The Myth of the “Strong, Silent Type” – Understanding Male Depression

In an episode of The Sopranos, crime boss Tony Soprano describes American actor Gary Cooper as the epitome of the ‘strong, silent type’. During the golden age of Hollywood, Cooper’s on-screen persona became the dominant image of the ideal American male figure. He portrayed a specific breed of masculinity, a physically strong man of action, quiet and emotionally reserved, never displaying feelings or weakness. Thankfully, things have changed since the 1950s. With the rise of mental health awareness, men are now encouraged to share their emotions and seek help in handling life’s challenges. 

June is Men’s Health Month and, while we have come a long way in encouraging men to be vulnerable, old perceptions of masculinity and gender stereotypes still affect young men.  

Brendan Maher, Movember’s global mental health director, saysyoung men are still feeling under pressure to conform to age-old, masculine stereotypes that stop them from talking about the things that keep them up at night.”  

Why is it hard for young men to talk about their feelings?  

The outdated perceptions of masculinity pressures young men to “man up” when life gets hard, causing them to suffer in silence to avoid being bullied, mocked, or labeled as weak. They feel this pressure not only from older men, such as relatives, but also from peers.  

Call it for what it is: an emotionally stunting expectation that makes it hard for teens and young men to express themselves honestly, because they may come to believe that it is inappropriate and risky to do so.  This reticence can affect their present and future relationships and, potentially, their parenting styles. 

A study conducted by research firm Ipsos MORI, found:

  • 58% of men feel like they’re expected to be “emotionally strong and to show no weakness.” 
  • 38% of men have avoided talking to others about their feelings to avoid appearing “unmanly.”  
  • Over half (53%) of American men between ages 18 and 34 say they feel pressure to be “manly.”  
  • 22% of those in this age group say they’re always or frequently mocked for “not being manly enough.” 

If a boy grows up in an environment where they aren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings, it’s tough to overcome later on in life.  This can lead to problems in developing their emotional and relational abilities.  

There are other reasons why men have a tough time sharing feelings. You can find more reasons here.  

Male depression 

Part of being human is the ability to share experiences and connect with others. Suppressing emotions has been linked to cardiovascular health issues, memory loss,  lower immunity to illness, lower productivity and faster burnout. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, and, significantly, it can also increase male suicide risk. 

In 2020, white males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths, with middle-aged white males accounting for the greatest number of suicides. The symptoms of depression look different for men and women. Men who feel depressed may appear to be angry or aggressive instead of sad, making it difficult for their families, friends, and even their doctors to recognize the anger or aggression as depression symptoms. 

Giving the boot to the “strong, silent’ myth 

The first step toward male mental wellbeing is to encourage all children and teens, regardless of gender, to express their emotions in healthy ways. Emotional Intelligence can be learned, along with stronger communication and interpersonal skills. Parents can start by raising boys who freely express emotions and can question masculinity stereotypes. Older family members can also work on recognizing and unlearning some of these stereotypes themselves. 

Men need to know that they aren’t alone, and that expressing emotions is natural, normal, and healthy. It also helps to hear stories from men in their midlife who have overcome mental health disorders. The more men hear  stories  from different social groups, sexualities, ethnicities, and ages, the more they will feel seen, understood, and supported.  

Men’s Mental Health Resources 

Movember Men’s Stories: https://us.movember.com/story?tag=mental-health 

Movember:  https://us.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health 

Young Adult Therapy: https://thebougainvillahouse.com/programs/specialty-treatments/  

Need more help? 

If you or a loved one feel depressed or are having a hard time expressing emotions, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.   

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.    

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

De-stress tips that work for students during finals week

End of school year + final tests = Stress 

As the end of the school year approaches many students are experiencing more stress, not less.  Time is getting short to tackle late assignments, write those end-of-year papers, hand in those final projects, give presentations, and prepare for exams.  

At the same time, many are taking part in sports, recitals, theater productions, and other end of the year activities, and looking for summer jobs as well.  No wonder many students feel overwhelmed and exhausted.  

In fact, three quarters (75%) of American high schoolers and half of middle schoolers described themselves as “often or always feeling stressed” by schoolwork.

Stress is your body’s response to pressure. It is often triggered when you’re experiencing something new and have little control over a situation, or when you encounter something that threatens you. Stress is something we all experience. However, too much stress can affect your health, escalating anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension and pain, and more. That’s why it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors. 

Is there such thing as good stress?  

Yes! “Good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we’re excited. For example, that feeling you get at the top of a roller coaster, poised for a wild ride ahead, or the energy you feel when you’re near the finish line during a race. These exciting moments are what make us feel vibrant and excited about life. Without good stress, our lives might be bland, boring, and even unhappy.  

