Coping Skills for this Holiday Season

Holidays and emotional health go hand in hand. In 2020 though, after living through about 10 months of a global pandemic, emotional and mental health this holiday season should be taken seriously for everyone. We will all benefit from using coping skills.

Whether people are adjusting to a holiday without loved ones, or are trying to keep everyone happy with adapted holiday celebrations, everyone should give themselves a break.

The behavioral health experts at NOAH want to see everyone enjoy the holiday season safely and happily.

First, we hope you have readjusted your expectations for 2020. Having really high expectations can actually impact your brain and your reaction. If you expect a holiday season that is picture perfect, when real life doesn’t meet your expectation, the reaction can be very real and very difficult.  

Next, our experts share ways to cope when things like stress, anxiety and depression start to take hold of you, your day and however you are celebrating the holidays this year. Coping skills can be different from person to person, and some may work in certain situations and not others.

Try these coping skills and use what works best for you

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. There is a lot more about this important step in a previous post, so read about that here.
  2. Talk to someone. This can be a counselor or therapist, or it can be a friend or family member who helps you feel heard and calms the situation without getting involved.
  3. Slow down. If you are doing too many things, being everything for everyone, and more, you need to slow down and take a break.
  4. Make a list. If you have a lot to do (see #3 above), and it is starting to cause stress, make a list. Crossing things off your list also gives you a sense of accomplishment which is a positive feeling.
  5. Do deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing exercises can have a lot of benefits to your overall health. Take deep breaths in, hold it for several seconds and slowly exhale. Repeat this for a minute or two.
  6. Get distracted. Step away from what is causing you anxiety or depression. Try to lose yourself in something else, like a puzzle, an easy project, adult coloring books, yard work or whatever can keep you distracted for a while.
  7. Take a walk. Walking outdoors is great for your health. Not only is the exercise good, getting fresh air and sunshine are also helpful for your overall health. Plus, taking a walk can distract you (#6) and help you slow down (#3) as well.
  8. Use your five senses. Do something that engages different senses. Notice what is around you using sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste. This will give your mind a break from things that may be causing stress.

This holiday season may not be what anyone is used to or what anyone expected, but that is okay. Be kind to yourself and others and enjoy the holiday season however you celebrate it.

Ways to Celebrate Family Caregivers this Holiday Season

While National Family Caregiver Month may be over, NOAH knows two things:

  1. Caregivers deserve to be honored, appreciated, and supported all year.
  2. Being a family caregiver during 2020 has meant something different than in past years.

Caregivers who are helping family members, friends, or loved ones who are aging in place or dealing with an illness (or both) give so much of themselves all year. How should you celebrate a caregiver in your life through the holiday season; especially during the 2020 COVID pandemic? We have some ideas.

But first, understand that being a caregiver during 2020 has been a much different experience.

Many adult and child daycare centers have closed at some point during 2020. Now, many of those places are functioning at a reduced capacity. What those care centers provide is a sense of community for the aging or ill individual, and respite for the caregiver.

Organizations that may have provided other types of support, like meal deliveries, have changed or cancelled how they serve people because of COVID. These services could provide much-needed support and a welcome face.

Lastly, there is stress and concern. Caring for older adults and people chronic illnesses or diseases can be even harder when a virus is in the community that is especially dangerous to the individual you are caring for. Caregivers may be taking extra precautions.

This gives everyone even more reason to celebrate these individuals throughout the holiday season! Here are some ideas:

  • Food is always a welcome choice! If you can order meals to have delivered or drop off something for the caregiver so they don’t have to cook for themselves later, that will be a welcome gift.
  • Help stock their supplies. If you know what they need to provide care, you can help them out with extra supplies, or even books, games, puzzles, or other activities the patient or caregiver enjoy.
  • Personal pampering for caregivers. A personalized coffee mug for the coffee lover, a calming candle for the caregiver who likes to create a peaceful space, a journal for the writer, and lotion for everyone – because we are all (thankfully) washing our hands a lot more – are all great ways to show appreciation.

Everyone loves a thoughtful gift but showing gratitude and understanding for the hard work caregivers do every day is one of the nicest ways to celebrate them this holiday season and all year.

