And just like that: October. This has been an unusual year, to say the least. While everyone’s experiences through 2020 have been varied, I think it is safe to say that all of us are encountering some changes in the ways that we go about life. How are these changes impacting your health? What can you do to maintain your health in the midst of change? October is Mental Health Month, and an appropriate time to reflect on how you are feeling, and on whether it is time to access resources to support your mental health.
With change comes...opportunity? Growth? Challenges? Resistance? So many possibilities. Regardless of the outcomes, change often comes with stress. Some stress is good: it motivates us, particularly when changes are instituted as part of a personal goal, and under our control. We sometimes refer to this as eustress. Some stress is less positive, and can make us feel edgy, irritable, or even fearful or “distressed.” In the short term, our brains and bodies are typically able to respond to stress, combat its effects, and maintain balance. With longer-term or chronic stress, however, the balance becomes disrupted, and problems can develop.
Mental health can be affected by a variety of factors including: genetics, environment, physical health, medications, diet, socio-cultural influences. Some of us have underlying mental health conditions, and others may have episodic flares when conditions are just right...conditions like an increase in stress.
When patients come to me with concerns about depression or anxiety (or both), I often talk about these conditions as a response to stress. In the short-term, our bodies use various hormonal cascades and neurotransmitters to combat the effects of stress. They work by helping to slow the heart rate, lower the blood pressure, and combat inflammation. However, these are a finite resource - the well can run dry.
Therapy, or counseling, is the mainstay of treatment for issues with depression or anxiety. Often, this can be an opportunity to assess sources of stress that may be contributing to symptoms. This can also be a helpful way to explore techniques for managing stress. In some cases, medication can be a helpful adjunct, particularly when symptoms are interfering with day-to-day activities like sleep, personal interactions, and accomplishment of activities at home or at work.
If you feel that it is time for a mental health check up, please make an appointment to discuss with your provider. We can perform some basic assessments, discuss resources and basic treatment options, and help you to connect with mental health resources in the community.