Tag Archive: coping mechanisms

  1. Holiday Stress and How It Can Affect Co-Occurring Mental Illnesses

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    Holiday Stress

    Every year, commercials, Hollywood fare, and familial pressure give us the message that the holidays are supposed to be joy-filled occasions. Holidays are meant to allow us to escape from life’s daily stressors and live life like it’s a Hallmark movie. These messages are unrealistic and apply tremendous pressure to people who feel they must live up to impossible standards. Stressors that come with each holiday season include gatherings with extended family, the pressure to participate in multiple parties and get-togethers, and the expectation that everyone is on their best behavior. These are unrealistic expectations, especially for an adolescent dealing with co-occurring mental illnesses and their families.

    Co-occurring mental illnesses include:

    • Depression
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Social Anxiety Disorder
    • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
    • Eating Disorder
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
    • Schizophrenia

    Holidays Commonly Contribute to Mental Illness Symptoms

    According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, almost two-thirds of people dealing with a mental illness say that the holidays worsen their conditions. They also report that the highest rate for child psychiatric hospitalizations occurs in winter. Ofter a person who has a mental illness relies on schedules and regular routines. The holiday season often upsets mentally ill young people, causing extra stress. Being surrounded by large groups of people gathering together can cause a child to experience feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, and confusion. These feelings can negatively impact eating and sleeping patterns and cause a recurrence of psychotic symptoms.

    Warning Signs Your Child May Be In Trouble

    When dealing with an adolescent who has co-occurring mental illness diagnoses, it’s essential to look out for any indications that they may be struggling. Some signs to watch out for include:

    • Mood changes
    • Withdrawing from people or activities
    • Change in sleep patterns
    • Change in eating patterns
    • An increased amount of anxiety
    • Paranoia or hallucinations
    • Expressing excessive anger
    • Depressive or manic episodes
    • Discussion of suicide

    Alcohol, Drug Use, and Mental Health

    When managing a mental illness is coupled with alcohol or drug abuse, the holidays can make everything worse. The presence of alcohol and drugs can exacerbate your child’s mental health symptoms. Likewise, poor mental health often coincides with more alcohol and drug consumption. When faced with holiday stressors, symptoms of mental health issues like depression and anxiety can become elevated. A frustrated adolescent may be tempted to reach for old habits like alcohol or drug use to alleviate these symptoms. Learn to anticipate problems and help your child navigate the holidays without losing the ground they have gained during treatment.

    Tips For Staying Safe During the Holidays

    It’s essential to clarify to your struggling child that they are always welcome to discuss any concerns or emotions they are experiencing. Knowing their family members are willing to listen and are on their side can make a huge difference in how much a child is ready to open up when they are struggling. If the child is still receiving treatment, such as individual or group counseling, they must continue to attend their appointments and take advantage of the help they need. It might be tempting to skip an appointment or two due to how busy people get during the holidays. Still, every effort should be made to continue with professional treatment and take any prescription medication to help manage mental health conditions.

    Families can formulate a plan to help their child anticipate interruptions in their schedule brought on by the holidays and be prepared with ways to help alleviate stress. To avoid overscheduling, which is often stressful for adolescents dealing with mental illness, ask their input on upcoming holiday activities. Present options like a dinner with family friends and a party at a relative’s house and ask which one they prefer to attend. When the child feels they have some say in deciding what events they attend, it helps reduce their anxiety levels. They feel empowered and as if their family recognizes their struggles and is happy to help with solutions.

    Make Time For the Immediate Family

    When a child is overwhelmed by loud parties and events with large crowds, make sure to include a happy event at home that is just for the immediate family. Family members can take turns selecting things like the food served or which movie to watch or what music to play, and make a night in feel like a calming event. Keep things within their comfort zone since so much of the holidays may have already been about that. 

    The holidays can be stressful for anyone, but an adolescent struggling with co-occurring mental illnesses may find that this time of year increases their symptoms. Parents need to know what to be on the lookout for and be prepared to assist their child in dealing with any added holiday stressors. Sustain Recovery offers an intensive long-term residential program for adolescents that helps them learn to manage their co-occurring mental illnesses, as well as alcohol or drug abuse. Our multi-phase system allows adolescents to learn to express themselves, take responsibility for their recovery, and return home ready to continue with the healing methods they have learned with us. Our evidence-based clinical treatment modalities and best practice principles give every adolescent new ways to manage their mental health and feel empowered. Call us today to find out how we can help your family start healing! (949) 407-9052


  2. How to Combat Pandemic Related Triggers in Adolescents

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    Pandemic Stress

    COVID-19 has overshadowed most of 2020, causing a lot of negative impact on millions of people’s mental health in the U.S. alone. People report higher levels of anxiety, stress, depression, and a real fear of coping with a pandemic no one was prepared to handle. It has been particularly devastating for younger people who do not have the life experience or age needed to handle the epidemic on a more adult level. When an adolescent is already dealing with one or more mental health issues and abuse of alcohol or drugs, referred to as co-occurring disorders, the stakes are even higher. Several things directly related to COVID-19 are potential triggers for adolescents in treatment, making it essential for their treatment providers to know how to help them work through them.