Take Care of Your Mental Health This Holiday Season

By Katelyn Millinor, LPC, Manager of Behavioral Health Quality

Every holiday season brings different emotions with it. Whether you enjoy every moment and micro-plan activities, are stressed and overwhelmed by everything, or are isolated away from family or friends, this time of year bring a lot with it. It’s important to consider the impact of the holidays and your mental health.

That was before living through the COVID-19 pandemic currently impacting our daily lives.

The 2020 holiday season will be different – and it should for the safety of ourselves, loved ones, and our community – and we should expect some mental and emotional strains as we work together to get past COVID-19. Learn how to navigate this season, how to be proactive, when to ask for help, and more so you have a happy and healthy holiday season.

First Things First – This Is Hard

As we turn the calendar to December, remember we have been living through COVID-19, physical distancing, isolation, and uncertainties for more than nine months! It has been exhausting and the stress, anxiety, and loneliness is still affecting our everyday lives. Now that the holiday season is here, you or a loved one may be experiencing their “First” major cancelled or changed event.

The first birthday, celebration, or holiday we can’t celebrate together is really hard. Try to realize we are all experiencing this together and feeling the emotions because that can help you cope.

We were never taught how to live through a pandemic and we are learning as we go. Let yourself be disappointed, and let others be disappointed as well because everyone is having to experience this individually.

The Highs and Lows of Holidays

People face a lot of emotions during the holidays. This can be from not having family, having lost loved ones, living far away, or feeling overwhelmed by all the expectations and demands of the season. We should expect these feelings in ourselves and others.

Don’t avoid these feelings, recognize them. We can also expect these feelings to come in waves. The first wave will probably be the biggest, emotionally, and then it can become more manageable from there.

The important thing is to know yourself and expect some ups and downs, probably even more in 2020 than before with holidays and mental health combined. But the second most important thing to remember is that it’s best to embrace the feelings, the ups and downs, and work through them rather than trying to stop these feelings altogether.

Take Action

Knowing yourself is key to the entire process of mental and emotional health during the holidays and throughout the year. Try to understand your triggers – something that can make you feel sad, angry, overwhelmed – and be prepared.

The next step is to have coping skills, or actions you take to deal with the highs and lows. These skills will be a big part of working through things as they happen, even more so to help with holidays and mental health. Some coping skills can include:

  • Talking to someone
  • Making a list
  • Doing deep breathing exercises
  • Going for a walk
  • Or something else that works for you

Another way to be proactive is to notice changes in other people and in yourself. Some of the most common changes can be withdrawing from activities, isolating, not contacting people, sadness, and not enjoying hobbies. These can be red flags during the holidays and mental health concerns.

It’s OK to Feel Lonely

It can be very uncomfortable to feel lonely, but it is okay to feel lonely. It is a very normal emotion, even more so when we have expectations of something different. Whether you are truly alone this year, more alone than you want to be because of COVID distancing, or something else is causing the feelings of loneliness, it is okay.

Dealing with this can happen in a few ways.

  1. Throw out the idea of “should”. For example, don’t continually think or say “I should be able to be with my family” or “I should be going on a trip”. It’s fine, and even good, to mourn a lost holiday or celebration with people you care about, but then take those options out. Think about what you can do and focus on that this year.
  2. Change your expectations. This is a good rule any year, but especially this holiday season. We set high expectations of ourselves and of the holidays, which can lead to disappointment. Rethink or lower your expectations to something more realistic.
  3. Use this opportunity to help others who may also be facing loneliness like a neighbor, an elderly friend or family member who has been isolated for months, or one of your kid’s friends who has family that is working during the holidays. Keep safe distancing practices in place, but find ways to show people you care, that they aren’t alone, and make new memories. You will be surprised how much good it does for that person, and for you!

Loneliness is a big factor on holidays and mental health of people everywhere. Efforts in this area can make a big difference.

Know When to Ask for Help

We believe in prevention in healthcare, whether it is physical health or mental health. If you have been struggling throughout 2020 (or longer), it would be good to make an appointment with one of NOAH’s counselors or psychiatrists now.

People who are at a higher risk, or who deal with chronic depression or anxiety, should be seeing someone on a somewhat regular basis, and especially if holiday stress or loneliness would trigger more emotions. Another warning sign is isolation. If you notice yourself isolating more or see changes in a loved one with their moods or interactions, that is a good time to make or encourage an appointment.

Everyone can benefit from counseling.

