mental illness

Can Hobbies Improve Mental Health?

Improve mental healthIt is easy for people to get wrapped up in various treatments, therapies, and medications when it comes to controlling mental illness but did you know simply engaging in hobbies you already love can help too?

According to a 2009 study testing the potential of managing anxiety in eating disorders with knitting found that, ‘patients reported a subjective reduction in anxious preoccupation when knitting, more specifically- 74 percent reported it had a calming and therapeutic effect.’ (1) Engaging in a hobby you already love may be just the treatment you have been looking for. Some people find that listening to music, volunteer work, keeping a daily journal of events and how they feel, laughter, playing with pets, shopping, or other forms of common hobbies helped them to relax. (2)

From singing to cooking and just about every hobby in-between, taking time to relax with an activity you enjoy can help you reap a multitude of benefits when it comes to mental health. Here’s a few that you can look forward to.

  • Reduces stress. Transitioning the focus from the chaos of life to a fun, easy, and enjoyable task can instantly help reduce stress levels. Harness this benefit by opting for more relaxing hobbies. These may include knitting, painting, photographing, journaling, or even bird watching. Whichever hobby you choose, be sure it makes you feel more relaxed.
  • Improves mood. Taking a break to do something you already love beats an extra hour spent at the office anyway. Investing in hobbies can feel similar to taking a break and enjoying yourself and obviously breaks and joy often produce an improved mood. A hobby should always be something you desire doing.
  • Encourages socialization. Though not all, but some hobbies can help encourage socialization where you would otherwise spend time alone. And numerous studies have found a connection between relationships and happiness. Consider participating in group hobbies like team sports, clubs, or other activities that draw a crowd.
  • Improves memory. Did you know studies have shown that people who regularly challenge themselves through puzzles, games, and reading can not only improve their memory now, but also help themselves avoid memory loss later in life? If you enjoy challenging your mind with puzzles you can expect to reap this benefit.
  • Wards off depression. If your hobby of choice is an activity you find happiness in, it can easily help ward off feelings of depression and sadness. If you find yourself not loving a hobby, stop doing it and find something new that you do love. Hobbies are meant to be fun, and in order to benefit from them you must enjoy doing them.

While people may be consumed with treatments, therapies, and medications- sometimes all you need to lift up your spirits and improve your overall mental health is a little time spent doing a favorite hobby. Invest in yourself by taking the time to participate in things that you love. By doing so you can begin to reap the many mental health benefits that can accompany hobbies.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation

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Sources:

  1. Managing Anxiety in Eating Disorders with Knitting, Results quote, 2009, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=knitting+anxiety
  2. Management, Information about hobbies, 2015, http://www.stress.org/military/combat-stress/management/

Find Yourself Forgetful? How to Enhance Your Memory

Improve MemoryWhile you may think of forgetfulness and memory loss as challenges only the elderly face but if you are a young person, you may be disappointed to learn that memory loss can affect you too. Unfortunately, like most mental health problems memory has not prejudice. But there’s something you can do to help!

Young or old, if you are finding yourself forgetful there are certain things you can do to help improve your memory. To help you begin today, here’s a few tips on how to enhance your memory.

  • Train. Yes, it’s true- like training your body through physical exercises you can help train your brain for memory improvement. “People in the early stages of memory loss can benefit from simple memory training, research suggests according to the American Psychological Association (APA) (1) Using popular training techniques like “mnemonic devices” or “vanishing cues” can help trigger you brain to better remember.

Mnemonic devices: To put this training tactic to work simply visualize something that will help you better remember whatever it is you want to be able to recall later. For example, when meeting a new person whose name is Mrs. Teal, you would visualize that person covered in the color teal to better help you remember their name.

Vanishing cues: This tactic is used more often when trying to recall information. For instance, if you are trying to think of Mrs. Teal’s name but can’t remember it, instead write down on a piece of paper any letters of the name that you can remember. Once seeing the letters on the paper fill in more, and more until you begin to remember. By doing this you are training new areas of the brain to take over defective areas.

  • Mental photos. Sometimes, being able to recall memories later on means taking a mental photo or snapshot now. According to the APA, “Good memory requires good learning and good learning is done through forming strong association with new information as you learn it.” (2) While you don’t have to physically walk around life acting like you are taking photos, mentally focusing on new things you are learning or would like to remember later, similar to a camera focuses can help you form those strong associations, and thus help improve your memory.

Make taking notes a routine part of your day. When you set important items down like a cell phone, car keys, or wallet take a moment to focus and take a mental snapshot.

No matter your age, forgetfulness and memory loss can affect you and make life more challenging. But you can work to improve your memory. By working to train your brain and making a point to take mental snapshots all throughout your day you can better challenge your brain and enhance your memory.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation

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Sources:

  1. Enhance Your Memory, Training your brain quote, 2015, http://www.apa.org/topics/learning/enhance-memory.aspx
  2. Enhance Your Memory, Mental photos quote, 2015, http://www.apa.org/topics/learning/enhance-memory.aspx

 

 

Sports and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?

Sports and mental healthTeam sports have long been a popular activity for people of all ages. While some people play just for fun, there are many others who play at an extremely competitive level. No matter your reason, however, there are benefits and dangers of playing sports.

Benefits

  1. Mental. Any type of physical activity can be beneficial to a person’s mental health, from walking to aerobics to sports. For people at risk of mental illness, exercise can be preventative; in those who already suffer from mental illness, activity can be used as a form of treatment. Exercise has been proven to lessen depression and decrease the number of psychotic episodes in other illnesses – and this is true for males and females of all ages. The more physical activity, the greater the improvement in mental health will be, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) (1).
  2. Emotional. One of the biggest areas of emotional well-being is self-esteem. Belonging to a team, having people depend on you, and knowing that you are needed can all help a person have a positive view of themselves (2).
  3. Social. Someone who struggles socially can greatly benefit from team sports. A team usually consists of a people of a common age and interest, so you already have something in common with everyone. What a great start to form new friendships.
  4. Familial. So many mental health issues are worsened or even partly caused by a person’s home situation; this is especially true in children with mental disorders. Playing team sports can give a family a chance to spend time together and give a parent the chance to encourage the child.
  5. Physical. Playing sports has many physical benefits. Being in good shape does not just aid in sports performance but also in the performance of your body’s systems. Physical activity is good for the heart, the respiratory system, and the circulatory system among others. The healthier your body is, the healthier your mind will be.

Dangers

  1. Mental. If the athlete has obsessive tendencies or an addictive personality, sports and exercise can actually become detrimental to their mental health. Being so reliant upon physical activity for mental well-being, it could cause problems if you were to become injured or unable to continue for other reasons. Make sure that there are other treatment options in place.
  2. Emotional. There are times that a person playing sports can have a lowered self-esteem due to poor performance or inability to contribute to the team. Choose a sport in which you know you can be successful.
  3. Physical. Competitive teams really emphasize training, and with good reason. However, it is possible to injure yourself if the body is over-exerted. To avoid this, pay attention to your body’s signals of needing a break.

As long as you are aware of the dangers and do everything you can to avoid them, most psychologists will greatly encourage team sports to enhance your mental health.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

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Sources:

  1. Exercise Helps Keep Your Psyche Fit, Exercise and mental health, 2004, http://www.apa.org/research/action/fit.aspx
  2. Benefits of Sports, Emotional benefits, 2015, http://www.muhealth.org/services/pediatrics/conditions/adolescent-medicine/benefits-of-sports/
  3. The Benefits of Playing Sports Aren’t Just Physical! Social benefits, 2012, http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/blog/post/the-benefits-of-playing-sports-arent-just-physical!.aspx
  4. Exercise and Mental Health, Dangers, 1990, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2192422

Coping with PTSD as a Family

Coping with PTSD as a FamillyPTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster, according to the American Psychological Association. (1) PTSD is often acted out through nightmares, hypervigilance, flashbacks, anger, or depression and can often complicate close relationships like families.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), PTSD is considered one of the mental health conditions most likely to lead to relationship problems (2) but families can find hope in learning new ways to cope.

  • Stress management skills. Families should take the time to learn stress management skills. These skills may include eating healthy, getting active, allowing for alone time, getting adequate sleep, and establishing necessary support. By learning these skills as a family you can help one another along the way.
  • Realizing everyone is impacted. In most scenarios, one family member, often mom or dad, is diagnosed with PTSD- not the entire family. But this does not mean that others are not affected too. In fact, the APA stresses that everyone in the family is affected by PTSD even if it’s not apparent at first or some members aren’t as quick to show it.
  • Everyone processes trauma differently. Like with many emotions, there are a variety of ways to process trauma. Not everyone will react in the same way as you. Realizing this will help you understand one another and in return, be able to offer help when needed. Just because someone doesn’t handle trauma in the same way you do, does not mean they aren’t experiencing affects.
  • Establishing a universal plan. Together, families need to establish a plan. How are you going to address the event to outside family and friends? Especially for emotional traumas such as rape or abuse, this step can be important to healthy coping. Establish a universal plan that everyone agrees with.

To families experiencing it, PTSD is so much more than a stress disorder. It’s a mental illness that threatens to tear their family apart. By turning to each other to cope instead of trying to tackle extreme traumas individually you can better help lessen the relationship effects of PTSD. Coping with PTSD as a family means learning stress management skills, realizing everyone is impacted and processes trauma differently, and establishing a universal plan. Together you can cope, conquer, and thrive as a family despite PTSD.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

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Sources:

  1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Definition of PTSD, 2015, http://www.apa.org/topics/ptsd/index.aspx
  2. Helping Families Cope with PTSD, Relationship impact of PTST, 2015, http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan08/helping.aspx

3 Ways Weather Is Affecting Your Mental Health

mental healthWhile many of us are fully aware of how weather has the ability to affect our physical health, the majority of people today are completely ignorant of the affects weather can have on our mental health. Rain or shine, hot or cold, tornado or hurricane- weather can have a dominating effect on the way we feel and translate the world around us.

