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  1. Summer is upon us and many of us are anticipating a return to travel. Whether staying stateside or going overseas, travel conjures up images of exciting new places, beautiful or unusual sights, visiting with family or friends, and in general, lots of relaxation and fun. But for many people, travel can also create feelings of discomfort and worry — a sensation psychologists refer to as "travel anxiety." If this describes you, you are not alone: feeling anxious about travel - before and during a trip - is very common. And of course, if you have a mental health diagnosis, you’ll want to check with your medical professional before your trip as they can make sure you are up-to-date on prescriptions, and even provide travel advice for your condition. In addition, this article offers 8 ways to cope with travel anxiety, from giving yourself extra time for transportation transitions to packing a calming item or book that provides comfort during stressful situations. Hopefully these suggestions will help reduce the anxiety and allow you to enjoy the journey! Alleviate potential anxiety before you go Experts suggest you start by thinking in advance about what situations on the trip might cause anxiety, recognize when your anxiety may be disproportionate, then challenge it with facts and planning. It’s a good idea for any traveler to do upfront research to make sure destinations and activities are safe. But if your fears about possible disaster get in the way of fully enjoying your experience, your anxieties may be at least partially unfounded. It may help to look at statistics to see how rare certain scary events really are. You can also find out in advance where to go or who to call if you do have an emergency. Often these upfront methods can provide a better sense of control and therefore alleviate some of the advance anxiety. Other Tips for coping with travel anxiety during your trip Build in extra time. This probably goes without saying. Almost every form of transportation - plane, train, even car rental - will almost certainly experience delays, lines, or schedule changes - causing even the most patient among us to feel overwhelmed. It makes sense to allow for extra time for each, as well as to plan what you’ll do in case of delays (bring a book, load up a movie on your phone, etc.), and learn to accept - rather than fight - these common inconveniences. Keep important documents handy. To reduce freak-outs at the airport or at border crossings, always keep your passport and ID in the exact same holder or bag while you travel (as well as in the same spot at home when not traveling!). Make paper copies of important documents just in case. Consider printing out copies of maps or have an up-to-date, hard copy guidebook in case GPS doesn’t work. Establish a routine that sets the tone for your trip. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings, and if you can, integrate activities that you’re used to doing at home (e.g., getting coffee at a local coffee shop each morning, reading before bed, etc.) to bring a sense of comfort and routine. Practice relaxing breathing exercises. Use these in traffic, in security lines, and whenever necessary. Also integrate physical activity like walking and stretching to relieve stress. Get the appropriate amount of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and stay hydrated. Try to stay positive — or at least neutral. Frustrating or disappointing situations are bound to happen while traveling. However, your attitude may make a difference. Boston University clinical psychologist and phobia expert, Dr. Todd Farchione, says, “A lot of times, by pulling from a mindfulness and acceptance-based approach, you can go into a situation in a way where you’re not judging it so negatively… To be calm, you have to act calm.” Know your mental and physical limits. Regularly reassess your original plans and change them to minimize stress levels. Let your fellow travelers know in advance that you will be prioritizing your mental health and that there may be activities along the way that you may not partake in. Finally, give yourself time on the back end of a trip. If possible, plan an extra day or two off after you return, to mentally and physically recover from your trip. This will help you get back into your daily routine with less stress. If you are still facing travel anxiety after trying these stress-reducing tips, a qualified mental health professional can help you work on further coping strategies for dealing with travel anxiety, or help you consider whether medication can help fulfill your wanderlust with as little stress as possible. Sources International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT): Travel and Anxiety Conde Nast Traveler: What Does Travel Anxiety Look Like? CDC: Mental Health and Travel
  2. As the 2022 Olympics and Paralympics wind down in Beijing and athletes return home, the glow of their accomplishments is sure to last for a while. But what happens after the glow dies down - after the hometown celebrations, victory parties, and media interviews subside? Holly Brooks, a well-known therapist to Olympic athletes, says, "A lot of athletes fall into a deep depression after the Olympics… (They) need a lot of support, a lot of people reminding them of their worth beyond just their athletic achievements and results." In this article, we look at the mental health issues that returning Olympians often face, and what can be done to address this. Post-competition mental health issues are not uncommon It is estimated that one-third of elite athletes around the world experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In recent years, athletes like Simone Biles, Chloe Kim, and Michael Phelps have helped raise awareness and normalize mental health issues by talking openly about their own anxiety and depression. At the same time, the number of research studies around this topic has increased - confirming the high incidence of mental health issues in this group. Studies have found there are several reasons that athletes may experience post-competition depression. Some athletes are dealing with disappointment over performances that didn't seem to measure up. But even for those who walk away with gold, that post-competition, somewhat “lost” feeling of “what do I focus all my energy and attention on now?” can loom large. One athlete said, “When you get home it’s really lonely… It’s quite depressing, and it is a little bit overwhelming, starting from square one again.” Sports psychologist and director of the Performance Psychology Center at the University of Michigan, Scott Goldman, explains it this way: “This ninety-mile-per-hour ride comes to a screeching halt the second the Olympics are over. …This emotional drop is not that different from the drops we all feel after major milestones, such as getting married or giving birth…. But in the case of Olympic athletes, some find themselves at such a loss they can’t stop the slide—and wind up in clinical depression.” What can be done to address mental health issues faced by athletes? Some experts suggest that athletes should have a plan in place for what to do after the excitement of the competition ends - from going on vacation to beginning a degree, a new job, or even a new athletic season. The key may be in an athlete’s willingness to build and maintain an identity off the playing field - and this may be where these other life goals come in. Support is also critical: The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee formed a mental health task force in 2020 and among other things, made sure Olympic athletes now have access to a dedicated team of counselors and other mental health resources, such as wellness and meditation apps and support groups - during and after the games. One athlete summarized the challenge this way: "People are finally recognizing that these athletes are not superhuman robots like everyone thinks they are. It's like, 'Oh they're a normal person who has their own mental health issues.'" If you or a loved one need help with mental health issues, consider contacting a qualified telebehavioral health professional If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals are trained in multiple mental health disorders and have experience treating them via online appointments - from the convenience and privacy of your home or wherever works for you. If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here. Sources NPR Frontiers in Psychology British Journal of Sports Medicine
