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Cut Back on Screen Time to Boost Mental Health

We have access to more information than any generation before us. Nearly all of human knowledge is at our fingertips, twenty-four hours a day. But whether you want to find a new recipe, watch a viral video, or stay informed about current events, you need a screen.

For many people, screens have become an essential part of how we do things. We’re surrounded by them – in our pockets, our offices, our living rooms, bedrooms, and even on our wrists. We can decide, however, how much time we spend on them. Limiting screen time has been shown to improve our mood and help us engage with the people and activities that matter most.

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Ways to Manage Screen Time

We’ve made a habit at looking at our phones. Anytime we’re not having conversations, we’re gaming or scrolling through social media. Sometimes we need a little quiet time. That’s when we’re at our most creative.

Here are some tips for reducing the amount of time you spend on your device.

  • Manage news consumption — We are constantly bombarded with news. While it’s important to stay informed, we don’t need to know everything every second. It’s OK to pause the 24-hour news cycle.
  • Turn off notifications — Do you really need to know that someone posted a vacation photo or a picture of their meal? Keep track of appointments, but the social media updates can go.
  • Stay focused — If you’re looking at your phone while watching TV or worse, spending time with someone, what does that say about what you’re doing? Maybe you need to find another activity or reexamine how you conduct relationships.
  • Just eat — Mealtime should be for meals. You should savor your food. Pay attention to the conversations you’re having and notice when you’re getting full. When eating at home, make it a rule to put away your screens.
  • Set screen-free times and zones at home — It’s a good idea not to look at screens right before bed. It makes it hard to fall asleep because of the light given off by your devices. So, don’t look for at least half an hour before bedtime. See if you can make that last longer. Also designate certain parts of the house or apartment as screen-free.
  • Find screen alternatives — Go for a walk, meditate, read a book, sit outside, or find another activity that doesn’t involve looking at your device. Sitting in silence with your thoughts gives you an opportunity to process and reflect on your day.
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Benefits of Less Screen Time

Prying yourself free of your device gives you the opportunity to do different things. Here are five benefits to less screen time.

  1. Improve physical health — Putting down the phone and turning off the TV give you a chance to move. Movement can help prevent obesity and conditions related to excess weight. You’ll have more time to exercise and play. You can also get better sleep with less screen time.
  2. Discover new things — You live in Southern California where there’s always something to do. Get out and explore what’s around you. It also gives you the opportunity to try new hobbies.
  3. Connect socially — Face-to-face connections are vital to making ourselves and others feel cared for. We show our children and loved ones what’s truly important when we put our phones down and spend time with them.
  4. Boost your mood — Time spent on a screen makes it easier to withdraw and become depressed. Once you’re off the phone, you’re more inclined to engage socially with others. It can also help to eliminate feelings of anxiety and depression.
  5. Build community — With the phone out of your hand you can build stronger connections with:
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers

Mental Health Is Part of Your Health

AltaMed is here for you, and we’re committed to your mental and physical well-being. To learn more about AltaMed behavioral health services, call 855-425-1777.

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How to Manage Holiday Stress

Most of us have some stress in our everyday lives. Whether it’s anxiety from work, family drama, or worries about our health, there’s plenty of stressors to contend with. The holiday season, for all its magic, also comes with plenty of pressure. There’s the shopping, the travel, and the need to spend time with all the important people in our lives.

More serious types of anxiety, too, can resurface this time of year. Painful feeligs like grief about the past or loss of a loved one, or unresolved trauma caused by people we’re expected to see, can be difficult to navigate. For people who can’t be with their families, feelings of lonliness often accompany the holidays.

No matter the cause, feeling stressed is normal and learning how to cope with it will serve you not only through the new year, but for many years to come.

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The Body and Stress

Your body releases hormones whenever you’re stressed. It is part of the fight-or-flight response that has developed over millions of years. You become more alert, your muscles get tense, and your pulse increases. The stress is meant to help you handle the situation. Staying stressed, even after the underlying cause has been dealt with, can lead to chronic stress which causes health problems like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Menstrual problems
  • Anxiety

Anxiety is what happens when the stress becomes out of control. You are in a constant state of worry. Symptoms include:

  • Changes in appetite, energy, and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling angry, frustrated, sad, scared, or worried
  • Headaches, body aches, stomach problems, or rashes
  • Nightmares
  • Use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
  • Worsening physical or mental health
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Keys to Managing Holiday Stress

It’s important to recognize and take control of triggers that may lead to stress, especially during the holidays. The Mayo Clinic offers many helpful tips to help identify and stress and develop coping skills:

