Tag Archives: anxiety

smartphone teen mental health

How is your teen’s smartphone impacting their mental health?

When we were teens we would leave school and actually leave. The day’s drama, while still on our minds for a short while, was left at our lockers. That doesn’t happen anymore—not with smartphones.

Nowadays almost every teen you see has a smartphone of some kind, and they are damaging our children’s mental health. Research shows between 2009 and 2017 the number of high schoolers who contemplated suicide increased 25 percent.  The number of teens diagnosed with depression increased 37 percent between 2005 and 2014.

Our children and teens are constantly in contact with bullies and are up all hours of the night responding to texts. Where they used to be able to escape to the safety of their bedrooms, that no longer exists. Technology has enabled them to always be followed and always connected to that outside world. Even though as parents we don’t quite understand this addiction to the phone, after all it wasn’t something we dealt with as a child, there are things we can do to help our kids. 

We have to set the example. It is hard, believe me I understand, to put that phone down, sometimes, but you need to show your children the boundaries. One important rule for is no phone in the bedroom at night. Your kids, and yourself, need to sleep. That phone is a constant distraction.

Taking that a step further, no phone or device use (of any kind) should be used an hour before bedtime. The blue light of these devices can be overstimulating making it hard to fall asleep. Not enough sleep can be a major risk factor for depression. 

Additionally, try to limit your child’s overall scrolling time per day to less than two hours. This doesn’t count time spent on homework. If they need the internet for a school project, that is fine. But, when homework is done time needs to be limited. This might be especially hard on weekends but it is so important—encourage them to meet up with their friends, go for a walk, be active, get out of the house, anything but be on that phone. 

There are some apps that can help parents to monitor and control phone use:  

  • Qustodio 
  • FamiSafe
  • OurPact
  • Boomerang Parental Control
  • ScreenTime
  • Screen Time Limit KidCrono
  • ESET Parental Control
  • Norton Family Parental Control
  • Limitly
  • ScreenLimit

More information on these applications can be found here.

moms

Stay-At-Home Moms Are Working Too

There was another post that caught my eye on social media the other day. It was a hand-written comparison list titled “Should Mothers Have Careers?” I have posted the image below so you can see it for yourself. 

mom image

This list is vastly unfair and unrealistic. It is media like this that gives the stay-at-home mom so little respect. This kind of subtle messaging can do so much harm. It plants these stereotypes that just because you are home with the kids you have so much free time during the day. Oh yes, you are home so you have time to cook a gourmet meal, play all day, and nap. It is this stuff that causes husbands to come home and ask their wives that much-despised question — “what have you been doing all day?”

It is not right. These moms aren’t napping all day. They are juggling the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, and meal preparation with the constant demands (and guilt) to play (or get a snack) from their children. They are the managers of households. Their to-do lists are overflowing. They are exhausted both physically and emotionally. They are working hard as hell. 

Not to mention they can be faced with ongoing feelings of loneliness, the struggle to find a place where they belong and a purpose within themselves. It is hard when you go through 90 percent of your day with only a two-year-old to talk to. 

Whether working outside or inside the home, each has its challenges and benefits. Being a mother (period) is hard work and it deserves all the respect we can give. We need to stop glorifying the stay-at-home mom as someone who is always on vacation and instead give her a helping hand, a hug, a high-five. We also need to stop putting down the working mom, the one who is doing what she needs to do for her family, the one who may be following her dreams. We all have different paths—one is not better than the other.

men symptoms depression

Men Show Depression & Anxiety Differently

Men and women have different ways of reacting to feelings of anxiety or depression. Where a woman might cry or voice feelings of nervousness or unrest, a man might react in an angry outburst, alcohol-abuse, or even muscle aches and pains.

Difficult to Diagnose

This significant difference in reactions often makes it difficult to diagnose men. Many times they choose to not seek help and those around them don’t recognize the signs.

Often we think of men as jerks when they have a big emotional reaction to something that seems insignificant, when in fact they could be reacting that way because they are nervous or anxious. Men who are depressed have more issues with controlling, violent or abusive behaviors and inappropriate anger, according to the Mayo Clinic. Men tend to turn to escapist behaviors, like spending more time at work or sporting events. They might avoid coming home or attending group events.

Many men also find it difficult to display emotions like sadness or to find a release like crying, and instead hold those feelings deep inside resulting in muscle aches or pains, headaches, and dizziness.