  3. 70% of US households have at least one pet and most of us view our companion animals as valued members of our families. We love them, we share our homes, our food, and our lives with them. And it turns out that they give back - in spades. Not only do our companion animals love us back and provide friendship, joy, and fun - but it turns out that they can help reduce stress and anxiety too. And by the way, a pet doesn’t have to be a cat or dog - rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, even reptiles can also provide stress relief. In this article, we’ll discuss the science of this human-animal bond, and explain why it's so beneficial. Multiple research studies confirm the benefits of companion animals The human-animal bond is defined as “the mutually beneficial relationship between people and other animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the well-being of both.” Studies show an increase in oxytocin levels in the brains of both humans and animals when they interact positively with each other, and it may be that this explains the neuroscience of the bond. Taking this a step further, research has found that “pets are able to provide unique emotional support as a result of their ability to respond to their owners in an intuitive way, especially in times of crisis and stress.” Another study showed that the presence of a companion animal “buffers against the negative consequences of stress.” Yet another study on military veterans showed significant findings for the “benefits of animal companionship for veterans with PTSD, including effects on reducing feelings of loneliness, depression, worry and irritability, and increased feelings of calmness.” How do companion animals help reduce stress? One of the reasons for these beneficial effects is that companion animals fulfill the basic human need for touch. Intuitively, we know that patting or hugging an animal - a form of sensory stress relief - can calm and soothe us. And, animals tend to live in the moment — they don’t worry about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future. Therefore, they can help us become more mindful and to appreciate the present moment with less worry. In addition, companion animals help us in the following ways: Increase exercise and play. Taking a dog for a walk or hike - or even playing with a cat in the house - are fun and rewarding ways to fit daily activity into your schedule. In fact, studies have shown that dog owners are far more likely to meet their daily exercise requirements. And the more exercise and activity you get, the less stress you’ll feel. Keep us connected. Pets can be a great way to feel part of a community of “dog people” or “cat people”, for example, and can help spark conversations and meet new people in pet stores, clubs, or training classes. Staying social and feeling connected is a great way to reduce stress. Provide a sense of security and calm. The presence of a companion animal at home can help provide a sense of security, ease separation anxiety in kids, and make us feel important - therefore helping to maintain a positive self-image. Add structure and routine to the day. Most pets require a regular feeding, cleaning, and exercise schedule. Having a consistent routine keeps our pets balanced and calm—and works the same way for us, too. Having a pet to care for makes us get out of bed in the morning, no matter how bad the day may seem. Animals in therapy Companion animals can be a valuable complement to regular therapy for individuals dealing with anxiety or depression. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology concluded that animal-assisted intervention may prove a good complementary option for trauma and other mental health issues. This study found that ‘therapy animals’: can act as a comforting reminder that all is calm and safe, act as a base for mindful experiences in the present, and elicit positive emotions and warmth. To this end, you can find many successful therapy animal programs which visit hospitals, retirement homes, hospice centers, nursing homes, and schools. If this is something you might be interested in, a behavioral health specialist is a good place to start to find out more about these programs and to learn if a companion animal might provide stress relief for you. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety, consider consulting a behavioral health professional If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals understand how to recognize and treat stress and anxiety, and can help explore animal-assisted interventions. If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here. Sources Journal Animals BMC Psychiatry NIH News in Health Frontiers in Psychology
  4. No question, stress is affecting us at work. A 2020 survey by Mental Health America found that over 80% of respondents felt emotionally drained from work and 71% said their workplace significantly affects their mental health. Another study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America found that over 50% of employees say stress and anxiety impacts their workplace quality and performance. The main culprits of all this workplace stress? Deadlines (55%), interpersonal work relationships (53%), staff management (50%), and dealing with unexpected issues and problems (49%) - not to mention the pandemic. These statistics seem unsustainable. Some employers recognize this issue and are in the process of creating company policies to address it. In this article, we look at the status of mental health in the workplace, and what both employers and workers can do to address the problem. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on mental health A 2020 CDC survey found that 1 in 4 of us reported feeling anxious more than half of the previous week, and 1 in 5 reported feelings of depression during the same time period - driven by COVID-19-related concerns such as illness, remote learning, travel restrictions, the switch to remote work, child care issues, and limits on gatherings with family or friends, and more. A recent McKinsey study found that 9 out of 10 employers say they know that COVID-19 is having an impact on their employees by creating unprecedented anxiety and depression, and 70% say they’re taking action - yet the same study found that almost half of workers anticipate that going back to the office will have somewhat or significantly negative impacts on their mental health. Mental health issues in the workplace can impact both employees and employers Stress, anxiety and other mental health issues on the job can impact: Job performance and productivity Physical capability Cognitive functioning Communication with coworkers Engagement with one’s work Mental health issues in the workplace are also associated with higher rates of disability and unemployment. All of these issues are damaging to employers as well as workers. What can employers do to address the mental health crisis? If you’ve a manager, you’ve probably read about the success of interventions and programs such as the following list - which all start by acknowledging the importance of good mental health at all levels of your organization, and talking openly about the problem. In addition, employers can: Provide managers with training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of stress in team members and encourage them to seek help from qualified mental health professionals Make mental health self-assessment tools available to employees Distribute materials (such as brochures or videos) about the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and ways to get help Provide free or subsidized access to coaching, counseling, or stress management programs What can workers do to address mental health issues in the workplace? It can benefit all of us to be on the lookout for warning signs that we might need to make changes at work or get professional help. Experts suggest that each of us can: Watch out for warning signs. For example, if you start to notice you’re losing interest in your job or your productivity drops, or you start dreading work each day, or you feel so anxious that you have trouble thinking about everything that you’re supposed to do, it’s an indication that something is not right. Consider setting boundaries. Would it help to have a more flexible work schedule, or set limits as to when and how often you respond to work messages? Or do you need something bigger like a short-term disability leave (usually decided with a mental health professional)? Get support. If you find you need help, seek out a trusted friend or family member, peer group, or qualified mental health professional - someone or somewhere you can feel seen, heard and validated. A mental health professional will work with you to determine what mental health condition you are experiencing and come up with a plan to address it. Note that it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against you if you have a mental health condition. And according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if you have a qualifying condition like major depression for example, you may have a right to a reasonable accommodation that would help you do your job. Talk to a qualified mental health professional about this first. If you identify with any of these signs of workplace-related stress or anxiety, consider consulting a behavioral health professional If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals understand the link between the stresses of college life and mental health. If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here. Sources Harvard Business Review Centers for Disease Control (CDC) McKinsey & Company McKinsey & Company
  5. This Fall, over 3 million students started college in the US - some attending classes in-person for the first time in over a year. Do you know a loved one who went away to college this year? We know that teens have a lot on their minds anyway, and while some issues are not new, electronic media has amplified some of the struggles that young people face. On top of that, starting college means learning new systems, places, and faces, as well as potentially facing more academic competition than ever before. Not to mention, the stress of separating from family and living alone - potentially for the first time. So just how does the transition to college impact the mental health of this population? It turns out …significantly. Read on for the research behind the headlines, as well as warning signs to watch out for. What the research shows about college students and mental health In the context of the stressors mentioned above, many college students experience the first onset of mental health and substance use problems or an exacerbation of existing symptoms. One study found that 60% of all college students suffer from at least one mental health problem. And according to recent surveys from the American College Health Association, 60% of respondents felt ‘overwhelming’ anxiety, while 40% experienced depression. A 2019 Penn State University study found that demand for campus mental health services spiked by over 30% in one year. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have made things worse. Measures such as lockdowns, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders introduced negative impacts on the higher education ecosystem. A 2021 study found that 71% of college students indicated increased stress and anxiety due to COVID-19. This study found that contributing stressors included: fear and worry about their own health and the health of their loved ones (91%) difficulty in concentrating (89%) disruptions to sleeping patterns (86%) decreased social interactions due to physical distancing (86%) increased concerns about academic performance (82%) Access to behavioral healthcare is key - but not always a given Studies have shown a link between poor academic performance, and anxiety and depression among college students, so it's critical for students to have easy access to help. A study looking at mental health and academic success found that symptoms of depression or anxiety are a significant predictor of a lower GPA, and a higher probability of dropping out. The problem is that many colleges and universities are not staffed with enough specialists to handle the volume of students that need help. As well, some students are uncomfortable admitting they need help, think that high stress is “a normal part of student life”, or do not know where to find help. One study found that among students with mental health issues, fewer than half received treatment when they needed it. How to spot symptoms of depression or anxiety in college students Recognizing signs of depression may seem difficult - but is critical. After all, everyone has “off days” when they feel overwhelmed with the stresses of college. However, when those days become weeks, and/or getting out of bed every day for class becomes a struggle, take notice. Here are signs of anxiety or depression to look for in college students: not enjoying activities you once loved feeling hopeless no longer attending classes or social outings experiencing extreme anger or sadness reacting negatively or with apathy to most things talking about death or suicide suddenly turning to drugs or alcohol to suppress feelings family history of depression or anxiety If you or a college student you love shows any of these signs, avoid telling them to "cheer up" or "snap out of it." Many people experiencing mental health issues are aware of their condition, and telling them to “get over it” is not helpful. Instead, encourage them to seek help. If there isn’t help available on campus, consider virtual therapy. Online platforms like Telemynd provide access to mental health specialists from the privacy of a dorm room or home. If you recognize any of these signs of anxiety or depression, consider consulting a behavioral health professional Request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals understand the link between the stresses of college life and mental health. If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join Telemynd, see all the benefits and apply here. Sources Journal of Affective Disorders Forbes Journal Medical Research
  6. We spend an average of 2.5 hours per day on social media in the US. And that’s up 31% from 2015. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media daily. And of course, we all post our best - the best vacation pics, the best party pics, the best outfit pics - it's a recipe for unrealistic comparison on a daily basis. Why do we do it? To boost self-esteem and feel a sense of belonging in our social circles, we post with the hope of receiving positive feedback. But there’s a downside - research shows that time spent on social media has an adverse effect on mental health. The effort spent to achieve and maintain the ideal body so that we look “as good as” others we see on social media, can trigger significant anxiety and depression. In this article, we dig into the research and share suggestions to mitigate the negative impact of social media. What the science says about social media and mental health Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, and more recently TikTok (whose use is up 800% in the US since 2018) - all provide an easy means to post, view, and compare ourselves to others, 24/7. Filters that provide the ability to airbrush photos, whiten teeth, and more, are easy to find and use. Now, it’s not only celebrities who look perfect—it’s everyone. In fact, plastic surgeons have seen an uptick in requests in recent years from patients who want to look like their (unrealistic) filtered Snapchat or Instagram photos. Logically, we know this can’t be healthy behavior. And the science backs this up. Research has linked social media use to decreased sleep, increased anxiety and depression, and significant body dysmorphia - which often leads to eating disorders. One study, published by the Public Library of Open Science (PLoS One), found the prevalence of depression and anxiety to be over 48%, for those of all ages and genders who looked at social media frequently. Another study, published in Computers and Human Behavior, found that individuals who used social media over 2 hours per day reported significantly higher body image concerns and internalizing symptoms than peers reporting no use of social media. A 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased or disrupted sleep, which can be associated with depression, memory loss, and poor work or academic performance. One study, published by the Public Library of Open Science (PLoS One), found the prevalence of depression and anxiety to be over 48%, for those of all ages and genders who looked at social media frequently. Another study, published in Computers and Human Behavior, found that individuals who used social media over 2 hours per day reported significantly higher body image concerns and internalizing symptoms than peers reporting no use of social media. A 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased or disrupted sleep, which can be associated with depression, memory loss, and poor work or academic performance. How social media’s ‘ideal body image’ portrayal impacts different communities Some communities are impacted more than others - for various reasons they are more likely to feel pressure to look good on social media and/or more vulnerable to the effects of constant comparison. For example, studies have found that social media use has been linked to higher rates of depression in teens, which in turn has lead to a higher suicide rate among the age group. When there’s a ‘filter’ applied to the digital images, it can be hard for teens to tell what’s real and what isn’t, which comes at an already difficult time for them physically and emotionally. A Pew Research study of teens, technology, and friendships revealed a range of social media-induced stressors: Feeling pressure to post attractive content about yourself Feeling pressure to get comments and likes on your posts Seeing people post about events to which you weren’t invited Having someone post things about you that you cannot change or control Another community adversely affected by the need to achieve a perfect body for social media is the LGBTQ community. For example, research published out of Dalhousie University found that social demands placed on gay men, based on social media images, to achieve a perfect body, have serious mental health consequences. The men in this study talked about how “constantly thinking about food and body ideals often lead to losing themselves in feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.” The National Eating Disorder Association similarly found that those who identify as LGBTQ+ experience unique stressors that may contribute to the development of eating disorders - these stressors include the inability to meet body image ideals within LGBTQ+ cultural contexts that are promoted in social media. Women in general, and young black women in particular, are also at greater risk for developing mental health issues due to unrealistic body image portrayals on social media. One study found that celebrity culture, as portrayed on social media, perpetuates the ideology that young black women can only achieve beauty through changes in skin color, extended artificial weaves, and a thin body frame. Another study out of Yale University School of Medicine found that as black teen girls navigate social media, “they are aware that they are seen as less desirable than their white teen counterparts.” Of course, all of this leads to significant mental health issues. How to mitigate the negatives effects of social media Can anything be done to mitigate the downsides of social media? While the biggest changes need to come at a societal level, it turns out that there are some tactics that individuals and families can take - starting with something as simple as monitoring social media use. In an article from Harvard’s McLean Hospital, psychologist Jacqueline Sperling, Ph.D., says “it’s probably unrealistic for most social media users to quit completely. However, they can monitor their behavior to see how their use impacts them.” She adds, “if someone notices that they feel less happy after using social media, they might consider changing how they use the sites, such as viewing them for less time and doing other activities that they enjoy instead.” Experts also suggest the following options: Find and follow body-positive accounts and influencers, or join support groups - this can help shift our mindset about the ideal body image set by society. Take an ethical stand and refuse to read, or view media, or buy advertised products that do not promote a healthy and diverse body image. Use your own social media accounts to become an advocate for positive body image. Give a shout-out to retailers, advertisers, or celebrities who promote natural looks, healthy body size, and diverse body shapes. Consult with a behavioral health specialist if you or someone you love is finding it hard to disconnect from social media overuse. If you recognize some of these signs for anxiety or depression, consider consulting a behavioral health professional Request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals understand the link between social media and mental health. Seeking a meaningful career in behavioral health? Consider joining our national team of providers making a real impact on the lives of thousands, learn more about the benefits here.
