Focusing on Our Mental Health
As an Psychiatric Mental Health Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (PMH-ARNP), Michelle Taylor brings extensive training in mental health to CBHA to help patients better understand and identify the stressors and frustrations in their lives, and that impact their overall health and wellbeing.
Patients often fail to connect stress and mental health issues to their physical symptoms. As Taylor has listened to patient stories in our community, she has noticed a number of common frustrations and stressors that we face. Because studies show that mental health plays a role in a patient’s physical wellness, Taylor works closely with patients to manage factors that can negatively impact health.
Taylor identified three common stressors, and strategies to help us manage our responses and reduce stress in our daily lives.
Bullying has become so commonplace in our nation that we encounter it almost daily: on the news, in our work or school day, or as we experience social media. Unfortunately, our communities are no exception. In the six months that I have treated patients here in Mattawa, Connell, and Othello, I can’t count the number of kids who have told me that they have been bullied.
Bullying takes many forms – name-calling, cyberbullying, and physical threats – all of which leave kids and adults feeling isolated, vulnerable, and anxious. This abuse takes a toll, and causes us to develop eating disorders, become withdrawn, and/or depressed. Some may develop anxiety disorders, or even think about suicide.
These anxiety issues can cause significant disruptions in the life of a child. We are not born with strategies for coping, and these behaviors take time to learn. It is important for a parent to recognize that professionals are here to help. As healthcare providers, we work with parents to help young patients develop strategies to learn to navigate through bullying experiences, which is a crucial step toward healing and general mental health.
FAMILY DYNAMIC AND CULTURAL/RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE
We are all influenced by the culture and environment in which we grew up. Our surroundings, how we were raised, what we valued, who we respected - these things affect nearly every aspect of our adult life.
In healthcare, we pay close attention to our patients’ cultural and religious backgrounds because it affects how decisions are made, how compliant patients are, and the success of treatment. Similarly, cultural and religious dynamics play a role within families and can be a source of conflict.
Parents who relocate from other countries, communities, and/ or societies where a certain code of conduct are strictly adhered to may be frustrated when standards of behavior and accepted norms are very different in another country or regional area.
As young people seek to fit in, they may adopt new norms or ways of acting, often at the disapproval of parents or elders. Family conflict results in anger and hurt feelings. We find that through counseling, we can help families talk through and resolve these issues. Compromises can be reached and relationships restored, resulting in less stress and family conflict.
JOB INJURIES, LOSS OF WORK
Job injuries and/or loss of work are common causes of anxiety for many people. The associated financial stress and instability that workplace changes can bring are among the most common stressors for American households. Fear and anxiety are often visible in people’s faces as they share their struggles over money and ability to pay for daily necessities.
Feelings of helplessness, guilt, fatigue, anger, insomnia, and restlessness set in as the amount of time away from work lengthens. These stresses often show up as obsessive worry, panic, impatience, concentration problems, rapid or irregular heartbeat, and may even cause nausea. Depression may follow, putting people at higher risk for self-destructive behaviors, like the abuse of drugs or alcohol, or physical abuse. Family and friends can help by offering support and listening. However, problems can become severe, and professional mental-health counseling may be needed.
Medical research continues to show the harmful effects stress can have on our bodies. Studies point to a direct relationship between stress and the development and progression of a number of diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and mental disorders.
Most of us seek balance between work, family, and extracurricular activities. However, it can be hard to find time as we dash around and try to keep up with our modern pace. This hectic pace can effect our health and sense of wellbeing. We soon find we are not sleeping well, are short-tempered, and otherwise are not ourselves.
To manage these symptoms of stress, we work with patients to learn self-management skills, and find therapies that work for them. A few approaches that help patients deal with the stress in their lives include:
This therapy uses plant materials and aromatic plant oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. For example, rose, lemon, lavender, and peppermint essential oils added to the bath, massaged into the skin, inhaled directly, or diffused to scent an entire room and promote relaxation. The holistic treatment calms nerves, slows down breathing and heart rate, and relieves stress.
YOGA: Similar to the calming effects of aromatherapy, the practices of yoga movement is very helpful in managing stress. This slow, intentional movement focuses on a linkage between mind and body combining physical poses, controlled breathing, and intentional relaxation. Yoga helps relieve stress, reduce your heart rate, and can also lower your blood pressure.
MEDITATION: This thousand-year-old technique helps by focusing one’s attention, eliminating the stream of jumbled thoughts and distracting ideas that may crowd your mind and cause stress. This therapy can improve concentration, increase self-awareness, reduce stress, improve cardiovascular health, and improve your overall capacity for relaxation.
EXERCISE: Physical activity, such as walking, running, or playing with your kids, provides a release of pent-up energy, and also helps reduce stress by producing endorphins, which are natural pain relievers in the brain. For many, exercise is a form of meditation coupled with motion. As you focus on keeping your body actively engaged, you free your mind from worrying over outside stressors. Exercise can improve one’s sense of self-worth, improve the quality of sleep, and often has an impact on reducing day-to-day anxieties and mild depression.
All CBHA healthcare providers, including myself, are always available to answer questions or offer support. If you or a loved one are in need of support through a difficult period, call 509-488-5256 to schedule an appointment.