Unhealthy Coping

All that holding in makes it hard to process feelings, leading many men to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drug abuse, or turning to risky behaviors like reckless driving. Rather than dealing with their mental illness or admitting they are struggling with some hard times, they drown their feelings turning themselves numb. It is no question that these behaviors are unhealthy and often contribute to relationship failures, job loss, and other personal problems.

Scientists don’t know the exact reasons why depression/anxiety symptoms show up differently in men than women, but it is likely due to many factors — brain chemistry, hormones, life experiences, and learned behaviors, to name a few.

Help is Available

Because men display symptoms differently than women, we must have conversations. Learning and recognizing the different ways men may display symptoms of mental illness, can lead to more men getting the help they need.

teen suicide

Teen Suicide Rates At All-Time High, Here’s How We Can Help…

Suicide rates among teens and young adults are at an all-time high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why the number of teens and young adults taking their own lives is continuing to increase, but many blame things such as the use of digital platforms, economic distress, and social isolation.

There is no question this problem is one that needs our attention and care. There are steps we can take as parents, community members, and school administrators to help those who are struggling, to make suicide a more difficult option, and to show this population that suicide is not the answer.

Where do we start?

1.) Restrict Access — Having a gun in the home to protect against an intruder may seem like a good idea but it is also giving your child access to a deadly tool. My advice is to keep guns locked up and in places where even your teen doesn’t know they exist. Same with drugs, keep them out of sight. Lock them up. Reduce access. It is a lot harder to commit the act of suicide if you don’t have the tools readily available.

2.) Talk to Your Teen — If you are worried about your teen or your teen’s friends potentially struggling with emotions, then talk to them. In fact, talk to them regardless. Let them know they have a place to turn. Ask your teen if they are suicidal. Open up the communication gates. Let them know that is not the answer and get them help from a licensed mental health professional. This subject feels taboo to many but it is clear we need to talk about it. Let your child know it is ok to not be ok.

3.) Implement Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools — Training teachers and school administrators to recognize the signs of depression, suicide precursors, and other mental health issues in teens and young adults can have a lasting impact. Teens spend much of their days in an educational environment, our school professionals can play a part in watching for the signs and getting help.

4.) Training for Parents and Other Adults in the Community — Our teens need to feel like they have a safe place to turn, even if it is not a parent, to talk about their mental health. They need a caring adult who is willing to talk about suicide and can act as a support network.

The bottom line is our teens and young adults need to know they are cared for, they matter, and they have places they can go and people they can talk to whenever they need. 

For additional information on these tips, visit https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/7/11/18759712/teen-suicide-depression-anxiety-how-to-help-resources .

stress low

One thing you can do to keep stress low

Stress is part of our everyday lives. It comes and goes based on the days’ events resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies.  

Cortisol is our brain’s natural response to both minor moments of stress—also called good stress or eustress, which can be beneficial for our productivity, such as starting a new job or finishing a project and doing it well; and major stress —known as distress — such as finding out you are late on bills, getting in a vehicle fender bender, or suffering a traumatic event. 

Fight-or-Flight

This hormone is released by our bodies’ adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism. As it states in the definition, this hormone puts your body in a state of mobilization. It is preparing you to get active and ready for action, so you can fight off whatever is stressing you. You know, just like in the caveman days when there was a predator going after a food source. 

But, these days we aren’t as active. We are getting hit left and right with more and more stressors compounding in our bodies and our cortisol levels are off the charts. All this cortisol not only leads to health problems like weight gain, high blood pressure, lower immune function, loss of learning and memory, increases in depression, anxiety, and more, but it also makes it hard for our body to find and accept alternatives to situations. It clouds our reality. 

Keeping Stress Low

So what is one thing you can do to keep stress levels low? 

Take that feeling of flight seriously. Get active. Get out there. And reduce your cortisol levels.

Regular physical activity can help to lower cortisol levels and allow your brain some clarity. Regular activity can increase your self-confidence and resilience to life’s everyday ups and downs. Coupled with interaction with friends and meditation and mindfulness practices you can lighten the load in your brain and feel lighter, less stressed, and more at peace with your life. 

apologize image

Do you over apologize? It may be anxiety

You catch yourself looking down at your phone while out to lunch with friends, “oops I am sorry,” you say, “I just needed to respond to this quick message.” Ok, you don’t need to apologize. You haven’t done anything wrong. 

You leave a friend’s party and start thinking about all the things that you might have done wrong. You feel like you came off too strong. Did you help clean up enough? Did you say the right thing to your neighbor when introducing them? Was the punch fruity enough? You immediately text your friend a heartfelt apology. But why? You didn’t do anything that needs apologizing.