  7. Back-to-school can be a time of heightened stress and excitement for kids in normal years, but this year, add in increased health worries and new routines associated with the covid-19 pandemic, and the level of ‘back-to-school anxiety’ is higher than ever. In fact, at Telemynd, we’ve recently seen an uptick in requests for mental health visits for kids and adolescents. So, with families in mind, this article will look at the reasons why back-to-school may cause extra anxiety this year and some actionable ways to address it. The number of mental health issues in young people has increased in the pandemic A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Pediatrics) found that the number of young people struggling with mental health issues has likely doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels. The study found that 1 in 4 kids are experiencing elevated symptoms of depression and 1 in 5 have higher levels of anxiety. A CDC study found that in 2020, emergency room mental health visits increased 31% for kids ages 12 to 17, and 24% for ages 5 to 11, compared to the same period the prior year. And it's no wonder. For many young people, the pandemic has increased worries about sickness, family finances, separation from friends, disruption in routine – even coping with grief from loss. A year of remote learning, although necessary for safety, may have taken an emotional toll on many – some may have fallen behind in their studies, or suffered from lack of academic support. Back-to-school transitions will be harder this year Most mental health specialists agree that, in general, kids are realizing that the world is not as safe as we all thought it was – and that increases anxiety. Dr. Jennifer Louie, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, says, “There’s just anxiety in the air, and I think kids feel that. They are wondering: Are we sure it’s safe to go back (to school)? And are other people safe? And is it safe to touch this?” To be sure, some kids have enjoyed homeschooling and spending more time with family. But for those who are predisposed to anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, transitioning back to classroom learning this Fall may be harder than ever. How to help kids deal with back-to-school anxiety For parents and caretakers, it may feel complicated – on the one hand you want to reassure them that it’s safe to go back to school in-person, while also encouraging them to be cautious, and preparing them to be flexible if rules or situations change. Here are 5 ways to address additional back-to-school anxiety: Emphasize safety measures. Talk about how schools have done months of planning to minimize risk and keep everyone safe — and how kids can do their part by following the rules. It's fine to explain that we can never be 100% sure everyone will stay healthy, but that there are measures in place to try to ensure best possible outcomes if people get sick. Validate their feelings. Validate any worries by acknowledging that, like any new activity, going back to school can be hard, but with time, it will get easier. For younger kids, praise ‘brave’ behaviors, e.g., “I love how willing you were to take the bus this morning.” Make sure they know they aren’t alone - that teachers and administrators are watching out for them and that you’ll deal with any safety and health issues together. Have a routine. Making sure that your child has a predictable school morning routine can help everyone feel more secure. Try to do things at the same time, the same way every day. And practice problem-solving if issues come up; for example, if they worry they can’t find their way around school, help them think through who to ask for help. Make sure they get enough sleep and good nutrition. The shift from summer to school-year wake-up times can be challenging for a lot of kids, but lack of sleep can make them more vulnerable to anxiety. To deal with this, consider leaving TV, phone, or laptop outside the bedroom at night. And have lots of healthy snacks and lunch material in the house to ward-off unhealthy eating (which also contributes to stress). Observe your child's behavior. Watch for signs of depression or anxiety, for example, becoming more withdrawn, angry, or having trouble concentrating. Also watch for physical changes like abdominal or other physical pain - which also can be warning signs. Be sure to regularly and directly ask them how they're feeling. It is also not uncommon for kids who struggle with anxiety and depression to “hold it together” during the school day and have a “meltdown” when they arrive home to release some of the pent up feelings they have kept inside while in school. It is important for parents to be prepared for this type of response and to create space for their child to decompress when they arrive home before trying to engage them about their day. Understanding “why” your child may be acting in a way that is unlike them is the first step in recognizing the signs that they may be struggling with a mental health issue. When to seek additional help If you see any of the warning signs mentioned above (and see more here), or if a young person’s worries about school start to interfere with their ability and willingness to attend school or participate in normal activities, like sports, or socializing with peers, consider consulting a licensed behavioral health professional. In some cases, kids may be resisting going back to school because last year’s learning at home “felt” easier than going to school (e.g., kids with a lot of social anxiety, or those with learning disorders may have had an easier time when they could work at their own pace). Mental health professionals can sort out real anxiety and depression symptoms, and provide recommendations to help. If a young person in your life is showing signs of heightened back-to-school anxiety, consider contacting a mental health professional With the right mental health support, kids can adjust to school this Fall, make new friends, learn new things, and thrive. If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today! If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here. Sources Harvard Medical School Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Behavior Analysis in Practice JAMA Pediatrics
  8. There’s a lot to be stressed about these days - whether it’s news headlines, endless to-do lists, or worry about money and bills. But for some, stress and worry can be so prevalent that it starts to interfere with our ability to function. In this case, we might consult a clinical professional and try talk therapy or medication. In addition, there’s another technique that has gained popularity in recent years to deal effectively with anxiety and depression, called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), also known as "tapping." EFT Tapping is a research-based intervention that combines cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) techniques, such as awareness building and reframing of interpretation, with the stimulation of acupressure points on the face and body by literally tapping on them. In our continuing series on treatment modalities, we’ve provided an overview of EFT Tapping here: how it works, some of the research behind it, and who can benefit from it. What is EFT Tapping? EFT Tapping helps tune in to the negative patterns we form around anxious thoughts or troubling memories, by physically tapping with our fingers on identified acupressure points while at the same time focusing on those thoughts and emotions. According to experts, focusing on a negative thought while simultaneously tapping on acupressure points sends a calming signal to the brain, allowing us to acknowledge the stress while calming the body. Think of it as having similar (but noninvasive) effects as acupuncture. EFT Tapping is facilitated by an experienced, certified EFT practitioner in a therapy session, with the ultimate goal of shifting limiting thought processes, resolving past traumas, and promoting healing around emotional issues that may be holding us back. How does EFT Tapping work? EFT Tapping can rewire the brain. From research, it is understood that tapping on specific pressure points can result in a calming effect on the amygdala (the stress center of the brain) and the hippocampus (the memory center), both of which play a role in the unconscious process we use to determine if something is a threat or not, and therefore whether our “fight or flight” response should kick in. Indeed, studies at Harvard Medical School have shown that by stimulating the body’s acupressure points you can significantly reduce activity in the amygdala. Therefore, EFT Tapping works to effectively rewire the brain; to interrupt and change neural pathways so that you want to do the things that are going to improve your life and make you feel better. Research shows EFT Tapping is effective in treating multiple mental health disorders Multiple studies have been done to determine the effectiveness of EFT Tapping for different mental health issues. Here are just a few: Reducing cortisol levels. One study measured changes in cortisol (the primary stress hormone) levels and other psychological distress symptoms after a single hour-long intervention of EFT Tapping and found it reduced those distress symptoms by 24%. Decreasing anxiety. Another study looked at the length of time needed before different therapeutic interventions took effect in patients with anxiety, and found that only three EFT Tapping sessions were needed before study participants’ anxiety was reduced. That same study showed that after a year, those reductions in anxiety were maintained by 78% of participants. Treating depression. In a study exploring EFT Tapping for depression, researchers found that a weighted mean reduction in depression symptoms was 41% after using EFT. Reducing symptoms of PTSD. Another study using EFT Tapping to treat PTSD in veterans found that 60% of participants no longer met clinical PTSD criteria after three EFT Tapping sessions and 86% no longer met the criteria after six sessions. Other studies have shown the effectiveness of EFT Tapping even beyond reducing anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. For example, it can help minimize food cravings and aid in weight loss, or reduce fears around events like public speaking, test-taking, and even childbirth. If you or a loved one are living with mental health issues such as Anxiety, Depression, or PTSD, consider EFT Tapping Like other treatment modalities, therapists can be trained and certified in EFT Tapping. Certification requires a specific number of hours in the classroom and in clinical practice. Many behavioral health specialists offer EFT Tapping therapy; look for one that is experienced and certified. Many of Telemynd’s clinicians specialize in EFT tapping. If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today! If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here. Sources Journal of Evidence-Based Integrated Medicine EFT International Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing
  9. According to the Department of Defense, 37% of active-duty military families have children, and like their active-duty parents, military kids make sacrifices in their own ways too. From coping with the challenges of a parent’s deployment to starting a new school to accommodate a recent move (known as a Permanent Change of Station or PCS), military kids commonly experience stressors that can impact their mental health. On average, military kids attend up to nine different schools before graduating high school due to relocations. What kind of impact do these frequent moves have on the mental health of military kids and their families? And what are some ways to cope with the stress? Military Kids Move Every Two to Four Years, On Average Military families typically make a PCS move every two to four years (this is over 3 times the civilian family average), which means that the kids are constantly adjusting to new schools and environments, making new friends, and leaving old ones behind. In some cases, PCS moves can occur quickly and unexpectedly, leaving little time for closure, for kids to fully process what is happening to them, or to say goodbye. Multiple studies have been conducted to measure the impact on mental health of PCS moves. The Journal of Adolescent Health published findings that military kids who move frequently were significantly more likely to have a mental health issue. In addition, it found that age was a powerful predictor of the impact on mental health, i.e., military kids aged 12-17 were four times as likely to need help from a mental health professional as military kids aged 6-11. This makes sense intuitively, as teens are already going through the changes and stresses of puberty. Add in the need to rebuild their social connections and form new friendships, and one can see why PCS moves impact teens harder. The stress of PCS moves affects parents too. Another study by the School Psychology Review found moving increases tension in the home in general. Kids reported feeling anger or resentment toward their parents and the military because of the disruption to their lives. Some kids reported telling their parents that they refused to move or would run away to avoid moving entirely. Ways The Disruption Of A PCS Move Causes Stress What is it about frequent moves that causes so much burden? First, change itself is stressful to us all, as numerous studies have found over the years. And when families make a PCS move, they must adjust to a new home, new school, address, neighborhood, friends, teachers, religious community, routines, and potentially new local culture and weather. That’s a lot of change! In addition: Students involved in sports who move later in the year can miss team tryouts, or the new school may not offer the same athletic programs. They may feel the loss of having to end close relationships with friends at a previous school. It’s more difficult to gain acceptance in a new school where cliques and social networks are already established. Because of potentially limited experience with military families, civilian school staff may have a knowledge gap that affects their effectiveness working with military students. Parents themselves are swamped with new jobs and to-do lists, and may not have the patience or time to consider a kid having trouble with the transition. If one parent is deployed or at risk of being deployed, kids may experience further stress from the constant fear for a parent’s safety. All can lead to considerable stress, as kids find they lack a feeling of connection to others in their new community. As a result, symptoms of depression and anxiety can appear, such as separation anxiety, excessive worry, sleep problems, and physical complaints such as headaches or stomach pain. Tips For Coping With The Stress Of A PCS Move PCS moves are not all doom and gloom. Research suggests that many kids develop strength and resilience from adapting to frequent military moves. And there are steps parents and schools can take to support them through the moves in order to reduce the impact on their mental health. Number one is simply to be aware of the potential mental health impacts and to watch for signs and symptoms of distress. Our previous release discussing different symptoms of mental health conditions is really helpful. Parents can read up on the impact of PCS moves, and educate themselves on ways to support kids during the transition. And as with all mental health issues, the earlier that symptoms are noticed for intervention and treatment to begin, the better the prognosis and outcomes. Experts Suggest These Tips For Coping With The Stress Of PCS Moves Keep up established routines and rituals as much as possible, and start new rituals in the new place that encourage parent-child bonding time. Talk about the move as much as possible and give kids the opportunity to vent their negative feelings (and help them find positive ones too). Parents are advised to let kids in on a little of their own misgivings about the move and to find ways to address them as a family. This provides more positive feelings of validation and control. Connect with other military children and families when possible. As well, in the military community itself, most installations have a resource officer or School Liaison Officer who may be able to suggest appropriate resources. Even in a civilian school where there are few military kids, school guidance counselors are the best place to start a conversation between the family and the new school, as they are the gatekeepers to community mental health resources. Even if the counselor does not have experience with military students, he or she may be able to suggest local resources with more expertise. Finally, although it may seem simple, making sure that kids get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and get out and exercise will go a long way toward maintaining better mental health. And when kids do exhibit symptoms of transition distress, seek out a mental health professional as early as possible. Sources Military Spouse Journal of Adolescent Health School Psychology Review
  10. Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? You may be one of the 50 million adults in the United States with a chronic sleep disorder. For healthy adults, the recommended amount of sleep is seven hours per night. But if you suffer from a sleep disorder, squeezing that many hours into a single night is a real challenge — but shouldn’t be ignored, because our body’s inability to rest could be linked to underlying mental health conditions. A lack of sleep only exacerbates mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, leading to a negative cycle between overwhelming feelings of hopelessness or stress, and restlessness. So, what are sleep disorders, how can we manage mental health symptoms, and what can we do to achieve better sleep? Common Sleep Disorders In general, sleep disorders are characterized as chronic sleep conditions that impact your quality of life or ability to function. These include trouble falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at the wrong times, and abnormal sleep behaviors. According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-3), the official description is a “curtailed sleep pattern that has persisted for at least three months for most days of the week, along with complaints of sleepiness during the day”. The five most common are: Insomnia. Characterized by the inability to initiate or maintain sleep, it may also take the form of very early morning awakening. Often causes excessive daytime sleepiness, which results in functional impairment throughout the day. Narcolepsy. A neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to control sleep-wake cycles. People with narcolepsy may feel rested after waking, but then feel very sleepy throughout the day. They may fall asleep even in the middle of an activity. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Characterized by an unpleasant “creeping” sensation, originating in the lower legs, but often associated with overall leg pain. This sensation is seemingly only relieved by moving your legs, walking, or kicking - which of course, prevents sleep. Sleep Apnea. People with sleep apnea often make periodic gasping or “snorting” noises while asleep, during which their sleep is momentarily interrupted. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep, you may have sleep apnea. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (sometimes called Parasomnia). Characterized by abnormal sleep behaviors which manifest in vivid, often frightening dreams associated with movement during REM sleep, people with this kind of sleep disorder appear to “act out their dreams”. Common symptoms include: movement such as kicking, punching, or jumping from the bed in response to action-filled or violent dreams; making noises, such as talking, laughing, or shouting; and being able to recall dreams if you awaken during an episode. The Link Between Sleep Disorders, Depression, & Anxiety Scientists have found that 75% of individuals with depression experience sleep disturbances. And unfortunately, the relationship is bi-directional - meaning that not only does depression exacerbate sleep disorders like insomnia, but having a sleep disorder first can actually help bring on depression (if a person is already predisposed). And like the proverbial chicken and egg, often it’s hard to know which came first. Researchers believe sleep problems may contribute to depression by way of abnormal changes in the functioning of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the key hormone that stabilizes our mood and provides feelings of well-being. They have found that not enough sleep impacts the way serotonin works, disrupting our circadian rhythms and increasing vulnerability to depression. Sleep problems are also a common symptom of anxiety disorders. If you’ve had anxiety, you know that feeling of your brain “racing”, making it almost impossible to sleep. And even after falling asleep, you may wake up with anxiety in the middle of the night. Sleep disruption like this can lead to sleep fragmentation, which reduces both the quantity and quality of sleep. Scientists say that individuals with anxiety disorders have high sleep reactivity - sleep reactivity being the degree to which stress disrupts sleep, manifesting as difficulty falling and staying asleep when a person is highly stressed. Compounding this is something called anticipatory anxiety, which is when individuals with anxiety know they’ll have problems falling asleep, and so their anxiety increases when they go to bed, causing sleeplessness, and ultimately a downward spiral of anxiety and lack of sleep. There’s a clear link between sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety. As a result, taking steps to sleep better can have a significantly beneficial effect on quality of life, so it’s important to seek professional help if you’re experiencing sleep problems or think you recognize any of the symptoms discussed above. And fortunately, once diagnosed, sleep disorders are treatable. Tips For Achieving Better Sleep Persistent problems sleeping increase the risk of relapse for those who’ve been treated for depression or anxiety, but practicing healthy sleep habits can reduce those feelings and can have a beneficial effect on your overall mood. Establish a sleep schedule. Creating a routine to sleep can help your brain get accustomed to getting the full amount of sleep. This means having a set wake-up time regardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend. Follow a routine each night. Building a consistent routine such as washing your face and brushing your teeth can reinforce in your mind that it is time for bed. Unplug from devices. Set a buffer to unwind without electronics that can cause mental stimulation. Making it harder to calm thoughts. The blue light emitted from these devices can also decrease melatonin production, taking longer for you to achieve REM. Don’t force it. If you’re still tossing and turning after 20-minutes, consider getting up and stretching, reading a book, or doing something that calms you using soft lights before returning to bed to try again. This will help build a healthier mental connection between being in bed and falling asleep. Diagnosis & Treatment In Conjunction With Mental Health Issues In order to diagnose a sleep disorder, a doctor or mental health professional will gather information about your symptoms, as well as medical and mental health history. They may also order tests, such as a daytime or overnight sleep study to determine a diagnosis. Because of the multifaceted relationship between mental health and sleep, it is common for treatment to include both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and prescription medication. With proper treatment underlying causes of disruption can be addressed; allowing you to achieve better quality sleep. Consider Telebehavioral Health Telemynd offers patients the ability to connect with providers from the safety and convenience of their homes. If you’re a patient, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today! If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits here & apply. Sources American Psychiatric Association Sleep Foundation Sleep Foundation National Institutes of Health (NIH)
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    Trouble sleeping? You may have a sleep disorder which is impacting your mental health. Find out how sleep and mental health are closely linked.
