Mental Illness

Mental Illness

Here you will learn more about the differences in mental health, mental illness, warning signs & symptoms, and learn how to have mental health conversations in an open and respectful manner. Explore below to learn more about how to recognize the signs, communicate with your young person more easily & compassionately, and find additional support and resources if needed.

DIY Anxiety Relief Toolkit

How to Create a DIY Anxiety Relief Tool Kit

Written by Dahyana P. Schlosser, PMHNP-BC

For caregivers who have young people that struggle with anxiety, the creation of a personalized Anxiety Relief Tool Kit can make a world of a difference. These kits place relief at your young person’s fingertips wherever they may be.

When put together in a thoughtful way, they have the ability to help a person stay in control of their anxious symptoms. Your young person’s kit can be a small bag that they keep in their purse or backpack. It can also be a box or a small mint tin. Really, it can be whatever they want it to be. The point is to keep all of the parts together in an easily accessible space.

They can make multiple versions of their Anxiety Relief Tool Kit and keep them in special places like their desk at school, the car, or anywhere else they frequent.

Everyone can have a toolkit, including young children. Helping a child to put together a toolkit that they can use at home, in school, or in any other setting that causes them anxiety can be a powerful way to empower them to cope with their anxiety and set them up for success when dealing with anxiety as they grow into young adults.

In order to make an Ultimate Anxiety Relief Tool Kit, your young person will need to make sure they have something to engage each of their senses.

Tip #1: Something for their Hands & Body

Rubik’s cubes are great for this! They engage your young person’s mind and hands in an activity that undoubtedly will divert their anxious energy.

Fidget toys such as this ingenious cube consolidate multiple fidget worthy activities into one item. Roll a ball. Click some buttons. Rotate a joystick. It is so awesome because it is small and discrete. As a result, it allows the user the ability to fidget and take out their anxious energy in almost any setting.

In addition, stress balls, pencil toppers, velcro, pipe cleaners, and poster tack or Play Doh can all be great anxiety relief tools.

Anything with texture, such as a soft towel or blanket are nice for your young person to hold on to and rub between their hands or fingers. Depending on how big their particular tool kit is, they may need to cut whatever material they choose down to an appropriate size. They may find they like having a small one for school/work and a larger one for home.

Tip #2: Something to Smell

Engaging their sense of smell can be so helpful! Smells, especially ones that remind us of pleasant memories are known to help calm anxiety.

Quick mindfulness exercise

Have your young person think back to a time when they felt really serene and calm. Where were they? What did they see? Most importantly for this exercise: what were they smelling? If possible, ask them to try to pinpoint that smell. Describe it. Then, brainstorm ways to capture it and have it in their tool kit.

If they can’t pinpoint a smell. Or, if the smell they remember is impossible to recreate, try some of these:

  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Jasmine
  • Rosemary
  • Cinnamon
  • Peppermint
  • Vanilla

Many scents can be found in the form of oils, soaps, lotions, and of course in other organic states. Lotions and oils in particular can engage more than one sense if they decide to put some on. For scents that come in more organic forms like flowers, loose powders, or spices, they may need to find vials or jars to keep them in.

Tip #3: Something to Listen To

Most of us carry around our phones. Having a specific playlist that your young person creates with songs that they know help to calm them down is a powerful way to get rid of anxiety. Music heals and has the power to take us away while keeping us present. So, in their tool kit they may want to make sure they have headphones for when the occasion arises.

Here are some playlists for chronic anxiety.

Tip #4: Something(s) to See

Any visual representations of things that make them feel calm are great antidotes to anxiety. If looking at pictures of particular family members is what keeps them calm then they should have those handy!

For some young people it may be that looking at serene landscapes in nature takes them to their calm place. Maybe it is a photo of oneself or someone else engaging in an activity that they know takes them to their calm place. Rock climbing? Yoga? Swimming? Gardening?

Using an online photo service is a cheap and convenient way to get pictures of any kind printed. Mpix is just one of these. Of course, their camera roll may be their go-to.

Other examples of visual calming aids:
  • Pictures of their favorite art pieces.
  • Coloring books and coloring tools (pencils, crayons, markers, etc.). Engage their visuals while partaking in the therapeutic activity of coloring.
  • Any object that they enjoy looking at such as: seashells (which can engage their feeling senses), uniquely colored rocks (smooth or textured can also engage their feeling senses), prisms, or a mirror.

Tip #5: Something to Feel (via rocking or deep pressure)

Many people use linear movement such as walking, rocking, or swinging to calm them. Have them try using a rocking chair, going for a walk, or swinging. Others also find deep pressure input such as hugs, weighted blankets, lap pads, jumping, or putting a heavier item like a book or bag on their laps helps with anxiety. Your young person can also provide some slow calming deep pressure to the top of their head with their hands when overwhelmed. They may even find they like both rocking and deep pressure at the same time!

Tip #6: Something to Taste

Eating to relieve anxiety can be a slippery slope for some. However, there are some foods that are known to have calming effects on people. The following can easily be slipped into your young person’s Ultimate Anxiety Relief Tool Kit and stored for longer periods of time.

  • Chocolate – pure dark chocolate has been known to lower the levels of the hormone cortisol which is linked to stress and anxiety.
  • Almonds – contain zinc which is essential in balancing mood. Furthermore, almonds have iron which could help to keep their brain energized and less susceptible to anxious energy.
  • Chewing gum (aim for sugar-free!)
  • Calming Teas
  • Mints

Other foods that they may want to consider taking with them as they leave their house are:

  • Oranges – hello Vitamin C!
  • Blueberries – considered to be a superfood. They have antioxidants (among many other things) that help to combat anxiety.
  • Peaches – have nutrients with calming effects.
  • Whole Grains – pasta or bread anyone? We’ve all been there after a big meal with some complex carbs. We feel slower in our minds and our bodies. A great antidote for anxiety — though your young person may want to incorporate exercise if they plan on using this one a lot!
  • Carrots – or other healthy crunchy snacks can be calming.
  • Water bottle – to stay hydrated and help themselves calm their mind.

Tip #7: Some other things they might want to consider putting in!

  • Favorite books – especially ones with positive quotes or thoughts.
  • Chapstick or lip balm – it smells and feels good to put on, they are certainly engaging more than one sense at a time. Thumbs up to that!
  • A journal or a small notebook to get those anxious thoughts out of their head. Writing them down can be super helpful. Sometimes this act alone can show them just how irrational their thoughts are. Maybe they read them back to themselves and laugh at how ridiculous they can be! 🙂
  • Lastly, does your young person know what they worry about? Maybe when they are in a good headspace, perhaps after exercising or a meditation session, they can write down phrases to help calm themselves down. They can dedicate a journal page (or a few) to this activity. Or, write on strips of paper, fold them, and place them in a small box or Ziploc bag. This version allows there to be a bit of mindfulness activity when they go to unfold and read them. Either way they do it, they should just know that there is nothing like disproving their own thoughts to combat anxiety.
Some examples of what they can say to themselves:
  • Hey, Danny isn’t ignoring you -– he is probably just busy right now.
  • I’m doing great at school. Why am I worried? Also, just last week, my teacher said I’m really improving!
  • I’m not a failure. I’ve accomplished so many things in my life. I’m only worried because I want great things for myself. I don’t need to worry to be great.
  • I’m okay. You’re OKAY.
  • This feeling is not permanent. It will pass.
  • Take ten deep breaths.
  • WOO-SAHHH!
  • Stay Present.
  • Notice what you can see right now.
  • Notice what you can hear right now.
  • Notice what you can smell right now.
  • Notice what you can feel on your body right now.
  • It always helps when you_______ .
  • I am in control.

Compiling their Ultimate Anxiety Relief Tool Kit should be fun for your young person because it is literally all about them! Also, it helps them to bring to the forefront of their mind things that help them feel better. Not only that, they will feel more in control. After all, who doesn’t like to feel calm and relaxed? Anxiety doesn’t stand a chance when their kit is stockpiled with their best kept secrets!

One last Tip!

Using more than one tool from their tool kit at a time can help if they are feeling very anxious. So, if they are in a place where it is possible to pull multiple things out, they should do it! For example, they may want to put their headphones on and listen to some music, then put some great smelling lotion on their hands, and play with a fidget tool. Although, if they are only feeling a little anxious, perhaps being mindful as they put on some tingly delicious smelling chapstick is all that they need. For more information about anxiety and other mental illness conditions click here.

 

Reduce the Stigma

The Other Side of Mental Health Stigma

Written by Dahyana P. Schlosser, PMHNP-BC

What is Stigma?

Stigma has consistently been a significant barrier for individuals and communities when facing challenges related to mental health. It’s the reason why people hesitate to talk about their challenges and obstacles when it comes to getting help. The effects of stigma permeate across all areas of society and the far reaching implications can be felt both at the systemic level, as well as at every level of care. Ultimately, most will grapple with mental health stigma in some way, shape, or form. If you ever want to recognize it, you’ll find that it poses as the elephant in the room. The one everyone steadfastly ignores. Nevertheless, it is still able to drive conversations and key decisions as people try to skirt around it. The bottom line is that stigma creates more work for everyone. It’s taxing on society, and families often get the worst of it.

The Children are our Future

While the increased statistics of mental health challenges in our youth are staggering, sobering, and concerning, It’s important to point out another trend that has been observed. While the incidence of youth mental illness is on the rise, the level of stigma associated with these types of challenges is decreasing in this population as well.

The Bright Side

In today’s world this should serve as no surprise. Each day we are met with stories in the news of youth who are leading the way on many fronts, whether it be gun control, climate change, or mental health stigma. Youth are talking about it among their friends, in chat rooms, via text message, and on social media. Everyday they are taking action and asking for reform or change. Most of all, they are doing and saying things that are getting the attention of the adults around them as they ask for help in their own unique ways.

Eliminate Stigma. Change the World.

The innovations that lie on the other side of stigma are worth the work to eliminate it. They are so profound that the future of our youth and by extension, our world, will forever be changed for the better. Just on the other side of stigma, there is flexibility, problem solving, collaboration, empathy, community, and a culture of acceptance. Many of us are shining in the light of empathy and paving the way for others through innovations that will change the way we look at, approach, and experience mental health for generations to come.

Three Ways to Help Eliminate Stigma
  1. Listen empathically – Our fast paced and whirlwind culture (#teamnosleep) can have us looking for shortcuts to make things a little easier on our minds and bodies. We tend to go on autopilot every now and again, especially when communicating with others. However, when we listen to others empathically, it opens the door for authenticity, and more importantly, we let people know that we are a safe space to talk about anything and everything.
  2. Be a safe space through self-care – Don’t let self-care only be a hashtag. Actually, do it.
  3. Normalize mental health – Every chance you get.

When we accept emotional health challenges as a normal part of the human experience, we will free ourselves from the shackles of stigma and propel ourselves towards innovation that will save lives and make this world a better place.

Resources

A list of BLOOM's trusted resources to find more information and support… VIEW ALL

Trusted Organizations
National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

The nation’s largest mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Erikas Lighthouse

A depression and mental health education organization that provides free, flexible, and effective programming for grades 4-12.

Books, Apps, & Podcasts
The Body Keeps The Score
By Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

Provides insight into how trauma lives in our bodies, the ways that it manifests in our lives, and finding effective treatments.

Shine App

An inclusive self-care app that inspires users to look after their mental health with the help of meditation, gratitude exercises and journaling.

Insight Timer

Offers 100,000 free guided meditations for as long as you want without ever paying a cent.

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