50% of marriages in America are ending in divorce, 9.4% of the population in Florida are unemployed, people are diagnosed with chronic illnesses every day, and the internet makes changes every second that contribute to the ongoing flow of new information we need to be aware of in order to thrive in this global world we are living in. Every person will experience some type of change on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis throughout a lifespan. Change of any kind can add a tremendous amount of stress to our lives. Adjusting to these changes is the key to maintaining strong emotional and mental well-being. When your normal life is disrupted with change, you may start to feel sad, confused, lonely, desperate, and angry. You may act out with behaviors that are unusual for you such as fighting, or dangerous driving. You may also experience symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
An Adjustment Disorder is a clinical diagnosis resulting from the development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s).
Below are some of the normal and expected symptoms you may be experiencing from adjusting to some kind of change taking place in your life.
Shock / Denial / Anger / Sadness
Excessive Crying / Confusion / Depression
Anxiety / Fatigue / Irritability / Loneliness
Panic Attacks / Changes in Sleep Pattern or Weight
3 Tips for Adjusting to Change:
Realize Change is Normal: Allow yourself to feel what comes naturally, express how you are feeling with someone you trust, and realize you may be experiencing the grieving process due to the loss of your old familiar “normal” – this is a completely natural process. In time, you will adjust to your new “normal” and your feelings of anxiety and depression will decrease.
Expect the Future to be Different: Understanding that change brings about a different future will help you avoid being depressed and anxious while you are adjusting to the change. For example, you may have to seek new employment or move away from family, but you may find a more rewarding and better paying job, you may develop stronger bonds with family through communicating long distance because you will put more effort into the relationships – meaning that you will still have a career and family relationships, but they will be different in some way. Remember change is not necessarily always bad or good, but is always different. How we adjust and perceive the change is the key to being healthy mentally and emotionally.
Know When to Seek Help: If your symptoms continue for several months or you begin to realize that these symptoms are interfering with your normal everyday activities and relationships or ability to function, you may need to talk with a professional counselor to help you through this time of adjustment to develop healthy coping skills and a sense of independence to go forward.
Treatment for Adjustment Disorders is usually short term and solution focused. Counseling is an excellent way to assist you and your loved ones to adjust to any changes in a healthy and productive way.
There is Hope for Healing that produces Harmony through Counseling!
Job loss, financial concerns, your children’s education, fear of sickness, concern for loved ones, and isolation are just a few of the many factors impacting us during this pandemic and uncertain time in our nation. It is very normal to experience increased anxiety, depression, and irritability during stressful times. Here are some things to practice in order to keep healthy mentally, emotionally, and relationally…
The most important tool we have is our self-talk. We have the power to change our mood by changing the way we speak to ourselves. The first step in keeping our internal peace during a difficult time is to acknowledge that this is happening, it is out of my control, and it is temporary. Acceptance is essential for our mental well-being. Our natural reaction to a negative event or circumstance is to be in shock and denial or even become resistant to believing what is happening. This natural reaction can lead to negative self-talk and irritability, negative thoughts and emotions, and avoidance. Once we clearly accept the situation, it allows our brain to focus on what we CAN do instead of what we can’t.
Balanced self-care includes a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, spiritual practices, fun, hobbies, and connecting with family and friends. It is important to use online video services and facetime to keep as many of our weekly groups, hobbies, and other meetings going as well as staying connected to friends and loved ones. And please don’t forget to intentionally make time for fun like watching a funny movie, playing with your pets, playing games, creating something through art or writing, anything that can bring a smile or create some joyful moments.
We especially have to take care of ourselves physically and spiritually if we are going to maintain a healthy mind and mood during a challenging time. Exercise decreases stress and improves your mood because your body releases the feel-good chemicals dopamine and endorphins in the brain. Another benefit of exercise is increased energy during the day which helps you sleep better at night. Research indicates that exercise keeps your muscles and bones healthy and strong, promotes growth of new brain cells called neurons, and increases the quality and longevity of life. We have to exercise so think of ways to make it fun and productive as a family while you are home like dancing together, taking a walk, doing an exercise video, jumping in the pool, or cleaning out the garage.
In addition to exercise, giving attention to our spirituality and faith practices is essential to maintaining a health mind and mood. Think of ways to get some quiet time for yourself to practice meditation, reading your Bible, or praying. Get the family together as you normally would and watch your church service online, perhaps have a time of singing or getting creative to find ways to practice your spiritual beliefs and rituals.
During times of uncertainty, loss, and fear, it can difficult to find things to be thankful for in our situation. Research indicates that practicing gratitude decreases depression and increases happiness and helps people deal with adversity. Think of practicing gratitude for the past, present, and future. For example, reflecting on past memories and experiences of successes and blessings, or thinking about other difficult situations and circumstances that you survived and overcame, perhaps lessons you learned that can help you today. Then focusing on acknowledging your current blessings such as good health, having people who love you, the tangible and non-tangible ways you are blessed. Keeping an optimistic attitude is a way to practice gratitude focused on the future. Perhaps express gratitude in words or writing or gifts to someone you appreciate. Gratitude is a way to acknowledge the goodness in our lives.
When we do something for someone else, the benefits are very similar to exercise like lowering our blood pressure, reducing physical pain, reducing depression symptoms, increasing mood and quality of life. It just feels good to know we helped someone else. Think about calling and chatting for a while with someone you know who lives alone. What about making a meal or special dessert for your neighbor or mailing a hand-written note to someone telling them how much you appreciate them. Perhaps the best way to help others is to simply show kindness. A kind word or deed may actually last much longer than any tangible gift we can give and will also lift our spirits as well as the person we are showing kindness to.
Managing Anxiety and Depression Symptoms
Practicing acceptance, self-care, gratitude, and helping others are all ways to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. When you are feeling anxious, notice your senses to calm down your brain and nervous system. For example, focus on looking at something with color in the room and smell a fruit, lotion, or candle. Listen to music or the quiet in the room and feel the chair you are sitting in or the clothing you are wearing. In addition, breath in your nose counting to 7, hold your breath for a count of 4 then out your mouth counting to 7. Paying attention to your senses and deep breathing will reduce anxiety in the immediate moment significantly. To manage feelings of depression, try to keep a daily schedule. Plan out your day at home with regular time to get up in the morning and going to sleep at night, plan hours you will work, exercise, play, etc. Structure and consistency will help keep you from clinical depression. Remember to be gracious to yourself during challenging times because experiencing anxiety and negative feelings is very normal.
Dr. Hollenbeck is a Certified Telemental Health Therapist and offers clients video and phone sessions. Please call or text 407.408.6521 to schedule an appointment.
Do you know someone who seems to be irritable all the time or “flies off the handle” and goes into a rage over something that doesn’t go their way? Do you have family members or friends who hurt people with verbal or physical abuse and then feel really bad about it, apologize, promise never to do it again…only to end up doing it again and again?
Causes for uncontrollable anger may stem from childhood neglect, abuse, or trauma, underdeveloped emotions, learned behavior, enjoyment of the adrenaline rush, lack of conflict resolution skills, abandonment and trust issues, the need to feel in control, or the need to feel safe.
Anger is an emotion everyone experiences, but some people develop an addiction to being in a state of Anger or become an “Angerholic” because it may be the only emotion that they know how to express when they have an unmet need. Psychology professionals continue to discuss multiple theories of addiction origin and treatment, but there is no doubt that Anger Addiction is an ongoing issue affecting many people seeking counseling and ongoing research is needed.
BAAM’s 2008 Boiling Point Report provides the following statistics taken from a survey of 2000 people:
- 32% have a close friend or family member who has trouble controlling their anger.
- 12% say that they have trouble controlling their own anger.
- 28% say that they worry about how angry they sometimes feel.
- 20% say that they have ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of how they behaved when they were angry.
- 64% either strongly agree or agree that people in general are getting angrier.
There are many reasons people may be “getting angry”, but if anger is causing problems for you or someone you love, there is help available through Anger Management Therapy to address the issues and develop the skills needed to manage Anger. Below are 5 Warning Signs that may indicate someone is an “Angerholic”.
5 Signs of Anger Addiction
- Excessive Irritability – This is when a person seems to be irritable most of the time, even when there is no known reason to be irritable. Also, there is an increase “over the years” instead of a decrease with maturity. This may be evident in an adolescent that matures into their adult life continuing to display irritability most of the time.
- Isolation & Secret Grudges – Another sign is if a person who is irritable a lot seems to also like to spend time alone and not enjoy being around other people. They may seem to hold a grudge against people who they believe have done them wrong. Perhaps they were caught doing something in anger secretively such as destroying photos, making false accusations against a person, or destroying someone else’s property in anger.
- Outbursts of Anger – If a person has anger outbursts in response to anything that doesn’t go the way the wanted, they are not able to adjust to change without an angry outburst, or they get people to do what they want by having an angry outburst are all behaviors that indicate a serious problem with anger.
- Critical and Sarcastic Attitude – If someone uses negativity and sarcasm to communicate most of the time whether the criticism is directed at themselves or others is a sign of unhealthy communication rooted in anger.
- Feelings of Guilt and Shame – When someone is aware of their issue with anger, they may express feelings of guilt and shame and make several attempts to change unsuccessfully. The inability to stop engaging in anger driven thoughts, emotions, and behaviors on their own is a sure sign of addiction.
Losing a loved one to suicide is traumatizing and heart breaking in so many ways. The shock and overwhelming grief of a sudden death, feeling guilty for not being able to save them, not having any closure or answers to the “why” they took their life, the reality of never seeing them again, and the confusing feelings of anger, shame, and sadness can all be debilitating factors for the surviving family members and friends.
Although depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues seem to contribute to a higher risk for suicide, there is not one thing that causes suicidal thoughts or completion. Below is a list of warning signs someone may be at risk for suicide. However, preventing a person from completing suicide is not a clear process because there are several confusing factors. For example, sometimes a person seems to “have it all together” when they take their life. At times, a person may be struggling with mental or physical illness, but because they are seeking treatment, we think they will be okay. Sometimes, a person makes threats multiple times and never follows through so people begin to ignore their threats. Some people will make an attempt to commit suicide as a cry for help. People who commit suicide may talk about it or may not ever talk about it prior to doing it. And remember that many people have suicidal thoughts when they are going through a difficult time or feel depressed without wanting to actually commit suicide….so how do you know?
If you believe you know someone who may be suicidal, please share your love and care and encourage them to seek mental health therapy. If they meet some risk factors and tell you they have a plan to harm themselves, please don’t hesitate to call the police so they can get inpatient treatment. In Florida, the police can take a person to the hospital involuntarily for assessment and treatment if they are threatening to harm themselves. The fear of your loved one being angry with you and the confusion of not knowing what to do is very normal. Please take the risk factors and suicidal threats seriously. Follow your intuition because it is better to try to get help than to ignore the warning signs.
Suicide risk factors include:
Family Members who have committed suicide
Past suicide attempts
Prolonged periods of stress like unemployment, being bullied and harassed, relationship issues, losses, rejection, financial struggles
Serious mental or physical health diagnosis
Drug or alcohol abuse
Traumatic head injury
Experiencing or Witnessing a Traumatic event
Changes in mood, diet, sleep, behavior, habits, and interests, etc.
Increased irritability or a very sudden sense of calm and peace
Isolation or reaching out to people to make amends that they do not usually interact with
Giving things away or getting very organized
Pay special attention if the above risk factors take place after a significant event. In addition, if someone is also talking about the following they could be at a higher risk for suicide:
Feeling hopeless or helpless
Believe they are a burden
Stating they don’t have any reason to live
Express they are in unbearable pain
Express extreme anger and talk about revenge
Speak using language that seems to be saying goodbye
Talks about killing themselves and has access to the means to do so such as a firearm, medication, etc.
The World Health Organization estimates that 1 million people commit suicide annually around the world. The most recent statistics show that in 2016, nearly 45,000 people took their own life in the United States. According to a report conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates increased in 44 states from 1999 to 2016.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: 800-273-8255
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
Do you love yourself? This isn’t exactly an easy question to answer because at times you may love certain aspects of yourself while despising others. Sometimes we feel loved and cherished by other people and sometimes we may feel like nobody loves us. We can’t base feeling loved on the actions of other people or how we feel from time to time.
We have to learn to be the one to love ourselves unconditionally. When we do, we will be able to accept and give love in a healthier and more fulfilling way throughout our lifetime.
Here are 3 Ways to Practice Loving Yourself:
When is the last time you told yourself “I love you”? Multiple research studies have shown that we can change our habits, beliefs, and brain chemistry over a period of 90 days. We have learned that positive self-talk has a powerful affect on a person’s sense of self worth. When you say, “I love you” to yourself – you are thinking, saying, and hearing that you are loved. This makes a powerful impact on developing your belief system and increasing your self-esteem.
When we love someone, we give our time and effort to show it by our actions. We will go to great lengths to protect, value, and care for a loved one. How do you show love to yourself? Are you protecting yourself by establishing healthy boundaries? Do you value yourself by treating yourself with kindness and caring for your body, mind, and spirit? Showing love to yourself involves nurturing your mental and emotional health, spending time embracing your spiritual beliefs, and taking care of yourself physically with a healthy diet and exercise plan that includes a healthy sleep pattern and relaxation time.
Loving other people becomes so much more fulfilling for us when we practice loving ourselves because the love we give comes from a genuine place in ourselves. When we have a strong sense of self-esteem and self-worth, we understand the value of embracing our uniqueness and are able to focus on the positive more than the negative. Your attitude and countenance will be an encouragement to other people. When you feel loved yourself, you can easily share that love with others through words and actions.
Today is a great time to start Loving Yourself. Why not make a commitment every day for the next 90 days to say “I love you” to yourself, take daily action to show yourself love, and then share that love with others every day. You may want to journal your “love journey” to be able to reflect on the changes in your life as a result of loving yourself.
There is Hope for Healing that produces Harmony through Counseling!
When is the last time you scheduled a Mental Health Check-up?
We all have a doctor we see regularly for annual physicals and those colds and minor illnesses that come up throughout the year. We religiously schedule our teeth cleaning appointments with the dentist. Women schedule annual gynecological exams, some people see a chiropractor on a regular basis, and many go to church weekly to nurture our soul. We know research has shown that taking care of our mental health is as essential as taking care of our physical and spiritual health. But, how often do we schedule regular mental health check-ups?
There are 3 reasons why is it important to schedule regular Mental Health Check-ups with a professional counselor…
1. The Present: To address any current issues you are facing.
2. The Past: To determine if you have any unresolved issues from the past that are causing you disturbance in your current life.
3. The Future: To develop effective life management skills to help you daily live the life you desire.
Once you are “healthy” mentally, checking in with your counselor on a regular basis helps address whatever issues may arise so that you maintain strong mental health throughout your lifespan. In addition to physical health improvement, research has shown that nurturing our mental health leads to maintaining healthy relationships with intimate partners, family members and friends.
Along with Mental Health Check-ups…
There are 5 Essential Ways to achieve and maintain strong Mental Health:
1. Practice Good Self-Care – practicing good self-care is the most important step to mental wellness. This involves, eating well, regular exercise, 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and using relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing to reduce stress.
2. Build a Support System – people need people. We all need to have relationships with people who are safe and with whom we can share our life’s journey. Our support system can consist of our partner, family members or friends.
3. Resolve the Unresolved – most mental and emotional distress comes from unresolved issues. These issues may stem from abuse, a lack of problem solving skills, or circumstances out of our control, but they must be resolved or they will affect our current and future mental well-being.
4. Nurture your Spiritual Beliefs – spiritual beliefs give us a sense of purpose, are usually the basis for our value system, and often give us hope and strength throughout our life’s journey so it is important to nurture our spirituality.
5. Laugh – studies have shown that laughing decreases pain, stress hormones, and anxiety. It also helps increase blood flow to promote heart health. Learning to laugh at yourself by not taking yourself so seriously and enjoying a good laugh with other people on a regular basis will also increase your relational bonds.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month!
Dr. Crystal Hollenbeck is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and specializes in relationships, trauma recovery, and anxiety management. Please call or text Dr. Hollenbeck at 407.408.6521 for a mental health check up.