September is Suicide Prevention Month

September 13, 2016

September is Suicide Prevention Month

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. 42,773 people on average die by suicide each year and 117 people die by suicide each day. Suicide is tragic and devastating, but it is often preventable. Knowing the risk factors for suicide and who is at risk can help reduce the suicide rate and keep your loved ones safe.

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

Contact a mental health professional or the hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you hear or see someone exhibiting one or more of these behaviors.

  • Hopelessness
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Feeling trapped like there’s no way out
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family & society
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Dramatic mood changes

In some cases it may be too late for help from a suicide hotline and the person may be on the brink of a suicide attempt. Call 911 if you see or hear the following:

  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself.
  • Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means.
  • Someone talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.

If you or someone you know is suicidal, we want you to know that help is available and recovery is possible. Learn the warning signs, and do whatever you can to get yourself or someone you care about to the help they need so that they can return to living mentally well. For more information on suicide prevention, please visit: http://www.take5tosavelives.org.

Escaping Financial Stress

August 12, 2016

We know our minds and bodies are connected, but did you realize they’re also linked to our bank accounts? Financial stress can have a large impact on your physical health, thoughts, and relationships.

The largest obstacle between financial wisdom and lowering our stress is our attitude. In our quest to make the right decision, we can become scared about the wrong one. Sometimes we assume if we try to make wise financial choices we’ll just end up failing. However, it would be better to take the risk, and even possibly fail, than to never make a move.

Tips to Alleviate Financial Stress

The pinch on our bank accounts and the ever-changing market isn’t something to take lightly. The following tips may help ease the financial stress and strain on your wallet.

Adjust your perspective – Often times, when we have failed in the past, success seems farther out of reach than it actually is. Perceptions can easily be flawed. Our attitudes about what we have control over and what we don’t control can impact our level of success.

Stick to your budget – Knowing how to track your money is critical. Establishing a clear budget shows you exactly how much inflow and outflow you have. If you’re unsure how to make a budget, there are online tools and mobile apps available to teach you.

Identify unhealthy emotions – If you’ve made a poor financial choice this doesn’t mean you’re destined for failure. Guilt is rarely a helpful emotion. Instead, focus on what you can change¬† rather than beating yourself up for your prior financial mistakes.

Know your weaknesses – Avoid places, people, or situations that will tempt you to spend money you don’t have. For example, if you make impulse purchases after a stressful day at the office, try taking a walk and avoiding the mall. Practice saying no to people who pressure you to spend too much money.

Seek help – Look to the experts for help if you need it. Speaking with a legitimate professional can answer your financial questions and guide you toward a specific, attainable goal. Why not benefit from their expertise?

Balancing Work and Family

July 28, 2016

Some days 24 hours just doesn’t seem to be enough. Between family priorities, practicing good self-care, and juggling work responsibilities, it’s easy to feel stressed. Even though we choose how to spend our time, our to-do list sometimes crowds out what gives us the greatest enjoyment.

Our lives naturally fall out of balance from time to time. When this occurs, we struggle to regulate our responsibilities and what we enjoy most. Taking the time to assess how things are going gives us insight to realign our priorities. Consider these questions when work and family are out of sync:

  • Do you regularly set aside time to spend with your family?
  • When you are with family, do you feel anxious or guilty about not working?
  • At work, what triggers you to feel like you should be spending more time with your family?

Strategies for Achieving Greater Balance

Limit distractions – There may be times of the day you are more distracted or procrastinate. How could you use your time more efficiently during this period? Perhaps limit the frequency you check emails or use social media.

Know your values – Write down what you desire most from life. What activities are important for you to do with your family? Determine what is non-negotiable in your life.

Say no – Practice saying no to tasks that fit outside your values. This helps you avoid the stress and tension of over-commitment.

Organize – Is your workspace messy? Your home cluttered? Taking opportunities to organize will save you time in the long run.

Remember, life will happen. When it does, things will typically fall out of balance for a time. Stay positive. Use the knowledge you’ve gained, take a step back, and assess. Proper planning is always a good start to swing an imbalanced life back into perspective.

Tips for Relaxation

July 15, 2016

Stress is everywhere. Good or bad, without proper self-care, stress can feel like it might swallow us alive. Why? Any time a change occurs causing an adjustment or interruption in our life, stress results. We then produce physical, emotional, and mental responses. However, certain exercises can activate the body’s natural “relaxation response,” which slows breathing, lowers blood pressure, and makes for a calmer and healthier you.

RELAXATION BENEFITS

Relaxation techniques are helpful to reduce stress and improve our quality of life. We can even benefit our overall physical and mental health by reducing chronic illness, pain, anxiety, and depression. Practicing relaxation can also:

  • Improve concentration
  • Minimize feelings of anger
  • Lower heart and breathing rates
  • Reduce muscle tension and pain
  • Minimize fatigue symptoms

RELAXATION TECHNIQUES

Let’s practice on relaxation technique known as progressive muscle relaxation. To begin, slow tense and relax individual muscles. Start with your feet and work up your body to your head. This helps you become aware of muscle tension when you are stressed.

