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Monday, 31 December 2018 13:37

How Anxiety Can Affect Your Sleep

Can you recall a time when worrying has kept you awake? Maybe you couldn't stop thinking about problems with work or relationships, and the hours ticked away before your eyes. If worrisome thoughts and anxiety regularly prevent you from sleeping, it's understandable if you feel helpless or frustrated. Not being able to sleep can make anxiety worse, and soon, you might feel stuck in an endless cycle.

Anxiety and sleep issues often go together. If you can't sleep due to anxiety, you are far from alone. Millions do not get the sleep they need due to anxiety and stress, and for some, it becomes a chronic problem. However, even if you feel like the cycle will never end, there are ways to manage anxiety and get a good night's sleep. Here we will explore what you need to know about anxiety and sleeplessness, and we'll help you find ways to reduce anxiety, sleep soundly throughout the night and wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

Millions suffer sleep deprivation due to anxiety

What Is the Difference Between Anxiety and Stress?

Before we get started, it helps to consider the difference between anxiety and stress. Everyone experiences stress and anxiety occasionally. Both conditions may create feelings of unease or lead to sleeplessness. The difference is, stress goes away once the stressor is gone, but anxiety lingers long after a stressful event.

For example, it is normal to feel stressed over an external factor such as getting stuck in traffic when you're running late. Anxiety, on the contrary, occurs internally, even when there is nothing to worry about. Anxiety may cause you to feel dread or fear that a stressful situation will happen.

Imagine you argued with a co-worker. You may have felt high levels of stress during the argument. Now imagine that several weeks have passed since the disagreement, and you have since made up with the co-worker. If you are afraid to eat lunch with the co-worker, or if you dread going to work due to the past stressful event, you might say you're experiencing anxiety.

GAD affects twice as many women as men

What Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

If you worry excessively for months, and anxiety interferes with your life and sleep habits, you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Although GAD is less common than experiencing anxiety once in a while, it affects twice as many women as men. GAD can lead to insomnia or persistent restless sleep. Other symptoms of GAD include:

  • Frequently imagining the worst-case scenario
  • Indecisiveness due to the fear of making the wrong choice
  • The inability to relax and let go of troubling thoughts
  • Continuous and excessive worrying

Physical symptoms of GAD may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or twitching
  • Muscle tension

How to Tell Whether It's Stress or Anxiety

It can be difficult to determine if you are experiencing a temporary period of stress or if you have an anxiety disorder. Here are a few ways to tell the difference.

  • Worrying is persistent: If you have been worrying almost every day for at least six months, you may have GAD. If your worry goes away after a short amount of time, it is probably regular stress.
  • Worrying is excessive or intrusive: If you feel unable to control your worries even when there is no obvious reason to worry, you may have GAD. However, if you can control your worrying, it is likely just stress.
  • Worrying is disruptive: If you worry about ordinary things such as job security, health, finances or household chores and it interferes with daily activities, you may have GAD. If your worries do not interfere with your life, it may be regular stress.

Sometimes it's best to speak with a mental health professional to help you determine if you're experiencing an anxiety disorder, or if your stress will pass. Either way, a professional can help you find the best treatment for your situation and help you learn coping strategies.

Professional treatment for anxiety

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Sleep Deprivation

GAD often causes insomnia, which is one of the most common sleep disorders. Insomnia means you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep issues also commonly occur with other anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many times when we intend to go to sleep and are free from the distractions of daily activities, our fears and concerns rise to the surface. If you have anxiety, you might ruminate about your worries and hope to find a solution by doing so. You might also worry about not being able to sleep and having to face the morning without rest. Many women know exactly what you're going through.

To get an idea of how anxiety prevents sleep on a scientific level, imagine anxiety as an internal alarm system that goes off to warn you of potential danger. In some cases, this can be useful. However, women who have an anxiety disorder receive false alarms. In other words, they feel anxiety when no real danger is near. This alarm system can go off all night, causing you to remain somewhat awake and alert even while you sleep. The result is interrupted sleep or unrestful sleep.

Alarm when there is no real danger

To benefit from the effects of sleep, you need to sleep continuously. For example, someone who sleeps normally cycles between two main categories of sleep every 90 minutes throughout eight hours. A person moves through four stages of sleep before they reach deep sleep. As the body sinks into deep sleep, body temperature drops, muscles relax and breathing and heart rate slow down. This time is also when the immune system gets a boost and body tissues regrow. Once a person enters the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, their body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure go back to normal waking levels. This stage is also when dreams occur. REM is useful for "cleaning" your brain and promotes emotional health, learning and memory.

When any of these stages get disrupted, your brain does not reap the full benefits of sleep. As a result, insomnia may amplify the effects of anxiety and make it more challenging to regulate emotions.

Overall, studies show good sleep promotes emotional and mental resilience. It's helpful to know you can alleviate anxiety symptoms by treating sleep problems.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety-Related Sleep Issues?

It is hard to say which comes first — insomnia or anxiety. Insomnia may increase the risk of developing GAD or another anxiety disorder, and anxiety can cause insomnia. Regardless of the cause, you may experience the following sleep anxiety symptoms:

  • Trouble falling asleep due to worrying about past or future events
  • Difficulties staying asleep or waking up too early due to worrying
  • Feeling overwhelmed about work, school or other responsibilities at bedtime
  • Experiencing a sense of overstimulation
  • Experiencing dread or panic about the inability to fall asleep

The Effects of Anxiety and Sleep Issues

Have you ever woken up feeling tired? If anxiety is preventing sleep, it can be frustrating and can make it hard to get through the day. If you have anxiety, you might feel even more anxious after a night of sleeplessness. Here are other ways anxiety and sleep issues impact life:

  • Lack of sleep and anxiety can affect work or school performance.
  • It may be hard to remember information or concentrate on tasks.
  • Sleep issues increase the risk of a delayed reaction, which could lead to an injury.
  • Sleep problems increase the risk of unhealthy behaviors such as eating sugary foods for energy or using alcohol to fall asleep.
  • Poor sleep can lead to severe health conditions and weaken the immune system.
  • You may feel more irritable when you have anxiety and can't sleep, which can impact relationships.
  • You may feel unable to cope with excessive worrying due to lack of sleep.
  • You may experience worse muscle tension.
  • Sleep issues and anxiety can make it feel more difficult to manage daily responsibilities.

Tips for Managing Anxiety-Related Sleep Issues

It's true anxiety-related sleep issues make an impact on mental, emotional and physical well-being. However, there are many ways to manage anxiety and get restful sleep. Once you experience a night of continuous sleep, you'll wake up feeling refreshed and strong. Here are some tips for reducing anxiety so you can feel relaxed when it's time for bed:

  • Exercise: Exercise is beneficial for your physical and emotional health. It helps you release energy and provides a surge of relaxing, mood-boosting endorphins. Do something you enjoy, like going for a scenic walk or dancing to uplifting music.
  • Breathe: Sometimes taking slow, deep breaths can help you feel instantly calm. There are many simple breathing exercises you can do anywhere, at any time of day.
  • Focus on your true priorities: If you have a seemingly endless to-do list, you may feel anxious and overwhelmed. Spend your time on the tasks that are truly meaningful and important to you, and save other tasks for later or eliminate them from the list. Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  • Listen to relaxing music: Listen to calming, soothing music to slow down your heart rate and feel more relaxed.
  • Redirect anxiety and stress: You do not have to keep anxious feelings inside — you can direct them outward in a positive way. You might do volunteer work to take your mind off your worries, or consider expressing your anxiety through art, writing or playing an instrument.
  • Talk about it: Sometimes, talking to someone you trust feels like taking a massive weight off your shoulders. Talk to a close friend or family member about your stress or anxiety. Consider speaking with a therapist to help you gain insight into your worries and see things in a new way.
  • Get adequate sleep: Getting enough sleep allows your brain to recharge. You'll experience an improved mood and be able to cope with life's stressors better when you get good sleep.

