6 Signs It’s Time to Seek Help for Your Anxiety

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Like all emotions, anxiety is healthy, and we’re all prone to feeling it sometimes. Anxiety can become a debilitating problem, though, when the stress you feel is no longer in proportion to the situation. An upcoming test, jobinterview, or first date may make you feel anxious, and that’s healthy. But, if you feel symptoms of anxiety absent any apparent reason, or everyday things make you anxious—leaving your home, for example—it may be time to see a mental health professional. To know if your anxiety is unmanageable, you have to know the symptoms.

1. Physical Symptoms

The physical symptoms of anxiety may include an upset stomach, excessive sweating, headache, rapid heartbeat, and trouble breathing. If you get a stomach ache every time someone invites you to a social function; if you sweat through your shirt whenever you leave the house, even in the middle of winter; or if you feel like your heart is beating so fast it might burst when talking to a stranger on the phone, you may be unhealthily anxious. If your body regularly reacts to everyday stressors the way a caveman would if a lion chased him, your anxiety is no longer healthy.

2. Cognitive Symptoms

Memory issues, trouble concentrating, and insomnia are also symptoms of an anxiety problem. If you can’t fall asleep or wake up repeatedly during the night because you can’t stop thinking about things that stress you out, anxiousness is ruling over you. The same goes for if you can’t focus on work, or sit through a movie, or read a book, or if you seem to be continually forgetting things that happened even recently. When you’re severely anxious about something, even if the thing is “irrational,” it can be hard to function normally.

3. Procrastination and Avoidance

Whether it’s procrastinating about doing the thing that triggers your anxiety—like putting off an errand or not reading an important email until you’re “ready to deal with it”—or avoiding doing just about everything, excessive procrastination and avoidance are both signs of an anxiety issue. We all put off starting unpleasant or difficult tasks sometimes, but when you spend more time avoiding than doing, it may be time to seek outside help.

4. Overthinking and Constant Worrying

If worrying keeps you from functioning or you’re overthinking so much that you can’t focus on important work or sleep at night, you may have an anxiety problem. Your mind races, you lose track of your surroundings, and you’re so caught up in a storm of stressful thoughts that you miss your freeway exit. Anxiety tips over from healthy to unhealthy when it disrupts your life. If a recent health diagnosis has you worried, that’s totally normal. If you’re afraid that you’re dying every time you sneeze, that’s not.

5. Feeling Agitated and Restless

If you feel on edge, you can’t stop moving, and you’re quick to anger, you may be anxious. I’ve written before about how anger can disguise itself as anxiety, but did you know that anxiety can also disguise itself as anger? Anger can be a way to shield you from stressful thoughts. By raging at someone else, you can blame your anxious feelings on an outside force. And if you’re always moving, you don’t have time to ruminate on anxious thoughts. But neither response is healthy or helpful in the long term. When you feel agitated and restless more often than not, when you can’t stop moving and get easily annoyed or are prone to snap at people, you may have a serious problem with anxiety.

6. Panic Attacks

Often people mistake a panic attack for a heart attack. Tightness in your chest, rapid heartbeat, sweating and shaking, shortness of breath, and an upset stomach can easily be mistaken for a heart attack. It’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack so that you don’t dismiss one by thinking it’s a panic attack or do the opposite and call 911 when you should call a psychologist. Frequent panic attacks are a sign you may have a panic disorder.

To differentiate between healthy and unhealthy anxiety, ask yourself: Is this manageable? If your anxiety keeps you from sleeping, working, social interactions, or errands, you may want to reach out to a therapist. If you feel anxious more than half the week for six months or longer, it’s probably time to seek help.

If I could talk to my 16-year-old self, what would I say to her? I’d tell her that she eventually escapes that toxic relationship, but it sadly takes her years to leave. I’d tell her this to give her hope and motivate her to say something sooner. I’d tell her to speak up, to find […]

via Escaping An Abusive Relationship — The Healthy Mindset Project

How Self-Help Can Help The World

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Many meditators, yogis, and other spiritual practitioners will answer this question with a resounding yes. Critics – ranging from religious studies and management scholars to serious Buddhist practitioners – may disagree.

Mindfulness meditation, which has grown exponentially in popularity in recent years, is commonly associated with a wide-ranging set of contemplative practices aimed at training oneself to pay “attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally,” as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society.