Find Ways to Enjoy the Season

Now that we are ready to adjust our expectations, embrace the emotions of the season, and know what to expect, we can find new ways to celebrate the season safely for our holiday mental health.

Make your plans – even virtual ones – now! If you want to do a video call with multiple family members, make those arrangements. Remember that some people may not have reliable WiFi or be comfortable on using certain technologies. Making phone calls, doing drive-by visits, and sending cards are ways to share the season with people you care about.

Remember to also be thankful and show gratitude which is helpful to your mental and emotional health all year. Showing gratitude to your family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and even strangers can have a ripple effect. So, hold the door open, smile (with your eyes if you’re wearing a mask), give a compliment, or make small talk with the cashier, and you will brighten many people’s day in the process.

If you don’t have a counselor to talk to, reach out to NOAH’s team of experts. Virtual visits are common and can fit in your schedule and lifestyle.

How to Talk to Your Teen about Sensitive Topics

By Katelyn Millinor, LPC

As our children grow into independent and curious teenagers, we as parents want to be a guiding light to help our children make smart and informed decisions. Sensitive topics such as intimacy, sexuality, consent, relationships and substance use may be difficult or seem awkward. 

Here are some tips to help facilitate productive and positive conversations:

  1. Create an Open and Safe Space for Communication.

    Initiate conversations regularly with your teenager. What is their favorite musical artist? What is their favorite hobby? What does your teenager do for fun with friends? Getting to know your teen makes it easier to talk about anything. Starting this process early often has greater benefits.

  2. Give Them Privacy.

    We have all been where we want to keep things to ourselves and have time and space alone. Our teens do too. Make sure to allow your teen enough privacy. You may still invite conversations and allow them space until they are ready to share.

  3. Listen More, Talk Less. 

    Allow your teen to fully finish what they are saying before you offer insights or responses. Practice active listening by giving your full attention. Teenagers are more likely to be open when they feel heard. Most of the time, teenagers are not seeking for you to “fix” their problem, they just want a trusted adult to listen. Avoid being critical, judgmental, or getting emotional.

  4. Share Your Own Experiences.

    Don’t be afraid to share some of your own personal experiences with your teenager. Your teenager may see you as more relatable and understanding.

  5. Be Honest.

    Your discussions about sensitive topics may give your teenager the foundation of their understanding on certain topics. If you don’t know the answer to something, seek additional expertise from a professional.

  6. Offer Support and Advice. 

     Don’t Lecture. Phrases such as “If I was in this situation, I would do….” or simply asking “May I offer some advice?” can help facilitate meaningful conversations.

Tackling difficult conversations with your teen is a sign of a healthy relationship. If you know what is going on in your teen’s life, you are better equipped to help. Engaging in these conversations gives you and your teen the opportunity to explore choices and practice important decision making. If you need help talking about sensitive topics, learn about NOAH’s counseling services.

National Family Caregiver Month – Take Time for You

By Katelyn Millinor, LPC

Each November, we take the time to honor Family Caregivers – those who devote their lives to providing care for their family members or friends who are elderly, ill, or disabled. The demands of caregiving can be challenging, overwhelming, and tiresome. It can also be rewarding and fulfilling. Caregivers often give so much of themselves to their family member or friend. It is important to remember you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.

Common family caregiver experiences may include:

  • Tiredness – Most individuals caring for a loved one also work outside of the home in addition to their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Depression – The demands of jugging multiple responsibilities or seeing your loved one age or change due to illness or disability can be upsetting. There is no shame in feeling upset or overwhelmed.
  • Diminished relationships – Caregiving is not a 9-5 job. A loved one may need care around the clock. The emotional, physical, and time demands of care giving may interfere with other relationships.
  • Lack of self care – Caregivers often neglect their own self-care in order to provide for their loved one. This can include not attending medical appointments and not participating in leisure activities.

Caregivers provide for their loved one due to a sense of responsibility, their culture, fulfillment and love. We honor those who provide and recognize the increased difficulty of caregiving during a pandemic as this brings its own unique challenges.

