Chris Ross recently joined the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) team in Bemidji. He has spent the last 25 years supporting people in the Bemidji area. Chris received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Cloud State University in Psychology. He has spent most of his career working with children, teens and families in a wide variety of multi-cultural settings, on mental health and behavioral issues.
Chris Ross believes in building strong relationships with his clients and community organizations to provide the best possible outcomes for success with the people he supports. He looks forward to having an opportunity to work with you or your loved ones.
ARMHS is a program that provides mental health rehabilitation to people with mental health diagnoses including anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, major depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and other serious mental illnesses. ARMHS Practitioners meet with people in their homes and communities and teach skills for managing the symptoms and challenges of mental illness. ARMHS services through Lake Country Associates do not require a diagnosis of Serious and Persistent Mental Illness (SPMI), but functional impairments the person is experiencing must be directly related to their mental health.
LCA’s Bemidji office welcomes Drew Jaeger, MSW, LGSW to their team of professionals. Drew Jaeger provides counseling services for adult individuals, adolescents (ages 14+), and couples. Drew believes in person-centered therapy that considers the whole person (mind, body, spirit) and uses strength-based, evidenced-informed strategies to partner with those whom he meets. Each person is considered an expert of their own experiences as client goals are pursued, together. Drew has experience working as a mental health professional since 2015 and in that time has enjoyed engaging clients through psychotherapy, adult rehabilitative mental health services, case management, and psychometric testing. Today, he commonly assists clients by helping to build coping skills, regulate emotions, overcome communication difficulties, and aid in relational dissatisfaction.
Drew is a Licensed Master Social Worker and holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of North Dakota. Drew has additionally earned two undergraduate degrees (Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology; Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work), along with a Minor in Religious Studies from the University of North Dakota. He serves client populations with a wide range of diagnoses and symptoms through evidence-based practices such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (including Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), Motivational Interviewing, Solution Focused Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and Enhanced Illness Management and Recovery.
He and his wife presently reside in Bemidji, MN. In his recreation time Drew enjoys exploring the outdoors (camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, skiing…you name it!) as well as engaging hobbies like leatherwork and knifemaking.
Lake Country Associates welcomes Isaiah Chalmers to the Bemidji team of professionals! Isaiah works as a Practitioner in the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. ARMHS is a community-based program that teaches people skills to manage their mental health symptoms while living in their homes and helps them avoid hospitalization.
Isaiah is from Bemidji and is ecstatic to be back in the place that he calls home. He received Bachelor’s of Arts degrees at the University of Minnesota, Morris, where he studied to become culturally competent in helping relationships. Isaiah has background in working in adult foster care and assisted living, helping them foster independent lifestyles and make steps towards living on their own. He thoroughly believes and will strive to make mental health services available to all demographics and populations throughout his career. Isaiah is excited to work in the Bemidji ARMHS program and support the community he grew up in.
There is currently no waiting list for ARMHS services in our Bemidji program. To serve our community during the pandemic, services are currently offered either in-person or via telehealth, depending on the needs of the recipient. For more information or to make a referral, call us at 218-444-2233 or download a referral form, brochures and other information on our forms page.
I’ve heard many worries that the virus will be around for the next 1-2 years. We don’t know what the future holds and, because of that, we need to modify our thinking and not worry about tomorrow. I know this can be hard, especially for those that try to keep control in their lives but if you focus on the things that you have control over your worries will decrease and that will lead to a decrease in stress.
Create Your New Normal
Things could change again shortly, in which case you will adapt again, but with the information that you have today create your new normal. Organize, schedule, and plan for today with today’s information. Remember that we can take care of our needs, those around us, and still be ok.
Get the Help You Need as You Need it
There are many who have been able to get government help for their businesses/employees, unemployment, and from friends and neighbors. Keep looking for the help and asking for help. This is an unprecedented situation that we are all doing the best in. Do what you need to do for today.
Keep Yourself, Your Family and Others Safe
Some are wearing thin of the precautions and the shut downs. Do what you know to stay safe and keep other’s safe. Don’t worry about what other people are doing, take care of you and yours. It only adds unnecessary stress to get anxious, angry, or depressed about other people’s actions. Focus on you and do what you know is needed, that’s all that you’re in charge of.
Take One Day at a Time
You can manage today, just as you’ve managed in the past. Keep it simple, keep in your control what is in your control, and then let the rest go. When your mind tries to take off with the future or with other people, stop it, remind yourself of what you can take care of (ps that’s yourself and your immediate family like your children), and what you are doing. Everything else let it go.
There are many things that we don’t know. Worrying about what could happen will only strain us. It won’t stop the future or change it in anyway, other than the effects stress has on our own bodies. Go back to today, organize, plan, and take today’s worries only. In reality, you only have this moment, and you can handle this moment.
Do you need extra help?
If you feel that you need extra help because your anxiety feels too big, we’re here for you. Give us a call. We’re offering mostly online counseling at this time, with a few clinicians offering face to face. Call us at 218-366-9229, Park Rapids, or 218-444-2233, Bemidji.
Whether you are a person who has attended LCA Cottage groups and drop-in hours in the past or are a first-timer, this guide will show you how to connect virtually through computer or phone so you can begin participating and expand your social support network.
Trying something new can be intimidating and so if you do not feel comfortable “jumping right in” you have the option of turning off your video and entering the Zoom room with a black screen (see picture) which will give you the opportunity to simply look around until you feel ready to participate.
The first step is to download and install the “Zoom Cloud Meetings” app. You can find this in your phone’s app store.
The second and final step is to find available days and times of groups and drop-in hours.
