Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Exercise can help improve your mental health
Stress for Success
April 26, 2011

Depressed? Anxious? Obsessive?

These conditions along with scores of physical conditions present yet one more reason to exercise. Research has long shown exercise to be an effective but under-prescribed treatment for mild to moderate depression and anxiety.

For some, getting out of bed feels overwhelming making exercise seem impossible. But the degree of mood improvement with regular exercise is so significant that many researchers believe it’s more effective than counseling and anti-depressants.

We’ve known for quite some time that exercise:
· Reduces stress, anxiety and depression;
· Boosts self-esteem;
· Improves sleep;
· Lowers blood pressure and strengthens your heart;
· Increases energy;
· Improves muscle tone and strength;
· Strengthens, builds bones;
· Reduces body fat;
· Makes you look and feel fit and healthy;

It’s not completely understood why exercise is so effective but it’s probably due to the reduction of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increased body temperature, which may have calming effects.

The psychological boosts from exercise seem due to endorphin releases, which interact with brain receptors that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine, producing the “runners’ high” and typically accompanied by greater optimism.

Exercise is also a great substitute for the obsessive thinking that drives these difficult emotions. It burns up your fight/flight energy in a positive way while distracting you from obsessive thinking about how miserable life is.

To decide which exercise to do answer these WebMD published questions:
· Which physical activities do I enjoy?
· Do I prefer group or individual activities?
· Which program best fit my schedule?
· Do I have a physical condition that limits my choice?
· What are my goals? Weight loss? Muscle strengthening? Flexibility? Mood enhancement?

To ease your depressive symptoms work toward 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, three times a week; four or five times a week is even better.

But any amount of exercise is better than none and can prevent a relapse after treatment for depression. Kristin Vickers-Douglas, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic psychologist, says, “Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to a get started if it’s initially too difficult to do more.” If ten minutes is all you’ll do, then do ten minutes. Instead of beating yourself up for not doing more pat yourself on the back for starting then gradually increase to 30 minutes.

If you haven’t exercised for a long time, check with your physician. If you feel pain two hours after exercising, you probably overexerted yourself so decrease your activity level. Never ignore pain.

Finally, take advice from Dr. Mary Ann Chapman, “The key to breaking a bad habit (doing nothing) and adopting a good one (exercising)” is to:
Minimize the immediate reward of doing nothing (relief from successfully avoiding exercising);
Make the long-term negative consequences of not exercising (continued depression/anxiety/anger) seem more imminent;

In other words, instead of excuse after excuse to avoid exercise, remind yourself how exhausted you are of being emotionally stuck.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html and request she speak to your organization. Register for Administrative Professionals Day, April 27, at 239-425-3273.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Effective treatment available for low-grade depression
Stress for Success
April 19, 2011

Every day looks gloomy. There isn’t much to enjoy. Feeling like a failure is all too familiar leading to a life of withdrawal and inactivity. With plenty to worry about sleep is elusive. Drugs and alcohol ease the pain. It seems that life has always been this way; it seems “normal.” Isn’t this how most people live?

No, it isn’t. If you see life this way you may be diagnosed with dysthymia, a milder but more continuing type of depression with continuous depressed mood for at least two years. It affects significantly more women than men.

For children, the duration is only one year. Kids’ major symptom may be irritability vs. depression. Since this on-going state of depression seems normal it usually goes undiagnosed, therefore untreated.

It’s typical dysthymia sufferers don’t seek help for a decade or longer, which is unfortunate since there is effective treatment. For children, being diagnosed early and getting treatment may help avoid more serious mood disorders, substance abuse and other painful school and relationship problems later.

It’s estimated that at any point, 3% of the population is affected by dysthymia. Those with immediate relatives who’ve had major depressive disorders are at greater risk. It usually develops early in one’s life although the person is unlikely to seek help unless she develops major depression (about 10% do).

