Suicide Warning Signs

Share Button

If you or someone you love is actively struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact 911 or Netcare (614-276-2273) immediately for help. If you or someone you love are struggling with symptoms related to suicide but are not considering acting on those thoughts, please call CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor.

Alcohol and Depression = A Vicious Cycle

Share Button

Alcohol and Depression = A Vicious Cycle

By DrinkAware.co.uk

If you drink heavily and regularly you’re likely to develop some symptoms of depression. It’s that good old brain chemistry at work again. Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps to regulate your mood.

In Britain, people who experience anxiety or depression are twice as likely to be heavy or problem drinkers. For some people, the anxiety or depression came first and they’ve reached for alcohol to try to relieve it. For others, drinking came first, so it may be a root cause of their anxieties2.

Drinking heavily can also affect your relationships with your partner, family and friends. It can impact on your performance at work. These issues can also contribute to depression.

If you use drink to try and improve your mood or mask your depression, you may be starting a vicious cycle…

Warning signs that alcohol is affecting your mood include:

If you would like help the area of alcohol and/or depression, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor.

6 Mental Health Benefits of Plants

Share Button

6 Mental Health Benefits of Plants: Does Flower Power Boost Your Mood?

By Dr. Adam Simon

We all know that flowers and plants have the power to make people happy. They can delight you on a special occasion, cheer you up when you’re sad or make a dull, dreary room much more appealing.

But what is it about flowers that puts you in a good mood? And do they really have that much influence over your mental health?

Our smart network of UK doctors have shared a few facts for you to bear in mind next time you’re buying a bunch for your home, or for someone you care about.

1. Flowers can improve anxiety

Stress and anxiety are part of everyday life. According to mental health charity Mind, 6% of the UK population experienced anxiety issues in 2016.

While there are many things you can do to manage your mental health, flowers can help restore some short-term calm to your situation.

It turns out that this is true even in very worrying situations. A 2008 study found that hospital patients who had flowers in their room felt less anxious. They were also more positive about their recovery and needed less post-operative care than patients without plants.

Before you turn up at your loved one’s bedside with a huge bouquet, it’s worth noting that many hospitals don’t allow flowers on wards. This is due to issues such as mould, hay fever and lack of space.

However, there’s nothing to stop you filling your home and garden with beautiful blooms to take your mind off things.

Have some in your bedroom to create a calming environment when you go to sleep and when you wake up, or make space for a plant in your study to help you keep a handle on work-related stress.

2. Flowers can help you sleep

Sleeping properly is really important. In fact, it’s so important that we’ve already written a whole post about it. So, where do plants come into it?

When it comes to sleep, we’re going to focus on one flower in particular. The smell of lavender is proven to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, which will help you to relax. The more relaxed you are, the more likely you are to drift off into a restful sleep.

Obviously, lavender can’t cure insomnia on its own, but it can certainly help as part of your bedtime routine.

3. Flowers can improve your memory

Specifically, rosemary can sharpen your powers of recall.

In 2015, researchers conducted a very interesting experiment, in which participants went into one of three rooms and completed a memory test. One room smelt of rosemary, one of lavender and the other wasn’t given a specific scent.

Each participant had to look at a series of objects hidden around the room and remember them for later. The project tested the impact of different smells on ‘future memory’ – in other words, how much you remember to remember.

In real-life terms, this could be posting a letter you wrote yesterday, or paying your bills on time.

The people in the rosemary-scented room scored highest in this test. The lavender room scored significantly lower, presumably because the people here were far too relaxed and sleepy to keep up with everything!

4. Flowers can change your emotions with colours

We all associate colours with different moods. Red can mean love, anger or danger. Yellow is usually associated with happiness and sunshine. Blue can signify calm or sadness.

Green is linked to safety, which could explain why having lots of leafy plants around creates such a comfortable environment.

On top of this, we each have our own personal relationships with colours that can bring to mind a happy or sad memory and influence our reactions.