Click this link to view the LCA Calendar of Events: CALENDAR
If you wish to attend with audio only (no option to turn on video) you can click this number to join via phone call: +13017158592 ,,4239727228# – listen for the code to auto-dial and the woman to finish speaking and then push # to join. If you do not own a smartphone then you will want to use the audio only feature. You will need to hand dial in both the phone number and access code.
NOTICE: All events are screened and carefully monitored to ensure confidentiality of participants and to eliminate potential external disruptions of services.
Our entire world has changed as we hunker down during this pandemic in order to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and others safe. This change was unexpected and far-reaching. What we were doing a couple months ago and even last year at this time has been altered for safety. Changes in our environment affect our mental health.
What are some of the things that you can do to better your mental health? Here’s a list of important things to help alleviate depression symptoms.
Talk with someone – During this crisis our normal routines have been completely disrupted. For some they are doing at home schooling, not going to work or social activities. Isolation is a symptom of depression that we need to combat. Are you taking the time to connect with important people in your life including family and friends? Zoom, messenger, facetime, and phone calls are all important for connection. Perhaps join online chat groups or communities to connect with others. There are many ways to connect, find them and make it a priority.
Move – gyms and community centers are closed at this time but we can go outside. Find the time of day that works best for you and make it a priority. Getting into nature is another benefit that will help your depression. We all have been told how doing exercise alleviates depression symptoms this is still true during our quarantine. Find things that you like to do that will get you moving. You can also move in the house, YouTube has so many in home exercise videos you can choose from. (for other ideas or more information go to: https://lakecountryassociates.com/exercise-mental-health/ )
Make a Plan for the Day – Lack of motivation to do things is another symptom of depression. To combat this schedule activities to get done. Get out of bed at a regular time and plan to accomplish even just one thing during the day. There are many things that need to be done in our homes, yards (maybe even do some planting), and sheds/garages. Tackle a project even if you don’t feel like it.
Eat healthy – Many of us have chosen to eat more convenience food during this time. Make a change to healthy options. Our food choices affect how we feel because it’s the food that our body is running off of. At this time make small and healthy changes to your diet, or change back to your healthier options if you moved to unhealthy choices. This is an important point in our overall well being. (more information can be found here: https://lakecountryassociates.com/mental-health-and-healthy-eating/ )
There are many things that we can focus on to help us decrease our depression symptoms during this time. Of course you may need a professional counselor to help you even more. You are not alone as many have chosen to get extra help. Call our office if you would like to make an appointment at 218-366-9229 for Park Rapids or 218-444-2233 for Bemidji. We are doing telehealth counseling appointments at least through June 2020 or longer as is safest for our staff and clients. For more information on telehealth go here: https://lakecountryassociates.com/telehealth/
Let’s take care of ourselves and by taking care of ourselves we can take care of others. No matter what is going on around us, you are always a priority.
Lake Country Associates is happy to announce the newest member of our team in Park Rapids. Paula Ocampo has been working as a Mental Health Practitioner, providing Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) services to people in the Park Rapids community. Paula’s is a Registered Behavior Therapist with over 3 years of experience providing behavior therapy to children, adolescents, and adults with various mental health diagnoses and various levels of independence. Paula is a Park Rapids High School graduate and obtained her Bachelor of Psychology at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.
For the last 2 years, Paula has been working with children ages 2-6 years old diagnosed with Autism in Austin, Texas. She is now back in her home town working as an ARMHS Practitioner and is eager to be providing quality care to adults in her community. She is currently in graduate school studying Clinical Counseling and is looking forward to continuing to provide therapy to people in need in the Park Rapids area.
History tells how critical the invention of the “tele” graph was in keeping families, businesses, and governments informed and in communication with each other. Then the invention of the “tele” phone gave even more people access to communication with their neighbors and their doctors and business associates. Don’t forget the “tele” vision that allowed people to actually see other people while they were informed through the news or entertained through movies and weekly series. As computers and cell phones add a new “tele” to everything from “tele” medicine to “tele” education we need to remember it is just a tool that helps us communicate better.
Telehealth is different from telemedicine in that it refers to a broader scope of remote health care services than telemedicine. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services. Telehealth can focus on either our mental or physical health or both.
Wikipedia tells us “telehealth is the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. It allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions. Telemedicine is sometimes used as a synonym, or is used in a more limited sense to describe remote clinical services, such as diagnosis and monitoring. When rural settings, lack of transport, a lack of mobility, decreased funding, or a lack of staff restrict access to care, telehealth may bridge the gap.”
With the current restrictions due to the CoVid-19 virus where we are asked to physical distance a minimum of 6 feet and to protect ourselves and others by wearing masks, our ability to talk to someone over a computer or phone screen is a chance to connect or communicate freely. We are lucky we are far enough into the virtual meeting space technology that this is a doable option. Businesses that provide these services are ever mindful of the need for privacy and carefully scrutinize how and when and who is a safe provider of telehealth services. Until we can meet face to face comfortably, it is a good second option or tool in our toolbox to access those services that make our lives better and more informed.
It is a personal choice how you can access services but in this “New Normal” we all need to be thinking and working together to find the best approaches for everyone. Just as you need to think of new ways to take care of you, your home and family in these trying times isn’t it nice to know there is an option that can protect them yet take care of everyone’s physical and mental health needs.
Kari Tomperi is a mental health advocate and staff member of the Lake Country Cottage drop-in center in Park Rapids.
Lake Country Associates welcomes Melissa Saunders to the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) team in Park Rapids and Menahga. After graduating from an intense training program at the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Program in Minneapolis and passing her exams at the Minnesota Certification Board, Melissa joins Lake Country Associates as our first ever Board Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS).
