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Striking a Mental Health Balance

Monitoring psychological health is a top priority after disasters such as Hurricane Ian

Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is an expression that roughly means overcoming obstacles by using your own resources and without help.

That’s not where many of us are in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Our mental health needs to take priority these days and beyond as we struggle to regroup, rebuild, reevaluate and rethink our lives.

That’s why this chapter of èBella èXtra focuses on the delicate balance of being OK and having the courage to ask for help as we try to accept the hand of destruction Mother Nature delt our communities.

“When someone’s in a state of trauma that so many are in [because of Hurricane Ian], they don’t know where to begin,” NAMI CEO Beth Hatch told the Associated Press.

We hope the tips, resources and profiles in courage in this chapter inspire you to know where to begin. We wish you peace.

 

CHAPTER 105

 
 
 

HEALTHY LIVING

Discovering the Connection Between Diet and Mental Health

How what you consume (and don’t) affects emotional stability

by David Lawrence Center

We know what you eat can affect your waistline, but not many people realize that what you eat (and don’t eat) can also affect your mental health. Eating in a healthy way can help prevent and manage a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. Read on to learn what to eat and how a healthy diet can help.

What to Eat

So, what exactly are you supposed to eat to make sure you’re getting enough mood-boosting nutrients and vitamins? Some foods that can help keep levels of omega-3s in check include fish such as salmon, tuna and trout. Avocados and walnuts also contain vitamin B, which is healthy for your brain. Turkey and chicken are both excellent sources of protein.

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Furthermore, plant-based foods like leafy greens, mushrooms and vegetables can also help improve your mood because they convert to serotonin — the neurotransmitter largely responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. 

 

Additionally, make sure you’re drinking enough water. According to one study by the United States Department of Agriculture, dehydration is associated with a negative mood.

 

What to Avoid

Eating foods that are high in sugar or artificial sweeteners and drinking beverages such as coffee and alcohol can have a negative impact on your brain. Alcohol is a depressant, therefore it is important to closely monitor your intake.

 

Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Food

No matter what you choose to eat, it’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with food. What we eat and how we think and feel about food is directly connected to our brains. Multiple studies have shown that there is a deep connection between your diet and your mental health. It may help to think about food as simply a source of nutrition instead of something to relieve stress or make you happy.

Maintaining a healthy diet can have a significant impact on the state of your mental health. If you are struggling with depression or any other mental illness, please contact the David Lawrence Center in Naples to get help from the expert mental health professionals in Southwest Florida.

Ann moved to Naples 14 years ago, and immediately contacted DLC to continue getting the kind of help she had received in Illinois. Since then, she has met with a therapist every two weeks.

But when Ann’s husband of 43 years died suddenly in 2018, she sank deeper into depression.

“I wondered how I’d get through it. It takes diligence to maintain your well-being. You have to work at it. My therapist helped me to reboot every two weeks,” Ann says. “People always see me smiling, but they don’t realize how much work goes into it. It’s been a long road, but I’m doing really well now. I’m more at peace.”

Click here to get help and learn more about David Lawrence Centers in Naples.

“With full-fledged depression, you can’t just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s biological, and you need help.” ~ Ann

MENTAL HEALTH ANYWHERE

The Virtues of Virtual Care

“It’s like inviting my therapist into my home.”

by David Lawrence Center

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Diagnosed with depression at the age of 40, Ann, now 69, knows the importance of taking her medications daily, exercising regularly and meeting consistently with her therapist.

“I need therapy to live a normal, healthy life,” she says.

When her access to therapy was threatened in the spring of 2020 — first by an accident that left her relatively immobile, then pandemic isolation, she was worried about how she would maintain her mental health and good spirits.

At about the same time, Naples’ David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC) was ramping up its Virtual Care Center and telehealth services, giving Ann the option to meet with a therapist online.

Today, she would not have it any other way.

“It’s the only way to go for me,” says Ann. “Virtual care just makes it so much easier during challenging times. I feel more comfortable sitting in my kitchen, drinking coffee, during our sessions. It’s like inviting my therapist into my home. It doesn’t feel as ‘clinical,’ and it makes me feel more open.”

Virtual care services have proven convenient for so many clients and patients, and DLC continues the program for people in need.

“I couldn’t function”

Ann’s depression began almost three decades ago when she lived in Illinois. She had fallen into a dark place where she felt almost paralyzed, unable to move on with life.

“I was crying nonstop,” she says. “I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t function. With full-fledged depression, you can’t just pull yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s biological, and you need help.”

At first, that was easier said than done.

“Accepting that I had depression was the hardest part. I felt like there was a stigma to it — to admitting that I needed help, and that I would have to be on medications and need therapy most likely for the rest of my life,” she says. “But I’ve long since learned that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Depression doesn’t define who you are, but you need to reach out for help.”

