It’s National Depression Education & Awareness Month, and depression affects over 19 million people in the U.S.
There are several types of depression, but the most common one is major depression. Symptoms of major depression stop you from enjoying your daily life for at least 2 weeks straight.
Postpartum depression affects mothers after giving birth and can make it difficult to bond with or even care for their new babies.
Seasonal affective disorder is a common kind of depression where your mood is affected by the changes in the seasons, and the colder months of the year drain you of energy.
Depression can be caused by genetics, trauma, stress, brain structure, brain chemistry, substance abuse, and even other conditions like sleep issues, ADHD, and chronic pain.
While symptoms can vary, adults suffering from depression usually feel overwhelmed with sadness. Children and teens are more likely to be irritable. Women also tend to note anxiety, while men report aggression.
80 to 90% of those who seek depression treatment will get the help they need. Antidepressants are a powerful treatment, and there are more treatment options than ever, from therapy to meditation and yoga.
Depression is tied to a higher risk of suicidal behavior. If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it’s important to talk to a doctor.
If you need to talk to someone immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
It’s Atrial Fibrillation Month, and atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib or AF, is a type of irregular heartbeat that can raise your risk of other health problems. Learn more.
For most people, their heart beats between 60 and 100 times a minute. Those with AFib can have heart rates as high as 175 beats a minute.
AFib can feel like drums or thunder pounding in your chest or even flip-flopping in your chest. Talk to your doctor if you’ve experienced this kind of discomfort.
If you’re experiencing AFib and other issues, like shortness of breath with light physical activity, lightheadedness, dizziness, or fatigue, your heart might not be getting enough blood and oxygen out to your body.
AFib raises your risk of stroke by 5 times. It can allow clots to form, which can cause strokes that can cause serious damage to your tissue and brain.
Some people may just have to cut caffeine in their diet to improve their AFib. Others may need special medication and treatment to address the underlying cause.
If you suffer from heartbeat irregularities, changes in your lifestyle, like being physically active, quitting smoking, or managing stress and your blood pressure can also help.
A few years back, some friends and I were camping just after Halloween at Indian Cave State Park in Nebraska.
The prior weekend, the park had hosted a “haunted” park drive-through where ghouls and ghosts good-naturedly jumped out to scare you in good, old-fashioned Halloween fun. While hiking on some trails high up above one of the park roads, we came across a straw-stuffed witch on a broom tied up by a rope to a tree. Untying the rope let this funny-looking witch fly out over the road and spook any car driving by. You can guess what happened next.
Brenda and Cathy (both grandmothers, by the way) agreed to be lookouts for approaching cars from around the bend. Vicki and Jackie lay down on their stomachs in the weeds to hide and relay the “get ready” sign. My buddy Fara and I held tight to the rope waiting for the “go” sign. When a car came up the road, we let our witch fly, shrieking with glee like 8-year-old naughty little boys and waving furiously at the cars we’d managed to scare below. Later, Fara marveled that she had not “played” like that in years. That statement has stuck with me all these years.
Why don’t adults play anymore? We pay money to take yoga and tai chi classes to try and clear our minds of the clutter of life. Self-help gurus tout their books about “living in the moment” or striving to “be present.” Really, isn’t that just playing? To me, playing is a special state of being where one loses all track of time and disappears down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with lists, responsibilities, or errands. Playing definitely has nothing to do with CNN, the newspaper, or our Facebook page. Playing is the single-minded pursuit of something that does nothing but make us happy or relaxed or at peace.
I recently traveled down a rabbit hole on a Sunday afternoon and found myself wandering through a small-town cemetery looking for the graves of my great-grandparents Benjamin Hugo and Millie. I didn’t wake up with that idea on my agenda. I actually woke up that Sunday with no agenda at all. My yellow lab, Harvey Benjamin (named after my grandfather), and I had a lovely afternoon just wandering up and down the rows looking at names and noting dates and family connections. Happily, I not only found Benjamin Hugo and Millie’s graves but also the grave of my great-great-great-grandfather Hans Detlef, who was born in Germany in 1800 and died in Iowa in 1887.
No timelines, no reasons, just hanging out in a cemetery, which is probably weird to some, I agree, but it was a special day spent thinking about nothing much for me. It felt wonderful. It was like those worn-out areas of my brain that have to plan and decide and be a grown-up got a chance to power down for a while, to rest and recharge while running on power save mode in the background.
The amazing thing about it was I was deep into writer’s block at that point. I had no idea what I was going to write about for this monthly column. While that part of my brain was running on power save mode, the topic presented itself. Isn’t that cool? I also think my next dog might be named Hugo, although I recently found some ancestors in my tree named Ichabod and Wubba, so I might need a lot more dogs.