A CPRS is someone with lived experience in recovery who partners with people in need of additional support in their own recovery. The role of a CPRS is not the same as a sponsor. A CPRS focuses on being an advocate, a role model and a mentor. They work in partnership with mental health and substance abuse counselors and help people overcome barriers to recovery.
Melissa grew up in Hubbard County. She has one adult son and is an animal lover. She has been in recovery for over five years and is very passionate about the recovery journey. Melissa believes that with the proper tools, help with utilizing resources, and a healthy support system, recovery is possible. She believes in compassionate support, helping people break their goals down, and taking them on step by step.
More About Peer Recovery Services
For more information about CPRS services or any of LCA’s services for people with chemical dependency, call Lake Country Associates at 218-366-9229. You can also follow this link to LCA’s Substance Use Disorder program page.
“Where does this go?” my husband asks as he stands in
the doorway of our massive, catch-all closet. From the other room, I replied,
“The second shelf down, right-hand side, just lower than my line of sight, in a
pink basket.” I’m hoping he finds the right spot, or the storage space might
avalanche. This closet is an epicenter of stress. One false move and we will be
buried in half-done projects, seldom-used kitchen items, pictures, board games
and every item that doesn’t yet have a home. Clutter, while supposedly the sign
of a genius, can negatively impact our mental health by causing stress. Albert
Einstein was known to have a messy desk. He was also intuitive, creative and a
visionary. I am no “Einstein” by any means, yet I have often felt comfort in
knowing that creative minds tend to have messy environments. Validated by this
thought, our closet has now taken on a life of its own. This barely-contained
chaos has got to go.
Dorothy Day once said, “Life itself is a haphazard, untidy, messy affair.” Life is messy; my house doesn’t have to be. In doing a bit of research, I’ve found that women disproportionately encounter higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) when their environment is disorderly. In contrast, people with cleaner homes experience greater physical health than their less organized friends. Clutter can interfere with pleasure and lead to procrastination. It can negatively impact our working memory and cause sleep deprivation. Fear of being discovered and judged a hoarder can cause embarrassment and even isolation. Hoarding itself is linked to obesity and binge eating. Mind-wandering, pleasure-killing clutter can stop us in our tracks and hijack our self-control. How do we get it back?
Letting Go of Clutter
Taking control of one’s life can be easier said than
done, especially if depression and anxiety are involved. Often times we may
have good intentions, but not sure exactly where to begin. I’ve recently been
inspired by a series on Netflix titled, “Tidying Up” with Marie Kondo. Seeing
other people learn how to organize and eliminate unused items has been inspiring.
There are many resources on the Internet and within our community which can
assist us in helping simplify and organize our lives. One of the things in
common with the methods I’ve researched is to let go of items that are no
longer used. It doesn’t matter if you donate, sell, or bring your items to a
consignment shop, letting go of things can be validating and increase our
generosity. Being generous creates feelings of self-satisfaction and bring
happiness. Also, actually starting a project is necessary if it is going to
ever get done. The mountain might be big, but it won’t move by itself. Don’t be
afraid to start small and ask for help. Slow and steady wins the race.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was my closet collection. In fact, I’m sure there are items in the far corners that were placed there when we moved in 14 ½ years ago. I’m guessing that this “little” project of mine will take longer than a few days to complete. The transparency of that sentence is a bit embarrassing, but I’m betting I’m not the only one with out-of-reach places that are crammed full of things we didn’t quite know where to put. Everyone has “stuff”, both physical and emotional. The goal here is to take control of what we can, let go of things that are no longer needed, and prioritize our life in a way that makes sense and is manageable. It has been said that “home is not a place, it’s a feeling” and that “home is where our story begins.” Here’s to starting the year with less clutter and stress, and increasing our overall health and happiness. This is where our story begins, where we tell it to.
In the last post, we talked about anxiety and the holidays. This time, I want to really focus in on depression. During this time of year, we have the change of seasons, cloudy days and less daylight. We may find ourselves huddled inside with the things of summer long past. Many people have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) depression during winter, or even SAD compounding depression symptoms that are felt year around. This is a hard time of year. Then we add the holidays and their obligations.
Depression affects people in different ways, symptoms can include: loss of energy, loss of desire to do things that had been fun or interesting in the past, feeling sad and hopeless, feeling worthless, concentration and decisions making problems and more. It can be a lot to handle during this time of year with added things to do, people to care for, and responsibilities to take care of. How do you take care of yourself, not let depression ruin the holidays, and come through it all with some mental health?
For those with severe depression, counseling can be helpful.
With your counselor, you can work on
negative self talk, motivation, and working through situations that have
compounded or even caused your depressive episode. What to do outside the counseling session is
what I’m going to try and help you with in this article.
Set Realistic Expectations
We can’t expect ourselves to do everything that is presented
at this time of year. There is just too
much. Make a list or put on the calendar the expectations, then go through
them. What is it you want to do, you
really should do, and then cross out the ones that are just added stress. Go back through the list and really look at
the “shoulds”. The activities that you
know you need to do, keep those. Cross off
the “shoulds” that are just expectations and may disappoint others if you don’t
do, but are too much or something you don’t want to do. It’s ok to do that.
If you’re getting a little too “cross off happy” (i.e.
depression tells you to do little to nothing this year), stop and think it
through. Don’t just follow depression
symptoms like they’re the boss; kick that cognitive brain into gear.
If you’re feeling lonely, spend time with others (put that on the list). Choose those who are healthy in your life.
If you’re grieving, do something that will honor the person you lost, especially with loved ones (put that on the list).
If your just not interested in anything, push yourself to do something you’ve done in the past that has felt good (like lighting of the community Christmas tree and caroling).
Self-Care for Depression
Take care of yourself during the holiday season. Self-care is vitally important when the season gets more stressful.
Rest when you need it – Make sure to get your regular amount of sleep, preferably going to bed at the same time as the rest of the year.
Eat healthy foods – Yes, there are a lot of sweets and high fat foods. You can have some, but limit the amount and eat normal healthy meals and snacks. The change in diet to a high fat and high sugar foods can affects our physical and mental health.
Be moderate or sparing with alcohol. If you’re on mental health medications, most indicate not to drink with them. Alcohol changes our brain functioning. Be aware and if you choose to have some, only a little bit. A healthy liver can process about one drink an hour (a beer, a shot of hard liquor, about 5 oz of wine). Alcohol can still be detected in your system though; don’t forget to have a designated driver to stay safe. That’s important self-care.
Relaxation is important every day, but especially in stressful times.
Do passive relaxation daily, like reading a book, taking a bath, playing with your dog or cat, playing games, listening to music, playing music, watching the fire (online if you don’t have one) or limit screen time because what we watch is stimulating. This is choosing something you find peaceful.
Do active relaxation as well. There are many relaxation apps, YouTube has so many relaxation videos you could do a new one every day. I recommend keeping a link to the ones you find you like. There are several different kinds: progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, breathing meditation, guided imagery, stretching, meditation, etc. Anything that causes your muscles and mind to relax, letting the tension go.
Good self-care this time of year will go a long way toward helping your depression and anxiety symptoms.
Other Self-Care Ideas
Here are some other options to help your mental health:
Set Boundaries – I talked about this in the last article with anxiety and the holidays and specifically about boundaries here.
Get a SAD lamp. These emit light that wakes up our brains and deter the effects of the shortened and gloomy days.
Ask your doctor about your vitamin D levels. These can lower with less sunlight as vitamin D is converted from sunlight in our skin.
While at the doctors also have them check your thyroid levels as low thyroid causes depression symptoms.
Set aside differences with family and friends. Enjoy the day(s) without getting depressed about the past.
Make a tradition of relaxation and fun with the family. You don’t have to have a large celebration with all the glitz and glam, you only need to be together and doing things together. That’s what people remember, the love and care you show each other.
The most important thing is to know and set your limits. Push yourself to do the activities you know you’ll be disappointed if you miss. Skip the ones that are just stressful. You can make it through and manage depression over the holidays.
What’s the Next Step?
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You are important and so is your mental health. If you need more help, we’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-444-2233 (Bemidji). For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office or Thursday in Bemidji. Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling. Please check out our staff bios.
At Lake Country Associates we offer chemical use assessments including Rule 25 Assessments, Comprehensive Assessments and non-residential treatment. Individuals can receive a chemical use assessment at our Park Rapids and Menahga locations. Non-residential treatment is offered at our Menahga location.
Our non-residential program offers three levels of care including high intensity, medium intensity and low intensity:
High intensity program allows individuals meeting this level of care to attend group sessions three times a week and participate in individual sessions as needed.
Medium intensity program offers people two group sessions weekly and individual sessions as needed.
Low intensity program includes one group session weekly and individual sessions as needed.
Our program allows clients an ability to step down from high intensity, medium intensity and then to low intensity at their own pace, based on their progress and ongoing needs. People are also able to increase levels of care while in our program if their needs warrant an increase in non-residential programing. Lake Country also has the ability to make referrals to programs that offer higher levels of care including referrals to residential programs.
LCA would like to extend this invitation to our community partners, county agencies and to the public to visit our new office. This open house will provide an opportunity to hear more about the levels of care offered, meet with our staff and learn about other services we provide.
11 NW Main Street in Menahga (on the corner of Highway 87 and Hwy 71)
2PM – 4PM on January 15th
All community members, providers, and other interested parties are welcome to attend. We will be providing refreshments and a chance to meet our providers.
Lake Country Associates serves individuals in central Minnesota including individuals in Wadena County, Becker County, Hubbard County, Ottertail County, Beltrami County, Todd County, Cass County and beyond. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 218-564-9229 (Menahga) or 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids).
“We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control our response.” The internet is full of quotes like this by various authors. We might be used to reacting to things out of our control, like other drivers, political posts from the opposition, and even the weather. Some things we experience can truly grind our gears. We might find ourselves in a state of agitation because some cars don’t believe in blinkers, or some drive 8 miles an hour under the limit in great road conditions, or when your cashier flips their trouble light. It can be a challenge when things don’t seem to go our way. Here lies the rub; our response to everyday irritations may be making us sick.
Mounting anxiety or anger can release adrenaline and increase blood pressure. The fight-or-flight response can prompt the nervous system to cut off blood flow to the digestive tract and increase stomach aches. Over time, anger can encourage fatty deposits to pile up in the heart and carotid arteries. Serotonin, a chemical in the brain associated with happy feelings, is diminished and increases the likelihood of depression. This seems like an awful lot of control to give to someone who we allow to push our buttons, or at the very least, “don’t even know how to drive.” How do we learn to change our responses from a state of anxious agony to an attitude of optimism?
We need to act not react. An
initial healthy step is to stop and breathe. When blood pressure is rising and
the heart rate is accelerating, taking a few deep, long breaths can slow things
down. It tricks the body into thinking, “There’s no panic here. Everything is
chill, calm, and manageable.” We give space for our brains’ frontal lobe to
take control. The “4-7-8” method of breathing is one technique that can help
accomplish this task. Breath in for four counts through the nose, hold the
breath for seven seconds and gently blow the breath out of the mouth for eight
seconds. For the best results, repeat this pattern at least 4 times. Too
complicated? Try a slow five count
inhale followed by a slow five count exhale. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
As we gradually take control of our
physical reactions to stress, we can begin to do a little cognitive
restructuring. Consider the reasoning behind other people’s bad or irritating
behavior. Perhaps there is a logical reason that things are not lining up the
way we would like and it has nothing to do with us, thus taking away the sting
of being personally slighted. Circumstances out of our control can be
frustrating, to say the least, but we do have the ability to “talk ourselves
down” and go with the flow.
If we find ourselves in a constant place of anger and irritation, we might need to step up our response game. Life’s pressures could be overwhelming at the moment. We could benefit from a healthy outlet for mounting tension. Exercise, (while easier said than done when feeling unmotivated) can be a great safety valve and natural antidepressant. The trick is in getting the shoes laced up and out the door. If you show up at the gym, you’ll probably do some exercise. If you can cross the threshold of your front door, you’ll likely take that walk. Explore talk therapy. Venting about our issues is a great way to blow off steam and get some of the toxins out of our system. It can feel good to be validated and affirmed. Medication can also be a helpful tool in self-regulation. Talking to a doctor is always an excellent idea anyway in preventative care.
While it may be true that we “can’t control what happens to us,” we can learn to control the way we respond to stress. We might even learn to find the humor in situations, like when the car in front of us runs out of blinker fluid. Remember that we are all human and no one is perfect. In the event you may see me blowing a gasket sometime in the future, please remind me to breathe.
“The most wonderful time of the year,” we hear sung to us over the air. For many, this is the most stressful time of the year. Even for those without mental health issues we can find the holidays packing on the extra stress with all the things we have to do. With a mental health diagnosis or symptoms it can compound symptoms that already feel debilitating and limiting.
For anxiety, whether general, social, phobias, or even PTSD, the holidays can be a hot bed of cortisol and adrenaline (two of our stress hormones). We have so many obligations: family gatherings, work parties, friends who want to celebrate with us, presents to buy, cards to write, food to make, and don’t forget shopping for all of the above. The list can seem endless and the weekends are packed with getting ready for and going to different obligations.
What can a stressed out person with anxiety do?
First, simplify by making things easier.
Buy pre-made food or contribute one item to a gathering and have others contribute as well
Write a short holiday greeting in your card instead of an entire letter
Give gift cards or shop online
Write out your to-list and find those things that you don’t need to do or can make simpler.
PS, your house doesn’t have to look perfect. No really, it doesn’t.
Only do the things that you can do.
Just because you’re invited doesn’t mean you have to go. Say No to over obligation. Don’t know how to say no, follow this link to my article on boundaries.
If family gatherings are extra stressful because of the drama, there are a few options you have:
Shorten the time you stay.
Talk to your family about having one gathering.
Choose a gathering to go to and tell the other parties you can’t make it.
You are allowed to not go! Especially in toxic relationships, sometimes the best thing to do is skip it all together. You can go and visit your loved ones at other times, including into January and February when we have nothing else to do anyway.
Sometimes it’s the feelings that stop us from doing what we know we should or what we know would be best for us and our immediate family (take your kids into consideration). That guilt can be added stress on us. Ask yourself is the guilt appropriate or is it pressure from someone else. There are times when we know that a loved one isn’t feeling or doing well and we want to be there for them despite the stress. We feel guilty about thinking about not going. Weigh this out and do what is best for both parties. What will you feel like later if you don’t go? If you do go, can you go at another time? All of our feelings are just trying to tell us something (sometimes very loudly), what is the message and what can you do about it.
Guilt placed on us from someone else can be one of the worst, we know they will say something mean, or allude to a negative quality they think we have. Here is where boundaries and self talk can help. Set your boundaries with the person, “I’m not going to make it to the party.” Let them keep their own thoughts and feelings, no matter what they say or think that is their thoughts and feelings. You may be saying that it’s easier said than done but remind yourself why you’re not going (that’s self talk) and remind yourself of your good qualities (positive self talk). Taking care of your needs is a good quality, by the way. Then let it go. Don’t continue to ruminate on what they said, or how we feel about it, move on to something else, perhaps a distraction skill.
You get to choose your holiday celebration. You can morph
them into something you like and can live with. Don’t let this holiday season
be stressful and overwhelming. Take control over the things you have control
of, instead of letting other people have power over you. You can do this!
For serious mental health concerns we’re here to help. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids), 218-444-2233 (Bemidji) or 218-564-9229 (Menahga). For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office. Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling. Please check out our staff bios here.
When a child first learns to walk, their whole world becomes dangerous. Unsteady legs develop as babies pull themselves up and grasp furniture for support. As a child gains a new visual perspective, shiny and breakable objects are tucked away safely, hidden from sticky little fingers that are wanting to explore. It doesn’t take long for a first-time parent to “childproof” their home by locking cabinets, putting up harmful chemicals and plugging electrical outlets with safety devices. The goal is to keep the child as safe as possible. While little brains develop, the whole world is opened up to them and parents quickly learn how to protect them the best they can. Bath time becomes a ritual that is closely monitored, tiny objects that can fit into tiny mouths are picked up, and seat belts are used to keep babes tethered securely in swings and highchairs. We do everything in our power to keep them safe.
not able to rationalize and understand the danger. As they develop, the meaning
of “no”, “hot”, “icky”, is gained through experiences. The human brain develops
at a heightened pace and much is absorbed through play, safety, and storytime.
As children grow, dangers morph from choking hazards to external injuries and
accidents. The world around us evolves to present a new set of risks. Bike
helmets, rules, expectations, and curfews are enforced to guide us and help us
further develop our frontal lobe- the part of the brain that makes decisions,
solves problems, provides flexibility, and sustains memory.
After successfully navigating childhood into adulthood, it can be incomprehensible to believe that one of the biggest dangers a person can face, is themselves. When a person is experiencing depression, however, the pre-frontal cortex that so readily helped us solve problems, make decisions, and rationalize the world, can go dormant, while other brain systems like our amygdala, (the emotion sensor of the brain) take over. Our amygdala is important to us, as it senses danger, heightens our awareness, releases adrenaline and cortisol and helps us to fight, flee or freeze. It can also be hijacked by depression and provide emotional responses that are overwhelming and override brain function.
What can we do?
and anxiety are chemical changes in the brain. Someone who is experiencing
depression loses the ability to rationalize the world around them and can have
daily battles with their amygdala to just get out of bed. Because these
chemical changes do not present themselves as clearly as a broken leg, they are
often misunderstood and not talked about. It is in this state that suicidal
thoughts enter and a person becomes a danger to themselves. Just as an infant
learning to walk needs someone to navigate the world around them to keep them
safe, so does a person experiencing depression. One of the best ways to do this
is to reduce access to things that could cause irreversible harm. Just as
kitchen cleaners are put away for child safety, so are guns and medications
locked up and out of reach for someone experiencing depression. When we make it
harder for someone to access ways of ending their life, we give them more time
for their pre-frontal cortex to fight for control and provide the ability to
Because it is difficult to imagine a loved one being so distraught that they are filled with thoughts of death, it can be hard to put up a “safety gate” or barrier to what we think is improbable. It is more comfortable for us to believe that suicide strikes “other people” and not our own. What we know about suicide, however, is that it is an impulsive act with little to no reasoning. Simple safety measures like extra gun locks, removal of ammunition, disposing of unused medication and locking up all others can be lifesaving. The goal on this end of the spectrum is to keep people safe from themselves by providing as much time as we can for the brain to jockey for control. Safety in our world is talked about every day. When we begin to marry “safety” with “depression”, we can save lives. Help us make reducing access to lethal means a common practice when dealing with depression.
Greek philosopher, Socrates forewarned us when he said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” Yet today, everywhere we go it seems that people are bustling around in a race against time. We live in a society where we glorify business and identify ourselves by our to-do list. “Hi, how have you been?” we ask, and the reply, “Oh, I’ve just been so busy lately.” While self-satisfaction can come with accomplishment, we recognize the need to slow down and take a break, thus inserting vacations and mental health days into our world. However, the real question is, “how do we create a world from which we don’t need to escape?”
Some people believe the Mandarin
character for “busy” is made up of two words, “heart” and “death.” While the translation
can be argued, this interpretation could mean that having our time consumed can
be physically stressful to our bodies, or separate us from our loved ones, it
can also mean that business helps us to shut off our emotions. While being too
busy can lead to unnecessary stress, it can also have some positive results. Sometimes,
keeping busy can be an escape from intrusive thoughts. Doing mindless tasks or tasks
requiring concentration can be a great tool for self-care. What happens though
when we create calendars that fill up faster than we plan for and we forget to
process the “stuff” inside our heads?
Being “swamped” or “up to our ears
in paperwork”, having our “plate full” for long periods of time can lead to
high cortisol levels. While there is a tendency to “dig deep and keep going”, doing
so can also bring extreme exhaustion when it is repetitive without a break. Too
much cortisol in our body leads to anxiety, depression digestive problems,
headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory/concentration
issues. Sound familiar? On the flip
side, when people take their “work break” that is required by MN state statute,
it helps the pre-frontal cortex (the part of our brain that helps us
concentrate and make decisions) recharge so it can carry on and complete a
task. We need to take a break. We are designed to work in moderation. We are
more productive and effective when we give our bodies a chance to slow down.
Looking at the Finnish culture for a different perspective, we can find that coffee breaks are part of the natural order of things and the law. Breaks are not spent on smartphones, running errands, or conversing about work, they are mostly spent in silence drinking coffee. Finns appreciate a true body and mind break that allows for thinking and processing. Chatter during this time is considered “noise.” Fins also have more sauna’s (pronounced sow-na) than cars, exemplifying the importance of self-care. While it is true that people in Finland are said to be better listeners than talkers, it can be argued that silence too, should be taken in moderation. Talking about one’s thoughts and emotions has been proven to be a healthy outlet and a necessary part of dealing with grief and depression.
So the question remains, how do we create a world in which we don’t need to escape? Planning coffee breaks (or just a chance to go outside and breath the fresh October air) is a great way to start. Many people have said to me, “Where did the summer go?” My goal for the fall is to enjoy each moment, being present to enjoy the crunch of leaves, the autumn colors, the laughter of my family and the love from my dog. Taking meaningful time outs in our daily lives bring moments we can look back on and remember. Someday, most of us will have the chance to sit and reflect on the years behind us. Will we say that we were busy, or that we found meaning in every day? It is never too late to slow down. Our families and work both need us. It is when we truly slowdown that our best and most productive selves emerge. Use those built-up vacations days; your future self will thank you.
Suicide is a travesty that affects millions of
people all over the world. When a person decides to take his or her own life,
they leave behind a slew of impossible questions and difficult emotions for
their loved ones: What do we do now? Why
did this happen? Is there anything anyone could have done to prevent this from
Signs of Suicide
There is no one reason why a person decides to
end their life. People have their own experiences and troubles that influence
them along with mental health struggles. Typically, people who engage in
suicidal acts don’t necessarily want to die; it’s more like they just want an
escape from pain that they see as unmanageable and unbearable.
Substance abuse is another factor that
increases the likelihood that a person might wish to die. Mental health issues
such as anxiety, trauma and depression often co-occur with drug and alcohol
addiction. Even after seeking clinical treatment, addicts often experience
residual guilt, financial problems, and damaged self-esteem that can contribute
to thoughts of suicide.
Signs someone may be thinking about suicide include:
Talking about suicide
Mentioning feelings of
Expressing a sense that they are a
burden to others
If you have a senior loved one in your life, you need to pay close attention to them, especially if they live alone. Loneliness, depression, and isolation are prevalent within the senior community, making older adults susceptible to suicidal thoughts. So, check in with your senior loved ones and see if they display any signs of senior isolation. If you suspect a loved one may be suffering from depression, encourage them to seek help. Fortunately, many Medicare Advantage plans, including those offered by private insurers such as UnitedHealthcare, offer a number of important wellness programs that can get them the assistance they require.
Suicide and the Blame Game
When someone takes their own life, the people they leave behind experience the whole gamut of emotions. While not everyone feels this way, some people blame themselves for not doing more to help prevent the tragedy. Others may blame the victim. The truth is that in the event of a suicide, no one is to blame. Life can be cruel and illogical. Sometimes, there are no answers to questions, and bad things happen and there’s nothing anyone could do about it. When recovering from a loved one’s suicide, try to avoid placing blame in any direction. Instead, focus on grieving and healing.
Suicide with Emotional Wellness
Those who have a history of suicidal thoughts,
depression, and addiction can help improve their lives by pursuing a state of
emotional wellness. While emotional wellness has a focus on nurturing
our instincts and intuition, it’s important to remember that in the end, all
aspects of health are connected. To support your emotional wellness and mental
health, it’s just as important to take care of your body with proper diet and
It’s also important to build a supportive team of mental health experts, which may include a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication as needed; a therapist, who can lead individual or group counseling sessions; and in many cases, a social worker, especially for those who have survived substance abuse or a previous suicide attempt. These specialists help patients of all ages develop emotional wellness tools to help them cope with mental health disorders, including suicidal thoughts. Licensed social workers typically obtain a Master of Social Work program that includes several hours of field work, so they have the hands-on experience needed to help patients struggling with thoughts of suicide through both prevention and intervention.
Other ways to support one’s emotional
Participating in activities that
are meaningful — work, taking care of another, volunteering, etc.
Sticking to a routine and
maintaining a busy schedule
Suicide is a serious problem that devastates the people left behind. There is no one reason for a person to take their own life and when they do it. While we can look for signs of a person thinking about suicide, if they end up taking their life, it is important not to blame anyone. We can help prevent suicide by encouraging people to promote their own emotional wellness.
know someone who has struggled with mood-altering substances, alcohol and/or
drugs. Maybe it was a friend, family,
neighbor or maybe it was yourself. If someone’s
substance use was causing enough commotion in their life, they may have
received an assessment, either a Rule 25 or more recently, a Comprehensive
Assessment. If they were given a
diagnosis of a Substance Use Disorder (SUD), they may have been encouraged to
attend SUD treatment, in which a treatment plan would have been created.
plan is a roadmap that lays out the small steps on the road to recovery. In my ten plus years working as a Licensed
Alcohol/Drug Counselor (LADC), I have worked with people on hundreds of
treatment plans. One of the common
questions I’m asked during this process is, “Why do we have to involve my
many reasons people are reluctant to involve others. One reason is out of fear. They fear that they will lose relationships and
benefits if their secret is exposed: their inability to control their substance
use. They also fear that they will gain
something they do not want: judgement or accountability for their actions.
If they want
to continue to abuse substances or do not believe they have a drug/alcohol
problem they fear the loss of benefits provided by family or important people
who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, may enable their behavior.
reason could be that their loved one may also struggle with substance abuse and
they want to avoid being embarrassed by them or having others learn of their
problems. Despite the reasons why people
may not initially want to involve others in their recovery, their recovery may
rely on it.
Why is it
members and loved ones want to help, though they often don’t know what to
do. By involving them and educating them
about the process of recovery, we can increase the chances that they will be
helpful and effective in times of need.
family in treatment planning is encouraged by the designers of treatment programs
in our state. Minnesota Statute says: “The [treatment plan] must provide for
the involvement of the client’s family and people selected by the client as
important to the success of treatment at the earliest opportunity”. Not only is involving family and loved ones
effective, it’s encouraged by SUD experts across the state.
in a loved one’s treatment planning process increases the chances of long-term recovery. It provides an opportunity to address many
family concerns, which can include providing resources for family and friends
or assisting them in coping in a healthy manner with their loved one’s Substance
As long as
the client signs a Release of Information for the person to participate in
their treatment program, family and friends can participate. Loved one’s participation can occur in a
group setting, family session, or even individual sessions with the LADC. It can also be done through a questionnaire
or over the phone. The important thing
to remember is that Substance Use Disorders impact family, friends and other
people we care about. Bringing them into
the process allows everyone to heal together.
Lake Country Associates (LCA) is now offering day and evening SUD groups in our Menahga office as well as individual therapy and SUD assessments. To schedule an appointment, call 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids) or 218-564-9229 (Menahga). To download brochures and forms, go to our forms page.