According to a 2014 climate change study, “climate change and related weather events and environmental changes can profoundly impact psychological well-being and mental health.” (1) To help you learn just how weather may be impacting you beyond just the physical, here are 3 ways weather may be affecting your mental health.

1. Stress.  If you have been the victim of a natural disaster, you may be more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. But you don’t have to be the outcome of a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake to feel the increased stress they can cause on ones’ life. Simply living in a region prone to more drastic weather can easily send your stress levels through the roof.

2. Anxiety and depression.  When it comes to mental health, anxiety and depression are key areas to be potentially hit by weather’s impact. Results in a 2012 study comparing temperature and humidity vs mental health emergency room visits suggested an increased use of emergency departments for mental and psychosocial problems the higher the temperature. (2) Many of these visits were due to anxiety, depression, anxiousness, and even stress.While warmer temperatures and pleasant weather can reap positive effects like higher mood and improved memory at first, over a short period of time these positive effects evolve into more of the negative effects discussed above. Likewise, many love the first hot summer day. They enjoy soaking up the sun by spending time outdoors in the heatwave. But if that heatwave continues over an entire week, most people would begin yearning for relief.

3. Addictions and suicide. Unfortunately, weather can affect people on an even higher scale, aiding in addictions and suicides among the population. According to a study conducted on the effects of sunshine on suicide rates, “…sunshine, via interactions with serotonin neurotransmission, may trigger increased impulsivity and promote suicidal acts.” (3)  The ongoing combination of stress, anxiety, and depression may put those already more susceptible to mental illnesses at a higher risk for developing addictions and even committing suicide.

We are all well aware of the physical affects weather can have on both people and the world around us but it’s important to also shed light on the mental health impact of weather. Oftentimes, being proactive in mentally preparing for changes in weather can be just as beneficial as stocking up on bottled water and flashlights. By choosing a region with weather trends you can better anticipate and mentally prepare for, you can help brace yourself for weather’s negative impact on stress, anxiety and depression, addictions, and suicide both physically and mentally.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

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Sources:

  1. Climate Change: The Next Challenge for Public Mental Health?, Weather effects mental health quote, 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25137107
  2. Relationship Between Ambient Temperature and Humidity and Visits to Mental Health Emergency Departments in Quebec, Study findings for connection between heat and mental health emergency visits, 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23117515
  3. Effects of Sunshine On Suicide Rates, Sunshine and suicide rates quote, 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21821241

 

How to Recognize the Signs of Schizophrenia

treat schizophreniaAbout one in 100 Americans are diagnosed with schizophrenia, a treatable serious mental illness that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, mood, and overall functioning according to the American Psychological Association (APA). (1) With statistics like that, it’s a wonder why the mass public isn’t more educated about schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is often diagnosed through early adulthood in teens and early 20s and is rarely identified later in life. At first many of the symptoms of schizophrenia may go unnoticed but by knowing what to look for and recognizing signs you can receive early treatment. To help you learn more about this mental illness and how to detect it, here’s how to recognize the signs of schizophrenia.

  • Trouble thinking logically. People with the onset of schizophrenia sometimes have trouble thinking logically. This may include making informed decisions, as well.
  • Difficulty paying attention. A short attention span, or the struggle to stay focused on one event can be a potential sign of schizophrenia. Because difficulty paying attention is a symptom for a variety of illnesses and disorders it’s important that it is paired with other symptoms as well before concluding schizophrenia.
  • Working memory problems. Because schizophrenia is a mental illness it has the ability to impair ones’ working memory, or more commonly known as short term memory. Forgetting recent events like where you set your keys or what you ate for lunch earlier that day are both examples of short term memory.
  • Hallucinations. A more serious sign of schizophrenia is experiencing hallucinations. These hallucinations often include hearing voices or seeing things that others do not see.
  • Speaking little. If you are typically a chatter box but recently don’t have the desire to speak much, there may be an underlying problem. Speaking little is another sign of schizophrenia.
  • Repetitive body movements. Agitated or repetitive body movements are common in those who suffer with schizophrenia. These movements can be seen as repetitive movements being performed over and over again.
  • False beliefs. As part of the thought disorder, false beliefs that may seem odd or wrong are believable to you even after loved ones try to redirect your thinking. These thoughts often do not line up with the person’s typical thinking and may make little to no sense.
  • Difficult to understand. As a person with schizophrenia struggles to organize their thoughts their speech can become jumbled and difficult to understand. They may even make up meaningless words or stop talking midsentence.

Coping with any mental illness is a struggle, including schizophrenia. But with 1 in every 100 Americans diagnosed with schizophrenia it’s time to better educate the public about what to look for. It’s important to note that treatment helps relieve many symptoms of schizophrenia and many people with the illness continue to lead rewarding and meaningful lives in their communities, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. (2) Learning how to recognize signs of schizophrenia is the first step toward treatment and the start to living that rewarding and meaningful life.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation

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Sources:

  1. Recognizing the Signs of Schizophrenia, Schizophrenia statistics and definition, 2015, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recognizing-schizophrenia.aspx
  2. What is Schizophrenia?, Schizophrenia treatment, 2015, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/index.shtml

 

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