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BREAST CANCER IN THE FIRST PERSON

A 2% Chance is Not a 0% Chance

My belief to fight, no matter what the odds

by Dr. Maky Zanganeh

The definition of “life” is quite simple: constant change, unpredictability and the urge to survive.

When you are at the height of your career in oncology research and launching the most innovative oncology drug, it’s hard to imagine that you, yourself, or a close family member, would get cancer and battle the odds. 

After many years being a part of an oncology biotech company and trying to help patients, in December 2019, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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And when I was at the bottom of my fight against cancer, I couldn’t imagine that I could reach the “peak” again and get back to my normal life.

I learned what it felt like to be a patient by becoming one: the pain, suffering and hope for a miracle.

Every part of my breast cancer was scary: the diagnosis, going through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, getting used to my new look of non-existent hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, and then settling for my short hair and trying to get back with a new perspective to my life as a businesswoman. 

 

It was not easy going through those treatments. Every time I had chemotherapy, I was so miserable. I just wanted to throw in the towel. I was so tired and so weak emotionally that I could not see any light at the end of the tunnel.

But I believe hope is the main key in life. Looking into my son’s eyes gave me the energy to continue. It was the only thing that would allow me to move forward and help get me through all the pain.

Time is the healer, but the scar never goes away. The scar is there to remind us to savor every moment in life; to live it without fear, hesitation or doubt.

Breast cancer helped me learn so much more.

Even after all those years working in the field of oncology and trying to bring patient-friendly oncology therapy to the market and into the hands of patients in need, I learned a lot about patients and their spirits.

 

I also learned a lot about cancer treatments and treatment options. I learned that in trying to fight the cancer, you have to aim high and go for a cure as long as the body can handle it — fight until the end, never giving up. I learned that a 2% chance is not a 0% chance. Simply put, as long as we haven’t lost, we have won. Living in fear of possible failure is a waste of time, and time is the most precious and the irreversible thing in our lives.  

Hope, as small as it seems, is already a success. Victory is a positive state of mind. Believing until the end reduces failure in time and intensity.

Live in hope for as long as possible, and don’t be afraid of an instant end point. Enjoy the moments.

In Persian language, the word “inspiration” is pronounced “dam,” which also means “a moment.” And the word “expiration” is “baz dam,” which can be translated as “one more moment.” Death is this tiny fraction that slips between these two instants and extinguishes them. Why be afraid of this tiny fraction and why let it take a growing place to prematurely transform our 2% to 0%?

We have to fight against all odds, no matter what. To be honest, I do not wish anyone to have to go through what I went through, although I can assure you that it was an experience that opened my eyes to my own life, putting the value of life itself and the importance of time into perspective.  

Living in fear of possible failure is a waste of time, and time is the most precious and irreversible thing in our lives.

Last year, I wrote my memoir, The Magic of Normal. I dedicate this book, that traces my private and professional journey, to those whose lives have been interrupted and who dream of returning to normal one day. I dedicate it to every patient going through the uncertainty and torment of cancer. I want you to know you are not alone. You are shielded with science, innovation and discovery. In front of you lies camaraderie, courage and hope.

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Dr. Maky Zanganeh is a recognized leader in the healthcare industry and is now co-CEO, president and board member of Summit Therapeutics, a company committed to the betterment of overall human health. 

INNER CRISIS FOLLOWING CRISIS

Psychologically Weathering the Storm

SalusCare Florida offers tips for navigating mental weariness

by Stacey Cook, President and CEO, SalusCare Florida

The psychological effect of Hurricane Ian will be wide reaching. It’s inevitable that loss of life, home, belongings, jobs, businesses and community will affect everyone, whether they were impacted personally or not.

Studies have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common mental health disorder following natural disasters, with a prevalence of 30 to 40%. Still, not everyone exposed to trauma develops PTSD.

It’s important to recognize prolonged symptoms following an event that can lead to larger health issues. Left untreated, these health issues can have a significant impact on a person’s life.

With support from community and family as well as self-care and recognizing and addressing symptoms, most of us can bounce back. 

But there are also effective treatments for PTSD and other mental health conditions, and early identification and assessment are critical.

These are signs to watch for:

Emotional

• Being anxious, fearful, sad and/or angry. And guilt can emerge from feeling you could do more or because you were unharmed while so many others were not.

• Having too much energy or no energy at all. Feeling disconnected, uncaring and numb.

Physical

• Gastric and stomach issues, headaches or other pains for no apparent reason. Eating or drinking too much, sweating, chills, shaking, muscle twitches or startling easily.

Behavioral

• Trouble falling and staying asleep or sleeping too much. Using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or prescription medication to cope. Having difficulty accepting help or helping others. Isolation and irritation.

