Tag Archives: wellness

Holidays and Your Health

The holidays are upon us. For many people, this joyous time of year can also be very stressful. According to an online poll by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly three-quarters of people reported that the holiday season makes them feel very or a bit more anxious and/or depressed.

The following are a few tips* on how to manage some of the stresses that are often associated with the holidays.

  • Set reasonable expectations and don’t expect the holiday season to be perfect.
  • Practice healthy drinking habits. Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate feelings of stress and sadness. Too much alcohol can also interfere with healthy sleep and interrupt natural sleep cycles.
  • Keep up your exercise regimen, as it will provide effective stress relief and productive alone time. A short daily walk can have a big impact.
  • Set spending limits and stick to them. Over-spending during the holidays can lead to continued stress down the road.
  • Treat your body well with balanced nutrition but don’t feel guilty when indulging during the holidays. Moderation is key and is a far healthier response to holiday treats than starvation.
  • Create a space and time for yourself during family gatherings. Take a walk outside, find a quiet corner in the house, or make a quick trip to the store to gather your thoughts and relax.
  • Plan any shopping and cooking in advance. Setting a schedule and making priorities will prevent too much from piling up at the last minute.
  • Talk to someone. Seek support and affirmation of how your expectations for the season don’t always match with reality. A good listener and a little laugh can be great stress relievers.

Sometimes “holiday blues” are more than just passing emotions and can be something more serious like depression, anxiety, or a related disorder. If you have prolonged anxiety, sadness, or a mood that interferes with sleeping, eating or other usual activities, you may want to talk with a health professional.

*From Screening for Mental Health, Inc., “Help Your Community Deal With Holiday Stress”

Transitioning to College Life

With summer coming to a close, many young adults will be transitioning to college life for the first time. For most incoming students, the transition can be challenging. For students with mental health conditions, getting familiar with the mental health services and supports that their college or university offers can help with this transition.

The following services/supports are available at most colleges and universities and will vary in the type of services offered at each campus.

Academic Advising Centers – If you have non-emergency questions or concerns regarding your condition and would like to know who to talk with, your academic advisor may be a good person to contact first. They are aware of the different programs that may be offered on campus and can refer you to the appropriate resources and services.

Counseling Centers / Health Centers – Many campuses offer individual counseling, group counseling, and crisis services. The types of services offered will vary based upon available programs and staff capabilities. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, a referral to an outside agency may be necessary.

Disability Services – Provide reasonable accommodations for students that have a documented disability due to their mental health condition. These accommodations may include adjustments to programs, coursework, and policies.

Student Groups – These groups are primarily directed by students to create awareness for the student body and develop partnerships with key staff/programs. One such national program is “Active Minds.” This organization develops and supports student-run chapters on colleges and university campuses (including several chapters at Minnesota colleges and universities) that promote a dialogue around issues of mental health.

General Information on Mental Health – Most campuses will have a variety of information about mental health. Health services, counseling centers, and other areas in the college will often have information and resources on mental heath conditions (depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, etc.). Also, many colleges host health and wellness fairs and other events that highlight mental health issues.

Other resources:

ULifeline is an anonymous, confidential, online resource center, where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need and want regarding emotional health.
http://www.ulifeline.org

Mental Health America provides some helpful information on mental health for returning students and for students that are attending for the first time.
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/back-campus

 

(Editor’s note: Republished article with updated information)

Meditation for mental health

Many people believe that the goal of meditation is to sit still and stop thinking. In fact, trying to turn off thinking is not only pointless, but also very frustrating for beginning meditators, and can ultimately counteract the positive effects of a meditation practice. The human mind thinks, just as the ears hear and the nose smells. Allowing this process to unfold without judgment can help cultivate more calm and emotional resiliency on and off the meditation cushion.

New studies are continuously being published about the health benefits of meditation and its effectiveness in treating anxiety and depression. In a January Forbes article, contributor Alice G. Walton points out that meditation can be just as effective as medication in treating certain cases of depression. “On a purely biological level, MRI studies have shown that meditation is linked to a reduction in activity in the amygdala, the brain area that governs the stress response, and to reduced activity in the default mode network, the brain network that’s “on” when your mind is wandering from thought to thought, which is often linked to feelings of unhappiness and stress.”

Of course, no one should ever stop taking medication without consulting their doctor, but the beauty of meditation is that it has no side effects and can be used along with medication, therapy, and other treatments that are already in place. It isn’t necessary to meditate for hours at a time to feel the calming benefits of the practice either. In fact, meditating for 10 minutes first thing in the morning, on your lunch break, or before you fall asleep at night should feel good immediately. You can even practice walking meditation on your way from the car to the grocery store. Meditation can easily be incorporated into a busy life and the practice can always be lengthened and deepened over time.

Try this simple meditation practice for 10 minutes. Set a timer and find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be distracted or interrupted.

Sit comfortably while keeping your spine erect. You may want to sit up on a few pillows on the floor or on the edge of a chair with your feet touching the ground, but you can even meditate lying down if sitting doesn’t feel comfortable to you.

Take three deep breaths in and out of your nose focusing your attention on the air entering your body and filling up your lungs, and then slowly leaving your body. Pay so much attention to the breath that you can sense the difference in temperature of the in and out breaths.

Now place your palms, face up or down on your thighs and continue to breathe naturally. Try not to control the breath, but simply notice the breath as it enters and leaves your body. If your mind begins to wander (and it most likely will) simply return your attention to the breath as soon as you notice. Remember: thinking is normal. The key here is to notice thoughts when they happen and then gently steer your attention back to the breath.

Once this practice starts to feel comfortable, you can increase your sitting time by a few minutes each day, each week, or each month. Start slowly and be gentle with yourself.

These local meditation centers offer support, community, and education:

Common Ground Meditation Center
2700 East 26th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55406
(612)-722-8260

Common Ground Meditation Center

Minnesota Zen Meditation Center
3343 East Calhoun Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612-822-5313
http://www.mnzencenter.org/

Mind Roads Meditation Center
2046 St. Clair Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105
Telephone: 651-225-1443
http://mindroads.com/

The Metamorphosis Center
1301 East Cliff Road, Suite 105
Burnsville, MN 55337
(612) 730-2250
http://www.themetamorphosiscenter.net/

Yoga for Anxiety and Depression

by MHAM Volunteer Stefanie Motta

As anyone who has experienced anxiety or depression knows, support from friends, family, a therapist, or an advocate is crucial. Yet, learning skills to support ourselves through difficult times can empower us to heal throughout an entire lifetime. One of the most effective self-care practices that I have found is yoga. This ancient Indian practice has been embraced around the globe as a system for achieving physical, mental, and emotional health, and research is now showing that regular yogic practice can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.

After healing from her own depression using yoga and meditation techniques, yoga teacher and author Amy Weintraub, has dedicated her career to helping others feel better. In an interview for the May 2013 issue of Yoga Journal, Weintraub explains why yoga can be an effective component of any mental health treatment plan, “It lowers cortisol, the stress hormone; it activates the parasympathetic system, which is calming; and it deactivates the limbic brain, which is overactive in people who are very anxious or have a history of trauma.”

One of the most noticeable effects of my yoga practice is the sense of calm and peace that come from deep breathing along with the physical postures. When we are stressed, anxious, or depressed, our breathing often becomes shallow and constricted, which can trigger more stress in turn. In addition to the regular deep breathing of a yoga practice, there are many additional yogic breathing techniques that can help us relax when we feel triggered by a stressor or a depressing thought.

“Bee breath” which is named after the buzzing sound that bees make, is one of my favorite yogic breathing techniques. It is instantly calming, and you can try it any time you feel anxious or your mind is spinning. Because of the sound you’ll make, you may want to find a quiet, private place to practice this technique. Sit, or stand comfortably and take a slow, deep breath in and out, allowing your shoulders to relax away from your ears. Now with your eyes closed (if that feels comfortable) take another deep breath in through your nostrils, seal your lips, and breathe out through your nose while making the sound of the letter M until you need to inhale once more. You will make a buzzing sound in the back of your throat each time you exhale through your nose. Repeat this for a few minutes or as long as it feels good.

According to Weinbrub, “The message of yoga is that deep within you, you are whole and healed, no matter what is going on in your life.” Tapping into that mindset and empowering ourselves with tools like yoga can help each of us to find healing on our own path.

Give to the Max on November 14!

The Great Minnesota Give Together is a week away! On Thursday, November 14, MHAM will participate in its fifth Give to the Max Day through GiveMN.org. And, we are pleased to announce that the MHAM Board of Directors has offered a very generous matching grant to help MHAM reach its year-end fundraising goal of $25,000. The Board will match all donations made to MHAM from November 1 through the end of the year up to $10,000. Give to the Max Day also provides many other opportunities for MHAM to raise additional funds.

Each year generous supporters like you join us for the exciting 24-hour annual Give to the Max Day. Every gift made on November 14 increases our chances of winning at least one $1,000 Golden Ticket! By partnering with GiveMN, an online giving website for Minnesota nonprofits, MHAM will have 25 chances to be selected for a $1,000 Golden Ticket.  Here’s the really exciting part: At the end of Give to the Max Day, one donation from across Minnesota will be randomly selected for a $10,000 Super-sized Golden Ticket! What’s more, if we reach the top of our leaderboard, we are also eligible for a $10,000 grant.

In addition to Golden Tickets and Leaderboard awards, GiveMN is also introducing Power Hours. During five different hours, agencies that reach the top of their leaderboard at the end of the hour will receive an additional $1,000 donation. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, there are times you may want to consider donating. Power Hours are:

  • 2:00 – 2:59 a.m.
  • 5:00 – 5:59 a.m.
  • 5:00 – 5:59 p.m.
  • 6:00 – 6:59 p.m.
  • 11:00 – 11:59 p.m.

Participating is easy. On Thursday, November 14, go to the Mental Health Association of Minnesota page on www.GiveMN.org. From our donation page you can enter the amount of your donation. Follow the prompts to complete the transaction. You can also schedule your donation early if you don’t want to worry about it on the 14th. Just visit the MHAM page on GiveMN.org, enter the amount of your donation in the space provided, and then check “Make my donation count for Give to the Max Day 2013 (11/14/2013).”

Funds raised through Give to the Max Day will be used to support MHAM’s mental health advocacy and outreach programs. MHAM improves the lives of thousands of people each year by making sure they have access to mental health services and that the community has the correct information about mental illnesses. As a result, people across the state are better able to manage their overall health, remain independent, and lead a more engaged life.

Thank you for your support!

Integrated Healthcare Works

In Minnesota, individuals with serious mental illnesses lose 24 years of life expectancy compared to those without these disorders. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and obesity contribute to this early mortality. However, many of these health risks can be prevented or managed by early detection, treatment, and healthy lifestyle changes. An integrated healthcare approach can effectively address these issues and improve the health outcomes for people with mental illnesses.

The following infographic from SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions explores the problem and illustrates the impact on communities and individuals. Click on the image below to see the full infographic.

 

SAMHSA Inforgraphic

A Few Changes Can Have a Big Impact.

Incorporating healthy lifestyle changes into our daily lives can be challenge, but the long-term benefits it has toward our health and wellbeing can make a big difference. Even simple changes like reducing the amount of time we sit or reducing the amount of salt we eat can have a significant impact on our health. MHAM’s Take Charge booklet provides a few ideas on how to improve your overall health by eating healthy, getting active, managing your stress, and getting a good night’s sleep. Along with these tips, the booklet provides some ideas on how to set a few goals and to track your progress.

