Stress Management Techniques for People of Color Dealing with Microaggressions

Stress Management Techniques for People of Color Dealing with Microaggressions

Most human beings don’t get through life without dealing with their fair share of stress. But some people seem to deal with more stress than others. For instance, according to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), both low-income populations and racial minorities have a greater risk of developing mental and physical health issues as a result of stress. The APA report focused on the need for raising public awareness regarding the stress-inducing implications of persistent exposure to subtle biases and microaggressions.

In the meantime, what can these populations do to manage their stress so they experience better health outcomes? Here are some proven stress management techniques to cope with whatever life throws at you:

Reframe

Reframing is an exercise that allows us to see the whole picture. Often times, when we experience a negative situation, we become emotionally wrapped up in the negative. But life is complex, and often there is good to be seen along with the bad. The good may be how we handled a situation or how our friends and family gave us support and strength. When we reframe, we step away from our emotions to look at the situation fully and honestly.

Relax

Stress causes tension in the body, and this tension can result in chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn healthy ways to bring about relaxation. You might try tools such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and biofeedback for managing your stress.

Practice Mindfulness

Over two decades of research on mindfulness shows that it is highly effective in managing stress. Mindfulness meditation involves fully focusing your awareness on the present moment. Through this practice, you accept your thoughts and feelings without judging them. There are a variety of online resources to help you get started.

Move Your Body

When we are stressed, our body experiences the “fight or flight response.” This entails a number of stress hormones to be released into our bloodstream. These hormones make our hearts beat faster and direct blood flow away from our brains and core into our arms and legs so we can remove ourselves from the perceived danger.

But for many of us, the danger is not physical but mental and emotional. And so we don’t burn through these hormones and they linger in our bodies causing damage. For instance, one of the hormones released is cortisol, which if levels are left unchecked, can cause high blood pressure and damage to the brain.

Exercise is one of the best ways to burn through these “fight or flight” chemicals. In addition, exercise helps with the production of feel-good endorphins.

These are just some of the ways you can better manage the stress in your life so it doesn’t negatively impact your health. If at the end of the day, you need more help, I encourage you to reach out to a mental health therapist who can provide you with even more stress management tools.

 

SOURCES:

Telehealth for Support Group Therapy

Many of us continue to try and make sense of this new world we live in – one in which the novel coronavirus dictates much of our daily routine. Some states are still mandating social distancing and wearing of masks. And many people are still out of work or working remotely for the unforeseeable future.

This quarantine has certainly made life more difficult in many ways. One of those ways is making it difficult for some people to continue to get the mental therapy they need. Luckily, more and more therapists are offering their services through telehealth (telemedicine).

This means you can still receive your one-on-one or group therapy support via online therapy sessions.

Is Online Therapy as Effective?

Many people who are used to face-to-face therapy may be wondering if telehealth or online therapy is an effective form of therapy. Very much so. Both face-to-face and telehealth therapy operate from the same guiding principle, so you can be sure you will receive the same level of service through the internet as you would face-to-face.

There are actually many pros to online therapy. So much so that when this pandemic is behind us, we are apt to see many people continue to receive care via digital channels.

Online therapy is incredibly convenient. You can get the help you need from the comfort of your own home. This means you don’t have to spend money on gas or deal with traffic to get to your support group.

There is also a heightened sense of privacy when choosing to receive mental health services online. You don’t have to worry about someone seeing you walk into a therapist’s office.

And finally, you may find that since you and your therapist are meeting online, you can do so at times that are more convenient for you. This means nights and weekends may become available should your support group decide to go the online route.

You will want to be sure to check with your insurance provider to see if they cover telehealth services. Many do, and more are hopping on the telehealth bandwagon, but there are still some companies that may not, so ask first.

If you are looking for telehealth support group therapy, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

How Focusing on Your Faith Can Help with Depression & Anxiety

It has long been believed that having faith is key to getting through some of life’s greatest challenges. A spiritual practice can often give people the strength and confidence to push through obstacles and make positive changes.

But can faith have a positive effect on depression and anxiety? According to new research, it can.

Your Brain on Spirituality

According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, meditation or any other form of regular spiritual practice (such as prayer or religious contemplation) has been linked to a thickening of the brain cortex. The study, which was the first to investigate whether there is any physical evidence in the brain linked to the protective effects of faith against depression, looked at 103 adults at either high or low risk of depression, based on family history.

At the end of the study, magnetic resonance was used to view participants’ brains, and the images clearly showed thicker cortices in those participants who placed a high importance on religion or spirituality than those who did not.

But even more significant was the fact that the thicker cortex was found in exactly the same regions of the brain that had shown thinning in people with a high risk for depression.

3 Ways Faith Can Help You Fight Depression and Anxiety

Every individual requires unique treatment methods to combat their symptoms of depression. While cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription medications work well for many people, many others may be helped by embracing a spiritual practice.

If you are suffering with depression, here are three reasons why you may want to focus more on your faith:

1. Faith Offers Hope

A belief in a loving power greater than ourselves can help us feel hopeful, even in our darkest hours. Faith turns wishful thinking into great expectations. And when we start to expect goodness in our lives, we naturally feel hopeful for our future.

2. Your Behaviors Evolve

Whether it’s through praying, meditating, or attending some sort of spiritual service or gathering, faith-filled people tend to experience positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Where once you may have had a knee-jerk emotional reaction to a situation, you might now be able to center yourself instead and face situations with calmness and clarity.

3. Your Perception Changes

Faith has a way of helping us see ourselves and our lives differently. Problems turn into opportunities, enemies into friends, and impossibilities into possibilities.

 

While it may take some time before you feel relief from your depression or anxiety, by embracing faith, you will be better able to cope with the symptoms.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression or anxiety and would also like to explore treatment options, please reach out. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-the-questions/201603/4-powerful-ways-spirituality-can-ease-anxiety-and-depression

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/07/31/for-many-with-severe-mental-illness-spirituality-plays-role-in-well-being/137462.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2014/01/19/how-spirituality-protects-the-brain-against-depression/64698.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/1792140

Using Adaptogens for Stress/Sleep

If you’re like most people, you deal with your fair share of stress. And often, this stress leads to an inability to get the quality of sleep necessary for optimal health and well-being.

Often, people turn to harmful substances to deal with stress. Whether it’s drinking too much or eating processed “comfort” foods, these unhealthy stress beaters tend to make matters far worse.

It’s a much better idea to use a natural substance with a long history of helping balance the body and mind.

Enter: adaptogens.

What Are Adaptogens and How Do They Work?

You most likely use certain plants and herbs in your life already for their benefits. Green tea for antioxidants, ginseng for memory, and ginger for its natural pain relief.

Well, adaptogens are herbs that can help you deal with the effects of stress. But they do so in a very unique and powerful way. These first work to reduce your body’s stress response and then they support your overall health by helping your body achieve balance and harmony, otherwise known as homeostasis.

The long and short of it is, adaptogens can make you feel less anxious, stressed, and depressed. They have even been known to completely turn a situation around and make the person feel energetic, motivated, and optimistic.

Some of the most widely used adaptogens are:

  • Rhodiola rosea
  • Bacopa monnieri
  • Schisandra
  • Ashwagandha

Adaptogens for Weight Loss and Insomnia

When our bodies react to stress, we are thrown into a “fight or flight” response. Certain hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are produced and pumped out into the bloodstream to help our bodies deal with the danger in our environment. Our heart rates and breathing increase and our blood flow is directed away from our brain and digestion and toward our arms and legs.

This is great for fighting an attacker or running like heck from a hungry bear, but it’s not great for our overall health. Over time, cortisol can help us pack on the weight, especially around our middle. And adrenaline can make it hard for us to relax enough at night to get a good night’s sleep.

So when adaptogens help our body deal with stress, they also help our body deal with the negative effects of the stress response. This means improved sleep, the potential to lose weight around your middle, and better overall health.

As with any supplement, it’s best to speak with your doctor before adding something new to your regimen. This is especially true if you are currently taking medications. Having said this, many doctors do not support the use of non-prescriptive supplements to treat mental health conditions and other diseases.

You may want to find a nutritionist who can help you determine which adaptogen is right for you and what dosage to try.

 

SOURCES:

Does Therapy for “Baby Blues” Work?

Having a baby is one of the most amazing and awesome events in a person’s life. Babies bring joy and laughter into the house. But the reality is, they also bring sleepless nights and inevitable and irreversible change.

Having a baby also brings changes to a woman’s body. During pregnancy and right after, a woman will experience shifts in her hormones. This may cause her to feel some depression and anxiety. This is a perfectly natural response to the event and is called having the “baby blues.”

But how do you tell if what you are experiencing is the “baby blues” or postpartum depression (PPD)?

As I mentioned, the baby blues is a very normal reaction. While the symptoms of anxiety and depression don’t feel good, they are mild and typically only last about two weeks.

Should symptoms worsen or last longer than two weeks, a new mother is considered to have PPD and encouraged to seek care and guidance from a mental health professional.

Can new fathers experience “baby blues?”

You may be surprised to learn that rates of depression among new fathers are very similar to those among new mothers. While male depression and anxiety are not a result of fluctuating hormones, their experience is very real.

How New Parents Can Get Relief from “Baby Blues”

One of the best ways new parents can cope with the initial baby blues is to find support from friends and family. This is particularly true when the couple has had their first child. This support will ensure both mom and dad can get some much-needed rest in those first few weeks. After this time, they will have gotten their “sea legs” and feel a bit more confident with their parenting instincts.

It’s also important that both parents try and eat right during this time. Try not to rely solely on fast food and other processed food items that may give you a quick burst of “fake” energy, only to have your energy and mood crash later. And it’s important to also take a bit of exercise. This will keep your body feeling good and help the release of natural “feel-good” endorphins.

And finally, it may help to speak with a therapist. He or she can help you navigate your strong emotions and offer strategies to cope with being new parents.

If you or someone you know is a new parent and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may help.

 

SOURCES:

The Benefits of Online Therapy

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in innumerable ways. But, as stressful as this lockdown has been for most of us, we have learned much about ourselves as individuals and as a nation.

Another silver lining that has emerged from this crisis is a new awareness and embracing of treatment tools that have been available for some time. Telehealth (or telemedicine) and online therapy have been around for decades but are now experiencing a surge in popularity because of the mandatory quarantine.

Once life gets back to normal, will these virtual tools fall by the wayside? It’s doubtful because they simply offer too many benefits to patients and providers.

Here are some benefits of online therapy and why you may want to start making the switch:

Better Access to Care

In some rural areas of the country, it’s not easy to find qualified mental health therapists. Online therapy would provide access to care to anyone that needs it, regardless of where they live.

Better Integration

Online therapy would allow for the integration of behavioral health care and primary care. This will ultimately lead to better outcomes for the patient.

Privacy

Despite the progress we’ve made over the last couple of decades, there is still a stigma attached to mental health treatments. This stops many people from seeking the help they need. Online therapy means an individual can receive help from the comfort of their home without anyone knowing.

Convenience

How often do patients cancel appointments or show up late because of other family and/or work responsibilities or traffic jams? Access to online therapy would reduce many of these scenarios.

Safety

We are currently seeing a situation where it isn’t safe to be around other people. And yet, should a person lose access to mental health care because of illness and disease? Certainly not.

What about unsafe weather? In many parts of the country, there are snowstorms, icy roads, and hurricanes that make it impossible to travel safely.

Online therapy allows people to receive the help they need, regardless of any unsafe conditions.

Access for Disabled Populations

Oftentimes the people who need therapy the most are the very people who find it difficult to leave their homes or navigate the outside world. Online therapy allows bedridden patients and those with debilitating chronic illnesses access to the help they need.

I offer online therapy to patients because I want to help as many people as I can as safely as I can. If you’d like to explore this style of treatment, please get in touch with me.

 

SOURCES:

Why People Misunderstand Anxiety

Did you ever play the game called “telephone” growing up? One kid whispered a secret message into the ear of the kid next to him. That kid then whispered the “same” message into the ear of the kid next to her. On and on each kid would whisper the message around the circle until you came to the last kid, who would then announce the secret message aloud.

Often the final message sounded nothing like the original message. That’s because every person has their own way of hearing and sharing information. Sometimes it’s accurate – sometimes it’s not.

In this way, you could say that language is a necessary evil. Without it we would not be able to share ideas and information with each other. But when each person has their own language filters, information can become skewed.

Personal information and language filters can make discussing and understanding anxiety disorders difficult. While we all experience anxious moments from time to time, 18% of adults in the United States are actually affected by a form of anxiety disorder.

But how many times have you heard a friend or a coworker say something like, “I was totally having a panic attack yesterday when you didn’t show up!” They weren’t actually having a panic attack, they were merely concerned you were late.

When everyone assumes they have an issue with anxiety, they believe they have first-hand experience of the disorder and therefor know what it is. But using certain language that may or may not be accurate to convey a common feeling (ie – being nervous before a job interview) is not the same thing as truly knowing something.

Panic Disorder VS Social Anxiety

There are two main types of anxiety disorder and for this discussion, it’s important to make the distinction between each.

Panic Disorder

People who have been diagnosed with and suffer from panic disorder believe very strongly that the “panic attacks” they experience mean something is physically very wrong with them. For instance, many sufferers believe they are having a heart attack. Some may believe the dizziness and shortness of breath is a result of some serious and undiagnosed illness such as a brain tumor.

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)

People with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety when faced with social situations. They do not believe their anxiety is related to an illness or disease, yet have little control over their fear of social interactions. Their anxiety becomes debilitating when the person feels they may be singled out, embarrassed or ridiculed.

People who suffer from social anxiety disorder will do anything to alleviate their fear. This means decreasing the amount of social interactions they have on a daily basis as much as possible. This disorder negatively impacts the person’s ability to emotionally connect with others, and holds them back in their career and academic life.

Because of language discrepancies, those who don’t have an anxiety disorder sometimes believe they do, while those that do may assume they don’t.

The main point to get across here is this:

It is normal to feel anxious, fearful and worried from time to time. But feeling anxiety on a daily basis, to the point where you are concerned for your physical health or are compromising your career and personal relationships is not normal.

Anxiety Disorders Are Treatable

No one should have to live with a debilitating anxiety disorder. The good news is, anxiety disorders are treatable. A therapist can help to uncover the root cause of the fear and provide tools and strategies to cope.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

4 Healthy Ways to Distract Yourself from Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural dialogue between our mind and body. It’s a red flag that something might be going on in our surroundings that requires our attention.

For most of us, anxiety is an uncomfortable but fleeting feeling that pops up on occasion during particularly stressful times. For some, anxiety may be more present and color more of their daily life. And for still others, anxiety is a constant torture; a nightmare they can’t awaken from.

Depending on your level of anxiety, there are some healthy coping strategies you can use to manage it. Here are 4 I recommend:

Mind Your Mind

How often are you aware of your own thoughts? Our thoughts tend to bubble up from our subconscious without much control from our conscious mind. For those experiencing anxiety, many of these thoughts will be negative and frightening, although the majority will not be based in reality.

Start to pay attention to the thoughts behind the feelings. Instead of thinking the worst will happen, challenge the thought. What is the realistic likelihood the worst will happen on a scale of 1 – 10?

The more you do this, the more you will retrain your mind to process life differently.

Remind Yourself What Anxiety Is

Beyond frightful emotions, anxiety often comes with physical sensations like tightness in the chest, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. In other words, it can feel like you are dying.

But you’re not.

You are having a physical response to an irrational fear or thought. Remind yourself of that ancient dialogue your mind and body are having and know that, in reality, you are okay.

Learn Your Triggers

Once you learn to pay attention to your thoughts and remain calm knowing you are having a natural reaction to what you perceive as a threat, find the threat. Observe your surroundings to find the potential trigger that activated your reaction. If there are other people in the room, notice their reaction to your trigger. Do they seem uneasy or concerned in the least? Chances are they don’t because the threat is not real. Store this information away so eventually your subconscious mind will stop thinking of the trigger as a threat.

Breathe

Slow, deep breaths have been shown to instantly calm a person. Your heart rate will slow, your muscles will relax, your entire body will return to a normal state of being. Don’t underestimate the power of just taking a moment to breathe.

If you find you need a bit more help controlling your anxiety, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss treatment options with you.

Coping with Working from Home During COVID-19

How many mornings have you shut off that alarm, wishing you could just work from home in your PJs? Well now many of us are getting our wish thanks to COVID-19.

While in theory working from home may seem ideal, the reality for many of us is that it’s, well, kind of a pain. Particularly if you have young children home from school that you now have to teach while still keeping productive at work.

The fact is, this sudden and unexpected disruption to our daily lives has many of us feeling stressed!

Here are some ways you can cope with working from home for the unforeseeable future.

1. Get Your Space Right

If you don’t have a dedicated home office, you’ll want to figure something out ASAP. Having the right space at home will help you focus on the tasks at hand. It will also automatically set boundaries with family.

Do you have a spare room you can use? Is there an area in your finished basement that could work? If not, clear off the dining table and set up there.

2. Keep Your Regular Schedule

You may want to treat the next 2-3 weeks as a sort of family vacation, but it’s best if you and the kids stick to your regular routines. That means getting up and going to bed at the same time, showering, getting dressed and having breakfast as you normally would. Straying from routine will demotivate you to complete the work that needs to get done.

3. Take Advantage of the Flexibility

While it’s important to keep to your routines, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of having more time on your hands. Instead of spending an hour plus on a commute each day, you could use that time to catch up on home projects that have been on your to-do list for a while. You can also use the added time to reconnect with your family.

4. Give Your Kids Structure

Kids need structure, so give them some each day. This could mean giving them three options of how they will spend the afternoon: playing with Legos in the living room, watching a movie or quiet reading in their bedrooms. Be sure to take a break from work every couple of hours to check in with your kids to answer any questions they may have. Lord knows they ALWAYS have some!

5. Get Some Virtual Babysitters

On those days when you have to conduct many meetings and get much done, consider reaching out to family and friends to arrange virtual playdates with the kids. Thanks to Skype and FaceTime, your virtual babysitters can read, play games and interact with your kids online while you get some important work done.

If you find you are getting a bit squirrelly, even after following these tips, you can always reach out to a mental healthcare provider who can give you some more ideas of how to manage the stress.

If you’d like to speak to someone, please reach out to me. At this time, I am able to conduct sessions via phone or Skype, so you don’t even have to leave your home if your state is on lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/biofeedback-and-mindfulness-in-everyday-life/202003/77-strategies-working-home-during-covid-19

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/working-at-home-with-kids-during-covid-19-crisis-with-kids-underfoot.html

How Telehealth May Change the Future of Therapy

A while back there was a very funny television show starring Lisa Kudrow (ditzy Phoebe from Friends) called “Web Therapy.” It was an improvised show and Lisa played a therapist who treated her patients over the Internet. Hence the title of the show.

Well, back when the show was on, the idea of treating mental health patients via a webcam seemed ludicrous. And the show did a great job at poking fun of Lisa’s character and her “wacky idea” of web therapy.

Fast forward 12 years after the show’s debut, and web therapy is now “a thing” thanks to telehealth technology. Yes, psychotherapy appointments can be held between therapist and patient while one is in one building, state, or country and the other is somewhere else entirely.

Why was web therapy a joke 12 years ago but telehealth is now gaining in popularity? The shift is most likely due to the growing popularity of tech solutions among younger generations. There’s also something very attractive about the ease of telehealth; of not having to leave your house or office to get the help you need.

As younger generations have become accustomed to using apps to have food, beer and groceries delivered right to their door, they expect these same conveniences from their health providers. While it may take a few more years before telehealth becomes truly mainstream, indicators suggest that push is more than likely to happen.

Benefits of Telehealth

We’ve already discussed the most obvious benefit of telehealth to consumers, and that is ease. But what about the benefits to the therapists?

To start, telehealth means those people who would otherwise feel too uncomfortable seeking therapy in person will now be open to seeing a therapist “privately.” This means a therapist has a larger number of people to deliver their services to.

Also, since these services can be delivered from a home office, a therapist can easily reduce their practice’s operating costs and overhead expenses.

Many therapists are saying the adoption of telehealth should have come sooner, but support and guidance on telehealth are finally coming from the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychological organizations.

Therapist Need to Get Ready for the Switch

You can’t expect a therapist who has been treating patients face-to-face for x number of years to suddenly do well sitting in front of their computer’s camera. There are some subtle but important differences in working with patients over electronic connections.

For instance, in person, when a therapist breaks eye contact with a patient to take down a few notes, there is still a connection there because they are still in the same physical space. But over the Internet, when a therapist looks away to take notes, it may seem to the patient that the client is distracted. Providers interested in offering telehealth services to their patients will have to keep things like this in mind and always assure they are paying attention.

The APA offers continuing-education workshops on telehealth at its Annual Convention, and several divisions have begun providing training in telehealth as well. Therapists can also find online courses and training offered by the American Telemedicine Association.

No one is laughing any longer at the idea of web therapy. Instead, both consumers and therapists are embracing technology to bring about positive change and outcomes.

 

References: