Choose a topic below for information and resources.
Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act, as well as determines how we handle stress, make choices and relate to others. Mental Health is important all through a person’s life.
Mental Health Wellness Tips
Below are tips to assist someone working toward improving their mental health wellness:
• Maintaining a healthy diet
• Exercising regularly
• Keeping regular medical appointments
• Maintaining positive and healthy relationships
• Setting realistic goals for yourself
• Practicing meditation
• Taking breaks throughout the day
A Mental Illness is a disorder that can cause psychological and/or behavioral disturbances. The good news is that Mental Illnesses are treatable…there is help and hope!
The impact is more than in statistics and factoids, it’s in feelings and emotions. It’s in our families, with our friends and in our communities. Having a mental disorder should not be any different than experiencing a physical illness. And it doesn’t have to be; you can help make a difference.
A mental illness makes the things you do in life hard, like: work, school and socializing with other people. If you think you (or someone you know) might have a mental disorder, it is best to consult a professional as soon as possible. Early identification and effective intervention is the key to successfully treating the disorder and preventing future disability. A health care professional (doctor, mental health specialist, etc) will connect the symptoms and experiences the patient is having with recognized diagnostic criteria (DSM or ICD) to help formulate a diagnosis.
When feelings of intense fear and distress become overwhelming and prevent us from doing everyday activities, an anxiety disorder may be the cause. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States, with an 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder in young people, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that ADHD affects an estimated 9 percent of children aged 3-17 and 2-4 percent of adults. Although ADHD has its onset and is usually diagnosed in childhood, it is not a disorder limited to children—ADHD often persists into adolescence and adulthood and is frequently not diagnosed until later years.
Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from one day to months. This mental illness causes unusual and dramatic shifts in mood, energy and the ability to think clearly. Cycles of high (manic) and low (depressive) moods may follow an irregular pattern that differs from the typical ups and downs experienced by most people.
Depressive disorder, frequently referred to simply as depression, is more than just feeling sad or going through a rough patch. It’s a serious mental health condition that requires understanding and medical care. Left untreated, depression can be devastating for those who have it and their families. More than 17 million U.S. adults—over 7% of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. People of all ages and all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds experience depression, but it does affect some groups more than others. Some will only experience one depressive episode in a lifetime, but for most, depressive disorder recurs. Without treatment, episodes may last a few months to several years.
Dual Diagnosis and Integrated Treatment of Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorder
Dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring disorders) is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Either disorder—substance use or mental illness—can develop first. People experiencing a mental health condition may turn to alcohol or other drugs as a form of self-medication to improve the mental health symptoms they experience. However, research shows that alcohol and other drugs worsen the symptoms of mental illnesses.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by repetitive, unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and irrational, excessive urges to do certain actions (compulsions). Although people with OCD may know that their thoughts and behavior don’t make sense, they are often unable to stop them.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Traumatic events—such as an accident, assault, military combat or natural disaster—can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health. While many people will have short term responses to life-threatening events, some will develop longer term symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms often co-exist with other conditions such as substance use disorders, depression and anxiety.
If you are concerned you or a loved one has a mental health or substance use disorder, contact a behavioral health professional for further evaluation
It can be challenging to tell the difference between expected behaviors and potential signs of a mental health condition. There’s no easy test that can let someone know if there is mental illness or if actions and thoughts might be typical behaviors of a person or the result of a physical illness.
Each mental health condition has its own symptoms, but common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents can include the following:
Mental health conditions can also begin to develop in young children. Because they’re still learning how to identify and talk about thoughts and emotions, their most obvious symptoms are behavioral. Symptoms in children may include the following:
Feeling down from time to time is a normal part of life, but when emotions such as hopelessness and despair take hold and just won’t go away, you may have depression. More than just sadness in response to life’s struggles and setbacks, depression changes how you think, feel, and function in daily activities. It can interfere with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and enjoy life. Just trying to get through the day can be overwhelming.
While some people describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom, others feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Men in particular can feel angry and restless. However, you experience depression, left untreated it can become a serious health condition. But it’s important to remember that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are symptoms of depression—not the reality of your situation.
No matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better. By understanding the cause of your depression and recognizing the different symptoms and types of depression, you can take the first steps to feeling better and overcoming the problem.
Signs and Symptoms of depression
Depression varies from person to person, but there are some common signs and symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms can be part of life’s normal lows. But the more symptoms you have, the stronger they are, and the longer they’ve lasted—the more likely it is that you’re dealing with depression.
10 common symptoms of depression:
Depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered by a life crisis, physical illness or something else—but it can also occur spontaneously. Scientists believe several factors can contribute to depression:
Although depressive disorder can be a devastating illness, it often responds to treatment. The key is to get a specific evaluation and treatment plan. Safety planning is important for individuals who have suicidal thoughts. After an assessment rules out medical and other possible causes, a patient-centered treatment plans can include any or a combination of the following:
Alternative approaches including acupuncture, meditation, faith and nutrition can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan.
People often keep it a secret, but the urge to self-harm isn’t uncommon, especially in adolescents and young adults. Many overcome it with treatment.
Whether a person has recently started hurting themself or has been doing it for a while, there is an opportunity to improve health and reduce behaviors. Talking to a doctor or a trusted friend or family member is the first step towards understanding your behavior and finding relief.
What is Self-harm?
Self-harm or self-injury means hurting yourself on purpose. One common method is cutting with a sharp object. But any time someone deliberately hurts themself is classified as self-harm. Some people feel an impulse to cause burns, pull out hair or pick at wounds to prevent healing. Extreme injuries can result in broken bones.
Hurting yourself—or thinking about hurting yourself—is a sign of emotional distress. These uncomfortable emotions may grow more intense if a person continues to use self-harm as a coping mechanism. Learning other ways to tolerate the mental pain will make you stronger in the long term.
Self-harm also causes feelings of shame. The scars caused by frequent cutting or burning can be permanent. Drinking alcohol or doing drugs while hurting yourself increases the risk of a more severe injury than intended. And it takes time and energy away from other things you value. Skipping classes to change bandages or avoiding social occasions to prevent people from seeing your scars is a sign that your habit is negatively affecting work and relationships.
Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a need for better coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or posttraumatic distress disorder.
Self-harm occurs most often during the teenage and young adult years, though it can also happen later in life. Those at the most risk are people who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse. For instance, if a person grew up in an unstable family, it might have become a coping mechanism. If a person binge drinks or uses illicit drugs, they are at greater risk of self-injury, because alcohol and drugs lower self-control.
The urge to hurt yourself may start with overwhelming anger, frustration or pain. When a person is not sure how to deal with emotions, or learned as a child to hide emotions, self-harm may feel like a release. Sometimes, injuring yourself stimulates the body’s endorphins or pain-killing hormones, thus raising their mood. Or if a person doesn’t feel many emotions, they might cause themself pain in order to feel something “real” to replace emotional numbness.
Once a person injures themself, they may experience shame and guilt. If the shame leads to intense negative feelings, that person may hurt themself again. The behavior can thus become a dangerous cycle and a long-time habit. Some people even create rituals around it.
Self-harm isn’t the same as attempting suicide. However, it is a symptom of emotional pain that should be taken seriously. If someone is hurting themself, they may be at an increased risk of feeling suicidal. It’s important to find treatment for the underlying emotions.
There are effective treatments for self-harm that can allow a person to feel in control again. Psychotherapy is important to any treatment plan. Self-harm may feel necessary to manage emotions, so a person will need to learn new coping mechanisms.
The first step in getting help is talking to a trusted adult, friend or medical professional who is familiar with the subject, ideally a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist will ask that person questions about their health, life history and any injurious behaviors in the past and present. This conversation, called a diagnostic interview, may last an hour or more. Doctors can’t use blood tests or physical exams to diagnose mental illness, so they rely on detailed information from the individual. The more information that person can give, the better the treatment plan will be.
Depending on any underlying illness, a doctor may prescribe medication to help with difficult emotions. For someone with depression, for instance, an antidepressant may lessen harmful urges.
A doctor will also recommend therapy to help a person learn new behaviors, if self-injury has become a habit. Several different kinds of therapy can help, depending on the diagnosis.
If your symptoms are overwhelming or severe, your doctor may recommend a short stay in a psychiatric hospital. A hospital offers a safe environment where you can focus your energy on treatment.
Perhaps you have noticed a friend or family member with frequent bruises or bandages. If someone is wearing long sleeves and pants even in hot weather, they may be trying to hide injuries or scarring.
Keep in mind that this is a behavior that might be part of a larger condition and there may be additional signs of emotional distress. They might make statements that sound hopeless or worthless, have poor impulse control, or have difficulty getting along with others.
If you’re worried a family member or friend might be hurting themself, ask them how they're doing and be prepared to listen to the answer, even if it makes you uncomfortable. This may be a hard subject to understand. One of the best things is to tell them that while you may not fully understand, you’ll be there to help. Don’t dismiss emotions or try to turn it into a joke.
Gently encourage someone to get treatment by stating that self-harm isn’t uncommon and doctors and therapists can help. If possible, offer to help find treatment. But don’t go on the offensive and don’t try to make the person promise to stop, as it takes more than willpower to quit.
Stigma is when someone is viewed in a negative way because of having a mental illness. It causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control. Worst of all, stigma prevents people from seeking the help they need. The Allegany County Local Behavioral Health Authority and the Consumer Advisory Board provide public education to help address stigma and to inform the community that recovery is possible!
Many types of mental health care professionals can help you achieve your recovery goals. These professionals work in inpatient facilities, such as general hospitals and psychiatric facilities, and outpatient facilities, such as community mental health clinics, schools and private practices.
Health care professional job titles and specialties can vary by state. The descriptions below give an overview of what to look for and what credentials to expect from a mental health professional. Finding the right professional is easier when you understand the different areas of expertise and training.
The NAMI HelpLine can provide information on how to find various mental health professionals and resources in your area. Please note that we are unable to provide specific recommendations to individual providers as we are unable to speak to the quality of their care.
Therapists can help someone better understand and cope with thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They can also offer guidance and help improve a person’s ability to achieve life goals. These mental health professionals may also help assess and diagnosis mental health conditions.
Psychologists hold a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty such as counseling or education. They are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health using clinical interviews, psychological evaluations and testing. They can make diagnoses and provide individual and group therapy. Some may have training in specific forms of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and other behavioral therapy interventions.
Degree requirements: Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in a field of psychology or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.).
Licensure & credentials: Psychologists are licensed by licensure boards in each state.
Counselors, Clinicians, Therapists
These masters-level health care professionals are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. They operate under a variety of job titles—including counselor, clinician, therapist or something else—based on the treatment setting. Working with one of these mental health professionals can lead not only to symptom reduction but to better ways of thinking, feeling and living.
Degree requirements: master’s degree (M.S. or M.A.) in a mental health-related field such as psychology, counseling psychology, marriage or family therapy, among others.
Licensure & Certification: Varies by specialty and state. Examples of licensure include:
Clinical Social Workers
Clinical social workers are trained to evaluate a person’s mental health and use therapeutic techniques based on specific training programs. They are also trained in case management and advocacy services.
Degree requirements: master’s degree in social work (MSW).
Licensure & credentials: Examples of licensure include:
The following health care professionals can prescribe medication. They may also offer assessments, diagnoses and therapy.
Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who have completed psychiatric training. They can diagnose mental health conditions, prescribe and monitor medications and provide therapy. Some have completed additional training in child and adolescent mental health, substance use disorders or geriatric psychiatry.
