Tag Archives: mentalhealth

The Power Of Gratitude: Why You Should Be Expressing It More Often


November! Yikes. 

Let’s take a break from mental health in this month, and focus, on you guessed it, gratitude:). November is Thanksgiving month in the US. If you believe we should be practicing gratitude year round, you are in the right place.

We all know that feeling of gratitude – when someone does something nice for us and we just can’t help but say “thank you.” But did you know that gratitude can actually have a powerful impact on your life? Studies have shown that expressing gratitude can lead to greater happiness, better health, and even improved relationships.

In our fast-paced, constantly-connected lives, it’s easy to forget the power of gratitude. We get wrapped up in our day-to-day worries and stresses and forget to take a step back and appreciate the good in our lives. But the truth is that gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions we can feel. Gratitude has been linked to improved mental and physical health, increased happiness and satisfaction, and even better sleep.

Gratitude has been shown to have numerous benefits for both mental and physical health. Research has shown that gratitude can improve sleep quality, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost immunity. Additionally, gratitude can increase overall happiness and life satisfaction. When we express gratitude, we open the door to more positive experiences and emotions. We also start to attract more good things into our lives. Gratitude is like a magnet for happiness, and the more we express it, the more we will receive.

Given all of these benefits, it’s clear that gratitude is a powerful emotion. Yet, many of us don’t express gratitude as often as we should. Why is that?

There are a few reasons. For one, we often take the good things in our lives for granted. We may not even realize how lucky we are to have certain things. Additionally, we may not know how to express gratitude. We may not want to appear needy or unappreciative In our fast-paced, constantly-connected lives, it’s easy to forget the power of gratitude. We get wrapped up in our day-to-day worries and stresses and forget to take a step back and appreciate the good in our lives. 

So why not make a commitment to expressing gratitude more often? If you’re not sure where to start, try keeping a gratitude journal or simply taking a few moments each day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. You may be surprised at how much better you feel when you start expressing gratitude on a regular basis.

Take a few moments each day to think about the things you are thankful for. You may be surprised at how much better you feel. Taking the time to intentionally express gratitude can make a world of difference. Try it for yourself and see how the power of gratitude can change your life for the better.

November’s posts will be dedicated to, yes, all things Gratitude:)

To Your Success,
Juan

 

All You Need To Know About The History of PTSD


Photo : Yay Images

Dear Readers,

Welcome to April! This month, we will focus on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is quite a bit to learn, so let’s start at the beginning. Two years ago all our lives were considerably upended. I live in NYC, and still have  very vivid memories waking up to reports, of another 800-900 souls who lost battle with COVID-19 the day before. The virus raged through the city. With more than 9 million of us packed into in small spaces, it was a recipe for the disaster it was.

The NYC Health Commission has been relentless. Every day, there is a television ad imploring residents to be mindful of our mental health. Free counseling and advice is avaialble to those who are struggling. It’s not a stretch to say many are suffering from pandemic related PTSD.  Many people associate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with combat soldiers. But many were never in the military. Any traumatic event can result in PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a trauma or stressor related disorder, is debilitating, and affects roughly 7-8% of the population, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Sufferers experience  symptoms brought on by a traumatic event or series of events. Though PTSD is most commonly associated with people who served in the military, anyone who goes through a traumatic experience is at risk for developing it. 

The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD this way; a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or rape or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.

Populations commonly exposed to traumatic events have a higher average of PTSD than the average citizen. Soldiers who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) returned with a 10-20% rate of PTSD. Of those who served in the Vietnam War, around 15% were diagnosed with PTSD.  

                                                             HISTORY OF PTSD
Although PTSD has been around for centuries, it wasn’t added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until 1980. The term became much more familiar to the common American after the Vietnam War. In other times in American history, PTSD was referred to as other things. Physicians noted changes in people, usually soldiers, that couldn’t be wholly explained by wounds or injuries.

