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.

Summer Mental Health Tips

Summer Mental Health Tips

June 21 is the first day of summer, and for many people that means trips to the pool, exciting outdoor activities and having fun. But for others, summer can be a difficult time for their mental health. We often hear about Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter, when the days are shorter and darker, but summer can bring about depression, anxiety and mental health issues as well. Let’s talk about how you can protect your summer mental health and how Healthy365 can connect you to available resources in Hancock County. 

How is mental health impacted during summer?

If you already suffer from anxiety or depression, it can feel extra hard to come out of your “winter hibernation” in the spring and summertime. While everyone else seems to be excited about the warmer weather and extra sunlight, someone with reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder or mental health issues may feel additional guilt or shame because they don’t feel that same excitement. 

Big weather changes that come in the spring and summer can also cause hormonal shifts or mood swings. Our circadian rhythm can get overwhelmed by changing seasons, and some people may need more time to adjust. Some typical symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or depression can include weight loss, changes in appetite, anxiety, irritability or insomnia.

Going outside

One of the silver linings about having feelings of depression in the summer versus the winter is that it’s much easier to get outside and soak in the Vitamin D. Even taking a short walk can boost your serotonin and improve your mood. If you notice your children are getting bored or having mood swings during summer break, keeping a loose schedule that includes time outside and playdates with others can be a great way to help them. 

Taking a relaxing vacation

Summer is obviously a great time for vacations. Your job (and schools) give you vacation time for a reason – so make sure to use it! Some people might find planning a trip stressful, so take advantage of online resources for vacation planning and find a place to get away. Try to use your vacation to unwind, clear your mind and refocus your energy so that you feel refreshed when you return home. 

Getting active

Exercising is another good way to treat feelings of depression or anxiety, and during the summer there are tons of options to get active. You could start training for a 5K or fun run, many of which take place in the summer or fall. You could take up a yoga practice to improve flexibility and try out some mindfulness meditation. You could even just take the kids to the park and try to keep up with them! However you feel comfortable, try getting active for at least 20-30 minutes a day and your body (and mind) will thank you for it. 

Maintaining proper sleep

On the flip side of getting active is getting a good night’s sleep. It can be easy to stay up late or sleep in during the more relaxed days of summer, but do your best to get in 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, with a relatively similar schedule for your bedtime and wake-up call each day. Sleep hygiene can have a big impact on mental health for people of all ages, so it’s important to set a good example for your family.  

Seeing a mental health professional

If your feelings of anxiety and depression persist or seem to be getting worse, it may be time to talk to your doctor or see a mental health professional. The Support Navigators at Healthy365 would be happy to provide you with a non-judgmental listening ear, and to connect you with local resources for your overall health and wellness.

Call us today at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd., Suite G in Greenfield to learn more about how you can improve your mental health this summer.

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. 

How to Support Someone with Depression

How to Support Someone with Depression

Watching a friend or loved one struggle with a mental health issue like depression can be extremely difficult. But, there are ways that you can help. Working with a Support Navigator at Healthy365 can teach you how to identify and support someone with depression, plus they can connect your loved one to a mental health professional and other local Hancock County resources.

How to tell when someone is depressed

Depression is more than just feeling sad, it is generally an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and withdrawal from life. The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person, but a few that you might recognize include a persistent negative outlook, a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed, lack of concentration, or a change in appetite or sleep habits (either eating or sleeping too much or too little). 

Someone suffering from depression may also express feelings of guilt, indecisiveness, exhaustion, frustration or a lack of confidence. Depression can be common after a death/loss, major life changes (even seemingly good ones) like a new job or moving, as well as postpartum or prenatal depression/anxiety. Depression is also commonly comorbid with substance use disorder. But depression can also come on without an explicit reason. 

Ways to support someone with depression

If you think someone you love may be showing signs of depression, talk to them as soon as you can. Keep in mind that mental health issues like depression can affect anyone. Just because we can’t always see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Checking in on someone can be hard, but it could make all the difference in someone getting the help they need. You can also connect your loved one with a Healthy365 Support Navigator, professionals who are here with a sympathetic ear to provide guidance for identifying local resources such as therapists or support groups. 