When you view stress as a challenge instead of a threat, this change in perspective allows you to more easily manage the pressure. Think of your stress as an opportunity to prove to yourself what you’re capable of accomplishing. Knowing how to overcome your stress during difficult situations helps you focus on your tasks, stay calm, and avoid focusing on all of the bad things that could happen.  

De-stress tips  

When it comes to relieving stress, it’s about figuring out what works for you. Here are some suggestions to try out:  

  1. Get organized. We understand that getting and staying organized can be hard work but creating a to-do list will help reduce the sense of drain and chaos that you feel as due dates approach. Note the due dates of all your tasks and add them to your calendar, together with your schedule. Don’t forget to include class time, assignment preparation, study time, tests, group meetings, and extra-curricular obligations like practices, babysitting, job shifts, home chores, etc.
  2. Manage your time. Your organizational efforts will pay off with a visual aid to help you plan your work time, avoid overbooking yourself, and find time to hang out with friends, exercise, and do other activities. So instead of waking up without a plan and spending your day doing things whenever you feel like it, try time blocking. Time blocking helps you make productive use of your day, by working during the hours when you feel most focused and engaged. As you plan your time, think realistically about how long each task will take, and schedule studying, papers writing, and assignments for a time of day when you work most effectively. Use other less effective times of the day for exercise, chores, or fun with friends. If you are a morning person, schedule those hours to produce your best work, and vice versa if you feel most focused after lunch. This way, time will always work with you and not against you.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The symptoms of stress can vary depending on the person, but in periods of high stress, be mindful of your body’s needs. Deep breathing strengthens full oxygen exchange and helps slow down your heart rate. The result? Relaxation. Even though breathing comes naturally to us, exercising deep breathing takes practice and conscious effort. Here are some techniques to try at home or during a walk.  
  4. Keep it positive. When you are stressed, how do you talk to yourself and others? Does being stressed turn you into a jerk? If your stress causes you to take out your frustration on others and sometimes yourself – that is not okay. When you feel like your stress is about to burst out of control, try taking a deep breath and remember to adjust your tone and your self-talk. You can say things like “Thank you for your help, but I just need to be alone for a minute” when you’re talking to others or “I can do this” when talking to yourself.  
  5. Exercise. No surprise here! Exercising is a great way to release tension and stress. When you exercise, your focus on something other than your stressful work or school day, allowing you to return to your tasks with a clear head. Exercise also releases endorphins (feel-good chemicals in the brain) which is why you feel good after working out. So next time you’re stressed out, try going for a walk or run, doing yoga, kickboxing, or whatever form of exercise helps you blow off that steam.  

Stress videos to watch: 

  1. How we cope with anxiety & stress by MTV’s Teen Code https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qnYXCLk5bQ  
  2. How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcGyVTAoXEU 
  3. Relieve stress & anxiety with simple breathing techniques https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odADwWzHR24 

Need more Help? 

If you or a loved one are overwhelmed and having a hard time coping with stress, consider talking to a mental health professional. Find a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help.  

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.   

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

ADHD & Productivity – How to Get Things Done

ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is often the subject of jokes, quips, and casual excuses, but living with the real thing is no joke at all. 

ADHD is most often diagnosed in children and teens, but symptoms can continue or even manifest themselves into adulthood. Experts aren’t sure what causes ADHD, but research shows that genetics plays an important role. Know that if you have an ADHD diagnosis, you’re not alone and it’s not a “new” condition – in fact, descriptions of the disorder date to as early as 1902. The good news is, today we better understand the condition and how to help manage it. 

ADHD has nothing to do with how smart you are. A study in Germany found that some characteristic traits, such as hyperfocus, make those with ADHD great entrepreneurs. However, if you aren’t aware of the symptoms, ADHD can make even the routines of life into a daily struggle.

Many people with ADHD face tough challenges staying on task without being distracted.  It may be hard to complete day-to-day tasks on time, like schoolwork or chores. They may hyper-focus on one task or aspect of a task (for example, one paragraph of an essay) and struggle to move on.  

It’s hard to stay ‘in the zone’ and to work efficiently. It’s hard to listen carefully, to take your time, to wait. People living with ADHD may make careful to-do lists but have trouble estimating time commitments and following through to get jobs done, even with the best of intentions.   

Not surprisingly these minute-to-minute and day-to-day challenges and perceived failures can lead to feelings of guilt, stress, anxiety, and depression.  

Over time, the ADHD community has identified and developed a number of coping mechanisms and strategies that help people to live and function successfully with the disorder.  Here are a few tips that might help to boost productivity and concentration. Even if you do not have ADHD, this advice may be useful! 

How can you increase productivity?

  1. Avoid Multitasking – Try focusing on one task at a time. While this may be difficult in some situations, there are ways to avoid multitasking and get things done. Create a list of all your tasks and rank them by priority from most to least important.  This may help you to stop jumping from task to task, becoming overwhelmed, and ultimately succumbing to paralysis and procrastination. You can use this strategy not only at school or work, but also for house chores, appointments, event planning, and all the other small tasks that make up a day. If you tend to misjudge how long something will take, check with someone who can help you make more accurate time estimates. 
  2. Manageable intervals- Did procrastination kick in? Manage your workload in intervals. In track and field sports, intervals are a series of high-intensity workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. You can apply this approach to your to-do list. Try breaking down tasks into 45 minutes of full focus, followed by a short break to recharge and repeat. The goal is not to speed through your work, but to make steady progress and also to take time for a self-care break, so you can come back fresh and focused! This will help you manage big workloads, get stuff done, and avoid procrastination.  
  3. Set up a work zone – If you attend classes remotely, have a lot of homework, or work from home, you probably already know how difficult it is to work without a designated area. Having a work zone helps you not only feel comfortable while working, but it also helps with productivity. This dedicated space will help your mind to transition into focus mode. Your work zone doesn’t have to be fancy as long as you keep it organized and neat to keep your mental space from feeling cluttered. We recommend that you avoid working from your bed, as it can signal your brain to think about work when you’re trying to sleep. This will only decrease your sleep quality as well as your energy level.  
  4. Devices – If devices are too distracting, perhaps a friend or family member can take charge of them for you while you work. Perhaps you just want to turn off notifications or set your device somewhere out of your line of sight. If procrastination is a problem, decide in advance what strategy will best help you manage device use while you are in work mode. Learn more about how your phone is a roadblock to productivity.  
  5. Hand-Held Fidgets – Do you find yourself scratching, rubbing, picking at your fingers, fidgeting, or engaging in other repetitive behaviors? Having an object like a fidget toy can help you manage small hand/foot movements and calm your thoughts without self-harming. These movements allow people with ADHD to feel focused and to boost their alertness. A fidget toy can be anything from a small ball to roll in your hands, a ball to squeeze, or a pen to play with. See the best ADHD fidget toys for adults here.  
  6. Find an accountability partner- It’s hard to stay disciplined, so ask someone close to you to help you stay accountable regarding goals, routines, and habits. Pick someone who is consistent, and who you can trust. Talk to them regularly about your progress and be honest. Whether you’re trying to be more productive at work, school, or in daily life generally, having someone to help you through it will make it easier to meet your goals. Remember to celebrate every success, small or large!  

ADHD productivity tools 

These additional tools may help people with ADHD to manage their days, routines, and tasks more easily.  

Some helpful tools include: 

  • Lo-fi music: lo-fi music helps the front lobe in our brain to focus – those low hums can also help the brain to focus. Here is a 24/7 lo-fi stream.  
  • Brain Focus: a time management app to block apps and quiet notifications 
  • Calendars: calendars provide a ‘visual’ sense of the passage of time and help you stay organized. You can use physical monthly calendars or digital tools like Google calendars to set reminders and events on your smartphone.  
  • Brain dump: helps declutter your brain by having a place for your thoughts. You can brain dump by writing all of your thoughts in, a notebook or use your notes app on your computer.  
  • Todoist: a checklist app with recurring due dates and the ability to share or delegate tasks to others.  
  • Productive: a habit tracker app to set personal goals, track your progress, and focus on what makes you more productive.  

How can we help?  

If you or a loved one are overwhelmed and having a hard time staying focused, consider talking to a health professional. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help. 

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to provide tools and strategies that support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.  

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337.

“The voice inside my head” How to quiet your inner critic

Ever find yourself thinking things like “I shouldn’t have said that!” or “Why did I do that?” or, more positively, “I nailed it today!”? 

What are you thinking right now, as you’re reading this?  

What you’re experiencing is an internal thought monologue, also known as “the voice inside your head,” or your “inner voice.” It’s perfectly normal.  Think of it like the Netflix show You, where the protagonist Joe narrates his thoughts –but without his creepy intentions. This internal conversation might be nothing more than mundane observations or self-queries like “Did I turn off my flatiron?” when leaving the house or “What’s for lunch?” when you’re hungry. Or more emotional concerns might be on the internal agenda.  

This inner conversational capability is thought to develop during childhood, at the same time as external communications skills begin to flower. However, not everyone experiences an internal monologue — others think in a more visual way.  It’s perfectly normal if you don’t experience an inner monologue as described here. 

Your inner voice is actually helpful for problem solving, critical thinking, emotional self-management and behavior regulation. Because the voice inside your head can sound like your own, it is usually tied to your sense of self.     

Your inner voice can serve as a cheerleader, encouraging you to persevere or reinforcing feelings of accomplishment. Unfortunately, it can also be a harsh critic, exacerbating mental health issues like anxiety and depression.   

What kind of messages is your inner voice feeding you, and how do they make you feel? 

Inner Critic  

Your inner critic voice may surface in times of stress and doubt, pummeling you with extremely judgmental messages about your capabilities, looks, or actions, making you think that “I’m not smart enough” while studying, or calling you names (“stupid,” “fat,” “failure,” “ugly”).  

Pediatrician and teen health expert Dr. Anisha Abraham says, “With constant exposure to social media, pressure to fit into a peer group, demands from parents and coaches, and other stressors, teens nowadays are particularly vulnerable to being self-critical.”  

A constant inner stream of criticism isn’t normal or healthy. This destructive inner commentary negatively affects your self-esteem, confidence, and performance at school and work, causing you to quit when things are hard, or to not try at all. However, it’s important to recognize these hurtful thoughts when they surface — because ignoring them just doesn’t work. 

If you push aside negative thoughts or emotions rather than addressing them, they are more likely to recur and to intensify.  If you’re constantly battling your inner critic, here are some suggestions to help you quiet this negative monologue — to say, as Alberto teaches the title character in the Pixar movie Luca, “Silenzio, Bruno!” 

 4 ways to silence your inner critic  

Acknowledge your thoughts – Our brain is a busy place.  As well as running our body systems 24/7, thousands of not-very-organized thoughts swirl around our mind every day. “By one estimate, each day, an average person thinks fifty thousand spontaneous thoughts…chaotic and mostly repetitive from one day to the next,” says Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic. 

 As mentioned, it’s important to recognize self-critical thoughts when they surface and to maintain a healthy balance, by separating the facts from exaggerated reactions and feelings that are simply not true. Most importantly, don’t let these thoughts bully you. It might also help to identify the source of and possible motivation for these negative thoughts (for example, an incident from childhood) as a way to keep them in their place.

Change the narrative – When your inner critic starts to kick in, replace the negative thought with a positive one. This practice will be hard at first. Start by questioning your thoughts. If you’ve been thinking, “I’m not good enough to make the team” you can say, “How do I know? I’m trying my hardest and maybe I AM good enough.” In other words, reroute the inner critic with a positive affirmation, keep your inner monologue light, and actively try to go easier on yourself.

What would your friends say? – This is a serious question you should ask yourself! If you talk to a friend about your feelings of doubt, they will respond with compassion and words of encouragement because they believe in you and they care about you. So be a friend to yourself. Live by the rule “If I wouldn’t say these hurtful things to a friend, then I shouldn’t say them to myself either.”  

Use your inner voice for the better – Your inner critic has a positive role to play, protecting you from danger and helping you to set standards and stay on track. Once you learn how to silence your negative thoughts, you can learn how to use your inner critic to help you choose your path and make better decisions in life. Reframe your inner comments with thoughts like “I’m capable of achieving my goal.  What do I need to do or change to be successful?” 

How can we help? 

If you are having a hard time navigating your inner critic and maintaining positive thoughts, consider talking to a health professional. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that important first step and ask for help if you or someone you love needs to overcome anxiety and depression or work on skills that help tame the inner critic and build self-confidence.   

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to give you the tools that will support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow. 

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

This February, Celebrate All the Relationships That Matter

3 teen girls hugging

Welcome to February, the month associated with Cupids and hearts, candy and flowers – and romance. 

The history of Valentine’s Day is murky but is thought to originate with at least two martyred Christian saints named Valentine, and may have also been an effort to transform a Roman spring fertility rite into a Christian festival.  

Today, the holiday is heavily about romantic relationships – but it’s also a great opportunity to broaden this focus. Why not use this month to celebrate love in all its forms, and strengthen all your connections with friends, family, and community? 

It’s also a good opportunity to ask yourself which relationships have occupied most of your time and focus, and which ones need and deserve some extra attention. 

Relationships of all kinds are essential to our shared human experience. Some relationships are forever, while others come into our lives just for a season – but all of them play an important and sometimes overlooked role in mental well-being.  

Better Health Channel lists three kinds of connections we typically experience with others 

  1. Intimate connections – with people who love and care about you, such as family and friends. 
  2. Relational connections – with people who you see regularly and who share an interest or activity with you, such as work colleagues, classmates, or a sports league in which you or your children participate.  
  3. Collective connections – with people who share a group membership or an affiliation with you, such as people who vote like you do, or who share the same faith.  

These social connections bolster our sense of belonging and enjoyment of life. Without question, healthy interactions of all kinds also have a positive impact on your mental health. Your most intimate connections, like your relationship with your family, deserve your best ongoing efforts to strengthen (and if you need help, that’s what TBH is here for).  

As adults, we know (and must teach our children) that good relationships of all kinds reward us with a sense of trust, connection, and satisfaction, and can lead to exciting new opportunities and experiences. All our relationships become part of who we are and help prepare us for the next chapter of our lives. They deserve the time and effort it takes to build and maintain them. 

Healthy social connections support our emotional and physical wellbeing by lowering anxiety and depression. Studies have also shown that those who enjoy positive relationships typically have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, and are more trusting and cooperative.   

We’ve all experienced what can happen when relationships go south – whether just two people or an entire group is involved. For relationships to work, everyone must be committed. It’s not always easy – some relationships take longer to build than others. 

How to nurture your relationships Two girls making mustaches from their hairs

Maybe you’ve moved to a new job or community, and you’d like to build new connections. Maybe you’d like to strengthen relationships that you already have. Here are five ideas to help you reach out in a meaningful way to the people in your world.

  1. Take time for the people who are important to you – It seems obvious, right? It’s amazing how taking a few minutes out of your day to check in or show someone that they’re a priority can make a difference and sustain connection – for instance, when you’re at work and your children are at school. Keep a positive, kind, and honest tone, share a moment together, and let them know you’re thinking of them.  
  2. Stay positive – Bring a calm, positive attitude to your encounters and your relationships. Look on the bright side of things, let your personality shine, and take little moments to have fun. You’ll soon see how people gravitate to someone who can make them smile.
  3. Appreciate others– Being appreciated can mean the world to someone. If you notice someone going out of their way to help you, thank them. If your co-worker did a great job, congratulate them. If your child steps in to help when you’re run off your feet, show them you noticed. Recognize the contributions of others, however small. Showing appreciation for someone’s kindness, helpfulness, or hard work makes a big difference to any relationship, whether team or individual.  
  4. It’s the little things that matter – Small words or acts of kindness really matter! Try texting an old friend to ask how they’re doing, pick up your partner’s favorite snack when they’re feeling down, or share a smile or a compliment with a stranger. You never know how much these actions can impact someone’s day.  
  5. Be available emotionally – When you know someone is going through a tough time, be there for them. You may not want to intrude during a difficult time, but it never hurts to let them know you are aware, and that you care. You can simply say, “Hi, I hope you’re okay. If you need someone to talk to just know I’m here to listen whenever you’re ready.”

These days, we conduct many of our interactions and relationships online as well as in person. It’s worth remembering that the same relationship-building principles apply, and in fact, are even more important — showing authentic interest, a positive attitude, and a willingness to listen and engage.  

As humans and social beings, the need to connect with others is part of our DNA. As a community and as parents, it’s on us to model and to teach our children the skills and sensitivity to communicate positively, to give as well as receive, and to see and sense how others react to us. Positive connection-building starts with each of us. So, take some time this month to ask yourself: How am I nurturing my relationships?  

Need More Help?  

Learning to build and maintain positive connections is challenging enough for young people, even more so if they suffer from mental health issues. A good first step is to look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help if you or someone you love needs to overcome anxiety and depression or work on skills that help build strong, lasting relationships.  

The Bougainvilla House also offers Parenting Workshops to give you the tools that will support healthy families and nurture future generations as they grow.

Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Feeling the Holiday Blues? Six ways to tackle seasonal depression

If you just ‘aren’t feeling the spirit’ this holiday season, we understand and offer our support.  

Maybe you usually enjoy what’s supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ But this year, it’s bringing on feelings of stress, sadness, and loneliness.  

Music, movies, TV, social media, and advertising reinforce the sense that everyone should be feeling their merriest and brightest selves. You might be wondering what on earth is wrong with you.  

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, another festival, or none at all, the holiday blues (seasonal depression) can strike anyone for any number of reasons. 

It’s especially difficult if this is your first holiday experience without a loved one. It can be a lonely time, especially for those who don’t have anyone to celebrate the season with them.  

Or maybe the season becomes an overwhelming, exhausting marathon for you, with extra-heavy demands to bake and cook, shop, wrap gifts, decorate, clean, and entertain. The holidays feel like an endless list of chores instead of fun and pleasurable time spent with loved ones.  

Perhaps the pandemic’s continuing presence – and some lingering social introversion from lockdown days – might be making you feel pressured and nervous about traveling or getting together to celebrate. Is it really safe? 

If you’re already struggling with mental illness, the holidays can affect it even more. Know that you are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse.  

What are the holiday blues?  

NAMI describes the holiday blues as “temporary anxiety or depression during the months of November and December that can associate with extra stress, unrealistic expectations, or even memories that accompany the season.” Even though these feelings are temporary, it’s important to be mindful of their impact on your mental health.  

Understanding your feelings and making a plan to manage your mental health can help you get through this time. If you recognize any of these emotions, here are six ideas to help manage them.  

How to tackle the holiday blues? 

  1. Stick to your routine – You may be dealing with disruptors like travel, social activities, or a long to-do list, so it’s important to preserve you-time. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible – don’t sacrifice all your personal time for holiday chores and activities. Take time to enjoy your favorite morning coffee.  Continue your usual exercise routine. Give priority to your daily self-care ritual, whatever it may be.
  2. Don’t isolate yourself –  Feelings of sadness can sometimes lead us to hide at home, but social isolation can make us feel worse. If you’re not going to be with friends or family for the holidays, it’s harder to feel connected. When you’re feeling alone, seek support from a close friend, a family member, or a community in which you’re involved. Schedule a video call with a family member, talk about your feelings, and tell them how much you appreciate them. Spend a day with a caring friend. You might find it helps to volunteer for a local community event. Talking about your feelings, connecting with others, and avoiding too much isolation will hopefully help to steady and manage your emotions during the season. On the other hand, if you’re a more introverted personality, you might actually need to schedule and protect some alone time, if the presence of additional guests and family is draining your emotional batteries. If you need that time, speak up and take it. Go for a walk, chill out with a book or music, and ask everyone to respect your need for some solo recharging time.
  3. Make a to-do list and keep it simple – And check it twice! Planning and delegation are key. Mark your calendar with all your holiday events. Plan dates for advance cooking, decorating, shopping, and package mailing. If you’re traveling, pack and plan ahead for unexpected issues and delays. Are you hosting a social event? Make sure all your guests know when to arrive, where to park, and what to bring. Set up your space the day before and delegate preparations to family and friends. Above all, try to keep things simple and manageable. Be realistic about what you can get done in the time you have, and remember that the most important things are to look after yourself and to enjoy time with the people around you. 
  4. Set a budget – Money can be a huge source of stress during the holidays, so before you start shopping, set a budget. Try not to overextend yourself financially. Figure out how much money you can afford to spend on gifts and food shopping. Write down the people you want to gift, set individual budgets, and stick to it. You can also find less costly alternatives like making homemade gifts but be sure to set aside enough time to make them. Here are more ideas on alternative gifts.
  5. Set reasonable expectations – High or unrealistic expectations can cause unnecessary pressure and tension. Focus on this year’s holiday season and try not to compare it to memories of other years. It doesn’t have to be perfect or elaborate or even the same. Remember that traditions can change, so think about ways you can make the holidays work for you and your family in your present circumstances.
  6. Honor memories – If you are mourning the loss of someone you loved – and there are many kinds of loss – be gentle with yourself. You may feel painful waves of grief during the holidays, when everything reminds you of a missing loved one. Depending on the nature of your loss, think about what might trigger the sadness, and what might help manage it. Talk to friends and family and enlist their support to plan a holiday season that recognizes your need to continue grieving as part of the healing process. 

This season, too many people are mourning the deaths of loved friends and family members from Covid and many other causes. If you are among them, it may help to think about special ways to honor your loved one. It can be as small as lighting a candle every night, sharing memories, or making your loved one’s favorite food. Honoring the person you lost can serve as a physical reminder that although they are gone, the good memories and the love remain. Find more ways to deal with grief here. 

Need More Help?  

If your holiday blues are overwhelming you, look for a safe person and space in which to talk. The Bougainvilla House is here for you, with an understanding and welcoming environment for you and your family. Take that critical first step and ask for help to overcome anxiety and depression, and reconnect to the life you want to live, or want for someone you love. Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. In addition, these resources (https://www.nami.org/help ) are also available for you. Please reach out if you or someone in your life needs help.  

Source:  

https://www.nami.org/blogs/nami-blog/november-2015/tips-for-managing-the-holiday-blues 

Why you should consider pet therapy for your child

Have you ever wondered why just being around our pet makes us feel better, no matter what kind of a day we’re having? The science behind those pet snuggles might actually be helpful for your child, especially if they are feeling uneasy, stressed, sad, nervous, or any number of strong emotions. The presence of a pet can have an amazingly positive effect on your child’s health.

How do animals make your child feel better?

Scientists have observed that interacting with animals increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that induces feelings of love and closeness. It slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. All of these changes help create a sense of calm and comfort.

Why should your child consider Pet Therapy?

As children grow and discover more about themselves and the way they react to different people and situations, some challenges may be hard for them to tackle on their own. Through Pet Therapy, trained animals can be incredibly effective at helping children to overcome obstacles and cope with those difficult feelings and mental health issues.

Studies have shown that human-animal interaction (HAI) positively impacts social behavior, interpersonal communications, and mood. Most importantly, it increases trustworthiness and trust toward other people; reduces aggression; enhances empathy, and improves learning.

Most children love animals, making it easy for them to bond with their special ‘therapist’. Pet therapy offers not only time with a favorite friend, but also valuable emotional support.

Which animal therapy is best?

When choosing a therapy, consider both your child (including comfort levels and potential allergies) and the therapy’s desired outcome. While it is common to use dogs or cats in animal therapy, other types of animals also serve as therapists, including guinea pigs, fish, and horses.

Equine therapy involves activities with horses that enhance physical and emotional healing. During therapy, children learn to be responsible and respectful of the horse and to earn its trust, so that eventually both they and the animal feel comfortable being close enough for petting and hugs. These lessons extend outside of therapy too, as children learn to build trusting relationships with others, just as they do with horses. If your child struggles to find friends or communicate with others, equine therapy can be a natural transition to help them improve those important social interaction skills.

Equine Therapist Maria Glenn says horses can be large and scary, but there is no better animal for helping children build confidence and self-esteem, when they realize that this giant 600-pound creature is listening to them and will do their bidding when asked in an appropriate manner.

What makes Equine Therapy so special?

Equine therapy is especially successful for children with disabilities or special needs such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and more. As well as building important social skills, equine therapy can help children improve their motor coordination, balance, concentration, and self-esteem. Children who have a tough time speaking are taught to use their own words to command the horse, which improves their speech skills and confidence. Not only do children learn as they have fun outside instead of in a doctor’s office, they are also enjoying nature and the special joy, and connection that equine therapy offers.

Looking for an animal therapy camp?

Hearts & Hooves healing day camp, a program provided by The Bougainvilla House, promotes growth, healing, relationship-building, and connection through a unique combination of equine and traditional group therapy.

Hearts & Hooves is open to children ages 6-11 and teens ages 12-17 who are struggling with mental health issues. A day spent interacting with horses and rescued farm animals can be a fun, healthy, and meaningful way for young people to bond, build trust, heal, and learn to cope with their feelings.

Hearts & Hooves healing day camp is coming soon, and will take place at Marando Farms & Ranch, Fort Lauderdale. For more details, please email Veronicac@tbhcares.org.

I have dark thoughts, what can I do about it?

Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is scary.  Yes, it feels like you’re all alone. 

It’s okay if you don’t have it all together. We know how hard it is to struggle with your thoughts and feelings. Depression is dark and empty, making you believe that you can contribute nothing to anyone or anything. And it feels like life means nothing anymore.  

You may think that isolating yourself or dealing with it on your own is the best thing to do. You don’t want to be a burden to family and friends, and you may think you’re crazy for feeling this way, but that isn’t you. That is the bully in your head talking. 

The bully says it will be better without you. Don’t believe it. Suicide only causes lifelong trauma for the people you love. But you don’t have to live in this dark place.  

Or maybe you’re trying to push away the darkness or relieve the relentless pressure with substances or self-harm. 

If this is you, be honest with your feelings. Please talk.  

If this is someone you know, reach out, tough as it is. Maybe your support will help a friend or relative find the words and the assistance they need. 

Let’s Get Real  

If you’re in a dark place and feeling alone, ask yourself: “Who do I want to talk to?” A family member? A friend? An adult you trust? Chances are, that person already knows something is wrong, but maybe they just don’t quite know how to start the conversation.  

If you can’t think of anyone, don’t give up. Or maybe you’d rather talk about your feelings with someone who’s outside of your circle of family and friends. If either situation is true, call any of the resources listed below. That might feel a bit weird and impersonal, but truly, the people at the other end of the conversation care and will listen. 

Bottom line – if this is you, run toward help. If this is someone you’re worrying about, don’t run away if you think they’re struggling – show them support when they need it the most.  

Danger signs 

Honesty time. Do any of the following warning signs feel like you, or someone you know?  If this is you, a friend, or someone you know, seek help.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to attempt suicide, even jokingly 
  • Looking for suicide methods, like searching online or buying a gun 
  • Talking about or feeling anxious, hopeless or having no reason to live 
  • Pretending everything’s fine when it isn’t 
  • Talking about or feeling trapped or in unbearable pain 
  • Talking about being a burden to others 
  • Personality changes – not feeling, acting or behaving like the person you, or they used to be 
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Feeling or acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly 
  • Unexplained or unusually severe, violent, or rebellious behavior 
  • Sleeping too little or too much 
  • Eating too little or too much 
  • Trouble focusing 
  • Withdrawing or isolating from friends and family 
  • Feeling or showing rage or talking about seeking revenge 
  • Extreme mood swings 

Does any of this sound like you? If you’re not sure, ask someone you trust if they’ve noticed any of these behaviors in you. If you’re worried about someone and seeing any of these actions or behaviors, take them as the warning signs they are.  

Been there: stories from the darkness 

Others have been through this. They know the fear, the shame, the aloneness. Maybe their stories will help you or someone you know to find the encouragement to reach out for help. 

