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Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable. As a society, we are still living with a lot of stigma when

 it comes to mental health. There is not enough information out there to help us know how to start; however, we are making some great strides in mental health awareness, for example, with Canada’s annual Bell Let’s Talk Day this past Wednesday.

 

Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to support your loved one with mental health issues:

 

Realize it will take them time to understand where you are coming from.

When you approach the topic of mental illness with a loved one you know/ suspect are struggling, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might experience “anosognosia”, a symptom where one does not have self-awareness of the condition they are experiencing. Their acknowledgement of your concerns may take time. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxytf6kfPM

 

Educate yourself and others.

It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you are observing. While you may not be suffering from mental health symptoms as a primary patient, you certainly experience secondary symptoms, which are equally deserving of support and conversations with a professional.

 

Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It is important to have support if you relate to feelings of this ‘caregiver burnout’. Your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be healthy.

 

Patience is a virtue, and definitely hard to practice.

Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, but it is also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you. We want ourselves and others to stop feeling bad right now, and we want the solution to our problem to come more quickly. Remember: recovery usually takes longer than we thought it would, and it can become frustrating… but you can push through. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

In supporting a loved one with mental illness, it is important to know that healing is not a linear path. There are ups and downs and some days feel like you are taking 10 steps backwards instead of forwards.This can trigger feelings of anxiety and/ or depression. When we are not intentional in caring for our mental health, we can be more susceptible to experiencing bad mental health days. Remind your loved one of the simple self-care items they could try to get back on track.

 

Crisis plans are important.

A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access and how we can keep our loved ones safe. Here is a great template to use: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/mentalhealth/rights-legal/crisis-plan/home.html.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends. It can be a lot easier, and less painful, if we all contribute to one’s healing together.

 

To learn more about how we can support you in managing your stress and feelings of anxiety about your loved one, please contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Please see our previous blog post for some more tips on how to talk about mental health.

How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays

Grief during the holidays is a common reason people come in for therapy in December.

Because of your grief, this holiday might prove to be a very difficult experience. It is important to focus on believing that you will come through stronger than before. If you need to scale back on some festivities, that is okay. People will understand, and if they don’t, it’s ok – you are doing what you know you need for yourself.

These strategies can help you get through the holidays while grieving your loved one:

  1. Trust that Grief is Part of Healing

Experiencing the pain, rather than constantly trying to escape it, can actually help you feel better in the long-term. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the sadness of getting through it without your loved one.

 

  1. Set Healthy Boundaries

You do not have to do it all. Be willing to say no to certain traditions, but also try to engage in others. People will encourage you to participate, but you do not have to do it for them. Do what makes you happy.

 

  1. Focus on What You Can Control

There are some things that are out of our control, such as Christmas songs that surround public places in December. Things that you can control are the number of decorations you put up, where you shop for presents (online may be less overwhelming), and when you spend time with others. Be mindful that others will want to celebrate and enjoy this time of year.

 

  1. Plan Ahead

Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays with some tips here: “6 tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Stress” and “Holiday Social Anxiety: 6 Common Causes and How to Cope”.

 

  1. Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions

It’s healthy to cry, and let yourself express sadness, rather than hold it in. You do not need to be ashamed of this emotion, and those close to you will help support you. If you notice glimmers of happiness, let yourself enjoy those positive feelings. It is common to feel guilty for feeling happiness during a sad time, when really, those you are remembering would want you to be happy. You deserve to be.

 

  1. Find happiness in memories

Create a special way to remember the person you have lost. Whether you decide to watch their favourite movie or make their favourite food, this can be a helpful tip that, even though your loved one is gone, you can keep happy memories of them around you.

 

  1. Adapt, or create, new traditions

Some holiday traditions can sometimes serve as painful reminders of your loss. It is perfectly okay to create new traditions this year, too. You can also modify old traditions to adapt better to this new stage of your life.

 

  1. Acts of kindness

Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness, such as donating your time or gifts to those in need, can be really beneficial for the grieving soul.

 

  1. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with getting through the holidays. You might want to reach out for support, or therapy.

 

If you have any questions or would like help with working to reduce depression and anxiety during the holiday season, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

Holiday Social Anxiety: 6 Common Causes and How to Cope

  1. Staying with friends or relatives (unfamiliar surroundings)…

If you are going to be staying with friends or relatives in unfamiliar surroundings, ensure you have your regular comfort items and some coping strategies on hand. These might include: your usual snacks, a good book, a friend to call, or an ‘excuse’ to remove yourself from any uncomfortable situations.

 

  1. Spending time with your significant others’ friends and/or family…

If you are with your significant other and worried about spending more time with someone on their side, let them know what might make you feel more comfortable. This might include a pre-established signal to help you both step away from the group at times.