Psychiatric or Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
Psychiatric or mental health nurse practitioners can provide assessment, diagnosis and therapy for mental health conditions or substance use disorders. In some states, they are also qualified to prescribe and monitor medications. Requirements also vary by state as to the degree of supervision necessary by a licensed psychiatrist.
Primary Care Physicians
Primary care physicians and pediatricians can prescribe medication, but you might consider visiting someone who specializes in mental health care. Primary care and mental health professionals should work together to determine an individual’s best treatment plan.
Family Nurse Practitioners
Family nurse practitioners (FNP) can provide general medical services like those of a primary care physician, based on each state’s laws. Like primary care physicians, they can prescribe medication, but you might consider visiting someone who specializes in mental health care. Family nurse practitioners and mental health professionals should work together to determine an individual’s best treatment plan.
Psychiatrist pharmacists are advanced-practice pharmacists who specialize in mental health care. They can prescribe or recommend appropriate medications if allowed in their state and practice setting. They are skilled at medication management—meaning they evaluate responses and modify treatment, manage medication reactions and drug interactions, and provide education about medications. Many have completed additional training in child/adolescent psychiatry, substance use disorders or geriatric psychiatry.
Certified Peer Specialists
These specialists have lived experience with a mental health condition or substance use disorder. They are often trained, certified and prepared to assist with recovery by helping a person set goals and develop strengths. They provide support, mentoring and guidance.
Social workers (B.A. or B.S.) provide case management, inpatient discharge planning services, placement services and other services to support healthy living.
Pastoral counselors are clergy members with training in clinical pastoral education. They are trained to diagnose and provide counseling. Pastoral counselors are members of the Association of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) and can have equivalents to a doctorate in counseling.
Written by and for those individuals living with mental illness.
It hits you all of a sudden. It’s the middle of the day, you’re surrounded by friends and the sun is out. But something isn’t right. There is this feeling, a very uncomfortable feeling in your mind, in the pit of your stomach. You want to leave and go somewhere that is quiet and dark. You are being consumed. Consumed by your own thoughts. So dark and so horrid, you are afraid. It’s wrecking you from the inside out.
But what can you do? Suffer? That’s what many of us do and did. But sometimes the suffering gets too much. You can’t handle the darkness that’s pulling you into an eternal abyss and you decide that only way to stop the darkness is to join it. You take your own life. Suicide. Simple as that.
I lost a very close friend of mine to suicide. It sent us, their friends and family, all into a cage. We felt trapped, we felt deep inside us this horrible, disgusting feeling and all you wanted to do is cry. That’s how suffering feels. This constant feeling of being trapped and not being able to do anything to stop it. That’s how people with mental illnesses feel constantly. It devours us. Fear eats our insides away until we are nothing but bones. Fear controls us. Fear puts us on autopilot and does whatever it wants.
That feeling you have in the pit of your stomach when you are about to do something that makes you nervous? That’s how anxiety feels. It’s how living with a mental illness feels. It runs our lives and we can’t stop it. Admitting to someone that you have a problem is probably the hardest thing to do. Admitting to my best friend that I have anxiety, depression and OCD took me months.
Every night I would run it around in my head, what and how will I tell my friend that I am crazy and I can’t control it? Will she be OK with it? Will she laugh? Is she going to stay being my friend? And that’s the problem I am trying to write about. Admitting you have a mental illness. It’s not easy to do and that’s why more than two million people are struggling. They can’t tell anyone.
Lucky for me, I have an amazing group of friends that understood, while some aren’t so lucky. A lot of friends and family reject their siblings or children or friends because they don’t know how to deal with a mental illness. Dealing with a mental illness, whether you have it or someone else does, is like a tripwire. You have to be so careful with your words or one bad move and it can devastate someone.
