Is Playing Christmas Music Early Good for Mental Health?

By Shannon Boatwright

Ok, let’s chat about this. The logical answer is that it depends on the individual!

For me, listening to Christmas music, whatever the season, is good for my mental health. However, according to a post on DoYouRemember.com, psychologists warn that “early” listening could be bad for your health because it can invoke anxiety and negative reminders of the stresses of the holidays.

I can certainly understand that for some people, hearing Christmas music can trigger bad memories and cause stress. I totally empathize and respect that. On the other hand, anytime I hear Christmas music, it instantly makes me happy. Seriously, it instantly adds a little joy to my heart regardless of what I’m doing, going through or stressed about. Hearing Christmas tunes always lifts my spirits.

IMG_8492

My family and I are definitely the types that listen to Christmas songs any time of the year. Not all the time, but occasionally, yes, even in the middle of the summer. My son will say, “Alexa, play Christmas music,” and we certainly don’t stop him. In fact, my husband and I will watch a holiday movie any time of the year. For us, the music and movies are just the same. They evoke happy memories, joy, and lift our spirits, oftentimes even giving us a sense of peace. We’ve already set out our favorite Christmas movies and made sure the Christmas music station is preset on the radio.

Now, we don’t go too crazy and start decorating our house before Halloween. Heck, we’re too busy to go all out before the real holiday season hits, but we do love Christmas!

To those that are stressed out by holiday music and all things Christmas this November, I’m terribly sorry! However, I have to say, I am thankful for Christmas anytime because it is certainly good for my spirits, and I am looking forward to the holiday season!

 

 

Routines, RA, and Menopause – Oh My!

By Marianna Boyce

There’s nothing unusual about having a daily routine. No matter how busy or sedentary our lives may be, we mindlessly perform the same tasks without giving it a second thought. If my schedule is out of sync, it throws off my entire day. Over the past several years, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has forced me to constantly create new routines.

One morning, I’d clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Not only were my joints filled with intense pain, but my brain was also discombobulated. Adhering to my morning regiment was ridiculously grueling. An RA flare made it difficult leaving the house that morning, but I managed anyway.

pexels-photo-313690.jpgAfter making it to the office, I contemplated returning home, going back to bed, and starting the day over again. However, I knew this would not have helped, so instead, I grumpily grabbed my bag and told the ladies in the office, “Hold up y’all, I’ll be right back,” as I rushed out the door.

I feebly limped to my car and got in. As I sat in the driver’s seat with my forehead resting on my hands, nothing helped much in the pain department, but a moment alone in silence allowed me to clear a few of the cobwebs and gather my thoughts. The ladies inside probably thought I was off my rocker for disappearing with no explanation.

A few minutes later, I re-entered the front door as if I was walking in for the first time that day. My big ole smile matched the upbeat sound of my voice as I said, for what sounded like the first time, “Good morning, ladies.” Clearly, I was off my rocker. My coworkers who know me so well quickly identified my forced smile and fake joyful tone. We laughed about my whirlwind tantrum and dramatic exit, then went on with our day. Now, we often chuckle about that funny morning.

It’s taken quite some time figuring out how to (mostly) successfully live with RA, but now, I’m coping with another issue. I’m currently 51, and my body is undergoing another drastic change. Menopause is looming. I still have my cycle, so I’m not quite there yet. However, those premenopausal darts are currently being thrown in my direction.

Person Lying on Bed Covering White BlanketPerimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, begins several years before menopause. The average length of time for this stage differs for every woman. Ovaries make less estrogen during this stage and eventually, the body stops releasing eggs altogether. When a woman goes twelve months without having a period, perimenopause ends, and full-on menopause begins.

Perimenopausal symptoms include, but are not limited to:  

  • Irregular periods
  • Worsening premenstrual symptoms
  • Severe breast tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Urinary urgency and leakage

I’m experiencing eight of eleven signs listed above, while also contending with lifelong symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but I keep moving forward.

RA symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint pain (especially in the morning)
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth
  • Both sides affected (symmetric or mirroring)
  • Loss of range of motion, or function
  • Joint deformity
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Brain fog
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Depression

Since I have this wonderful platform, I’ll take this opportunity to also publish one fact and one symptom about RA in my own words:

FACT: Rheumatoid arthritis has absolutely nothing to do with age.

It’s frustrating when people say it is just because we are getting old. While I’m not opposed to getting older, this is not that.

SYMPTOM: Lubricating fluid surrounding the joints feels more like hardening cement instead.

This is the best way I can describe what rheumatoid arthritis feels like to those who have not experienced it. RA is challenging, painful, and life-altering.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful rheumatologist at Lexington Medical Center helping me navigate this life-altering disease. Since Dr. G’s specialty is Rheumatology, I’ll have to seek advice from my OBGYN when the time comes to navigate the menopause department.

I understand that as we age, aches and pains are inevitable. Our bodies snap, crackle, and pop when we wake each morning. As time goes on, we often wonder how in the world we arrived here because it all happens in a flash. We should all strive to grow old with grace and dignity – facing the natural progression of life.

God is good regardless of what curveballs are hurled in our direction. I’m often reminded despite my tough days and everchanging routines that there are many others in more difficult situations than me.

What are you dealing with today? How has it affected your routine? Let me know in the comments!

Suicide Prevention Awareness

by Tina Cameron

While September is National Suicide Prevention Month, awareness can be spread year-round. I am writing this with a heavy heart tonight about someone I never met, someone who appeared on their social media pages to be sweet, caring, kind, smart, funny, and very much loved. While I have never met this person, I am filled with sadness as a mother and as a person who has grieved a friend who died by suicide, my high school friend Debbie.

According to National Today (2019), “an average of 123 suicides” occur each day in the United States. It is “the tenth leading cause of death in America – second leading for ages 25-34, and third-leading for ages 15-24.” I was completely unaware of these statistics prior to my research. Awareness must be spread every single day, not just one month of the year that it is advertised. Reading these statistics is disheartening. According to the Center for Disease Control, researchers found that more than half of people who died by suicide during the study period did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other issues, including relationship problems, substance abuse, physical health problems, job or money-related stress, legal or housing problems often contributed to the risk of suicide.suicide-awareness-ribbon-2

As awareness about suicide is spreading, television shows and commercials are now showing phone number hotlines for people to call if they are having thoughts of suicide. I am a nurse at a hospital, and we now ask patients if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts when they are admitted. Despite this increased attention and awareness, people are still committing suicide because they may not have access to the help they need or even realize they need it. I cannot imagine the unbearable pain they feel.

My heart is breaking tonight and every day for anyone hurting in this way. Please reach out for help. Call a friend, your family, a crisis center. Breakups, financial problems, marital problems, and bad grades are not worth ending your life over. I have listed the phone number to call and website if you are thinking about harming yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Those Wintertime Blues

By: Marianna Boyce

Have you checked in on your friends and family lately?  It’s important to ask those close to us how they’re doing periodically, especially after the holidays.  We never know what someone is going through.  They may seem fine on the outside but could be experiencing sadness and chaos on the inside.

img_0754 (1)

Speaking of sadness, have you ever heard about symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or SAD?  Our shortened winter days make for very long nights.  You are most likely affected if you start to feel sad or depressed in late fall carrying through the winter.  We crave more daylight hours and can hardly wait until Daylight Savings Time begins.  This year, the day for those wintertime blues to magically disappear is March 10, 2019.

According to mayoclinic.org, symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are as follows:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day✅
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed✅
  • Having problems sleeping✅
  • Changes in appetite and weight✅
  • Having very low energy✅
  • Easily agitated✅
  • Difficulty concentrating✅
  • Feeling of hopelessness or unworthiness✅

I immediately recognized all these symptoms, but not for seasonal affective disorder.  Instead, I recognized them in relation to rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Add daily chronic intense joint pain to this list and VOILA!  That was me in 2016!  Who knew?  Not me!  I was totally blindsided and clueless.  It took about a year and a half but with the help of a great rheumatologist here at LMC, I am feeling somewhat better.

img_0751 (1)

Words cannot describe the difficulty one deals with when something so mentally and physically draining leaves such a lingering adverse effect.  Whether it was SAD or solely RA, these symptoms changed my psyche to the core.  I had to delve deep to bring about self-help and healing to my body, soul, and mind.