There are a variety of other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, art therapy, massage, yoga, and deep breathing. These activities can be done alone or with the help of another person. Consider downloading an app or free guided exercise. You may find one technique does not work well for you. Be persistent until you connect with one yielding results.

Relaxation techniques may not completely eradicate the stress in your life, but they can lighten your stress load. They are often low-cost, low-risk for injury, and easily performed almost anywhere. So, why not try it? There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe some extra stress.

Dealing with Difficult People

June 24, 2016

Let’s face it. We all encounter people who are challenging, negative, and even aggressive. Whether it’s a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor, being able to differentiate between difficult personalities is helpful. When we better understand them, it frees us to not take things personally. We can also help create a safe and productive environment for others.

THE NEXT STEP

Some of the more dominant challenging personality traits include people who are hostile, narcissistic, passive-aggressive, or negative. Knowing how to handle and react to difficult personality traits is beneficial in all environments. Here are some helpful tips to deal with all difficult personality styles.

  • Address concerns – Don’t ignore problems and pretend they don’t exist. Chances are the challenges will only grow. The responsible thing is to address the person and the issue.
  • Express compassion – Remember you probably don’t have the whole picture of someone’s life. You may not know all that’s happened in the individual’s background, their mental health, or the past crises they may have faced. Empathize and express compassion.
  • Assess reactions – Consider your own emotions. If you’re having a particularly stressful day and can’t seem to remain calm, it’s not the right time to address issues with a difficult person. Staying calm and neutral is the best way to approach and deal with challenging people.

Depression Self-Assessment

June 13, 2016

Everyone feels down in the dumps sometimes. It’s normal to be sad or tired occasionally for unknown reasons. Whether you’re just feeling down or something more, it’s worth exploring.

Depression invades every area of your life, impacting your day-to-day affairs. Maybe you can’t get out of bed in the morning or your appetite is never satisfied. Overcoming depression isn’t just about will power; it’s about getting the professional help and treatment you need for a happy, productive life once again.

QUESTIONS TO ASK

  • Are you feeling depressed or down lately?
  • Have activities you once enjoyed lost your interest?
  • Are you struggling to fall asleep or sleeping too much?
  • Do you feel lethargic, lacking energy to get through your day?
  • Has your appetite changed? Eating too much or too little?
  • Are you struggling to focus on work or activities like reading?
  • Do you or others notice you moving or speaking more slowly?
  • Have your thoughts leaned toward death or harming yourself in any way?

If you identify with these questions and answered yes to several, you might be struggling with depression. It’s important to see a physician or mental health professional for an official diagnosis, rather than self-diagnosing. They can rule out any other possible causes for your depressed mood.

THE NEXT STEP

Having a plan is a great start for treating depression. These suggestions can help you begin your journey toward a new beginning.

  • Take notes – Write down all your physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Even if these don’t fall under the depression category. It’s still helpful information for your physician or psychiatrist to rule out other causes.
  • Give yourself grace – Experiencing depression is no one’s fault. Improvement takes time. Celebrate the small victories and be kind to yourself during the setbacks.
  • Access resources – Affordable counseling is often available through your employee assistance program, community services, religious organizations, and universities. Support groups can also be invaluable.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

May 24, 2016

Getting a full night’s sleep may seem like a luxury, but it’s important to your overall health. Sleep serves a critical role when it comes to your health and well-being – similar to eating, drinking and breathing. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to feel rested and have the positive benefits associated with a full night’s sleep. When rested, we’re more alert, energetic, happier, and better able to function the next day. The benefits of good sleep also include improvements in short-term memory, productivity, sensitivity to pain, and the functioning of your immune system.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep, there are a few tricks you can try to help you get the sleep your body needs.

  1. Set a regular sleep schedule and routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Having a bedtime routine lets your body know it’s time to go to sleep. Part of your routine may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to calming music, or dimming the lights.
  2. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes. If you nap, keep it early in the day. Napping late in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  3. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Caffeine from food or drinks can disrupt sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. And alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it will be restless sleep and you’re more likely to wake in the night.
  4. Take any medications that are stimulants in the morning. You can also ask your doctor to switch you to a non-stimulating alternative. Any drugs that make you drowsy should be taken in the evening.
  5. Avoid heavy meals before bed.  These can make you feel uncomfortable and keep you awake at night. However, if you feel too hungry to sleep, have a light snack.
  6. Avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime. It may make you too energized to fall asleep. Regular exercise earlier in the day, however, will help you sleep better.
  7. Keep a worry journal. Before you get in bed, write down any worries or pressing thoughts you have that may keep you up. Have a notepad and pen next to the bed and if something pops into your head, write it down. Then try not to think about these worries or thoughts until the morning.
  8. Limit liquids. If you wake up often to use the rest room, cut down on how much you drink late in the day.
  9. Have an environment conducive to sleep. For most people, this is a space that is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Consider using room darkening shades, ear plugs, eye masks, or a fan to make your sleeping space right for you.
  10. Avoid plots that may get your adrenaline going before bed. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, or book, you don’t want your heart to be racing before bed. Instead, you should feel calm and relaxed when you’re ready to fall asleep.