A FEW NAMES USED TO DESCRIBE PTSD BEFORE 1980

  • Nostalgia. Coined by Swiss physician Dr. Johannes Hofer in the late 1600s to describe soldiers experiencing deep despair, homesickness, sleeplessness and anxiety. 
  • Soldier’s/irritable heart. Used by Dr. Jacob Mendez Da Costa, to describe physical issues soldiers in the Civil War, not related to combat wounds; constricted breathing, heart palpitations, and other cardiovascular ailments
  • Railway spine or railway brain. PTSD terms not related to soldiers. During the 1800s, railroad travel became very common. It also saw a stark rise in railroad related accidents. People who survived these accidents sometimes suffered from anxiety and sleeplessness, referred to as railway brain.
  • Shell shock. Term used after World War I. A particularly brutal war, with many soldiers coming home experiencing things like anxiety, nightmares, impaired sight and vision, tremors, and fatigue. They were directly exposed to exploding shells on the battlefield, giving the name “shell shock” it’s origin.
  • Gross stress reaction. Used in the DSM-I in 1952 to diagnose psychological issues connected to traumatic events. It was believed symptoms would only last a short period of time. If they persisted longer than 6 months, it was no longer thought to be related to a specific traumatic event.
  • Adjustment reaction to adult life. In 1968, PTSD-related terms were removed and replaced with the words “adjustment reaction to adult life.” Many experts believe this change failed to truly encompass the disorder and related complications and was a step in the wrong direction.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. Officially added to the DSM-III in 1980. Writers of the DSM-III used symptoms from people who had survived traumatic events such as war veterans, Holocaust survivors, and sexual victims to help develop the diagnosis description.

PRE 1980’S DEFINITIONS

The 1980s term PTSD was a major shift in the way people began to view reaction to trauma. During World War I, many perceived soldiers with PTSD symptoms as being weak or feeble. It was thought that the things they were feeling were due to a poor constitution. 

The change during the 1980s put PTSD in an entirely new light. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “From an historical perspective, the significant change ushered in by the PTSD concept was the stipulation that the etiological agent was outside the individual (i.e., a traumatic event) rather than an inherent individual weakness (i.e., a traumatic neurosis)” In other words, anyone can be susceptible to a physical and mental reaction to a highly traumatic life event. 

                                                 PTSD IN THE DSM-5 (IN 2013)
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual was updated. PTSD was changed from being categorized as an anxiety disorder, to a “trauma or stressor-related disorder.” One of the reasons for this change is that PTSD is not only exhibited as anxiety. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Tracey Marks explains: “with the Diagnostic and statistical manual that came out in 2013, it was moved to the category of trauma and stress-related disorders. The significance of this is that PTSD is more than anxiety. People have very complex emotions afterward that include guilt, shame, and anger and those are just examples…but lots of things more than just anxiety”.

Did any of this surprise you? Now that the history has been summarised, The next will look at the symptoms, in a two-part post. There is a lot to unpack, and I think it’s best to deliver some of the information in bite sized pieces. See you soon!

To Your Success,
Juan

 

Prenatal Depression: Protect You & Your Baby


prenatal depression

Pregnancy is a time of hope, love, and joy. However, for many women, it can also be a time of prenatal depression, it is common and occurs more often than you might think. It can even happen to you! Please do not to ignore the signs and symptoms. Your life and the life of your baby is worth it.There is LOT of talk about post natal depression, due to many high profile stories in the news, however,  there is not enough attention being given to the period before While one post offering a summary of prenatal depression, the hope is that it will serve as a reference, and open up more discussion

Here is what  you need to know:

  1. Understanding prenatal depression. It’s estimated that one out of every four women will experience depression. Prenatal depression occurs during pregnancy and can be triggered by many factors.
    • In many cases, both patients and doctors ignore possible symptoms because hormone changes is often the focus. However, this type of depression can be dangerous for both the mother and child.
  2. Common signs: thoughts of death and suicide.
    • The pregnant woman may have ongoing and recurring thoughts about killing herself or others. She may also have thoughts about harming the baby, the father, and even try to do something violent. Other signs of prenatal depression include never-ending feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety and guilt
  3. Depression triggers. Some medical experts believe that hormone and body changes during pregnancy can trigger depression, but there are other causes as well.
    • Relationship issues are also a common trigger, because the mother may feel she isn’t getting enough support. She worries how the child will change the relationship after birth
    • Complications during pregnancy can also trigger depression. If the mother is on bed rest or worried about losing the baby, it leaves the door open for feelings of depression to creep in. The joy of carrying the child is replaced with anxiety, worry, and fear.
  4. Potential issues for the baby. Although some mothers are able to continue to take care of their bodies during depression, others struggle to eat healthy food or avoid alcohol and other harmful substances.
    • Suicidal behavior is another major risk for the baby. A woman who suffers from prenatal depression is more likely to try to kill herself or the child.
    • Drinking and smoking are also concerns because some women will turn to them for comfort.
    • It’s important to recognize that a woman who has prenatal depression may not be making the best decisions for her baby.
  5. Treatment options. These will vary, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor.
    • Women with prenatal depression can find help through therapy.
    • Both individual and group therapy sessions may be necessary. Discuss these options with your doctor and work out a schedule that fits your needs. Find sessions that welcome pregnant women.
    • You may also benefit from some medications, but there are restrictions because drugs can affect the baby.
    • Support groups have helped some women with prenatal depression.
    • In addition, reducing stress and eliminating issues causing anxiety can help.
    • Adjustments to diets, exercise, and lifestyles is also helpful.
    • The most important step is to seek help and not ignore the symptoms. Doctors and therapists can determine the best treatment plan on an individual level. 