One of the best ways to support someone with depression is to remain patient and understanding. Treatment can help those with depression, but it can take time. Encourage your loved one to stick with it and try to offer a listening ear without judgment. Many people with depression may judge themselves harshly, so reminding them of their positive qualities can be very supportive. You can also work to create a lower-stress environment for them by offering assistance with household tasks that may be difficult to manage as they focus on their mental health.

Mental Health FIRST AID Training

If you want more practice and resources for how to identify and support someone with depression, a mental health condition, or a substance misuse problem, check out our Mental Health FIRST AID Training. This groundbreaking eight-hour course gives people the tools to look out for symptoms of common mental health conditions, as well as the best ways to connect someone with appropriate support and resources when necessary. The next Mental Health FIRST AID Training will be taking place on May 18, 2022 from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Hancock Regional Hospital.

What to do if someone is suicidal 

If you believe that someone is considering suicide or self-harm, it is important to get them the help they need as soon as possible. If you feel you’re at risk of harming yourself or others, call 911 immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 is another free and confidential resource for those in crisis. Additionally, Healthy365 offers a Suicide Prevention Training called QPR, which stands for “Question, Persuade and Refer.” Like CPR, these are three emergency response steps that you can take to help save someone’s life if they are considering self-harm or suicide. 

If you are interested in hosting or attending a QPR class, or need to talk with a Healthy365 Support Navigator about how to support someone with depression, contact us today at (317) 468-4231 or by visiting the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd., Suite G in Greenfield. We are always here to help!

Mental Health and PTSD in Veterans

Mental Health and PTSD in Veterans

This Veterans Day, we at Healthy365 are proud to honor those who have served our country in the armed forces. And we also take time to consider the mental health struggles, such as PTSD, that they may come home with after service. We’re sharing how common mental health concerns can be for veterans, and what can be done to help them. 

What mental health issues do veterans face?

After the stress that comes with active service and possible military combat, it is not uncommon for veterans to experience a difficult transition to civilian life. According to an American Medical Association study published in JAMA Psychiatry, “nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition.” One such condition is depression, a mood disorder that can cause emotional numbness, persistent sadness and a lack of overall motivation. In some cases, thoughts of suicide or self harm may occur. 

Depression can also co-occur with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can result in effects such as trouble sleeping, nightmares, anger, feeling jumpy and alcohol/drug abuse. Another mental health concern for veterans is a Traumatic Brain Injury, where a significant blow to the head causes long-lasting headaches, fatigue, memory issues or changes in mood. 

How common is PTSD?

The JAMA study found that the rate of PTSD to be 15 times higher than in civilians. And according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), the frequency of PTSD can depend on the era of their service. About 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom show signs of PTSD in a given year. About 12% of Gulf War veterans have PTSD in a given year, and about 30% of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. 

Additional factors in the commonality of mental health struggles for veterans may include their role in duty, the politics around the war and where it was fought. For some veterans, PTSD symptoms may start as soon as service ends, since it is common to experience difficulty transitioning after a traumatic event. If the symptoms persist for longer than a few months, it may be time to seek help. For other veterans, their symptoms of PTSD may come on later, or they may come and go. 

What treatments are available for PTSD?

Treatments for PTSD can include talk therapy and medications like antidepressants. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are traditionally used to treat depression and anxiety, and have also been shown to be quite helpful in the treatment of PTSD. Therapy with a licensed mental health professional is the most common form of treatment for PTSD in veterans, which can help them process the traumatic events and overcome the negative effects that come with it. Some of the most common counseling options include cognitive behavioral and exposure therapies. If you are seeking out local assistance for your mental health, Healthy365 Support Navigators can help connect you. 

How are the families of veterans affected?

The symptoms of PTSD can affect not just the individual who has experienced a traumatic event, but their family as well. According to the VA, veterans with PTSD may have trouble with trust, attachment and communication, which can greatly impact their relationships with spouses, children and other family members. After a prolonged deployment or time of service, families may be ready to have their lives “back to normal.” But with help from a professional who has experience treating PTSD, perhaps for both the veteran and their family, a new sense of normal can be found together. 

If you are in need of assistance in your or your family’s mental wellness, contact Healthy365 online or at 317-468-4231 so that our Navigators can get you connected with local resources to support your needs.