International Self-Care Day – July 24, 2020

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation…” – Audre Lorde

Self-care refers to the everyday choices that we make regarding our own mental and physical health. The annual observation of International Self-Care Day on July 24 aims to spread awareness on the key role self-care plays in our lives. International Self-Care Day, which started in the UK in 2011, symbolizes that the benefits of self-care are experienced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In other words, the benefits of self-care are lifelong and do not just relate to a single day.

Self-care happens to be one of the foundational aspects of everyday health care, yet remains a largely unappreciated public health concern. The truth is that many Americans are tired and wired all at the same time. The interconnectedness of life in 2020 – from email to texting to social media platforms – can make it feel like you always have to be “on.” This is where the idea of self-care comes in. While self-care may bring visions of spa days to mind, it’s really just the important practice of checking in with yourself and asking yourself what you need to feel your best on any given day.

Here are four small (and budget-friendly!) actions you can take to incorporate self-care into your daily routine.

1. Drink water (and plenty of it!): Chances are you need a lot more water than you think. Though the amount of water each person should drink in a day depends on your age, height and where you live, most guidelines suggest that the average person should drink eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about half a gallon. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember. So, how’s a person supposed to drink that much water? One way to get it done is to carry a water bottle with you. Make sure you know how many ounces of water it holds, and fill it as many times as needed throughout the day to reach your recommended quota.

2. Check in with yourself and write it down: Have you skipped breakfast recently? Have you made it through a whole day only to realize you forgot to shower? Have you neglected checking in on someone you love? It’s easy to get caught up during a busy stretch, which is why some sources recommend jotting down important to-do list items, scheduling things as simple as eating and showering if you need to. Then, take the time to reflect at the end of each day or week. Checking in with yourself and building in moments of care (even in five-minute increments) can help you feel better about the course of your day or week.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no: Boundary-setting is an important part of taking care of yourself because it allows you to evaluate your needs, prioritize accordingly and say no to the activities that don’t help you reach your goals. If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed any given week, take a moment to recalibrate. What are the things that absolutely need to get done versus the things that should get done but can wait?

4. Talk to your people: Speaking to your community – whether it’s a friend, family member or someone who just gets you – is a great opportunity to take care of yourself and feed your soul.

While it may be tempting to assume that people who talk about self-care are just referring to moments of pampering – it’s so much more than that. To recognize International Self-Care Day, tell us what you like to do for self-care, or send us a picture and show us how you take care of yourself!

National PTSD Awareness Day – June 27, 2020

Tomorrow, we recognize National PTSD Awareness Day, a day dedicated to creating awareness of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). The U.S. Senate designated June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day in 2010, and the National Center for PTSD named June PTSD Awareness Month. I encourage you to utilize this time to learn more about PTSD and effective treatment options. Raising awareness about PTSD is incredibly important, as awareness leads to understanding and empathy; banishes judgement and fear; and reduces the number of people who feel alone and suffer in silence. Below, you’ll find useful information on how to approach PTSD with your consumers.

What is PTSD?
People may develop PTSD when they are exposed or witness something traumatic, such as war, physical violence, sexual violence, automobile accidents, etc.

What are some common symptoms of PTSD?
After such events, a person may begin suffering from certain symptoms – if they were unable to process what happened to them or what they witnessed. These symptoms might include:
● Disturbing memories or thoughts
● Nightmares
● Having trouble sleeping
● Feeling irritable or angry
● Having trouble concentrating
● Feeling hypervigilant or on guard for fear of danger
● Experiencing flashback memories

Who can develop PTSD?
Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, it’s more likely a person will develop PTSD if they experienced an intense or long-lasting traumatic event or if they became injured during said event. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, such as combat and sexual assault.

Personal factors like previous traumatic exposure, age and gender can also affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event also plays a role. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

How can PTSD impact someone’s family and their relationships?
PTSD includes a range of symptoms that can affect family members. When someone has PTSD, their ability to function as a parent or partner can be impacted, and changes in their functioning can lead to unmet family needs and increased stress within the family.

Trauma survivors with PTSD may also have trouble with their close family relationships or friendships. The symptoms of PTSD can cause problems with trust, closeness, communication and problem solving. In turn, this may impact the way a loved one responds to the trauma survivor.

Why is it important to be aware of trauma and possible PTSD symptoms when working with our consumers?
There are a number of reasons why we, as mental health and behavioral health care providers, should assess our consumers for a history of trauma exposure.
● Trauma and trauma-related problems are common. Going through trauma is not rare. According to the National Center for PTSD, about six out of 10 men (or 60%) and five out of 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. Nearly 8% of the population has PTSD, and it’s highly comorbid with other disorders, such as panic, phobia, generalized anxiety disorders, depression or substance abuse.