Lake Country Associates welcomes Kris Strate to the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) team. Kris received her Bachelor of Science degree from Mankato State University. For the last 20 years, Kris has been supporting people with a variety of disabilities in the Park Rapids community. She has a passion for helping people improve their quality of life and become their best selves. In her free time, Kris enjoys outdoor activities, spending time with her family and dog, growing orchids and working in her garden.
Kris joined the team in April and is looking forward to helping people better manage the symptoms of their mental illness and work toward recovery. Please join us in welcoming Kris Strate to the Lake Country Associates ARMHS team.
Pretend that your life fits on a plate. There are many sections on the plate, but only so much room. Each section fits different parts of your life, from family to friends, fun to responsibilities. Each section varies in the amount of room it takes on that plate. At different times different parts take more room and crowd out other things. For the most part, we get to decide what and who gets to be on our plate. Sometimes there are accidents, illnesses, and responsibilities that we have to take care of at times that we don’t choose. No matter what we may want in our life, we only have so much room on our plate.
Think about your plate/life for a moment. What is in your
life? What has to be there? What is important to you and you want to make
room for? What do you need to make room for (like self
care)? Are there activities that are crowding out other activities? This
assessment of your time and priorities is a first step to honoring your
A boundary is a limit. Other than major life situations (sickness, accidents, downsizing, etc) we choose what goes on our plate and this choice should be a conscious decision. In our metaphor, your life and all its activities fit on a plate. The plate is your boundary. It has edges. Inside the plate there are also boundaries as each thing in our life has its space. If we add something onto the plate, other things get less room or even go away all together. That’s why it’s important to know what’s important to you and what you want on your plate.
How Do I Set Boundaries?
We know that setting boundaries is important because we have limited room on our plate, but how are we supposed to do it? What about if there’s someone in our lives that doesn’t care about our boundaries? What if they step over our boundaries, even if it’s done in a pleasant or friendly way? Here’s what you can do.
State your boundary: “I need you to not take my things.” “I can’t bake cookies for the fundraiser.” “I need you to be home at 9 pm.”
Don’t back down: They may get upset, they may think badly of you, they may throw a fit. Don’t back down. If you do, you are only contributing to your boundaries being broken. That’s right it’s not their fault, it’s yours. (If you are in a dangerous situation, this does not apply. If you are in a dangerous situation, call the police, visit a domestic violence shelter, or use other resources to get away from this person. Safety first. If you feel unsafe at work, contact your HR director or follow the procedures given to you in your policy and procedure manual.)
Restate your boundaries: Calmly explain why you are unable to help, why bedtime is at 8 pm, or why they can’t borrow your vehicle. It’s nice to have conversations with people. “I have too much on my plate right now.” “It’s for your safety.” “I want you to ask before doing something and give me time to plan and think about it.”
If they continue to press, get angry or use other means to try and sway you, then set another boundary: “I will be happy to talk about it once I feel that the conversation can be respectful. Until then, I need a time out”. Or to your child, “I understand that you are angry and want your video game, but you have played it the allowed amount of time, it’s getting turned off now”.
Don’t fall into the pit of explanation: People try to get us to cross our boundaries by having us explain them until we’re sick of it and just give up. Stay calm, restate your boundary. Give empathy and restate, but keep to them. ‘Why can’t I go to the friend’s house?’ ‘I need you to stay home.’ ‘That’s not fair last week I went there.’ ‘I need you to stay home today I can’t pick you up.’ ‘This is stupid.’ ‘I know that you’re angry that you can’t go, but I need you to stay home.’ (An exception can be talking about your dreams and expectations with your partner. Doing so can improve your communications with them. The big difference is this is a conversation about the dream within, not explaining yourself.)
Stay calm, tell them the boundary, calmly repeat the
boundary as needed, walk away if needed, and the next thing you know both you
and they will respect your boundaries.
We need to keep our priorities straight and set boundaries for ourselves. A big way of doing this is learning to say no. If you don’t have the time, energy, or room in your life, it’s ok to tell others no. Even if you just don’t want to, it’s ok to say no. You choose what is important in your life and what’s on your plate.
I know that saying no to others can be difficult because we feel bad. However, this is a wrong way of thinking about it. We are protecting what is important and necessary in our lives so we can give them the energy they deserve. Sure, the bake sale needs cookies, but this week there is no time. We can say no. Our friend needs to talk, but we have other priorities and don’t have the time. We can say no. Our family member needs our time and help but we can’t. We can say no.
The tendency is to just do it. Push out our self-care by staying up later, decreasing the time we have for family and leaving them feeling neglected (even though we don’t intend for them to feel that way). We lose track of the things we used to enjoy, sending a quick text instead of making a call to important people in our lives, and burn ourselves out. “No” is such a simple word and is easy to say. You can do it. Your priorities are important and you’re allowed to set the priorities in your life. Remember there is only so much space, you choose what to put on your plate.
Don’t Apologize for Your Boundaries
Facebook found in a recent study that using the word “sorry”
in a request did not increase the chances of the request being granted. They concluded that the ‘sorry’ resulted in
“shifting the responsibility back to the complainers.” (Trust Engineers) In
other words if you say sorry when setting a boundary, the person will assume
it’s you who needs to make a change, not them. Take care of yourself by
practicing stating your boundaries without apology.
Need More Help?
Maybe reading this article awakened in you a need to set boundaries, but you need more help. We’re here for you. To schedule a counseling appointment, call us at 218-366-9229 (Park Rapids), 218-444-2233 (Bemidji) or 218-564-9229 (Menahga). For those interested, I offer Christian counseling out of the Park Rapids office. Please let our office support staff (and me) know that you are interested in Christian counseling. For more information on all our staff please check out our staff bios here.
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