    Distance Learning

    Adolescents rely on the structure of their regular school schedule, even if they sometimes struggle in their classes. When schools began to close down in the spring, many students found themselves without the anchor they had taken for granted for years. Initially, it was thought that by the beginning of the next school year, classes would be back in session. Still, many school districts have chosen not to reopen or only allow students to attend in-person part-time. Schools had to scramble to provide appropriate distance learning for their students, leaving parents and children in the lurch as they waited for new policies to be announced and enacted. 

    If a client’s parents are unsure how best to help their children adjust to the new school rules, give them some pointers. Parents should talk to their child’s teacher and make sure they are clear on the new school schedule and what is expected of the students. If their child experiences limits or difficulties due to their mental illness, they should discuss possible options with the teacher to help them succeed. Share this information with your child and let them know they will be expected to work independently at times but are welcome to ask for a parent’s assistance. Ask that the parents share what they learn with you to work as a team while helping the child transition to distance learning. Let the child know that every other student and the faculty are scrambling to adapt to the new normal, and perfection is not expected.

    The Boredom of Quarantining 

    Staying at home nearly 24/7 is difficult for people of all ages. Still, an adolescent may feel like they’ve been grounded through no fault of their own. Encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends via electronic options, such as text, telephone, and online meeting programs. Although meeting up in person is not advisable, it’s important not to entirely isolate. Doing so can increase levels of depression and anxiety, which contribute to poorer mental health. 

    Establish new schedules within the home that keep quarantining from feeling like endless days of boredom. Activities like movie night, playing board games, or other family plans can give structure. Weather permitting, include walks around the neighborhood or an outside activity done as a family. While a child still benefits from time alone, even during the pandemic, look for signs that they may be using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.

    The Negative News Cycle

    Understandably, parents want to be up-to-date on all COVID-19 related developments, but exposure to too much news can have harsh consequences for the whole family. Limiting TV news, as well as discussion centered around the latest negative news stories and statistics, can help your child feel less vulnerable. While younger people need to stay informed, consider that they have less ability to interpret the news. They also tend to take one negative aspect of it and apply it to the feeling that everything in their lives and future is entirely out of control. Talk to your child about what news they have seen or read and discuss it together to help them process it.

    Be a Role Model

    Adolescents watch their parents for signs of how they are coping, making it essential to be mindful of words and actions. Parents need to communicate to their children that while things may feel bleak, society is learning more about how to act. There will eventually be a return to a more normal way of life. Encourage the child to continue any treatment appointments and prescribed medication to help them continue on the path to healing. If the child exhibits signs of needing more intensive help with their co-occurring disorders, seek options such as outpatient or residential programs.

    Living in a world gripped by COVID-19 is difficult enough for the average person. An adolescent dealing with co-occurring disorders may find that they face many triggers that threaten their ability to effectively manage their mental health and any trouble with abuse of alcohol or drugs. Therapists can partner with parents to provide their adolescent clients with the help they need. Kids can learn to deal with triggers, such as distance learning, social distancing, and the barrage of negative news. If the pandemic triggers have proven too overwhelming for a child to cope with, Sustain Recovery can provide multiples types of programs. Each option is designed for a young clientele to help manage their mental health and any accompanying addiction. Located in Southern California, our treatment professionals offer multiple types of therapies that teach children to thrive and reach their potential and their families to help them recover (949) 407-9052.


  3. How Therapists Are Adapting to a COVID-19 World

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    COVID-19 has created unparalleled levels of stress and anxiety for the average person. Many people who were already in therapy when the pandemic began have discussed the impact of COVID-19 with their therapists. Many people have also sought out therapy for the first time to help manage the stress that living during COVID-19 has brought to their lives. As a result, treatment professionals have had to incorporate plans of action adaptable to these newfound complications.

    The Pandemic Also Affects Professionals

    Complicating the new landscape of a world taken over by a pandemic is the fact that many professionals are dealing with their own fears and concerns about COVID-19 while trying to treat their clients for the same issue. It can be difficult for a therapist to guide people in handling their emotions and making decisions about how to react when they themselves have the same concerns. A therapist may be struggling to keep their usual roster of appointments while dealing with distance learning children. Similar to their clients, they worry about themselves or a loved one contracting the virus. If someone in their lives is sick or has lost their battle with COVID-19, stress can become burdensome. These losses make it taxing to simultaneously be responsible for providing professional help to several people in the same boat. 

    Telehealth Appointments Offer Options

    If you are not offering telehealth appointments, consider doing so. Telehealth therapy appointments have significantly increased during the pandemic. They can provide both the therapist and their clients peace of mind that neither is in danger of infecting the other. It also keeps both parties from having to leave their homes or risk exposure to the general public. Telehealth appointments also allow a therapist to offer sessions outside their regular hours, which can help them arrange a better schedule for themselves and their clients, particularly if their client load is increasing. 

    Adapting to Client Needs

    Keep in mind that no matter how much you want to help as many people as possible, you have to make sure you are taking care of yourself, too. Squeezing in more appointments than usual is a noble effort, but spreading yourself too thin may ultimately cause you to become overwhelmed and less effective. You may end up cutting down drastically on sessions offered in order to manage your own mental health. 

    Many therapists are reporting that their clients are expressing concern about their therapist’s well-being. While it’s crucial to maintain appropriate boundaries, it can be soothing to a client to know that their therapist is experiencing elevated levels of stress, too. A brief exchange of feelings about pandemic-related topics can help build a bond between a treatment professional and their client. 

    Remember to Take Care of Yourself

    Think about some of the specific suggestions you give a client to help them manage their stress levels. Make sure you are applying them to yourself, as needed. Engaging in regular exercise, getting outside daily to get some sun and fresh air, and maintaining a healthy diet all provide benefits. If things like yoga, meditation, or aromatherapy are a go-to stress reliever, or if you are interested in trying one of these for the first time, be sure to incorporate that into your routine. Make time for a hobby that relaxes or rejuvenates you. Take time to relax with a book or watch a movie. Block out time for it in your appointment calendar, so it doesn’t get pushed aside. 

    It’s also beneficial to make sure you have your own outlet to discuss how you feel about the pandemic and anything related to it. This may be a partner, family member, or friends. For others, it may include seeing a professional to help you manage the world of being a therapist during such a historical time of rising mental health issues. Remember that you are not alone if you feel overwhelmed as a treatment professional in a COVID-19 world. There are not a host of textbooks or classes that teach how to work during this new reality, leaving many therapists scrambling to adapt to it. Constant changes in local policies about social distancing, guidelines for safety, and differing opinions from politicians from the national to the local level can be exhausting. Organize any articles or emails you need to read related to all this and then set aside time to go through them.  

    Therapists are experiencing an increase in their patient roster and the need to help manage their stress from living during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, therapists themselves are also dealing with the same anxieties as their clients. Treatment professionals must take care of themselves, too. Sustain Recovery is a treatment center in California that offers multiple options for managing co-occurring mental illnesses and abuse of drugs and alcohol by adolescents. We provide several options for care, ranging from outpatient to long-term residential, that are designed to fit your child’s treatment needs. We offer COVID-19 compliant facilities to provide safety for our clients, their families, and staff. If increased anxiety about the pandemic or other mental health issues are causing your child to need intensive help, call us today to find out how we can create a plan for their success! (949) 407-9052.


  4. Alternative Coping Strategies for Recovering Teens

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    Alternative Coping Strategies for Recovering TeensThere are many different ways that people deal with the challenges of life. When life is going well, we feel on top of the world. When life throws us a curve ball, that’s when we find out our true coping skills. Some people have strong, solid coping mechanisms and can deal with problems in a healthy way, while others of us find that we do not have a solid coping foundation and turn to substances or other vice to deal with our problems.  If you’re out of rehab and looking for ways to cope with life’s turmoils and difficulties without turning to substance use, consider these options;


    Exercising To Feel Good

    The vast improvement that exercise can have on the mind and body are hard to grasp until you actually start doing it. It doesn’t take long, though. Endorphins released during physical activity cause a natural, healthy euphoria which encourages you to repeat the productive and beneficial act. Exercise also helps remove byproducts of the stress response. If you’re feeling agitated, anxious, or angry—some of the biggest cornerstones of addiction recovery—a quick run or bike ride can do wonders for peace-of-mind and clear thinking.


    Journaling To Express Yourself

    By putting your thoughts on paper, you’re not just expressing your feelings—you’re gaining insight on them. You have to talk to someone, even if it’s just yourself. The major advantage of journaling in recovery from addiction is that it provides a clear and motivating record showcasing your treatment progress and which actions, attitudes, or choices worked for you along the way. Not only does the act of writing often reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and cravings, it can serve as a useful tool to look back on when you need insight or inspiration in the future.


    Talking It Out With Someone

    In addition to self-regulation and analysis, it’s important to have another listening ear. When stress and devastation make life seem unbearable, the act of communicating with another human being serves to help ground you in relationships and human interaction, which helps you to not feel so alone. Talking to a trusted friend takes some of the burden off yourself. It also makes way for multiple perspectives, both yours and theirs. If you’re attending AA or a similar program, you can even obtain a sponsor–a fellow addict with whom you can interweave your motivations and skill-building.


    There’s no better place to learn and utilize coping skills for recovery and sober living than right here, with us. Sustain Recovery offers a multitude of counseling and guidance services for building effective coping skills in and after treatment. For a consultation, call 949-637-5499.

I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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