To get better sleep, try these steps:

  • Prioritize sleep: If you have anxiety, you may feel your worries need immediate attention. However, sleep is just as vital as eating and breathing. Make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
  • Develop a sleep schedule: Getting into a sleep routine will help you beat insomnia. Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. You might be tempted to catch up on sleep on your days off, but catching up does not eliminate the effects of sleep deprivation you experienced during the week. It's more important to get into a regular sleep schedule.
  • Establish a bedtime routine: Aim to enter a state of relaxation before going to bed. That means turning off the computer or TV and saving emails for the next day. To prepare for sleep, you might read a book, take a hot bath or listen to peaceful music.
  • Turn your bedroom into a cave: Design your bedroom to promote restful sleep. Keep it cool, dark and quiet. The best temperature for sleeping is generally between 60 and 67 degrees. If it's noisy outside your bedroom, consider using a fan or white noise machine to mask unwanted sounds. Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable, and if possible, use your bedroom only for sleeping.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is great for reducing anxiety and helping you sleep at night. Aim to exercise in the morning or afternoon for the most positive effects on sleep.
  • Avoid the clock: It is normal to want to check the clock every hour when it's hard to sleep. However, doing so will add to anxiety and can keep you awake even longer. Turn the clock away from you before bed, and avoid checking the time on your phone.
  • Go to bed only when you're sleepy: Avoid spending time in bed until you are ready for sleep. If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed, get up, go to a different room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
  • Spend time outdoors: Spending time in daylight will help you set a sleep pattern. If possible, try to spend 30 minutes a day in daylight. For example, you might go for a brisk walk during your lunch break to get exercise and a healthy dose of daylight.
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine: Try not to consume any stimulants such as coffee, chocolate or nicotine before bed. You might avoid caffeine altogether if you can, especially if you experience panic attacks. It can take as much as eight hours for caffeine to wear off.
  • Avoid eating or drinking a lot before bed: If possible, try to eat your last meal of the day at least three hours before going to bed, and try not to drink anything 90 minutes before bed. If you get thirsty, take a small sip of water. If you are worried hunger will keep you awake, aim to have a snack that is no more than 200 calories. You might have a small container of nonfat yogurt or a sliced apple with peanut butter.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat for Help

Using these and other strategies to manage anxiety and insomnia may help you develop a quality sleep routine. However, if you try the above tips and still find yourself lying awake worrying, try not to get discouraged. Great sleep and less anxiety are still within your reach. A mental health professional can help you to identify and cope with underlying issues.

Brookhaven Retreat is a women-only treatment center located in the peaceful foothills of the Smoky Mountains. At Brookhaven Retreat, we offer The Lily Program®, which is a customized mental health program for women. The Lily Program® begins with an individualized treatment plan designed to address your unique mental health needs. Our compassionate staff will help you gain insight and work through underlying problems.

As part of The Lily Program®, you may partake in individual therapy, group therapy and more for comprehensive treatment. We aim to help you grow and develop life-changing coping skills, so you can embrace who you are, no matter what has held you back before. To learn more about our treatment programs, reach out to us today.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat for help with anxiety sleep issues

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Friday, 14 December 2018 18:41

Signs of Anxiety in College Students

On college campuses across the nation, psychological health is a growing concern. Most universities provide mental health clinics where students can receive help if needed, but not everyone takes advantage of these opportunities. One of the most pressing mental health concerns among college students is anxiety. About 40 percent of students on campus struggle with some form of anxiety. Anxious feelings can be natural. After all, between finals, presentations in front of your class and concerns about the future, nervousness and stress are bound to crop up from time to time.

However, there reaches a point when anxiety becomes a real concern, as it can affect a student's ability to function and enjoy life. Thankfully, there are mental health resources that can help alleviate anxiety and allow students to cope. But first, students, friends and family need to look out for warning signs that anxiety has become too much and requires intervention.

6 Signs That a College Student Has Anxiety

Anxiety is more than just feelings of stress or anxiousness. It is a mental health disorder that can stem from genetics, biochemistry and even stressful life events. More than 40 million adults 18 years and older have an anxiety disorder, but that number may even be greater as some people don't recognize the signs that they struggle with anxiety.

What differentiates stress, which is common to almost everyone and perfectly normal, and an actual anxiety disorder? If you're a college student, here are six signs to look out for that could indicate you've crossed the line and may have an anxiety disorder:

  1. Excessive worry: This is often the hallmark of anxiety. Excessive means you worry too much about everyday things, both large and small. But how much is too much? A good rule of thumb is when you have persistent anxious thoughts most days out of the week for more than a few months.
  2. Difficulty sleeping: Whether it's trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, anxiety can cause chronic sleeplessness. You could find yourself agitated about school or nothing in particular, but many of those who have an anxiety disorder have difficulty sleeping.
  3. Physical symptoms: Although anxiety starts in the mind, it can manifest in physical symptoms felt throughout your body. The most common of these are digestive issues, muscle tension, rapid heart rate, dizziness, sweating, shaking and even difficulties breathing.
  4. Episodes of panic: A panic attack can be a terrifying event. These episodes cause you to feel intense fear and helplessness accompanied by physical side effects like dizziness, chest pain, numb or tingling hands and difficulty breathing. However, not everyone with anxiety has panic attacks.
  5. Compulsive behavior and obsessive thoughts: Even if you don't have obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is a type of anxiety disorder, many people with anxiety struggle with repeated, unwanted thoughts or actions. OCD can be hard to spot as there are a number of different ways that it can manifest.
  6. Avoidance of social situations: Anxiety can be provoked by feeling uncomfortable in everyday situations like meeting someone new, making small talk or even eating in front of a small group of people. These feelings lead some people with anxiety to avoid social situations.

Brookhaven Retreat Can Help Women With Anxiety

If you're a woman in college experiencing severe anxiety, this disorder can make it difficult to perform daily activities, causing your school performance to suffer. It's okay to admit you need help. That's why Brookhaven Retreat is here. We offer support to women struggling with mental health disorders like severe anxiety. We provide a safe environment where you can learn techniques to cope with these symptoms so you can continue to thrive at school.

If you feel that you may need help with severe anxiety, we invite you to contact us today to find out more about our mental health services. We are a residential women-only mental health retreat that offers individualized treatment plans for longlasting recovery.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Quiet. Shy. Introverted. These are words we often use to describe those who prefer to take a backseat when it comes to social situations. But these words can also be a mask to hide an underlying psychological issue — social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Social anxiety disorder is more than just being nervous or uncomfortable in unfamiliar environments or when meeting new people. After all, everyone experiences this at one time or another. For those with this common mental disorder, it goes a step further.

How Social Anxiety Can Impact Romantic Relationships

SAD causes you to experience intense stress and even physical side effects like muscle tension or a rapid heartbeat in a variety of different social situations. Unfortunately, social anxiety can also have a toll on romantic relationships, but there is hope. With compassion and understanding, both those who struggle with SAD and their partner can cultivate a loving and lasting relationship.

Although everyone's social anxiety is different, here are some common ways that it can impact relationships:

  • Difficulties trusting
  • Less perceived support
  • Viewing their partner as overly critical
  • Attempting to control partner to reduce their own insecurities
  • Demonstrating clinginess or jealousy
  • Shutting down and refuses to talk about issues
  • Holding back parts of themselves to avoid rejection
  • Developing negative forms of communication like criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
  • Pushing their partner away or sabotaging the relationship

For those in a romantic relationship with someone who has social anxiety, they often have a difficult time understanding where their partner is coming from. They may experience feelings of rejection or hurt because they don't understand why they're being pushed away.