  12. Anxiety is a common disorder - an estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience anxiety at some time in their lives. In our previous post, we defined Anxiety Disorders as “6 months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded, or much more severe than the normal, everyday worry most people experience”. This can manifest in symptoms such as feeling restless, irritable, or on edge’, having a hard time concentrating, feeling tired all the time, and experiencing headaches stomaches, or other muscle aches. Women Are Diagnosed With Anxiety Disorders At 2X The Rate Of Men Multiple studies have found that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder — and this holds true for adult women as well as girls under 18. In addition, women diagnosed with one type of Anxiety Disorder are more likely than men to be diagnosed with an additional Anxiety Disorder. Researchers have also found differences in the way women experience anxiety: Women report more body-based symptoms - specifically, women who have panic attacks report more shortness of breath and faintness. Panic Disorder, a type of Anxiety Disorder, appears to be more chronic in women. Women report a greater number of worries and more separation anxiety than men. Women tend to deal with their anxiety by avoidance, while men more often turn to substance abuse. Multiple Theories As To Why Women Are Diagnosed More Than Men Some researchers theorize that women’s monthly cycle can affect anxiety levels, or that female hormones may contribute to a more quickly activated, longer-acting fight-or-flight response, or that the hormone testosterone — more abundant in males — may help ease anxiety symptoms for men. Other studies revealed women are more likely to experience physical and mental abuse (as children and as adults) than men, and abuse is commonly linked to the development of anxiety disorders. Digging Deeper Into The Anxiety Gender Gap However, one of the biggest differences researchers found is that women are more likely than men to seek help when they experience symptoms of anxiety, and therefore get diagnosed. So the question becomes: are women actually experiencing anxiety more often, or are they more likely to discuss their symptoms with a health professional than men ? In other words, is there a societal influence on the levels of Anxiety Disorder diagnoses between genders? In his book, Invisible Men: Men's Inner Lives and the Consequences of Silence, author and professor of psychology at Clark University, Michael Addis postulates that "when men struggle with fear, and depression, it can tend to come out more as anger and aggression. And men in our culture are more encouraged to use, let's say, strategies such as substance use... to suppress those emotions...They are more encouraged to talk to their friend and to bottle it up, and to perhaps kind of withdraw and become passive” rather than reporting symptoms to a medical professional. In fact, a recent study looked at whether male leaders within organizations are penalized by asking for help, and found that in fact, sometimes men “may face backlash when they don’t adhere to masculine gender stereotypes — when they show vulnerability, act nicer, display empathy, or express sadness.” Unfortunately, this may play out by by impeding mens access to treatment, and therefore their overall mental health. Ultimately, whether in men or women, early recognition of anxiety symptoms is important so that treatment can start. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, medication and lifestyle changes (more physical activity, improved eating and sleeping habits) has been shown to be effective in reducing most symptoms of anxiety. Considering A Career In Telebehavioral Health Or Want To Access Virtual Care With A Licensed Professional? Telemynd offers patients the ability to connect with providers from the safety and convenience of their homes. Providers can join our network by applying online. If you’re a patient, choose your current insurance provider to request an appointment or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today! Sources National Center for Biotechnology Information - National Institutes of Health: Gender Differences in Anxiety Disorders: Prevalence, Course of Illness, Comorbidity and Burden of Illness Journal of Brain and Behavior: A systematic review of reviews on the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adult populations NPR: Understanding How Anxiety Might Be Different For Men
  13. Last week we talked about how to spot the warning signs of mental health issues in children and adolescents. This week, we’ll address how to go about finding the mental health professional that can best help. One in six children in the U.S. between six and seventeen years old have a treatable mental health issue such as Depression, Anxiety, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), so understand that you are not alone - there are many parents and caregivers looking for help for a child or adolescent in their lives. But where to start? There are a bewildering array of specialists who can help. To help you sift through the wide-range of information out there, we’ve provided a list of the different types of professionals who can diagnose and treat your child, as well as questions to ask those providers during your search. Getting Started For most parents and caregivers, consulting your family or child’s physician can be a good first step. The benefit to starting with someone who knows your child is that they may be able to confirm or recognize when behavior is beyond the typical range. They can also conduct medical testing to rule out possible non-psychiatric causes for the symptoms you’ve noticed. The disadvantage is that family physicians or pediatricians may have limited experience in diagnosing psychiatric and developmental disorders; or may not have the proper time to allocate for lengthy assessments often required for accurate diagnosis. Best practices in diagnosing children and adolescents include using rating scales to get an objective take on symptoms, as well as collecting information from multiple sources, including the child, caregivers, teachers, or other adults in their lives. Other types of mental health professionals may be better able to assess and treat your child. Understanding The Different Types Of Mental Health Professionals Most professionals who diagnose and treat mental health issues in children and adolescents have at least a master's degree or more advanced education, training and credentials. Below you'll find some of the most common types of providers. Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist: A medical doctor with specialized training in general psychiatry, psychiatric diagnosis and treatment in young people; able to diagnose the full range of psychiatric disorders recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM); fully qualified if they have completed national examinations that make them board-certified in child and adolescent psychiatry as well as general psychiatry; can prescribe medication. Psychopharmacologist: A medical doctor who specializes in the use of medications in order to affect feelings, cognition, and behavior. Although they specialize in the use of medications, they should know when other kinds of therapy should be integrated with medication into the treatment plan and be able to refer patients to other professionals for that therapy. Child Psychologist: Trained to diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders, but are not medical doctors so cannot prescribe medication; have a doctoral level degree and may hold either a PhD or a PsyD; often work together with psychiatrists to provide care to patients who benefit from a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy; can coordinate necessary evaluations and assessments. Neuropsychologist: Psychologists who specialize in the functioning of the brain and how it relates to behavior and cognitive ability; have completed post-doctoral training in neuropsychology with either a PhD or a PsyD. They perform neuropsychological assessments, which measure a child’s strengths and weaknesses over a broad range of cognitive tasks, and provide results in a report which forms the basis for developing a treatment plan. Pediatric Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: Has either a master’s or a doctorate, and can prescribe medication depending on the state; has training in treating and monitoring children and adolescents with psychiatric disorders; may work as part of a team in a pediatricians’ office, or practice independently. School Psychologist: Trained in psychology and education and may receive a Specialist in School Psychology (SSP) degree; can identify learning and behavior problems, and evaluate students for special education services. Social Worker: A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) has a master’s degree in social work and is licensed by state agencies; required to have significant supervised training; does not prescribe medication, but may work with the family and treating physician or psychiatrist to