A quote that that always inspired me, even through those dark days when I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t carry on living. “And here you are living, despite it all.” - Rupi Kaur
To all those suffering deep inside, pushing those feelings to the back of your brain, the bottom of your heart, please keep on living. Please remember that no matter how distant your future may seem, no matter how distant love may seem, it will always be there. Never lose hope; I know it’s easy to. We are rocks in a sea of chaos; we cannot let every storm knock us around. We simply mustn’t.
by Max E. Guttman, LCSW
My parents have been there during the darkest moments of my recovery and during the most triumphant.
From the very beginning, my parents have been present with me in my health and healing, and if my prayers are answered, they will be with me until the very end. My parents have been doing this for a long time—caregiving. My mother was the caregiver for her mother for almost 20 years during the tenure of my grandmother's dementia and aging. Around the time when my great aunt passed, and my grandmother first began to forget things, I was admitted to the hospital as an adolescent.
My mother and father were there on the unit every day. As soon as visiting time came around, my parents would buzz the unit door and there, in hand, would be a snack or my dinner, or just something I could use to pass the time. Indeed, family support is integral to the recovery process. Our family's proximity to our issues, our sensitive and raw exposed areas—there is no question that family is the perfect match for people needing comfort and attention during our most vulnerable times.
My parents were the first to identify my illness. Something didn't seem right and before long, things were spinning out. When I was 17, I attempted suicide, and was again taken to the hospital for what the nursing staff called "a tune-up." My treatment team asked my family to sit around the table and read to me their thoughts on my decision to end my life prematurely. That was the first time I witnessed the impact of my illness on the emotional state of my family.
While both inpatient experiences impacted my parents, throughout, during, and while I was on the unit—however difficult the emotions were to process—my parents persevered on their own merits and guided me along to discharge in the process. Not only were my parents emotionally supportive and very present at all times, they were an integral part of my treatment team. There wasn't a family meeting without my parents’ voice of support. During these early moments in my illness, I still remember the encouragement and hope my parents passed on to me to keep moving and move forward regardless of the challenges poised ahead that I would have to confront on my own one day.
In college, when things again began to spin out, my parents were retired and there were no outpatient therapists that would take our insurance. I again had just attempted suicide, and upon returning to the dorm, I would need a therapist if I was going to continue living at school. My parents knew the importance of help when healing is what's needed, and without delay I was connected to a therapist in the community.
To pay for treatment, my dad worked as a part-time security guard into his 70’s. For my parents, working to support my mental health treatment wasn't a question—it was a priority. This speed, savvy, and importance placed on unconditional support regardless of my circumstances was the rallying cry of my parents throughout my recovery, even when I fought them on it. Later on, when my psychosis was activated, and I became extremely paranoid and delusional, my parents were wrapped up into my distorted thoughts and suspicions. As my condition worsened, I even threatened to call a lawyer and sue them when they wouldn't follow one of my irrational demands at the time.
But my parents always knew better than whatever the illness spoke or had me believe. And when I was three hours away from home in a state hospital, not around the block anymore, my parents were weekly visitors. Every weekend, in their golden years, my parents would drive three hours each way just to make sure my treatment and health were being attended to on the unit. Even when I wouldn't participate in family meetings or wouldn’t agree to move back home upon discharge (I was preoccupied with moving into an adult home), ultimately, when I walked out of the unit and my time in the hospital was over, I went home with my parents, who were waiting for me outside of the unit with a bag of Burger King and my favorite iced coffee.
As one therapist said to me: "Your parents really stepped up, Max." Well, they stepped up again and again. When I came home from the hospital in upstate New York, my family administered medication, cooked meals, helped me do laundry and everything else I wasn't able to complete on my own just yet. From transportation to the clinic where I would get weekly injections, to therapy appointments when I was too sedated to drive, my parents were no strangers to starting over, moving forward, and being okay with both setbacks and difficult times in my recovery.
