our customers have come to rely on in the areas of stress management, wellness promotion, mental health, anxiety, relaxation, coaching, life skills, and healthy living. Check out our new releases, specials, and clearance items.

We’ve also created a new Social Media page, keeping you connected, up-to-date and in the loop via our streams of information at facebook, twitter, and our blog, The Wellness Report, including articles, announcements, book excerpts, events, product discounts and specials, reviews, and much more.

So please, take a moment to visit our New Website!

Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook: Book Release

Teen Aggression & Bullying WorkbookBook Release

Whole Person Associates
PHONE 218.727.0500
FAX 218.727.0505
WEB http://www.wholeperson.com
E.MAIL books@wholeperson.com
CONTACT: Carlene Sippola

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook:

Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts

By John J Liptak, EdD and Ester Leutenberg

Whole Person Associates announces publication of The Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook: Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts by John J Liptak, EdD, and Ester Leutenberg. Today’s newspapers, websites, and social sites are full of discussions about how to prevent the aggression and bullying that occurs with greater and greater frequency everywhere from playgrounds to cyberspace. It can disrupt families, workplaces, and communities. As this problem continues to grow, mental health professionals are searching for proven ways to reach troubled teens. The Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook provides just that.

The Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook is divided into six sections, each of which includes:

  • assessment instruments
  • activity handouts
  • quotations to provide insight and promote reflection
  • reflective questions for journaling
  • educational handouts to enhance instruction

Mental health professionals, counselors, teachers, and parents will use these tools to help teens explore violence motivation, environmental aggression, are you (the teen) being bullied, are you a bully, and how you would likely respond if you see bullying behavior. The final section addresses depression and suicide. It includes a detailed questionnaire, idea-prompting lists, and relevant journal questions designed to lead to productive in-depth discussions about how problems arise and how they can be solved.

The Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook: Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts is one of a series of 12 books covering mental health and lifestyle issues familiar to all professionals working with teens. Being released concurrently are: The Teen Friendship Workbook and The Teen Anger Workbook.

Teen Aggression & Bullying Workbook

Facilitator Reproducible Self-Assessments, Exercises & Educational Handouts

Written by: John J Liptak, EdD and Ester Leutenberg
No. of pages: 132
Softcover:  Price $49.95
ISBN: 978-1-57025-252-5
Publication date: 2011

About the Authors

John J. Liptak, EdD, frequently conducts workshops on assessment-related topics. He has written three books on career-related topics which have been featured in numerous newspapers including The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Associated Press. His work has also been featured on MSNBC, CNN Radio, and on the PAX/ION television series, “Success without a College Degree.” John has many years of experience in providing counseling services to individuals and groups in a variety of settings including job training programs, correctional institutions, and colleges and universities. In addition, John has ten years of teaching experience as

an assistant professor. With Kathy Khalsa and Ester Leutenberg, he has written three other comprehensive books for teachers and counselors to use with their students and clients: The Self-Esteem Program, The Social Skills Program, and The Stress Management Program:  Inventories, Activities & Educational Handouts. John and Ester Leutenberg continue to co-write books to add to their Mental Health & Life Skills Workbook series, published by Whole Person Associates as well as a series of 12 books addressing teen mental health issues.

Ester A. Leutenberg has worked in the mental health field for many years as a publisher, author, and advocate for those suffering from loss. She personally experienced a devastating loss when her son Mitchell, after struggling with a mental illness for eight years, died by suicide in 1986. Soon after, as a way of both healing and helping others, Ester co-founded Wellness Reproductions & Publishing with her daughter Kathy Khalsa and began developing therapeutic products that help facilitators help their clients. Ester is the co-author of the SEALS series for teen-agers, Life Management Skills series for adults and Meaningful Life Skills for older adults, as well as a variety of therapeutic card games, board games, and posters. Ester has co-written GriefWork —Healing from Loss, The GriefWork Companion, and Creating a Healthy Balanced Life.

Ester and John have co-written the Mental Health & Life Skills Workbook Series, the Teen Mental Health & Life Skills Workbook Series and are currently working on a Coping Workbook Series, all published by Whole Person Associates.

About the Illustrator

Amy L. Brodsky, LISW-S, has worked assisting children and adults in psychiatric crisis. She is well known for her creative illustrations of the Emotions product line, over 35 therapeutic books, including the Life Management Skills and SEALS series, the een Relationship Workbook, Crossing the Bridge, GriefWork—Healing from Loss, The GriefWork Companion, Creating a Healthy Balanced Life, and the Liptak/Leutenberg Workbook series.

Negative Coping Skills

Negative Coping Skills
From Kicking Your Stress Habits
By Donald A. Tubesing, PhD, MDiv

How do you handle stress? The different ways we tackle stress are called coping skills. There are two kinds of these skills. Positive skills are ones that energize you, like exercising or laughing with a friend. The other set are negative skills that leave you feeling worse, like drinking or ignoring your stress.

