Living with PTSD

We are all living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (known as PTSD) either personally or as a community. Someone, somewhere in our lives is living with PTSD and understanding it is important.

PTSD is when a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying or traumatic event. And PTSD can affect anyone. Thankfully in recent years, the public conversations and understanding around PTSD has grown. The more we know and understand this often-serious disorder, the better.

PTSD Causes

A wide range of events can lead to symptoms of PTSD such as:

  • Car crash.
  • Assault or abuse.
  • The death of a loved one.
  • War.
  • Surviving a natural disaster.
  • Diagnosis of a life-changing medical condition or any other event where you fear for your life.

Symptoms of PTSD

Most people experience short term symptoms associated with PTSD like trouble sleeping and flashbacks. This is known as an acute stress reaction and these symptoms will usually go away in a few weeks. However, some people experience symptoms that last much longer. 

Long term symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Reliving aspects of the event that happened.
  • Feeling on edge or overly alert.
  • Avoiding memories or feelings and difficult beliefs.
  • Experience hyper vigilance.
  • Nightmares.
  • Physical symptoms.
  • Difficulty with relationships, education, or employment.

Living with PTSD

If you or someone you know might have PTSD and has some of the symptoms above, NOAH recommends:  

  • Learn more to help yourself or a loved on. The National Center for PTSD has great resources for everyone, but a lot for those veterans living with PTSD.
  • Get professional support like a counselor or psychiatrist. NOAH has a full team!
  • Know your triggers.
  • Confide in a friend, family member, or professional when you are ready.
  • Try peer support groups online or in person.
  • Keep up with your physical health.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol to cope with difficulty feelings.

There are many treatments for people living with PTSD or PTSD symptoms. A behavioral health professional can help an individual process trauma in a healthy and effective way. There are also medication options to assist in alleviating symptoms. You and your behavioral health team can work together to decide which treatment will work best for you. NOAH has a team of medical and behavioral health professionals to support you on your journey to healing.

If you are ready to talk with someone about questions or challenges you or a loved on has that may be PTSD, contact NOAH today.

June is LGBTQ Pride

By Andres Jaramillo | LPC

During the month of June, you may see more color around your workplace or community as the rainbow flag flies in windows, porches, stores, and websites, but why? Pride month.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month

June was first officially declared lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) pride month by President Clinton in 1999. But the real start of this story, woven into the fabric of American history, goes back to the 1960’s and before, when brave and thoughtful LGBTQ people stood up to raids, rejection, and harassment, paving the right to be supported and loved.

For some, the image of pride month is only rainbow flags, festivals or parades, which are held all around the world, and a chance for the LGBTQ and ally community to come together and celebrate the historical events and progress in the story. Deeper though, Pride month, and the Pride movement that began decades ago, has a much more important message.

When a person is seen or feels “not normal,” because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the risks of emotional distress, mental health concerns, and even suicide goes up. Around 2/3 of LGBTQ youth report that someone in their lives tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity and suppress who they are. LGBTQ youth contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of their heterosexual counterparts, and 40% of LGBTQ adults have experienced rejection from a family member or a close friend.

We must choose to accept that what we have been taught or seen as “normal” needs to be challenged for the wellbeing of our family, friends, and neighbors. Recent studies and polls show that about 5.6% of US adults, or about 18 million adults, identify as LGBTQ, so chances are someone around you identifies as LGBTQ and Pride month reminds us to think about the role we have in their lives. What is normal is to choose to stand by someone’s side and be their support. By doing that you can have a positive influence in their emotional, mental, and even physical wellbeing.

Everyone experiences hardships – at work, in our family or relationships, with our friends, with ourselves – and we can all relate to the idea that when we know we are loved and supported, we have more courage, confidence, and flexibility to take on life’s difficulties. It is normal to stand together and support our LGBTQ family, friends, and neighbors. Afterall, we’re all just trying to live our best life.

Happy Pride!

