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Mental Health Facts

Helping Your Child Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Tips for helping your child develop healthy eating habits: (American Psychological Association)
  • Start early. If you help your child establish good eating, exercising and sleeping habits early in life, you won't have to break bad habits later on. Expose your child to a variety of flavors and pair those new sensations with positive contexts and foods that your child already likes.  Research suggests that familiarization can not only help children come to accept healthy food but actually prefer it.
  • Ensure that most foods in your home are healthy. You don't have to swear off desserts, however. Low-fat frozen yogurt and fruit are a good alternative to ice cream and sprinkles, for instance.
  • Make healthy eating easy. Children generally choose foods that are familiar, easily available and ready to be eaten. Encourage your child or teen to eat more fruits and vegetables by making them just as convenient as sugary snacks. You could place baby carrots in small bags on an easily accessible shelf in the refrigerator, for example. 
  • Model healthy eating. Children who see their parents or caregivers buying, cooking and eating healthy foods are more apt to eat healthy foods themselves. Avoid using food as a reward for good behavior. Making unhealthy food a reward for good deeds promotes the idea that healthy food isn't as appealing as junk food or something to look forward to. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be a trick. Instead, teach your children to look at healthy foods as tasty and desirable.
  • Have meals as a family. Family meals are not only a good opportunity to share in your children’s lives. They are also the perfect venue to talk about healthy eating habits and engage your children in conversations about what a healthy meal looks and tastes like. Limit eating out. Eating out is not only expensive, but can also be unhealthy. Not knowing what goes into the food you're eating can make it difficult to help your child choose something that is nutritious and appropriately sized.

Effects of Stress on your physical health

The effects of stress on your physical and mental health
  • Heart, brain and blood vessels: Stress hormone cortisol increase your heart rate and your blood pressure. Cortisol can also raise your cholesterol levels, raising your risk for heart attacks and strokes.
  • Immune system: Stress response weakens your immune system, therefore decreasing your ability to fight cold and other illnesses.
  • Digestion: Stress hormones interfere with your stomach normal functioning,  causing stomachaches, diarrhea or constipation.
  • Weight gain: Stress hormone makes you crave, sugar, fats, and carbohydrate leading to weight gain and increasing your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Mental health: Stress hormones creates a constant state of tension in your body, and may eventually lead to, insomnia, anxiety & depression.

How to deal with stress

  • Engage in daily exercise, this is one of the best stress-busters, and it can improve your mood and alleviates symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Find time to do joyful & fun activities ( music, gardening, etc)
  • Learn some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Make time for yourself and treat yourself well by eating healthy meals,  getting enough sleep, avoiding smoking & drinking too much & overeating.
 
If you are unable to handle your stress, talk to a therapist who could help you find other ways to manage the stress in your life. 

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that becomes apparent in some children in preschool and early school years. It affects 3-5% of school children. About 2 million children in the United state are diagnosed with this condition and at least one in a classroom of 25-30 children will have ADHD.  ADHD often continues into adulthood.
 
Symptoms of ADHD
The principle characteristics of ADHD are Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity.  According to the most recent version of the DIAGNOSTIC and STATISTICAL MANUAL of MENTAL HEALTH (DSM IV-TR), a person with ADHD may show one of three patterns of behavior,
hyperactive & impulsive, inattentive, or combined type. 
 
How do you know if it is really ADHD?
Not everyone who is hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive has ADHD. 
The diagnosis requires that such behavior be demonstrated to a degree
that is inappropriate for the person's age, the behavior must appear before
age 7 and continues for at least 6 months.  Above all the behaviors must
create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person's life such as in the
classroom, in the playground, in the community or at home. It is important that a child receive a though examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well qualified professional.
 
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
Diagnosing ADHD in adults is not easy.  To be diagnose with ADHD, an adult must have childhood-onset as well as persistent and current symptoms. for an accurate diagnosis the history of the person's childhood behavior together with an interview with his partner, parent or any close associate or friend is needed
 
Treatment & Intervention Approaches for ADHD
  Psychotherapy
  Behavioral Modifications
  Support groups 
  Parenting skills training
  Medications


 

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A person who experiences a catastrophic event may develop ongoing difficulties known as Post.traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The traumatic event may have involved severe injury or a situation with life has been threatened (examples: victim or a witness of physical or sexual abuse, violence in the home or in the community, automobile accidents, natural disasters, etc)  Symptoms of Post-traumatic stress disorder typically start within three months of a traumatic event but n some cases they may take years to surface.  Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may persist or they may come and go  Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms are generally grouped into three types:
!-intrusive memories. 2-Avoidance and numbing. 3- Increased anxiety or emotional arousal.

