Disagreeing About the COVID-19 Response? How To Keep Relationships Intact

Do you find yourself with opinions about what the government is doing (or not doing) to deal with COVID-19? Do your opinions match your family’s? Your friends’? Your neighbors’? No? Well, you’re not alone.

Just like politics, sex, and religion, COVID-19 has turned out to be a topic rife with disagreements.

But if we’ve learned nothing else from this pandemic experience, it’s that relationships are important. In fact, it turns out they’re about the most important things in our lives.

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers about how to communicate (effectively) with those with whom you might disagree about how this pandemic is being handled. Hint: keep those conversations civil and brief. Here’s a glimpse into the article:

Check out the entire article here:

Minimizing Media Use – Real Tools for Making Change

UGH! Enough of the onslaught of news, “news” and on-line conversations already. It’s too much. Keeping abreast of the latest goings-on and government orders are one thing, spending hours in deep-dive mode on your phone or tablet is another.

I recently wrote an article over at Health eCareers in which I offered real, do-able strategies for decreasing media and screen time. After all, it’s rarely as easy as saying “I’m just going to look at my phone less.” Yea right. Here’s one idea:

One tip I didn’t write about in the article:

Make use of the tools that are already on your phone! For iphone users, go to Settings –> Screen Time –> Then play around with Downtime, App Limits and Communication Limits options. You can also watch your Daily Activity on the Screen Time page. Monitoring this is one way to keep yourself honest.

Check out the entire article, with ideas for managing both social and traditional media here:

Covid-19 and Teenagers

I recently wrote an article over at Produce for Kids about how to help teenagers cope with the stress, anxiety, worry and grief caused by COVID-19.

Family game night, cute crafts and walks around the neighborhood are probably just not cutting it with the teens in your life. In fact, a Pinterest search for what to do with teenagers during stay-at-home orders turned up very little. And I don’t know about your teens, but mine just don’t want to spend endless hours with me learning new life skills. Ick.

Here’s an excerpt:

Check out the entire article at Produce for Kids.

Gun Ownership, Suicide and Safety

I recently saw this wonderful, sensitive and informative video clip created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment about firearms and suicide in this state. CDPHE partnered with Jimmy Graham, a firearms instructor at Centennial Gun Club to provide some tips and strategies for keeping guns out of the hands of folks considering suicide.

Some important points brought up in the video:

  • Colorado is consistently ranked in the top 10 states in terms of deaths by suicide
  • Suicidal crises and thoughts are often brief in nature – meaning folks often don’t plan their suicide for long periods of time. It is often an impulsive decision
  • Because of the impulsive nature of many of these decisions, it becomes important to “put time and space between a suicidal person and means” by which they can harm themselves (i.e., a gun)
  • It’s OK to ask a loved one directly if they are thinking about suicide. This WILL NOT make them more likely to attempt suicide, instead it will give them an opportunity to share feelings that can be hard to express.

This video offers important information about how to own guns, while also being mindful of the health and safety of those in our families. Check out this awesome resource:

Are You A Pro At Deflection?

Photo credit: Mindful.org

I was recently interviewed for an article about deflection over at Forge. While inspired by political events, like debates, the article offers so much more than the same old commentary about how politicians just say what they want to say and don’t answer the darn questions!

For example, the author describes different types of deflection used in various communications. Check out some of the excerpts from the article:

The Pivot: You recognize the question, then immediately pivot away from it, using a response like, “I understand what you’re saying, but I think the more important point is…” Then shift into the subject you really want to be talking about.

The Spin: “Instead of saying you’re leaving because your job makes you feel like a cog in the wheel, or because your voice isn’t heard, turn it into a positive: ‘That’s exactly why I’m here—because your company offers me a seat at the table and an opportunity to make real change.’

The Attack: It was 1984, and then-73-year-old Ronald Reagan was facing questions about his age in his campaign against a younger opponent. “At the debate against Walter Mondale, when they asked, Reagan said, ‘I won’t make age an issue, or exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience,’” Bratt says. “It became this really famous deflection.”

Another take away? Deflection can be used in some really positive ways (think: steering the conversation away from politics when talking with a neighbor at the bus stop). But, using it too much can backfire.

Check out the entire article here.

Resources for Farm Stress

I was reading an article recently about Farm Stress, and the overall mental health crisis that is going on within our country’s farming communities. The pain and suffering is real, and very upsetting.

While I am not a farmer or rancher, I can try to understand the extreme conditions of the job: It’s physically dangerous, unpredictable because of weather, crop prices, and international relationships. Farmers are also making up a smaller and smaller portion of our population (less than 2%), and tend to be more geographically spread out than in years past. All of these factors – and others – combine to create a pressure-cooker of stress.

People are taking notice, however, and working hard to help those who are suffering. I discovered some wonderful resources through North Dakota State University. Here’s one:

And another:

For more information on farm stress and how to cope, check out this article:

Where to Find Help with Addiction

After reading the last few posts about alcohol, drugs, and addiction; do you think you know someone who is struggling with some or all of these behaviors and symptoms? Watching someone you care about abuse substances can be painful. And it can also lead us to feel helpless in knowing how to help them. Obviously, we cannot force someone to abstain from use and become sober. Likewise, we cannot force them into treatment against their will. What we can do, however, is offer support, knowledge, and resources around addiction treatment.

Navigating the world of addiction recovery and treatment is tricky, so by becoming informed yourself, you can aide your friend or family member in understanding where to go to get help when they’re ready.

Luckily, there are a wide range of treatment options available for those wanting to achieve and maintain sobriety. Many experts in addiction treatment recommend that folks have more than one resource or treatment modality on board for the best chance of success. Here are the options:

Detoxification: “Detox” is a service offered by some addiction treatment and    hospital facilities. A stay in detox typically lasts three to seven days and is intended to help you safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol with professional medical help. At the end of the stay, patients are referred on to other, longer-term treatment    facilities or programs.

Inpatient Treatment: Residential/live-in treatment for addiction is the most intensive  option for treatment of alcohol and/or drug addiction. Inpatient treatment can last anywhere from several days to one month or longer.  While participating in residential treatment, you can expect to receive: individual psychotherapy, group   psychotherapy, psychiatric/medication services and possibly family psychotherapy in one place. 

Intensive Outpatient: Intensive outpatient treatment is a form of addiction treatment in which you continue to live at home while attending treatment sessions three to four days per week, two to four hours at a time. The idea behind intensive  outpatient treatment is that you learn to live a sober lifestyle, while also going to   school, maintaining employment, taking care of family members - whatever you normally do in life. Intensive outpatient treatment usually includes psycho-educational and psychotherapy groups, family therapy groups, and individual psychotherapy.

Individual Psychotherapy: For people wanting to achieve and maintain    sobriety, individual psychotherapy is often recommended. Working one-on-one with a licensed mental health professional can allow you to explore, in a more  individual way, your substance abuse and family history. These individual sessions  also allow the mental health provider to assess for any underlying mental health disorders (anxiety, depression, etc) that may have been either exacerbated or   masked by your substance use.

Group Support: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the most well-known example of  group support available to alcoholics. AA is a free, peer-led support group that has been around since 1939. AA’s 12-step program has been used for a long time, by  many people and is very well established all across the world - making it easy to   access for most people. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a very similar program that     is specifically for people who struggle with drug (heroine, prescription painkillers, cocaine, etc) addiction. There are many other free, peer-led support groups in  most communities across the country. For more information about what is available in your area, try asking your physician, mental health care provider, faith     community, employer, or school.

Medication-Assisted Treatment: Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs combine medications and supplements, together with psycho-education to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. Naltrexone,  Acamprosate and Disulfiram are some of the medications that are often used to help ease the discomforts of withdrawal symptoms, as well as decrease cravings 8.

If you need assistance immediately, you can always call 9-1-1, or go directly to your nearest emergency room.

What Happens When You Drink Or Drug Too Much?

Problematic use of drugs and alcohol can impact just about all areas of your life and functioning. There are obvious risks of over-using drugs and alcohol that are associated with:
Relationship problems
Disruptions in education
Difficulty maintaining employments
Economic problems
Legal troubles/encounters with the criminal justice system

Drug and alcohol use can also cause many physical and mental health problems, including:

Changes in appetite
Trouble sleeping
Changes in blood pressure
Change in mood
Psychosis
Heart attack
Stroke
Cancer
Lung disease

Additionally, when you spend much of your time impaired by alcohol or drugs, it can effect your ability to make healthy, sound decisions. Impulsivity and poor decision making are common when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These poor decisions can lead to other health-related problems such as:

HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other communicable diseases
Poor nutrition
Being at higher risk for trauma or violence

Lastly, drug and alcohol abuse is costly! In fact, it is estimated that alcohol and illicit drug use cost the United States about 160 million dollars each year in lost work productivity, health care costs associated with addiction, and crime.

Addiction – It’s a BIG Problem

Alcohol and drug addiction and abuse are an unfortunate part of life for many Americans. Whether it’s by personal experience, or through watching a friend or loved one struggle, millions of Americans have an experience with drug and/or alcohol addiction each year.

In 2014, more than 16 million adults – that’s about 7% of the population – met criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder. Another 5 million American adults admitted to engaging in risky alcohol use that could lead to addiction in the future.

Alcohol is the most heavily used drug in the United States, followed by marijuana. And unfortunately, recent surveys have found that illicit drug use is on the rise in the United States. Illicit drugs include: marijuana, prescription drugs used other than as prescribed, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, etc.

Most people use drugs for the first time as teenagers, and more than half of illicit drug users begin their drug use by using marijuana. Drug use tends to be highest among teenagers and those in their twenties, but recent data suggests that drug use is increasing in people in their fifties and sixties as well.

Drug and alcohol use in children and teens is on the decline overall, with one exception: vaping. As of 2018, vaping among young people had increased dramatically, with 17.6% of 8th graders, 32.3% of 10th graders, and 37.3% of 12th graders admitting to vaping at least once in the last year.