Mental Health Minute

Our Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry team of volunteers offers Mental Health Minutes as they work to educate, create awareness and support the mental health of our community. Below are past Mental Health Minutes that we sent in our weekly News from Gloria Dei emails, with the most recent at the top of the list. Learn more about our Mental Health Support and the ministry team. (To receive eNews and other Gloria Dei emails, please email the church office.)

 

Suicide Awareness and Prevention

If you, or someone you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 or text “MN” to 741741.

September 5-11 is Suicide Prevention week, and September 10 is International Suicide Prevention Day. NAMI reports that every year, 21 million people know of someone who dies from suicide. When so many people are affected, it is natural to want to know how to help. Here are a couple of ways to start:

First, learn about mental health. Make It OK, NAMI, Mental Health Minnesota, and the National Institute of Mental Health are good sources of factual, current  information. Don’t hesitate to contact health care providers about concerns, whether the cause may be in the body, the brain or a situation. You can find health care, including crisis mental health help, by calling 211.

Second, be ready to act. Learn “QPR” for a mental health crisis. Like CPR, QPR must be followed by professional care as soon as possible.

The three steps of QPR are:

Q – Question: if you are worried that someone might be suicidal, ask them about it. Describe what you see that worries you (“I’m worried about you. I see        . Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”) Be sensitive but ask direct questions, even though it may be awkward. You won’t make someone suicidal by asking. Your question shows that it’s ok to talk and that you care. Offer support and listen.

P – Persuade: persuade the person to seek care. If they have a suicide plan, don’t leave them alone. If it is safe to do so, remove/secure potentially hazardous items.

R – Refer: Get professional help. Ramsey and Hennepin Counties have walk-in mental health crisis centers (no appointment needed). You can also call the mobile crisis team, take the person to the hospital or call 911.

It is important to remember that no one is responsible for another person’s actions, and people in crisis are not acting out of a healthy frame of mind. Family and friends of a person in crisis will need support just like in any other health crisis. If suicide is completed, those left behind will need comfort and counseling to help them get through their loss. It is OK to talk about this too.

The resources that offer help to people in crisis can also help friends and family members.

Message by Jill Stewart, Gloria Dei Parish Nurse.

Create and Use your Calming Safe Word

As worldwide dramas and traumas seemingly encircle us all, we are encouraged to establish an internal sense of calm in order to guard our physical and mental well-being. This is true for children, adolescents and adults.

This article recommends that we each establish a “safe word” that will ease our anxiety through cue-controlled relaxation. It may take a bit of practice, but this very well may be a technique that we all can use at a moment’s notice. Might this be a good family project?

The classical conditioning of Pavlov’s dogs can be adapted for our very own cue-controlled relaxation!

Message by Penny Langguth Thorkildson, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

Children & Youth: Back to School

As we anticipate and plan for heading back to school, there may be some children and youth who are anxious and apprehensive for a variety of reasons. This insightful Cleveland Clinic article may help guide our thinking and help us to be more aware of how our children and youth are coping as this transition day approaches.

Message by Karen Lansing, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

June is PRIDE Month

We know that mental health concerns are present in all communities. During June, we highlight those concerns that particularly impact members of our LGBTQ+ community. One resource created to provide guidance and support is the Roadmap to LGBTQ+ Mental Health from The Mental Health Coalition.

From this site:

“Sexual identity and gender identity are core parts of who we are. While there is no one-size-fits all, there are some shared experiences that often go along with being part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconforming, queer, questioning+ (LGBTQ+) community. Since mental health touches all aspects of life, it also overlaps with gender and sexual identity. Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ yourself or love someone who does, read our Roadmap to LGBTQ+ Mental Health to learn more.”

Message by Penny Langguth Thorkildson, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

June is PRIDE Month

Let’s celebrate and be aware that our LGBTQ+ community may find a need to reach out for mental health support and services. Below are some resources for families and youth that may be beneficial.