1-Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:
  • Flashbacks & reliving the traumatic event in the daily life
  • Dreams surrounding the traumatic event

2-Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing may include:
  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Emotional numbness
  • Avoiding activities once enjoyed
  • Feelings of Hopelessness & helplessness
  • Trouble staying focused
  • Avoidance of forming close relationships

3-Symptoms of anxiety and increased emotional arousal may include:
  • Anger & mood irritability
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking, drugs, etc
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hypervigilance and being easily startled or frightened
.    
A child with PTSD may re-experience the traumatic event by:
  • Reenacting the event over and over during play time.
  • Having frightening dreams
  • Acting or feeling like the experience is happening over and over
  • Developing repeated physical or emotional symptoms anytime the child is reminded of the event.
  • Worry about dying at an early age
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Having physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Showing more sudden and extreme emotional reactions
  • Having problems falling or staying asleep                  
  • Sudden and more often angry outbursts
  • Having problems concentrating or staying focused
  • Regressed behavior or acting younger than their age ( clingy or whiny behavior, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, etc)
  • Showing increased alertness to the surroundings 

The Journey of Grief

Grief Definition:
Grief is the reaction to a loss, it does not only refer to a loss of a loved one but can also include a loss of relationships, opportunities, etc.  Grief is not an event, it is rather a PROCESS and it will take time to work through.  It can affect every aspect of a person's life, emotionally, socially, and physically. It may even prompt the person to begin searching for new meaning to life. The word "Normal" is a difficult one to use describing the emotions associated with grief. Some of these emotions may include: Shock & Numbness-Denial-Confusion-Anger & Resentment- Relief-Guilt- Loneliness-Withdrawals
 
While literature provides explanations of the different stages of grief, these stages serve only as a guideline. The grief process is unpredictable with no definite order of the events that must occur. Everyone experiences grief differently and has his/her own pace moving through the stages. There is no exact time limit on grief, a person must avoid the belief that one must "Get over it", rather, the person must find ways to "Cope with it", as some aspects of the loss may stay with the person forever.  For some people it may take a year or two to move through the grief process and begin to adapt to life without his/her loved one.
 
These are some ways to help a person cope with a loss:
  • Acknowledge the Loss, including questioning what happened and replaying the events in mind. This is difficult and painful to do but very important for healing.
  • Accept and Face the Emotions, one must accept these emotion and tries to channel them in a constructive way. There is nothing wrong with grieving, and it is OK to cry.  Accepting these emotions is an important part of healing.
  • Express your grief and talk to someone you trust, share your feelings and thoughts openly and accept help when offered.
  • Try to take " Grief Breaks", allow yourself to take time away from your grief by doing something distracting.
  • Take care of your physical health, and try to get plenty of rest whenever you can.
  • Force yourself to participate in relaxing activities and hobbies.
  • Remove extra sources of stress in your life.
  • Keep the Faith, that one day you will heal and be whole again.
 

TEST YOUR ANGER CONTROL

Answer the following statements then add up your total score. Circle 1 for never.  Circle 2 for rarely. Circle 3 for sometimes. Circle 4 for frequently. Circle 5 for always

1- I get angry with no or little provocation. 
    1       2      3      4      5
2- I yell and/or curse.
    1       2      3      4      5
3- I feel so angry that I feel that I am going to explode with rage.
    1       2      3      4      5
4- I have a bad temper.
    1       2      3      4      5
5- I have urges to break or destroy things when I become angry.
    1       2      3      4      5
6- I have difficulties letting go of thoughts that make me angry.
    1       2      3      4      5
7- I feel tense and uptight.
    1       2      3      4      5
8- I can't tolerate incompetent people, they make me angry.
    1       2      3      4      5
9- I have urges to beat someone up when I get angry.
    1       2      3      4      5
10- I loose my temper at least once a week.
    1       2      3      4      5
11- I get angry when someone does not understand me.
    1       2      3      4      5
12- I find my self quite annoyed with some friends and family.
    1       2      3      4      5
13- I get very angry with drivers who cut me off or do not drive the exact speed limit.
    1       2      3      4      5
14- I get angry when people do things that they are not supposed to do ( example having more items than they are supposed to in the supermarket express lane)
    1       2      3      4      5
15- I am easily frustrated with equipments when they do not work properly.
    1       2      3      4      5
16-Some people always rub me the wrong way.
    1       2      3      4      5
17- I feel people always try to take advantage of me.
    1       2      3      4      5
18- I get angry when my neighbor is inconsiderate.
    1       2      3      4      5
19- My anger outbursts embarrass family and friends,
    1       2      3      4      5
20- It is very hard for me to forgive a person who made me angry in the past.
    1       2      3      4      5
21- When I get angry I blurt out things I later regret saying.
    1       2      3      4      5

Score Key:
Below 30: You are in a good comfort zone.
30-40: You get angry as often as most people do. Your challenge is to try lowering your score in the coming few months.
50-60: You have plenty of room for improvement. Reading a self help-book on anger management might be very helpful.
60-80: You need to work on controlling your anger in a very deliberate manor.
80 and above: Your anger expression might be interfering with your daily functioning, it would be worthwhile seeking some professional help.
  