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental or emotional health, NOAH’s comprehensive team of counselors and psychiatrists. Contact us for an appointment today.

Employee Health and Burnout

During this employee health and fitness month, let’s talk about burnout at work. Work can be a source of pride, a social network, offer mental challenges, and so much more. It can also take a lot of time and energy causing people to sometimes experience what’s known as burnout – especially after the year we have all been through.

During a normal year, people can go through times of burnout from work. During 2020 (and into 2021), though, the additional stresses happening all around us likely worsened those feelings. We’ve all been through a lot and feeling overwhelmed or burned out is normal. But being normal doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

What is Burnout?

Job burnout is a type of work-related stress causing physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and a loss of personal identity.

Throughout the pandemic, many people showed up (virtually or in person) every day, even when it was difficult. Beyond the virus itself, this past year has asked a lot of each of us, with virtual school, cancelled plans and holiday celebrations, career set-backs or job losses, illness, and sometimes even loss.

Expecting to power through like nothing else is going on isn’t realistic; of course it has been hard, and that is on top of nearly half of working adults who were feeling burned out before the pandemic began. According to an Indeed.com study, 52% of people report feelings of burnout from work which is up from 42% before the pandemic began.

Symptoms

“Burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis, but it has distinct symptoms. Burnout can affect your physical and mental health. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Lack of energy and productivity
  • Being critical or cynical at work
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Loss of satisfaction from work accomplishments
  • Being impatient with coworkers, customers, or patients
  • Using drugs or alcohol to feel better
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Stomach or bowel problems

Causes

Employee burnout is always around. It can come and go. But what everyone experienced during 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic shifted employee stress and burnout. When the pandemic first began, the initial stress of the virus, possibility of a job loss, and shift to virtual working environments actually accelerated some people’s productivity. After months, though, the stress began to wear on people and the unknow factors of how long things would last, made it harder to manage.

With the causes of burnout listed below, it is easy to see how the COVID-19 pandemic enhanced these issues.

  • Lack of control. Unable to influence decisions that affect your job (schedule, assignments, or workload), and lack of resources to do your work.
  • Unclear job expectations. Being unsure about the authority you have or what others expect from you.
  • Extremes of activity. A job extremely monotonous or chaotic, or swings between the two, requires constant energy to remain focused and causes fatigue.
  • Work-life imbalance. When work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don’t have the energy for family and friends.
  • The imbalance was stretched even more because much of what people balance work with: seeing friends, traveling, visiting families, etc. were cancelled for almost a year. In addition, working from home also blurred the lines between work and home, and meant people needed to find ways to separate the two often with children learning from home as well.

If you are currently struggling, talk to a doctor or a mental health provider because these symptoms can be related to other health conditions. Contact NOAH to request an appointment today.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month: More Than Postpartum Depression

By: Alyssa Fagan-Clark, LMSW |Behavioral Health Counselor

During May, we celebrate Mother’s Day and Maternal Mental Health Awareness month! We often think of new motherhood as a time of excitement, care giving, happiness, and a deep sense of love. And while it is often all these things, conditions like postpartum depression can also be a period of intense struggle and uncertainty for many mothers and their loved ones.

According to Postpartum Support International, perinatal mental health disorders are the number one childbirth complication. One out of every seven mothers will face some form of postpartum mental health disorder, and the number is much higher for women of color with one of every three mothers impacted.

According to the CDC, the rate of maternal depression diagnoses at delivery is increasing. In 2015, the rate had increased seven times from where it was in 2000! This is more than the slight emotional changes most women – around 80% – experience in the 3-5 days after childbirth known as the “Baby Blues” period.

The “Baby Blues” happens after childbirth, when a woman’s body undergoes extreme hormonal and physical changes, in addition to the added emotional stress of caring for a newborn. This period typically lasts 2 weeks or less. Symptoms of the “Baby Blues” usually include moodiness, tearfulness, feeling overwhelmed, and general tiredness. While these emotional changes are normal and expected for most women, significant mood changes occurring for moms past this two-week period are a sign that she likely needs additional mental health support. While postpartum depression is a term many people may be familiar with, there are many other types of mental health disorders new mothers face.