However, if you keep the above warning signs in mind, you both can focus on creating an honest relationship. It will be based on the foundation of open communication as you discuss how the disorder has impacted you both.

Six Tips for Developing Healthy Relationships When You Have Social Anxiety

If you are addressing your social anxiety disorder and receiving treatment, then there's no reason why you can't create a healthy romantic relationship with the right person. Here are six tips that may help you foster a healthy relationship when you have social anxiety:

  1. Address Issues Immediately: When you have a concern you leave unsaid, negative feelings can develop — which could lead to harsh criticism and an unnecessary conflict. Even though it may be uncomfortable, it's important to be completely honest about your feelings and discuss issues, rather than just ignoring them.
  2. Discuss What's Important to You: If you've spent most of your life feeling like you were fading into the background, you may not be used to expressing how you feel. But knowing and understanding someone is the foundation of intimacy. Just start small with what you really think about something, like your food preferences or other lifestyle choices, and let it build from there.
  3. Learn to Embrace Your Own Uniqueness: There's a reason your partner is with you. Don't undermine this by devaluing yourself. Learn to see yourself as the worthwhile person you are, with your own personality and unique insights. When you love yourself, you are better able to recognize what you have to offer your relationship.
  4. Assume the Best About a Situation: It's never safe to assume what someone else is thinking or feeling, and that's especially true in relationships. Your anxiety may cause you to assume the absolute worst without provocation, but that's often unfair to your partner. When a negative assumption pops into your mind, confront it immediately and choose to replace it with a positive thought unitl you can get more information if needed.
  5. Keep Communication Open: There are many aspects of your social anxiety your partner will not understand unless you communicate them. You may have triggers that cause you to feel a certain way and that cause you stress. Explaining these to your partner will not only help them understand, but it will also give them the opportunity to help you.
  6. Focus on the Here and Now: Social anxiety can cause you to over-analyze the past and dread the future. Avoid this by focusing on what's happening right now. Enjoy and embrace your relationship as it is in the present.

It's Okay to Ask for Help

Proper treatment is key when you have social anxiety disorder. If you're looking for methods of preserving your relationships and if you're finding it difficult, that's okay. Mental health professionals can help you learn healthy approaches that will allow you to create a lasting relationship.

Brookhaven Retreat is here to offer a safe place where women who are dealing with mental health issues can find compassionate care and guidance. Admitting you need help may be what your relationship needs to stay on track. Reach out to us today to get more information.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Each year, millions of Americans struggle with mental health issues. Among the vast spectrum of challenging health conditions, depression and anxiety are two common struggles that impact the day-to-day quality of life for young adults. Anxiety affects over 40 million people over the age of 18. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for someone who has an anxiety disorder to also face depression and vice versa. These commonly co-occurring disorders often influence one another and create more hurdles for those afflicted to overcome.

One quarter of teens show symptoms of depression

Adolescents are especially at risk for developing these disorders. Nearly one-quarter of teens will show symptoms of depression by the age of 18. This depression during teenage years can carry on to college years if not addressed.

Depressed college students are twice as likely to drop out of school as their peers. The fact is that many universities and collegiate facilities are recognizing that the effects of depression and anxiety have a negative impact on academic performance.

Can Depression and Anxiety Affect Academic Performance?

Depression and anxiety can impact any aspect of a person's life including their academic performance. The number of college students seeking help for their mental health afflictions hitting record highs. Students seeking out counselling centers have dramatically increased over the last decade and is exponentially higher than the rate of increases in enrollment. Students surveyed said that their depressive symptoms made it hard to function and reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. Many of these students are also more likely to harm themselves or attempt suicide.

Mental health disorders aren't simply changes in emotional states. The varying, ongoing symptoms of each unique disorder directly affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Factors like inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth and brain chemistry can contribute to these illnesses. Additional risk factors could increase the likelihood that these conditions may develop. These include having a family history of mental health issues, undergoing a stressful or traumatic experience, substance abuse, lacking social bonds or other chronic medical conditions, and can cause significant complications throughout all aspects of your life.

Transition from highschool

Although these conditions can appear at any age throughout a person's life, the fact is that young adults are vulnerable to developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The transition from high school to college forces many students to face challenges, pressures and conflicts that they may have never been confronted with at home. These new social, academic and financial struggles can trigger or reveal depression and anxiety in some young adults. Some can overcome these symptoms on their own. Others require professional intervention.

The symptoms of mental health disorders do more than merely distract a student from focusing on their studies. Psychological disorders can disrupt cognitive functioning and reduce intellectual performance. Cognitive dysfunction is believed to have a strong correlation with mental health diagnoses like depression and anxiety. These conditions can significantly alter cognitive functioning, particularly memory retention and the absorption of knowledge. With such a profound influence, it's no surprise that these disorders negatively impact the academic performance of college students. Depression and anxiety directly impact the ability to learn.

How Depression and Anxiety Affect Your Ability to Learn

Studies have shown that there is a link between depression, anxiety and lower academic performance. Mental health conditions can affect college students at any level. In assessing groups of students in varying years, first-year students reported increased instances of self-harm and suicide consideration while upperclassmen reported more significant impacts on their academic performance due to their mental health afflictions. Students, educators and mental health professionals agree that there is a concerning prevalence of mental health issues that impact the lives and academic performance of college-aged individuals.

Mental health issues impact learning

Though some may be quick to categorize depression and anxiety as emotional afflictions, it should not be ignored that these two conditions have a profound impact on cognitive functioning. Research shows that emotion and motivation create two psychological processes that have dramatic influence over cognition and behavior. More specifically, when emotion and cognition interact negatively, this can increase the likelihood of the manifestation of anxiety and depression-related symptoms. These conditions are also associated with deficits in executive function like memory retention, focus and adjusting behavior based on environment.

How Anxiety Impacts Academic Performance

Stress is a common feeling many people experience when faced with a range of situations. This biological response can be positive or negative and typically is experienced for a short period. In an academic context, the stress experienced when studying for a test may help an individual enhance their focus and achieve a higher test score. In contrast, negative stress can cause an individual to have an upset stomach before an exam because they are worried about their performance.

Anxiety may have similar symptoms, however, these symptoms are often enhanced and continue for long periods of time. While stress can motivate a person to overcome a challenge, anxiety is an intense and sometimes irrational feeling of worry that can become debilitating. Anxiety can cause an individual to become physically sick or severely distraught at the thought of taking a test, giving a presentation or other academic activities. Instead of triggering a biological response that can enhance academic performance, anxiety causes physical and mental symptoms that can dramatically inhibit cognitive functioning.

Anxiety's impact on learning activities

Physiological symptoms among students experiencing anxiety include:

  • Feeling cold or chills
  • Increased nervousness or panicking
  • Sweaty palms
  • Stomach pain or discomfort
  • Significantly increased heart rate
  • Quickened breathing

Psychological symptoms among students experiencing anxiety include:

  • An absence of interest in an area of academia which they perceive as difficult
  • Increased nervousness before engaging in formal academic classes
  • Experiencing significant panic
  • Going "blank" while taking examinations
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless when completing assignments

How Depression Impacts School Performance

There are many periods in life during which a person will feel sadness. For college-aged adolescents, sadness may be triggered by homesickness, academic failures, the death of a loved one or the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Those who experience sadness are typically able to still function normally in their daily lives. This sadness usually lasts for a short period and is accepted, reconciled and moved on from. 

