8 signs you’re overdue for a mental health day

Edward Elmhurst Health shared in its bog that we’ve all been there. You haven’t had a break— from work, from the kids, from life in general — in ages. You’ve been in high gear for so long now that you’ve gotten used to feeling mentally and physically depleted.

It’s important to put the brakes on before your health really suffers. Long-term stress weakens your immune system and can cause a number of health problems or make existing problems worse.

The following are eight signs you’re overdue for a mental health day:

  1. You’re easily agitated. You feel on edge, temperamental, and irritable more often than not.
  2. You’re having trouble concentrating. You find it difficult to focus at work and at home.
  3. You’re forgetful. You can’t remember simple tasks, like putting in a load of laundry.
  4. You’re always tired but you can’t sleep. Furthermore, you are exhausted, but you toss and turn all night and you don’t wake up refreshed.
  5. You’re overly emotional. You are sensitive to things that normally don’t bother you.
  6. You’re sick all the time. You are coming down with frequent illnesses and health issues.
  7. You’re annoyed by others. You have a low tolerance for other people lately.
  8. You’re not having fun anymore. You can’t remember the last time you had a good laugh.

If you can relate to most of the above, it’s time to re-focus on your well-being. There’s nothing wrong with needing a day off, so take one. You’ll come out of it more rested, energized, and productive.

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BACK-TO-SCHOOL ANXIETY AND HOMESICKNESS

Stack of books and mouse. Online education and business conceptKaushal Amatya, PhD, a pediatric psychologist with the Divisions of Nephrology and Cardiology at Children’s National Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics at The George Washington University School of Medicine, and Laura Gray, a clinical psychologist at Children’s National Hospital wrote for “Rise and Shine” that children have been staying home for a while now due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With schools finally opening up, parents likely have concerns about how their child might handle back-to-school anxiety and homesickness. Below, are some strategies for parents to reduce anxiety and homesickness and help ease the transition from being at home to being back in the classroom.

Strategies for parents to help reduce back-to-school anxiety and homesickness

  1. Practice coming up with a list of things your child would like to share with their teacher and classmates (e.g., unique interests or talents, fun things they did this summer).
    • For kids who feel shyer and more anxious, parents can practice these brief “sharing statements” so their child feels more comfortable talking.
    • Help your child with keeping their sharing time short (since the teachers may need to cut them off if it’s too long), speaking up so others can hear and making eye contact.
  2. If you know any of your child’s classmates, reach out to their parents and schedule a play date. Getting time with friends or peers before school can ease some worries, help your child practice their rusty social skills, and help all the kids feel more excited about return to school.
  3. Consider taking a tour of the school (especially if it is a new school) before the school year begins, if possible. Even driving around the school or taking a short walk or a picnic on school grounds may help kids re-familiarize with the school environment or feel comfortable with their new environment. Some schools may have a virtual tour, videos, or pictures on their websites that could be helpful if going to the school physically is not possible. Read more

How to adjust to being an empty nester

houseEDWARD ELMHURST HEALTH shared in its blog that a house that was once full of activity and noise is suddenly empty. Those busy days of carpooling, helping with homework and getting meals on the table are over.

Your child has gone to college and now there’s a huge void. While your college student adjusts to a new beginning, for you it may feel like an end. This is called empty nest syndrome. It isn’t a clinical diagnosis, but it’s what parents experience when their children leave home for college (or when they leave the nest to get married). The experience of letting go can be painful and emotionally challenging. It’s common to lose sight of who you are as an individual during the child-rearing years. You’ve spent the last 18 or so years in the role of caretaker, and so much of your identity has been wrapped up in your child.

Now they’ve grown into a young adult. You want your child to be independent and move forward, but their departure can fill you with grief.

It’s normal to feel sad, lonely, and even anxious about their well-being away from home. Some parents feel a loss of purpose in life. Other parents feel regret or guilt over not spending enough time with their children when they were younger.

It can be particularly difficult for women, stay-at-home parents, single parents, and parents of an only child — anyone who strongly identifies with their role as a parent. Empty nest syndrome can make you more vulnerable to depression and anxiety, marital conflicts, and even alcoholism. Read more

A school year survival kit for parents

Edward Elmhurst Health shared in its blog that if you’re like many parents, the school year can be stressful. Very stressful. And this year, there is added stress as families continue to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

From making breakfast, packing lunches, and trying to catch the school bus, to making dinner, juggling after-school activities and helping with homework, before you know it the day is done — only to repeat all over again tomorrow.

Even as you’re at your full-time job, your inbox gets flooded with emails about what your child should bring tomorrow, permission slips to be signed and upcoming school events you can’t miss. Your sports/school apps are buzzing with notifications.

Most days, it feels like there’s not enough time to get it all done. Your stress level is through the roof and you could lose it at any moment.

How can you get through the school year and maintain your mental well-being? Try these 10 tips:

  1. Get organized. Store important school papers in the same place (e.g., a kitchen drawer). Hang reminders on the fridge or add them to your phone’s calendar. Have your child keep their school backpack, music instrument, etc. in one location in your house (e.g., mudroom). 
  2. Encourage good homework habits. Establish a consistent time and a designated homework spot for your child. Provide help, but don’t do the work for them. Be sure to praise them for their efforts. Get 6 tips to help your child develop good homework habits
  3. Prepare for the day ahead. Do what you can to make the mornings go smooth. Have your child lay out their clothes the night before. You can also pack school lunches the night before, or get your child to pack their own lunch. 
  4. Keep the teacher in the loop. Keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher will help you stay on top of any issues. If your child seems to be struggling to understand assignments, let the teacher know. Read more

4 Ways to Welcome New Neighbors into Your Block

Madison Smith asks, “Have you ever been the new kid on the block or have moved into a completely new neighborhood where you don’t know anyone?” On top of organizing a new home, fitting into a new lifestyle and socializing with your neighbors can be overwhelming. 

Offering new neighbors a welcoming introduction to the neighborhood can make a world of difference when it comes to feeling accepted and supported in your new neighborhood. A simple act of kindness can make your new neighbors feel at home. 

Here are a few warm and friendly gestures that you can do to make new neighbors or tenants feel welcome in your neighborhood. Who knows, maybe this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship! 

Introduce Yourself 

While introducing yourself to your new neighbors is very important, make sure that this interaction is somewhat brief. Your new neighbor probably has a ton of new chores and maintenance to do around their home. 

On the second day after the move, feel free to dig deeper into your interaction and strengthen your connection. Starting with a simple smile and wave and later conversation won’t overwhelm your neighbor. 

If you are looking to introduce yourself to your new neighbors without overstepping or making them feel like they have to take time out of their busy day to socialize, download this welcome tag to hang on their door. Whenever they have a moment to reach out, this welcome tag will encourage them to come to say hello.  Read more

Seven Tips to Help Kids Detach from Their Screens

Young Kid Using His Notebook Computer For Study And FunJessica Butts, Licensed Clinical Social Worke, wrote in the Healthy Driven Chicago blog that according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids ages 8-18 spend an average of 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen for entertainment. This number does not include time spent with a screen for school or educational purposes.

There’s no question that now, more than ever before, screens play a big role in our lives. People of all ages rely on their screens to connect with others and get information, and for entertainment purposes.

The amount of screen time kids get should be based on age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of screen time for kids and teens. Children younger than two years old should not have any screen time; if they do, it should be very limited and have an educational purpose.

There’s a reason lower amounts of screen time are recommended for kids. Spending too much time with a screen can lead to:

  • Vision issues
  • Increased risk for being overweight or obese
  • Decreased muscle tone, coordination, and flexibility
  • Stunted communication skills
  • Reduced empathy for others
  • Agitation and restlessness

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MENTAL HEALTH IMPACTS FROM WORKING OUT AT THE GYM

Sean, an outreach manager at The Boxing Club a martial arts & fitness center based in San Diego, shared that we’re always looking for ways to step up our game for our physical and mental health. It’s always a bonus when both physical and mental health is prioritized. Ahh, gotta love efficiency, right? *Inserts exercise here* – Exercise is more than heart rate and weight loss. While those two can be very important, it is also important to note the massive mental health impacts that can be gained from regular exercise. The best part is that it’s not exclusive to anyone in particular – it’s universal. Specifically, exercising regularly has a profound impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It is recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of moderate to intensive physical activity on most days.

Exercise and depression

A recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk for major depression by 26%. Exercise can positively impact depression by also providing a maintained schedule to prevent relapse. Exercise is known as a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Firstly, getting a good leg day in or getting that heart rate going promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, such as neural growth, reduced inflammation, and changing activity patterns that can help bring feelings of calm and well-being. Endorphins, powerful chemicals related to emotions, are released during exercise. Plus, when one is plugged in during a serious lift or run, exercise can serve as a distraction to cut out the noise and prioritize you.

Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is probably one of the best and natural anti-anxiety treatments. The healing properties of exercise include relieving tension and stress, boosting physical and mental energy, and enhancing well-being through the release of endorphins. The most ideal scenario is when physical exercise combines moving with paying attention. You can find this by paying attention to the sensation of your feeling your heels on the ground when going into a squat or the rhythm of your breathing as you change from a jog to run, or the feeling of sweat dripping down your skin. Adding a mindfulness element, really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise will help to interrupt the flow of anxiety.

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What are the signs of vascular dementia?

Pensive senior lady in wheelchair outside

Alhemizers.gov shared that the symptoms of vascular dementia can appear suddenly and may progress slowly over time. Symptoms often look similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, but memory loss is more prominent in Alzheimer’s, whereas problems with organization, attention, and problem-solving may be more obvious in vascular dementia.

 

 

People with vascular dementia may experience:

  • Difficulty performing tasks that used to be easy, such as paying bills
  • Trouble following instructions or learning new information and routines
  • Forgetting current or past events
  • Misplacing items
  • Getting lost on familiar routes
  • Problems with language, such as finding the right word or using the wrong word
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Difficulty reading and writing
  • Loss of interest in things or people
  • Changes in personality, behavior, and mood, such as depression, agitation, and anger
  • Hallucinations or delusions (believing something is real that is not)
  • Poor judgment and loss of ability to perceive danger

Symptoms may depend on the size, location, and the number of damaged areas of the brain. Read more

DEALING WITH PANDEMIC-INDUCED SEPARATION ANXIETY IN KIDS

Dr. Julie Heier, a licensed clinical psychologist at Children’s National Hospital. shared in the “Rise and Shine” blog that children and families are finally resuming some of their pre-pandemic activities, such as summer camp, vacations, and in-person school. It is normal, and expected, for all kids — from toddlers to teenagers — to experience apprehension and anxiety about returning to activities after spending a whole year away from school, sports, camp, and social activities. For some kids, this return will also trigger separation anxiety.

Symptoms of separation anxiety

Separation anxiety ebbs and flows throughout childhood — even teenagers can experience it. Younger children may become tearful when separated from parents, school-age children may resist going to school, and older kids may worry about their parent’s health. Many children will have at least one of the following symptoms of separation anxiety during any change in routine or new experience:

  • Excessive distress about being away from loved ones.
  • The constant worry that something bad will happen to a parent, such as getting sick or having a car accident.
  • Refusing to be away from home because of fear of separation.
  • Clinging or not wanting to go away from a caregiver at home – some parents describe their children as their “shadow.”
  • Reluctance or refusing to sleep away from home without a parent or others loved one nearby.
  • Repeated nightmares about separation from loved ones.
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or other symptoms when separation from a parent or other loved one is anticipated.
  • Behavioral outbursts, panic, or tantrums when separated from parents.
  • Texting/calling or asking teachers to call parents.

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Children’s Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

little boy maskkelly-sikkema-KIi3mFRh3Jw-unsplashAmong the most talked-about consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the toll taken on mental health, both in children and adults. Mental health experts were concerned about repercussions from the very beginning, but inevitably, given the stakes of contending with the virus and the unfamiliar territory we’ve all found ourselves in, it has been difficult to manage proactively.

Now a year into the pandemic, hopefully with the worst of its acute consequences behind us, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago was eager to understand parents’ experiences monitoring and managing their children’s mental health. Recently, they polled 1,000 parents across the US, focusing our inquiry on how parents contextualize the impact of the pandemic on mental health, what choices they regret making, and what they’ve done to constructively address challenges. For parents who live with multiple children, they asked them to focus their responses on the child they are most concerned about with respect to mental health.

Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago began by asking parents to describe their general feelings about the pandemic’s effects on mental health. Not surprisingly, a majority of parents are distressed by the situation. Seventy-one percent believe the pandemic has taken a toll on their child’s mental health, 69 percent say the pandemic is the worst thing to happen to their child, and 67 percent wish they’d been more vigilant about their child’s mental health from the beginning. Read more