Perinatal mental health disorders can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • And in rare cases, psychosis

Mothers who experience symptoms of these disorders may find themselves scared, uncertain, or even ashamed. Most mothers don’t expect complications like this during a time they thought they would be their happiest.

There are some risk factors for perinatal mental health disorders, including:

  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Economic stress
  • Having a baby who experienced a NICU stay
  • Experiencing an especially stressful or traumatic birth
  • Certain health diagnoses such as a thyroid issue or diabetes

A new mother’s best and most immediate source of help may be close friends and family members, who can recognize if she is struggling emotionally and assist her to get connected with professional support.

Luckily, the NOAH behavioral health team has mental health practitioners who are specially trained to work with new mothers (and fathers) who are struggling with mental health needs in this special time. If you or a parent you know needs care, please contact NOAH today.

Mental Health: Types of Treatment

By: Mirna Pacheco, LPC

People are more comfortable seeking help for emotional challenges than ever before. The need continues to rise, particularly during COVID-19. But the good thing is that as the need for mental health services increases, so have the options for those services and how telehealth has increased access to services.

Knowing that help is available provides hope, but important questions like, “where do I go?” “what kind of services do I need?” remain. Thankfully, NOAH’s team has some answers.

This guide shares information about different types of mental health treatment. The type of treatment will always depend on each individual and situation. Learning about the different treatment options is important to address stigma around seeking professional help.

Here are the main types of treatment currently available in mental health: 

  • Outpatient Mental Health Treatment:

This is the most traditional level of care where individuals meet with a mental health provider either for psychiatric care and/or counseling services.  Patients meet anywhere from once a week, once a month, or as needed for care.  Outpatient treatment can include services like general mental health for adults, children, and groups; people with serious mental illnesses; specific programs for conditions like substance abuse and eating disorders. Treatment usually starts with a full assessment and creating an individualized treatment plan. This ensures someone gets the proper treatment and level of care.  Depending on the treatment setting, services could include mental health counseling, medication management, case management, and group therapy. 

  • Outpatient Intensive Programs:

Outpatient Intensive Program (IOP) usually refers to types of rehabilitation for individuals who suffer from addiction problems. But IOP can also help people who are facing different types of conditions like eating disorders and depression. This level of care allows people to continue an intensive treatment – typically between three to five days a week – while allowing them to go home, maintain a job, or engage in educational activities in-between treatments. IOP treatment includes group therapy often combined with individual counseling, case management, psychiatric care, and support groups.

  • Residential Mental Health Treatment:

This level of care focuses on a specific type of treatment for mental health. Some centers specialize in long term substance abuse programs while others may provide an intensive treatment for eating disorders.  These programs provide intensive treatment usually for 30 to 90 days and will help individuals learn skills for long term recovery.

  • Psychiatric Hospitalization or Inpatient Care:

This type of care and treatment is for individuals who might be experiencing severe emotional distress to the level of requiring close monitoring. Hospitalization or inpatient care can also be used to continually evaluate and properly diagnose people who need help with mood stabilization and medication adjustment.  Psychiatric hospitalization can be brief, typically 3 to 14 days. After that, the patient will get an evaluation and referral to a long-term level of care, IOP, or outpatient services.

No matter who you are or what you are going through, there is a treatment program and level of care that is right for you. Beyond what is listed above, there are also:

  • 24-hour crisis providers
  • Suicide prevention programs
  • Short-term or long-term residential programs for children with behavioral health conditions
  • Vocational rehabilitation programs for adults and adolescents
  • Different levels of care for substance addiction and eating disorders
  • Referrals to 12-step programs, support groups, and alternative treatments

Life will have challenges. Some days and life experiences will be more difficult than others. But now you know there are programs and support to help you overcome these challenges. One of the benefits of working with NOAH is the integrated approach to healthcare. By working with mental health providers to address those concerns, you will improve other areas of your health as well. Additionally, a medical doctor or nurse can make a simple referral for additional services throughout NOAH. Learn more or request an appointment today.