Prenatal depression is a real issue and shouldn’t be ignored. If you or someone you love show these signs, seek treatment right away. Medication and talk therapy can help, after weighing the medication risks with your medical provider. If your insurance does not cover treatment, there is usually free resources available. Though not always easy to find, the effort is worth it. 

Untreated pre natal depression leads to a host of issues, including but not limited to, missing important check ups, problems during labor and delivery, poor nutrition etc.  No one should have to suffer alone and fight without help. Call 911 right away if immediate harm to the mother or unborn baby is obvious.

Learning about prenatal depression could save a life – or two.

To Your Success,
Juan 

What Is Depression?


March babies, how are you?!

Wishing you a year filled with happiness, contentment, and more joy than you could ever hope for.

Let’s continue the mental health series, this month the focus is on  Depression.

Shortly after Mss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst’s death, her mom April Simpkins, released a statement which reads in part “While it may be hard to believe, it’s true. Cheslie led both a public and a private life. In her private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone — including me, her closest confidant — until very shortly before her death.” Are you, or someone you know suffering from high functioning Depression? Given all that’s happening in the world, now is not the time to sweep things under the rug. Cheslie’s suicide is a wake up call. Should be.

If you ask a group of people who suffer from clinical depression to define the illness, you’ll get a variety of answers. Depression is a very personal experience, faced by millions. Different people manifest different symptoms. One thing remains clear: depression is a difficult illness, that can destroy your life if left unresolved.

Many people with depression, describe it as a sense of despair, that engulfs everything they do and feel. If you think being depressed is akin to feeling sad, because your favorite team just lost the championship game, you really have no idea, what suffering from this debilitating mental illness truly is. Depression is much deeper, more invasive than sadness or frustration.

Depression takes everything away from you; saps your energy, focus, concentration, and especially your joy. You don’t care about anything; nothing matters, and even people you love can become unimportant. If you’ve felt  depressed for a long time, you become accustomed to the feeling, and any other emotion becomes unfamiliar, and frightening. 

Physical Concerns of Depression
Depression doesn’t only take its toll on your emotions, and mental state; it can cause serious physical problems. You can lose your appetite or eat incessantly. It zaps your energy and motivation. When you’re depressed, you tend to become inactive. This alone can lead to a number of problems, but when added to other physical side effects, it’s easy to see why depression should always be given the care and concern it deserves

In addition, depression can lead to:

  1. 1. Lack of sleep. Insomnia strips the body of the necessary sleep, needed to function properly.
  2. 2. Poor nutrition. When depressed, many people fail to take in proper nutrients. It takes too much effort to plan and prepare a meal. 
  3. 3. Aches and pains. If anyone tells you that your mental state has no effect on your physical state, they are wrong. When you’re depressed, the chemicals in the brain that signal pain, and happiness, are affected in the same way. Physical aches and pains increase, sad feelings kick in, repeating the cycle.
  4. 4. Hygiene issues. Someone suffering from depression doesn’t have the energy or the motivation to be concerned with self-care.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

  •  Constant and severe sadness about everything
  •  Hopelessness
  •  Insomnia or trouble sleeping
  •  Irritability
  •  Trouble concentrating
  •  Loss of interest in things that once interested them
  •  Feeling worthless, useless and strangely guilty for no reason at all
  •  Serious change in weight, one way or the other
  •  Lack of energy and fatigue

Depression is a serious condition and should be treated as such.
As depression progresses, it feeds on itself like a rolling snowball. The longer someone is depressed, the worse it gets, until they see no way out.  It is not uncommon to resign yourself  to being miserable all the time. Depression can be caused by a certain event, change of seasons, loss of someone close, or even a chemical imbalance in the brain. Treatment usually involves counseling or medication that helps alter brain chemistry. 

If you know someone who is depressed, one of the most important things you can do, is to be his or her friend. Talk to them and help them through this period. Help them seek medical care to treat their illness. If you think you may be depressed, talk to a health care provider. Depression doesn’t have to ruin your life! With support, you can move past it, and go on to live a joyful life. 

Download this  FREE copy of a Depression Checklist. Take it with you when you visit your medical provider, especially if the feelings have laster more than two weeks

You Your Success
Juan

I’d Rather Die.


