Back to School Tips for Mental Health

Back to School Tips for Mental Health

It’s time to go back to school and the reactions of kids (and parents) can differ wildly. Some children are excited to see their friends again more regularly and get back into a routine. Others will miss the freedom of summer and aren’t ready to return to the classroom. Still others may have a mental health condition like anxiety or depression or a learning disorder that makes school harder for them. At the Healthy365 Connection Center, it is our goal to support families in their overall wellness, so we’ve got some general tips for back to school time that will hopefully make the transition a little easier. 

Get a good night’s sleep

People of all ages need a solid sleep routine to function at full capacity during the day, but no population more so than children. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, students aged 6-12 should get at least 9-12 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers 13-18 should get 8-10 hours of sleep each night in order to promote optimal health. 

The authors of this consensus report also noted that getting the recommended amount of sleep on a regular basis is associated with “better health outcomes including improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.” Lack of sleep can also increase the chance of learning and behavior problems, injuries, depression, and in teenagers, the risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

In addition, research shows that screen time before bed can have negative impacts on both children and adults, and can be associated with the “worsening of many mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.” Reminding your child to turn off their devices at least 15-30 minutes prior to bedtime, and even charging them in a common space like the kitchen or living room, can improve sleep hygiene.

Find an after-school routine

Helping your child find a good routine for homework, reading and other activities is a good lesson in time management and self-care. For example, you can show them how the practice of laying out their clothes and packing their lunch the night before sets the tone for a more relaxed morning instead of scrambling to get out the door. A daily routine can provide more stability for children who have a lot of anxiety, and adding in a checklist of regular tasks or chores can offer an incentive to get things done efficiently.

Keep organized

Staying organized as a family can sometimes seem like a challenge, but going back to school can create a natural rhythm and sense of organization that is difficult to find during the summer. You can help kids always know where their things are by setting up a mudroom, closet or space by the front/garage door as a drop zone for their backpacks, lunch boxes and school supplies. 

Staying organized can also offer kids with anxiety a better sense of control when life feels overwhelming. Look for natural times to help them declutter their backpack or supply drop zone, like the end of each week, to help them feel on top of things again. Clutter in the space where kids do their homework can also contribute to distractions. Help them reorganize their room, desk or the dining room in order to find a better sense of focus. 

Be kind and don’t be afraid to ask for help

Another important part of going back to school is teaching your child to be kind, both by talking about ways to be a good friend and by setting a good example for them. Kids with mental health conditions or learning disorders may sometimes have a hard time making friends, so regardless of whether your child falls into this category, teaching them to be kind can make a big difference. 

If you think your child may be experiencing an unusual amount of stress or anxiety, you can look for these common signs and help them get support. In preschool-aged students, you may notice a regression to bed-wetting, baby talk or the development of new fears. In elementary students, you could see clinginess to parents or teachers, worries about their safety or that of family/friends, or difficulty concentrating. For high school students, you might notice signs of depression or agitation, taking unnecessary risks, trouble sleeping or changes in their usual behavior.

Do you need additional mental health support for yourself or your family? Contact the Healthy365 Connection Center today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the local resources to which we can connect you.

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

How Children Struggle When Parents Misuse Substances

Much focus is placed on the individuals who suffer from substance misuse disorders, but less so is given to the family, friends and loved ones who are also affected. Children especially are heavily impacted when parents misuse substances like alcohol, opioids or other drugs. We’re exploring the various ways that substance misuse can create struggles for an entire family — and how to get both parents and children the help they need. 

What happens when parents misuse substances?

According to the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, roughly seven million Americans under the age of 18 live with at least one parent who misuses alcohol. Children of an alcoholic could be affected as early as in utero if their mother drinks while pregnant. Studies show that “children from alcoholic families experience more physical, emotional and mental health problems than other youngsters.” They have to cope with the stress of their parents exhibiting emotional problems or irrational behavior and may even experience abuse or neglect. 

What are ACEs?

Children who live in a home with someone who misuses substances are likely to accumulate several ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences. According to the CDC, ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur from the age of 0-17, which can include (but are not limited to) experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. Children of parents who misuse substances may also experience the ACE of living in an “environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding.” 

ACEs are often preventable, but unfortunately, they can have a lasting impact on individuals who experience them. Someone who has grown up with toxic stress, like living with a parent suffering from addiction, may have a hard time forming healthy or stable relationships in the future. They can struggle with finances, have an unstable work history, and may repeat patterns or further exposure to toxic stress, “due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.” Some racial/ethnic minority groups, as well as women, are at greater risk for experiencing multiple types of ACEs.

If you are interested in learning more about ACEs and whether you have experienced any of them, you can take an ACEs quiz at americanspcc.org/take-the-aces-quiz

Help for children when parents misuse substances

Most people have heard of AA or NA, also known as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, respectively. But did you know that there are also similar support group organizations for those who have loved ones with an addiction? Al-Anon is “a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.” Locally in Greenfield, these individuals can find support groups located at Bradley United Methodist, Amity United Methodist and The Way Out Club. Teens who are struggling with the effects of someone else’s drinking can attend an Alateen support group, with local options at Trinity Lutheran Church in Indianapolis or Ascension St. Vincent Anderson Center in Anderson.

The Support Navigators at the Healthy365 Connection Center can also provide a non-judgmental confidential listening ear for families and children affected by loved ones who misuse substances. We would be honored to connect you to local organizations and resources that can alleviate your suffering and improve your family’s overall wellness. Over the last few years, our Support Navigators have developed hundreds of meaningful relationships, partnered with numerous local organizations and offered support to many local families and individuals in their journey towards better mental health and freedom from substance misuse.

Contact us at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd. Suite G in Greenfield to work with a Support Navigator today!

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, a time to celebrate and honor those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. Pride is celebrated in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, often known as one of the first major demonstrations for gay liberation. At Healthy365, we serve and respect everyone in our local Central Indiana community, no matter your sexual or gender identity, and we also recognize that this population may be in greater need of our services. Let’s explore why mental health should be an important focus for those in the LGBTQ+ community.

Higher rates of mental health issues

According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals are “2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals.” It is very important to note that being LGBTQ+ is not a mental disorder, as recognized by all major professional mental health organizations, but that the stigma and discrimination faced by this population can correlate with higher rates of mental health issues. 

Many LGBTQ+ individuals report that they have experienced discrimination when trying to access health services, and some may put off or avoid healthcare/treatment altogether because of this stigma. People in this community may also have less social support than others, including from family and close friends. This isolation and trauma can have major impacts on mental health, including comorbid disorders such as anxiety, substance misuse, depression, PTSD or suicidal thoughts. 

Marginalized communities within LGBTQ+

Although LGBTQ+ individuals, in general, are more likely to be victims of violence and discrimination, there are even smaller subsections of the community that are at a higher risk of mental health concerns. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), transgender individuals “are almost four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a substance use disorder.” 

Further, transgender individuals who identify as Black, Latino, Native American or Mixed Race are at an even higher risk of suicide attempts than the white transgender population. Young people in the LGBTQ+ community also experience higher rates of mental health concerns, with a four times higher rate of suicide attempts for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times higher for questioning youth compared to straight teens. 

How allies and education can help

Recognizing these statistics is an important first step to helping those in the LGBTQ+ community. If you have a loved one who identifies with a sexual or gender identity that is different from your own, you can actively listen to their needs and offer support wherever you can. Educate yourself on how to be a good ally, including asking respectful questions, taking the LGBTQ+ person’s lead on inclusive language, and asking for preferred pronouns/offering your own. If you make a mistake in how you refer to someone, apologize sincerely and try again. 

Pride celebrations, like our local Indy Pride in Indianapolis, are another great way for LGBTQ+ individuals to connect with others and feel less alone. Increasing visibility is very validating when many in this population may feel isolated within their family or a small town. Feeling connected to a community can have wonderful benefits for positive mental health, so celebrating Pride and the rich history of the LGBTQ+ population, even as an ally, can make a big difference in showing others you care. 

At Healthy365, our Support Navigators are happy to provide a confidential listening ear to our clients and would be honored to connect you or a loved one with an LGBTQ+ affirming mental health professional. Contact us today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the services we can provide for those struggling with mental health, substance misuse and more. And once again, Happy Pride!

Mindfulness-Based Support for Your Recovery

Mindfulness-Based Support for Your Recovery

Have you ever heard of mindfulness? According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” Although mindfulness is something that everyone possesses, practicing mindfulness and/or meditation daily can have a great impact on your mental health. Learn more about how you can use mindfulness-based support for your recovery from substance misuse or mental illness. 

How does mindfulness work?

In traditional treatment for substance misuse, your goals may focus more on avoiding or controlling triggers that could cause you to have a craving for drugs or alcohol. These triggers may be certain habits, locations, people and more. Although this can be an effective approach for some people, many still find themselves relapsing within a year or less. With a mindfulness practice, such as Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) developed by Sarah Bowen at the University of Washington, your substance misuse treatment focuses on redirecting thought patterns, increasing awareness and creating better balance

Your thoughts are just thoughts

A great example of mindfulness is recognizing harmful thought patterns and redirecting them. For example, in traditional treatment, someone with a substance use disorder may be asked to avoid triggers, like a setting where alcohol is present. While this may be helpful coming directly out of a rehab or in-patient treatment, it is likely not realistic to do at all times. Mindfulness can teach you to identify these thoughts and recognize that they are just thoughts and not your reality. If you let thoughts of relapse consume you, it is more likely to happen. Instead of allowing destructive thoughts, harmful ideas or negative self-talk to rule your brain, mindfulness helps you to recognize your discomfort and choose to respond to it differently. 

Being present in the moment

Many people who face a substance use disorder (and/or comorbid mental health issues) are using substances as a way to escape from the stress of daily life. Mindfulness-based support can help combat addiction and anxiety by helping you to feel more present in reality, rather than focusing on worries of the future (such as a fear of relapse) or replaying distressing situations from the past (such as binges or fights with loved ones). When you better root yourself in the present moment, you are more likely to find joy in the little things instead of using a substance to escape. 

Mindfulness-based breathing techniques

Breathwork is another common mindfulness practice to keep yourself present. Obviously, we all have to breathe all day long, but taking deep breaths can increase oxygen flow to your brain, calming your nervous system. The simple act of taking a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth can totally refresh your mind, especially if you find yourself in a “fight or flight” situation, like when faced with drugs or alcohol. Practicing deep breathing can sometimes seem silly – of course we all know how to breathe – but having a few favorite techniques can make it much easier to call upon them and better calm yourself when stressed. 

Social support for your recovery

Another aspect of mindfulness is making connections with others. Some mindfulness-based support therapy may call this your “circle of compassion.” As you focus inwardly to reduce judgment and negative self-talk, you can also extend that compassion to others, especially in seeking support for your recovery and sobriety. Mindfulness can help you recognize that you are not alone – everyone has things that they struggle with, whether it’s substance misuse, mental health concerns or any number of difficulties. And you can also recognize that everyone is deserving of compassion and grace when faced with triggers or hard situations, including yourself!

If you are looking for local substance misuse treatment for yourself or a loved one, we encourage you to contact one of our Support Navigators at Healthy365 by calling 317-468-4231. We would be honored to provide you with a sympathetic and confidential listening ear in order to connect you with the best treatment for your needs. 

Finding Balance When Healing from Substance Misuse or Mental Health

Finding Balance When Healing from Substance Misuse or Mental Health

If you are in recovery from substance misuse or mental health issues, your ultimate goal is generally a life of better wellness. A big part of wellness is finding balance, across all areas of your life, including professionally, with activity levels, in relationships and more. In this blog, we are exploring what balance can look like for those living with mental illness, overcoming substance misuse or with a dual diagnosis, as well as offering some tips for finding balance in your day-to-day life. 

Finding balance as a part of wellness

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Wellness Initiative, “a balanced life can mean many things, depending on culture, circumstances, resources, and other factors.” Finding balance usually means that you are making time for the things that make you feel your happiest, and for the things that give you fulfillment. 

For many of us, this can include relationships with family or friends, or activities and hobbies that you do for fun. Many people also feel fulfilled by their work (which could be either paid or volunteer work). Being physically active is something that can offer more balance in your day, as can relaxing or sleeping. Spirituality, perhaps through meditation or praying, provides many people with happiness or balance too. 

Balance is different for everyone

Everyone is different, which means that balance will look different for everyone. Someone who is an extrovert is more likely to feel energized by spending time with others or in the community. An introvert, on the other hand, will likely enjoy spending more time alone or in a small group. Both people need to find the balance of time spent with others and time spent alone that works best for them. 

As you create a balanced schedule of physical activity, rest, etc. it’s also important to check in with yourself from time to time. Things can change quickly in life, and what worked a few months ago may not work as well now. You could also re-balance along with the seasons. An indoor group yoga class may be the perfect way to balance your social and physical wellness in the winter, but as the weather gets warmer maybe it’s time to switch to an outdoor walk by yourself. Frequent check-in’s can help you find better balance. 

Using balance to get through tough times

Recovering from a mental illness, substance misuse, or both is an ideal time to find better balance in your life. As the SAMHSA Wellness Initiative explains, “Whether it is stress, an illness, trauma, or an emotional challenge—balance is especially important. In these times, our habits and routines can help us get that feeling of control back.” 

