Coping With the Tragedy in Paris

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Even though we’re thousands of miles away from Paris, many of us still feel a sense of pain, loss and fear after the horrible violence that occurred a few days ago.  Watching coverage of the events and the people who lost their lives, some of us begin to remember other, similar tragedies:

  • 911
  • Columbine
  • Sandy Hook
  • Aurora

The memories and constant news coverage of the event can start to have a real effect on our mood – even if we weren’t personally affected or involved.

The American Psychological Association offers several tips for coping with tragedies and mass shootings.  My go to? Turn off the TV, internet, social media on a regular basis.  Information is good, but emotional overload can happen quickly.  For more tips check out APA.

How to Stop Worrying About Ebola

Even if you have tried to ignore the stories about Ebola over the past few months, the news has been impossible to avoid.  And now that the disease has hit close to home, many of us are left with worries and fears concerning our own health.  While we know that sitting in our living rooms worrying about it won’t do any good, it can be hard to know what else to do.  So, I have gathered a couple great resources on managing worries around Ebola.

My favorite tip is to take a break from news coverage.  When we are bombarded with media coverage about any event – including this one – it can cause significant anxiety.  And lots of anxiety over a long period of time is no good for our health, or the health of our families and communities.

Check out some other resources here:

How and Why You Should Ease Your Ebola Fears – Your Mind. Your Body:

It’s important to always stay alert, to be informed and take precautions if you think you may be at risk for coming into contact with any virus. But to help maintain emotional well-being, it’s critical to ease Ebola fears by reviewing the facts, maintaining perspective, and upholding hope.
Keep things in perspective. Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you and your family spend watching or listening to upsetting media coverage. Although you’ll want to keep informed — especially if you have loved ones in affected countries — remember to take a break from watching the news and focus on the things that are positive in your life and things you have control over.

Depressed? Just Get Over it!

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In honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, (#MIAW) I decided to write a post about depression and why, when someone is depressed, they don’t just “get over it.”  After all, why can’t people who suffer from depression just “think positive,” “be grateful” or exercise more and – just like that – feel better?

Because depression is an illness.

And just like we would NEVER say to someone with diabetes, “Just don’t think about sugar!”

or to someone with high blood pressure, “Just visualize that number down!”

or someone with a Multiple Sclerosis, “It’s all in your head!”

…we must not trivialize depression as something that can be wished or willed away.  Instead, effective treatment for depression is often multi-pronged, involving psychotherapy, healthy lifestyle management and possibly medication.  Luckily, we have lots of great options for the treatment of depression, and many of them are covered by health insurance – making gaining access to care a real possibility for most people.

For what to do after being diagnosed with depression, see my article.

To read a true story about post partum depression, read here.

For more information about effective treatments for depression, see APA’s article.

For more information about using your health insurance for mental health treatment, see APA’s article.

 

 

 

 

Talking to Troubled Kids

Talking to kids and teenagers when you suspect something is wrong at home, something’s different in their mood or when you think they might be in some kind of trouble with friends can be scary.  It’s hard to know what (and what not) to say.  Many of us are afraid to get involved for fear of making the situation worse, or putting ourselves in a vulnerable position as adults.

I (and a few other psychologists) recently helped the American Psychological Association assemble a tip sheet for talking with kids when you suspect they need help.  These tips are useful for teachers, neighbors, family members, friends – just about anyone who has contact with kids or teens.  Here’s my favorite tip from the list:

Be genuine. 

Try to avoid speaking from a script. Teens can tell when you’re not being genuine. If you are open, authentic and relaxed, it will help them to be the same.

To see more tips, check them out here at APA’s Help Center.

Happiness: Easier to Find Than We Think?

I am writing this post as part of The American Psychological Association’s Mental Health Blog Day. #MHBlogDay

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.

Sometimes it can feel as if true happiness is elusive.  Between the stresses of work, relationships, parenting, money and all the other goings on in the world, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, sad, angry and just plain fed up.  I’m not questioning the reality of the stressors listed above, and I’m certainly not doubting the very real effects of mental illness on mood.  However, I do think we – at least sometimes – tend to make happiness more complicated than it has to be.

I have dedicated the month of May as The Picture of Happiness Month on this blog.  I have invited women from all parts of my life to share a picture of what makes them happy.  The catch? The pictures can’t include family, pets or lovers.  What I’ve discovered (about halfway through the month) is that just as we all look different and choose different paths for our lives, the things that bring us happiness are different too.

True, lasting happiness and contentment might be elusive for many of us; but momentary joy and pleasure are within almost everyone’s reach.

Take a look at some Pictures of Happiness:

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Screen shot 2014-05-13 at 6.01.04 PMScreen shot 2014-05-14 at 8.44.35 AMWant to see more Pictures of Happiness? Follow along on Dr Stephanie this month, or check it out on Facebook or Twitter.

#mhBlogDay

The Toughest Thing About Panic Attacks

It’s Tuesday.  That means Dr. Raison, The Chart’s resident mental health expert answers a reader’s psychiatric question.  Today Dr. Raison answered Stephanie’s (not me) question about panic attacks and their treatmentDr. Raison did a nice job discussing treatment options including psychotherapy and medication. 

Dr. Raison’s post got me thinking about panic attacks.  They are buggers (understatement) for several reasons:

They can make you feel like you are dying.  Trouble breathing, chest pains, dizziness – all symptoms of panic attacks.  And, oh by the way, the same symptoms as heart attacks. That’s why it’s important to talk to your physician about your overall health if you start having panic attacks – it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Once you get a clean bill of health, it may be easier (albeit marginally) to realize you are not dying when a panic attack hits.

They can make you feel like you are going crazy.  I’m not sure what the official definition of “crazy” is, but panic attacks can make you feel like you have arrived there. Folks often tell me they feel like they are losing their minds when panic sets in.  While disorienting, experiencing panic attacks doesn’t mean you are headed for psychosis, it just means you might need to learn a few coping strategies.

They can make you feel embarrassed.  People who suffer panic attacks often feel a level of embarrassment after they’ve had one, as they are sure the people around them could tell what was going on.  The good news is, they usually can’t.  While panic attacks feel ovewhelmingly awful to the person having them, the folks around them are typically oblivious to what’s going on.

*They can happen anytime.  And here is the toughest thing about panic attacks – they can happen anywhere, anytime.  Many of us assume we’ll have an attack when we are feeling stressed or nervous (right before giving a big speech or driving over a bridge).  That might happen, but they can also happen when you are happily eating a slice of chocolate cake while watching Dirty Dancing.  What’s the deal with that?  I’m not sure.  But I do remind my clients that panic attacks can strike at any time, and it doesn’t mean they have a phobia of Patrick Swayze.  It just means that panic attacks are irritating and unpredictable.

The good news is, there are a lot of treatment options available for people suffering from panic attacks.  For some thoughts about treatment, check out the American Psychological Association’s Help Center.