This is over apologizing, apologizing for things that don’t warrant an apology. You are a human. You aren’t supposed to be perfect. You are supposed to be you. You never need to apologize for being you.

Anxiety and Overthinking

But, you have anxiety. That anxiety causes you to overthink everything, to worry about things that didn’t even really happen or that you fear other people are thinking. 

This is the anxiety that keeps you up at night worrying about things that may or may not ever happen. It is the anxiety that keeps you second-guessing every move you make, every outfit you try on, every conversation you have, every task you complete, the list goes on and on. This is the everyday reality of anxiety, and, while exhausting and overwhelming, it needs no apology. 

For anxiety sufferers, constantly feeling like you need to apologize is part of life. But, it doesn’t have to be all of you. If you recognize that you are over apologizing and that it could in part be due to your anxiety, then you can begin to recognize the situations where you don’t need to apologize. You can cut yourself some slack. 

Seeking out help from a licensed mental health professional can help you to cope with these situations in healthy ways and to fully accept, embrace, and be proud of who you are.

perimenopause

Hormone changes at 40 can impact mood

As women, we generally think of the big changes in our body to be puberty and menopause but other precursors could be impacting your mood. Forty is generally too young for most women to experience full-blown menopause but some symptoms start to show up, often referred to as perimenopause.

These symptoms can mean this milestone birthday is the start of a host of emotional and physical changes. Perimenopause is caused by hormones. It generally means your body has too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. So, how can these changes impact your mood?

Change is normal

First of all, you might feel like your body is a bit off which can create distress on its own. You might grow more worried about things, begin to feel sad that you are getting older, or just be generally uncomfortable with the way you feel. Other things perimenopause can cause are increases in anxiety, short-term memory loss, fuzzy thinking, difficulty with multi-tasking, fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, anger, or a sense of urgency.

As distressing as these changes can be, it’s important to remember that it is normal. This is part of life and getting older and as uncomfortable as it can be, it can also be a sign of starting a new stage in life. If you are having trouble dealing with your emotional and physical changes, it can be helpful to speak with your doctor on ways to deal with things and lifestyle choices that may help ease symptoms. Seeking help from a licensed counselor who specializes in women’s issues can also be helpful during this time of adjustment.

It is hard to feel like you are not in control of your body and your mood and these changes that are going on, but you are not alone. And, getting older isn’t a bad thing. Think about it as a time to find a new appreciation for the simple things in life.

anxiety anger

Anxiety Can Make You Angry

It happens to those of us with anxiety all the time. The little things that are part of our everyday environment set us over the edge. That feeling of not being able to see straight, or “seeing red” as it is sometimes referred to, can be triggered by the most innocent of things. A compounding of the day’s responsibilities, a slight unraveling of the day’s schedule, the inability to get something done, an interruption at a busy time, it can be like the flip of a switch. 

Anxiety can make you angry. 

The other day a friend shared a personal story with me, and with her permission allowed me to share it as an example of this very thing. This friend, a mother of two young children, had woken up at 5 a.m. (as she does every day) to complete her mounting to-do list. She wanted to get in her workout, fold the laundry, shower, wash the dishes, send a couple of emails, get the kids fed, etc. all before getting the kids off to baseball practice. The list was set. It seemed manageable. All was well. That is until the dog ate the kids’ breakfast, the mom ran out of shampoo, the kids got into an argument, the dishwasher was full, and all of a sudden the mom was running out of time. Those feelings of being overwhelmed crept up on her, then her child asked her if they could go to the park after baseball…and she lost it. 

It seems so simple. So innocent. Yet those moments of anger are a frequent part of living with someone with anxiety. It is not that the mom wanted to be angry with her child for asking about going to the park, it is just that it felt like one more thing added to a mounting to-do list. Could that laundry wait? Those dishes wait? Yes. But, with anxiety, it can be hard to think in those logical terms (even for the most logical of people). It is not that we want to be an angry person. We want to be a place of solitude for those we love. We want to be a safe landing zone, not something to be feared. Anxiety makes that difficult. 

After that moment went down, her kids looked at her in fear and she felt awful. She was full of guilt, overcome with emotion and started on her usual string of apologies. She didn’t mean to lash out, yes she would take them to the park. And, her kids, used to the drill, gave her grace. They forgave. They hugged her. They told her they loved her. She asked if they were ok. 

