Grief, Sadness, and Your Mental Health 

June 05, 2020

California has recently announced plans to safely reopen businesses, schools, stores, and churches. However, it will still be a long time before we recover from the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if we’ve stayed healthy, many of us are dealing with great uncertainty and have suffered great losses – the death of a loved one, losing a job, or having to give up a lifestyle we loved. And for many of us, the current state of our country, the treatment of its Black citizens, and the differences in health care access for Latino and Black communities during this crisis has added to what is already a difficult and frightening situation. With all of these factors, many of us may be experiencing sadness and grief. Over time, these painful emotions can come to the surface and affect our ability to live a normal life. 

So, how do we manage and transition into a healthy state of mind? Learning how to recognize these emotions and understand what purpose they serve can help you get through it. 


A Healthy Life Depends on a Healthy Mind

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Your mental health matters and must be a priority in your life: it’s essential to acknowledge that taking care of your mental health is as important as taking care of your physical health.

Mental health issues don’t just make us feel bad, emotionally. They can lead to physical problems, such as fatigue, insomnia, headaches, nausea, pain, and even lasting issues like high blood pressure. While you may want to run away from, bury, or ignore painful emotions, acknowledging them and making an effort to deal with them can make a huge difference in recovering a healthy balanced life.


Get to Know the Difference Between Grief and Sadness

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We all know how it feels to be sad – sadness is a very natural emotion, and it is usually in response to some event in our lives. Believe it or not, feeling sad can be positive. Sadness can help us heal while we are going through difficult times. Unfortunately, if sadness lasts for too long, it can lead to depression. 

Like sadness, grief is a natural reaction to the loss of someone or something significant to us. But unlike sadness, grief isn’t one particular feeling: grief can make you feel sad, angry, powerless, bitter, anxious, or even numb. Grief can even take over your brain and lead to thoughts that can make you feel uncomfortable. Too much grief can be overwhelming, and it can lead to depression or physical problems. 


How to Start Healing

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Grieving is an individual process, and it can take some time before you feel like you’re back to normal. While grieving, there are a few things you can do to help yourself and recover:

Taking care of your physical health will reflect on your emotions: Adding simple, healthy habits such as drinking more water, eating healthier, working out, or trying to get more sleep at night can have a positive effect on your mood. 
 

Try to live your life: it’s important to remember the things you used to do, and what made you happy. Even if you don’t feel good, going for a walk, reading a good book, or watching your favorite movie may bring you some joy. Allow yourself to be happy.
 

Find support from your family and friends: even though grieving is a personal process, seek understanding and companionship from someone close to you, especially if you are feeling lonely. Don’t be afraid of sharing your feelings and connecting with others.  
 

Be patient with the process: There’s no time-table for grief. For some people, grief can last a long time, especially if it is due to the death of someone close. In fact, you may never get completely over it: hearing a song or remembering the anniversary of an event can make your grief more intense, even if you thought you were over it. But over time, the pain lessens. It may take years before the pain of grief goes away completely.
 

Go to therapy: Sometimes, grief can affect your ability to live a healthy life, and you may need extra support from a professional. Talk to your doctor or find a therapist if:
   ⦁    Your grief prevents you from doing normal, daily activities, such as going to work, keeping your house in order, or caring for yourself
   ⦁    You socially withdraw from people in your life
   ⦁    You feel like life isn’t worth living
   ⦁    You think about hurting yourself

A therapist can help you deal with your emotions and teach you ways to cope until you are feeling better.


Help is Always Available

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If you are having a hard time with your grief, you don’t know how to cope with sadness, or you feel like you may be depressed, we can help. Reach out to our Behavioral Health team at (855) 425-1777. We are here for you, and we want you to grow healthy in body, mind, and spirit.

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

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Drinking (or Not) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 15, 2020

For many of us, COVID-19 has put our lives on hold or dramatically reshaped them. We’re being told to relax and embrace a new normal. Should that include more drinking, less drinking, or quitting altogether?

That all depends on who you are, your health, and your family history. 

 

The Health Benefits of Alcohol

Not surprisingly, many people are drinking, and drinking more, right now. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Alcohol can provide a temporary escape from worry and stress. Occasional or moderate drinking (according to the CDC, two drinks or fewer a day for men; one drink or fewer a day for women) has been proven to produce feelings of euphoria and happiness while helping to reduce tension – in fact, those who drink in moderation are less likely to suffer from depression, compared to both non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Alcohol can also provide other health-boosting benefits. You’ve probably heard that an occasional glass of wine is good for you – and there’s some science to back this up. Red wine, in particular:

  • Provides antioxidants that may help your cells fight off disease to help you live longer
  • Promotes an anti-inflammatory response that can help decrease pain
  • Contains a compound called resveratrol that may reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots

But before make a shopping trip just to pick up a case of wine or beer, you should figure out if the benefits are worth the potential risks.

 

Why Drinking Might Not Be for You

Woman drinking and holding a babyFor some, an occasional drink is harmless. However, alcohol can pose serious health risks for others. People who should not drink include:

  • Anyone under the age of 21
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Those with diseases of the liver or pancreas
  • Those who have had problems with alcohol or drug addiction in the past, or come from a family with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction 
  • Anyone with certain medical conditions or on medications that may have a negative reaction to alcohol. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are on medication for:

        o    Diabetes
        o    Heart failure
        o    High blood pressure
        o    Irregular heart rhythm
        o    A history of strokes


Consider Mindful Drinking

Recently, there’s been a trend known as “mindful drinking.” Unlike sobriety programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that focus on not drinking at all, mindful drinking is about making sure you’re drinking the right amount for the right reason -- because it gives you some kind of pleasure and not out of habit or because you can’t otherwise cope. Before you drink, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I choosing to have this drink?
  • Do I need to have it right now?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • How do I feel?

