Posts tagged with "mental health"

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MENTAL HEALTH – DR. ALEX ALVARDO

Even though we have made great progress in bringing people into therapy during the pandemic, there is still a huge stigma about therapy – that it doesn’t work. In order to really change this perception, we must do more upfront work to make sure people are being matched correctly to qualified therapists and psychologists who can care for, and treat, that person’s individualized needs. To achieve this successfully requires more than a simple Internet search or app signup.

One of the biggest missteps someone can make when searching for a therapist is blindly accepting the most convenient option. This could come in the form of a quick Internet search (just because something pops up in the No. 1 position on Google does not mean it is the best option for you); or taking a referral from a friend or family member (just because a therapist is right for someone else, does not mean it is the best match for you). Additionally, skipping the therapist interview step, and rushing to the hiring step (or signing up on a mental health app), can make you feel committed or trapped with a therapist that was never the right match for you in the first place. It is true that the year 2020 will likely be known as one of the most stressful years in our time, and the first time that many Americans sought out a therapist. While this is a good thing and shows progress for improving mental health, we now face a lesser-talked about “second pandemic” of mental health issues – of which includes finding the right therapist – that could affect our future perception of mental health and our willingness to seek help.

Compounding this problem is the anxiety, financial stress, politics, substance abuse, isolation, job worries, relationship problems, health concerns and other issues that have intensified since the start of the pandemic, which has overwhelmed therapists with new patients, many of whom go on a waiting list or get referred out to less qualified resources. Mental health professionals are not immune from the stress of the pandemic either, often citing burnout and fatigue from heavy patient loads, while also struggling to handle their own stress at home.

All of these factors contribute to a more complicated and challenging mental health environment that requires increased navigation and guidance from the mental health industry to make sure that those seeking help are receiving evidence-based therapies from qualified professionals who have the bandwidth to invest in the client for the long run. To improve first-time encounters with therapy, I developed a free online matchmaking platform at Thriving Center of Psychology that vets and validates licensed professionals, then matches them to individuals seeking help, based on the person’s specific therapy needs and the professional’s area of expertise and therapy process.

To begin the process of finding the right therapist is simple. Start by filling out a 3-minute questionnaire that helps uncover the style of therapist that may be the best fit for your specific situation and preferred type. Questions cover everything from therapy approach to gender and ethnicity, including what specialty of a therapist are you seeking? Are you looking for a goal-oriented or reflective therapist? Do you want your therapist to have a holistic approach (including recommending yoga, meditation, and journaling)? and so on.

This filter then quickly matches individuals seeking help to a vetted database of qualified therapists who are licensed to work in the state in which the person lives. I developed this therapist matchmaking platform because so many friends and family members would ask me for therapist referrals. What I came to realize was that when people finally decide they should find a mental health therapist, they are often faced with a huge hurdle: finding a qualified therapist. Finding a therapist is not easy, especially if you are not a professional in the mental health industry and do not know all the right questions to ask. Mistakes can be easily made as many people either skip or rush through the research and interview step of finding a therapist.

If it is a person’s first time in therapy and it is a bad experience, it is most likely they will never return to it.
Once you find your therapist match, you should still interview 2-3 therapists before
committing to a paid session with anyone. Face-to-face office visits or video sessions
are ideal. During the interview, be sure to check the therapist’s credentials with state government sites, and have a clear understanding of his or her treatment style, therapy process and verify whether or not that therapy approach is evidence-based as defined by the American Psychological Association. Also, ask the therapist if he or she has ever treated anyone with similar concerns to yours. This will give you a clearer picture on the therapist’s treatment approach. It is important in this initial interview with the therapist, that you do not do all the talking.

You can share at a high level about what is going on (like, I’m grieving from the death of my mother), but do not get into the
details. Let the therapist do the majority of the talking so you can get a really good feel for his or her compatibility to you and your needs. Additionally, make sure that the therapist you select is licensed to work in your state. The increased popularity of virtual sessions since the start of the pandemic has opened many more options for people
seeking counseling, but if you go the virtual route, you still need to make sure the therapist is licensed to work in the state in which you reside. Ultimately, to live a truly fulfilled life, remember that it is just as important to place a high
priority on your mental health as it is for your physical health. You deserve the chance to unlock your true potential and live the life you have always dreamed of so do not let anything get in the way of your mental health, which is part of your overall health.

Start with the research step and find the therapist that is the best match for your specific needs – then the rest of the journey will be less stressful from there.

Dr. Alex Alvarado 

Ashley Jones explains to Vaughn Lowery about her sessions with Dr. Cheyenne Bryant via 360 MAGAZINE and their 360 MAG Podcast on Spotify

MTV TEEN MOM

Listen to Dr. Cheyenne Bryant, Ashley Jones chat w/ Vaughn Lowery on 360 MAG Podcast HERE.

Listen to Dr. Cheyenne Bryant, Ashley Jones chat w/ Vaughn Lowery on 360 MAG Podcast HERE.

Teen Mom has become a mental health pitstop for adolescent parents. Dr. Bryant attended Teen Mom Family Reunion, where she helped her fellow mothers, who are primarily people who had a child at the age of 15 or 16 and had lost their sense of self, navigate their trauma and troubles by directing them on a determined journey of finding who they are both internally and externally. 

Dr. Cheyenne Bryant,who is renowned for reviving MTV’s Teen Mom, is a life Coach and esteemed author of the acclaimed Mental Detox, a book helping people detox their minds and find their sense of self. By describing everyone’s life as a garden, in which people plant and nurture everything by themselves following their own choices, she has redefined her field of psychology with newfound confidence and non-traditional garb.

At the forefront of confrontation, Ashley Jones in Teen Mom 2’s explains how her baby father/husband Bar decided to seek help for their codependency issues. In addition, she asserts that her family disowned and kicked her out of the house once they discovered she was having a baby out of wedlock with a person whose social status was not recognized by her family at that time. As a kid growing up in a wealthy family and community with great education opportunities, being homeless with no job or financial support is a chord that struck inside of her. After going through the mud together, Ashley and Bar have learned how to fully lean each other healthily. The special and unique relationship between them is where they both get their love, strength, and motivation from. 

Years later, with the guidance of Dr. Bryant, Ashley acknowledges that her negative curve of self-neglect with the inability to love herself fully is the result of her childhood trauma which comes from being torn between two extreme living circumstances. The inconsistent values brought by two completely different living environments had made Ashley lose herself. For trying to constantly appease everyone, Dr. Bryant labeled the situation as a hybrid of someone co-existing in between a living street life and high society.

Now, after years of experiencing internal struggle with raising a child, Ashley has figured out where her real passion is. As an emerging entrepreneur, Ashley continues to study nursing on a collegiate level and owns a thriving salon, Aries Beauty Studio. At the same time, she is also starting a non-profit organization that is aimed to provide young pregnant girls who are disowned or confused with housing and other resources. This past October, Ashley shared a post on her Instagram page announcing that she and her friend got their long-awaited company sign on the front of the business: “WE DID IT JOE!!! Seeing the sign go up makes this feel official,” Ashley wrote as her caption. In the near future, she plans on providing a med spa service as an aesthetic doctor for women of color. She relays, “It’s a niche market that’s been overlooked.”

Lastly, Ashley and her friend Jessica T. record daily podcasts in which they talk about society and culture. I Need Wine explores everything from relationships, sex, parenting, trauma and careers. As Ashely and Jessica state: ‘Two women, talking over wine and being raw and honest about things that women go through and how we manage to stay sane (or not) through it all!’

Article:

Andrea Esteban, Vaughn Lowery

Resources:

Teen Mom on Wikipedia

Session w/ Dr. Cheyenne Bryant

Beauty Salon

I Need Wine w/ Ashley & Jessica

Follow Ash:

Instagram|Podcast

Follow Dr. Bryant:

Instagram|Website|Twitter | Facebook

Dr. Cheyenne Bryant via Dr. Cheyenne Bryant by 360 Magazine

*Photos courtesy of MTV

Eight Tips to Bring Life Back to a Stale Relationship

You might love your partner with all your heart. However, you might also feel concerned that the fizzle is dying. How can you reignite your former spark? 

Partnerships don’t magically occur, as much as it may seem that way during the honeymoon stage. If you reflect, you’ll realize all the time and energy you expended during those days to capture your flame’s interest. 

It’s natural to calm down after the initial blush but neglecting your loved one can breed resentment that kills your union. Fortunately, you can revitalize your love with these eight tips to bring life back into a stale relationship. 

1. Learn Each Other’s Love Language 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning might have counted the ways that she loved her husband Robert — but did she ever ask him how he preferred to receive affection? Hopefully, he identified with words of affirmation. 

Your partner might speak a love language different from yours — and that’s okay as long as you identify what makes them tick. Otherwise, resentment could build. You might think mending the broken backyard fence is the perfect birthday treat, but your partner could feel deeply hurt and neglected if their love language is physical touch or receiving gifts. 

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, there are five principal love languages:

  • Acts of service: If your partner speaks this love language, you can delight them by tackling a chore they despise or taking care of both dinner and the subsequent dishes when they come home from work exhausted.
  • Receiving gifts: If your partner speaks this language, you don’t necessarily need a bankroll. They should be equally delighted with smaller tokens of affection that show you were thinking of them in their absence, like stopping to pick up a roadside bouquet for no particular reason. 
  • Physical touch: If your partner resonates with this love language, they need your affection. Delight them with lots of spontaneous cuddles and pecks on the cheek. 
  • Words of affirmation: These folks light up when you validate their feelings and praise them for their talents. They may also need to hear those three little words more often than others, so don’t be stingy about saying, “I love you.” 
  • Quality time: Can an evening together sharing popcorn while watching the latest Netflix hit qualify as romantic? It can be if quality time if your partner’s love language. Even accompanying them to the grocery store makes them feel more fulfilled. 

2. Ask 36 Questions

Remember when you first met your partner? You probably talked for hours because you were so hungry to learn about them as much as possible. Maybe your attraction didn’t fizzle as much as your interest — but your beloved still has plenty to share. 

Deepen your love by asking questions that presumably can make you fall in love with anyone by revealing their true inner selves. The inquiries start relatively simple — would you want to be famous? If so, why? 

They then dig into deeper questions, delving into regrets, things you wish you could do over and ways you would like to improve the world. They allow you to praise your mate for their greatest accomplishment and better understand the forces shaping them into the person they are today. 

You shouldn’t ask all 36 at once like an interview. Why not print out the list and start date night with one or two?  

3. Trade Places

Resentment often grows in relationships when one of you feels unappreciated, even invalidated, by the other. However, your partner might not understand what you handle each day — and vice-versa. 

You might not be able to take over your partner’s workplace for a day, but you can swap what you do around the house. For example, if they typically tackle the landscaping while you cook and clean, try trading chores one weekend. You’ll open up opportunities to learn from each other and laugh together, both beneficial for your union. 

4. Take a Solo Getaway

It might sound ironic to suggest alone time as a way to breathe life back into a stale relationship. However, there’s some truth to the cliche about absence making the heart grow fonder. Sometimes, the hubbub of daily existence makes you forget the many ways your loved one enhances your life every day. 

If you have the means, why not plan a solo road trip? Go somewhere or do something you enjoy but they might not — for example, going camping if they aren’t the outdoorsy type. It’s even better if your trek makes you limit contact. 