coordinate care. Questions To Ask Prospective Mental Health Specialists It's especially important to look for a child or adolescent mental health professional who has the right background and experience to treat the specific issues your child is exhibiting. Arming yourself with the knowledge to be able to ask the right questions and know what to look for in a professional will help you feel more confident that you are getting a specialist that's right for your child. Ask the following questions when meeting with prospective treatment providers: Tell me about your professional training? Are you licensed, or board-certified, and if so, in what discipline? How much experience do you have diagnosing children whose behaviors are similar to my child? How do you arrive at a diagnosis? What evidence do you use? Do you provide the treatments you recommend, or do you refer to others? How will you involve the family in the treatment? Will you be in contact with my child’s teacher or guidance counselor? How long do children usually stay in treatment with you? What are your thoughts about medication? Can I speak with a parent whose child has worked with you? Looking For A Qualified Mental Health Specialist For Your Child Or Adolescent? Telemynd is a nationally delegated telebehavioral health provider. You can access licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists – all the specialists discussed above – who can evaluate, diagnose and provide treatment for mental health issues in children and adolescents from the convenience of home. Find your current insurance provider to request an appointment today. Sources National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Children and Mental Health American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Family Resources
  14. Holiday songs, the media, friends and co-workers urge us to be merry during the holiday season. However, that’s not always easy to do! As much as we love the holidays, they are invariably a stressful time of year. According to the American Psychological Association, 61% of us describe our anxiety as elevated during the holiday season. What causes this extra anxiety? Many things. The additional financial demands of the season, travel, interpersonal family dynamics, balancing work, shopping, cooking and decorating, too many social events, memories of past holidays, as well as unrealistic expectations can contribute to creating the perfect storm of emotions. Even in normal times, many living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder – a chronic state of anxiety and stress which can make a person feel constantly worried even when there is little to no reason to. The stress can become debilitating and can lead to a loss of perspective on the current situation. GAD is treatable by a behavioral health specialist but nonetheless requires those who live with it to take extra care of themselves with a balance of healthy diet and exercise. The added psychological pressure of the holidays can present a special challenge for those struggling with GAD. You may feel like crawling under a comforter and sleeping until the new year! It’s important to recognize key signs that things are becoming overwhelming and to know some coping skills to reduce the anxiety as it happens. 6 Signs You Are Experiencing Extra Anxiety During The Holidays Key signs to look for are changes in mood or behavior that differ from your norm. Be On The Lookout For: Erratic or unusual behavior, irritability or impulsivity. Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, shaking, dizziness, sweating, an upset stomach, or a dry mouth. Social withdrawal as some individuals try to avoid situations that will bring on feelings of anxiety or panic. You may also lose interest in activities you used to enjoy. Changes in appetite and weight – either up or down. Insomnia, extra exhaustion and other sleep disturbances. Panic attacks that cause faintness, trouble breathing, pounding heartbeat, or nausea. How To Cope With Holiday Anxiety Below are some practical tips you can do to decrease stress during the holidays. We also recommend creating an Anxiety Action Plan containing helpful coping mechanisms beforehand, so that if you start seeing some of the early anxiety indicators listed above, you can put it into place. Prioritize your health. Make sure you are eating healthy foods, staying physically active, and getting enough sleep. Think twice about overindulging in alcohol—as it can worsen anxiety symptoms. Plan ahead. Think about your triggers and try to head them off. For example, if you're worried about money, put together a budget before the holidays. If holiday shopping causes stress, try to do it early, and avoid the stores by shopping online. If social situations make you uncomfortable, accept just a few invitations in advance and ask a good friend to attend with you. Use a calendar to plan specific days for shopping, baking, or gift-wrapping. Stick to a routine as much as possible. Wake up at the same time, try to eat at the same time every day, take your regular walk, and journal if you normally do that. Don’t schedule a new hair style or make drastic changes to your environment during the holidays! Schedule worry time. Yes, you read that right. Instead of worrying all the time, schedule a dedicated time –maybe even once a day – to do nothing but worry for a few minutes. Write the worries down if possible and even brainstorm solutions. This way, constant worrying won’t burn you out. Make time for self-care. Schedule time in your day to relax with yoga or meditation, drink a cup of coffee or tea, listen to a podcast, play with the dog, or even take a quick nap. Choose something that relaxes your body and calms your mind. Ask for support. Let your friends and family know that you might need extra support. It’s always ok to ask for help. Some experts even suggest practicing a secret signal with someone you trust who can help you during events if you become overwhelmed or anxious. And don’t forget to reach out to a behavioral health professional for additional help and resources. In general, experts advise lowering your expectations during the holiday season, try to keep things as simple as possible, and remember that you're not alone – many others are experiencing holiday anxiety like you. Do You Recognize Any Of These Signs Of Anxiety? You can access licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists who provide treatment for anxiety from the convenience of your home. Click here to find your current insurance provider and request an appointment today! Sources National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Mental Health and the Holiday Blues Harvard Women’s’ Health Watch: A Holiday Advisory for Your Emotions Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute: Holiday stress and the brain U.S. Army Health: Handling stress and anxiety during the winter holidays
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    What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

    Feeling nervous about life? Having a hard time concentrating or relaxing because you worry all the time? Can't shake the feeling that something bad will happen and you are unprepared? You’re not alone. If you are in a chronic state of anxiety and stress, you may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which can make a person feel constantly worried even when there is little or no reason to. You may worry about missing a deadline, losing a job or a loved one, or having an accident. You may even worry about worrying too much. The stress can become debilitating and can lead to a loss of perspective on your current situation. Definition of Generalized Anxiety Disorder Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as “6 months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded, or much more severe than the normal, everyday worry most people experience”. An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience an anxiety disorder at some time in their lives. The disorder can begin at any age, and affects children as well as adults. The good news is that GAD is treatable. Symptoms of GAD People with GAD can't rid themselves of the feeling of worry, even while recognizing that it may be unwarranted. They may be unable to relax and have trouble falling or staying asleep. In addition, they may: Feel restless, irritable or feel “on edge” Have a hard time concentrating Be easily startled Feel easily tired or exhausted all the time Have headaches, muscle aches, or stomach aches Have a hard time swallowing Tremble or twitch Feel sweaty, light-headed or out of breath Feel nauseous or tingling in the extremities Have to go to the bathroom a lot Experience hot flashes Causes and risk factors Scientists find that anxiety disorders result from a combination of genetic, behavioral, and developmental causes. Risk factors include a family history of anxiety and recent periods of stress. People with certain personality traits, such as shyness, may also be more vulnerable to developing anxiety disorders. Physiologically, scientists believe that GAD probably arises from over-activation of the brain