If you still don’t feel well rested in the morning after trying the tips listed, make an appointment with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause that needs to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor can help you treat the problem or refer you to a sleep specialist.

Effective Communication

May 12, 2016

Whether in a personal or professional relationship, effective communication is essential. When it comes to expressing your thoughts or sharing your knowledge, there are some tips you should keep in mind.

Keep it simple. People can only remember so much information at one time. You want them to remember what’s most important. So, keep your messages simple, concise, and to the point.

Rephrase thoughts. It’s a good idea to rephrase and repeat what’s said back to the person who is speaking. This ensures you have a clear understanding of what was said.

Give examples. When communicating ideas, it’s helpful to use examples or personal experiences. This makes ideas more concrete by giving them context. It’s easier to remember stories than facts alone.

Listen actively. Good communication involves listening to what is being said, and also what is not being said.

Be patient. Give people time to communicate their ideas.

Don’t interrupt. A lot of valuable information can be gained by listening to others. It’s important in developing any kind of relationship.

Be conscious of differing perspectives. Your culture, experiences, and upbringing may mean that you have a different interpretation of the same event. Be aware of the influences these biases may have. People approach topics from many different perspectives – be respectful of these differences.

Interpret. Read between the lines of what’s being said. Some people have a hard time expressing themselves. You can help them by trying to interpret what they mean.

Stay positive. You may be stressed, frustrated, or just heaving an off day, but people are much more receptive if you communicate with a positive attitude when you speak.

Make a connection. Find a common ground or interest to open the way to a good conversation. Building a connection can help increase trust and make people more open to your ideas.

Help for Families Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease

April 28, 2016

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive, irreversible disease that affects brain cells and produces memory loss in as many as 4.5 million American adults. This disease affects people of all racial, economic, and educational backgrounds. People with AD become increasingly unable to take care of themselves. Caregivers of people with AD face the ongoing challenge of adapting to each change in the person’s behavior and functioning. The following general principles may be helpful to family members caring for someone with this disease.

  • Think prevention. It is very difficult to predict what a person with AD might do. Just because something has not yet occurred does not mean it should not be cause for concern. Even with the best-laid plans, accidents can happen. Therefore, checking the safety of your home will help you take control of some of the potential problems that may create hazardous situations.
  • Adapt the environment. It is more effective to change the environment than to change most behaviors. While some AD behaviors can be managed with special medications prescribed by a doctor, many cannot. You can make changes in an environment to decrease the hazards and stressors that accompany these behavioral and functional changes.
  • Minimize danger. By minimizing danger, you can maximize independence. A safe environment can be a less restrictive environment where the person with AD can experience increased security and more mobility.

Is It Safe to Leave the Person With AD Alone?

This issue needs careful evaluation and is certainly a safety concern. The following points may help you decide. Does the person with AD:

  • become confused or unpredictable under stress?
  • recognize a dangerous situation; for example, fire?
  • know how to use the telephone in an emergency?
  • know how to get help?
  • stay content within the home?
  • wander and become disoriented?
  • show signs of agitation, depression, or withdrawal when left alone for any period of time?
  • attempt to pursue former interests or hobbies that might now warrant supervision such as cooking, appliance repair, or woodworking?

Caregivers should seek input and advice from a health care professional to assist in these considerations. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, these questions will need ongoing evaluation.

Smile as You Work Through Difficult Challenges, Failure and Tragedy

April 7, 2016

Author Andy Andrews has determined that there are seven characteristics that each successful person has in common. He strongly believes in “the butterfly effect”: even the smallest action can have dramatic consequences. It has been found that the flap of a butterfly’s wings is inexplicably intertwined with the birth of a hurricane around the world.

Using these seven principles can make positive changes in your life:

  1. Be responsible – make a decision. Harry Truman signed his name on a sheet of paper that authorized the atomic bomb used to end World War II.
  2. Seek wisdom – listen to the guidance that is offered from people you trust. Napoleon lost at Waterloo because he failed to listen to his troops.
  3. Be a person of action – seize the moment. Bill Gates decided to drop out of Harvard to build a computer system that would one day become Microsoft.
  4. Have a decided heart – ignore rejection; let your passion be your guide. Thomas Edison tried and failed over 1,000 times before creating the incandescent light bulb.
  5. Choose to be happy – put a smile on your face. If there are two prospective employees with the same qualification but one of them complains, and the other one smiles and is happy, whom would you hire?
  6. Forgive! Forget anger management – use anger resolution. Joshua Chamberlain was chosen by President Lincoln to accept the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. There, Chamberlain stunned the world with a show of forgiveness: he ordered his troops to attention, saluting General Robert E. Lee and the defeated South.
  7. Persist without exception. Nelson Mandela sought to transform a country filled with racial oppression into an open democracy. His qualities of forgiveness, patience and persistence were revealed to the world after he was released from prison.

(Source: Mastering the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews)