Tag Archives: #MentalHealthWeek

Stress

What is it?

According to this article in helpguide.org: Stress is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.  When we sense danger – real or imagined – our body automatically responds with a ‘fight or flight’ reaction.  It is this reaction that pumps us with energy and helps us focus.  This response can actually help save us when faced with real danger, giving us the strength to fight back, the endurance to get away, and the focus to make the right choice.

Stress is what allows us to take on challenges in appropriate ways: Pushing us to put aside distractions and study; sharpening our concentration when we are under pressure to succeed; keeping us on our toes when we are performing.  Stress can be a healthy thing.

When should we be worried?

Unfortunately, our stress response does not have the capacity to determine whether its invocation is due to emotion or a physical life-or-death situation.  As a result, we can get stressed about relationships, work, school, conversations, impending assessments, what happened yesterday, what could happen tomorrow and so on.  The more we feel stress, the more our stress response kicks into gear and thus creates the possibility for long term health consequences including depression, anxiety, sleep problems, digestive problems, heart disease and more.

Looking for signs of stress overload?

How do we know when stress is veering into overload?  Unfortunately, it is hard for us to recognise this ourselves as it tends to creep up on us and feel normal.  Meanwhile, others might see changes and recognise that we seem more moody, agitated, overwhelmed, isolated or depressed than usual.  We may also show difficulties concentrating, memory problems, excessive worrying and negative thoughts.  As stress increases we become more susceptible to illness and we may even start to withdraw, procrastinate or use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate.

What about children and youth?

Stress is felt regardless of age.  If young people feel an increased sense of having to meet demands, are confronted with difficult situations or feel overwhelmed by their ‘to do’ lists, they too can develop stress overload.  It is important to know our children, to keep the lines of communication open and be prepared to recognise signs that children and youth may be overcome by stress.  Check out these articles for more information on stress in children and youth.

What can we do?

Some stress is natural.  Learning how to manage stress in our lives is important to maintain balance and physical and mental health.  Some common approaches include:

  • Connecting to others – a good laugh and an embrace daily is said to be good for the body, mind and spirit.
  • Learning to relax – put things into perspective and intentionally choose to not “sweat the small stuff”.
  • Play – opportunities to let loose and have fun can be healthy for all members of the family.
  • Practice healthy routines – proper nutrition and sufficient sleep can help create balance in life.

Want to explore this topic more?

Our next Thrive! Dinner will be June 3rd at Essex United Church beginning at 5pm when we will be making quesadillas and eating together and then breaking off in groups for parents, teens, tweens and children as we explore Stress, Anxiety and Failure in playful and meaningful ways.  All are welcome!

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual.

Is it normal

It is easy to accept that there are physical circumstances which affect the mood, behaviour and temperament of teenagers.  This, after all, has been the norm for generations.  Parents may even remember when we were teenagers and how our expectations, priorities and interpretations of the world shifted sharply in ways that sometimes made us difficult to be around.

When to ask questions?

As our understanding of mental health issues continues to evolve (I wrote about this here), there is an expectation that parents and peers need to be aware of the challenges and changes of puberty while also being able to discern when teenage behaviour moves beyond the normal to the point of requiring help.  Being able to do this requires a level of attentiveness both to the behaviours of the teen in question and their peers.

If, for example, a particular peer group has a habit of staying up until the wee hours of the night texting or engaging with one another on social media, this may lead to sleep deprivation which would naturally lead to fatigue and extended sleep ins on the weekend.  If, however, that same teen who sleeps until Saturday afternoons has become distant and unengaged with peers, is not participating in social events with friends or family and seems tired all the time, it may be time to explore further if there is a physical or psychological reason for this behaviour.

What can parents do?

On the one hand, it is important to avoid jumping to conclusions.  Instead, consider the nature, intensity, duration and severity of the problem.

On the other hand, pride and denial can get in the way of accepting the possibility that our teenagers have a problem.  Ignoring the issue will not make it go away.  We need to be open the possibility that our teenagers need help to deal with the root causes of their behaviour.

Begin with conversation

If you are concerned, talk to your teenager.  Let them know what you see and why you are worried.  Try to be specific, using phrases such as “I’ve noticed you are not spending much time with your friends lately” or “I’ve noticed you have been sleeping a lot lately”.  Be sure to stay calm, say what you mean and be prepared to listen attentively and respectfully to their response.  It is important that participants in this conversation have a clear sense that we are in this together.  For more tips, check out this link.

When in doubt, talking with other parents can provide some insights and options.  We are not alone.  Just as teenagers draw from peer groups as they engage with the world, parents can also find support and understanding with other parents.  Thrive: A living manual for families creates space for all types of peer groups.  All are welcome to join the conversation.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Mental Health Awareness

An Introduction

If someone has a cold, we offer them chicken soup, hot beverages and time to rest.  If someone breaks a bone, we go to the doctor to have it set.  If someone experiences a life-threatening illness, we offer prayers and support as they navigate through doctor’s visits and treatments.  Over the years, we have become more in tune with our bodies and how to care for them.  Yet, we still struggle with understanding and empathy when we are confronted with mental illness.

What is it?

According to the Mental Health Strategy for Canada: A Youth Perspective, “Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which you can realize your own potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and make a contribution to your community…There is no single cause of any mental health issue.  Whether a mild mental health problem or a severe mental illness, mental health issues are the result of a complex mix of social, economic, psychological, biological, and genetic factors.” (p.4)

Why is it important to reflect on mental health?

  • More than two thirds of young adults living with a mental problem or illness say their symptoms first appeared when they were children.
  • One in five Canadians live with mental health problems, mental illnesses or addiction.
  • Most people with mental health problems or illnesses experience stigma compounding the problem.
  • As with significant physical illness, mental health issues impact relationships within and beyond families.

What can families do?

For 67 years, Canadians have rallied around the Canadian Mental Health Awareness (CMHA) Mental Health Week.  This week provides an opportunity for education, building awareness and understanding that mental health is something we all need to address.  We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.

Watch for opportunities through social media and local communities to support Mental Health Awareness throughout the week of May 7-13, 2018.  In Essex, John Postons M.S.W. (Postons Counselling & Therapy) and Jodie Matte (Art Space Essex), will be offering a free session to provide strategies and support for those who care for someone with a mental illness at the Essex County Library, Essex Branch, Wednesday, May 16th, from 6:30-8:00pm.

Watch for more posts on our Facebook page about mental health and our families.  We will also feature Thrive! Dinners that will focus on mental health issues in the coming months.  Stay tuned for more information.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/