Chances are, you’ll miss your partner by the second day. If you fear you enjoy your alone time too much, get mindful. Ask yourself what you can do solo that you can’t with your partner and address the underlying problem. Perhaps you can come up with a compromise that addresses resentment you didn’t fully know you had.

5. Travel as a Couple

Taking a trip together can also bring life back into a relationship gone stale. Sometimes, it isn’t your partner but the daily grind making your mood low. 

If travel is out of the question due to budget constraints, why not plan an escape at home? It doesn’t take too much to put together a DIY spa day, complete with facial treatments and a relaxing couples massage — if you take turns. 

6. Adopt a Joint Hobby 

Something about the joy of creation can bring you and your partner closer together. Rather than competing like you must in the workplace, you can nurture and admire each other’s skills. You can also make something that enhances your relationship in different ways. 

For example, perhaps you’re both the artistic sort, each developing a line of crafts that you can add to an Etsy shop. You can use your earnings to take a much-needed holiday at the end of the year — maybe even that second honeymoon. 

7. Do Some Good Together

Volunteering helps you as much as others. How? It prompts your brain to release a flood of feel-good neurochemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin — the so-called “cuddle chemical.” 

Working side by side with your beloved to feed needy families in your community or socialize kitties at a shelter fills you with warm emotions. It’s natural for these to transfer to your union. 

8. Try Couples Counseling

Finally, there’s no shame in seeking counseling. Millions of people do so every day, even though they don’t have a mental illness. The right professional can help you see issues you might overlook, not out of neglect but due to your closeness to the situation. 

Both you and your partner should agree on your choice of therapist. Different counselors have varying styles — please don’t get discouraged if you don’t mesh with your first treatment provider. Many facilities have multiple professionals in one office to help you find the perfect fit. 

You and your partner fell in love for a reason. Before you throw up your hands and settle or walk, try these eight tips to bring life back into a stale relationship. 

Ten minute activities that will make you feel happier

As children, many seemed to believe happiness would sort of fall into our lives as we grew older simply due to the nature of life. Now, having had a dose of reality and adulthood, it is very apparent that this is not the case. In fact, it seems far more likely that any happiness we do experience is a creation of our own – relationships, experiences, thought processes, and more all fall into this category. Seeing as happiness is an emotion that we seem to be in constant pursuit of, it would make sense to be intentional about creating the desired happiness. The words of author Roy T. Bennett, are a wonderful jumping off point for doing so, “If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”

There are numerous avenues to explore when it comes to attempting to feel happier. Sometimes, it’s as simple as setting aside 10 minutes of your day. Below are a few suggestions for activities to explore. 

Go for a walk

Rachel Blank is the founder and CEO of Allara, a brand offering care for polycystic ovary syndrome. She believes a little physical activity can go a long way.

“Our daily lives leave us immobile in a lot of ways. Think about it, many of us sleep, and then sit down at a desk, before moving to the couch to finish out the day. The reality is that our bodies are meant for moving and they do vastly better when this happens regularly. I’m not just talking about being in shape either. Moving more frequently in any regard will provide a boost to your happiness. It doesn’t have to be much either as you could just go for a quick walk. If exercise becomes part of your daily routine even just a little bit, you’ll see a noticeable difference.”

Read a fiction book

Hush specializes in products geared towards aiding the tattoo experience. Their CEO, Ubaldo Perez, suggests taking the time to get lost in a story. 

“There are points in life where everyone needs to take a break. Of course, taking 15 minutes or your lunch break might come to mind, but I think there’s something a little bit better for our mental wellbeing – reading a fiction book. No matter what you do for a living, I’m sure there have been points where you just want to get away from whatever is stressing you out. Stepping into a story about worlds or lives which are dramatically different from the one we’re living is a great method for achieving some basic happiness and escape. Stepping away from the things in front of us is not always the easiest so the help of a good story is sometimes a necessity.”

Phone a friend

Human interaction can bring about a flurry of emotions. Azuna is a business providing plant-based odor elimination. Their director of marketing, Philip Mantalvo, considers it important to connect with people who care about you.

“If you look at every era of history one thing remains the same – humans need other humans. None of us are geared for a life of total isolation. The pandemic made this the case for many and as we come out of it now, it’s important to remember how vital it is. From experience and reading studies, I’ve come to understand that even the simple act of phoning a friend for a few minutes can bring about positive emotions. The reciprocal care and enjoyment can’t be quantified but trust me, you’ll know those feelings when they’re present.”

Spend time with a pet

Melissa Thodes is the CEO of Physics 1on1, a brand offering online psychic readings. She advises others to take a few minutes for their animal companion. 

“Pets can be one of the biggest blessings, should we choose to see them as that. I know that as pets grow and mature, they become part of everyday life. As they should. But this also means the excitement and joy a new pet owner experiences has worn off. Again, this is natural. But sometimes a jumpstart to your existing perspective can bring about change. Go get a new toy or go for a new route on your walk. Whatever it takes to make your relationship with your pet a little fresher is absolutely worth it.”

Revisit a favorite viral video

Spot Pet Insurance specializes in health insurance for pets. Their CEO, Trey Ferro, believes rewatching a video which brought you a hearty belly laugh can be beneficial. 

“Everyone has a different sense of humor but the true point here is that everyone is capable of laughing, provided they’re given a reason to do so. Whenever the conversation topic of viral videos comes up, every person participating has a video they just have to show everyone because of how hilarious it is. Oftentimes, it is truly hilarious. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, try to remember one of your favorite viral videos and revisit it. It might seem too easy but even just the smallest assistance should be welcome when it comes to personal happiness.”

Focus on breathing

All the things on one’s daily to-do list can begin to tally up to the point where they might feel as if they are being crushed. BISOULOVELY is a business providing a wide variety of jewelry. Their CEO, Breanne Millette, proposes paying attention to the act of breathing to combat this.

“It’s a very different way of looking at things but we reside within our physical bodies. Because of this, we have a tendency to exclude our bodies from consideration far more often than we should. Obviously, this can be a pretty harmful action if taken at the wrong moment. Think about moments of high stress or anxiety – my guess would be you’ll remember a feeling close to light suffocation. The reality is, this wasn’t a figment of your imagination. Under pressure, fight or flight mode can cause tension resulting in lack of oxygen to your body. It’s easier said than done but remembering to take deep breaths can really make a difference in your happiness levels.”

Eat or drink something

Jeff Goodwin is the senior director of performance marketing and e-commerce of Orgain, a brand offering organic protein. He cautions others to be aware of their food intake. 

“Food is very much a habitual thing for many people. Meal times are planned out, meal planning exists and, at least from what I’ve seen, food has come to a point where it’s more about quick, efficient delivery to our bodies rather than the quality of the food being consumed. Like it or not, what we eat has a direct correlation to our moods. Fast food holds some character traits of a depressant while items such as fruit, vegetables, and high protein-low fat meats act much more like a stimulant. What I’m saying here is that if you choose to eat healthy, your overall feelings of happiness should take a sizable leap.”

Listen to a favorite song

Mad Rabbit specializes in tattoo aftercare products. Their CEO Oliver Zak considers music to be one of more influential items to a person’s happiness.

“Take a second and think about some of your best days. If you’re anything like me, when things are going well in life, I find that I’m more willing to hum or sing a song I enjoy because of where my mood is at. But the inverse is also true. Music holds this power which can swing our moods at a moment’s notice due to a specific lyric or sound present in whatever we’re listening to. It works both ways so if you’re filling your ears with songs of sadness and loss you’re not going to get very far. Pick the music that raises the corners of your mouth and puts that light behind your eyes.”

If everything above could be summed up into one phrase, it may have been put into existence by author Alice Walker, “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.”

Mental health graphic via 360 MAGAZINE

James Flowers × Marlan Wayans

In this week’s episode of Understanding the Human Condition with Dr. James Flowers, Houston’s celebrity mental health expert Dr. James S. Flowers, Ph.D., LPC-S, sits down with actor and comedian Marlon Wayans to discuss the intersections of grief, trauma and comedy.

“You have this skill set to take something so dark and find something funny about it,” said Wayans, “It doesn’t mean you don’t deal with that pain. It’s just you go, okay what’s funny about it?”

This week’s episode is perfect for the current moment as we are coming off the heels of Mother’s Day and are still in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Month. In their poignant discussion, Flowers and Wayans reveal the heartbreak and potential for comedy and healing within the struggles of losing their mothers.

“My new set right now, I talk about the most traumatic thing that ever happened to me, which was losing my mother,” said Wayans, “And that’s crazy that you would make a set about losing your mother. Like what’s funny about that? I don’t know. It helped to heal me.”

Watch Full Interview HERE

“Understanding the Human Condition with Dr. James Flowers” is a weekly podcast in which Dr. Flowers and his most-admired mentors, respected colleagues and VIP guests share valuable insight into underlying health causes, conditions and issues. These in-depth yet approachable episodes are a great resource for both private individuals and industry professionals. New episodes are released every Thursday on YouTube, Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and iHeartRadio.

About Dr. James Flowers

The esteemed host, Dr. James Flowers is one of the most recognized and respected names in the field of chronic pain, mental health, and substance use disorders, both nationally and internationally. Dr. Flowers is the founder of J. Flowers Health Institute located in Houston, Texas.

Six Good Reasons to Take a Break From Alcohol

Alcohol is ubiquitous in America. You can’t drive down the freeway without seeing billboards advertising various adult spirits, all of them featuring smiling folks who look like they’re having the time of their lives. 

The reality is often far different. Although many people can enjoy the occasional happy hour cocktail with few negative repercussions, others become addicted. This substance causes biochemical and even structural changes in your brain that grow more severe the more you use, robbing you of your decision-making power. 

You might be among those wondering if you have a problem. A foolproof way to know whether the bottle has you in a stranglehold is to walk away. If the thought of passing up your evening cocktail sends you into a panic, you know it’s time to take action. That’s only one of many good reasons to take a break from alcohol. Here are six more.

1. To Improve Your Nutritional Intake 

Are you worried about your weight? If so, you might be tempted to reduce your caloric intake by restricting meals to save more “room” for alcoholic beverages. Who cares about the calories in that mudslide if you skipped lunch to make up for them? 

Your physiology knows the difference and your health will suffer. Eating well-balanced and nutritious meals is an essential part of maintaining your well-being. Your body needs an array of nutrients to support strong muscles and nurture your organs — including your brain. 

Certain deficiencies might even make you more susceptible to the bottle’s lure, putting you at risk of addiction. For example, those lacking sufficient magnesium intake often experience depression, but they might not recognize that this mineral’s lack lurks behind their bleak mood. 

Alcohol activates your dopamine receptors — your brain’s pleasure system. That’s why you experience a momentary elation when you drink. However, if you use this substance to self-medicate depression, it eventually disrupts your dopamine system, damaging your receptors and making it more challenging to find pleasure in ordinary activities. Before you know it, you rely on the bottle to manage your mood. 

You might engage in behaviors like sneaking miniature bottles to work in your purse or briefcase and sneaking off to the restroom for a little “attitude adjustment.” However, alcohol clouds your judgment, making you more prone to mistakes that could cost you your career. Being caught drinking on the clock is an offense punishable by termination in many industries. 

It’s far better to nurture your neurons through wholesome meals consisting of whole foods close to their natural forms. Get plenty of plant-based foods in every color of the rainbow to increase your antioxidant intake. Nuts and seeds are particularly rich sources of magnesium, selenium and zinc, three “happy brain” nutrients that can help your mind repair itself if you overindulged a bit too much in the past. 