Reclaim provides individual and family counseling for youth ages 13-25. To schedule appointment, call 612-235-6743

The Trevor Project is a national crisis line and counseling for LGBTQ youth
24-hour crisis line: (866) 488-7386
Text “Trevor” to (202) 304-1200 or chat online.

PFLAG is for parents and families looking for a supportive group. Please contact PFLAG to locate a chapter near you

Outfront MN provides a crisis support line, legal referrals, and free and confidential crisis counseling and advocacy services. Call 800-800-0350.

Rainbow Health works for equitable health care access and outcomes for people who experience injustice at the intersection of health status and identity.

The Naming Project is a Christian ministry serving youth of all sexual and gender identities.

Message by Karen Lansing, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

May 2021: Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month is a time to work on de-stigmatizing mental illness and reducing/eliminating shame for those who suffer from mental illness, so that they can feel empowered to get the treatment they need. Click below to view the previous pre-worship slides prepared by the Mental Health Ministry team.

May 2 pre-worship slides with resources

May 9 pre-worship slides with resources

May 23 pre-worship slides with resources

May 30 pre-worship slides with resources

Self-Compassion

Self-care and self-compassion don’t come easily to many of us but are vital to resilience—the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. That was a key point of Rev. Sarah Ciavarri’s talk recently during May’s Mental Health Month as part of the Monday Night Mental Health Speaker Series, sponsored by Bethlehem Lutheran and Joan of Arc churches in Minneapolis.

Ciavarri likens resilience to a rubber band, able to regain its shape after being stretched. Other components of resilience include:

Self awareness, understanding things that trigger us, make us anxious or “stories that live in powerful ways within us.”

Mindfulness, a bridge to greater self-awareness as we become better observers of our emotions.

Meaning and purpose, doing things with our time that we find of value, “living out the call God gives us.”

Life-giving relationships in which we feel heard and seen.

With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we would give to a good friend. Many of us weren’t raised with the tools of self-compassion, she said, but we can grow toward it with  simple exercises to calm and love ourselves. Among these:

– Think of a term of affection you may have been given as a child, such as honey, dear, lovebug. Attach that term to a kind statement to yourself, such as, “_____, you are a blessing, you are loved, you are safe.”

– Give yourself a soothing touch, such as cupping your face, folding your hands or touching your fingers lightly together.

– Put your hands on your belly and take a good, deep breath.

– Give yourself a loving squeeze.

– Hum or sing to yourself.

For more resources on self-compassion, Ciavarri recommends the work of researcher Kristin Neff, featured at https://self-compassion.org/. Ciavarri’s own website is at http://www.sarahciavarri.com.

The Monday Night Mental Health Speaker Series continues on Zoom with a talk on “Resiliency, Self Compassion and Self Care in the Community” at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 14.

The series is affiliated with Mental Health Connect, a collaborative of faith communities that provides for free community-based resources, support and education to improve access to mental health services and to connect individuals and families with the services they need. Call or text 612-312-3377 for help.

Message by Patrice Vick, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

We Each Must Take Responsibility

 Mental health and wellbeing are essential for everyone. As we monitor our own wellbeing, each of us can play a role in promoting good mental health by reaching out virtually to a friend, a family member, a loved one, or a neighbor. Many of us shy away from this still-too-stigmatized topic and avoid “upsetting the apple cart” by broaching the subject of mental health.

A Ramsey County website offers multiple tools to help us. One particular link suggests possible questions that may be used for a quick check-in, as well as for ongoing conversations:

A few quick check-in things to keep in mind:

– Spend as much time as you want on each question.

– Stay engaged with follow-up questions.

– Keep things judgment-free.

– You don’t have to be an expert; you just have to listen.

– Stay in touch after, and don’t be afraid to connect them to resources.