Suddenly, choosing the colour of your flowers becomes a bigger decision than you thought! Of course, it’s also a great chance to create a particular emotion or feeling in whoever will receive the flowers.

5. Flowers can make you more productive

Studies have shown that offices with plants increase brain performance and encourage creativity.

Sparse, clean offices might look impressive to people passing through, but they don’t offer any visual stimulation for those that have to spend all day there, which could have an impact on productivity.

It’s not just workers, either. Studies have also shown the putting plants in classrooms and lecture halls increases attendance. It turns out that having plants around can make you happier and more attentive, wherever you are!

Going back to the idea of colour, red is connected to concentration and attention to detail, while blue is considered a better way to encourage creativity and free-thinking. So, if you notice a lot of plants with the same colour around your office, your boss might be trying to tell you something!

6. Gardening and your mental health

Why wait for someone to present you with flowers, when you could grow your own? We know that flowers can make you feel great and there’s also evidence that gardening itself can be good for your mental health.

A 2015 study found that 88% of people cited mental wellbeing as a reason for heading out into the garden. All that digging, planting and pruning provides fresh air and a sense of achievement.

Some people find value in having something to care for that relies on them to survive. Gardening is also an activity you can do as a group, such as tending a community garden, and spending time with friends and family is a sure-fire way to boost your mood.

If you would like more help in boosting your mood, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Surprising Upside to Sadness

Share Button

The Surprising Upside to Sadness

By Catherine Morgan

Depression. Discouragement. Sorrow.

Too often we find ourselves here. Waves of emotions overcome when we least expect them. While I’ve learned a lot about choosing light, daring to hope, hard thanksgiving, and spiritual battle, there are lessons yet to learn.

The more I consider these emotions I’d rather not experience, the more I see multiple reasons that depression—yes, depression—has been a gift to me. Here are five.

1. Sadness forces me to depend on Jesus.

I am far more aware of Christ, attentive to Christ, and thirsty for Christ when I am discouraged. Trapped in a rough patch, the psalmists’ words suddenly spring to life: “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

Only when I thirst for Jesus do I bend low to drink his living water. And so, paradoxically, in sadness I find the key to joy, which otherwise I might blithely miss.

2. Sadness gives me humility and empathy.

Depression has a way of humbling me like nothing else, as God protects me from my own ego. It’s hard to feel you’ve arrived when you struggle to even get out of bed. In these moments I need grace like I need water, a knowledge that keeps me face-planted before the cross—a posture infinitely preferable to the kind of humiliating crash that often flows from pride.

Empathy lets me see the world from a brokenhearted perspective—it lets me borrow broken eyes. Am I compassionate? It’s only because I so deeply need mercy. How can I withhold this gift I’ve received and need more of each day? I meet homeless families, unemployed immigrants, teen moms, couples mid-divorce, suicidal folks, jilted sweethearts. Every one has the same needs, the same sinful soul, the same shy beauty of God’s image imprinted on their heart. When I see them, I see me. God redeems my sadness as he turns my eyes outward and fills me with compassion.

3. Sadness rescues me from silliness.

As my seminary-nerd husband would say, my depression rescues me from ontological lightness. It’s easy to exchange weighty things for hollow entertainment. Unchecked, it can lead someone through 30,000 days only to face eternity with empty pockets. Isn’t this the spirit of Ecclesiastes 7:2? “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.”

Joy is not inferior to gloom—emphatically it’s not—but it’s easy in all the levity to miss the grand epic as it unfolds. Like hobbits happy in the Shire while Sauron advances, we can forget the stakes—life is short, eternity beckons, souls hang in the balance. A healthy dose of sobriety helps me see the world as it is: cursed and lost, in need of a Redeemer.

4. Sadness prepares me for future struggle.

How often does a rootless faith blow away in adversity? A quick survey of spiritual giants indicates they have this in common: They’ve suffered. In various ways, to various degrees, they’ve driven those roots down ever-deeper into the love of God, so that when the storms of persecution or tragedy arrive, they’re prepared. They know from repeated experience where to find living water in a drought.

