Can Hobbies Improve Mental Health?

Improve mental healthIt is easy for people to get wrapped up in various treatments, therapies, and medications when it comes to controlling mental illness but did you know simply engaging in hobbies you already love can help too?

According to a 2009 study testing the potential of managing anxiety in eating disorders with knitting found that, “patients reported a subjective reduction in anxious preoccupation when knitting, more specifically- 74 percent reported it had a calming and therapeutic effect.” (1) Engaging in a hobby you already love may be just the treatment you have been looking for. Some people find that listening to music, volunteer work, keeping a daily journal of events and how they feel, laughter, playing with pets, shopping, or other forms of common hobbies helped them to relax. (2)

From singing to cooking and just about every hobby in-between, taking time to relax with an activity you enjoy can help you reap a multitude of benefits when it comes to mental health. Here’s a few that you can look forward to.

  • Reduces stress. Transitioning the focus from the chaos of life to a fun, easy, and enjoyable task can instantly help reduce stress levels. Harness this benefit by opting for more relaxing hobbies. These may include knitting, painting, photographing, journaling, or even bird watching. Whichever hobby you choose, be sure it makes you feel more relaxed.
  • Improves mood. Taking a break to do something you already love beats an extra hour spent at the office anyway. Investing in hobbies can feel similar to taking a break and enjoying yourself and obviously breaks and joy often produce an improved mood. A hobby should always be something you desire doing.
  • Encourages socialization. Though not all, but some hobbies can help encourage socialization where you would otherwise spend time alone. And numerous studies have found a connection between relationships and happiness. Consider participating in group hobbies like team sports, clubs, or other activities that draw a crowd.
  • Improves memory. Did you know studies have shown that people who regularly challenge themselves through puzzles, games, and reading can not only improve their memory now, but also help themselves avoid memory loss later in life? If you enjoy challenging your mind with puzzles you can expect to reap this benefit.
  • Wards off depression. If your hobby of choice is an activity you find happiness in, it can easily help ward off feelings of depression and sadness. If you find yourself not loving a hobby, stop doing it and find something new that you do love. Hobbies are meant to be fun, and in order to benefit from them you must enjoy doing them.

While people may be consumed with treatments, therapies, and medications- sometimes all you need to lift up your spirits and improve your overall mental health is a little time spent doing a favorite hobby. Invest in yourself by taking the time to participate in things that you love. By doing so you can begin to reap the many mental health benefits that can accompany hobbies.

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. Managing Anxiety in Eating Disorders with Knitting, Results quote, 2009, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=knitting+anxiety
  2. Management, Information about hobbies, 2015, http://www.stress.org/military/combat-stress/management/

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

Coping with Obesity

coping with obesityObesity is defined as a condition marked by excess accumulation of body fat, according to the American Psychological Association (1) and it affects a great portion of our population. In fact, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third or 78.6 million U.S. adults are obese.

While you may not be at a healthy weight, there are steps you can take not just to lose weight but to better cope with obesity. If you’re overweight and tired of being down on yourself all the time, this article is for you. Here’s how to cope with obesity.

  1. Make better food choices. Though this may be an obvious tip, it’s an important one. Part of coping with obesity means taking the necessary steps to overcoming it. Learn about healthy foods vs non-healthy foods and make an effort to choose healthy and nutritious foods. Avoid foods which are high in saturated fats and cholesterol and opt for foods high in protein and low in sugars.
  2. Connect. According to a 2015 study on social relationships and obesity people who are socially-connected are at a decreased risk of becoming obese. (3) Connect with people in your community, especially with those who share the same goals as you. Together you can encourage, support, and connect with each other.
  3. Use positive criticism. Being obese does not give you free reign to come down hard on yourself about every little thing you need to change but like with any other condition, it does allow the opportunity for positive criticism. Positive criticism will act as a way to correct yourself in a positive way while building your self-confidence.
  4. Create small goals. Setting small goals for yourself is a great way to cope with obesity. As you work to achieve each little goal you not only get closer to a larger goal but you also make room for regular celebrations of your achievements. Set goals not only for weight loss but also emotions and physical activity.