Questions:

1.  How are you feeling today, really? Physically and mentally.

2.  What’s taking up most of your headspace right now?

3.  What/When was your last full meal, and have you been drinking enough water?

4.  How have you been sleeping?

5.  What have you been doing for exercise?

6.  What did you do today that made you feel good?

7.  What’s something you can do today that would be good for you?

8.  What’s something you’re looking forward to in the next few days?

9.  What’s something we can do together this week, even if we’re apart?

10. What are you grateful for right now?

These questions are also great self-help reminders. Take a proactive role in promoting mental health and wellbeing for all.

Message by Donna Anderson, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

Moods, Thinking and Memory

It’s common to have problems occasionally with moods, thinking, and memory. Most of the time, forgetfulness and irritability are temporary. Stress, sleep problems, significant life events or medication side effects could be responsible; these can be corrected and will improve with time. These issues, however, can also signal more serious conditions. It’s important to seek medical care when they persist or worsen. Depression, anxiety, psychosis, mood disorders, substance use or early-onset dementias can look like changes in emotions, memory, thinking and functioning. Even though they can look similar, the treatments are different so it can be hard to know what will help without a diagnosis.  Early intervention is always best. When there are concerns about memory, mood or confusion, contact your health care provider.

Message by Parish Nurse Jill Stewart, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member and Hope in Recovery Team Member.

Mental Health Awareness Month Background

An organization called Mental Health America (MHA) started Mental Health Awareness Month in 1949. This excerpt is from the MHA website:

“Since 1949, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have observed May is Mental Health Month by reaching out to millions of people through the media, local events, and screenings. We invite other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.

“In 2021, we will continue with our theme of Tools 2 Thrive, providing practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase their resiliency regardless of their personal situation.

“Our toolkit includes sample materials for communications and social media as well as printable handouts on the following topics:

– Adapting after trauma and stress

– Dealing with anger and frustration

– Getting out of thinking traps

– Processing big changes

– Taking time for yourself

– Radical acceptance”

March 9, 2021: Resources from Year of Grief and Loss Forum

Rabbi Lynn Liberman and Tara Burns, both with Jewish Family Services, presented “Healing from a Year of Grief and Loss” during our Sunday Forum on March 7, 2021. Below are links to resources they shared.

Grief and Loss Resources

Stay Connected MN

PEARLS Brochure

February 24, 2021: Handouts and Follow-up to Mindfulness Forum

Mariann Johnson of the UMN Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing was our presenter for “An Exploration of Mindful Movement and Meditation” on Feb. 21, 2021. She did an exceptional job of explaining mindfulness, instructing a mindful movement session of seated yoga, and guiding us through a mindful meditation. Her presentation was wonderfully succinct, compassionate, and was guided with allowances for our participants’ levels of understanding. You can access the promised handouts below:

Presenter’s Handout

Bakken Center Resource List

November 4, 2020: Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that affects 1% of the US population. It is characterized by the presence of hallucinations, delusional beliefs, apathy and disorganized thinking. Symptoms typically start in late adolescence or early adulthood and oftentimes leads to hospitalization. The duration is usually lifelong.

Fortunately, there are effective treatment options. Medications, individual therapy, supported employment and mental health case management can help individuals with schizophrenia thrive in their respective communities.

For more information on schizophrenia, please visit the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. NAMI is a consumer advocacy group.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

October 28, 2020: Bipolar Affective Disorder

Bipolar Affective Disorder (BPAD) is a mental health condition characterized by mood swings called manic episodes and depressive episodes. Manic episodes are periods of time (at least one week in duration) where a person does not sleep, feels on top of the world, talks rapidly and nonsensically, has high energy and usually feels elated. Depressive episodes are periods of time (at least two weeks in duration) of depressed mood, changes in sleep, appetite and energy level, as well as tearfulness and thoughts of suicide. In between manic and depressive episodes, a person experiences normal moods.

Almost 3% of the US population is diagnosed with BPAD, with 25 being the average age of onset. BPAD usually lasts for a person’s lifetime and requires treatment. Fortunately, there are effective treatment options including medications, therapy, and additional professional supports.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a consumer advocacy group, has more information about BPAD.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

October 21, 2020: Mental Illness and Stigma

Mental health disorders are common: One in five US adults experienced a mental illness in 2018, according to NAMI. Mental illnesses comprise a diverse group of health conditions that affect people of all ages, have many causes, vary in severity and are usually treatable. And yet, people often feel ashamed and therefore avoid talking about these everyday medical conditions in the same way we would chat about high blood pressure or diabetes.

Fortunately, many organizations are working to reduce the stigma that has been experienced by persons with mental illness. For more information on how to talk about mental illness, information on mental illness in general, and stigma, we encourage you to visit the Make It Okay organization website.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

September 23, 2020: Fear

Yesterday, Rosh Hashanah began at sundown, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg died. When I heard the latter news, I felt a wave of fear, as if hope for a better future had just died.

Then, by Zoom, Michele, Sue, and I watched the first Rosh Hashanah service from Temple Israel in Minneapolis, Michele’s congregation (and mine by marriage, it turns out). This morning we watched the morning service, during which the rabbi preached on fear.

It turns out that in Biblical Hebrew, the words for fear are “pachad” (pah-kahd) and “yirah” (year-ah). They have very different meanings. “Pachad” is bad fear, the kind of fear that poisons us, leaves us feeling defeated and hopeless. It’s the kind of fear that generates apathy, depression, and especially anger. It’s the kind of fear that we’re told to feel about immigrants coming to our border, about peaceful protesters who want racial justice and an end to police brutality, or if you’re a white suburban woman (that is, apparently, a “housewife,” if such a job description still applies) you should feel about Cory Booker and the African Americans coming to your suburb and building housing “projects.”

It’s fear that poisons us and makes us hate.

“Yirah,” on the other hand, is empowering fear. It’s the kind of fear I felt as I went away to college for the first time–anxious about the experience and how I’d adjust, but excited, full of a sense of possibility, of new bridges to cross, new people and ideas to encounter. It’s the fear an entrepreneur feels at the start of her new business, scared of failing, but full of the empowered sense of making a contribution to the world. It’s the kind of fear that we feel when standing on sacred ground: more awe than anxiety.

The rabbi advised us to make careful discriminations, and the example he chose was this: When we are told to feel “pachad,” poisonous fear leading to hate and anger toward others, disregard the message. Know that the messenger wants the worst for us.

But if we are told to feel awe and respect and righteous anxiety about the possibilities we face, and urged toward the courage (yes, courageous fear) to embrace them, follow that. “Yirah” emboldens, it en-courages, it places us in the presence of life’s possibilities. This is the “fear of God” that the Hebrew Bible invites us to feel–not “pachad,” fearing God’s wrath and punishment, but “yirah,” awe in the presence of possibility and courage to move forward toward life.

Message by Bill Percy, psychologist and author; his personal reflections on the research of Rabbi Simeon Glaser at Temple Israel in Minneapolis; shared with his permission.

June 24, 2020: Despair

It feels like forever, but we are only a few months into a pandemic that may last a year or more. I am beginning to hear about “deaths of despair” due to COVID-19. This term was coined about 10 years ago to describe preventable deaths from substance abuse and suicide fueled by the opioid epidemic. In 2018, 158,000 Americans were estimated to have died from despair (NBC News, April 15, 2020). This number doesn’t include chronic physical and mental health conditions caused or complicated by despair.

Thankfully, we can treat despair and sometimes even prevent it. Studies* show that weekly religious participation, strong social connections and a sense of purpose can protect against despair, heal it, improve health outcomes and create joy.

Help is available if you or someone you know is having a hard time. 

In a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, or text MN to 741741 for help any time.

– Contact First Call For Help for free, confidential help with health care, COVID-19 testing information, housing, transportation and more, 24/7. Dial 211, visit the website or text your zip code to 898-211.

Here are some ways to provide support:

– Self-care is important; you can’t pour from an empty cup. Do your best to follow a regular sleep schedule, eat healthy foods, exercise and stay hydrated. If you have a health condition, keep your medical appointments and follow your plan.

