Image
Stressed Man

Managing Stress Before It Becomes Anxiety

It feels like stress has been a frequent companion for the last two years. The pandemic has forced many of us to feel lonely and isolated. We may have lost loved ones or seen friends and relatives spend time in the hospital. Jobs have been lost and financial worries seem constant.

It’s normal, however. Stress is the body’s response to the unknown. Learning how to handle that stress can make you resilient. 

Woman Having Stress Problems

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 that situation.

Staying stressed, even after that stressful situation has passed, can lead to chronic stress which can lead to health problems like:
 

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

Anxiety happens when the stress takes over. 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
Mom and Daughter Looking the Lake

4 A’s of Stress Management

It’s important to learn productive ways to deal with stress because we deal with it nearly every day. Sometimes it’s good, like a wedding, birthday, or a new job. Sometimes it’s difficult, like a flat tire, an illness, or a pandemic. There are ways to get your body back into balance, so you’re not overwhelmed by stress.

The Mayo Clinic recommends four A’s to cope with stress: avoid, alter, accept, and adapt
 

  • Avoid — The news can be incredibly stressful so, avoid it. Being informed is important, but not at the expense of your health. Don’t engage with people who bother you. Learn to say “no.” If you have a “to-do” list, prioritize items on that list and forget the ones you can’t get to that day.
  • Alter — It may be worth having a talk with that bothersome person if they can’t be avoided. Communicate your feelings with “I” statements about how you feel. Tell people there are limits to your time and stick to those. Use your time more efficiently.
  • Accept — It can help to talk with a sympathetic friend. It might be time to forgive someone, which can be hard. Practice positivity. Don’t get down on yourself for mistakes. Remind yourself that mistakes happen to everyone. Learn and move on.
  • Adapt — Shift your thinking. You may want things to be “perfect.” That’s not necessary. Learn to stop gloomy thoughts. Look at situations from a different viewpoint. Find the positivity in each situation. Try to come up with at least three good things that happened each day. This will lead you to start looking for the good in your life as you look for different things to be thankful for.

Regular exercise, having a hobby, staying connected with friends, eating a healthy diet, and meditating are all ways that can help you keep the stress in check.

Get Help When You Need It

If stress is keeping you from enjoying 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 can help you find answers so you can get the care that’s right for you. Take a deep breath…together, we’ve got this.

Sign Up for COVID-19 Updates

Sign up to receive email updates on the information that matters to you and those you love.

Sign Up Now

Image
Mental Health

Tips for Staying Mentally Healthy Through Trying Times

People have been struggling to cope with some form of fear, grief, or anxiety for more than 20 months. Stress has become the “new normal.”

This time last year we were preparing to spend our holidays apart from loved ones as isolation was the practice during the first year of the pandemic. Now we have vaccines that have provided us greater freedom to gather. Still misinformation and political wrangling have kept us from putting COVID-19 in our rearview mirrors. It’s just something else to add to our stress and anxiety.

It’s important that we acknowledge our stress and deal with it in a healthy manor. Just like it’s important to get vaccinated and take precautions to put an end to the pandemic, it’s important to address any mental health concerns and change behaviors that may have sent you down a path toward depression.

Defining Mental Illness

The term mental illness is used to describe a broad range of conditions that vary from mild to moderate to severe. It is extremely common affecting one in five U.S. adults, in 2019. That is the most recent figure available. That figure is probably much higher now since the start of the pandemic.

Mental illness falls into two categories: any mental illness (AMI) and severe mental illness (SMI). AMI can literally be any mental condition that affects your mood, thinking, or behavior. They include depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. SMIs are similar but they drastically affect a person’s ability to function normally.

Woman With Face Mask Thinking

Making Things Worse

The pandemic has only made mental health a bigger issue in the last 20 months. As creatures of habit, we were thrown for a loop as we lost the routine, dependability, and stability of our daily lives once the pandemic started.

The forced isolation, the onslaught of bad news, and the loss of jobs, income, and lives were almost like something out of a dystopian film. Stress became our new normal. Left untreated,
stress can cause:
 

  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of anger, fear, frustration, sadness, and worry
  • Physical reactions like headaches, body aches, stomach problems, and rashes
  • Worsening chronic health problems
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
The Therapist Takes Notes from the Patient

Acknowledge You Need Help

Far too many of us have been trained to ignore these feelings. We’re taught to fight through, keep your chin up, or just to get over it.

It doesn’t work that way. It’s important to acknowledge that you may need help to get over a mental health hurdle. That’s OK. Too many people don’t get treatment however because of the stigma around mental illness and treating it.

It can lead to discrimination at work, in school, or in social activities. Family, friends, and co-workers don’t fully understand what’s going on. You might start to think that you won’t succeed, or you begin to define yourself by your feelings. You should never let that stigma keep you from seeking treatment, however.

Worried Adult Couple Sitting on Sofa

Getting Past the Stigma

Stigma can be overcome. Just like you wouldn’t deal with a mental illness alone, you have resources to help you get past the stigma. They include:
 

  • Getting treatment. It’s only through treatment that you can identify what’s wrong and then find solutions for reducing the symptoms that are interfering with your life.
  • Not giving into shame. You are not weak. People often need help when dealing with mental health concerns. Connecting with others can help boost your self-esteem and get past destructive self-judgment.
  • Not isolating yourself. It’s important to reach out to people you trust. They might be hard to find at first, but there are caring and compassionate people who have been through similar struggles. They can offer you support if you confide in them.
  • Not identifying with your illness. You have an illness. You are NOT your illness. You may have bipolar disorder, or you may have schizophrenia. You are not bipolar, and you are not a schizophrenic.
  • Joining a support group. You can talk with a physician or counselor to find local programs or internet groups that can educate people about your condition. This offers support for you and helps to educate others.
  • Getting help at school. If your child is dealing with mental health issues it is illegal for the school NOT to accommodate them. Educators at every level, from elementary through college must make adjustments for children to the best of their abilities. Not doing so can lead to civil or criminal penalties.
  • Speaking out. Giving your voice to fighting the stigma against mental illness will boost your confidence and the confidence of others.

Help for the Mind and Body

It’s natural to feel worried, sadness, and loneliness from time to time. But if these feelings start to interfere with your ability to get through your daily life or start making you feel bad physically, it may be time to ask for help. To learn more about AltaMed’s Behavioral Health Services, call us at (855) 425-1777.

If you have suicidal thoughts and feel like you could be a harm to yourself or others, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Image
Woman Meditation

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.

Inside Blog Meditation

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
Meditating Under a Tree

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
Grass Meditation

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.

Managing Stress Before It Becomes Anxiety