…than speak in public. Is this you? Cold sweats, tongue tied, sweaty palms, trembling, hives…Fortunately, I do well enough, but it doesn’t mean that right before I take the podium, butterflies don’t suddenly appear, and leave as quickly as they come. I have spoken in front of thousands, taught classes, and took part in debates. The comfort and ease did not magically appear.

If you find yourself getting anxious at the thought of meeting new people, or speaking in front of a group, you may be suffering from social anxiety. According to the American Depression and Social Anxiety Organization, more than 6% of Americans suffer from SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder). It affects men and women equally, often beginning at age 13. More than a third of those suffering with the condition, wait years before seeking help. Social anxiety causes one to avoid social situations. Many people rely on self-medication, drugs, and alcohol, to get them through life.

Luckily, there are methods you can use to find relief in healthy ways!

Try these effective strategies:

  1. Put yourself out there. It can be a daunting prospect, but try to accept invitations, even if you don’t particularly want to go. With a positive attitude, the more you practice, the easier it becomes.
  1. Get help from a professional. Of course, talking to a close friend about your anxiety may help, but remember they aren’t trained for this. Make an appointment to speak to a professional therapist. They should be able to suggest some customized coping mechanisms that would work for you.
  1. Strengthen your overall health. Poor health can leave you feeling anxious. Eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly. Both uplift your mood and can decrease stress and anxiety. Exercise has been shown to release feel-good hormones.
    • Besides getting some exercise, joining a local fitness class can also allow you to practice meeting new people while those feel-good hormones are in full effect. Plus, who knows – you might just make a new friend.
  1. Write it down. List the times that you have managed to overcome your fears. What did you do in the situation? How did you feel when this happened?
    • Whenever you encounter an event where you are feeling socially anxious, write that down, too. How does it compare with the ones on your list?
    • Regular reflection of the times you were successful combating your fears, can help with current situations.
  1. Congratulate yourself. You may not be confident in public, but you have plenty of other things to be proud of! Recognize and remind yourself of any achievements. This will help boost your confidence.
  1. Practice your social skills. Learn how to make introductions and give compliments. Practice making eye contact and remembering names. Listen to what others have to say and keep the focus on them – not you.
    • These few skills will not only help you through a social situation, but the other person will walk away from the conversation feeling like a million bucks!
    • Remember – others will not always remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel!
  1. Join a support group. Talking to others who are undergoing the same challenges can be comforting. Group members can encourage, offer support ,and advice from their own experiences.
  1. Try going to new places. You’ll meet new people. I have taken many solo adventures abroad, and I’m still in touch with some of the best people I know. Using your new skills to interact with them will give you more practice and confidence in dealing with social situations.
  1. Remember that you don’t need to be perfect. Those with social anxiety have a tendency to believe they need to be perfect. This is not attainable for anyone! Instead try and enjoy the moment and have a “that’ll do” attitude.
  1. Read a self-help book. There are many inspiring stories about others with social anxiety who have transformed their lives after overcoming their social fears. These stories can motivate and encourage you to keep trying..

Breaking the cycle of social anxiety will take some time and practice, but you can do this! Reward yourself for each small step you make. Focus on the journey ahead, and the steps you can take to bring you success. One of the above suggestions on their own, might not solve your problem. Furthermore, everyone is different, try a combination of things, and keeping a journal of what works, will go a long way.

You might be wondering, how I developed the habit of being able to confidently speak before large crowds without falling apart. Bear in mind, change is generally incremental. I also have an aptitude for it. However, start small, try practicing in front of friends and ask for feedback, get enough rest the night before a big social event, meditation, journaling, and challenging negative self talk, have all contributed to success.

To Your Success,
Juan

Pandemic Within a Pandemic


Readers,

February is here already. Yikes! Can we talk about mental health for a bit? Almost two years into the pandemic, we know someone who either contracted the disease, or died from it. Another troubling trend, is the urgent need for mental health support. Millions are now coping with increased anxiety, depression, panic attacks, PTSD, insomnia, stress eating, loneliness, paranoia..etc. I believe we are in the middle of a pandemic within a pandemic. Sadly, some saw no way out, and took their own lives. The past two years have been TOUGH. 

A few days ago here in NYC, media outlets broke news which quickly spread; Miss USA 2019, Chelsie Krist jumped to her death. She made history, part of a trio of black beauty pageant winners, who for the first time, held the titles of Ms USA, Teen USA, and America. Just about every comment echoed the same sentiments “ No one saw this coming. She looked like she had it all. A Lawyer who fought for reform, mental health advocate, and successful television personality, heartbreaking”.

The thing is, we need to stop judging others on appearances. That strong friend who never complains, constantly smiling, appears happy is most likely the one silently asking us to check in on them. My blog’s content calendar was planned before this tragic news broke. You can expect the next few months to be all things mental health. 