The clinician’s guide to diagnosis, the DSM IV, states at least two of the following symptoms must also be present for this diagnosis:
· Overeating or lack of appetite;
· Sleeping too much or having difficulty sleeping;
· Fatigue, lack of energy;
· Poor self-esteem;
· Difficulty with concentration, decision-making;
· Hopelessness;

If this describes you most days, what can you do to feel better?
· Talk to a psychiatrist who may prescribe an anti-depressant. Anti-depressants can take weeks to have an effect and you may have to try several to find one that works well for you. It’s worth it, though, to discover that life can be much brighter and more enjoyable.
· Engage in a hobby that you enjoy and are good at. At first you may not have the energy but make yourself do it at least once a week. With time you’ll look forward to it.
· Volunteer regularly. Helping others works better at decreasing depression than almost anything. It takes your mind off your own troubles and helps you feel better about yourself and the world when you connect with others.
· Consult with your physician about getting regular exercise. Exercise at least 30 minutes 4 times/week if you want it to lift your mood.
· Eat nutritionally well.
· Avoid drugs and alcohol; both make depression worse.

Dysthymia is very treatable. The worst-case scenario is that it’ll be difficult to make yourself take better care of your moods. The best outcome is you’ll feel better and wonder what took you so long to address this seemingly “normal” condition. You deserve to feel better and you’re the only one who can make it happen.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Seek immediate professional help when suicidal Stress for Success April 5, 2011 Depressed people who are in imminent danger of committing suicide, which requires immediate help, often exhibit specific behaviors, says David Rudd, dean, college of social and behavioral science at the University of Utah. A Rudd chaired joint American Association of Suicidology and National Institutes of Health working group compiled a list of the most serious behaviors: · Putting affairs in order: e.g., changing a will; · Behaving recklessly: displaying a death wish by driving carelessly with escalation to show they’re serious; · Dramatic mood shifts: being extremely low to being anxious or agitated; · Discussing suicide: up to 85% of those who commit suicide told someone about their plans or communicated them in a poem or diary. Adolescents may even leave their journal out for someone to see; · Talking about feeling worthless: abuse victims especially feel hopeless and shameful; · Losing interest in life: emotional emptiness is a sign of escalating depression; Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are an excellent and immediate source of help. I interviewed Judy Anderson, LMHC, CEAP, EAP Consultants, Inc., Fort Myers, about these services. Here are my questions and her edited answers. Q: Which signs of depression indicate a person should get help? A: Most notice their range of emotion narrows: less positive anticipation and happiness and more sadness, anxiety, irritability and loneliness. Nothing seems to feel good. Also: · Changes in sleep patterns: difficulty falling asleep and/or waking early, not getting back to sleep; · Decreased appetite, or increased appetite, especially for “comfort” food; · Difficulty concentrating; · Indecisiveness; · Distorted perspective: notice only losses, failures, and problems versus pleasure, peace, and happiness; · Thinking about dying or suicide; Q: What is an EAP and what do you offer? A: These are employer-offered services promoting employee wellness helping employees be more effective both at work and at home. They’re encouraged to use their EAP before their life suffers through: · Assistance identifying and resolving emotional struggles, marital and family problems, substance abuse, stress; · Referrals to local resources for help with legal questions, elder/child care and financial problems; Q: What are the costs? A: These services are provided, without accessing health insurance plans, at no cost to the employee, including no co-pay. Employers pay a small monthly fee per employee so services are available to any employee at any time. Q: Is it confidential? A: Yes. EAP counselors are licensed mental health providers and covered by confidentiality laws. It’s also confidential who accesses EAPs. Q: How many counseling sessions are involved? A: Depending on the employer, from 3 to as many as 8 or more. Q: Are there other non-counselor services? A: Workshops, support groups, classes, and books, websites or movies are sometimes recommended. Q: For those who don’t have an EAP, whom should they call for help? A: Local mental health center, Primary Care Physician for referrals, health insurance may cover counseling with preferred providers locally; spiritual advisor may offer counseling or support groups; Depression in lonely; don’t go through it alone. Please, reach out to someone. Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.