Early leaders in the mindfulness movement, many of whom came of age in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, had a more activist bent; they hoped that mindfulness would lead to a wave of self-actualization, increased compassion for others, and democratic decision-making. With these tools, humanity would be able to collectively address the many complex social problems we collectively face, such as racism, overconsumption, economic inequality, and environmental degradation.

To investigate the spread of mindfulness across powerful social institutions in science, healthcare, education, business, and the military, I travelled around the country from 2010-2012, and again in 2015, talking with leaders of the mindfulness movement. The passionate, inspiring mindfulness advocates at top Ivy League and flagship universities, at Fortune 500 companies like Google and General Mills, at K-12 schools, and the U.S. military had personally benefited from meditating and felt bolstered by a wave of scientific evidence which has supported the practices’ beneficial effects on well-being, memory, attention, meta-awareness, cognitive flexibility, and emotional regulation. Above all, by sharing mindfulness, meditators believed they not only transformed themselves, but the world around them.

Yet, most meditators I spoke with revealed more self-centered effects from spending time in quiet contemplation. This was not surprising to some of mindfulness’ leaders.

Sitting in his office at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society in January of 2015 in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Executive Director Saki Santorelli told me that people loved to do mindfulness because they learned about who they were, and through the practice, they transcended who they previously were, and who they had thought they were. This process was intrinsically rewarding and exhilarating.

People come to their mindfulness program, he said, because they have “a Real. Life. Problem. Something is just not right,” he said. “And what keeps people engaged is . . . the most interesting topic in the world.” He paused and turned toward me.

“What is this most interesting topic in the world?” He paused again, waiting.

“The most interesting topic in the world,” he responded, “is me.” He continued, “People come here because they are interested in me. Meaning themselves. And something’s not quite right about me or I want to learn more about me including “how am I going to live with this condition for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years?”
In teaching mindfulness at the Center, they seek to “draw out,” rather than “pour in” knowledge. They seek to ignite “a fire with people to know more about ‘who’ or ‘what’ I actually am,” he said. He explained:

They start with practice. Practice reveals not because I say so, but because they discover it. They discover that they have a breath, they discover that it feels a particular way, they discover something about the relative present moment, whatever that is. They discover something about what happens in their viscera when they have a particular thought or a particular emotion . . . They discover the ways that they’re conditioned or limiting themselves or living today out of yesterday’s memory, about whom or what I am or what I’m capable of. And they love it. . . . And whenever people discover a little bit more about who they are, they transcend. And ultimately, I think that’s what’s transformative—is that sense of transcending. Transcend some idea about who you think they are, even if it’s a tiny little idea, and then you feel more room.

Others found meditation useful for different reasons. Neuroscientist Ravi Chaudhary (pseudonym used upon request) thought mindfulness practice provided him with a critical cognitive distance that enabled him to pause, reflect, and ultimately, have greater self-control in facing the challenges that arose in his life. He has learned “not be super reactive to unpleasant situations,” he said. “There’s difficult situations no matter what,” but with mindfulness, he now can take “a moment, sit back and accept that . . . I am not part of it, but rather it is there and I am here.” This helps him make decisions “as if it’s a presumed situation,” and he feels less entangled with difficult situations.

These effects of mindfulness meditation are no doubt important: they help people learn about themselves and, hopefully, engage in more thoughtful decision-making. Mindfulness meditation can also have a therapeutic effect for many people, helping them de-stress, calm themselves and provide openings to experience a sense of peace.

However, mindfulness’s impact off the cushion of the larger organizations and communities where it is practiced largely remains to be seen. Most mindfulness programs have never gotten around to confronting the many larger-scale social problems we face as a society; in fact many newer practitioners might be surprised to learn that founders of early mindfulness programs had sought out such activist-minded ends. In speaking with dozens of program leaders and mindfulness teachers, only a handful had any evidence at all that their programs’ impacts extended beyond the program’s direct participants and into the larger organizations they were a part of.

The impact of mindfulness practice, even among top CEOs and corporate leaders, is largely not trickling down into their larger companies and causing them to cut down expected work hours or loads or increase wages, which are the fundamental causes of the stress many Americans face today. While meditation practices may individually improve the lives of practitioners, and perhaps even those they regularly interact with, it is less clear how the practices lead to the collective action needed to address the complex social problems we face daily in our workplaces and in our democracy.

Yet, the myth that mindfulness will lead to a more progressive, utopian world continues to linger, as a mirage, that might appear just around the bend.