2. To Repair Broken Relationships 

You aren’t fully yourself when you’re drinking. That’s because alcohol overrides your inhibitions, making you say and do things that you wouldn’t do sober. Contrary to folk belief, your words and actions aren’t reflective of your “true” personality. Remember, alcohol causes biochemical brain changes that influence the way you act in a far more complex manner than science currently understands. 

However, you’re still responsible for what you say and do while under the influence. Whether uttered sober or drunk, your words sting just as much and abuse is abuse regardless of your mental state. 

Repairing relationships broken by alcohol isn’t easy or even always possible. The other party might have legitimate reasons to refuse further interaction with you if your past behavior demonstrated a repeated pattern of abuse. 

However, if you’re still in the stage where you’re wondering if you might have a problem, it’s time to hit pause. Taking a break from alcohol will help you see your behavior more objectively. You might find that those harsh words you felt justified in uttering aren’t reflective of your true feelings and are downright hurtful to others. 

Take accountability for your actions and offer a sincere apology with no “buts.” Remember, the best “I’m sorry” of all is changed behavior — taking a break from alcohol might convince your partner, children or friends that you are sincere in wanting to reform. 

3. To Focus on Your Career 

Alcohol can damage your career in multiple ways. It clouds your judgment, leading to decisions that can cost your company money and you a promotion — or even continued employment. 

Furthermore, alcohol makes you lazy. You probably know that you’re not at your productive best when you’re hungover, but guess what? Filling your mental space with thoughts of, “I can’t wait to get out of here and get to the bar,” keeps you from focusing on the task at hand. 

Taking a break from alcohol allows you to concentrate on what’s important. Instead of fixating on how you’re going to relax after work, you give your all, knowing that you’ll enjoy your rest all the more when basking in the rosy glow of a job well done. 

4. To Detox Your Liver 

You probably know that alcohol damages your liver. This organ is primarily responsible for filtering toxins from your blood, but drinking bathes its cells to a glut of damaging free radicals. These can cause cellular damage, mutation and death, resulting in fatty liver disease, cirrhosis or cancer. 

Fortunately, this organ also has phenomenal regenerative powers. However, it takes time to heal. Most experts advise taking a 30-day break to allow your liver to recover, but you might want to go longer if you hope to change your habits, too. 

It can take anywhere from 20 to 185 days to establish a new habit or break an old one — it varies by person. Use mindfulness to judge how long your break from alcohol should be by observing your thought patterns as an objective third party. If you find yourself obsessing over the finish line — “just one more week and I can get smashed” — you probably need a longer recess to counter that maladaptive belief.

5. To Rest and Revitalize Your Brain Receptors 

Even though alcohol causes changes in your brain, these can also heal. However, you might need to refrain from drinking for 90 days or more to reap the maximum benefits. 

You can encourage brain healing by participating in activities that promote neuroplasticity. Dance is particularly beneficial as it combines the endorphin-boosting effects of physical activity with following complex foot patterns. Yoga is another excellent tool, helping you develop mindfulness and the wherewithal to calm your central nervous system through breath, not booze when anxiety strikes. 

6. To Discover the True You Underneath the Haze

Finally, perhaps the best reason for taking a break from alcohol is rediscovering the real you underneath that bleary, boozy haze. After all, you are a unique human being — no one else on the planet shares your gifts. Why would you want to dull your shine? 

The truth is, you don’t need alcohol to have courage in social situations or enjoy a backyard barbecue. You’ll do much better cultivating your innate confidence — you can start by taking charge of the bottle — and basking in the warm fellowship of friends and family. 

Alcohol can be a pleasant accessory to your life. However, if it starts to take over your existence, it’s time to do the smart thing and take a break.

Mental health graphic via 360 MAGAZINE

USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

As Mental Health Awareness Month kicks off, news and stories about mental health may seem to saturate media outlets. Yet a new report reveals that in top movies, mental health is rarely in the spotlight.

The study, entitled “Mental Health Conditions Across 200 Popular Films” is the second report on mental health in popular media from Professor Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The report is supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and NYT best-selling author, purpose coach, host of the top health and wellness podcast “On Purpose,” and former monk, Jay Shetty. The study provides an update on the prevalence and portrayal of mental health conditions in popular films by examining the 100 top-grossing films of 2019 and comparing the findings to those from the initiative’s report on popular movies from 2016.

Of the 4,502 speaking or named characters across the top films of 2019, 1.5% were depicted with a mental health condition. There has been little change over time, as 1.7% of characters in the most popular films of 2016 had a mental health condition. As a point of contrast, 21% of U.S. adults experience mental illness, according to national population research studies, such as the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey.

“Stories can provide a window into different worlds and experiences, but the results of this study demonstrate that mental health is rarely a focal point in popular film,” said Smith. “With the growing need for mental health care in the U.S., and the ongoing concern about well-being, storytellers and creatives are missing critical opportunities to educate audiences.”

More than half of the films included in the study from 2019 didn’t feature even one character with a mental health condition, and thirty percent had only one character with a mental health condition. A total of seven different mental health conditions appeared across the sample. Those included: addiction, anxiety/PTSD, depression/mood disorders, suicide, significant disturbances in thinking, cognitive impairment, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. There were more depictions of anxiety/PTSD in 2019 than in 2016, while portrayals of cognitive impairment and spectrum disorders declined. The remaining mental health conditions remained consistent with 2016.

More than half (59.2%) of characters with a mental health condition in the most popular films of 2019 were male while 40.8% were female. Three-quarters of the characters with a mental health condition across the films of 2019 were White, while only 16 characters were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. Only two characters with a mental health condition were LGBTQ, and 42.3% had a disability. The picture of mental health conditions in popular film remains one of predominantly white, male, straight, and able-bodied characters.

“The portrayal of mental health in film has a powerful role to play especially during this period of global mental health crisis,” said Christine Yu Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Entertainment educates the public, whether it’s with intention or not. And because humans are deeply wired for social connection and imitation, contagion can occur with detrimental effects or with positive impact. Portrayals can not only destigmatize and stop perpetuating dangerous tropes about people who live with mental health conditions, but they can also have the potential to deepen mental health literacy and inspire hope. All people have mental health, and now more than ever, Americans are hungry for information and resources to allow us to not only cope, but to flourish, and to support others’ mental health.”

The study also explored the portrayal and context in which mental health conditions are depicted. Nearly three-quarters of characters with mental health conditions experienced some form of disparagement in the film — either verbally or nonverbally expressed by the character themselves or another character. While disparagement could be general and not connected to a diagnosis, 45.1% of characters with mental health conditions faced derisions specifically about their mental health. More than 40% of characters with a mental health condition were the object of jokes or humor related to their mental health, an increase from 2016 (22%).

“The confluence of these contextual factors means that when mental health is presented in film, it is often stigmatized or demeaned,” said Smith. “For audiences, the nature of mental health portrayals may heighten the possibility of negative effects when it comes to real-world outcomes.”

Characters with mental health conditions were also linked with violence in several ways. More than half of characters with a mental health condition were perpetrators of violence (63.4%), a significant increase from 2016 (46%). Additionally, nearly two-thirds (66.2%) of characters with mental health conditions were victims of violence. Finally, more than one-third (38%) of the characters with mental health conditions died at some point in the film, including by homicide or suicide. Over half (59.3%) of the characters with a mental health condition who perished did so by violent means. Nearly one-quarter (22.2%) of the characters with mental health conditions who died did so by suicide.

Less than one-third (29.6%) of characters with a mental health condition were shown in therapy, including individual appointments, group therapy, addiction, support, and inpatient care. Only 12.7% of characters with mental health conditions utilized medication or other treatments. Films in 2019 showed more characters receiving both therapy and medication or other treatment compared to 2016.

With solution in mind, the initiative brought Purpose Coach, NYT best-selling author, and “On Purpose” podcast host Jay Shetty into the fold as Chief Well-Being Advisor. In this role, he will serve as a resource to the program and entertainment industry at large on issues of mental health and wellbeing, strategizing new ways to approach the subject matter on-screen and on sets, to work towards positive change.

“I am thrilled to be joining Dr. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative as the Chief Well-Being Advisor,” said Jay Shetty. “It has always been my passion to bridge the gap between mental health and entertainment. The access that the initiative has to further explore these important matters on-screen and on sets and make real systemic change within the industry is what excites me the most.”

The study also provides a core solution for depicting mental health in popular entertainment. Building on the Mental Health Media Guide, the study offers a blueprint for a mental health policy that can be adopted by production companies, studios, and other groups. This policy outlines ways that creative talent, executives, and those overseeing production can tell authentic stories, provide opportunities to nurture mental health for those working in production, and provide audiences with more information on mental health.

The report is the latest from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and can be found online here.

Five Tips for Finding Peace After Living Through a Natural Disaster

Your entire world can change in the blink of an eye. Few people ever think they’ll see their neighborhood on a news broadcast, but natural disasters affect millions every year. Thanks to climate change, the problem grows more severe all the time.

It takes time and plenty of TLC to put the pieces of your life back together again. Be gentle with yourself as you navigate the process. Here are five tips for finding peace after living through a natural disaster.

1. Seek Necessary Resources

Depending on how the natural disaster affected your property, you might not have a place to call home for a while. What about your children’s school? Your transportation to and from work?

Your first contact is your local emergency manager. They’re your best resource for meeting your immediate needs for food and shelter. After that, please reach out to the following individuals:

  • Your loved ones: Your loved ones deserve to know you’re alright. Fortunately, social media makes it easier than ever. You can mark yourself safe to alert your friends and relatives who also use Facebook. Let people know what they can do to help and how you prefer to be contacted – a flurry of phone calls may or may not be what you need.
  • Your employer: If you weren’t at work when disaster struck, you need to let your employer know how it affected you and what arrangements you can make until it is safe to return.
  • Your insurance company: First, document the damage and make a list. Take photographs. If you have some from before the disaster to prove the extent of your loss, all the better.

You might also reach out to local animal shelters if you have pets that you could not evacuate on time. They’ll take a description and reunite you with your beloved companion if they locate them before you do.

2. Give Yourself the Gift of Time

Surviving a natural disaster takes time. This statement isn’t fluff – it’s a physiological fact. While some people recover from a shock to the system more quickly than others, you need time for your body and mind to return to homeostasis.

If possible, take time away from work to heal with those you love. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers programs for disaster survivors that provide housing and medical assistance. The Small Business Association provides aid to those whose livelihoods suffered the impact of hurricanes, floods, and fires.

It’s important to be aware of the potential that you may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that’s triggered by witnessing or experiencing a terrifying event. Symptoms can include nightmares and anxiety, as well as uncontrollable flashbacks and thoughts about the event. Evidence suggests that the chances of PTSD and even suicide increase after someone survives a natural disaster. 

A natural disaster can shatter your world in the blink of an eye. You and your loved ones could find yourselves without shelter or food, and understandably stressed and anxious. However, if you begin to feel like what you’re experiencing goes beyond normal stress, you may be experiencing some form of PTSD. In either case, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with a certified mental health professional in the wake of surviving a natural disaster. They will be able to help make sense of what you’re experiencing and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan.

If you don’t have the resources to see a mental health professional in person, look into free online resources, counseling and rehabilitation groups and even text therapy, which can be more accessible for some.