● PTSD is often underrecognized by practitioners. Research shows that many individuals who seek physical health care have been exposed to trauma and have post-traumatic stress symptoms but have not received appropriate mental health care. As with anxiety disorders and depression, most individuals with PTSD are not properly identified and are not offered education, counseling or referrals for mental health evaluation. Keep in mind that avoidance of trauma reminders is a prominent symptom of PTSD. This makes it even more likely that consumers may not spontaneously report their trauma experiences or related symptoms.

● School-aged children may present different symptoms than adults. If diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms in children and teens can look different from those in adults. Children could show signs of PTSD in their play – while teenagers might show signs of impulsivity. Children may not have flashbacks or problems remembering parts of the trauma the way adults with PTSD often do. As in adults, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy is considered to be an effective treatment.

National PTSD Awareness Day is so important, but it’s only one day. We need to support the individuals we serve throughout the year and work to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD. Raising awareness is about educating people who do not experience PTSD and reaching out to people who do.

Kristyn Maikranz
Director of Mental Health

Self-Injury Awareness Day – March 1, 2020

Did you know that March 1 is Self-Injury Awareness Day? For the last 18 years, Self-Injury Awareness Day (#SIAD) is recognized to raise awareness, understanding and empathy, as well as reduce judgement. This day is also meant to minimize fear and the number of people who feel alone or suffer in silence. Below, you’ll find useful information on how to approach self-harm with your consumers.

What is self-harm?
Self-injury, also known as self-harm, self-mutilation or self-abuse, occurs when someone intentionally harms himself in a way that is, at times, impulsive and not intended to be lethal.

What are some examples of self-injury?
The most common methods are skin cutting, head banging and burning. Other forms of self-injury include excessive scratching to the point of drawing blood, hair pulling, and punching oneself or objects.

Who self-injures?
Self-injury affects people from all walks of life, irrespective of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or personal strength.

What can cause someone to engage in self-injurious behavior?
People who self-injure commonly report they feel empty inside; they feel over or under stimulated; they are unable to express their feelings; they are lonely; or they are not understood by others. Self-injury may be a way to cope with or relieve painful or hard-to-express feelings and is generally not a suicide attempt. However, relief is temporary, and a self-destructive cycle often develops without proper treatment. Self-injury can also be a way to have control over your body when you can’t control anything else in your life.

What are some warning signs?
Warning signs that someone may be injuring themselves include:
● Unexplained frequent injuries including cuts and burns
● Low self-esteem
● Difficulty handling feelings
● Relationship problems or avoidance of relationships
● Poor functioning at work, school or home

People who self-injure may attempt to conceal their marks, such as bruises, scabs or scars, with clothing, so you may notice them wearing inappropriate clothing such as long sleeves and pants in hot weather.

Is self-injury the same as someone wanting to die by suicide?
The relationship between suicide and self-injury is complicated. While people dealing with non-suicidal self-injury do not intend to die by suicide, they may cause more harm than intended, which could result in medical complications or death.

What should I do if I work with a consumer that engages in self-injurious behavior?
Self-injury has an immediate effect, creating instant relief, but it is only temporary – the underlying emotional issues still remain. In time, self-injury can become a person’s automatic response to the ordinary strains of everyday life, and both frequency and severity of self-injury may increase.

If you work with a consumer who engages in self-injurious behavior, it is recommended you consult with your supervisor about your treatment approach to ensure you are offering the best support to your consumer and their family.

Important things to remember:
● Self-injurious behavior may increase during treatment, as the coping strategy is usually relied upon during times of stress.
● Asking a person who self-injures to just stop is in effect removing what may well be their only coping strategy. Instead, encourage the person to find healthier ways of dealing with their distress before expecting them to move away from self-injury.
● Accept that your consumer(s) may self-injure for an extended period of time, even during successful treatment. Self-injury can be a long-term matter.
● Self-injury is often a difficult subject to comprehend. It’s important to take care of your own emotional well-being and recognize when you need some extra support when working with someone who self-injures.

Self-Injury Awareness Day is so important, but it’s only one day. We need to support the individuals we serve throughout the year and work to reduce the stigma associated with self-injury. Raising awareness is about educating people who do not self-injure and reaching out to people who do.

Kristen Maikranz
Director of Mental Health