Spring Break Boozing May put Young Brains at Risk


Binge drinking by teens, young adults linked to long-term problems with impulse control 


SATURDAY, March 17 (HealthDay News ) 
Teens and young adults who binge drink during spring break or at any other time may be risking brain damage, an expert warns binge drinking, defined as the consumption of four alcoholic drinks by males and three drinks by females in a day, could be a sign of alcohol dependency or addiction, said Dr. Alicia Ann Kowalchuk, medical director of the InSight alcohol and drug intervention program at the Harris County Hospital District in Houston. The brain continues to develop through age 25, Kowalchuk said, and alcohol, particularly episodes of binge drinking, affects the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that handles impulse control and decision making. "The developmental delay of this area of the brain caused by binge drinking can make it hard for young people to make healthy choices about acceptable alcohol use and impulse control [later in life], some being more prone to alcohol abuse and addiction," Kowalchuk said in a Harris County Hospital District news release.

Drinking can have other health consequences for young people, she noted "Alcohol impairs good judgment and exposes teens and young adults to make irrational decisions like drinking and driving, riding with someone who's been drinking, engaging in unintended or unprotected sex, or committing criminal activities," said Kowalchuk, who is also an assistant professor in the family and community medicine department at Baylor College of Medicine, also in Houston.

Parents need to have forthright and consistent talks with their children early in life about the dangers of alcohol, she advised. "If they hear anything that sounds middle of the road, they hear 'yes to drinking,'" Kowalchuk said. "Any ambiguity as a parent will be interpreted as an approval for drinking. The clear message needs to be that alcohol is not acceptable because it's not safe or good for your developing brain."
For additional information visit:
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about talking to children about alcohol.


Recent Free Press article: Anti Bullying Efforts

Shedding light on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is the clinical name for winter blues.  It affects about 5% of those who live in northern states (such as Michigan). It is characterized by feelings of sadness and depression during the winter months when the temperatures drop and the days grow short. Women are 2-3 times more likely to suffer from winter blues 

Symptoms of SAD (Occurred for the past two winter seasons) include the followings:

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly everyday
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Excessive sleeping (Hypersomnia)
  • Diminished ability to concentrate 
  • Excessive eating and Weight gain
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness 


Effective techniques to treat winter depression:
1-Increase your daily exposure to as much natural light as possible when you can gain access to more sunlight in the winter months. Sitting next to a south-facing window when possible will increase your sunlight exposure.
2-Take walks throughout the day (even if you don't normally do so). 
3-Try to exercise next to a window (or outdoor when possible).
4-Maintain your daily schedule and lifestyle as much as possible. 
5-Keep a regular pattern of sleep, this is extremely essential. 
6- Consult with your family doctor about light therapy.  Light therapy has shown to be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.  You can purchase inexpensive light therapy lighting fixtures for your home or office.  You can also replace commonly used light bulbs in your home with brighter full spectrum (also known as broad spectrum) light bulbs.  These light bulbs can provide light that is similar to natural sunlight. (Note: Light therapy is very helpful for individuals affected by SAD, but could exasperate symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, provoking a manic episode, so try to refrain from self-diagnosis)

When other self-help methods are not effective, the winter blues can be treated with psychotherapy or psychotropic medications .  Talk about this condition with a professional, it's nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. With a little effort, the winter blues can be beaten.

10 tips to help you cope with the " Holiday Blues"

The holiday season can be a time of joy, parties, and family gatherings.  But for some it can also be a time of loneliness, anxiety, and reflections on past problems and failures. Many people develop stress response or "Holiday Blues" during the holiday season exhibited through physical and emotional symptoms.  Others may experience " Post Holiday Blues" as a result of financial constraints compounded with stress, fatigue and the holiday "Let Down". 
 
These are 10 tips that could help you cope with the " Holiday Blues":
 
1-Try to set realistic expectations and goals of yourself, and LOWER your expectations of others.
2-Surround yourself with caring and supportive people, reach out for new and old friends.
3- Keep in mind that the holidays do not banish reasons for feeling lonely and depressed.
4- Let go of the past and make a conscious effort to move forward with your life by making small positive changes.
5- Continue to engage in physical activities, this will increase the " feel good hormones" in your body.
6- Assert yourself by saying " No, but thanks" when you know for sure that the environment is going to be negative based on past experiences.
7- Be aware of your alcoholic intake, alcohol will increase symptoms of depression. Just say "NO"
8- Choose healthy food that will stabilize your blood sugar, remember the connection between mind and body.
9-Try to focus on the spiritual aspect of the holiday season.
10- Practice gratitude everyday, be thankful for everything you DO have and always look at your glass as " HALF-FULL"
 
I wish all of  you a happy and Joyfull holiday season.
 
Dina Abu-Isa, MA, LPC, NCC
Owner & psychotherapist/ North Oakland Counseling
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