Featured image credit: “Take a seat photo” by Simon Wilkes. Public Domain via Unsplash.

Feeling Lonely? Discover 18 Ways to Overcome Loneliness

Author Article

The great irony is that as we become increasingly “connected”—on social media, video calling, and messaging—we simultaneously feel increasingly lonely. And even though we may use technology to feel more connected, it may be exactly what’s leading us to feel lonely.

Are you feeling socially connected? (take this well-being quiz to see how you’re feeling). If not, try some of these 18 strategies to stop feeling lonely.

1. Practice self-kindness when you’re feeling lonely

In difficult moments, it’s essential to practice self-kindness. Blaming ourselves when we feel lonely is not helpful. So limit your hurtful self-talkengage in some self-care, and just generally give yourself a break. Perhaps a walk in nature or a day at the spa may be helpful for getting yourself into a self-kindness mood.

2. Capitalize on the present moment when you’re feeling lonely

When you feel good about something, share it with others right away, and I don’t mean “share” by posting on your social media. You could share by calling or texting a friend. Or share with the people you work with. Keep in mind that the positive things that you can share don’t have to be big. You could simply have woken up on the right side of the bed and think, “Hey, I’m feeling great today.” By sharing these moments, you create small moments of connection with others that can help you overcome loneliness.

3. Connect in real life when you’re feeling lonely

Connecting in real life may not be as easy as it once was. We often default to using our smartphones—it’s easier, and now, and it’s culturally accepted. But we can decrease our loneliness if we build stronger in-person connections. We do this by looking people in the eyes, listening, being mindful, and choosing not be distracted by our phones or other technologies.

4. Rethink how you spend your spare time when you’re feeling lonely

When we feel lonely, sometimes we just want to retreat into a corner and hide. Other times, our endless to-do list may leave us too exhausted to go out and be social. But opting to stay alone every night with our phoneswatching Netflix, or playing on Facebook can really get us stuck in loneliness. We’ve created a life for ourselves that deprives of us of meaningful social connection, and the only way to get out of it is to start living differently.

If we instead use our loneliness to motivate us to reach out to people, then we can strengthen our relationships. By opting to cope with our loneliness by seeking out social support, we create more social moments with the people in our lives that matter to us, which usually reduces our loneliness.

5. Do more things with people to feel less lonely

Engaging in face-to-face social interactions tends to improve our mood and reduce depressionActivities that involve other people — such as attending religious services or engaging in sports — are also likely to have positive effects on our mental health. So find ways to be around people more.

6. Talk to strangers when you’re feeling lonely

A growing body of research suggests that even seemingly trivial interactions with strangers — like chatting with a barista or cashier — may be able to keep loneliness at bay by helping us feel more socially connected. So reach out to other human beings to say hello, ask them how they are, or chat about whatever’s on your mind. These small acts can make a big difference and help you reduce feelings of loneliness.

7. Be active online when you’re feeling lonely

Instead of passively surfing the net or your social media, if you want to go online, opt instead to do something that involves the active participation of other people. For example, you could play games with others, chat about something you care about, give advice on a forum, or have a video call with a friend. The more you interact with others while online, the more connected you are likely to feel.

8. Share for real online when you’re feeling lonely

Somewhere along the way, the word “sharing” got co-opted on social media to describe what is really just “humble bragging.” We post about cool things we did, nice meals we ate, or a fun party we went to—all things that we didn’t actually share with the people who are viewing our posts.

Instead of posting about things you did, reclaim the word “share” for what it really means—to give a small or large portion of what is yours to someone else. You could share advice, words of support, or even empathy all from your smartphone. As a result, your connections are likely to be more kind and supportive.

9. Stop focusing so much on you when you’re feeling lonely

It’s almost inevitable in our modern technology-crazed world that we start to believe that we don’t have enough. Bob got a new car. Sherri got a new house. Sonja got a new job. We also see false or unrealistic images—models Photoshopped to have perfect waists and abs—and we feel envious. As a result, we become increasingly focused on how we are not measuring up.

Instead of focusing on what you can get, shift your focus to what you can give. You could sell T-shirts online to raise money for a good cause. You could ask friends to donate to a charity for your birthday. By giving to others, you take the focus off yourself and do good at the same time, helping you to feel more connected and less lonely.

10. Stop your negative thought cycles when you’re feeling lonely

We might repeatedly think about what we could have done differently to prevent ourselves from feeling so alone. We ruminate on the events or people or causes, because we mistakenly believe that thinking about our loneliness over and over again will help us solve it. Unfortunately, it does us no good to get caught up in our thoughts instead of taking the actions we need to feel better.