And when the most difficult times were over, and I wanted to pursue life again and go back to school, my parents were supportive of me chasing my dreams and facing my demons head on. My parents are the reason I was able to find meaning in life again and they are the reason I support my clients. We all need people to cheer us on, no matter what the circumstances are. Support from one or two people goes a long way when there is no one in our corner
by Michelle Dickinson-Moravek
When you love someone with bipolar disorder, life can be very unpredictable. In my case, it was my mother who struggled with this illness. She was in and out of the hospital half a dozen times throughout my childhood. She was often so depressed that she couldn't get out of bed and would cry uncontrollably for hours.
Other times she'd have what I now know were manic periods, which were kind of like taking a trip to Disney World: She would crank up the music and start singing and dancing—then, suddenly, she’d be running around the house naked. I referred to these ups and downs as “the roller coaster.” She could also be emotionally and physically abusive, slapping me and my brother and sister, telling us that we were garbage and imposing all kinds of arbitrary rules.
There were times when I’d have to stay home from school because my father had to work, and she was too fragile to be home by herself. And when I was in school, instead of paying attention to my teachers, I’d spend all day worrying about how my mom was doing—plus, I was weighed down with keeping the secret that I had a “crazy” mother.
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I understood my mother had a mental illness. Still, it was tough for me to be sympathetic. Instead, I felt angry. So as soon as I was old enough, I began getting jobs in restaurants to have an excuse to spend time away from home. I also figured that if I was going to be working so hard all the time, I might as well get paid for it and receive some appreciation. Taking care of my mother—and constantly strategizing with my father about getting her a new doctor or on a new medication—seemed like a thankless job in comparison.
When I was 18, I moved out of the house and went to go live with a boyfriend. Then at 23, I got married early to another guy who turned out to be a male version of my mother. He didn’t have bipolar disorder, but he was routinely depressed and abusive, and I found myself constantly trying to fix him—just like I’d try to fix my mother.
It wasn’t until my mid-20s, when I divorced and started going to therapy, that I began to heal and learned that it was OK to put some distance between me and my mother, even though I loved her.
And then, one day at work, I got a call from my father that my mother had died suddenly of a heart attack. It was only when she was gone, following a lot of self-exploration, that I was able to start having real compassion for what life with a mental illness must have been like for her.
My Journey to Reclaim Myself
I put myself through college and graduate school, while working in the pharmaceutical industry. Over that time, I realized that I could—and should—tell my story. In 2013, I submitted a proposal to an internal program that encourages employees to speak on various topics of their choice in a TED Talk-style format. I wanted to mine my experience growing up with a bipolar mother. I let myself get raw and vulnerable up on stage, and afterward, colleagues came up to me and said, “Wow—you really exposed yourself.” But I knew that, by being me, I was creating a safe space for others to talk about their own issues around mental health.
The feedback I got was so positive that I thought: If I can do this, I can write a book. I spent four years working on my memoir, "Breaking Into My Life: Growing Up With a Bipolar Parent and My Battle to Reclaim Myself", which was published in February 2018.
The goal was not just to tell the story of my childhood, but to help people understand what it’s like to love someone with a mental illness. There’s been too much silence around this issue, too much hush-hush, too much stigma. I want to cause conversations to happen, so people realize that having a mental illness is just like having heart disease or any other health condition—it’s not anything to be ashamed of. The more we talk about it, the more people will get the help they need for loved ones or themselves. And, tools like the app 18percent that facilitate immediate peer to peer support can make all the difference for those struggling.
The difference in openness around mental illness today, compared to when I was growing up, is incredible. A short time ago a peer reached out and said, “I’m 61, I’m bipolar and I never understood the impact that my disease might be having on others. I bought five copies of your book—one for everyone in my family. Thank you.”
Reactions like that are why I want to tell the world about my experience—the fact that my little story could change someone’s perspective on mental illness, well, that’s huge.