3. But Also, Safety First

Your first instinct is to heave a sigh of relief once the twister disappears in the distance and you and your family take your first tentative steps out of the basement. Inhale, exhale, and contact everyone who’s not in your immediate vicinity who should be. Then, take stock of the second shock wave – the illnesses and infections that often follow natural disasters.

For example, after a flood, mold becomes a serious health concern. The CDC has recommendations for assessing your risk and handling the potential hazards to your health. Untreated cuts and scrapes can lead to blood poisoning and tetanus. Get a booster if need be and wash all wounds, dress them with triple antibiotic ointment, and clean, sterile bandages. Pay attention to signs of discoloration and streaking lines around the injury.

It’s not unusual to become sick in the wake of a natural disaster’s wake. Storms stir up germs and displacement introduces you to new ones when your immune system is already compromised by stress. Please take a COVID-19 test and adhere to the required quarantine – even if you don’t have the novel coronavirus, you need a few days to rest and recover.

4. Stay Close to Your Loved Ones

Natural disasters make you cherish the ones you love. Nature intended for you to cling to each other in its wake. Honor that instinct.

Stay close to your loved ones. If you have children, they will need your guidance and support to heal. They don’t have an adult frame of reference to cope with what happened – they’ll need your help to process big feelings and make sense of the senseless.

Spending time with your loved ones also soothes your soul. Disasters have a way of reminding you what matters most. You can’t take material things with you, but the love you leave behind survives.

5. Accept Offers of Help

You might not realize how wide your friendship circle extends until you survive a disaster. However, please take advantage of offers of help. Don’t let pride deny you and your family the support you need to heal.

Please take advantage of available social services. You might not have ever needed a food bank before, but visiting one is better than letting your children go to sleep hungry.

If you’re spiritual, your house of worship is another sanctuary that may open its arms to you and your loved ones. Shelter yourself and those you care about in the arms of your faith, letting members of your congregation accept you and uplift your spirits.

Basics for Young People to Know About Health Insurance

Health insurance is essential in case you ever need medical attention. It prevents you from paying for expensive services, such as hospitalization and surgery. Many people are provided coverage through their work or others by the government. However, understanding how this system works can be confusing for younger adults. So, here are a few basics you should know. 

1. How to Get Coverage 

The first step in understanding health insurance is knowing where to look. There are multiple ways you can receive coverage. If you’re under 26 years old, you can be on your parent’s plan, even if you’re married or not living with them. This can help you to receive coverage while you’re still getting settled. Suppose you’re attending school or still looking for a full-time job. You might not currently have employee benefits. 

Here are a few more plans to consider:

  • COBRA. COBRA is a short-term plan to prevent people from suddenly losing their coverage. It allows them to continue buying their current health plan for a limited time. 
  • Short-term policy. Some companies temporarily cover students between college and their first job. These plans are usually pretty basic and cost-effective.
  • Employer coverage: This is the most common and affordable option. Some offer coverage from the start and others need you to work for a certain amount of time.
  • Individual policy. Buying personal health insurance can be a more expensive option. You may pay more if you’re considered a higher-risk individual, such as being a smoker. 
  • The Health Insurance Marketplace. This option helps people choose the best insurance plan if they need to buy it independently. It’s also sometimes called a Health Insurance Exchange.

2. Mental Health Services Aren’t Always Well Covered 

Mental health conditions are a rising concern, especially after the pandemic. In 2008, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act encouraged mental health benefits to be at the same level as physical ones. However, many plans still don’t provide adequate coverage. 

Often there aren’t enough in-network providers, leading to longer wait times and farther commutes. Another issue is there are restrictive standards that limit coverage. For example, some companies focus on treating acute symptoms rather than underlying ones. This makes it harder for people with a long-term mental illness to qualify. 

However, Biden addressed these concerns in a speech on March 1st, 2022. He proposed all health care plans cover mental health services with adequate network providers, including three behavioral health visits a year with no cost-sharing. 

3. How to Pay For Your Plan

After you’ve done your basic research, you want to understand finances. Figuring out how to pay for the policy is critical. The amount you pay depends on your specific plan. In fact, in 2020, annual premiums cost around $21,342 for a family of four. You pay a fixed rate each month for many programs, called a premium. You might also pay whenever you receive medical care or get a prescription refill. 

These payments include the following:

  • Deductible: A deductible is what you pay at the beginning of the year before the provider starts covering services. 
  • Copay: This is a set fee you pay after visiting a doctor or other medical services. 
  • Coinsurance: It’s the percentage you pay for specific covered services. 
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: This is the highest amount you have to pay within a given period for all covered services. 

4. How to Find the Right Individual Policy

If you can’t get insurance from an employer or a state-funded program, you must buy your own. When shopping, consider the cost of premiums and deductibles and the outside services. For example, can you visit any doctor or healthcare facility? Some plans may have lower premiums but fewer health care providers to choose from. Also, if you’re hoping to save money, look for a plan with a higher deductible you can use with a health savings account. 

These plans also have levels of coverage, including gold, silver, bronze or catastrophic. 

They vary in premium and out-of-pocket costs. So, if you have a medical condition and require multiple services, a gold plan may be best. However, a bronze or silver plan might work better if you only visit the doctor a few times a year. 

Once you choose your level, you want to pick a specific plan. Here are the main options you have to choose from:

  •  Indemnity Plans: On this plan, you can visit any doctor at any time. Then you pay them upfront and file the claim with your insurance company, which pays you back part of the cost. They often do not cover preventive care, like physicals, and have higher premiums. 
  • Managed Care Plans: Alot of employee coverage is managed care policies. The insurance company works with health care providers to offer low-cost care.  This plan also has four basic types: HMO, PPO, POS and EPO. 
  • Consumer-Driven Health Plan (CDHP): This is when you set aside money in a health insurance saving account. So, you’re in charge of how to handle the cash to pay for health care services. It does come with higher deductibles, though. 