You are so much more than a number on the scale, finding joy no matter where you are in life both emotionally and physically is key. Coping with obesity requires a balance of embracing who you are while working to better yourself. Remember to make better food choices, connect, use positive criticism, and create small goals for yourself. By doing so you can actively work toward a better, more-healthy you while learning to love the person you are today.

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.  Obesity, Definition of obesity, 2015, http://www.apa.org/topics/obesity/index.aspx
  2. Adult Obesity Facts, Number of obese American adults, 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
  3. Social Relationships and Obesity, Study findings ‘Connect’, 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26213644

 

 

5 Ways to Better Cope with Stress

cope with stressToday, chronic stress- stress that interferes with your ability to function normally over an extended period- is becoming a public health crisis, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). (1) Caused by a variety of triggers such as money, work, the economy, job stability, personal health, and even family responsibilities, stress is wreaking havoc in the lives of most Americans these days. But what can we do to better cope?

According to the Centers for Disease control, “The best ways to manage stress in hard times are through self-care.” (2) To help you better understand exactly what I mean by “self-care” here are 5 ways to better cope with stress in your personal life today.

  • Find support. Weather from a partner, friend, counselor, doctor, or close family member finding the support you need is critical to coping with stress in a healthy way. Choose someone who is willing to listen to you without judgement, offering constructive advice when needed.
  • Stay connected. When times of high stress arise it’s far too easy to isolate yourself socially but isolation is not the answer. Instead choose to spend those times with a group of close loved ones you can find support in.
  • Say “No” to drugs and alcohol. While both drugs and alcohol are popular coping mechanisms for a number of problems as a quick, temporary fix they tend to create a snowball of problems in the long term. Simply say, “No.
  • Get active. A 2015 study comparing stress and exercise found that one year of physical exercise intervention improved mental well-being among working adults. (3) To better cope with stress, get active through exercise. Join a gym, take a jog, become part of a favorite team-sport. How you choose to be active is not important, simply being active is.
  • Eat healthy. You know what they say, “We are what we eat.” By striving to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet you can prepare your body to better cope with stress naturally. Choose foods high in protein and low in sugars and carbs along with lots of healthy fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

And as a bonus…

  • Take a break. Far too many people are constantly going with the petal pressed to the floor, speeding through life. Sometimes the best way to deal with an overabundance of stress is by taking a break. This means a vacation, time off from work, or maybe just a night to yourself. Don’t be afraid to allow yourself a break every now and then. It’s good for you!

With stress impacting so many Americans today in ways that make life far more difficult to live, it’s time to fight back. Whether it’s money, work, the economy, job stability, personal health, family responsibilities, or something else learning how to best cope with stress can make all the difference. By finding support, staying connected, refraining from both drugs and alcohol, eating healthy, and of course- allowing yourself to take a break when needed you can not only change the way you respond to stress, but also decrease the amount of stress you experience. And who doesn’t want less 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. Stressed in America, Chronic stress crisis, 2011, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america.aspx
  2. Managing Stress, Self-care for stress quote, 2012, http://www.cdc.gov/features/handlingstress/
  3. A 12-Month Exercise Intervention Decreased Stress Symptoms and Increased Mental Resources Among Working Adults, Get active study, 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26159956

 

 

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

 

Sweat Away the Stress

Stress ReductionMost people experience stress on a daily basis.  For some it is mild and easily controlled, but for others it can be serious and begin to affect their everyday lives.  There are many ways to manage stress, but exercise is one that can assist in stress management as well as provide many other health and mental benefits.

1. Increase Energy. Your daily routine can be physically and mentally draining.  You may think that you cannot possibly squeeze one more thing into your schedule; however, finding time to exercise on a regular basis has been shown to give you even more energy to achieve those everyday tasks.  It may seem strange that exercise, which can be exhausting, can actually replenish your energy levels.  Not only can your energy be restored, but your ability to concentrate can be increased as can your overall brain function (1).  In order to fully utilize this energy, working out in the morning is a great option.

runStress22. Encourage Stability. Having a consistent routine as well as a goal to be attained can shift the focus of a person’s mind.  Even if the stress factors in his life have not been removed, the stability offered by a proper exercise regimen can allow him to concentrate on something other than those stress factors.  If you are in need of some consistency in your everyday schedule, make exercise part of your daily routine, not just something that you do if you have time.  The best way to accomplish this is to join a specific class that meets at a specified time or to work out with a friend; if someone is relying on you to be there, you are less likely to make excuses.