 

  1. You feel like you’re bad at small talk and don’t know what to say…

Ask yourself if it’s really true that you have nothing to talk about. You probably have at least one or two interests or experiences you can talk about, but you may be dismissing them as silly or uninteresting. If this is the case, you’re likely being too self-critical. Or, if talking about yourself makes you nervous, focus instead on learning three new things about the person you’re talking to.

 

  1. Being questioned…

This is often uncomfortable at family and friend gatherings when you haven’t seen them in a while. Rather than focusing on being put on the spot, remember that they miss you and are genuinely interested in hearing about what’s going on in your life.

 

  1. Coping with loneliness…

Spending too much time on your own can make you feel anxious, lonely and depressed. Part of why the holidays feel more lonely is high societal expectations for this time of year. Not having a romantic partner or close family can feel more uncomfortable than usual. Try re-thinking your expectations, and shift your focus to the things that you do have (and are grateful for) in your life. Bring a friend as your plus one, or that the sometimes sporadic love of a difficult family member still counts as love, has helped many people feel less lonely.

 

  1. Coping with large numbers of people…

You might worry that other people are watching you, judging your appearance, or judging what you are doing. Shopping malls are especially packed this time of year and can cause a great deal of stress. If these thoughts resonate with you, remember that most people are there with their own worries/ shopping lists, and likely are too preoccupied to be worrying about what you are. If malls generally overwhelm you, go in with a specific list and make a plan according to the mall map ahead of time.

 

Do you want to conquer your social anxiety and be more comfortable around new people? If you spend time thinking about what other people think, that’s when people notice. So, have fun, and do what feels right to you.

If you’re constantly worried about others judging you and it’s getting in the way of your work, life or relationships, you might consider seeking help. There’s no quick-fix for social anxiety therapy involving Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you overcome your social anxiety over time.

How to Beat the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. To understand more about SAD, refer back to our previous article here.

 

There are a variety of options available to help you combat the symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder. You might find it helpful to try one or more of the following:

 

Light Therapy/ phototherapy

This is one of the first and most popular treatments for SAD. During light therapy, you sit a few feet from a special light box which mimics natural outdoor light. Over time, studies have shown that this treatment appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. It has been said that it generally starts working in a few days to a few weeks with minimal side effects. It is highly recommended to speak to a medical professional before purchasing a light box in order to determine what the best option for you might be.

 

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is another option to treat SAD. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT) can help to work through negative thought patterns that may be making you feel worse. A psychotherapist can also help you find healthy ways to cope, to reduce avoidance behaviour, and to manage stress.

 

Medications

If symptoms are severe, some people with SAD benefit from antidepressant treatment. It is recommended that you speak to your doctor or psychiatrist about some options that would suit your needs, and to revisit this discussion pre-season each subsequent year. Your medical professional may or may not recommend you continue taking this medication past fall/winter. It will likely take several weeks for the medication to take effect, and for you to notice the full benefits. Should you decide it is not for you, or that you are feeling better at the end of the season, it is important to wean off the medication properly to minimize side effects.

 

Other Lifestyle Recommendations:

  • Relaxation techniques: yoga and/or meditation
  • Increase sun and light exposure: open window coverings; sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office
  • Spend more time outdoors during the day
  • Regular exercise: to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood
  • Healthy diet: to increase good nutrients and blood flow to the brain, and reduce junk foods that cause lethargy
  • Good sleep habits
  • Stay connected and social with your support network
  • Take Vitamin D due to less exposure to sunlight during these seasons

 

These recommendations have all been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression. If you have any questions or would like help with working to reduce symptoms of depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. More specifically, entering the cold fall and/or winter seasons for us Canadians can be challenging. Long term changes in the weather, like harsh winters, can affect our sense of well-being. If you find yourself feeling very different dependent on the season, you may be experiencing symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or depression.

 

What we recognize:

  • It is colder and darker out
  • You have less energy
  • You feel like ‘hibernating’, since it is harder to go outside
  • Social withdrawal: it is harder to make plans, or stick to them
  • You feel like sleeping all the time, or you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
  • You are tired all the time
  • Your appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugar and carbohydrate rich foods
  • You feel hopeless
  • You feel more irritable
  • You feel sad, guilty, and down on yourself

 

What is really happening:

  • Our biological clocks, or circadian rhythms are thrown off. Due to reduced levels of sunlight, our bodies feel a disruption to our internal clocks.
  • Our serotonin levels can drop, which creates a decline in positive moods, or happiness. The reduced sunlight this time of year can cause less serotonin production in our bodies. This can trigger depression, or depressive periods.
  • Our melatonin levels can become imbalanced time of year. As a result, our sleep patterns and mood change, making both unpredictable and more challenging to regulate.

 

You do not have to struggle with these symptoms. Break the cycle with tips from our upcoming article: How to Beat the Winter Blues.

To learn more about depression counselling and how to reduce symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), visit https://etobicokepsychotherapy.com/depression-counselling-etobicoke/, call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com