To put an end to these negative thought cycles, we need to take action—do something different that stops these thoughts and changes our experience of the world. For example, if I’m feeling lonely, I’ll go to the gym or schedule lunches with friends for the next few days. And it helps.

11. Generate a sense of awe when you’re feeling lonely

Awe (like when we witness the birth of new baby, or a majestic mountain) makes time seem like it’s standing still and helps us be more open to connecting. Something about feeling small in the context of a big world appears to help us see ourselves as a part of a whole, which may help us feel less alone. So expose yourself to something that creates awe—like landscapes, new experiences, or new foods.

12. Spend money on experiences when you’re feeling lonely

If we’re spending all our money on things, we wont have the cash to spend money on experiences with others. And it turns out that spending money on experiences is way better for our mental health. So get creative and think about what you want to do with others. For example, I might go on a canoeing trip, go wine tasting, plan a beach party, or host arts & crafts night. What group activities might make you feel less lonely?

13. Pay attention to the things that matter when you’re feeling lonely

How do we expect to improve our loneliness when we don’t know what causes it? It’s hard. So it’s helpful to start paying attention to the present moment. What are the experiences that make you feel lonely? And what are the experiences that make you feel connected or like you belong? Identifying these moments can help you reduce loneliness because you can limit engagement in the activities that make you feel lonely and increase engagement in the activities that make you feel connected.

14. Create a vision board when you’re feeling lonely

I keep a vision board tacked up by my desk to remind me of my goals. A big chunk of my vision board is about connecting—building community, networking, spending time with family, and the like. Sometimes I have a hard time sticking to it, but having the vision board reminds me to. Once you discover the things that make you feel less lonely and more connected, it can be helpful to create a board or list or plan for what you’ll do—something to keep near you so you remember what you need to do to combat loneliness.

15. Tend to your network when you’re feeling lonely

Sometimes we can end up feeling alone even though we are connected to lots of people. So it can be helpful to reach out to these people and schedule times to catch up. Aim to schedule at least one social hour per week—a coffee date, lunch, or happy hour. Who knows, maybe an old friendship can be reignited.

16. Join an online group of like-minded people when you’re feeling lonely

You can now find people online with just about any interest—for example, politics, cooking, or sports. Joining one of these mission-oriented groupscan be a way to feel more connected to others, even when you don’t have access to face-to-face interactions. You might get to know some new people or make life-long friends. You can even try out a few groups to see which ones fit you best and decrease your loneliness the most.

17. Volunteer remotely or in real life when you’re feeling lonely

For some of us, it’s hard to find people to spend time with, let alone connect with. So we have to find new people. One way to do this is by volunteering for a cause, either remotely or in your town. Just be sure you’re working with others. Working on an important problem with others can help you decrease loneliness.

18. Be nice to yourself when you experience failures

It’s important to practice self-compassion when you fail at things. Remember, everyone fails, and there is no need to be a bully to yourself, feel guilty, or put yourself down. That kind of attitude won’t help you decrease loneliness now or in the future. Instead, try talking to yourself in a way that is supportive, kind, and caring — and you’ll be more likely to acknowledge mistakes you may have made in trying to decrease loneliness, and hopefully do better next time.

Want to learn more about how to build well-being? Check out Berkeleywellbeing.com.

It is a well known fact that those that suffer from PTSD are at a much higher risk for falling into substance abuse. Many people with PTSD often find themselves going for the bottle or something else harmful to help quickly find relief from their pain. But could early substance abuse actually lead to PTSD? […]

via Could Substance Abuse be Causing PTSD? — Beva’s PTSD Blog

7 New Self-Help Books That Are Actually Helpful

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By Lizzy Francis

We live in busy times. Burnout is real. With the advent of remote work and the connected work place, people have less of an opportunity to disconnect than ever. Parents are over-worked and trying to be there for their kids and wonder how to make time in the day when they can’t even leave their office behind at the end of the day. Authors and experts have made note of that, and there’s been a bit of a cultural shift of self-help books that focus on helping people, you know, chill out a little. But which are worth checking out? We think that these books, each tailored at making more out of your life through simple steps, paring down distractions, figuring out what you need, and by accepting who you are, are worthwhile. They don’t ask you to give 110 percent all the time and learn to love the office like a family. In fact, the vast majority of them ask the opposite and they have some pretty poignant advice to help keep burnout at bay.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
In Essentialismauthor Greg McKeown, a CEO of THIS, Inc., and business consultant, makes a case for a more decluttered life. This book could have a lesson for anyone, but Essentialism’s questions: “Are you stretched too thin? Do you feel overworked but unfulfilled? Are you busy but not feeling like you’re getting anything done?,” are particularly trenchant for the modern parent. McKeown asks the reader to engage with what he refers to as a “systematic discipline” in order to get ‘only the right things done.’ This book is helpful for readers who just want to make their lives less busy but more meaningfully full.

