Without knowing the effects this year has had on mental health, and in the midst of the holiday season, a local psychologist offers guidance to reduce depression, anxiety and stress.
Dr. Stacey Goldstein-Dwyer of GD Psych Services in Rio Rancho said the holidays can exacerbate mental-health conditions because of the stress associated with this time of year. That added stress, on an already exceptionally stressful year, can be harmful.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is important to reach out for help, Goldstein-Dwyer said. People can call a 24-hour hotline (1-800-273-8255) for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Agora Crisis Center (1-866-435-7166).
New Mexico has the highest suicide rate in the U.S., according to the American Association of Suicidology.
In 2018, over 48,000 Americans died by suicide, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is an average of one death every 11 minutes. In 2018, about 1.4 million adults attempted suicide, according to the CDC.
“Here in our practice, we have had an increased risk for suicide and a lot more hospitalizations,” she said. “As far as reaching out, it is really crucial for people to reach out when they start to feel the signs of depression.”
Goldstein-Dwyer said symptoms of depression are isolating oneself; lack of focus; feeling fatigued, even after excess sleep; eating more and/or eating unhealthy; increased substance use; newly drinking alcohol or substance use; and/or not feeling as much joy from activities that were once pleasurable.
People can also call 1-800-622-4357 for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
According to a survey gauging stress, conducted by the American Psychological Association, 78 percent of adults say the pandemic is a significant stressor and about 19 percent of adults say their mental health is worse than in 2019.
Those born from 1997-2015 are more commonly known as Gen Z. The survey shows that 34 percent of Gen Z is experiencing worsening mental health compared to last year; while Millennials report 19 percent and Boomers 12 percent.
“People need to focus on emotional support, that is going to be the absolute key,” Goldstein-Dwyer said.
Despite stay-at-home orders, social-distancing and working from home, people can still obtain this support through virtual means and phone calls, she said. People can also lean on family that is inside the home for support and create regularly scheduled activities together, like eating dinner or playtimes.
She also suggests creating a schedule that includes exercise, healthy foods, eating in moderation, drinking alcohol in moderation and getting rest.
“This will help people plan out their activities to do every day because it is going to be important not to be sedentary and just sit on the couch and watch a whole bunch of TV and just binge watch Netflix,” Goldstein-Dwyer said. “Because what happens is people tend to isolate and then they start to get real lethargic and then their willingness to socialize and engage in activities becomes minimal and depression can set in.”
Prioritize activities that are most enjoyable and go outside to absorb vitamin D, she said.
“Avoid family conflict if possible; that is going to be huge, and being able to identify your stressors,” Goldstein-Dwyer said, while keeping a journal or checklist will help someone become more mindful of what they are feeling, in turn this can help identify stressors.
“After a couple of days you’ll be able to see what some of those patterns are and be able to know, ‘OK, this is going to frustrate me or stress me out. Therefore I am going to either not engage in that situation at all, or I will find a remedy or solution to try to minimize that reaction,’” Goldstein-Dwyer said.
For assistance or more information, visit gdpsychservices.com or call 218-6383.