Monday, September 27, 2021

Food for Thought: Are you really OK?

| August 4, 2021 12:00 AM

Many people are stressed, confused, depressed, anxious and worried concerning the events that have taken place.

The last 18 months were rough and people had high expectations for a good summer. Instead they are experiencing long unusual hot temperatures, drought, smoke, resurgence of COVID-19 and more restrictions.

People’s reactions are short, impatient and in many cases unkind. These underlying pressures are building up and with no place to go are coming out in their emotions.

Mental health problems, conflict in relationships, violence, abuse of drugs and alcohol, panic attacks and high anxiety are all on the rise. When people experience high amounts of stress it also triggers past traumas.

Stress impacts the body. In Bessel van der Kolk'S book “The Body Keeps Score” he states “hiding your core feelings leaves you feeling agitated, bored and shut down. But stress hormones keep flooding your body leading to headaches, muscle aches, and to irrational behavior that embarrass you and hurt the people around you.”

Stressful experiences can also include isolation and loneliness and have a negative effect on immune function, the body’s defense against outside attack.

What needs to be done is to stay on top of our emotions and mental heath. We need to perform self evaluations and recognize and admit what we are feeling. We must deal with feelings as they come up and not try to hide or suppress them.

We need to learn how to cope with the stresses we are experiencing. This is done by setting a calm tone. Taking many deep breaths, practicing yoga and meditating, listening to your body. and noticing the sensations you are feeling is a good start.

Even taking 15 minutes a day to just sit quietly and enjoy a good cup of coffee helps. Practicing faith, gratitude and appreciation also goes a long way.

If you have children modeling good mental health is essential. If you are experiencing a high degree of stress your children, young and old, are absorbing your stress and it is affecting their behavior.

Red flags that show you children are spinning into trouble are sleeping and eating problems, emotional outburst and withdrawal. Unfortunately, many parents only pay attention when children are in crisis.

Sometimes this is too late. Parents need to establish good communication starting when their children are young. Talk, talk, talk to them.

Teach coping and stress management skills. Because children don’t always have the words to express themselves parents need to interpret their feelings for them.

Quality of your relationship influences your discipline strategies. Children need to be seen, valued and loved and parents need to get their feelings under control.

Energy - good or bad is contagious.

Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.