Like anxiety, depression is a common mental health disorder that takes on many forms with varying severities. Unlike sadness, depression significantly alters parts of the brain. Though sadness can be felt during depression, some may not feel it at all. Instead, they may experience other symptoms that interfere with their daily lives on a long-term basis. This illness can present a range of physical and mental symptoms and is a prevalent condition among college-aged students.

Physiological symptoms among college students experiencing depression may include:

  • Abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Drastic changes in appetite or weight
  • Physical pain like muscular discomfort or headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia or oversleeping

Psychological symptoms among college students experiencing depression may include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies, activities or social engagements
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Engaging in self-harm or attempting suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating on homework assignments or in class
  • Difficulty retaining information read in textbooks or learned in class
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism about academic future
  • Feelings of isolation or helplessness

The Impact of Depression and Anxiety Disorders on Cognition

Depression and anxiety alone or as co-occurring disorders can dramatically affect an individual's academic performance. These diseases can hinder the brain's ability to think, understand, learn and remember information. Studies show that stress, depression and anxiety experienced by college students of varying years have had a negative impact on their academic success.

Negative impact on college performance

Areas in which these mental health conditions can negatively affect cognition include:

  • Memory retention
  • Memory retrieval
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Ability to learn

Impaired Memory Retention and Retrieval From Depression and Anxiety

Both anxiety and depression can lead to problems with memory. Research suggests that while those with depression might be able to retain memories, they may find it difficult to discern specific identifiable details. For instance, though they may be able to determine whether or not they had seen a set of objects before, they may be unable to distinguish one set of objects from another set that possesses similar identifying features. This may be because those with depression have a smaller hippocampus, the memory processor of the brain.

Though it is suggested that anxiety in certain contexts can help an individual remember a situation with greater detail, too much anxiety can have the opposite effect. High anxiety can cause an individual to lose focus on their surroundings and shut out all external observations. It can also influence the perception and memory of events in a negative way. For example, because an individual is in a negative state of mind they may internalize neutral stimuli with a negative bias.

Chronic stress and anxiety may also cause brain inflammation that results in short-term memory loss. In a study, mice exposed to long-term stress had inflamed hippocampus regions that created memory loss. These stresses parallel the traumatic anxieties that some individuals feel. If a college student is constantly in a state of high anxiety or panic, it may cause them to compromise their short-term memory even after brain inflammation has subsided. This could cause weeks' worth of behavior and memory problems for those facing pressures of collegiate academia.

Short-term memory loss

Anxiety and Depression's Influence on Problem-Solving and Learning Abilities

Both problem-solving skills and the general absorption of knowledge are affected by anxiety through the ineffectiveness of working memory. The working memory is the brain's short-term memory system that enables an individual to retain information while actively solving a problem. When debilitating amounts of anxiety force this system to operate inefficiently, working memory capacity suffers. Without a reliable working memory, an individual will find it difficult to successfully accomplish a task. This anxiety could cause an individual to be unable to use complex problem-solving skills in school and life.

Though many people have learning disabilities, there are a substantial number of people who have legitimate mathematic anxieties. By actively avoiding the emotional strife that occurs when trying to accomplish mathematical tasks, an individual can overload and disrupt their working memory. Mathematics anxiety is considered separate from test or generalized anxiety, though it may have some correlation. This anxiety interferes with the ability to solve mathematical problems in academia and real-life applications.

Depression can cause individuals to experience increased risks of academic underachievement. Studies have shown that depression in adolescents can lead to cognitive impairment and social dysfunction which directly impacts academic performance. Symptoms like fatigue, hopelessness, stress and physical pains can make it difficult for an individual to function in an academic environment, decreasing their ability to successfully learn. Depression and anxiety have caused many college students to drop out, withdraw or shift to a part-time schedule which negatively extends their academic careers.

Signs That Depression and Anxiety May Be Impacting Your School Performance

Those faced with depression and anxiety in their late adolescence may not realize that their symptoms are having a negative impact on their academic performance. During times of difficulty throughout our lives, we may feel overwhelmed with stress or burdened with sadness. The transition from early adolescence to adulthood is a significant milestone that can affect mental health, especially for those adjusting to life in college. Some individuals may not realize that negative changes in their mental health during this transition are actually symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Life changes can affect mental health

Many mental health disorders do not necessarily display overt physical signs or symptoms of affliction. Depression and anxiety, separately or together, may cause you to feel a variety of physical, emotional and mental symptoms. You may experience negative feelings or behave in new ways. Your symptoms of one mental health issue could actually be related to another and one individual may display symptoms that are different than another's.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are unsure if depression and anxiety are impacting your academic performance:

  • • Are your grades dropping significantly because you are unable to focus on your schoolwork?
  • Are you feeling sad, empty or hopeless regularly?
  • Do you get very angry, frustrated or irritated for any reason, even small instances that shouldn't normally cause this turmoil?
  • Have you lost interest or enjoyment in the hobbies or activities that used to make you happy?
  • Are you sleeping too much, unable to fall asleep or experiencing nightmares or discomfort that constantly wakes you up?
  • Do you often feel exhausted or have a constant lack of energy that makes it difficult to complete even small daily tasks?
  • Has your appetite changed so drastically that you are either not hungry and losing weight or constantly hungry and gaining weight?
  • Do you feel overstressed, restless or agitated on a regular basis?
  • Do you find yourself acting, speaking or thinking slower than normal?
  • Are you experiencing headaches, backaches or other physical pain that you can't explain?
  • Do you sometimes feel that you're worthless, do you fixate on past failures or feel guilty about events that aren't your fault?
  • Do you have thoughts of death and suicide or have you considered or attempted suicide?

If you answered yes to all, some or even one of these questions, you may be unknowingly suffering from depression and anxiety. Even if you don't believe that your studies are the root of your issues, any mental affliction could cause you to underperform at school. Remember, depression and anxiety impact cognitive functioning which can create difficulty in all aspects of your life including memory retention, memory retrieval, problem-solving abilities and the ability to absorb information and learn.

Seeking Treatment for Depression and Anxiety Can Improve Performance

Depression and anxiety are serious mental health issues that present individuals with a number of physical, emotional and cognitive challenges which are often difficult to overcome. Thankfully, there are many forms of treatment available that cater to the many variations of depression and anxiety, both separately and together. Many of these psychotherapies involve talk-based therapy sessions in which an individual and their counselor discuss the struggles, feelings and thoughts that manifest during episodes of depression and panic. Therapy options for college students with depression and anxiety can range from one-on-one sessions to group therapy sessions.

Getting help for anxiety and depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy is regarded as one of the most effective treatment option for those suffering from generalized anxiety disorders. CBT seeks to help individuals become their own therapists by developing coping skills and learning to change their negative patterns of thought, emotion and behavior. Instead of focusing on past events, CBT addresses the current issues an individual is facing and focuses on helping them move forward via healthy coping strategies. The individual will ideally help themselves through their anxiety by applying these learned behaviors during stressful situations.

Medications may also be used in conjunction with therapies depending on the treatment plan outlined for each particular individual. A mental health professional can help to determine the best course of treatment based on the individual's needs.

These treatments may help them manage stress and cope with depression in healthy ways, regain their focus, compartmentalize their problems, increase their self-confidence when faced with adversity and improve their academic performance.

Overcoming Anxiety and Depression at Brookhaven Retreat for Women

Depression and anxiety are powerful mental afflictions that can negatively impact, disrupt and damage many facets of your life. Though stress and sadness are natural parts of life, anxiety and depression are medical illnesses that can severely harm your physical, mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, choosing to cope with these problems by self-medicating with alcohol, substance abuse, co-dependent relationships, isolation, anger or binge-eating is not an effective solution, but one that many college students turn to. To emotionally heal and move forward successfully, many people require compassionate support and professional treatment.

Brookhaven Retreat is a safe and caring facility where women can find serenity and support. As one of the most innovative mental health retreats for women in the country, we offer 90-day treatment programs that address issues with mental health, substance abuse and emotional strife. We provide comprehensive recovery for those who need assistance regaining control of their lives and rediscovering who they truly are.

If you're experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety as you continue your transition into college, know that you're not alone. The experts at Brookhaven Retreat are here to help you progress from adolescence to adulthood in healthy, positive ways that do not impede your academic performance. Call us today and let us help you resolve these issues so that you can progress forward into a life of happiness and success.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat for Help

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Stress is a common occurrence. Most people experience mild levels of stress every day, which is completely normal. You're running late, traffic is horrible, the kids are fighting — a million and one different things can cause stress levels to rise. However, some people experience more than these normal levels of stress. Although stress and anxiety overlap in many respects, anxiety is a chronic and recurrent condition.

There are a number of common signs that most recognize as side effects of anxiety, a few symptoms are less well know and less common. This means you might not even know that you have an anxiety disorder. Below are some uncommon anxiety symptoms.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety affects millions of Americans. This mental health disorder is characterized by how it makes patients feel on a regular basis. Worry, anxiety or even fear plague their life and can often interfere with daily activities. Most of the time, those who have anxiety often experience physical, cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with the disorder. This includes:

  • Nervousness or fear
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Constant worrying
  • Panic attacks
  • Cold sweats
  • Trembling

Harder-to-Recognize Anxiety Symptoms

Although most people can recognize their anxiety symptoms, other side effects of the disorder are more surprising and thus harder to pinpoint. If you are struggling with any of the following physical signs, they could be warnings that you have an untreated anxiety disorder:

1. Tense Muscles

If you've had anxiety for a while, you may not notice that your muscles are always tense. Many of those with anxiety disorders unconsciously flex their muscles, ball their fists or even clench their jaw. Exercise is a great way to relieve this tension, as well as long, hot showers.

2. Ongoing Stomach Issues

Sometimes it's not what you eat that causes an upset stomach. The gut is extremely sensitive to stress, and anxiety disorders can lead to reoccurring stomach issues or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

3. Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath can be a warning sign of a serious medical disorder like asthma, allergies, pneumonia, emphysema or even heart conditions. However, it can also indicate that you may be struggling with anxiety. When people panic or grapple with stress, this can lead to hyperventilation, which is when you exhale more than you inhale. This means you are getting less oxygen in your blood, causing your blood vessels to narrow. Anxiety-related breathing difficulties also can also lead to tingling in your fingers or lightheadedness.

4. Skin Problems

When your body undergoes high levels of stress, as it does with anxiety, it often releases more hormones like cortisol. This can cause the glands under your skin to secrete more oil. When excess oil is caught in hair follicles, acne is a common result. The chemicals produced by your body under stress can lead to additional skin issues as well, like increased sensitivity, inflammation and other discomforts.

5. Hair Loss

Losing your hair is a common way your body reacts to stress. There may be three root causes tied to stress-related hair loss:

  • Telogen effluvium: Increased stress causes hair follicles to go into their resting phase making it easier for hair to fall out while shampooing or combing it.
  • Trichotillomania: A compulsive urge that is tied to anxiety where people pull hair from their scalp, eyebrows or other areas.
  • Alopecia areata: Believed to be caused by stress, this is when the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair loss.

Don't Struggle With Anxiety Alone

If you recognize that you are suffering from any of these symptoms, then you may have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder — but you do not have to struggle with it alone. Seek help from a professional.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat to find out more about our women's only facility where you can get help for your anxiety symptoms from caring and compassionate professionals.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Anxiety often comes on slowly, but it can become a debilitating issue and a heavy burden to bear alone. One of the most common types of anxiety is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.

Although people with the disorder may feel alone, Generalized Anxiety Disorder actually affects over 6 million people in the United States, or around 3% of the adult population.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by six months or more of persistent worrying, along with other symptoms of GAD, which may include insomnia, fatigue, headaches and many others.

GAD is a chronic illness that requires no provocation, and those with GAD often feel a loss in control. They cannot stop worrying, even if they realize their fears are unrealistic. People with GAD constantly fret over pending disasters, health issues, money, family and work. Those with mild GAD are usually able to hold a job and fit in socially without problems, but some can find it difficult to complete even day-to-day tasks and cope with the uncertainty of everyday life.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

This type of anxiety is characterized by consistent worrying throughout the day. The focus of these fears can easily shift from one subject to another and do not necessary concentrate on only one topic alone. One sign of having GAD is frequently imagining the worst-case scenarios, leading to indecisiveness due to fear of making the wrong decision.

People diagnosed with GAD tend to be easily irritated, startle suddenly, have trouble focusing, are restless, and have difficulty sleeping.

In addition to these mental and emotional GAD symptoms, some common physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Trembling/twitching
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Hot flashes
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Diarrhea/irritable bowel syndrome
  • Insomnia

This disorder is often seen with other mental health disorders and substance abuse. Co-occurring disorders may include:

  • Phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • PTSD
  • OCD
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Substance abuse

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Causes

Many factors are thought to play a part in causing GAD, including genetics, past experiences, brain chemistry, personality and development. Research suggests that it may be triggered by the amygdala, which initiates a fear response in the brain. While this has not yet been proven, we do know that genetics and experiences interact to cause anxiety and affect the way threats are perceived and processed in the brain.

Some people may be more likely than others to develop GAD, including those who:

  • Have a family history of anxiety disorders
  • Had past negative experiences, sudden life changes or recent traumatic events
  • Have other medical or mental illnesses

Getting Treatment for GAD

There are a number of options available for GAD treatment. These include:

  • Medication: Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are regularly used to treat GAD. The use of medication will depend on the needs of the individual along with any other co-occurring conditions such as depression or substance abuse.
  • Therapy: Therapy is another common treatment for GAD, including psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Psychotherapy gives people with GAD a way to talk about the fears in a safe environment with a professional so that they can begin to work through them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has also shown to help change individual thinking patterns, the way people with GAD react to stressful situations and allows individuals to confront these fears in a safe environment. In some cases, group therapy is also helpful.

Contact Brookhaven Retreat for Help Today

If you or someone you know may be suffering from GAD, don’t be afraid to ask for help. At Brookhaven Retreat, we specialize in mental health treatment for women. We offer individualized treatment programs from caring professionals at our beautiful private treatment facility in Tennessee.

We understand that you may feel a loss of control, and we want to help put your life back in your hands. Contact us today!

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 06:00

Anxiety: What Is Panic Disorder?

Anxiety is not just something you experience before making a big presentation at work or attending a high-profile social event. Some people experience anxiety when they are not at great risk of injury or embarrassment, and it can cause them to change the way they live their lives. When anxiety or panic attacks become frequent, debilitating and life-altering, there could be an underlying mental health disorder.

What Is Panic Disorder?

Panic Disorder is a form of anxiety that manifests in the acute onset of physical and emotional symptoms. An overwhelming sense of anxiety or panic can come on at any time, even when there is no danger. Sometimes Panic Disorder begins with the experience of a trauma. After that, any time you are faced with the potential of repeating that trauma, a panic attack occurs. It is part of your brain’s way of protecting you from a potentially bad experience.

The symptoms of fear or anxiety are a natural way for your body to prepare to fight off danger or flee from a dangerous situation. Anxiety turns to panic and becomes a disorder when it happens frequently and takes control of your life. Avoiding daily activities or social situations because they will spark a panic attack can keep you from fully enjoying your life.