5. A Plan Through Your University May Not Be Enough 

While this is an easy and cost-effective way to get insurance, it might not be enough. Keep in mind it may only cover services on campus. However, it might not be covered if you get an x-ray off-campus. 

Also, suppose something happens when you’re on break. Then your current plan might not cover outside providers. So, talk with your Health Center to see what exactly is covered. Some programs may offer services that require just a fee and others that need insurance. 

However, many schools require proof of health insurance. So, you can stay on your parent’s plan or a private one. Also, if you qualify as a low-income individual, you can receive Medicaid. 

6. Finding Affordable Programs

Some people may worry about the expenses associated with the plan. However, between tax credits and Medicaid, you can find affordable programs. If you apply for coverage through The Marketplace, you can see if you qualify for a premium tax credit. 

These credits are based on your local residence, household income and coverage level. If you’re eligible, apply the credit to your monthly premium. Then The Marketplace will send it directly to your insurance company. 

Also, consider subsidies for low-income consumers, reducing out-of-pocket costs. You must make a certain income level and be in a state that didn’t expand Medicaid to qualify. 

Skull graphic for use by 360 Mag

Mothers Against Drug Deaths

Mothers of children killed by fentanyl and mothers of homeless addicts living on the streets of San Francisco launched the first in a series of blistering advertisements yesterday intended to warn tourists against visiting the city, citing deadly open-air drug markets.

Virtually every media outlet in San Francisco showed up to cover the ad rollout yesterday with some fantastic local coverage, see HERE.

The mothers held a press conference this past Monday in Union Square, San Francisco, to answer questions from members of the press.

By juxtaposing images of iconic San Francisco tourism landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars alongside statements that highlight the city’s out-of-control fentanyl pandemic, the ads portray a striking “myth vs. reality.”  While Mayor London Breed has been pitching the city as a tourist destination to Europe, Mothers Against Drug Deaths, the organization responsible for the ads, encourages people to stay away. 

Parents worldwide should know that San Francisco is unsafe for children and families,” said Jacqui Berlinn, co-founder of Mothers Against Drug Deaths. “My son is at risk of dying because the San Francisco city government, with the support of Governor Gavin Newsom, refuses to arrest him for breaking the law and mandate treatment.

The ad campaign arrives on the heels of Breed’s attempts to rebrand San Francisco as a tourist destination.  In truth, according to the US Census, from July 2020 – July 2021, nearly 55,000 people left San Francisco, second only to Manhattan in a county population decrease.  Many of them left citing the city’s open-air drug markets. 

Berlinn organized the first protest against open-air drug dealing in San Francisco in 2021.  She and other mothers, including Gina McDonald, and Michelle Leopold raised money to purchase a large billboard in Union Square, one of the city’s main tourist destinations and shopping districts, and on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.

I feel Mayor Breed is putting their (tourists) children’s lives in danger just as she has done with ours.” Gina McDonald, whose daughter has frequented SF to buy and use drugs. “While many kids in this city have to be walked to school by SF hired patrol, this Mayor has the audacity to invite other families to visit. Breed’s status quo has failed both those suffering on the street and those who witness their demise.

The ad was created by the local advertising firm Underground Advertising. Charlie Cardillo, who created the ads for the women, said the goal was to brand the deadly drug fentanyl, which caused the vast majority of the 1,362 drug deaths in SF in 2020 and 2021, as a stereotypical and globally recognized part of San Francisco as much as its Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Dungeness crabs, and sourdough bread.

Former San Francisco homeless addict and recovery advocate Tom Wolf said he supported the mothers and what they were doing. “San Francisco refuses to do what it must and shut down the open-air drug dealing and drug market. The city, especially the Tenderloin and downtown neighborhoods, has become unsafe for families and children.

The open drug market and normalization of public drug use drew my daughter to San Francisco. Not the Golden Gate Bridge or The Embarcadero, and I never want another parent to feel this anguish. The mayor should really consider solving her own humanitarian crises at home before asking others to join in.” 

My son died from Fentanyl poisoning, and when I learned how he died, I vowed to do all I could to keep other parents from suffering the same endless pain,” said Leopold.  “Yet San Francisco’s fentanyl poisoning numbers are exploding, as are the overdoses of those addicted to fentanyl.  All that’s happened is a fence installed to shield drug dealing and drug use from being seen. I still have seen no positive results from the (declared State of Emergency and the) Linkage center, including no results that we anticipated for those asking for help with mental illness or addiction treatment… and inside the linkage, the center remains a safe place. For drug dealing.

The reality is that San Francisco is becoming as famous for cheap fentanyl and open-air drug markets as for the Golden Gate Bridge and beautiful redwood forests, ” said Jacqui Berlinn.  “The epidemic and the open-air drug markets aren’t only killing San Francisco’s economy; they’re killing our children.”

Ellen Grantz, a mother of young teens in San Francisco who joined MADD to support their cause, said, “I worry every day about the complacency toward lethal drugs in our city; it’s not right for the people suffering from addiction, and it’s terrifying for kids to witness it as an accepted way of life. 

We often hear there are not enough resources, but the truth is there are hundreds of treatment beds vacant while the city doubles down on distributing Narcan and flyers on how to use fentanyl.  It must be demoralizing for frontline staff to work tirelessly to help people when the system is clearly failing.  We are asking the city to shift from addiction maintenance, which is killing people, to addiction recovery.”

Leaders of the grassroots organization want Governor Newsom to lead the effort for local governments to break up the open-air drug scenes, for drug dealers to stop selling dangerous drugs, and for (people who suffer from addiction) who break the law, to restore mandatory drug treatment as an alternative to jail.

Mothers Against Drug Deaths fentanyl San Francisco ad via Charlie Cardillo for use by 360 MAGAZINE
Ad created by Charlie Cardillo