Equity for Transgender Healthcare

By John T. Engel | Counselor, MSW, LMSW

Healthcare equality means everyone who comes to NOAH receives the same care, respect, compassion, and one-on-one focus from their providers. Some groups in our society have experienced inequality in their care, often called disparities. One of the groups at the highest risk for healthcare disparities is our transgender community.

Transgender is a term use to describe a diverse group of people whose gender identity or expression may not align with societal expectation of how they should look, act, or identify based on the gender they were assigned at birth. Cisgender is a term that professionals use to describe individuals who do identify with the gender assigned to them at birth and who follow societal expectations for how the gender should look, act, dress and interact with others. Since cisgender individuals make up most people in contemporary society, transgender and other gender non-conforming people are often targets of discrimination and harassment. This can lead to negative health outcomes.

Due to a lack of knowledge, social stigma, ignorance, and discrimination, transgender people are often ignored and underserved by health care providers.

National Coalition of STD Directors

The most pressing health concerns to the transgender community are an increased risk of HIV infection, especially among transgender women of color. In addition, transgender men experience a lower likelihood of preventative cancer screenings. Making things worse, transgender people are less likely than the general population to have health insurance, and therefore more likely to need public programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. These barriers to care are too common in the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Social stigma associated can also directly contribute to dangerous situations, particularly for people of color.  According to Human Rights Campaign Foundation, at least 85% of violence against transgender and non-conforming people were persons of color. Fortunately, many physicians recognize this and recommend consultation with a mental health professional if the client desires.

Under the Health Care Rights Law, it is illegal for most public and private insurers, providers, and medical centers to discriminate against someone because of their sex. Learn more about rights at National Center for Transgender Equality.

As a professional counselor and a cisgender man, I cannot begin to imagine or to speak from a perspective of being gender fluid or transgender, however as a member of the LGBGQ+ community I feel that healthcare is an essential right for all colors of the rainbow. Sadly, I am aware that healthcare equity for my transgender brothers and sisters has been a concern for years, and if you are a person of color this can have serious consequences.

Our NOAH team works to ensure health care equity for all, by listening, validating, and building upon NOAH’S commitment of inclusivity. If you want to talk with a NOAH counselor, request an appointment today.

Is Kindness Contagious?

By Katelyn Millinor, LPC | Behavioral Health Quality Manager

Being kind to others is known to have lasting effects on our mental and physical health. But have you heard that kindness is contagious? That’s because it is!

Being kind lights up the pleasure center of the brain and releases serotonin and oxytocin.

  • Serotonin centers our mood, happiness, and overall feelings of well-being.
  • Oxytocin, often known as the “love hormone” controls social interactions, triggers the bond between mother and infant, and so much more.

The release of the hormone oxytocin is tied to decreasing blood pressure and reducing inflammation. Therefore, kindness feels good and is actually good for you.

Catching Kindness

Have you ever had a stranger pay for your coffee or hold the door for you? Experiencing an act of kindness can bring a smile to your face and improve your mood. In today’s fast-paced world, these gestures can be even more meaningful. Kindness benefits both the giver and the receiver. 

We often attach kindness to feelings of happiness. We may think of happiness as a mood or emotion, but really we are usually just feeling neutral which can make you feel cheerful. The feeling of happiness comes and goes with things like giving or receiving kindness, giving a compliment, or getting good news.

So, how can you continue giving random acts of kindness during a global pandemic? The possibilities are endless. With technology, people can send thoughtful text messages, social media comments or posts, Zoom or FaceTime interactions, and more. Outside of technology, think about leaving your mail carrier a “Thank you” letter, sending a picture or card to a front-line worker, or simply making a nice comment while picking up your groceries. Here are a few other ways to spread kindness in your day.