Take_Charge-1

The Take Charge booklet can be downloaded from the MHAM website or ordered online. If you are a service provider and looking for multiple copies, please contact Brett Dumke, Education Coordinator, at brettd@mentalhealthmn.org or 651-756-8584, ext. 6.

Study Finds that Lifestyle Changes Can Lead to Weight Loss for People with SMI

For people with serious mental illness (SMI) the risk for being overweight or obese is significant. Four out of five people with SMI are overweight or obese in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being overweight or obese can increase your risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, hypertension, dyslipidemia, stroke, and other health conditions. A recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that tailored lifestyle programs for people with serious mental health conditions can be effective in achieving healthy weight loss.  

The study consisted of 291 participants from 10 outpatient psychiatric rehabilitation programs that were randomly assigned to an intervention group or control group. The study found that the intervention group that received regular weekly group exercise classes and individual/group weight management classes had significant weight loss compared to the control group that had basic information on nutrition and exercise at the beginning of the study.

After 18 months the participants in the intervention group:

  • on average, lost 7 pounds more than the control group.
  • 38% lost 5% or more of their initial weight, as compared to 23% for the control group.
  •  nearly 1 in 5 participants lost 10% or more of their initial weight, as compared to 1 in 14 participants in the control group.

The study also found that the participants from the intervention group who were taking certain psychotropic medications known to cause weight gain still had significant weight loss as well. This study shows that when effective resources are provided, people with SMI can implement healthy lifestyle changes with good results, despite the many challenges that they face.

For more information on this study, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health website:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2013/nih-study-shows-people-with-serious-mental-illnesses-can-lose-weight.shtml

Also, please check out our wellness and recovery resources.

Get Out and Be Active!

With nearly two weeks of spring behind us, the hope of warm weather and getting outside to soak up some sunshine will eventually come. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have so many city, county, and state parks that offer a variety of recreational activities, such as biking, hiking, walking and swimming, just to name a few. Not only do many of these activities can impact your overall health, but can also provide a place to connect with friends, family, and people from your community. Below are just a few resources to help plan a visit to your local or state parks.

Listings of Minnesota state parks
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks

Listings of Minnesota county websites
http://mn.gov/portal/government/local/Counties

Also, check out our Take Charge booklet for more ideas to improve your health and wellbeing, tips on setting some wellness goals, and to track your progress.

Connecting With Your Peers

Recovery is a journey and often involves several components. One essential component is support from others. Support from family and friends and can play an integral role. Connecting with others that are experiencing a similar health condition can be important too. Support groups can provide a positive environment to share these experiences. Support groups are not group therapy or a substitute for medical treatment, but a place where people can connect with others and to find mutual support.

The Minnesota Chapter of the Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) – a program of MHAM since 2004 – has provided a platform for people to share experiences, personal feelings, information, and strategies for living successfully with mood disorders. DBSA support groups can:

> give you the opportunity to reach out to others and benefit from the experience of those who have been there.
> motivate you to follow your treatment plan.
> help you understand that a mood disorder does not define who you are.
> help you rediscover strengths and humor you may have thought you had lost.
> provide a forum for mutual acceptance, understanding, and self-discovery.

DBSA support groups are free and open to individuals who have depression or bipolar disorder, or for their loved ones. Meetings are facilitated by trained volunteers and meet at several locations within the Twin Cities area and parts of Greater Minnesota.

Check the current listing of DBSA meeting locations and times on the MHAM website. At some meetings, there are specific support groups for depression, bipolar disorder, and family issues. Please contact the facilitator directly for more information. If there is not a meeting location in your area or you are looking to attend a different type of support group, please check our listing of other sponsored support groups on our website. If you are interested in starting and facilitating a DBSA group in your area, please contact Tom Johnson at tomj@mentalhealthmn.org or 651-493-6634 / 800-862-1799.

For general information about DBSA support groups, please visit the DBSA website. Also, check out DBSA on the Not Alone radio program, airing on KKMS-AM (990), August 4 at 1pm and August 5 at 11:30 am. DBSA leadership will be talking about peer support through DBSA.