mechanism responsible for fear and the “fight-or-flight” response. The amygdala is the part of your brain that initiates a response to perceived danger. It communicates with the hypothalamus which then releases hormones that raise your heart rate and blood pressure, tense your muscles, and ready your body to fight or run. According to scientists, in people with GAD, the amygdala may be so sensitive that it overreacts to situations that aren't really threatening, inadvertently provoking an emergency stress response. Over time, anxiety can become attached to thoughts that are not related to true sources of danger - in a sense, “the brain may inadvertently create its own fears”. How does GAD impact daily life? All of us worry about everyday things - how we are going to get all our errands done while staying on top of work deadlines; how we’ll pay for the next vacation or the kids’ college education; how we’ll take care of an aging parent or deal with an in-law at the next family holiday. These are all normal. It’s when this worry becomes uncontrollable, lasts for months at a time, and interferes with our ability to function, that it’s time to seek a behavioral health professional to diagnose potential GAD. Adults who have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder say things like, “I dreaded going to work because I couldn’t keep my mind focused”, or “I was having trouble falling asleep every night because my mind was racing with worry, so I was always tired”, or “I was irritated with my family all the time”. If you or your loved one are in the military or serve as a first responder, there is already a justifiable amount of things to worry about, such as separation from those you hold dear, frequent moves, or parenting alone while a loved one is deployed; however this worry can sometimes develop into something more. Active duty military as well as veterans can develop anxiety disorder after experiencing trauma, or during high-stress situations, such as the transition from military to civilian life. In fact, the VA stated there was a 327% increase in reported anxiety disorders among service members between 2000 and 2012. Caring for a loved one with anxiety disorder presents its own challenges, and you want to make sure you have the best professional resources available to help. Children and teens are also susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder. According to NIH, an estimated 31.9% of adolescents have some form of anxiety disorder. Symptoms are identical to adults - excessive, chronic worry plus physical symptoms. Children with GAD tend to dwell about the same things as their non-anxious peers, but do so in excess. They may focus obsessively on things they see in the news, such as forest fires or crime. These worries and symptoms can impair daily functioning, and may cause them to avoid activities that trigger or worsen their feelings of stress, so school work and relationships suffer. Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder GAD can be treated with a combination of therapy, medication, or both. Speak with a behavioral health professional on how best to approach a treatment that is right for you. In some cases, a healthy lifestyle including good diet, exercise and the right amount of sleep can help reduce symptoms. Although different techniques may work for different people, a therapist can help you identify new ways of thinking and reacting to situations that help you feel less anxious. You may be advised to track your responses over time to discover potential behavior patterns, or learn techniques to promote relaxation. Both medication and therapy take time to work, so it is recommended to continue with your prescribed regimen and not get discouraged too quickly. This is manageable, and there is help to cope with these feelings. You can feel better. Feeling like you or a loved one may have some of the anxiety symptoms described here? Telemynd is a nationally delegated telebehavioral health provider for TRICARE members. You can access licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists from the convenience of your home. You can review benefit coverage or visit our request appointment page to choose your current insurance provider and get started! Sources NIH | National Institutes of Mental Health: Generalized Anxiety Disorder American Psychiatric Association: What are Anxiety Disorders? Harvard Mental Health Letter: Generalized Anxiety Disorder National Alliance on Mental Health Illness: Anxiety Disorders
  16. You or a loved one just received a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder (AD) from a behavioral health professional. What does it mean? And how is AD different from Anxiety Disorder or Depression? Definition of Adjustment Disorder Adjustment Disorder is a condition that can occur when you have difficulty coping with a specific, stressful life event - for example, a death or illness in the family, getting fired or laid off from a job, significant relationship issues like break-ups or divorce, or sudden change in social settings (more isolation, for example) due to the pandemic. Because of this, Adjustment Disorder can also be referred to as “situational depression.” The inability to adjust to stressful events like these can cause one or more severe psychological and/or physical symptoms. According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), in order to be diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder, individuals must have emotional or behavioral symptoms within 3 months of having been exposed to a stressor (like those mentioned above), and symptoms must be clinically significant as shown by one or more of the following: Marked distress that is out of proportion to the stressor The symptoms significantly impair social or occupational functioning. Stressors that cause AD can even reoccur over time, for example, seasonal business crises, or recurrent hospitalizations for an illness or disability. Adjustment disorders can affect both adults and children. It’s estimated that each year, almost 7% of adults in the US are diagnosed with AD. These disorders typically resolve over time and with treatment by a behavioral health professional. Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder Symptoms vary depending on how the disorder manifests. Adjustment Disorder can be present with these symptoms: Anxiety Depressed mood, sadness Feelings of hopelessness Severe changes in emotions manifesting in things like frequent crying Feeling or acting unusually argumentative Changes in conduct (i.e., acting up in school or work) Worry, nervousness, jitteriness While the symptoms of Adjustment Disorder can be short-term and usually improve over time, they may resemble other psychiatric conditions, such as Major Depression or Anxiety Disorders. So, how can you tell the difference? How to tell the difference between Adjustment Disorder, Depression and Anxiety Disorder Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder often have a lengthy and consistent history of anxiety and excessive worry, whereas individuals with Adjustment Disorder only experience their symptoms in times of or in response to stress or change. You can have both disorders, and Anxiety Disorder can be made worse by stressors such as change or adjusting to new routines. But if you have Adjustment Disorder, you’ll typically see a reduction in your anxiety as you adapt to the change or learn to cope with the stressor, while anxiety and related symptoms are continual for those with GAD. Similarly, there are key differences between Adjustment Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, with the two differentiating factors being duration and cause. While Adjustment Disorder traditionally resolves within a matter of months, Major Depression tends to last much longer and only resolves with professional treatment. And while AD is triggered by a specific event, Depression seems to be caused by genetic and psychological factors, and cannot be attributed to a specific event. Summary of the differences between Adjustment Disorder, Depression and Anxiety Disorder Regardless of whether you have symptoms of Adjustment Disorder, GAD, or Depression, it is important to know that treatment is available and feeling better is possible. It’s important to start by having a behavioral health professional diagnose your condition, they can then help to manage your symptoms and learn coping skills. Like GAD and Depression, treatment for Adjustment Disorder is typically a combination of individual therapy, family therapy or group therapy, and to a lesser extent, medication. Has a recent stressful event caused you or a loved one to have symptoms of Adjustment Disorder? Telemynd is a national telebehavioral health provider covered with many insurers. You can access licensed psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and therapists from the convenience of your home. Click here to find your current insurance provider and request an appointment today! Sources Johns Hopkins Medicine: Adjustment Disorders Merck Manual 2020: Adjustment Disorders
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