Mental Health

Mike Bumgarner, right, is a counselor and life coach at Restore Behavioral Health, who sits in with patients who are trying to improve their lives.

Christmas, New Year’s, and the winter months feel blue to many in Cleveland County, and local behavioral health specialists are encouraging people — both those who experience mental health challenges and those who do not — to take some time for self-healing.

Kelly Lashar is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Restore Behavioral Health.

She recommends that everyone familiarizes themselves with two words: boundaries and mindfulness.

“I think that boundaries is a buzzword right now,” Lashar said. “Boundaries protect us from emotional pain or from people or events. Boundaries is a good word for the new year.”

To Lashar, mindfulness means not judging the past and fearing the future, rather, it is living in the present.

“It is hard to do that when we have had so many things go wrong in the past,” she said. “If we can let our bodies and minds be mindful, even five minutes every day, our bodies will learn that they are safe. Mindfulness can help us cope with stress and regulate our emotions.”

Britta Ostermeyer is a professor and the chief of psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. She said the holidays can be a time of sadness for many.

Holidays can equal sadness

“It’s the time of year where people think about those who have lost loved ones, or relationships. It marks the end of the year, and people may have concerns for the new year, or people may think that the years have gone by, and they haven’t accomplished enough,” she said.

The season brings together family, which for many is a source of joy, but for those who experienced childhood trauma, reunions can provoke sadness.

Ostermeyer said western-style expectations for the holiday season coerce some people into celebrating who would be better off spending time alone, or with people of their choosing.

Some experience sadness because they are away from family, or they perceive that they are missing out on experiences with their friends or family. This kind of sadness is often triggered by overuse of social media, according to mental health professionals.

“We need to set boundaries on the amount of time we spend on social media and technology,” Lashar said. “We need to set boundaries on what we let into ourselves when we see social media posts. FOMO — fear of missing out — is real.”

She recommends that everyone comes up with a number indicating how long they are willing to spend on social media per day or week.

“We can sit there for five minutes on Facebook, and then all of a sudden, you don’t realize it’s been an hour,” she said. “Setting boundaries on technology is a great plan.”

Ostermeyer recommends individuals, especially those who experience mental health challenges, reevaluate toxic relationships.

Re-evaluate toxic relationships

“It is very important or crucial to maintain healthy positive relationships. We need to surround ourselves with those who are welcoming to us, who are supportive, who are helping us to feel well,” she said.

“We need to stay away from negative, toxic relationships as bad relationships are a big stressor and threaten our mental health. That’s true for anybody, even for those who don’t experience mental health problems,” she said.

Ostermeyer added it is natural for individuals to surround themselves with people they like, but she warned that just because a person’s personality may spark an initial interest, their deeper attributes may not be conducive to a healthy relationship.

“We need to pick and choose when it comes to relationships,” she said. “We need to choose relationships with our minds and with wisdom — with our cognitive skills, and not just gravitate to people we may like. We need to evaluate relationships. Is this person good for me for my overall life?”

Lashar said sadness can trigger bad habits such as substance abuse, including cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, prescription medicine and street drugs. She said the first step to changing is recognizing that they want to change.

“That’s the hardest battle,” she said. “When people say I want to make a change, that’s a good start.”

Lashar recommends that people who want to rid themselves of substance abuse should bring in healthy people into their lives.

“Whether it’s a therapist, someone from their church, a family member or a friend, they need someone who can say, ‘Hey, this is something I’m trying to do, and I want help on the way,’” she said.

To kick substance abuse, she recommends finding a solution that works best, whether it is meeting with a professional or finding a support group.

Take time for self care

Ostermeyer said it is important to take time for self care. This means eating well, exercising, sleeping for seven or eight hours each night, and eliminating harmful substances.

“Don’t do street drugs, including marijuana,” she said. “Marijuana is not conducive to mental health.”

She also recommends finding routines, whether at work, or through volunteering. Working can help a person to find purpose in life, especially when they are doing something that they love.

“Some of our patients have severe mental illness, and they may not be able to hold down any daily job, but they can certainly participate in certain volunteer activities within certain limits,” Ostermeyer said.

Lashar recommends setting reasonable expectations, knowing that those who experience mental illness challenges or sadness will not find recovery or balance overnight.

“Try not to get discouraged. Remember that tomorrow is a new day. We won’t always feel this way,” she said. “Sometimes you need to just go to sleep and let tomorrow start over again.”

Trending Video