VOICES: Take care of yourself to better care for others

Mary Gambill, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW, behavioral health manager at Five Rivers Health Centers (CONTRIBUTED)

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Mary Gambill, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW, behavioral health manager at Five Rivers Health Centers (CONTRIBUTED)

It is January, 2022. For some of us, it may feel like time has been suspended since the pandemic began. Many people report, even though they are still breathing, feeling despondent and lifeless, which is often a symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It is also the time in Ohio when the weather is dark and gloomy and many people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

During this pandemic, the behavioral health team at Five Rivers Health Centers have compassionately assisted hundreds of patients, providing strategies on how to cope with anxiety and depression. If you are experiencing symptoms, it’s very important to see your doctor or provider to rule out any medical issues. Some medical problems such as heart, thyroid, diabetes, or hormone imbalance can mimic mental health issues.

Many people report anxiety as a miserable feeling all day. Symptoms include lightheadedness, dizziness, sweaty palms, dry mouth, racing thoughts and racing heart. Anxiety is your body’s way of letting your head know that whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working anymore and you need to do something different. If you try to numb anxiety with drug or alcohol misuse or other high-risk behaviors, the anxiety may eventually make you physically ill.

Instead, try investigating what is going on around you. Ask yourself, “How am I really feeling right now?” Your feelings belong to you, and you can’t help how you feel, but your emotions are what you do with those feelings. For example, if you are angry — which is a natural feeling — go for a walk or run outside and burn off some steam. Get your mind in a different space by moving your body.

Symptoms of SAD are typically feeling listless, lacking energy or not feeling joy in activities you normally enjoy, sleeping or eating too much, craving carbohydrates, gaining weight and trouble concentrating. Individuals that suffer from SAD have reported they have great results when they begin using a lightbox in early fall. Also, begin a routine of simple exercise, eating well and engaging in talk therapy for ongoing support.

The following approaches are suggestions that may help decrease stress and overall anxiety:

  1. Check your facial expressions. Are your brows furrowed or jaw clenched? Tension can trigger stress response in your body. Practice smiling and relaxing your facial muscles.
  2. Practice breathwork. Are you breathing from your chest or abdomen? Chest breathing denotes (and increases) stress. Simply place your hand on your belly and make sure it rises with your breath and fills your lungs.
  3. Practice self-nourishment, paying attention to what you watch, read and listen to every day. Hearing a day’s worth of negative information can take a toll on your mind and your body. tudies indicate more time spent on social media can create an uptick in anxiety, thinking you’re not able to live up to others’ expectations or a fear of missing out.
  4. Give yourself a break! Give yourself grace and mercy. Check in with what you’re thinking, feeling, feeding your body and mind.

We are on this Earth for each other. Take good care of you. Caring for you will allow you the energy to tend to the needs of others, should they need you.

Mary Gambill, MSW, LISW-S, LCSW, is a behavioral health manager at Five Rivers Health Centers.

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