5. Sadness is God’s way of strengthening me.

Jesus, who holds the galaxies together by his power, demonstrated another kind of strength as he was stricken, smitten, and afflicted. And in his mercy, he lends us a measure of his strength when we suffer. When we’re weak in ourselves, we’re strong in him.

When I fall into the pit of despair, I’ve learned to look up, to seek light, to cry out for deliverance, to long for home. It’s a struggle I may face all my life. That’s okay. God is at work, and I can trust him.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Pet. 1:6–9)

Thank you, Jesus.

Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health

Share Button

New Study Examines the Effects of Prayer on Mental Health

By Traci Pedersen

What are your deepest beliefs regarding the nature of God? When you pray, do you talk to a loving, protective and easily accessible God? Or does God feel strangely distant and unreachable? Perhaps a disciplinarian? A new study says that your beliefs about the “character” of God determine the effects of prayer on your mental health.

Researchers from Baylor University found that people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders — worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior — compared to people who pray but don’t really expect to receive any comfort or protection from God.

Researchers looked at the data of 1,714 volunteers who participated in the most recent Baylor Religion Survey. They focused on general anxiety, social anxiety, obsession and compulsion. Their study, entitled “Prayer, Attachment to God, and Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Disorders among U.S. Adults,” is published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

For many people, God is a source of comfort and strength, says researcher Matt Bradshaw, Ph.D; and through prayer, they enter into an intimate relationship with Him and begin to feel a secure attachment. When this is the case, prayer offers emotional comfort, resulting in fewer symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Some people, however, have formed avoidant or insecure attachments to God, explains Bradshaw. This means that they do not necessarily believe that God is there for them. Prayer starts to feel like an unsuccessful attempt at having a close relationship with God. Feelings of rejection or “unanswered” prayers may lead to severe symptoms of anxiety-related disorders, he says.

The findings add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study by Oregon State University found that religion and spirituality result in two distinct but complementary health benefits. Religion (religious affiliation and service attendance) is linked to better health habits, including less smoking and alcohol consumption, while spirituality (prayer, meditation) helps regulate emotions.

Another recent study by Columbia University found that participating in regular meditation or other spiritual practice actually thickens parts of the brain’s cortex, and this could be the reason those activities tend to guard against depression — especially in those at risk for the disease.

This article courtesy of Spirituality and Health.

If you would like to incorporate spirituality into your mental health care, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with one of our qualified coaches or counselors.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

Share Button

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Jennifer Blaszczak

It is winter yet again. The beautiful colors of the autumn leaves have disappeared and have been replaced by barren tree limbs and icicles sharp and brittle. The harsh winds rattle the window frames and the cold air seems to sing a cruel song that frightens away birds to warmer climates. The daytime gives way to the moon, and darkness sets in way before supper. So, you see, while some perceive winter as a festive time when their worlds are blanketed by the purity of snow, others feel that they are being suffocated by a literally colorless existence.

It is estimated that half a million Americans are negatively affected by the changing seasons and darkening of the summer light. They feel depressed, irritable, and tired. Their activity levels decrease, and they find themselves in bed more often. This depression disorder not only affects their health, but it also affects their everyday life, including their job performance and friendships. This disorder is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately acronym-ed, SAD.

What is SAD Exactly?

SAD is a mood disorder that affects an individual the same time each year, usually starting when the weather becomes colder in September or October, and ends in April or May when the weather becomes warmer. People with SAD feel depressed during the shorter days of winter, and more cheerful and energetic during the brightness of spring and summer.

“Hey, Einstein! I knew that already! Tell me something I don’t know!”

Jeez, okay, okay. Irritability is a sign of SAD, so I understand your bitterness, Crankypants. Here are—

10 Things You May Not Have Known About SAD

1. Did you know that between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women? It’s true. If you are a female between 15 and 55, you are more likely to develop SAD. Great, so not only do women have PMS, Menopause, and child labor to worry about, add SAD to the list, too.

2. Even though the harsh chill in the air might bring you down, SAD is believed to relate more to daylight, not the temperature. Some experts believe that a lack of sunlight increases the body’s production of a body chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is what helps regulate sleep and can cause symptoms of depression.

3. SAD can be treated. If your symptoms are mild, meaning, if they do not interfere in and completely ruin your daily life, light therapy may help you beat SAD. Using light therapy has shown highly effective. Studies prove that between 50% and 80% of light therapy users have complete remissions of symptoms. However, light therapy must be used for a certain amount of time daily and continue throughout the dark, winter months.

4. Some say that light therapy has no side effects, but others disagree. We think it simply depends on the person. Some people experience mild side effects, such as headaches, eye strain, or nausea. However, these light therapy users say that the side effects are temporary and subside with time or reduced light exposure. Most scientists agree that there are no long-term side effects, but remember to consult your physician before any treatment decisions are made.

5. There are some things to consider if you want to try light therapy in your home, otherwise you will not receive all the benefits that this type of therapy offers.

  • When purchasing a light box, do not skimp as far as money is concerned. Buy a larger one so that you will receive enough light to be beneficial.
  • The best time for light therapy is in the early morning. (If used late at night, it could cause insomnia.) So, even if it means waking up earlier, set aside some morning time to relax and use your light box.
  • Many people are not aware of this, but you must have your eyes open and face the light during therapy. Do not stare at the light. That would be silly. Simply face the light, eyes open.

6. It takes more than just one winter depression to be diagnosed with SAD. Individuals must meet certain criteria:

  • The symptoms and remission of the systems must have occurred during the last two consecutive years.
  • The seasonal depressive episodes must outnumber the non-seasonal depressive episodes in one’s lifetime.

7. SAD can be treated with certain medications that increase serotonin levels in the brain. Such medications include antidepressants, such as Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft.

8. There is actually a device that conducts light therapy and allows you to walk around while treated. The device is called a light visor. Just wear the light visor around your head and complete your daily chores and rituals. A light visor still can potentially have the same side effects as the standard forms of light therapy, so only simple activities, such as watching television, walking, or preparing meals is advised. We do not recommend you operate heavy machinery while wearing a light visor. (You would look pretty silly with it on out in public, anyway.)

9. If you have a friend or loved one who suffers from SAD, you can help them tremendously.

  • Try to spend more time with the person, even though they may not seem to want any company.
  • Help them with their treatment plan.
  • Remind them often that summer is only a season away. Tell them that their sad feelings are only temporary, and they will feel better in no time.
  • Go outside and do something together. Take a walk, or exercise. Get them to spend some time outside in the natural sunlight. Just remember to bundle up!

10. Although not as common, a second type of seasonal affective disorder known as summer depression can occur in individuals who live in warmer climates. Their depression is related to heat and humidity, rather than light. Winter depression does cause petulance in many cases, but summer depression is known to cause severe violence. So, it could be worse.

There are times in this article, in which I seem a bit blithe. However, please, do not take my somewhat lighthearted approach to SAD the wrong way. SAD is a serious disorder that disrupts the lives of many people, worldwide. It is nothing to laugh at. Sneeze at, perhaps—it is winter, after all. But laugh at? No, not at all.

If you would like help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (Part 2)

Share Button

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Helpguide.org

Reaping the mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you think

Wondering just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost? It’s probably not as much as you think. You don’t need to devote hours out of your busy day, train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile. You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.

Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing

If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after 5 or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. The key is to commit to do some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off.

Can’t find time to exercise during the week? Be a weekend warrior

A recent study in the UK found that people who squeeze their exercise routines into one or two sessions at the weekend experience almost as many health benefits as those who work out more often. So don’t let a busy schedule at work, home, or school be an excuse to avoid activity. Get moving whenever you can find the time—your mind and body will thank you! If you needed some more information on fitness related stuff, a friend recommended Fitness Edge and they have some really useful information on their website that helped me structure my workout and routine. But working out per say isn’t for everyone, so prefer to get their exercise in through different methods. One of my friends is a big tennis fan so he decided to get some Orlando Tennis Lessons. This really helped him get into the flow of playing the game because the teachers were so informative and helpful.

You don’t have to suffer to get results

Research shows that moderate levels of exercise are best for most people. Moderate means:

  1. That you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath.  For example, you should be able to chat with your walking partner, but not easily sing a song.
  2. That your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or very sweaty.

Overcoming mental health obstacles to exercise

So now you know that exercise will help you feel much better and that it doesn’t take as much effort as you might have thought. But taking that first step is still easier said than done. Exercise obstacles are very real—particularly when you’re also struggling with mental health. Here are some common barriers and what you can do to get past them.

Feeling exhausted. When you’re tired or stressed, it feels like working out will just make it worse. But the truth is that physical activity is a powerful energizer. Studies show that regular exercise can dramatically reduce fatigue and increase your energy levels. If you are really feeling tired, promise yourself a 5-minute walk. Chances are you’ll be able to go five more minutes.

Feeling overwhelmed. When you’re stressed or depressed, the thought of adding another obligation can seem overwhelming. Working out just doesn’t seem doable. If you have children, managing childcare while you exercise can be a big hurdle. Just remember that physical activity helps us do everything else better. If you begin thinking of physical activity as a priority, you will soon find ways to fit small amounts in a busy schedule.

Feeling hopeless. Even if you’re starting at “ground zero,” you can still workout. Exercise helps you get in shape. If you have no experience exercising, start slow with low-impact movement a few minutes each day.

Feeling pain. If you have a disability, severe weight problem, arthritis, or any injury or illness that limits your mobility, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to safely exercise. You shouldn’t ignore pain, but rather do what you can, when you can. Divide your exercise into shorter, more frequent chunks of time if that helps, or try exercising in water to reduce joint or muscle discomfort.

Feeling bad about yourself. Are you your own worst critic? It’s time to try a new way of thinking about your body. No matter what your weight, age or fitness level, there are others like you with the goals of getting fit. Try surrounding yourself with people in your shoes. Take a class with people at a variety of fitness levels. Accomplishing even the smallest fitness goals will help you gain body confidence.

Getting started exercising when you’re anxious or depressed

Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. When we feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental or emotional problems, it can be doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, and it can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to exercise, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park. So, what can you do?

It’s okay to start small. In fact, it’s smart.

When you’re under the cloud of an emotional disorder and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting yourself extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set yourself achievable goals and build up from there.

Schedule your workout at the time of day when your energy is highest

That may be first thing in the morning before work or school, or at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits, or in longer sessions at the weekend. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk. Even a short, 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level. As you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll experience a greater sense of control over your well-being. You may even feel energized enough to exercise more vigorously—by walking further, breaking into a run, or adding a bike ride, for example.

Other tips for staying motivated when you’re also struggling with mental health

Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, or cycling to the grocery store. If you’ve never exercised before or don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mood disorder—as well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. For example, my friend really enjoys softball and reads about all his softball related stuff at softballbatbuddy.com and because he is so interested in everything around it. This motivates him to go play softball.

Be comfortable. Whatever time of day you decide to exercise, wear clothing that’s comfortable and choose a setting that you find calming or energizing. That may be a quiet corner of your home, a scenic path, or your favorite city park.

Reward yourself. Part of the reward of completing an activity is how much better you’ll feel afterwards, but it always helps your motivation to promise yourself an extra treat for exercising. Reward yourself with a hot bubble bath after a workout, a delicious smoothie, or with an extra episode of your favorite TV show.

