Mental Health Minute

Our Gloria Dei Mental Health Ministry team 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.

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 (Google, iOS) 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, GDLC 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, GDLC 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, GDLC 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, GDLC 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, GDLC 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, GDLC Mental Health Ministry Team Member.

March 25, 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.