Symptoms of a Panic Disorder

A Panic Disorder is more than just excessive nervousness. It can be very uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. The overwhelming sense of fear tends to extend beyond the current situation and can encompass your entire self-concept.

These are some of the common symptoms of a panic attack:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fear of dying
  • Hot flashes
  • Shallow breathing
  • Tremors
  • Fear of going crazy
  • Excessive sweating

The emotional ramifications of a panic attack can be related to a trigger incident, like an accident or abuse. A panic attack may be part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in which you are unable to process the emotions resulting from a trauma in the past. Certain sounds or locations may trigger a panic attack even years after the trauma is over.

A panic attack can also remind you that your life was forever changed by what you experienced. You may not be able to walk in the park or enjoy dinner with friends because of the fear you still feel. Panic Disorder can have limiting affects on the way you live your life and how you think about yourself. Some people are ashamed to admit they suffer from a Panic Disorder, and this further erodes their self-esteem.

Panic Disorder Treatment

There are different treatment options for Panic Disorder. In some cases, the underlying trauma must be understood and addressed. You may not know why you experience panic attacks, but a mental health practitioner can help you figure it out.

Ultimately, Panic Disorder is the result of erroneous thought patterns. You believe that if you go to a certain place or participate in a certain activity, something bad will happen to you, either physically or emotionally. Your brain associates a trigger with an outcome that is often unlikely.

Treatment for Panic Disorder involves changing those thought patterns, so you will not experience the fear and anxiety that keeps you from enjoying your life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one form of psychotherapy that works to change thoughts and behaviors.

What Causes Panic Disorder

The exact cause of Panic Disorder is unknown. There are a few reasons why your fight or flight response may kick in when it is not necessary. Panic Disorder can run in families, making subsequent generations more susceptible to experiencing extreme anxiety.

Environment also plays a part in developing Panic Disorder. When the circumstances of your life are tenuous and frequently changing without warning, you are more likely to develop Panic Disorder. People who experience trauma, especially in childhood may be more likely to suffer from Panic Disorder as well. Also, if you are in a relationship with someone addicted to alcohol or drugs, or you have an addiction yourself, Panic Disorder can develop.

Panic Disorder Treatment for Women

You can be predisposed to Panic Disorder as a result of physical or sexual abuse. These types of traumas can make you feel weak and vulnerable. One way your brain has to protect you from dangerous situations in the future is to activate your fight or flight response to keep you from trying new things or reaching out to form new relationships.

Healing the emotions of a past trauma is often the place to start in treating Panic Disorder. The women-only environment at Brookhaven Retreat facilitates this type of healing. We understand the unique experience of trauma and how difficult it can be for women to talk about their feelings of anger and vulnerability. Our safe, comfortable residential treatment facility provides the professional and peer support you need to change your life.

If you experience anxiety attacks and think you may have Panic Disorder, contact Brookhaven Retreat today for a professional diagnosis and individualized treatment plan.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Natural disasters affect millions of people every year. Earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires, hurricanes and tsunamis are catastrophic events that destroy homes and lives. While we can prepare for natural disasters and predict them to some extent, nothing can completely stop them from happening.

Statistics tend to count up the lives lost and economic devastation of these events, but it is less easy to quantify the psychological impact of a disaster. The people left in the wake of these events have lost homes, loved ones and sometimes an entire way of life. People are resilient — they begin to pick up the pieces of their lives and rebuild, but that doesn’t mean the effects of a natural disaster don’t linger.

Hard to quantify effect of natural disasters

The Psychological Effects of Natural Disasters on Mental Health

Trauma can profoundly change a person. Living through the destruction of your home and maybe even the loss of people you love will often have an impact on your mental health. Here are three of the most common psychological effects of disasters on human life:

1. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Anyone who has experienced a life-threatening or terrifying event can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A natural disaster certainly qualifies as a traumatic, life-threatening experience. PTSD can manifest immediately after such an event or develop much later. It can resolve within a few months or last for years — every person is different. Symptoms of PTSD are categorized into different groups:

  • Arousal: Continually struggling to control your startle reflexes is an example of an arousal symptom. A lingering tension that you cannot seem to shake can be another type of this symptom.
  • Avoidance: Avoidance symptoms are just how they sound. If you avoid thinking about the experience you had or even physically avoid things that will remind you of the event, you could be suffering from PTSD.
  • Mood: Mood symptoms include struggling with feelings of guilt and struggling to maintain the same level of interest and enjoyment in your life.
  • Re-Experience: Re-experiencing symptoms, such as reliving the experience through your thoughts or dreams, are potentially the most recognizable symptoms of PTSD. This is also often referred to as having flashbacks of the event.

2. Depression

Depression is a common mental health issue that can arise following a traumatic event, although depression does not have to be related to trauma. Additional factors like genetics and other health issues can be contributing factors.

Depression can be accompanied by a wide variety of different symptoms. You might experience lingering sadness, restlessness, issues concentrating, problems sleeping or an overall feeling of hopelessness. Depression can even cause physical symptoms like changes in weight or pain.

Symptoms and their severity will be different for every person. Depression is typically diagnosed when symptoms last for more than a few weeks.

3. Anxiety

Anxiety is a natural feeling that everyone experiences at various points in their lives. As a mental health issue, anxiety is a persistent issue with a variety of symptoms. Anxiety comes in many different forms such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Anxiety can develop anytime, but it’s one of the most common mental health issues to arise after experiencing the trauma of a natural disaster.

Generalized anxiety disorder has symptoms such as constantly feeling on edge or afraid, difficulty sleeping, muscle pain, fatigue and lack of ability to concentrate. Panic disorder may have some of these symptoms, but this mental health issue is characterized by panic attacks. During a panic attack, you might feel your heart race, experience shaking hands or have difficulty breathing.

Signs of PTSD Caused By a Disaster

Anyone who experiences a natural disaster is going to react differently. Feelings of helplessness, anger and sorrow will be common, if not universal. But how do you know if you’ve developed PTSD after a natural disaster?

Flashbacks are one of the strongest indicators of PTSD after natural disasters. Do you find your thoughts constantly being drawn back to what you witnessed during the event? Flashbacks are more than mere memories — they’re intense, vivid thoughts that you cannot control. They’re often accompanied by physical symptoms like a racing heart, sweating and shaking.

Following a natural disaster and all the devastation it brings in its wake, you might find yourself constantly afraid it will happen again. If these feelings are intense and persistent, this might be another sign of PTSD.

The signs of PTSD can be more subtle. You might have trouble sleeping, eating and concentrating. You might find you’re withdrawing from the people you care about, or that you’re being unaccountably irritable or aggressive. These symptoms are commonly associated with anxiety and depression, as well as PTSD.

Mental health issues are rarely cut and dry. The symptoms might be subtle, or they might be very apparent. You could be suffering from more than one problem. Having PTSD doesn’t mean you can’t be grappling with anxiety and depression, as well.

PTSD along with depression & anxiety

Psychological Effects of an Earthquake

Earthquakes are one of the most common natural disasters. Earthquakes can happen anywhere, but are much more likely to occur along fault lines. For example, the majority of earthquakes happen within the area nicknamed the "Ring of Fire," which encompasses the west coast of the United States, South America, Central America, the southwestern Pacific and more.

Earthquakes can cause an incredible amount of damage, particularly in densely populated areas. The movement of the earth can cause the collapse and complete destruction of buildings. Fires and floods can occur as damns, pipelines and power lines are damaged during the natural disaster. Landslides and tsunamis can follow in the wake of an earthquake. If an earthquake is strong enough, damage to property is just one outcome. People can lose their lives, too. Survivors can be left homeless and grieving for lost loved ones. The trauma this causes is significant.