Emma’s Story on Wellness Wednesday

Shattering the Silence: Youth Suicide Prevention | Sadie Penn | TEDxYouth@Lancaster 

I witnessed a suicide | Joseph Keogh | TEDxPSUBehrend 

Crisis Resources 

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately. 
  • If you or someone you know are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) 
  • If talking on the phone is uncomfortable, text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.  

Get Help 

Don’t minimize your feelings or someone else’s – look for a safe person and space to talkThe Bougainvilla House is there for you, with a safe and welcoming environment for teens and their families. Take that critical first step and ask for help to overcome anxiety and depression, and reconnect to the life you want to live, or want for someone you love. Call now to find support that works for you and your family: (954) 764-7337. 

Sources:  

https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=teen-suicide-learning-to-recognize-the-warning-signs-1-1696 

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/ 

https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/suicide-prevention-awareness-month 

https://paradigmtreatment.com/teen-depression-really-feels-like-according-16-year-old/ 

 

 

Masks on, masks off: easing back into “normal” life

two woman’s walking out of a shopping store with bags with masks on

Wearing a mask in public places has been normalized during the COVID-19 pandemic. While mask mandates have been lifted in Florida, the recommendations for mask-wearing from public health experts have evolved with the shifting conditions of the pandemic – leaving many people confused about the best way to approach masking up. 

Earlier this summer, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provided guidance that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” except when there are restrictions in place from their city, county, or state. 

On July 27, 2021, the CDC revised those guidelines to recommend that fully vaccinated people should still wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. As of the date of this article’s publication, this includes many urban areas in Florida. 

While some people are excited to toss their masks in the back of the closet, many others have been experiencing a variety of emotions around wearing masks: 

  • When restrictions lift for fully vaccinated individuals, not wearing a mask might feel weird.  
  • If your community reinstates a policy of wearing of masks indoors, you might feel a sense of confusion about what you are supposed to do. 
  • When you go to large public indoor (or outdoor) events, you might feel a sense of anxiety and indecision over whether to mask up in the crowds. 

This uncertainty may be more pronounced if you have social anxiety. Social anxiety is characterized by negative self-perception and fear that one’s appearance or behavior will fail to conform with social expectations and norms. 

Research from David A. Moscovitch, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, found that mask protocols during the pandemic may increase struggles with social anxiety even after the pandemic.

“People with social anxiety will likely experience renewed fear and anxiety about behaving awkwardly or inappropriately (e.g., ‘should I be wearing my mask here?’ ‘Is it ok to have a close conversation?’) and being judged negatively by others,” Moscovitch says. 

If it is safe for you to break from your covid routine, but that change makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous, or you’re not ready to let go of the mask just yet, here are few ways you can cope with the transition back to “normal” life. 

5 tips to remember as we return to “normal” life  
 

  1. Stay informed. Be aware of your community’s specific pandemic conditions, such as the number of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus. Check the latest guidance from the CDC and your local public health officials. Make sure you know if your community is considered a high transmission area so you can act accordingly.
     
  2. Be respectful. Every community’s situation is different, and every individual has different needs. The person you see wearing a mask may want to protect a child who can’t be vaccinated yet, or a family member who is high risk. Many people may continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future, so it is important to be patient and respectful of others. Likewise, every business or event you visit may have different expectations about mask-wearing, so continue to respect any posted guidelines and the instructions of staff members.
     
  3. Recognize your comfort level. The world is changing frequently. Ask yourself questions that help you stay in touch with your emotions. Do I feel safe not wearing a mask at grocery store? Do I feel safe not wearing a mask at the gym? Am I comfortable going to crowded places with no mask? Am I comfortable not wearing a mask at the park? Take your comfort level into consideration when it comes to pandemic-related behavior changes.
      
  4. Take it at your own pace- If it is safe for you to start taking part in more activities, take it slow. It’s okay to return to pre-pandemic “busy-ness” at your own pace. Take small steps like meeting a friend outside or getting together with people who are also vaccinated, before diving into a large-scale public event like a wedding or concert. 
     
  5. Recognize and break the habit of avoidance. Avoidance and anxiety tend to go hand in hand. When you avoid the things that make you anxious, it may feel like a relief in the short term but will just lead to more anxiety in the long term. Although this might be uncomfortable at first, Moscovitch suggests participating in social situations rather than avoiding them. Try to catch yourself when you’re choosing to avoid interactions even when you aren’t being forced to do so by pandemic-related restrictions. Make plans to see a friend and act friendly with others by smiling as you connect with others once again. 

Need More Help? 

If you are struggling with your mental health or feeling anxious or depressed, please seek professional help. At The Bougainvilla House, we offer therapy sessions for families and young people who struggle with managing their thoughts, emotions, and behaviorsIf you would like to get started, please schedule your free screening here.   

Sources