Say you react to stress by turning a blind eye to it. You will end up drained from all the effort you’re putting into ignoring your stress. This only makes you feel worse, leaving you with even less energy. See the pattern? You have less energy and you still haven’t solved your problem. The drained feeling you get from stress can lead to illness—up to 90% are caused by stress alone! Can you imagine being sick 90% less? Consistent stress can cause peptic ulcers, chronic headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. Thinking about that alone is downright stressful!  On the other hand, if you choose a positive coping skill, you will regain energy rather than just spending it. Then you have more energy to put into things you enjoy, which will help you relax even more. This is also a pattern, but an infinitely better one.

  • What kind of coping skills do you have?
  • Are they positive or negative?
  • Have they changed over the years?

~For more information on this subject, click here.

Kicking Your Stress Habits Cover

Signs of Stress

Signs of Stress
From Kicking Your Stress Habits 
By Donald A. Tubesing, PhD, MDiv

You’re already very familiar with some stress symptoms, but distress can cause a wide range of conditions. Maybe you have some that you didn’t know are stress related. There are five categories the common warning signs of stress can take; physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and relational signs.

Physical Signs Emotional Signs Spiritual Signs Mental Signs Relational Signs
Appetite Change Anxiety Emptiness Forgetfulness Isolation
Headaches Frustration Loss of meaning Dull senses Hiding
Fatigue Feeling blue Doubt Low productivity Resentment
Insomnia Mood swings Acting Unforgiving Negative attitude Loneliness
Weight Change Bad temper Martyrdom Confusion Lashing out
Illness Nightmares Searching for miracles/magic Lethargy Intolerance to other’s feelings
Muscle pain Crying spells Loss of direction Whirling mind Clamming up
Indigestion Irritability Cynicism No new ideas Lowered sex drive
Pounding heart Easily discouraged Blaming others Boredom Nagging
Accident prone Depression Apathy Spacing out Distrust
Teeth grinding Nervous laughter Intolerance to others’ faith Mental bullying Lack of intimacy
Skin outbreaks Worrying Excessively Feeling abandoned Feeling stupid Using people
Restlessness (eye twitching, foot-tapping, finger-drumming) Feeling like no one cares Needing to prove self Poor concentration Less contact with friends
Increased drug, alcohol, tobacco use Feeling happiness is just out of reach Challenging a higher power Feeling useless Fear of betrayal
  • What stress symptoms have you experienced that you didn’t know were stress related?
  • What are you experiencing now?
  • Is there a category (emotional, relational, etc) that you have more symptoms in than the others?

Kicking Your Stress Habits Cover

Adjusting to Autumn

Adjusting to Autumn
By Julie Lusk

Adjusting from summer to fall always comes with mixed feelings for me.  At first, it’s so hard for me to accept the end of the warmth, light, and the greenness of the plants, trees and garden.  “Where did it go,” I ask my self.  “I’m not ready for this!”Blizzard

Honestly, for years and years, I’d feel mighty bummed.  In my mind, I was already jumping way ahead to the shivering cold and darkness of winter while missing all the things I like about summer.  Somehow, I’d let myself miss out on what the autumn is all about.

But now, I close my eyes and I sit in yoga meditation.  Eventually, my racing mind settles into the steadiness of my breathing and the present moment opens up like a fragrant flower.  Instead of feeling sorry that another summer is gone and anticipating an uncertain future, I’m able to take in what’s around me now.  When my eyes reopen, it’s easy to notice that the trees aren’t bare.  In fact, the air is crisp and clean and the changing light and shadows cast a beautiful spell over me.  What a relief.Fall in the city

All that energy that was being wasted on feeling anxious has effortlessly shifted into the energy of inspiration and an undeniable readiness to take what’s right before me and enjoy it for what it is.  For years, I missed out on all the gorgeous fall days.  Not anymore.  Now I’m grateful for the tastes and smells and colors of autumn and reach into my closet for my favorite sweater.

Autumn is a time for harvesting, letting go, and for preparing unsown areas for reseeding.  This goes for the actual activities that happen during this season on earth and for what happens in our lives.  For me, the magic ingredient that helps me with this is yoga and meditation.  Please join me or your favorite teacher so we can continue to grow inward and onward.

~For books from author Julie Lusk, click here.

Depression more common now

Effort-driven rewards are more meaningful than short-term pleasures
By Jacquelyn Ferguson, MS

Isn’t it odd that depression in America increased along with our affluence? Shouldn’t it work the other way around? Is there something in our relatively prosperous lifestyle that’s an actual cause of depression?

The pioneer of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of PA, described two studies conducted in the 1970s in which people of different generations reported on their lifetime episodes of depression.

One might assume that the older generation would have more incidents of depression because of experiencing far more hardships from the Great Depression and two world wars, not to mention having lived longer.

But the opposite was true. Younger people were much more likely to have experienced depression. In fact, one study found that those born in the middle third of the 20th century were ten times more likely to suffer from major depression than those born in the first third of the century.

Here are two reasons that may help explain.

Lifestyle differences: older generations were far more physically active than younger ones. Think about some differences:

  •  Today it’s throw-away diapers; yesterday it was cloth diapers that were soaked and washed;
  •  Today you buy microwavable, ready-to-eat meals; yesterday, they grew, hunted, and prepared their own food;
  •  Etc.