When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, the earthquake left more than 8,000 people dead. A total of 8 million people were affected by the aftermath of the natural disaster. Just this year, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Mexico, inflicting serious damage on Mexico City and causing the deaths of 119 people.

8 million people affected

Suffering from PTSD after an earthquake would hardly be unusual considering what the people who experience them go through during and after such an event.

Psychological Effects of Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Flooding

Earthquakes are just one type of natural disaster. Others, like hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding, can cause just as much devastation. Hurricanes come with gale force winds and extremely powerful waves that can sweep everything a person holds dear away in minutes. Similarly, tornadoes and floods can tear through homes and leave an unrecognizable landscape behind.

Each of these natural disasters can take lives. The people who do survive are left to rebuild, sometimes from the ground up. Hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding can devastate infrastructure. Two months later, Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover weeks after Hurricane Maria hit. The people on the island don’t have power, and most don’t have access to running water. Food and supplies are scarce.

Just weeks before Maria hit, Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean and the southwestern coast of the United States. The storm affected 70,000 square miles and necessitated the evacuation of millions of people. People are still trying to rebuild their lives following Irma and the preceding Hurricane Harvey. Nearly a decade later, New Orleans is still working on fully rebuilding following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

70,000 sq miles affected

Hurricanes and other natural disasters of this magnitude cause billions of dollars in damage and years of recovery. The people who live through that trauma must come to terms with what they lost, whether it’s the home they’ve spent years creating, loved ones or both.

Communities still struggle years after such an event, and that struggle extends all the way down to the individual level. The slow pace of recovery can cast a long shadow on anyone’s mental health. Anxiety, depression or PTSD could develop as people try to put their lives back together following the ruin caused by a hurricane, flood or tornado.

Psychological Effects of Wildfires

Hurricanes and earthquakes tend to take center stage when people discuss natural disasters, but there other natural disasters, like fire, that can be just as traumatic. Wildfires are a natural part of a forest's life cycle, but if that fire rages out of control, it can spread to where people live. Fires can destroy businesses, homes and lives in rapid succession.

Losing so much so quickly can trigger strong emotions. People often experience grief, anger and an overwhelming sense of helplessness. Some people survive the fire, but with severe injuries caused by burns. This can cause even more emotional stress to bear. Living with severe burns entails a grueling physical and psychological recovery process. Patients may fall prey to anxiety and depression. PTSD related to the event is also not unusual.

Wildfires have been raging in California resulting in emergency evacuations and the destruction of dozens of homes. Wildfires have also been racing through Montana, burning more than 1 million acres of land. Many people who live in those areas have been forced to abandon their property to save their lives. Homes and businesses can always be rebuilt, but that doesn’t mean the cost — both financial and psychological — isn’t extremely high.

High cost of financial disasters

Tips for Recovering from Trauma After a Natural Disaster

Anytime people experience a traumatic event, they need time to process what happened, grieve and recover. Natural disasters are no exception. Here are six tips for coping with natural disasters and their psychological impact:

1. Give Yourself Time to Mourn

Natural disasters can leave a gaping hole in people's lives. Where there was once a home, a business, a spouse, a friend, a coworker — now there is nothing. Suffering such a blow is never easy. You may feel numb or completely overwhelmed. You might suffer from survivor's guilt. You might wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover fully and rebuild your life. These feelings are common reactions to major trauma, and knowing you’re not alone doesn’t always make the experience easier.

Remember to allow yourself the space and time to mourn. It doesn’t matter whether someone has lost more than you. This doesn’t mean you’re selfish for grieving what has been taken from your life.

Take time and space to mourn

Grieving is a different process for everyone. The way you grieve may be different from someone else, but it’s important to make communication a part of your process. Write down how you feel. Talk to the people who you care about.

Don’t berate yourself for needing time to feel the loss of a loved one or your home. Instead, offer yourself patience and understanding. Processing and experiencing grief is about taking small steps. Don’t expect to wake up one day free of grief — take each day as it comes. As clichéd as it may sound, grief takes time. Give yourself that time without judgment.

2. Work With the Community to Rebuild

Helplessness is one of the strongest feelings you might have following a natural disaster. There is nothing you could’ve done to stop nature from taking its course. Instead of allowing that feeling of helplessness to take over, do something to counteract it.

Communities need to rebuild following a natural disaster, and you can be a part of that. Even if you don’t have the financial resources to give, you can donate your time and your skills. Volunteer to help the injured. Help clear debris. If you see a safety issue, report it. Reach out to local authorities and ask if there is anything you can do.

Little by little, communities can and do recover from natural disasters. The more people pitch and work together, the quicker a community can bounce back. You can be a part of that. That sense of accomplishment can be a big help in your own personal recovery.

Sense of accomplishment is good

3. Try to Create a Routine for Yourself

Building a routine for yourself can go a long way toward finding your way back to normalcy. You can try to return to the routine you had before the natural disaster struck. Focus on going to bed and getting up at the same time. Eat meals at the time. Go to work, if you can. Spend time with the people you care about. A routine can help you cope with the fallout of a natural disaster.

It can also be helpful to integrate new things into your routine. A natural disaster is a transformative experience. Your life might not go back to exactly how it used to be, but that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. Discover a new hobby and set aside time dedicated to it every day. Push yourself to try a new type of exercise.

It may be hard to stick to a routine at first. So much in your life has changed, but dedicating yourself to a daily regimen can keep you focused on what you consider most important in your life. Whatever routine works for you, remember to include positive activities that will help you move forward.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Strategies for how to deal with natural disasters will vary from person to person, but one thing everyone should remember to do: take care of yourself. Between helping other people and participating in rebuilding efforts, you can get lost in the shuffle.

Don’t forget to feed yourself. Avoid skipping a full night’s rest. Commit to eating healthy meals and a regular sleep schedule. Work regular exercise into your life. A healthy diet, sleep schedule and exercise routine will benefit both your physical and mental health. Ignoring your health won’t help you or your community to rebuild any faster. If anything, it will slow you down.

Take stock of your mental health. It can be hard to recognize when you’re struggling with PTSD, anxiety or depression. You might dismiss your feelings as a typical reaction or try to ignore them entirely. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Mental health is important

It can be tempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Taking refuge in substances that can help you forget your feelings for even a little while has a lot of appeal, but using alcohol or drugs as a crutch is not an effective coping mechanism. Rather than chasing numbness, address your feelings head on. This may be more painful in the short-term, but it’s healthier for you and for the people you care about in the long run.

5. Identify Your Support Resources

Natural disasters affect millions of people, but recovering from this type of event can be an incredibly isolating experience. Instead of thinking of yourself as alone, look for support options. Talk to your friends and family. They might be feeling exactly the way you are. If they didn’t experience the natural disaster, they’ll still want to help you in any way they can — even if that means just lending a shoulder to lean on and a willing ear.

You can also look for local support groups. Groups, often led by professionals, bring together people who have lived through the same disaster that you have. You can share your feelings and struggles in a safe environment with people who can relate. Having people listen and share their own stories can be a very powerful tool to use during your recovery. If you’re too nervous to talk at first, just listening can be incredibly helpful.

Whatever type of support you prefer — the people you care about in your life or a community group — do not dismiss the offer for help. You can offer your own help in return. There is strength to be found in one another.

6. Get Help From a Professional

Natural disasters and mental health have a clear connection. Living through the destruction of your home, the loss of a business, injury and/or the death of a loved one is undeniably traumatic. If you find yourself struggling with mental health issues, you’re not alone amongst natural disaster survivors.