If you are a family caregiver, here are some useful tips:

  • Seek support from other caregivers: If you have others that are willing to help try to be open to splitting responsibilities. You do not have to do this alone. Also be sure to check out Family Caregiver Support Groups.
  • Increase your own self-care: Make your own mental and physical health a priority! Reach out to your physician or mental health counselor if needed.
  • Take a break when you can: Whether it’s a quick nap, sleeping in, or doing something that is relaxing, be sure to take time for yourself.
  • Give yourself credit: You are doing one of the toughest jobs out there!

Family caregivers do tremendous work for their family member, neighbor or friend and they deserve support and appreciation. Looking for support in your role as a caregiver, NOAH can help.

Honor World Mental Health Day

By Cody Randel

World Mental Health Day is October 10th, to both raise awareness and to mobilize support for this important issue. This year, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) will host its advocacy event online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Big Event for Mental Health brings together world leaders, celebrities, and advocates from all over the world. The focus will be on the serious need for widespread resources, a problem worsened by the pandemic. The event is free and will be broadcast on WHO’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok channels from 7 – 9:30 a.m.  

Big Event Highlights 

  • How can we better invest in mental health? A look at individual, national, and global levels and the actions needed to scale up resources. 
  • The event will include several short films that focus on the work of WHO and their partners’ initiatives around the globe. 
  • WHO’s event will ultimately highlight a variety of ways to improve mental health, spread more awareness, and share the benefits of investment that go beyond public health. 

Mental Illness Facts

  • Approximately 1 billion people worldwide live with a mental disorder 
  • 3 million people die every year from harmful alcohol use worldwide 
  • 1 person dies every 40 seconds from suicide across the world 
  • COVID-19 has impacted billions of people’s lives worldwide, and subsequently affected people’s mental health

One of greatest obstacles we all face is the social and internalized stigma associated with seeking help for these health issues. Programs like World Mental Health Day are important to not only bringing awareness to these issues, but also continuing to make it a mainstream topic which helps people around the world. Get involved in changing negative views about mental health issues by organizing events to raise awareness, or by simply listening to an individual who is suffering. We all have the power to change a life with even the smallest gestures. 

If you want to speak with someone about any challenges or concerns you are living with, request an appointment today.

Mental Illness Awareness Week – Mental Illness in Youth

By Katelyn Millinor, LPC

Mental health problems or disorders are surprisingly common in youth and children. The National Institute of Mental Health (NAMI) reports that 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 14. However, differentiating the difference between expected behaviors and a mental illness can be tricky. In younger children, symptoms are typically behavioral as they are still learning how to deal with big emotions. Children can also have a hard time explaining how they feel or why they are behaving a certain way. Whether you are a parent, coach, teacher, religious leader, or just a trusted adult, you may be able to spot warning signs that a youth may need support or services.

Some common signs of mental illness in youth include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior (for example: has an active child becoming withdrawn and quiet or a good student starting to get poor grades)
  • Sudden change in feelings (for example: mood swings, lack of feelings)
  • Avoiding places or situations that have not been routinely avoided
  • New complaints of physical problems like headaches, stomach aches, problems eating or sleeping, or lack of energy
  • Suddenly keeping to themselves or increased shyness
  • Low self esteem
  • Frequent outbursts, tantrums, or meltdowns
  • Substance abuse
  • New physical harm to self, others, or property
  • Inattention or poor focus
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Difficulty with transitions within or between school, home, or social activities
  • Thoughts of death or dying

This list is not a complete list of symptoms. It is important to seek a complete medical exam to rule out any medical issues. Diagnosing mental illness in children may take some time and involve questionnaires or assessments. Psychotherapy can be helpful to assist the youth and the guardian or family members in treating symptoms and learning new skills. Mediation may also be helpful in specific situations.

NOAH has a team of trained clinicians such as doctors, counselors, and psychiatrists to help on this journey. No family or child has to navigate this alone.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month – Tips to Stay Healthy

By Dr. Mason Wedel, MD PGY1

September is National Childhood Obesity Month, a time to raise awareness of this growing concern for children. Obesity is a major public health problem for children everywhere, putting them at higher risk for other chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and asthma. Having obesity as a child also makes children more likely to become obese adults.

“About 1 in 5 (19%) of children are obese today.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Here are some tips to prevent or combat childhood obesity:

  • Eat More Fruits and Vegetables – serve more fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks. Decrease the amount of high fat and sugary foods.
  • Stay Active – children are recommended to get 60 minutes or more physical activity DAILY. Include running, jumping, walking, bike riding as well as muscle strengthening exercises such as push ups.
  • Drink More Water – always encourage more water and make it available at all times instead of high sugar drinks such as soda. Limit juice intake.
  • Ensure Adequate Sleep – follow a sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Remove electronics from bedroom and make sure the bedroom is quiet and dark.

These tips will help your child have more energy, control their weight, strengthen their bones, increase their self-esteem and live an overall healthier life. Be sure to have a medical home for your entire family and talk with your child’s doctor about any concerns like childhood obesity. Follow these tips daily and help stop the rising number of children with obesity.

Suicide Prevention Month

By Cody Randel, PA-C

September is suicide prevention month, an important time to share resources and experiences to try and bring attention to a highly stigmatized topic. This month is when we reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and connect people with suicidal ideation to treatment and other services. It is also necessary to involve friends and family in the conversation and to make sure everyone has access to the resources they need to talk about suicide prevention.

When people seek professional help for depression, anxiety, and/or helplessness, they are far too often met with challenges like affordability, geographical access, privacy and safety, and not knowing what resources are available to them.

Most people who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition.

Suicide Warning Signs

  1. Talking about – experiencing unbearable pain, feeling trapped, killing themselves, having no reason to live, being a burden to others.
  2. Behavior – Withdrawing from activities, acting recklessly, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, increased use of drugs and/or alcohol, isolating from friends and family, aggression, giving away possessions, researching suicide methods.
  3. Mood – Depression, rage, irritability, anxiety, lack of interest, humiliation.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Find a Mental Health Provider:
– findtreatment.samhsa.gov
– mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
– Text TALK to 741741; text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line 24/7

Visit:
– Your Primary Care Provider. If you don’t have one, NOAH can help.
– Your Mental Health Professional
– Walk-in Clinic
– Emergency Department
– Urgent Care Center

Call:
– National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
– 911 for Emergencies
– National Suicide Helpline: 800-273-8255
– Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
– The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386
– RAINN: 800-656-4673

Suicide prevention is a critical issue every day of the year. If you or someone you know is struggling, this is not something to face alone. Reach out to the NOAH team to learn more about our services.

*sources: NAMI, afsp.org/respources, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, TWLOHA

National Youth Suicide Prevention Week

By Katelyn Millinor, LPC

Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 10-24? Youth suicide statistics cannot be ignored as they have greatly increased over the last decade. Ten teenagers out of 100,000 decide to commit suicide. Females attempt suicide at a rate of nearly 3x that of males. However, males died by suicide at a rate of nearly 3x that of females. Suicide prevention is a critical health topic for young people in the U.S.

What youth are more likely to die by suicide?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (also known as ACES) can include neglect, abuse, experiencing violence, substance abuse, divorce, incarceration of a family member, or poverty. Experiencing ACES has been shown to negatively affect one’s health and mental health over time and can occur across generations. This is particularly troublesome for youth who have had limited access to health care or mental health care. Youth who have one or more ACES are at higher risk for suicide. Populations are at a higher risk of experiencing ACES include minority groups, low socio-economic groups, and LGBT groups. Native American and Alaskan Indians have the highest rates of suicide by ethnic group.

What are the warning signs?

It is not always possible to notice the warning signs in an those thinking about suicide. Some common signs to look out for include: 

  • Talking or writing about death
  • Expressing hopelessness about the future
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Increased drug/alcohol use
  • Giving away personal possessions
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors
  • Doing dangerous activities
  • Significant change in mood or behavior

How to support a youth who is experiencing suicidal thoughts:

  1. Talk with the youth about their suicidal thoughts as it can help them process through their emotions. 
  2. Try to acknowledge their feelings, fears, sadness, or pain.
  3. Provide reassurance but do not dismiss the problem. You may ask the youth if they are thinking about hurting themselves or taking their own life, and if they have a plan.
  4. Be sure the youth does not have access to any lethal weapons or medications and immediately inform adults or caregivers. 
  5. Try to avoid panicking or offering too much advice. 
  6. Provide the crisis line(s) and assist them to call if necessary. 

Professionals such as the counselors or psychiatrists at NOAH are great resources for ongoing support and safety planning.

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
Maricopa County Crisis Line: 602-222-9444
Teen Life Line (Call or Text): 602-248-TEEN (8336)