– Faith practices are restorative. Participate in worship and learning opportunities. Read scripture and daily devotions. Meditate or do yoga. Take a few minutes to sit and breathe quietly. Pray.

– Appreciate beauty, music, and art. Look for ways that God is creating good. Spend time outside in nature.

– Build and nurture connections. Call, text, email or send cards to keep in touch. Join a small group or committee. Look through your photos.

– Help others. Collect food, clothing and household goods for donation. Sew masks. Help neighbors with yard work or tend the Gloria Dei Garden for Francis Basket. Be an advocate.

– Do something fun. Enjoy jokes, comics, comedies or funny video clips.

– Take a break from social media or the news if it makes you feel worse.

– Contact the church office to reach a pastor, the parish nurse or the Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry for information and nonemergency support.

*Medpage Today: Health care providers who regularly attend worship services have a lower risk of dying from drug or alcohol abuse, overdose, or suicide, collectively referred to as “deaths of despair” (JAMA Psychiatry 2020; DOI:10.1001/jamapsychiatry2020.0175)

Message by Jill Stewart, Gloria Dei Parish Nurse.

June 17, 2020: Nurturing Trust in Tumultuous Times

Matthew 10:19-20 from June 14, 2020, Gospel reading

When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

I take prescribed medication for generalized anxiety disorder and depression; I believe that this medication has supported me through the last few weeks. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and my sadness, fear and soul-searching following the killing of George Floyd, life goes on with other challenges.

Medication improves my mood and lessens my anxiety, but I also need to take action: deep belly breaths, long walks, and reaching out to others and to God. Like this verse from Matthew, the Third Step of Alcoholics Anonymous (“Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understand Him”) reminds me to trust. It’s my favorite of AA’s 12 steps because it relieves me of the need to fix every problem, to anticipate fully what the future will bring and to be prepared for every possibility. Instead, I can pray to discern God’s will and, especially in times of stress, rely on God to show me simply the next right thing to do today.

That may mean deepening my commitment to volunteer for social justice or making a donation. It often is simple things like calling a friend, tackling a household chore, taking time with a pet or being in nature.

On Sunday, Pastor Bradley acknowledged that we live in “extraordinary times.” That calls for extraordinary attention to our own mental health and the mental health of those around us.

Message by Patrice Vick, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member and Hope in Recovery Team Member.

June 10, 2020: We are grieving

We are grieving. In these concurrent pandemics of violence and COVID-19, we have lost much; grief is the normal response to loss.

Many of our losses are emotional, physical, social and financial:

– We have emotionally lost our assumptions of peace and security.

– We have physically lost lives of loved ones and our assurances of good health.

– We have socially lost our direct contact with family and friends, coworkers and schoolmates.

– We have financially lost jobs and income.

Our bodies and minds will react to these losses. Psychologically we may experience anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair. Physiologically we may experience changes in appetite, disrupted sleep patterns and illness. This is grief.

We encourage you to treat yourself with the same compassion and care that you would share with a grieving friend. Talk with a trusted loved one or professional, confide in a friend, demonstrate kindness to a stranger, read an uplifting book or article, write your story so far.

Pray for our future – as individuals, families, congregations, communities, states, nations and our world.

Message by the Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team.

June 3, 2020: Anxiety

We all experience anxiety. During this uncertain time, our anxiety may become increasingly overwhelming – both emotionally and physically. We encourage you to monitor yourself and others for feelings of tension and dread, and for fatigue and stomach problems. Many of us find relief in prayerful thanksgiving, and by practicing acts of joyful kindness, mindfulness exercises and meditation. Sit still; concentrate only on your breath, breathe in for a count of four and out for a count of eight. To find additional skills to help with anxiety, read this more detailed Mental Health Minute.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

May 27, 2020: Dialing down restrictions  

In this ever-changing reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and our shelter-in-place orders, many of us may find ourselves transitioning back to work – either remotely or to the actual workplace. Others may be encouraged to step out into the public square more often. These transitions are sure to be accompanied by an anxious mood for many, especially with renewed concerns about exposure to the coronavirus and the grim economic difficulties we are facing.