If you need only a long sunshiny perfect spring day to uplift your spirit, you have a little longer to wait.  In the meantime, try these simple home remedies to help in your quest for a quick pick me up.

  • Open all your blinds during the day. Make your environment brighter and “sun shinier.”
  • Exercise regularly, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes. A mid morning walk would be perfect!  Outdoor light is beneficial, even on a cloudy day.
  • Consider eating your lunch outside on milder days. Living in South Carolina, chances are, that could be often!
  • Make minor changes in your routine. This may be enough to carry you through those wintertime blues.

For me, I chose my reliance and personal relationship with God to guide me through my img_0755 (1)horrible experience with RA.  It was never easy, especially when I felt like God was so far away.  It turns out, He was there the entire time.  Looking back, He was blatantly obvious.

You may choose to seek help with your general or mental health doctor;  this is also a great idea.  My point being, do whatever is necessary in order to just get help, especially if you are depressed and have the last symptom listed for SAD:

  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

I can honestly say I have never experienced this thought, but if you do, you need the most urgent attention!  Awareness is key.  If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, please seek help immediately!  “It’s okay to not be okay.”

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Take the Magic Pill Please

By: Azure Stilwell

I received an e-mail today asking about the status of my next blog post. I had no idea it was that time of month again. I cannot remember anything right now…

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I do electro-current therapy (ECT) treatments once a week and it is killing my short-term memory. I couldn’t even remember who my dentist was the other day or where our local Publix is. I go to check the mail and there are bills in the mailbox for companies I don’t remember having services with until my husband reminds me. I can’t wait for the treatments to be over. I want to be able to drive again. I want my life back. I want my memories back.

I spend every day wondering what happened to me. When did I stop laughing, smiling, finding joy in life? When did I become so depressed? I want to wake up and not have the first thing I think of be, “Is today going to be a good day?” I stopped going to church. This Easter was the first time I’ve been back to church in months. I’m trying a new church, one that I hope I will be able to get more involved in. I need something to grab onto and feel good about. This seems like a logical answer.

I am still taking my normal medications but I feel like that needs changing, too. In fact, I feel like everything needs changing. My home, my medications, my daily routine. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I want to move back home to Augusta. But when I visit, my problems seem to follow me so I know that isn’t truly the answer that I seek. I just want a magic pill that makes everything go back to the way it was before I got so sad. I hope that my next blog post (if I can remember when that is) will be about something other than mental illness, but this is what I am struggling with today so bear with me.

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!

January Blues

By: Azure Stilwell

This month has been difficult for me. I feel bad for feeling bad, but my posts are real so here it goes.

Sun will come out tomorrow

The high of Christmas and having my oldest home from college has passed and everyone has returned to a normal schedule. That is, everyone except me. My normal schedule has become a battle with depression and it is winning this month. Being Bipolar is difficult, especially during the lower times. My medications have been changed so many times I can’t even keep count anymore. I sit at home either giving into or fighting the urge to sleep my day away. I need a purpose, a reason to get up, and right now I just can’t find one, at least not until 3 p.m. – that’s when my youngest gets off the bus.

I have thought about volunteering somewhere but I don’t know where or how to begin to do something like that. I have a hard time with a set schedule. I never know when I will have a Bipolar episode, so having others depend on me causes anxiety within me. It’s really a catch 22. I need to get out to overcome my depression but I am too anxious to commit to any set volunteer time. I need a place that allows me to set my times or has short bursts of time available, say 1-3 hours, so I don’t get overwhelmed.

I have social anxiety which causes me to have a very small circle of people. Since I quit working, that circle in Columbia has gotten even smaller. I also want to feel needed and not just sitting around feeling like I am just there instead of at home.

I need suggestions on how and where to get started volunteering. Any ideas?