Are you sabotaging your own happiness? What you’re doing – and not doing – could be keeping you from a happy, healthy life. Mental wellness is one of our passions at the Healthy365 Connection Center, and we want you to enjoy the happiness every person needs. Let’s look at some of the risk factors that endanger your contentment and talk about how you can turn things around with simple changes.
1. Lack of a good sleep routine
What’s so great about sleep? Those hours of peaceful slumber allow your brain to get ready for the demands of the day. While you’re snoozing, your brain is working to develop new pathways and enable better thinking and memory. Sleep deficiency does more than make you tired. Over time, you could notice that you’re having trouble making decisions and solving problems. You may also experience an increased risk of suicide, depression and risky behavior.
Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep daily. Are you struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep? A good sleep routine gives you a head start to being happy:
- Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at around the same time each day, even on weekends.
- Turn off the screens 30 minutes before you go to bed. Go old-school and read a book instead. (Remember that novel you were assigned in high school that put you to sleep every time you started reading it? Use that for nights that nothing else seems to work!)
- Resist the urge to take a daytime nap.
- Use nicotine, caffeine and alcohol sparingly at bedtime.
If you are regularly experiencing sleepless nights, see your physician. Many sleep issues can be addressed medically.
2. Unmanaged stress
We all encounter stress during our day. Our bodies are actually quite adept at reacting to stressful situations – our muscles can tense, our hearts will race and our short-term memory becomes more effective during this “fight or flight” reaction that helps us escape dangerous situations. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you’re trying to meet a deadline or running from a tiger. But too much stress can strain our mental health and interfere with our happiness. If stressful situations are causing you to withdraw or feel perpetually anxious, you may experience long-term consequences. Unmanaged stress may also be linked to substance misuse.
Nobody can completely avoid stress in their lives, but anyone can take steps to address stress appropriately. Consider working these habits into your daily routine:
- Exercise regularly. Exercise gives those “fight or flight” hormones something to do and helps them work through our bodies.
- Find a hobby. You don’t have to be Picasso to enjoy painting. Carve out time to do something you enjoy.
- Make a list. Your responsibilities can seem overwhelming, but sometimes it helps to write them down. Pick the easiest task first so you can enjoy the rush of scratching it off the list when you’re done. If you can’t finish the list, give yourself permission to work on it again tomorrow.
3. An unhealthy diet
A handful of peanut butter cups may give you an instant sugar rush during the day, but they’re not the answer to long-term happiness. Instead, consider that Mom may have been right when she told you to eat your vegetables. Healthy food choices can have positive implications on our mental health and well-being and may even make us happy. But it’s not always easy to make healthy eating decisions, especially if food has emotional implications. Remember, you don’t have to struggle for mental wellness alone. Talk to your physician about nutritional resources or check out the nutrition and weight loss programs through Hancock Health.
4. Physical inactivity
A century ago, people’s daily activities included more active minutes. Your great-grandmother spent the day working in her garden, canning the produce and sweeping the floor with a broom. Your great-grandfather stood at a factory machine all day. Even people who were lucky enough to own an automobile weren’t as dependent as we are today. Combine this with an abundance of sedentary pastimes and screen-related activities, and we’re missing out on the relationship between physical activity and overall happiness. Physical activity can help your brain release endorphins, those feel-good neurotransmitters that can boost your mental health.
According to the World Health Organization, adults need a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity each week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity. If that sounds intimidating, consider that it averages to about 21 minutes daily on the low end. Are you looking for ways to add more activity into your life? Consider these options:
- Find something you like to do. Give yourself a chance to explore different exercise options, from outdoor walking to working on the machines at one of the state-of-the-art Hancock Wellness Centers.
- Build in exercise throughout the day. Park far away from your office entrance. Take the stairs. Do some stretching exercises while dinner is in the oven.
- Involve the family. Busy parents may feel like they don’t have time to exercise. Invest in an exercise stroller or take the kids on a family bike ride.
5. Tobacco use
Almost everyone knows that smoking isn’t good for you. But did you know it can make you unhappy as well? Despite the stereotype of enjoying a relaxing cigarette, tobacco actually increases your stress levels and anxiety. Smoking has also been linked to depression and other mental health problems, which can put a hurt on your happiness levels. If you’re ready to kick the habit, talk to a medical professional about different strategies.
Many factors also play a role in your daily happiness, including issues related to substance misuse, recreational drug use and the harmful use of alcohol. You don’t have to tackle life alone. The Healthy365 Connection Center was designed to assist Hancock County residents who are struggling with life’s challenges. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center now at 317-468-4231. Our support navigators can help connect you to important resources throughout the community. Let us help you find the happiness everyone deserves.
As of July 16, 2022, the United States has updated the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available simply by calling 988. Shifting from a longer 1-800 number to a three-digit code is anticipated by experts to be easier to remember during a mental health crisis. Learn more about the new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, as well as how you can support someone who may be considering self-harm or suicide.
What happens when you call 988?
When a person in crisis calls or texts the new 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, they are connected to a trained counselor who can listen to their concerns, provide support and connect them with resources as needed (not unlike the function of the Healthy365 Connection Center). The 988 Lifeline is available 24/7 and is staffed by counselors and trained volunteers at more than 200 crisis centers nationwide.
Why is the number changing?
Formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the 11-digit phone number could be cumbersome for some to remember, especially an individual in distress. So much so that popular music artists Logic, Juanes, Alessia Cara and Khalid collaborated on a song about the pain of suicidal feelings called “1-800-273-8255” in order to bring more awareness to the Lifeline and make it easier for people to recall in a crisis.
With a short three-digit code (similar to the 911 number that most people know by heart) the new Suicide & Crisis Lifeline expects to meet the growing need for mental health support in our country. However, the 1-800-273-8255 Lifeline phone number will remain available indefinitely to connect those in need with a trained counselor.
What is the point of the 988 Lifeline?
The ultimate goal of the Lifeline is to direct people who are in crisis to the care that is most appropriate for their situation. With the support of trained counselors, the official 988 Lifeline website reports that “numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor.”
This will also ideally minimize the contact they have with law enforcement, public health and the justice system. Did you know that the rate of mental illness in jails is at least three times higher than in the general population? With resources like the 988 Lifeline, we can help reduce the over-incarceration of people with mental illness & substance use disorders by keeping them out of the justice system in the first place.
How can you support someone who is feeling suicidal?
One of the ways that local residents can support someone in crisis is by taking a QPR training class. QPR stands for “Question, Persuade and Refer,” which are three steps you can take to assist someone who is considering self-harm or suicide. Just like CPR, QPR is an emergency response that you can learn to save someone’s life. We host QPR suicide prevention trainings at the Healthy365 Connection Center and across Central Indiana on a regular basis, with our next class taking place on Sept. 12 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Hope Center Indy (11850 Brookville Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46239). You can register for QPR training online or contact our Healthy365 Support Navigators at 317-468-4231 to learn more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.