It might be difficult to admit you need help, but be kind to yourself. Reach out and find the help you need. A trained mental health professional can help you process that trauma and suggest ways to move forward. A professional may try several different approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or somatic experiencing.

Reach out for help

Trauma affects everyone differently. You might benefit from group therapy or one-on-one sessions. If you’re suffering from severe mental health issues following a natural disaster, you might benefit from an inpatient program. This type of intensive, personalized treatment can help people make strides in the recovery process. Your mental health is a vital part of your overall health. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach for it

Brookhaven Retreat offers a variety of comprehensive treatment options. Our holistic approach addresses a wide variety of issues including trauma, depression and anxiety. If you’ve lived through a natural disaster, we’re ready to help you process that experience and work with you to find a way to move forward.

Contact Brookhaven for Help

Published in Brookhaven Blog

From networking events to company parties and dinners, work events required for many jobs can seriously ramp up your anxiety.

Work events can be stressful for anyone, but if you struggle with social anxiety issues, it can be especially trying. With some planning, there are ways to manage your anxiety to comfortably get through those office functions that require you to be present, professional and social.

Tips for Managing Your Anxiety at Work Functions

When you struggle with anxiety, the key is planning. You may want to believe a particular office party will be no big deal, but there is always a chance that something could trigger your anxiety. Here are some things to keep in mind for your next work function:

1. Get There Early

Rushing around and then being put on the spot the minute you arrive can be extremely stressful. It is a better idea to plan extra time to find the venue, park your car and arrive early. Entering a crowded room can be intimidating, but if you arrive early, you will have an opportunity to get comfortable in your surroundings before people start to arrive.

2. Avoid Excessive Drinking

Some people think that alcohol helps take the edge off in awkward social situations. When you are prone to anxiety, though, too much alcohol can make the situation worse.

If you do decide to drink, take it slow and ensure your total alcohol intake for the evening does not exceed two drinks. This will help you remain in control and keep your stress levels down.

3. Focus on Active Listening

Anxiety tends to creep in when your brain leaves the room. If you allow yourself to start ruminating about what-if scenarios and lose your focus on the present moment, your anxiety could escalate. Instead, practice active listening to keep your mind in the current moment.

In conversation, reiterate what other people are saying for clarity. Ask questions to reinforce the fact that you are following the conversation. By concentrating on what someone else is talking about, you can keep the focus off of you and avoid feeling too self-conscious.

4. Avoid Obsessing Over Interactions

A lot of things are said in casual conversation that seem awkward or inappropriate because social interactions are generally not rehearsed. If you suffer from social anxiety, you may be hyper-critical of your own social performance. The more you worry about or analyze how you are doing, though, the more anxious you will become.

If you say something that gets a negative response or that you think sounds dumb, let it go. Try to move the conversation onto a different topic, or redirect the focus to someone else by asking them a question. No one is going to remember what you said or didn’t say in a social setting like this. No one is taking notes. Understand that you are the only one who notices when you make a mistake in conversation — and by noticing it yourself, you are only drawing attention to it and escalating your own anxiety.

5. Schedule Quiet Time for Yourself Before and After

Sometimes the time leading up to an event can be worse than the event itself. If you spend that time worrying about all the things that can go wrong and make yourself feel anxious and uncomfortable, you will feel defeated before the party even starts. Instead, take some quiet time before the event to relax and clear your mind.

Go for a walk or listen to some music. Spending time alone before a social event can help ground you, so you go into it with a better mindset. After the event is over, take some time to decompress. Allow yourself to go over the event in your mind and remember the high points of the evening. Then, declare it a social success, and do not analyze it anymore.

Struggling with anxiety can make work functions difficult to deal with. If you prepare yourself and have a solid plan going into the event, though, it is possible to enjoy the social interaction with your colleagues. Instead of letting anxiety keep you on the periphery of the crowd, have a plan to manage it and be an engaged participant.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

If you experience panic attacks, you may know that it is possible to experience one while sleeping. The last time you thought you were waking up from a bad dream, you might have been having a panic attack. A nocturnal panic attack causes you to wake up feeling scared and anxious. It could be accompanied by sweating, rapid heart rate and breathlessness.

Panic attacks during sleep can be devastating to your sleep rhythm. The attack may only last a couple minutes, but it usually takes a while to calm down and fall back asleep. If you start to develop a pattern of waking up with anxiety attacks, you may become apprehensive about going to sleep. Nocturnal panic attacks can progress into sleeping disorders.

What Causes Nocturnal Panic Attacks?

Nocturnal panic attacks occur when your sleep cycle is disrupted by a panic attack. The brain doesn’t completely shut down when you go to sleep. In fact, sleep time is when your mind and body do some maintenance activities they don’t handle while you’re awake.

Even if you clear your conscious mind before bed, you may experience nocturnal panic attacks. There are a lot of unanswered questions remaining about the subconscious mind and why it behaves the way it does. If you spend too much energy dwelling on why you get nocturnal panic attacks, you may only exacerbate the situation.

Tips for Dealing with Panic Attacks During Sleep

A more productive approach than trying to understand the cause of nocturnal panic attacks is attempting to limit their severity and duration. As you probably know from daytime panic attacks, there are ways you can minimize the effect panic attacks have on your life.

  • Recognize the symptoms — Unless you have a history of heart disease, when you wake up in the middle of the night with pain and tightness in your chest, it is probably a panic attack. Those symptoms combined with sweating and a feeling of dread are more likely a panic attack than a heart attack. When you understand what is happening to you, even if you cannot control it, you will find it easier to de-escalate your response.
  • Confirm you are okay — A nocturnal panic attack can leave you feeling scared and vulnerable. Those feelings feed into the panic and can make it worse. Instead of being paralyzed by your fears, get up and confirm they are not real. Turn on the light, check to see that the door is locked or whatever you have to do to prove to yourself you are not in any danger. Try to tap into your logical mind to counteract the emotional response you are having.
  • Change the venue — Get out of bed and walk around for a few minutes. By changing your physical location, you may be able to shake the thoughts of fear and panic before they develop a stronger hold on you. Go into a different room, put a light on and sit up for a while.
  • Get comfortable — One way to shake off the effects of a panic attack is to remove the physical evidence. If you wake up in a sweat, take a quick shower and put on clean pajamas. Open a window to let a slight breeze into the room. Take a blanket to the couch to get out of your sweaty sheets.

When unchecked, a panic attack can escalate quickly. It may be hard to fall asleep right away, and the more attention you pay to figuring out why you had the attack, the longer those scary feelings could linger. Do what you can to brush it off as no big deal, and try not to dwell on it the next morning. It’s important to remind yourself you are perfectly safe.

How to Stop Anxiety Attacks at Night

The only way to eliminate nocturnal panic attacks is to heal the physical and mental wounds that may be causing them in the first place. By adjusting your lifestyle to facilitate good mental health, you may be able to prevent or reduce nocturnal panic attacks:

  • Exercise — Do not overlook the value of physical activity for your mental health. Adopt a regular fitness routine to maintain optimal conditioning of mind and body.
  • Nutrition — The foods you eat can have an impact on your brain. Be sure your diet contains a variety of healthy fresh foods. By improving your diet, you can feed your brain the nutrients it needs to develop and maintain a healthy condition.
  • Healthcare — Do not let physical or mental health conditions go untreated. Your body can often heal itself, but sometimes it may the support of a healthcare professional.

Anxiety attacks, whether they happen during the day or while you sleep, can be scary. Although you do not need to address the acute symptoms of the attack, you should heed its warning.

If you get anxiety attacks, seek support for your mental health. The mental health support you can get at Brookhaven Retreat may help you break the cycle of panic attacks and sleep disorders. For more information, contact us today.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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