Cognitive

• Having trouble thinking clearly, concentrating and remembering. Confusion, worry and difficulty making decisions or listening to others.

It’s important to note that these distressing feelings about a disaster usually fade as routines return (generally, 2-4 weeks).

SURVIVORS     

Piles of debris, disruption to routines and constant news coverage impact everyone, but here are some tips to help:

  • Connect with others and share your experiences, check in, send messages of support and try to plan something enjoyable.

  • Exercise helps get rid of the buildup of stress hormones. It can be as simple as taking a walk, stretching or meditating.

  • Take deep breaths, which can help move stress out of the body and be calming.

  • Listen to music to help your body relax.

  • Get enough daily sleep and rest.

  • Eat healthy food, and drink plenty of water.

  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, especially in large amounts. Their effects are multiplied with stress and can be harmful.

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CHILDREN

A sensitive, nurturing and calm adult is most important to children’s well-being after a disaster.

Reactions to trauma in children vary widely and can include regression, demanding extra attention and thinking about themselves over others. These responses are natural and should not be met with anger or punishment.

Compared to adults, children often suffer more from exposure to disasters, including psychological, behavioral, physical and learning difficulties.

  • Help them understand what’s happening with basic information but without alarming details.

  • Be sure to ask children what questions or concerns they have. Often, they have fears based on limited information or because they misunderstood what they heard.

  • Do not tell children they shouldn’t be worried. Help them learn how to deal with distressing feelings rather than pretend that these feelings do not or should not exist.

  • Make sure they feel safe by establishing predictable routines and meeting basic needs.

  • Allow children to play and interact. Boredom can intensify negative thoughts and behaviors.

  • Limit children’s exposure to images and descriptions of the disaster, including media and adult conversations. (This is especially critical for children, but it’s important for adults, too.)

  • Find age-appropriate ways for children to help. Even very young children benefit from being able to make a positive difference.

  • Emphasize that what happened is not their fault and express hope for the future.

  • Look for changes in behavior that suggest your child is having difficulty coping.

 

There is good news. If stress and trauma become overwhelming, resources and professional help are available. Also, there’s a phenomenon known as the “pulling together effect.” That’s when communities sharing a traumatic experience are more likely to support one another, and it often strengthens social connectedness.

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Responding to the Needs of First Responders

First responders are familiar with high-intensity traumatic events, but extreme exposures can take a toll on them. So, it’s important for emergency responders to:

  • Acknowledge stress, difficulties and emotions

  • Look out for one another

  • Keep in touch with family and friends for support

  • Be aware of signs of burnout and compassion fatigue

  • Be kind to themselves

BEST FRIENDS IN NEED

Advocating for the Animals

Adopt a Shelter Dog month gains new significance in Southwest Florida

by Kathy Grey

After the busy travel months of summer, autumn is considered the best time of year to adopt a dog. That’s why October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month, sponsored by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA.

The bonus of this month-long celebration for those of us in Southwest Florida is that autumn holds the promise of cooler weather, making it more comfortable to play outdoors with a new canine family member.

At this time of year, community shelters make it a priority to match each dog with a compatible owner and an environment that will support the dog’s best second chance of living in a stable forever home. The same remains true for Southwest Floridians, despite the fact that Hurricane Ian’s aftermath might have complicated the process.

Where the Dogs Are

News headlines across the country tout the adoptability of pets flown in from Florida following the devastation of Hurricane Ian. But the Humane Society Naples (HSN) makes these points clear:

1. All pets being transported outside of Florida were already in shelters prior to the storm.

2. Animals displaced by the storm will remain in local SWFL shelters to give families an opportunity to reunite with their pets.

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3. All found pets appearing to be homeless must be reported to the local domestic animal services (DAS), where each animal is scanned for a microchip that could reveal pet/owner identification.

 

4. The von Arx Adoption Center has resumed normal hours of operation. The HSN Main Shelter remains closed for adoptions as of this writing.

• In Collier County, click here for more information.

• In Lee County, click here to learn more.

Forever or Foster

Southwest Florida animal advocates work every day to locate forever and foster homes for animals in their burgeoning shelters. The work becomes urgent in times like these, as they seek appropriate home placements for animals in their care.

HSN: What You Should Know

Humane Society Naples continues to focus on an unprecedented animal rescue campaign in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

  • HSN is working with 17 partner organizations across Florida to clear shelters by transporting animals to out-of-state organizations, making room for the expected arrival of animals lost or displaced by the storm.

  • Donations can be made online here, or delivered to the main shelter at 370 Airport Pulling Road N., Naples.

  • As HSN is at storage capacity, community members who want to donate supplies are asked to consider gift card donations instead.