Everyone has experienced some sort of increased stress during this pandemic. That’s why kindness – in big and small ways – is more important than ever. Your one random act of kindness could change someone’s day and start a chain reaction of kindness!

Children’s Mental Health & Learning During COVID: A Series

By Zach Clay, Licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy

During this unprecedented and often challenging time in the world, we need to consider the impact everything has on children. The COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly tough for children’s mental health and their ability to learn. NOAH’s Behavioral Health team shares expert insight, best practices, and resources in this series of posts to help children maintain mental health in the era of COVID-19, social distancing, and distance learning.  

Adjusting to Changes in School and Learning

School is important for children. Even with more children learning through homeschooling or virtual schools before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, most children were still attending school in-person. When schools had to close and switch to remote learning in early 2020, children and families across the county faced a major adjustment.

While education is the primary goal, the school environment also provides access to friends, teachers, routines, and so much more. All of these things are critical for children’s academic and social development. On top of that, many students rely on schools for mental health care, along with nutritious and consistent meals.

Children experienced these changes while living through the uncertainty because of COVID and things outside of their control. That is a lot to ask of our kids.

How to best support children’s learning

Regardless of whether school is virtual or in-person for your child, this school year is different. Navigating remote learning or new rules, restrictions, and cancellations of regular school activities will be something parents and children need to do. Here are a few tips:

  • Set and keep a routine. Children benefit from routines, particularly in stressful times. Routines offer people of all ages comfort and predictability, so parents and other caregivers benefit too. Setting and keeping routines help children cope and can make school time more productive. More on coping skills for children in our next post!
  • Understand that (mis)behavior is often caused by emotions. Often times, a child may misbehave or have negative reactions for basic, emotional reasons. Frustrations with remote learning, cancelled parties, or other disappointments and unmet expectations can cause these emotions and behaviors. As the parent or caregiver, make the connection first to help change the behavior.
  • Develop important life skills. Remote learning can help children learn important self-regulation skills. Virtual classrooms and independent classwork offer the chance to set new goals, be accountable and independent, and learn to adapt if needed.
  • Be engaged in their education. This is always important for parents and caregivers to do. Ask about what children are learning and what they think is interesting. Help them organize their school day if it is virtual. Guide them through big assignments, help set goals, and give them choices about how you can help.

Monitor screen time

Screens are part of our daily lives. Before the pandemic, kids may be used to screens for fun activities like watching shows, being creative, and connecting with friends. Now, screen time might also be their classroom, group activity, class project and other extracurricular activities increasing their screen time even more. Here are some tips for managing screen time:

  • Kindness and some compassion go a long way. We are living through a once-in-a-lifetime event with the COVID-19 pandemic. A little unstructured screen time may be an important break or comfort for many kids. Letting your kids know that you understand their needs is a simple way to reduce stress for everyone.
  • Screen time can be a bonus. Try using extra screen time as an incentive for good behavior. If you try this, let your child know exactly what they need to do to earn the extra time. Write down the goal together and post it in their workspace as a reminder.
  • Keep a schedule. This can be part of the routine mentioned above. It’s helpful for kids to know when they’ll be allowed to use their devices. For example, maybe they always get 30 minutes before dinner. That structure helps kids know what to expect and can limit their requests for more screen time.
  • Set the example. It is so important for parents and caregivers to lead by example. If you set down your phone or tablet during set times (during dinner, after school/work, etc.), your children will be more likely to do the same. Plus, we all need to take breaks from technology and media, and we can all benefit from less time with our devices, and more moments with our kids.

Remember, we are all living through a challenging time, and children are experiencing everything happening around them. Spend some quality time with your child, which is proven to help kids feel appreciated and loved and gives them confidence in adapting to changes. NOAH offers comprehensive behavioral health services to help parents, children, and families during COVID-19 challenges, remote learning adjustments, and everyday life.

Above all, parents should know this: Do the best that you can. Your child appreciates it, even if they don’t show it now.

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.

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.