Another part of mindful drinking is setting limits: for example, you might limit yourself to no more than two drinks, or you might only drink two nights per week. This can help you drink in moderation and keep your drinking from becoming a habit. 

 

The Benefits of Quitting Drinking

Girl sleepingEven though drinking in moderation has been tied to health benefits, your health and well-being will improve, across the board, if you decide to stop drinking. 

Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to live longer, since more than half of all serious trauma injuries and deaths from burns, drownings, and homicides involve alcohol. In addition, you will see positive changes, including:

  • A better night’s sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • A healthier liver
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved memory 
  • More money in the bank


The Benefits of Not Drinking at All

If you don’t drink, the best thing you can do is to continue not to drink. Even with the benefits of an occasional glass of wine, studies show that non-drinkers live longer, have decreased risks for diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Nondrinkers also never have to worry about DUIs or hangovers!

There are many different alternatives that let you experience the benefits of drinking. If you’re looking for something tasty to sip during your next online happy hour, you can try a fruity mocktail – drinks that use fruit juices and mixers without the alcohol.

If you’re looking for a way to blow off some stress, try meditation or vigorous exercise. Both can help you lower your blood pressure, too.

If you’re looking to fight depression and loneliness, make time to connect with your friends and family, even if you have to do it virtually.

And you can get the same anti-inflammatory benefits found in red wine from eating some delicious grapes, which also provide dietary fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins A and C.
 

Salud!

Happy womanYour good health is our main concern. No matter what, we’re here for both your mental and physical health needs. If you need care, call us at (888) 499-9303.

 

COVID-19: Taking Care of Your Mental Health Matters More Than Ever

April 27, 2020

Human beings are creatures of habit: we crave routine, dependability, and stability in our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped a lot of that out, with many of us having to adjust to being with our families or completely isolated, 24/7. The fear of the health and economic effects, and not knowing when things will get back to normal, can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

At AltaMed, we want to encourage you to think about your mental health and provide the support you may need. We understand that many people do not feel comfortable admitting they’re having problems, but the more we talk about what we’re going through, the more obvious it becomes that these issues are a normal part of life. There’s no shame in asking for help! 


We’re All Grieving for the Lives We Used to Have

Section 1

 Unfortunately, none of us know what the future holds. With the fear that we’ll never get back to “normal,” there can be a sense of loss. 

Many of us are also struggling with our schedules being disrupted, which can lead to a feeling of loss of control. Those feelings can spiral into anxiety and depression. If this sounds like you, it may help to create and stick to a routine. 

Aim to go to bed at the same time every night, and try to get a minimum of 7 – 8 hours of quality sleep (kids need even more) so you can start each day right.  In addition to work and home responsibilities, build in time for exercise, socializing with friends online or over the phone, and self-care

And don’t forget the little things – especially brushing your teeth three times a day. It may be more difficult to get dental appointments, so give yourself and your family one less thing to worry about.


You Don’t Have to Be Strong All the Time

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Many of us are trying to set a good example and be strong for our children, our partners, and those who depend on us. It’s OK to admit that you’re scared, too. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, don’t bury these feelings. Reach out to those you’re closest to and tell them how you feel. 

Do whatever you can to maintain your close connections and then lean in – the risks of loneliness and isolation during times like this are great, and so are the consequences.


Find a Way to Deal with Stress

Section 3

Living through long periods of stress can trigger bad behaviors – for example, drinking too much or using drugs. Too much stress for too long can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. It’s more important than ever to find a healthy way to deal with stress

Adults aren’t the only ones experiencing stress during the pandemic: your kids, being out of school and away from their friends and relatives, are going through stress, too. Talk to them honestly about it and listen to what they have to say. Then look for activities you can do together to help take the pressure off. Maybe it’s having a virtual dance party or going for a walk or bike-ride – just don’t forget to maintain your physical distance from others and wear a mask.


Give Yourself a Break 

Section 4

Most of us have never been through anything as intense as the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s taking a lot out of us, physically and emotionally. It may be harder to keep up – with house cleaning, working out, achieving personal goals you might have made like losing weight or exercising more. And that’s OK – you don’t have to be perfect, and you’re not a failure. It’s still important to set goals and expectations, but think about revising them or think about breaking them down into small steps.

For example, if you’re frustrated because your house has gotten messy, instead of aiming for perfection, figure out a way to enlist your family in a chore every day. If you had the goal of losing 15 pounds, put the scale in the closet but continue to focus on eating healthy foods and moving as much as you can during the day. Concentrate on what you achieve every day and celebrate your success.

However, there’s one goal that’s more important than ever: quitting smoking, vaping, or any tobacco use.


If You Smoke, Now is a Great Time to Quit

Section 5

Even if you think having a cigarette or two can help you get through the day, here’s why there’s never been a better time to quit. Smoking or vaping makes you even more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections, and there’s evidence that secondhand smoke puts your family members at risk, too. 

We know it can be difficult, but you can do it, and we can put you in touch with resources that can help.


We’re Here for You

It’s natural to feel worried, sad, and lonely right now, but if these feelings start interfering 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 our 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