There is actual science behind the value of adults taking the time to play every now and then to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being, so let’s start playing.
Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.
May is Mental Health Month, and we’re talking about some important mental health issues facing Americans all week.
Being exposed to violence or trauma as a kid can have long-term effects, from derailing development to increased mental and physical issues. Long or repeated stress can be toxic for kids, especially if they’re lacking adult support in their lives.
Adverse childhood experiences can include emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, community violence, household addiction, parents divorcing, poverty, and bullying. Know the signs to help the children in your life.
Taking care of your mental health in college is especially important. 1 in 5 young adults experience a mental health condition, and 75% of those begin by 24 with many emerging in the college years.
Mental health issues affect students’ success at college. College can be difficult and isolating, and 45% have felt that things were hopeless at some point. Over 45% of those who stop attending could benefit from mental health support.
Only 1 in 3 of the people who need mental health help actually seek it out, even though treatments for the most common conditions are effective 80% of the time. It’s also the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
In the wake of the opioid crisis, it’s important to understand how it affects mental health. Over time, addiction changes brain function, inhibiting a person’s ability to control substance use.
Long-term use of opioids can cause a chronic brain disorder, which causes problems with the brain reward system, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Encourage loved ones to see a doctor to explore treatment center options.
When was the last time you took a drive to nowhere? I guess I should back up a bit. Have you ever taken a drive to nowhere? If you haven’t, I strongly recommend you give it a try.
It can be very refreshing to have time with your thoughts or to sing at the top of your lungs (without judgment), or both. I think the movement of the car, the feeling of forward progression, gives me a feeling of stress relief.
Stress is such a horrible thing to deal with, and to those who are experiencing it, you are not alone! In order to combat the stresses of life, maybe a nice drive to nowhere is in order.
My favorite drives have been mountain-related. I’m so lucky to live within an hour of the mountain roads and fresh air. We have a family cabin on one of the passes, and the drive up there is gorgeous.
We recently went up there to celebrate Thanksgiving, and the evening drive was spectacular. There was the faintest chill in the air, which made the light moisture on the roads start to freeze, causing a wonderful sparkling effect when our headlights hit the newly formed frost. Not only that, but the local radio station had just switched from general music to Christmas music, and the car was toasty and warm. Talk about an oddly magical drive and wonderful anticipation for a family-filled, country-cabin Thanksgiving.
These are the kinds of moments when you just look at the beauty and enjoy the ride that can really combat stress.
I used to make the same drive to Central Washington University every day for 4 years while I was getting my degree. I started off loathing the drive, but eventually the drive to Ellensburg and back became a solace for me.
I used the drive to school to really ramp up and plan what I was going to do with my day, how I was going to study, or what resources or help I was going to seek out while I was there. (I was and am still horrible with math.)
I used the drive home to really come back down from the stress of school, and by the time I got back to town, I was relaxed and ready for what the rest of the day held. I also sing in the car to combat stress, and there was a lot of singing in those days.
I know this may be an odd way to deal with stress, but you never know what might work and help relieve the tensions of life. Go ahead, take a drive, and even sing at the tops of your lungs. It helps!
Breck Obermeyer is a community liaison with Health Alliance Northwest, serving Yakima County. She is a homegrown girl from Naches and has a great husband who can fix anything and 2 kids who are her world. When not attending community events or providing Medicare education throughout the Valley, she can be found indulging in her hobbies of homesteading, pioneer cooking, and learning new survival techniques. She also has a strong love for all things Halloween.
It’s Colic Awareness Month, and if you’re expecting or are a new parent, it’s good to learn more about colic.
Colic is frequent and intense crying in an otherwise healthy infant. It can be extremely stressful and frustrating for new parents.
Symptoms of colic include screaming and crying for no apparent reason and fussiness after crying. Their face can get red, and their whole body can get tense.
Colic frequently sticks to a predictable schedule, usually with crying episodes happening each evening.
Colic usually peaks when an infant is 6 weeks old and declines after they’re 3 or 4 months old.
The cause of colic is unknown, but researchers have explored digestive issues as a possible reason. Smoking during pregnancy does increase the risk of your baby developing colic.
Colic can increase the risk of postpartum depression in mothers, as well as the stress, guilt, and exhaustion that can come with being a new parent. The important thing to remember is to never shake your baby when you can’t comfort them.
If you’re worried that your child might have colic, talk to your doctor and schedule an appointment to do an exam. They’ll make sure there isn’t a more serious issue causing your child’s discomfort.