Digital Minimalism: The Case for a Focused Life in a Noisy World,Cal NewportIn Digital MinimalismCal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown and author of Deep Work, makes a case for a ‘digital detox.’ He argues that smartphones, apps, and screen time have greatly diminished our quality of life, not just because we’re looking at screens and engaging in a non-physical social world, but largely because of what he refers to as a ‘fragmenting’ effect — that the 10 seconds it takes for you to look at your phone greatly diminishes the quality of any in-person experience you may be having at that time. In Digital Minimalism, Newport offers a 30-day plan where followers pare down all non-essential technology, and after those 30 days are over, begin using tech again with intention. It’s something from which all of us can benefit.

10% Happier: How I Tamed The Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, And Found Self-Help That Actually Works, Dan Harris
Although 10% Happier is one of the older entries on the list, having been published some five years ago, it deserves a spot simply because of its measured approach to meditation and happiness. Dan Harris, the author of the book, had a panic attack on national television. This book takes the reader on his journey deconstructing Harris’ own, harmful thought processes about incessant workaholism and explaining how he found meditation that helped him chill but still remain productive. For any parent on the boiling point, a reasonable approach to meditation could be seriously helpful.

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brene Brown
The desire to be the perfect parent, employee, partner or person does not serve you, argues Brene Brown in The Gifts of ImperfectionTrying to be the ‘perfect’ parent or employee is only going to leave you frustrated and let down. So Brown offers ten “guideposts” that will help the reader accept their imperfections and live a more honest and happy life.

#Chill: Turn off Your Job, Turn on Your Life, Bryan Robinson
#Chill is the book for the guy who knows that they can’t really change overnight. For those who bring the office home with them at night and over the weekends, and would rather spend that time relaxing with family and friends, this book gives a bit of a guidebook to engage with a monthly program to “stop the cycle of over-work.” Bryan Robinson largely employs the use of mindfulness and meditation practices that help the over-worked take a deep breath and remain present.

Off The Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, Laura Vanderkam
Time management guru Laura Vanderkam managed to deal with feeling overworked and overbusy by letting go a little bit and telling herself that she has ‘all the time in the world.’ In short, she changed her outlook. And that’s the heart of Off The Clock, a book about personal attitude that employs readers with real tools for dealing with stress from the days where you feel too busy or stretched too thin, requires some brain-training. It also utilizes examples of real people, which helps the concepts feel less abstract and helps the reader see what this looks like in practice.

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
If you lack focus at work, feel like you waste time on social media, or feel like you’ve been busy all day with nothing to show for it, Make Time might be helpful. It’s written by two former creators of Google’s ‘design sprint’, which is known as a period where a lot of work gets done in a lot less time than required by a lot of people working together. Make Time obviously draws on their experiencing “sprinting” by optimizing to-do lists, focusing professional energy, and designating time appropriately. It doesn’t ask for people to go 100 percent at all times — in fact, it asks quite the opposite. Engaging in productivity isn’t the same thing in being healthily productive. This book delineates the difference.

Helping Others Get The Psychological Support They Need

See Psychology Today Article Here
By George S. Everly

According to many authorities, currently there is a mental healthcrisis. School shootings, workplace violence, random acts of violent rage, even some acts of terrorism have been associated with, and even blamed on, acute psychological distress, depression, or more frank mental illness. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that roughly 10 million individuals in the US suffer from some form of severe mental illness characterized by severe impairments to their daily lives. But it has been further estimated that up to another 30 million people may have to deal with psychological conditions that serve to mildly or moderately interfere with their ability to most effectively function socially or at the workplace. How does society begin to address such a problem when traditional approaches are sometimes disappointing?

Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay
Source: Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay

Using psychological first aid (PFA) to foster resilience may be one nontraditional approach. This is the third in a series of three discussions of PFA. PFA may be defined as a supportive presence designed to achieve three goals: 1) stabilize (prevent acute stress from worsening) 2) mitigate (de-escalate and dampen acute distress) 3) advocate for and facilitate access to professional assistance, if necessary. Two previous discussions in this series have addressed the first and second goals. This discussion addresses the third goal, facilitating access to supportive psychological care, if needed.

EXPANDING THE REACH OF MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Getting friends, family, and others for whom you care the psychological assistance they might need is not always easy.  The first step is recognition. Family members, friends, co-workers, healthcare providers, and educators all have the potential to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. Furthermore, they have the potential to help others seek professional guidance when needed. This is achieved by serving as compassionate frontline advocates for the pursuit of such professional mental health support.

Kahll/Pixabay
Source: Kahll/Pixabay

EARLY RECOGNITION

As noted, the first step to removing the stigma associated with seeking mental health support as well as expanding the reach of mental health services is recognition of the  problem. Listed below is a sampling of psychological or behavioral patterns of concern. Recognition of signs and symptoms such as these is a foundation of PFA.

1. Depression: Everyone gets sad, but depression is another matter.  The warning signs of a significant depressive episode may be a persistent sad mood for a couple of weeks combined with a loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, awakening early in the morning (often around 3am) with difficulty falling back to sleep, and a loss of libido. We become especially concerned when there is a questioning of the value of life, and the loss of hope or a future orientation as these may herald suicidal ideation and even self-injurious or suicidal acts. Professional care in such cases is imperative.

2. Debilitating Fear: Fear may be thought of as apprehension and stress arousal in response to a specific threat or challenge. Most people have fears of one kind or another. We become concerned when those fears become debilitating interfering with one’s personal or occupational lives. Persistent phobic (irrational fear) avoidance can be crippling. For example the fear and avoidance of crossing bridges or of flying can be quite debilitating.

3. Anxiety: Anxiety may be defined as apprehension and stress arousal in response to an ambiguous threat or challenge. Anxiety can be especially challenging because of its ill-defined nature. It too can be crippling. When it becomes so, it is time to seek a professional opinion.

4. Posttraumatic Stress and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):These are perhaps more correctly envisioned as posttraumatic stress injuries (PTSI): Stress following the exposure to a trauma, usually thought of as either direct or vicarious exposure to a life threatening experience, can be intense and disorienting, but that stress reaction usually diminishes within weeks and resolves within months. When one becomes acutely disabled or continues to vividly re-imagine the experience, becomes psychologically numb or depressed, and experiences irritability, anger, or impulsiveness which interferes with one’s personal or professional life for more than a few weeks, it is then important to seek professional assistance.

5. Strange, erratic, or self-debilitating behavior of any kind, including self-medication: In the final analysis, whether it is crippling depression, anxiety, phobic avoidance, posttraumatic stress reactions, or self-debilitating behavior of any kind that interferes with one’s happiness or personal and professional life, the guidance of a mental healthcare provider should be sought.

Ricinator/Pixabay
Source: Ricinator/Pixabay

COMPASSIONATE ADVOCACY

Beyond recognition, what else can be done? If you recognize a perceived need for professional mental health guidance or support in someone you care for, work with, supervise, or mentor, compassionate advocacy may be useful in facilitating access to such care.  Listed below are some simple steps to assist.

1. Stressful life experiences can make one feel alone and overwhelmed. Make it clear there is no reason for anyone to endure distress alone.

2. Anticipate barriers to seeking professional support and be prepared to address them.  Barriers include such things as stigma, a perception of weakness, or a misunderstanding about what mental health providers actually do. Help the person reinterpret getting help as a sign of personal strength, not a weakness. Reframe seeking professional guidance more as a means of fostering resilience, less as seeking treatment. Create a positive and hopeful expectation of improvement or recovery. Point out that delaying intervention can lead to a needlessly  prolonged period of distress or inability to function effectively. Lastly, suggest that getting professional support is a sign of respect and concern for others, such as family, friends, and co-workers, as well as well, as themselves.

3. Be prepared to address practical and logistical concerns such as where and how to seek professional services. Be prepared to offer specific options about trusted providers, pastoral counseling options, telephone hotlines, financial counseling services, community-based mental health services, employee assistance programs, or other employer-based services.

4. Use encouragement in a compassionate and supportive manner, but be persistent in your encouragement.

© George S. Everly, Jr., PhD, 2019.