Make exercise a social activity. Exercising with a friend or loved one, or even your kids will not only make exercising more fun and enjoyable, it can also help to motivate you to stick to a workout routine. You’ll also feel better than exercising alone. In fact, when you’re suffering from a mood disorder such as depression, the companionship can be just as important as the exercise.

Easy ways to move more that don’t involve the gym

Don’t have 30 minutes to dedicate to yoga or a bike ride? Don’t worry. Think about physical activity as a lifestyle rather than just a single task to check off. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity here, there, and everywhere. Need ideas? We’ve got them.

In and around your home. Clean the house, wash the car, tend to the yard and garden, mow the lawn with a push mower, sweep the sidewalk or patio with a broom.

At work and on the go. Bike or walk to an appointment rather than drive, banish all elevators and get to know every staircase possible, briskly walk to the bus stop then get off one stop early, park at the back of the lot and walk into the store or office, take a vigorous walk during your coffee break.

With the family. Jog around the soccer field during your kid’s practice, make a neighborhood bike ride part of weekend routine, play tag with your children in the yard, go canoeing at a lake, walk the dog in a new place.

Just for fun. Pick fruit at an orchard, boogie to music, go to the beach or take a hike, gently stretch while watching television, organize an office bowling team, take a class in martial arts, dance, or yoga.

 

If you would like help establishing a mental/emotional self-care plan that involves exercise, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise (Part 1)

Share Button

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

By Helpguide.org

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for the body. But exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Additionally, with a bit of help, there is no reason why you can’t get into amazing shape. Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to feel better. If you’re a bit tentative about doing some exercise because you’re not sure where to start maybe get some tennis lessons to ease you into exercising. A friend of mine had some Tennis Lessons Philadelphia and says they were a really great way to get back into the swing of exercising.

What are the mental health benefits of exercise?

Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. Sure, exercise can improve your physical health and your physique, trim your waistline, improve your sex life, and even add years to your life. But that’s not what motivates most people to stay active.

People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

Exercise and depression

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.

Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.

Exercise and stress

Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind. So why not pick up a tennis racket and challenge your friends to daily competitions to see who can win. Or even try out a new sport like Pickleball. All you’ll need are pickleball paddles, a pitch to play on and you’re all good to go. Exercising doesn’t have to be boring and something you should dread doing. Anything that helps relieve stress should be seen as a positive.

Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.

Exercise and PTSD and trauma

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of thinking about other things, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices.

Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.

Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise a day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

For more help in establishing a mental/emotional self-care plan that involves exercise, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a coach or counselor.

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping

Share Button

Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping

By the Mayo Clinic

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
    1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
    2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
    3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
    4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
    5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

    • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
    • Give homemade gifts.
    • Start a family gift exchange.
  1. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  2. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  3. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

    Try these suggestions:

    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  4. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

    Some options may include:

    • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
    • Listening to soothing music.
    • Getting a massage.
    • Reading a book.
  5. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

 

If you would like help with stress and depression, please contact CornerStone Family Service at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.

The Neuroscience of Singing

Share Button

singing-mic

The Neuroscience of Singing

By Cassandra Sheppard

The science is in. Singing is really, really good for you and the most recent research suggests that group singing is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

The good feelings we get from singing in a group are a kind of evolutionary reward for coming together cooperatively.

The research suggests that creating music together evolved as a tool of social living. Groups and tribes sang and danced together to build loyalty, transmit vital information and ward off enemies.

Science Supports Singing

What has not been understood until recently is that singing in groups triggers the communal release of serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and even synchronises our heart beats.

Group singing literally incentivised community over an “each cave dweller for themselves” approach. Those who sang together were strongly bonded and survived.

In her book Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing with Others, Stacy Horn calls singing:

An infusion of the perfect tranquiliser – the kind that both soothes your nerves and elevates your spirit.