Signs Of Severe Stress
Not all stress is bad. In fact, it can be helpful for gaining motivation, building resilience and encouraging growth. However, stress can negatively affect a person and their health if not properly managed, especially for someone with mental illness.
The are many physical and emotional signs that stress is negatively affecting someone. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, there are 50 common signs and symptoms of too much stress.
One of the most common physical signs of high levels of stress is sleep deprivation. In one survey, over 40% of Americans reported that stress had prevented them from sleeping. Other physical signs include frequent headaches and aches and pains. Examples of emotional signs include anger, mood swings, difficultly concentrating and irritability.
Sources Of Stress
Stress affects each person differently. A person’s genes and previous experiences influence how sensitive they are too stressful life events. However, certain circumstances or life events are generally known to cause stress and can help pinpoint where an individual’s symptoms might be coming from.
The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory scores a person’s “stress inventory” using 43 stressful life events. Each event is assigned a numerical score. The higher the total score for all events, the more vulnerable a person is to a stress-induced health breakdown, which may include the triggering of mental illness.
The top three stressful life events identified by the inventory are the death of a spouse, divorce and marital separation. Illness is also a top stressful life event.
When stressful life events happen, we may not be able to change the situation or eliminate our stressors, but we can learn to manage our stress levels in a healthy way.
Methods for Managing Stress
There is no one size fits all strategy to managing stress – each person should identify which coping methods work best for them. It can help to develop coping strategies that address specific sources of stress. Also, the ability to easily incorporate coping strategies into your routine and lifestyle increases the likelihood of maintaining the practice. Keep in mind that small steps can have a big impact.
Problem-focused coping is when a person directly confronts a stressor or tries to find a solution to the stressor. For example, if having too many commitments is causing you stress, you may consider eliminating one of them to better manage the others. It can be tough to implement problem-focused coping if the sources are difficult to address, such as a stressful job situation or family relationship. In these cases, rather than grapple with the source of stress, an emotion-focused approach might be more effective.
Emotion-focused coping is when a person focuses on regulating their reaction to a stressor. This approach allows a person to accept their stressors and find ways to shift how they experience them. For example, if a family member causes you distress, you can journal your feelings or reframe your thoughts about the situation to better regulate your feelings.
There are eight interdependent dimensions of wellness: physical, intellectual, financial, environmental, spiritual, social, occupational and emotional. Each type of wellness has a different method for coping with stress.
Physical: Any form of exercise can relieve stress. Research has found that 30% of adults felt less stressed after exercising.
Intellectual: Activities that engage your mind such as reading, journaling about emotions, and jigsaw puzzles are all helpful coping tools.
Financial: According to the American Psychological Association, money and finances are a top stressor for Americans. Money management resources can provide strategies and solutions for money-related stress.
Environmental: Spending time in nature and green spaces is shown to help relieve stress.
Spiritual: Connecting with yourself and the world around you through meditation, prayer, or other forms of spirituality can have many benefits for stress relief.
Social: According to a 2015 survey, “43% of those who say they have no emotional support report that their overall stress has increased in the past year, compared to 26% of those who say they have emotional support.” Staying in close touch with family and friends, seeking out opportunities to make new friends and participating in community activities are all important methods for dealing with stress.
Occupational: Next to money, work is the second leading stressor with 60% of people finding work-related stress to be significant. One important form of occupational stress relief is to do work that you are truly passionate about, if possible. It’s also helpful to take time to recharge and establish healthy boundaries and work/life balance.
Emotional: To address your emotional wellness, you can detach yourself from stressors, practice relaxation techniques, try reframing your thoughts, or go to therapy, among many other possibilities.
Stress is a persistent force in our lives. Many people have come to accept it as normal, even when it gets out of hand, and let it build. But changing our relationship with stress is critically important for improving our health and well-being.
The goal is not to avoid stress but to manage it effectively. Stress is something we can and should address for the sake of our mental health.
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