Helping Law Enforcement Combat Stress

Law and StressWhile the general public as a whole struggles with a variety of life stressors, law enforcement personnel often have more extreme stressors to combat. While local citizens might worry about their career, family, and finances on a regular basis, people who choose a career in law enforcement take on additional stressors. According to a 2014 study on police personnel and stress resilience training, these additional stressors may include psychological stressors connected with the mission, extended duty cycles, and exposure to horrific scenes of death and injury. (1)

If you are a police officer, military personnel, or another form of law enforcement with an overabundance of stress, this article is for you. To help you battle not only criminals, but also stress- Here are a few tips for helping combat stress.

  1. Recognize. As with most things you must work to overcome, recognizing the problem is the first step. Take the time to assess your personal stress levels regularly. By keeping a close watch you can begin to sense trigger stressors before they build and get out of hand.
  2. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Though the hours of those who have careers in law enforcement can be demanding, it’s important to prioritize good health in your life. Do your best to maintain a regular sleeping schedule, eat healthy foods, and stay active.
  3. Take time away. Don’t be afraid to take a step away from the field whenever you need it. Small vacations away or extra time spent at home relaxing with loved ones can be just what the doctor ordered to help eliminate on-the-job stress.
  4. Prioritize. Law enforcement personnel have a rather important job, but never more important than your family or loved ones. Be sure to prioritize and bring things into perspective regularly to help ward off unneeded stress.
  5. Invest in a hobby. When you’re off the clock, choose to invest in a hobby. Weather its model cars, an instrument, or even sports by learning something new or engaging in an activity you enjoy you can naturally melt away stress and reenergize your body for another day on the job.
  6. Seek help. If you find yourself carrying a heavy weight of stress on your shoulders wherever you go, take the step toward seeking professional help. Confiding in a professional can help you receive the necessary help required to tackle your stress.

While everyone struggles with stress at one point in their life or another, people in law enforcement often have additional stressors. Combat unwanted stress on the job by learning to recognize stress in your life, leading a healthy lifestyle, taking time away, prioritizing, investing in a hobby, and of course- seeking help when you need it most. By doing so you can not only battle criminals but also stress.

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. Police Department Personnel Stress Resilience Training: An Institutional Case Study, Potential law enforcement stressors, 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24808985

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

2 Terrible Truths about Stress Today

So, stress is up! We all know that high stress levels are on the rise all across the nation but what’s the real truth about stress today? Why is it impacting everyone we know- both the young and the old, and why does its negativity reign supreme? StressOutAccording to the key findings of the American Psychological Association (APA), there are 2 terrible truths about stress today (1). To help you better understand these truths and in return your own personal stress, here’s more. 1. Self-care is not a priority. Only forty percent of Americans rate their health as very good or excellent, leaving the remaining sixty percent with less than adequate self-rated health, as stated by the APA. (2) The first terrible truth about stress in America is a lack of self-care. It’s simply not a priority. Instead of managing stress in healthy ways by staying active, eating nutritional meals, and making our personal health a priority we opt to indulge in unhealthy behaviors like drugs and alcohol, over or under eating, and being lazy when it comes to regular exercise. The APA continues to provide a list of startling facts including, “two-fifths of Americans reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods due to stress.” (3) The terribly sad truth is that we, as Americans are taking part in a viciously repetitive cycle. We choose to eat unhealthy, not be active, and overall not make self-care a priority which in return creates stress in our life. And what do we do because we are feeling stressed? We continue to eat unhealthy, not be active, and not make self-care a priority. Yikes! 2. Lack of willpower is the problem. The second truth in our one-two-punch against stress is the lack of willpower. The APA cites the lack of willpower as being the biggest barrier to adopting healthier behavior and continues to inform us that survey respondents are mistakenly relying on an inner strength to make necessary health changes (4). Similar to standing in front of an empty refrigerator with the door wide open waiting for something delicious to appear, you too should stop waiting for some inner strength to emerge against unhealthy choices. Willpower is a choice you make, not something that all of a sudden happens within you. Combatting the stress in your life requires better health choices through nutrition and exercise and both of those choices take a strong will power. Don’t be afraid to awaken yours. Stress is up because self-care and willpower are down. The 2 terrible truths, the first being that Americans are not prioritizing self-care through eating healthy and being active and the second, that Americans have a lack of willpower are society’s downfall when it comes to combatting stress. Want to beat the stress in your personal life? It’s as simple as prioritizing your health and having the willpower to stick to those healthy choices. 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.   ###   Sources:

  1. Stressed In America, 2 Terrible truths, 2011, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx
  2. Stressed In America, Americans rate personal health stats, 2011, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx
  3. Stressed In America, Unhealthy eating due to stress stats, 2011, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx
  4. Stressed In America, Lack of willpower facts, 2011, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx

 

5 Ways Sleep Deprivation is Affecting Your Teen

sleep deprivation“Sleep is essential for health and well-being,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA). (1)Especially in your teenage years, the amount of sleep you receive each night is affecting you either positively or negatively. If you are someone who either doesn’t get quite enough sleep or more seriously- struggles with sleep deprivation, odds are you are reaping more of the negative effects.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. (2) It’s obvious sleep deprivation is a large problem nationwide but how is it affecting your teen?