Most of my clients are anxious about the future. Best laid plans have been shattered. I have bouts of anxiety too. To help them, I’ve had to quickly shift and pivot. I cannot pour from an empty cup. What issue in your life has been amplified because of COVID? I can only imagine your list has gotten longer. We may not know each other personally, but I understand where we are. Over the next few months, when you visit this page, you can expect to find mental health related posts, hoping to be a source of light as we work our way through uncertainty. 

A bit about my background. I have spent the past 5+ years working with the homeless and formerly homeless, on the grimy streets of NYC. My clients struggle with persistent mental health disorders, some have a history of suicide attempts, drug addictions, in patient psychiatric hospitalizations, etc. The job is not easy. In 2011, I graduated from the University of Essex UK, with an MSc in Psychology. Barry University in Florida, provided the background with a BSc in the same field.

I am also a Reiki Master. I continue to  actively seek out other mental health related certifications. When I lived in Miami, I worked in the medical field for about six years. I won’t always get things right. The upcoming posts  are not meant to treat or diagnose from behind a computer screen, simply to share my knowledge, experience, and guidance.  Always follow the advice of your medical and mental health providers.

We will begin with anxiety. Hope to see you soon.

To Your Success,
Juan

Calm & Centered


Dear Followers,
Thank you for being here. The world as we know it has changed, forcing us to adjust to a new normal. For the next several months, it is my hope the pieces I post here, will help get you through the unprecedented times ahead. Once the worse is over, I can refocus on my original plans for the blog. I have a responsibility to help through this medium. We are always better together!

As COVID-19 slowly makes its way into major cities and small suburbs across the nation, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to remain calm and not panic. We have been told by authorities to stay in our homes in order to prevent spread, but that does not mean that we should go crazy inside and solely focus our attention on what is happening with the world outside. Try to limit how much news you watch, especially some of the overhyped reporting that only propagates fear and anxiety. First and foremost, get updates and facts from reliable sources, and then focus your attention elsewhere.

You can avoid contact with other people and wash your hands more carefully, but your ability to remain calm comes from within. That means you’ll have to take the necessary steps in reducing your stress,  anxiety and promoting calmness while the virus runs its course.

Meditation & Mindfulness
So, you’re anxious and stressed as a result of the rapid spread of Coronavirus. If you’ve never attempted meditation or any mindfulness techniques in the past, this is a perfect time. According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can play a huge role in helping you to maintain your mental and emotional health, even benefiting aspects of your physical health.
Meditation can help you have a greater outlook on life (positivity, increased feelings of calmness, greater self-awareness, reduced levels of anxiety and stress, and improved focus. The best part is, there are many different types of meditation. If you’re able to focus for long periods of time, guided meditations or visualization techniques are the ways to go. When you’re looking to stay more active while quarantined,  yoga or Pilates are great options!

Finding a Creative Outlet
You might be stuck in the house for the next few weeks, but it doesn’t mean you have to resort to going stir crazy. In fact, this might only increase your feelings of panic! This is a great time to try out some new (or old) creative hobbies. When you’re focused on building or creating something new, you’re reducing the amount of focus on the negativity surrounding you. Creativity is a solid way of helping you to relax. There are a few things you might want to try out (if you have supplies at home); painting, coloring, or drawing, singing or playing musical instruments taking photos or videos of things you enjoy, building something with things lying around the house, writing, puzzles, learning a new language.
Reading something and then writing an essay about it (yes, remember English 101 class?). This is a great way to take your mind off the world’s troubles. Basically, the goal here is to find an activity or task, that requires an intense amount of focus and makes you happy. You won’t even notice that you spent the last hour drawing your favorite cartoon character.

Giving Back & Helping Others
It’s completely natural to be fearful of the unknown but giving back to others can help you to tackle fear. When you’re giving back to the community or helping those in need, you’ll be working to spread compassion and happiness rather than fear and anxiety. With so many people sick or self-quarantined, most people aren’t permitted to leave the home. However, these individuals do still have needs that they now can’t meet on their own. As long as you’re keeping your distance, you can deliver food and groceries, or do things like their yard work. It’ll make you feel good about yourself while also helping those who need it! So, call your neighbors, post something on your Social Media, to let those in need know you are available and how to get in contact.

Final Thoughts
You might not be able to cure COVID-19, but there are things you can do to reduce panic and invoke an overwhelming sense of calmness. By taking advantage of mindfulness, looking for a creative outlet, and even giving back to those who need it, you’ll be able to stay calm and centered, even now!

Until the next post,
Best,
Juan