A good example of using balance in recovery is through physical activity. Working out has obvious physical benefits, and it also offers the social aspect of interacting with other people and the mental benefit of relieving stress. But you don’t have to work out every single day to improve your wellness. Trying to get to the gym (or wherever you prefer to work out) even just a few times a week or month can still offer these benefits. 

You can also seek out balance in rest during recovery. A common treatment option for substance use disorder is a residential center because it offers a break from the stress and temptations of daily life. This downtime, whether it is provided through a residential center, outpatient treatment or individual therapy, can provide you with the space and time needed to work through your feelings. 

Finding balance in relationships

As you continue to seek out balance in recovery, you want to both focus on yourself and your needs, as well as explore the roles that you play in the lives of others. This could include your relationship as a parent, friend, coworker, spouse and member of the Hancock County community. Our relationships often define who we are, and can give you a sense of purpose, especially when recovering from a mental illness or addiction. Staying engaged in your relationships with other people, with animals and even with the environment can help improve your balance and wellness. 

If you or a loved one needs help finding balance while working through mental health issues or substance misuse, contact Healthy365 at 317-468-4231 for support. We can connect you with local resources to help.

Wellness Tips When Recovering From Substance Misuse

Wellness Tips When Recovering From Substance Misuse

Are you or a loved one recovering from substance misuse? The journey to wellness should be all-encompassing, incorporating all aspects of your life. While there is a big focus on the physical effects of addiction and your mental health, substance misuse can impact other areas as well. These wellness tips when recovering from addiction or substance abuse from the Support Navigators at Healthy365 can help you achieve a greater overall quality of life. 

Physical wellness 

Your physical health is often the most commonly thought of aspect of wellness. This is especially true for someone recovering from substance misuse, and a healthy diet and exercise can have a big impact on your wellness journey. Incorporating foods rich in omega-3s and protein specifically can improve your health while recovering. 

Omega-3, found in many types of fish, is an essential fatty acid that has been shown to improve mood disorders like depression, anxiety and ADHD thanks to its optimization of our brain cells and neurotransmitter signals. Eating protein for its amino acids is another great way to improve neurotransmitter production, especially for dopamine, in a brain that has been impacted by habitual drug use. Exercise can also make a big difference in substance misuse recovery for its ability to relieve stress, improve symptoms of depression and anxiety and even restore brain chemistry. 

Intellectual wellness

Speaking of the brain, consistent use of drugs and alcohol can change how your brain functions, even altering its structure. Once a body has fully detoxed from any substances, it can begin to recover and retrain the way its brain works. Our brains are constantly creating new cells and neural pathways, and although it can be a difficult process, it is totally possible to teach your brain to operate naturally once again, without the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are many forms of therapy focused on restoring brain function, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), that are offered in both inpatient and outpatient recovery programs. 

Emotional wellness

Rediscovering and retraining your emotions is another important part of substance misuse recovery. Many people begin using alcohol or drugs as a way to avoid their emotions or to numb themselves from a bad situation or past trauma. Finding emotional wellness in recovery will likely focus quite a bit on accepting your emotions, letting go of shame in order to forgive yourself and your past and developing a practice of mindfulness in order to observe and accept your emotions in the future without judgment. 

Occupational and financial wellness

As you come out of recovery and either return to work or look for a new job, a sense of purpose and satisfaction will be important to look for. Studies show that people with job satisfaction often feel their lives are more fulfilling, and the Mayo Clinic has many tips for finding better satisfaction and significance, no matter the job you currently hold. Closely connected to occupational wellness is financial wellness. An addiction to alcohol or drugs can have a major effect on your finances, and taking small but meaningful steps to achieve better financial security through wellness tips when recovering will make a positive impact.

Environmental, social and spiritual wellness

Your environment and the people you surround yourself with will also cause ripple effects on your recovery from substance misuse. Do your best to ensure that your living arrangements post-rehabilitation are calming and don’t tempt back into substance use. Same goes for your social life while in recovery. Spend time with friends and family who will encourage your sobriety, and also try to avoid social isolation, which can be a major trigger for relapse. Having a sense of spirituality (either religion or simply a greater sense of purpose) can bring greater meaning to your recovery as well. 

Are you interested in learning more about getting into recovery and improving your wellness after substance misuse? Our Healthy365 Support Navigators are here to support our Hancock County residents with a confidential listening ear, and to provide guidance and wellness tips when recovering from your specific life situation. Contact us today at 317-468-4231!