Transitions of all sorts lead to feelings of nervousness. This heightened sense of anxiety is our body’s way to try to be mentally ready for the unexpected and novel situations ahead. For some, it is a mild case of “butterflies” in their stomach; at its worst, it can be debilitating panic attacks or a constant state of dread. If you are experiencing the latter, talk to your doctor or contact a mental health professional for assistance. Treatment is available; treatment is effective.

As you find yourself facing a transition back into public spaces, make it a priority to take care of yourself. Transition thoughtfully; think ahead and be prepared. Please recognize you are not alone in this experience and that the nervousness, dread and panic will ease as you grow accustomed to the changes you have successfully weathered.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

May 20, 2020: Sleep

Do you find yourself staying up late? Sleeping in? Without the structure of work, school, etc., you may find your sleep schedule has shifted. Anxious thoughts may keep you up at night, or you may want to hide under your blanket all day. Sleep is a necessary biological function, that is crucial for brain health and important for optimum functioning during the day.

Be sure to check in with your primary care provider if you are experiencing issues with sleep: your sleep disturbances may be the symptom of a medical condition. Your primary care provider may recommend further testing or treatment options, such as over-the-counter remedies, prescribed medications, or referral to a sleep specialist. These links (GoogleiOS) are to a phone-based app that could be helpful at getting your sleep schedule back on track and feeling rested.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

May 13, 2020: The blues or depression

Many of us are experiencing a heightened emotional response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place order. This stressful situation is leading to nervousness, anxiety, sadness, crying, anger, depression, grief and other emotional states. For the most part, this is normal and to be expected in these trying times. Sometimes, however, our emotional state starts to take a turn for the worse and interferes with our ability to function, our relationships and/or our hygiene.

A Major Depressive Episode is when the depressed mood lasts throughout most days for over two weeks and is accompanied by five or more of the following symptoms: change in sleep habits, change in appetite, impaired concentration, loss of interest, feelings of guilt, feeling like your brain is functioning slowly and/or thoughts of suicide.

Fortunately, you are not in this alone. Many treatment options are out there. Strong evidence points to the benefits of exercise, talk therapy, over-the-counter supplements, mindfulness-based stress reduction and medications. Talk to your primary care doctor to further explore options. If you experience thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

For many people, depression leads to not wanting to do things or feeling like you can’t do things. This inactivity worsens the depression, which in turn makes it harder to do things and results in a vicious cycle. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy addresses this directly with the recommendation to keep a structured day, filled with both productive and pleasurable activities. Eventually, maintaining this activity structure may help to pick up your mood.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

May 6, 2020: Reaching out

May is Mental Health Awareness Month: a time to acknowledge that mental illnesses are medical illnesses, that great treatments/ prevention strategies exist, and that there is hope for recovery from symptoms. As we continue to look for strategies to assist us in moving through this pandemic while maintaining physical, emotional and psychological health, we are reminded to reach out to others in our circles – our family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, colleagues, classmates, fellow parishioners and community members. Since we are reaching out virtually, our circles can be extended far and wide.

This Star Tribune article by Kevyn Burger, a Minneapolis-based freelance broadcaster and writer, appeared in the April 30, 2020, paper. We encourage you to pay special attention to the “Acknowledge Uncertainty” section near the end of the article.

April 29, 2020: Mindfulness

Mindfulness meditation has been a practice across cultures for centuries. It has more recently been adapted and studied for many different health conditions, and championed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who defines mindfulness as: “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness can be practiced daily, in brief intervals, and can help reduce stress, depression and anxiety. You do not have to devote hours to the practice. Any time you can become aware of the present moment, instead of worrying about the future or ruminating on the past, can bring you peace of mind. Mindfulness can be done sitting still, standing or while moving. While there are many apps, book and videos available about mindfulness, we want to direct you to two sources for free educational information on mindfulness, as well as links to audio files of guided meditation (at end of article).