This is one of the ugly sides of anxiety. It is hard. Acknowledging these issues, getting help from a licensed professional, learning coping mechanisms, stepping away from the situation, all of these are positive steps in the right direction. Nobody wants to be an angry person. We all want to be calm and level-headed. If you are an anxiety sufferer, allow yourself some grace. Try to say “yes” more often. Give yourself breaks. Apologize to those you love. Talk to them, explain to them why you may have reacted the way you did. Teach them the beauty of forgiveness.

Relating to our previous post on how managing your anxiety, especially as a parent, is important so that you don’t pass it on to your children, taking the difficult step to acknowledge your anger as a symptom of your anxiety is also crucial.

How Do You Calm Down (Fast!)

Those feelings of anger or anxiety are creeping up on you. You are “seeing red.” You feel like you are going to explode. What do you do? How can you calm yourself down fast and effectively?

  1. Count to 10 – Sometimes the secret is simply changing your focus. Counting to 10 does that. If you are actively focusing on counting, counting slowly, then you can disengage from whatever is getting you all hot and bothered. Then when you are ready you can reassess and think more clearly. 
  2. Smell Something Nice – You might think I am joking but there is a lot of research around essential oils and soothing scents, like lavender or jasmine. Consider carrying a scent in your bag or wearing a scented bracelet and turn to it in moments of stress.
  3. Touch – Touch can be a calming thing. You can always turn to a significant other, a friend, or a child and ask for a hug, or rub up against a pet. Or, if that is not available, or not desirable, then turn to yourself. Rub your hands together for a few seconds. You will be surprised how calming it can be. 
  4. Move – Movement is a powerful thing. Getting your heart rate up for a few minutes is healthy. Getting out of situations by taking a walk, or walking up and down the stairs, releases stress. It allows you to burn off steam, regain calm, and refocus. 
  5. Breathe – Focus on your breath. Take a few minutes, close your eyes, breathe in and breathe out. Focus on the inhale, getting it as deep as you can, and focus on your exhale, getting it all out. Let it go. 
  6. Write It Down – Sometimes it just helps to get it all on paper. It helps to organize your thoughts and put things into perspective.
  7. Guided Meditation – There are so many apps and YouTube videos with guided meditation. They are at your fingertips. Find five minutes and use them. 
  8. Practice Mindfulness – Sometimes it is as simple as taking a moment to look around. What is really happening in the moment? 

Calming down can be extremely difficult when we are overwhelmed, but give yourself some compassion. You are human. You are entitled to your feelings. You are strong. You will get through. It is all going to be ok. 

Help yourself and your kids by managing anxiety

Anxiety is a very real thing that many of us face. It can be so easy to get overcome with emotions, feel overwhelmed by the day’s events, and get frustrated. Next thing you know you are lashing out at your children. Yelling at them for things that aren’t really their fault. We have all done it. But for those with anxiety, these occurrences can get more and more frequent, passing on your anxiety to your children. 

If this sounds like you, first of all — take a breath. You are not alone. There are healthy ways to deal with your anxiety so that you aren’t passing it on to your children.

Healthy Coping

Here are some things to get you started:

1.) Take notice — Before you can make any changes you have to recognize where changes need to be made. Pay attention to the way you are reacting to things. How are you speaking to your kids? What do their faces look like when you talk to them this way? How are you feeling internally? What led up to this instance? Recognize it, so you can alter your behavior. 

2.)Take a break — When you realize you are feeling overwhelmed, stop what you are doing. Take a moment to look around and examine what you are doing, what is making you feel overwhelmed? Remind yourself of your reality. Bring yourself back to earth. If it is an ongoing thing, then take the time for yourself to get done what you need so that you can regain calm. 

3.) Alter Your Schedule — If you are seeing a pattern of anxious feelings, maybe it’s during deadline week at work or maybe it is during a certain time of the day, then make the necessary changes in order to feel relaxed. Get up a few hours early to get things done. Go to bed earlier. Plan ahead of time. Whatever works best for you in order to feel like you are in control of your time. 

4.) Learn Stress Management — Healthy stress management is not always known. Instead, we tend to turn to things like alcohol or eating which can increase our anxious feelings. Instead try breathing techniques, meditation, exercise, reducing your workload, etc. 

A licensed professional can help you to recognize and conquer these anxious feelings so that you are not passing them on to your children. Your children are hyperaware. They turn to you for guidance. Be a good example. Learn healthy coping mechanisms.