3. Release Tension. Exercise is a science.  There are many chemicals that can be released and many nerves that can be stimulated through physical activity.  Endorphins are released during physical activity, and these chemicals offer a person relief from stress as well as a chance to get a better night’s sleep (2).  Many people who are trying to do exercise specifically for stress relief choose yoga since it also requires that you concentrate and control your breathing.

4. Balance Emotions. The body and the brain go hand in hand.  What affects one will naturally affect the other.  When your body is stronger, so is your mind.  One of the greatest benefits of exercise is that it allows all the systems of the body to work together.  This includes the brain function, which then allows the body to handle stress more efficiently (3).  One of the best exercises to accomplish this is running since it works the muscular, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.  Only a strong and focused mind will be able to balance all these functions properly.

Using exercise as a weapon against stress has been shown to be successful for many people (4).  Whether physical activity actually reduces stress or simply lessens the effects of it, there is no question that it is a great outlet for stressed people.

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. Physical Activity Reduces Stress, Benefits of exercise on energy levels, 2015, http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
2. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety, Endorphins released during exercise, 2015, http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety
3. Exercise Fuels the Brain’s Stress Buffers, Body systems, 2015, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx
4. Exercise Fuels the Brain’s Stress Buffers, Body systems, 2015, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx

3 Ways to Help Prevent Depression in School Age Children

Counseling for child depressionWhile many of us are familiar with ways to both control and cope with depression symptoms, you may be surprised to learn that research findings show we may also be able to help prevent them. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) psychologists Jane Gillham, Lisa Jaycox, Karen Reivich, and Martin Seligman all set out to prove just that (1).

The APA continues to state that through their school based prevention program the team of psychologists were able to reduce the number of depressive symptoms and improve overall classroom behavior in participating young people (2). It’s time for parents, teachers, and caregivers alike to turn their attention from controlling to preventing depression in school age children.

To better equip you, here are 3 ways to help prevent depression in the school age children closest to you.

1. Encourage strong, caring relationships early on.
When it comes to preventing depression in children, providing a valuable foundation consisting of strong, caring relationships with parents, teachers, relatives, and even community early on is key. According to a 2014 Delphi Consensus study, “The family setting, particularly parents, is a strategic target for preventive interventions for youth depression and anxiety disorders.” (3)

Help to prevent adolescent depression by simply encouraging strong, caring relationships from the start.

2. Leaving space for living life.
Far too often, caregivers opt to become helicopter parents, or simply parents who hover over their child’s every move, in hopes of protecting children not only from scrapes and bruises but also depression. Unfortunately, helicoptering is not the answer. Instead, leave space to allow them to live life through trial and error. Allow them to make mistakes, learn new things, chase after dreams, and yes, even get a few scrapes and bruises along the way.

Allowing them to experiment teaches them how to maneuver through both triumph and failure in a healthy way.

3. Establish open and honest communication.
Promoting communication that is both open and honest within your home, classroom, or other area of inhabitance is a proactive way to help prevent the development of depression. By doing so you can create an atmosphere where children feel comfortable both sharing and exploring the link between thoughts and feelings just as participants in The Penn Resiliency Project, the school based program developed by psychologists to prevent depression, did. (4)

With depression on the rise it only makes sense that parents, teachers, and caregivers alike would want to turn those increasing frowns upside down. Luckily, the prevention of depression in school age children is hopeful. You can do your part by simply encouraging strong caring, relationships, leaving space to live, and establishing open and honest communication. Together we can help transform depression one smile at a time.

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. School-Based Program Teaches Skills That Stave Off Depression, School-Based program findings, 2003, http://www.apa.org/research/action/school.aspx
2. School-Based Program Teaches Skills That Stave Off Depression, School-Based program findings, 2003, http://www.apa.org/research/action/school.aspx
3. Parenting strategies for reducing the risk of adolescent depression and anxiety disorders: a Delphi consensus study, Strong relationships quote, 2014 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24359862

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