At a well-received Gloria Dei Sunday Forum, we learned about and practiced mindfulness under the guidance of Robert Reed from the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing. Participants encouraged our Mental Health Ministry team to develop this training into a full-fledged course, which became cost prohibitive. We encourage you to begin or continue your mindfulness exploration with the online resources below.

– University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality & Healing free webinars.

– University of Wisconsin-Madison Integrative Medicine Clinic free guided meditation audio files.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

April 22, 2020: Alcohol use during pandemic

For some of us, this COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult. We lack the social mores of work, school, and/or church. Everything we hear in the news may lead to an increase in stress, anxiety and depression. For some, it is the boredom of social isolation that is most difficult. Whatever the reason, some of us will turn to alcohol to cope.

Maybe you’ve had a slip or a relapse, or maybe you notice you’re consuming more alcohol, and this concerns you as it impacts your ability to function. Please know, you are not alone. The good news is that there is help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers this general information sheet with facts about alcohol and a screening tool. SAMHSA also offers a guide on how to talk to a loved one you are concerned about. Local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings and other treatment options are going virtual, along with the rest of the world. You may choose to use this site to search for a meeting; specify that you are looking for virtual meetings.

We are all in this together, and we want to make sure everyone can make it safely through.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

April 15, 2020: For our Youth—Pandemic (adults, please read and share)

I am sure the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has been difficult for you. I would guess it has been hard to be away from your friends and school. I’m sorry about all the things you are missing because of the shelter-in-place order and social distancing. I can only assume that some of you are very stressed out; maybe your parents are not working, or you know someone who is sick with COVID-19. You will probably remember this year for the rest of your life. I hope you remember this as just a short period of time that you passed through, but likely you will remember it because of the people and things you’ve lost. For some of you, living through the COVID-19 pandemic has not been difficult, and that is okay, too.

My guess is that by now you are getting into a daily rhythm and routine; this has probably been hard without the structure of school, sports, and other activities. I encourage you to, as best you can, stick to a daily schedule. Make sure you take time for yourself: eat meals, take baths or showers, brush your teeth. Make sure to do your schoolwork. Just as important is making sure you connect to your friends and family. And have some fun. I challenge you to be creative in how you have fun. For example, if you like to go a park, try to imagine how you can “bring” your favorite park activity back home to your backyard.

If you find it is hard to sleep at night or if you have trouble focusing on schoolwork because you’re worried about the COVID-19 pandemic, or if you have an upset stomach or a jittery feeling in your body, this could be anxiety. Talk to your parents or an adult you trust. There is a lot you can do on your own to make this feeling less strong, but if it persists it may help to talk to a therapist.

One way I help myself feel calm is by looking at pictures of mini lop rabbits on Google. When I do this, I can’t help but smile and I feel more at ease. You can try this, too; find something that makes you smile.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

April 2, 2020: Pandemic

In this time of “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing,” it may seem like much is out of our control as we are forced to halt our routines. Whether we like it or not, many changes have been forced upon us because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Focusing on what is out of our control can lead to a worsening of anxiety, depression and dread. One option is to instead concentrate on what we have the power to change. As Viktor Frankl notes in Man’s Search For Meaning: “… [E]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” What does this look like in the Age of a Pandemic? Make a schedule for yourself in the absence of the externally provided structures of church, work or school. Include nurturing things like exercise and connection to others however you can. Choose to take a break from your focus on news related to COVID-19. Let go of COVID-19 for at least a moment and hold onto something that gives you joy, hope and peace. As you change your focus, you may find that anxiety, depression and dread lessen, a sign that you exercised that last of human freedoms.

Message by Alexander Stegeman, DO, Psychiatrist, Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry Team Member.