1. Learning. Roughly one fourth of all teenagers go to bed between the hours of eleven and midnight. With such late bedtimes and early morning wakeups for school, these teens are simply not getting the adequate sleep they require to learn. Absorbing information and applying it takes work, without sleep you can expect your teen’s educational performance and ability to learn will worsen.
2. Behavior. Studies have shown that teens who suffer sleep deprivation are more likely to experience emotional distress and act on impulse. Your teen may experience an inability to focus and the need to be hyperactive.
3. Mental health. When your teen lacks adequate sleep they are at a higher risk of feeling sad, hopeless, and depressed. Because of these emotions they are also more likely to have suicidal thoughts. According to one psychologist, “Sleep deprivation and depression go hand in hand.” (3)
4. Obesity. Because lack of sleep has been linked to serious health issues such as obesity and diabetes, it goes without saying that your sleep-deprived teen is at a higher risk for developing both.
5. Substance use. With sleep deprivation comes an increased risk for both substance use and abuse with teens. Over-tired teenagers are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs and because of this, they are also at an increased risk to drink and drive, binge drink, and even participate in sexual behavior.

With 40 Million Americans suffering from sleep disorders, taking into account the teenage population- it begs the question, how is sleep deprivation affecting your teen. If your teen isn’t getting the appropriate amount of sleep you can expect them to experience negative effects such as worsened educational performance, hyperactive behavior, depression, obesity, and also an increased risk for substance use and abuse.

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. Sleep, Sleep is essential quote, 2015, http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/index.aspx
  2. Getting a Good Night’s Sleep With the Help of Psychology, Number of Americans with sleep disorder stats, 2004, http://www.apa.org/research/action/sleep.aspx
  3. Sleep Deprivation Linked to Depression in Teens, Psychologist quote, 2010, http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/09/sleep.deprivation.depression/

 

Expectation vs. Performance

performanceThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “expectation” as “a belief that something will happen or is likely to happen”; It defines “performance” as “the fulfillment of a claim, promise, or request; something accomplished.” We have expectations in every aspect of life: for our kids, our marriages, our careers. In some areas, we set our own expectations; in others, they are set for us.

Our performance shows whether or not we fulfilled those expectations. For example, if you are asked to write a report by a specific deadline, you will be expected to fulfill this. The level of your performance may be determined by the quality of the report as well as your timeliness and accuracy. In general, if we meet all of the expectations we create for ourselves or are given, we might consider ourselves “successful.”

Expectation Mindset

expectationsThe expectations that you set for yourself and your life can be determined by your overall attitude. If you are an optimistic person, you will most likely have high expectations regarding the outcome of your life, career, and family. You imagine everyone at his best. If you are a pessimist, you might have low expectations or have doubts that you can fulfill expectations in those areas, reasoning that you will be pleasantly surprised if it turns out better than expected but prepared if it does not. These views are not necessarily wrong or right, just different.

Expectation Level

  1. High Expectations. Setting high expectations for yourself or for others can provide great motivation to perform. In sports, if a coach puts great trust in you and expects you to be a team leader, you will be very motivated to prove to him that you are capable of doing so. At work, setting high expectations makes you work harder to achieve that goal. However, setting your sights too high can be detrimental to your success. If the bar is set too high and you are not able to reach it, you may feel disappointment or inadequacy. You might feel embarrassed if you do not perform the way that you were expected to.
  2. Low Expectations. If your expectations are too low, the performance might be too easy. If there is no challenge, then there may be nothing to work for. Instead of having a drive to succeed, you may get comfortable in your position and reach a plateau.
  3. Realistic Expectations. Set expectations for yourself and others that you know will be motivational and require hard work but that will also be achievable. This will give you something to work for and then provide great satisfaction when you accomplish it.

Expectation Failure

We have all failed at something or fallen short of the expectations. Instead of letting this get you down or giving up, use it as motivation to improve or change what is needed to perform the way you are expected to.

Whether your performance succeeds your expectations or not, it’s important to keep in mind success is reached through trial and error. In all aspects of your performance, try-try-again!

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. Expectation, Definition, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expectation
  2. Performance, Definition, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/performance
  3. High Hopes and Happy Homes, Mindset of Expectations, 2004, http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep04/highhopes.aspx