MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

May 17, 2019

MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH

ThedaCare Provider Offers Tips to Help Build Strong Coping Mechanisms

MENASHA, Wis. – May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. The month can be used to break the stigma, and provide support and education for people with mental illness and their families. Having a strong core of resiliency can also help people to bounce back more easily when difficulties arise.

“Having good mental health and rebounding from adversity means creating an important balance in our lives,” said Michele Moldenhauer, MA, LPC, NCC of ThedaCare Behavioral Health-Midway. “We can start the journey by protecting our physical health.”

Moldenhauer added it’s hard to stay out of our emotional mind if we are in physical pain or physically ill. If necessary, talk with your doctor about which medications might be best and take them as prescribed.

People also should consume regular healthy meals—just as cars need gas to run, so do our bodies to function well physically, emotionally, mentally and socially, Moldenhauer said. People should avoid foods containing high amounts of sugar or carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly and crash, leaving people feeling weak, shaky and emotional.

Avoiding non-prescribed mood altering drugs is vital to protecting mental health—which includes caffeine.

“It takes about five hours in a healthy adult for half of the caffeine to clear from the body,” explained Moldenhauer. “By bedtime, caffeine can really build up in the system, and interfere with sleep, making a person feel anxious and jittery. This interferes with our ability to maintain mood stability and resiliency.”

People also should remember to focus on sleeping well by:

  • Developing a regular sleep/wake routine to promote good sleep.
  • Avoiding electronics two hours before bedtime. The blue light from device screens interfere with the body’s ability to produce melatonin, necessary for good sleep.
  • Getting regular exercise to burn off nervous energy and release mood-enhancing endorphins, but avoiding exercising in the evening.
  • Signaling it’s time for sleep by taking a warm bath, listening to soft music, or using deep breathing/positive imagery prior to going to bed.

“When life’s challenges hit, we are more likely to be able to handle them or bounce back if we have first built a foundation of resiliency,” Moldenhauer said. “We must be conscious about how to build that foundation.” 

People can create also create strength by building a sense of competence and accomplishment, which can mean engaging in hobbies or special interests, doing meaningful work like volunteering, or playing sports—which helps us not only to get exercise but also to engage with others, she said.

Additionally, people should focus on gratitude.

“Write down three things each day that you are grateful for and why,” Moldenhauer said. “This helps retrain our brains to focus on the positives in each day rather than on the problems.”

Doing so can also take the focus off worry or rumination, which can be resiliency killers. If there’s a concern that you can’t get out of your mind, first ask if there is anything you can do about it.

“If no, box the worry and engage in healthy activities to distract from worrying,” she said. “If yes, is now a good time to deal with it? Then create game plan and do it. If no, schedule it and take care of it when it’s time.”

People also can benefit from practicing mindfulness, engaging socially with others—in person, not online—and asking for help when needed.

For more information about mental health services offered by ThedaCare, please click here.

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.