Why might modern life along with its hi-tech gizmos, cars and microwaves be part of the soaring rate of depression? What might we have lost when we went from labor-intensive lifestyles to our sedentary ones?

“Our brains are programmed to derive deep satisfaction and pleasure when our physical effort produces something tangible,” says neuroscientist and psychologist Kelly Lambert, writing in Scientific American Mind (and author of “Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist’s Hands-on Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power, 2008.) She calls our ancestors’ hard work “effort-driven rewards.” They had greater appreciation of their efforts producing their necessities, which very importantly gave them a greater perception of control, more positive emotions and maybe protection against depression.

Other social scientists have suggested a contributor to the greater affluence/higher depression formula has to do with modern humans taking short-cuts to happiness. With increased disposable income and leisure time we bought more things (note the past tense) that brought us pleasure. But pleasures are short term enjoyments. They are sensory experiences accompanied by strong emotions (ecstasy, orgasm, thrills, delight,) like eating your favorite foods, sex or watching spectator sports. Investing more energy into pleasures gives you frequent upticks in happiness, but they fade quickly.

It turns out that we’re happier and less depressed when we seek gratifications. These are activities you do for the sake of doing them. They:

  • Involve thinking;
  • Are an expression of your strengths;
  • Stretch your skills to improve;
  • Are often considered “flow” activities;
  • Gratifications also lead to an increase in important, positive emotion boosting neurochemical releases which improves mood.

Consider fighting the blues and depression by seeking fewer short-term pleasures and more meaningful gratifications. Next week I’ll address identifying your strengths that are at the core of these gratifications.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book by clicking here. 

Let Your Body Win

What is Stress?

What is Stress
From Kicking Your Stress Habits
By Donald A. Tubesing, PhD. MDiv.

When you think of stress, what comes to mind? A deadline, some bad news, a hectic schedule? What about a party, a promotion or a holiday with family? These events are stressors that create the physical and mental feelings we all know too well — the anxious grinding in the pit of your stomach, the headaches, the moments of panic. Stress is more than a negative force. In fact, good stress can be a boost to help you overcome challengers and meet goals. Positive stress, called eustress, can add some excitement to your day and help you focus.

While life would be pretty dull without any stress, too much bad stress is destructive. This is distress — what you’re feeling when you’re stretched too thin or something traumatic happens. Both good and bad stresses are part of daily life. As Donald Tubesing puts it in his book, Kicking Your Stress Habits, we are all like violin strings; each of us needs a little tension to make music, but not so much that we snap. Each of us has to find a balance to be happy and healthy. What kind of stress adds zest to your life? What bogs you down? And how do you know when it’s too much? These are questions you can find out for yourself with just a little thought and time.

Kicking Your Stress Habits Cover

Entitlements don’t come without responsibilities

Entitled office workerEntitlements = Responsibilities
By Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S.

In the 1980’s two young people we knew had baffling work expectations. One, an office worker, was upset because she didn’t get a raise when a colleague did. The other, an electrician, became indignant when his boss, the owner of the business, dropped him off at a job but didn’t stay to do the work herself.

Does their sense of entitlement seem off-base to you?

Some say today’s Millenial generation has a too-strong sense of entitlement. An example is college counselors who cite struggling students blaming their professors for being boring; like boring instructors cause bad grades.

Having a sense of entitlement, often representing unrealistic expectations, manifests itself in many ways. Aggressive drivers feel entitled to intimidate you out of their way. Some hurricane survivors expect an immediate government rescue. Older siblings feel entitled to greater respect from younger ones. Some poor people feel entitled to unending benefits. Some affluent people expect the best opportunities. The list goes on and on.

What do you feel entitled to? Are your expectations realistic?

A sense of entitlement carries a serious risk: the possible shirking of personal responsibility. The office worker blames the boss for not giving her a raise versus wondering, “What are my options?” in securing a raise. The students could ask the same question about getting better grades.

Instead, all are focused on how the other person is interfering with them getting what they want. As I’ve stated many times before, wanting the other person to change increases the stress of a situation because the other person is always beyond your control.

What’s within your control is figuring out your options. The students could study more, get tutoring, figure out how to pay attention even when bored.

No doubt everyone has certain rights and entitlements but for each one we must also accept their inherent responsibilities. You have the right to be respected. Your responsibility is to behave in ways that earns others’ respect; being reliable, honorable, respectful of others, etc.

In the above examples which responsibilities are being ignored?
* The office employee had the responsibility to figure out what’s rewarded in her job and what isn’t. Did her attitude inhibit her from getting the additional responsibilities that would have justified a raise? Did her very sense of entitlement grate on her boss?
* The electrician had the responsibility to know what he was hired to do and to do it; to understand his job responsibilities versus his boss’s. Plus, he needed to accept that the owner of a business can do pretty much what she wants. It’s her company.
* The students need to figure out how to learn and pass. Period.

Too frequently in our rights-oriented society we demand our entitlements with little thought to their corresponding responsibilities. This almost always leads to more anxiety if we passively wait for what we want. To increase success and lower stress, it’s important to identify and pursue the options that are within your control that can lead you toward your realistic expectations.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple.