Keep Your Cool Now That the Kids are Back in School

It’s time to say goodbye to sand, beach and weekend barbecues. Back to carpooling, soccer practice, study schedules… ahh! This exciting yet hectic time of year can push stress levels to warp speed. But as always, we’ve got you covered with tips to help keep the back-to-school stress to a minimum.

Stress less

Create a direction for your day
Create meaningful goals to guide your days that contribute to your bigger picture. Since we know we may not get to accomplish everything that we want to, prioritize your goals to ensure you complete everything that absolutely needs to be done for the day.

Let go
If we could steer the course of our days there would be no such thing as traffic and lines at Starbucks would be nonexistent. But the reality is that most aspects of life are simply out of our control. Learn to accept what we can’t control, and let your worries over those things go. Instead, focus your energy on the things that you do have control over.

Realize that you can’t do it all
Do you begin the day with an enormous task list and find yourself only halfway through it by the day’s end? That’s perfectly okay. There will always be one more spot that needs to be cleaned, one more email that needs to be written before going to bed. At the end of the day sometimes we need to tell ourselves, “You have done enough today.”

Learn to say “no”
Your time is a precious commodity and it must be protected. There’s just no way that you can accomplish your own goals if you are constantly completing tasks for others. Before you commit to doing something, ask yourself if it’s realistic to add to your work load. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty for what you just don’t have the time to do.

Shut it down
Set a cut-off time each day for working and using technology. Shut down your laptop and TV and give your mind and body the time needed to unwind before falling asleep. If you like to go to sleep by 11 pm, set a 10 pm cut-off time. You may find that you sleep a bit more restfully and become more motivated to complete your day’s work in the hours before your cut-off time.

 

Take time for yourself every day

It isn’t hard to forget about your own needs in between making sure the kids have eaten and that your deadlines at work have been met. But it’s crucial to make sure that you’re taking time for yourself.

 

Click through below for a few ideas for mental health moments throughout the day:

Kids’ Mental Health Matters

During back to school time, parents make sure to get all of the necessary immunizations and physical health check-ups kids need, but ensuring that your child is mentally healthy is just as important.

If you notice any changes in your child’s behavior, it could be an indication of a mental health issue. Warning signs to keep an eye out for that interfere with his or her daily activities include:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Avoidance or disinterest in activities
  • Avoidance of eating, or weight loss
  • Low self-esteem
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Drastic personality changes

Keep an open line of communication with your child. Don’t be afraid to ask children how they feel with direct questions like, “Are you sad?,” or open-ended questions like “What was the best part of your day?” Make sure you REALLY listen. Read more about what to do if you think your child is struggling with a mental health issue here.

 

Guest Blogger:

Jasmine Berry

Communication, Education & Advocacy Coordinator

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

Taking Time for Yourself During the Summer

Summer is warm and exciting, with plenty of fun activities to participate in. But summer activities and jobs can get overwhelming. Year-round jobs during the summer (while everyone else is sunbathing) can get pretty overwhelming and depressing, too.
Therefore, it’s just as important as ever to take your occasional mental health days, or to set aside some time for you to relax by yourself, or with others.
 
Here are some of the ways I like to spend my own mental health days:
 
1.) Coffee and a good book. 
 
 
Don’t underestimate the power of an extra cup of iced coffee or tea to accompany that new young-adult, romance or science-fiction novel, while sitting near a window, or outside if possible. I recently read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, one of my favorite childhood authors, and it helped distract me from everything that usually stresses me out during the work week.
 
2.) A date with your laptop or TV.
 
Let your mind relax while you watch a movie in bed, or binge-watch a couple of the new “Orange is the New Black” episodes.
 
3.) Explore your town or city.
 
As someone who has been living in Washington, D.C. for the past year, I can honestly tell you that I have barely explored any of it. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that many of us live places where there are areas we have yet to venture out to. Take a break and explore your surroundings. Take it all in and let your mind wander. 
 
4.) Petsmart trip.
 
 
 
If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider relaxing by going to Petsmart. Look at all of the cute little kittens or the weird looking birds and guinea pigs. Also, studies show that watching fish swim in fish tanks can help relieve stress and anxiety. 
 
5.) Youtube pet videos.
 
If you can’t go to Petsmart, take a look at some of these online cat and dog videos that are sure to make you smile.
 
6.) Take a break from social media.
 
Uninstall Facebook and Twitter (if you can) from your phone for a day. Sometimes social media stresses us out more than we can tell. Social media is great, but it’s important to maintain your mental health while using social media 
 
7.) Listen to instrumental music.
 

 
I love listening to rock, country and pop music. However, I have come to realize that sometimes lyrics can stress me out. When I really need to calm down and relax I turn to my favorite pianist, Yiruma. I also enjoy listening to the Scottish instrumental band Mogwai
 
8.) Go for a swim.
 
 
 
 If you live in an apartment complex with a pool, or if you live near a pool, take a swim every now and then. Swimming can help clear your mind.
 
9.) Redecorate.  
 
Sometimes, all you really need is a change of scenery. Move around some furniture in your home or hang up a few new pictures and interior decorations here and there. Need help? Check out Apartmenttherapy.com, which is one of my favorite redecorating blogsCurrently, this article about temporary and removable adhesives is my favorite.
 
10.)  Try a cold shower or a warm bubble bath. 
 
We often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of rushing to get ready for work on time and rarely ever take that time to relax. If you get a moment later in the day, try a cold shower (you know—for when it’s INSANELY hot outside and your commute home involved walking) or a warm bubble bath (because when was the last time you actually took a bath? What about one with bubbles?) with a book to read or music to listen to. 
 
11.)  Window shop! 
 

 
Whether it’s the book store down the block, or the consignment shop two streets over (or maybe you have returned to take another look at the fish in Petsmart), window shopping is a nice (and free) way to get your mind off of daily stressors.
 
12.) Creative expression.
 
Have a few hours to relax in between jobs or obligations? Try a quick and easy outlet like creative writing, sketching, journaling, painting or singing. Personally, I tend to prefer writing or painting to help express myself. This article is one of my favorite guides to painting for stress relief. 
 
13.) Go on a road trip. 
 
If you have a car and gas money to spare, road trips can be really fun and are great for taking your mind off of work. It doesn’t have to be long, either. Maybe you live two hours away from the beach, or three hours from the mountains. Pick a friend or family member, your favorite CD and hit the road! Driving down country roads with the windows down, while listening to “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas never fails to make me happy. 
 
14.) Go kayaking or canoeing.
 
If you don’t have a canoe or kayak (I don’t have either), you can still take part in this activity. There are many businesses along rivers in cities and towns that let you rent a canoe or kayak for an hour. I like to kayak on the Potomac on Saturday mornings when I’ve had a really bad week. The wind and the smell of the fresh, river water helps me relax. Plus, it’s a great work out. It can be a little expensive ranging from $15-$20 an hour, so I only do it occasionally.
 
15.)  Rant. 
 
Find someone willing to listen to what you have going on in your life—your best friend, your mother, your significant other, your dog, the Internet…and just rant. The rant could be about annoying coworkers or your detail-oriented boss, but they don’t have to be. Rant about the weather. Rant about climate change and social justice issues. Rant about how silly you think it is that a museum in Kentucky decided to keep a sinkhole as a tourist attraction. Just rant For me, I am constantly ranting to myself about these subjects in my head, but since I’m not letting any of that anger out verbally, it just bottles up. After getting all of those rambling, raging thoughts out of your head, the weight on your shoulders starts to feel a little lighter, and it really does help. 

Guest Blogger:

Rain Freeman, Summer Communications Intern

@_RainFreeman

Mental Health Association of Montgomery County

Holiday Survival Tips!

 

holiday-stress-294x300

The holidays are a time for family, friends, food and fun, but this time of year can also be hectic and stressful. The hunt for the perfect gift… Feuding relatives… Freezing cold weather… Endless hours in the kitchen… Don’t let the holiday season stress you out this year!

The holidays present unique challenges in maintaining mental health, so we’ve compiled some tips to make it easier for you this year.

 

Limit Stress and Anxiety
Don’t let your holiday to-do list take over your life.

Set limits.
Establishing boundaries on what you will do and what you won’t do in advance of family gatherings will make it easier to say “no.” Understand that it’s okay to refuse last minute additions to your already full holiday to-do list.

Ask yourself do I really HAVE to do this?
If we all had unlimited time, energy and resources this season, the holidays would still not be as shiny and perfect as a Macy’s winter catalog. Use your time and energy wisely as to not burn yourself out. When looking at your to-do list items, ask yourself is this something that HAS to be done? What are the consequences of foregoing this task?

Don’t dwell on how things could have been, accept them for what they are.
If you couldn’t afford to get your kids that super expensive game console they wanted, it’s okay. If you ran out of time to cook your aunt’s favorite dessert, it’s okay. Set realistic expectations for yourself and loved ones. Understand there are things beyond your control, and that’s okay.

Take time for yourself.
The holidays are generally about family and doing for others. Despite all that’s on your plate this season, don’t forget to ensure that your own mental health needs are being taken care of. Take time for yourself when needed.

 

Fight the Winter Blues
Days are darker and colder and we’re spending a lot more time indoors. Incorporate the following into your routine to battle the low energy levels and down feelings we often experience during winter months.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol.
• Alcohol is a depressant, and can make an already low mood even lower. Limit your alcohol intake, and avoid binge drinking.
• Try replacing your coffee with caffeine-free tea, as caffeine can suppress levels of serotonin and negatively impact your mood.

Plan Activities.
• When it’s cold and dark outside, it’s easy to get sucked into the pattern of work, couch, remote. Try to plan at least one outing each week. Whether it’s by yourself or with friends – get out of the house!

Eat Healthy.
• Avoid processed foods like white breads, rice and sugar, which can lower energy levels and affect your mood. Remember to drink lots of water and eat more fruits and vegetables.

Exercise.
• Aim to get moving for at least 15-20 minutes a day, whether it’s simply taking a walk around your neighborhood, stretching while catching up on TV shows or exercising with your favorite workout video on YouTube.

Light.
• Soak up some sun! Get out of the office for your lunch break, sit by windows whenever possible and keep the curtains open in mornings and afternoons.
• If you aren’t able to get any natural light, try light therapy with artificial light boxes.

 

Click here to print our Holiday Survival Tip Sheet!

11 Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Daily Life

stressEveryday can be My Mental Health Day. Of course we have responsibilities, work, and other chores to take care of but it’s important to take time for ourselves each day, even if it is only a moment or two. Why? Because our ability to reduce stress, prevent anxiety, and live life in a way that makes us happy depends on supporting our mental health. And, the best way to do that is to take time for ourselves doing the things we love. Our days are so jammed-pack with everything we NEED to do that taking a break for a mere five minutes can seem easier said than done.

So start with the little things: drink a cup of your favorite tea while you are typing away on the computer or sing along to your favorite song while driving home from work. Even though you are accomplishing what you NEED to do, you are still giving yourself a little mental health moment by doing something for you at the same time.

There are several proven ways to support your mental health. Make taking care of yourself a habit by participating in one of the following each day.

  • Connect with others: Call an old friend or go on a date with your significant other.
  • Create joy and satisfaction: Tell a silly joke or take your kids for ice cream cones.
  • Manage hard times: Read a magazine, listen to music, reach out to family for comfort—whatever it may be that helps you through the rough parts of your day.
  • Help Others: Help a friend move across town or volunteer at your local animal shelter.
  • Do a hobby or relax: Paint a picture, play baseball, knit, or take music lessons.
  • Eat well: Junk food can cause stress and sleepiness. Remember to eat your fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay positive: Although times may be hard, focus on what you have rather than what went wrong. Try keeping a gratitude log and remember to tell people how much they mean to you.
  • Get physically active: Take care of your physical wellness by exercising (yoga, biking, running).
  • Take care of your spirit: Meditate or pray, whatever makes you feel more at peace.
  • Get enough sleep: You’re a lot more relaxed and even productive when you don’t skip out on the sleep your mind and body require.
  • Get professional help when needed: Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings or needs. Reach out for help. No one can do everything by themselves.

How do you support your mental health? Share your ideas with us on Facebook and help others find something that may work for them. Go, play, and enjoy the day because today is your “My Mental Health Day!”

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