  • Maintain healthy habits — To keep up your energy and spirit, make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating as healthy as possible, and staying active. There’s lots of tempting treats this time of year, so make sure you have a plan.
  • Make a budget — Before you start buying gifts, set a budget that is realistic for what you can afford. Consider presents that allow you and your loved ones to spend time together, rather than lots of material items.
  • Set aside differences — Extra time with family members might mean more tension and the temptation to bring up past disagreements. Try to set boundaries and prepare to accept people as they are. 
  • Take a break — Set aside some time for yourself. While your schedule fills up with celebrations, make sure that you plan some quiet time for yourself or an activity you enjoy. This will give you time to clear your head and relax.

Taking care of yourself will help not only your mental health, but your physical well-being too. The holidays always bring lots of cheer and excitement. By following a de-stressor gameplan, you can give yourself the gift of peace of mind.

Get Help When You Need It

If stress is keeping you from enjoying the holidays or other parts of your life, it might be time to seek professional assistance. Start by talking with your primary care doctor. They may have some tips or advice for you, and they can also refer you to AltaMed Behavioral Health Services.

If you’re not sure if stress is your problem or if you should see a doctor, you can call AltaMed Behavioral Health Services directly at 855- 425-1777. We’ll help you find answers so you can get the care that’s right for you. Take a deep breath…together, we’ve got this.

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Meditate Your Way to Less Stress

Americans are overwhelmed by stress. The American Psychological Association has called it a “national mental health crisis.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted work, education, relationships, health care, and the economy.

The American Institute of Stress found that one third of people report feeling extreme stress; 77% experience stress that affects their physical health; 73% have stress that affects their mental health; and 48% of people can’t sleep because of stress.

Meditation is a free and extremely effective way to get your stress in check and get yourself on a path to better physical and mental health.

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Meditation Basics

Meditation has been around for thousands of years. It was originally seen as a way to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual forces in people’s lives. Today, it’s most often used to reduce stress and relax.

Meditation can help people focus their thoughts to gain perspective on what may be causing them stress. Identifying stressors can then lead to reducing the affect those stressors have on you.

The emotional benefits of meditation can include:
 

  • Building stress-management skills
  • Fewer negative emotions
  • Focusing on the present
  • Getting perspective on stressful situations
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased patience
  • Increased self-awareness
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Types of Meditation

The goal of meditation is to help you relax. It can be as simple as sitting in a quiet place and listening to your breath. Other forms can be a little more involved. Here are some examples:
 

  • Guided meditation Use your imagination to see places or situations that are relaxing. Try to involve as many senses as you can. There are apps that can help with this form of meditation.
  • Mantra meditation Repeat, in your mind, a calming word or thought to help you focus.
  • Mindfulness Focus on things that keep you in the moment, like your breath. Try to let stray thoughts pass through you.
  • Qi gong Pronounced CHEE-gung, this form of traditional Chinese medicine combines breathing exercises with movement, meditation, and relaxation. Talk to your doctor before doing any meditation that involves movement.
  • Tai chi This is a Chinese martial art that combines slow, graceful movement with deep breathing.

Common Elements of Meditation

Which each form of meditation has different features, there are some basic elements to each type.
 

  • A quiet setting
  • A comfortable position
  • Focused attention
  • Relaxed breathing
  • An open attitude
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Health Benefits of Meditation

There has been extensive research into the health benefits of meditation. It has been shown to help people dealing with a number of different issues including anxiety, depression, and problems sleeping.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, here are some health-related topics that include studies on the benefits of meditation.

  1. For cancer patients — The Society for Integrative Oncology recommends meditation as one way to help reduce the anxiety and stress for people suffering from cancer symptoms and treatment side effects.
  2. Blood pressure — The American Heart Association supports using meditation as a complement to standard treatment to lower blood pressure.
  3. Menopause — Yoga, tai chi, and other meditation techniques have been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, stress, muscle and joint pain, sleep disturbances, and mood changes.
  4. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — There have been literature reviews that show meditation training helped reduce the effects of pain IBS patients deal with.

Add Meditation to Your Health Regimen

Meditation can be another part of your routine to stay healthy. Add it to your activities, just like you would exercise or eating right. AltaMed can support you in those efforts. We’re here to meet the health needs of you and your entire family — both inside and out.

AltaMed Behavioral Health Services is also there to help you find healthy ways to manage the stress that surrounds us. Call us at (855) 425-1777.

Cut Back on Screen Time to Boost Mental Health