Singing Makes You Happy

For a decade, science has been hard at work trying to explain why singing has such a calming yet energising effect on people. Numerous studies demonstrate that singing releases endorphins and oxytocin – which in turn relieve anxiety and stress and which are linked to feelings of trust and bonding.

Singing helps people with depression and reduces feelings of loneliness, leaving people feeling relaxed, happy and connected. What’s more, the benefits of singing regularly are cumulative. People who sing have reduced levels of cortisol, indicating lower stress.

UK singer, singing teacher and choir leader Sophia Efthimiou describes singing as a process of consciously controlling our breath and larynx to create and sustain certain pitches and we blend that with rhythm and poetry to create songs.

In a group setting, each group member feels the musical vibrations moving through their body simultaneously. Our heart beats become synchronised. Sophia explains:

We literally form one unified heart beat.

Anybody Can Sing

One of the great things about singing is that you can receive the wellbeing benefits even if you aren’t any good. One study showed that:

Group singing can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.

Tania de Jong, singer and founder of Creativity Australia, has effectively harnessed this ability of group singing to lift every member of the group up, no matter their singing ability.

One of the great things about singing is that is connects you to the right side of your brain. This is the side responsible for intuition, imagination and all our creative functions. It connects us to a world of possibilities. In modern life we are constantly bombarded with so much information that we process and analyse. We tend to get stuck in the left, processing side of our brain. So it becomes fundamentally important to nurture the attributes of human beings that set us apart from machines. The best way to do that is singing.

Sing Anywhere, Anytime

These benefits are free and accessible to all. We all have a voice. We can all sing, even if we don’t think we can.

There was a time when we all used to sing. We sang at church, around camp fires, at school. While group singing is experiencing a resurgence, not so many of us sing anymore. At some stage, someone told us to be quiet or judged our imperfect singing voice. Sophia Efthimiou suggests that singing is very personal, an expression of sound coming from within us, so we cannot help but take this criticism very personally and it sticks.

Yet, people who claim they cannot sing because they are tone deaf are more likely to be very unfamiliar with finding and using their singing voice.

Tone deafness is comparatively rare and means that you would be unable to recognise a song. If you can recognise a song you are not tone deaf, you are just unpractised. Sophia clarifies:

When our voice makes the wrong note we can feel terrible as though it is a reflection of our self worth. But – if you can talk, you can sing.

Raise Your Voice

US opera singer Katie Kat wishes to encourage all of us to sing far more often regardless of our perceived skill.

Singing increases self-awareness, self-confidence and our ability to communicate with others. It decreases stress, comforts us and helps us to forge our identity and influence our world.

When you sing, musical vibration moves through you, altering your physical and emotional state. Singing is as old as the hills. It is innate, ancient and within all of us. It really is one of the most uplifting therapeutic things we can do. Katie continues:

However, society has skewed views on the value of singing. Singing has become something reserved for elite talent or highly produced stars with producers, management, concert dates – leaving the rest of us with destructive criticism of our own voices.

She claims that singing is instinctual and necessary to our existence. You do not have to be an amazing singer to benefit from the basic biological benefits and with practice the benefits increase.

Singing Creates Connection

I have fond memories of hearing my grandmother singing throughout the day and of large group singing sessions with her friends.

One of my favourite memories of group singing is the old Scots tradition on New Year’s Eve of singing Auld Lang Syne. My grandmother and all her friends would stand in a big circle just before midnight.

Everyone would hold hands, and then at the beginning of the final verse we would cross our arms across our bodies so that our left hand was holding the hand of the person on our right, and the right hand holds that of the person on the left. When the song ended, everyone would rush to the middle, still holding hands. It was beautiful fun and as a young girl I felt so safe, included and loved within that singing circle.

The phrase “auld lang syne” roughly translates as “for old times’ sake”, and the song is all about preserving old friendships and looking back over the events of the year.

A tradition worth resurrecting, considering the benefits of singing in a group.

 

If you would like help in increasing your joy, please contact CornerStone Family Services at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.