Mental Health Matters: Stress

Mental Health Matters: Stress

Philippians 2:14-30

14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16 It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18 and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. 20 I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.
25 Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; 26 for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.

Mental Health Matters

Stress & the Pandemic

We are in difficult times amid a worldwide pandemic, national protests, and other life stressors. All of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “What is going to happen next?” For many people, the uncertainty is the hardest thing to handle and increases our level of anxiety
and stress. I’ve found a couple helpful articles related to stress & the pandemic. The first is an article from the June 2, 2020 NATURE Career Column written by Clinical Psychologist Luana Marques where she shared methods that can help a person beat stress during coronavirus pandemic. The second also offers helpful stress management techniques and is by Dr. Dan Mordecai, a Kaiser Permanente national expert on mental health and wellness.
~ Elaine Miller, LMSW

“It is okay not to be okay.” I find myself repeating this aphorism to my patients, colleagues, and family. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many of us are experiencing stress, anxiety, and a range of accompanying emotions as we worry about our families, friends, and futures. How can we cope with these very normal feelings?
Growing up in Brazil, it was through life experience and sage advice from my grandmother and mother, a single parent with limited means, that I learned skills to navigate stressful times. When I was reluctant to enter crowded spaces, my grandmother took me to the mall each day to practice facing my fears. Eventually, the jolt of fear I felt in crowds became only a flicker of discomfort. I learned to cope with challenges by approaching them head on.
During my training to become a clinical psychologist, I learned the mechanism behind the skills that my family had taught me: I realized that many of the strategies I had first used Brazil had strong similarities with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy is used to treat a variety of anxiety and stress disorders. During the coronavirus pandemic, the CBT skills that I learned in graduate school are helping me and my patients to cope with the stresses we are all feeling.

Although these skills might seem basic, there is robust evidence that they have a positive impact on physical and mental health. I encourage you to practice them to build resiliency during this pandemic.

Unplug and anchor

After the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts, people who had watched more than six hours of bombing-related news reported more symptoms of acute stress, such as being easily startled and a sense of restlessness, than did people who witnessed the bombing directly. It is often a good thing to unplug, for your physical and mental well-being.
This is even more difficult now than it was in 2013. We are inundated with information and news from our e-mail inboxes, phones, computer pop-ups and news channels. Try to minimize your exposure to news by checking only once or twice a day. Just as importantly, take the time to heal and relax after interacting with the news: anchor on to something that brings you back to the present. Take a deep breath, drink a hot beverage, or go for a walk. This sounds simple but is proven to help with stress reduction and will help you cool off the stress response.

Healthy habits

It’s tempting, when home all the time, to ‘treat yourself’ to a late night and unhealthy food — and this might be fun for an evening or weekend, but will probably not be a good habit to fall into. Research suggests that healthy eating, adequate sleep, and periodic exercise are all associated with improved mental health and a stronger immune system. Just like brushing and flossing your teeth, eating, sleeping and exercise should be part of your daily routine. One way to ensure that they are is to make a daily schedule that budgets time for these activities. Make your routine fun and perhaps find a way to practice healthy habits with colleagues, friends, and family through virtual connection.

Be of service

Helping and supporting others makes us happier. Consider volunteering to cook for a neighbor, calling an elderly friend who is isolated or praying for someone whom you love. The challenges associated with the pandemic can feel frightening because so much is outside of our control. By mobilizing your skills and resources to become part of the pandemic response, you can reduce feelings of helplessness.
~Luana Marques

Tips for Managing Anxiety & Stress in Challenging Times
By Dr. Dan Mordecai

Keep up social connections

Maintaining social connections is one of the most important things you can do to support your own mental health as well as others. Make a point of reaching out to those you love to keep your relationships strong even as we keep our physical distance. This is especially important for those with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Ask them how they are doing—offer to lend an ear and let them know you care.
Offer to help others
Simple gestures can mean a lot, like offering to shop for a neighbor or friend who may be more vulnerable, or letting people know you are available to help. Not only will they feel less isolated and alone, you will likely feel better as well.
Take a media break
If you find yourself spending significant time reading or watching media coverage and notice it’s making you anxious, consider limiting yourself to checking the news at just one or two times per day, and for a limited amount of time. Use trusted sources to stay up to date, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, then take a break. The CDC also has good resources on stress and coping.
Practice good self-care
Get plenty of nutrients by eating fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. We know that sleep has a direct impact on the immune system, so set a regular time each night to wind down and get some solid rest.
Modify your exercise routine
If you are exercising at home now instead of the gym, have fun with modifying your routine. There are many resources available on the internet for working out without special equipment. Exercise is good for your mental health.

Take a few deep breaths
Taking time to pause for just three full, deep breaths can re-set the body’s “flight or fight” response. Try doing this several times throughout the day and see the difference it makes.
Share your feelings
It is normal, especially in times like these, to feel anxious and stressed. Know that you are not alone and that it is ok to share your feelings with a trusted
friend, family member, colleague, clergy, or your physician or mental health provider.
Practice gratitude
Practice gratitude by making a daily habit of writing down a few things you are grateful for. Better yet, send it to a friend and get them to share their list with you.

If you are suffering from depression, anxiety, substance use, or other mental health concerns reach out to your primary care provider or you can contact Comcare Crisis Center at 316-660-7500.