Category Archives: Uncategorized

Training Ourselves to be Optimists: Positive Psychology

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet…Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” — Stephen Hawking, American physicist and author

Difficult life circumstances can contribute to mental illness, making hope of recovery seem unlikely. However, growing evidence shows that positive psychological attributes like optimism are associated with a longer and healthier life.

Optimism can be defined as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favorable because we can control important outcomes. This positive state of mind allows people in difficult professions to be more resilient when work becomes stressful, and leads to more fulfillment in life. Studies establishing the link between optimism and health beg the question: Is it possible to train ourselves to become optimistic?

Observing Depression in Dogs

sad dog

For starters, we know that it’s possible for people and animals to learn pessimism. In India, elephant trainers will tie up a baby elephant and let it struggle for days before it learns it is not strong enough to break the rope. This lesson stays with the animal long after it grows into a hulking adult. A fully grown elephant could easily break the rope and escape, but it never tries to do so.

These kinds of observations inspired formal experiments involving dogs who similarly stopped taking action, even when minimal effort on their part could prevent a painful electric shock. Dr. Martin Seligman was researching the causes of depression and pessimism in humans, and he demonstrated that these dogs had been conditioned to believe they had no hope of avoiding the pain they experienced. 

There was also some good news from these experiments: to Seligman’s surprise, some dogs were not dismayed so easily. As psychologist Dr. Lynn Johnson explains in his book Enjoy Life! Healing with Happiness, “What we learn from Seligman’s brilliant dog experiments is that suffering is separate from pain. We all feel pain. But how much does that pain bother us? How much must we suffer? It depends entirely on our own resiliency.”

Inspired by his findings, Seligman set out to determine what made some dogs more resilient. While we can only speculate about the inner workings of a dog’s mind, when something bad happens in our own lives, humans seek to explain it. Seligman and other researchers have identified three ways that humans do this: by making assumptions about how long pain will last (permanent/transient), whether we are responsible for it (personal/impersonal), and what areas of our life it affects (pervasive/local).

Relearning Optimism

In his book Learned Optimism, Seligman explains how pessimistic explanations lead to passivity and dejection while optimistic explanations lead to action and increased energy. Just as we can learn to view our stress response as helpful, we can learn to maintain positive emotions amidst negative events. However, it takes work. Seligman suggests looking at the link between our beliefs surrounding an adverse event and what we do in response to these beliefs. He argues that becoming aware of this link is the first step in changing our explanatory style.

Optimism fights depression. Seligman defines optimism as having three core tenants: 

  1. Good stuff lasts (bad stuff doesn’t)
  2. Good stuff is caused by me (bad stuff just happens)
  3. Good stuff spreads (bad stuff is isolated)

To practice bringing optimism to the forefront of one’s mind, Seligman recommends his “ABC” journaling exercise. In this exercise, a person records an Adverse event that happened to them, their Beliefs surrounding the event, and the Consequences of their actions based on those beliefs. 

You can try this exercise on your own. Whenever something bad happens to you over the next few days, write it down. These may be as small as, “I missed the bus,” or as large as, “My partner broke up with me.” Next, write down your beliefs about the event. Does it affect your life in the long-run? Is it your fault or someone else’s? Does it affect other areas of your life? Seligman says that activities like this can help us recognize our own reflexive feelings (like those of the shocked dogs) and change our actions in turn—hopefully allowing us to break free of ties that have seemed to bind us.

Cummins Behavioral Health Systems aims to inspire hope of recovery and to help those we serve achieve their goals and aspirations. Of course, self-talk is not the end. Problem solving, negotiating, and asserting yourself are also key to fighting depression. It all begins with these kinds of small steps, best attempted with help from a mental health professional.

Or, as Stephen Hawking once put it: 

“The message of this lecture is that black holes ain’t as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought. Things can get out of a black hole both on the outside and possibly to another universe. So if you feel you are in a black hole, don’t give up—there’s a way out.”

light-tunnel

Looking for more posts that can help you learn optimism and resiliency? Here are some articles you might enjoy!

Laughter: Do It Just for the Health of It!
Journaling: A Simple Way to Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Laughter: Do It Just for the Health of It!

“The human race has only one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” — Mark Twain, novelist and writer

Take a moment to think about what you were doing the last time you laughed. Were you with someone or by yourself? Were you reading or watching something humorous, or simply remembering something that happened in the past? And were you already feeling happy when you laughed…or did the act of laughing make you feel happy?

Laughter is a peculiar and remarkable phenomenon of human behavior, and scientific research has shown that it can be beneficial for physical and mental health. For example, several studies have found that laughter can reduce feelings of distress, improve functioning of the immune system, and even help prevent heart disease.

Additionally, psychologists know that laughter is an effective coping mechanism for countering negative thoughts and emotions. According to Tom Kixmiller, a therapist and counselor at our Avon office:

“One of the best ways to heal the body in general is physical activity, and if you’ve ever belly laughed, it can leave you tired. Physical activity and laughter burn off stress and re-balance the body chemistry.

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Tom Kixmiller, LMHC

But how can this help someone who is feeling anxious, upset or depressed? After all, we often think of laughter as something people do when they’re already feeling happy, not when they’re sad. While it’s true that we’re more disposed to laugh when we’re in a good mood, the physical act of laughing can also cause us to feel happy.

Laughter and the Facial Feedback Hypothesis

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When we think about emotion, it’s easy to assume that physiological changes occur in our body as a result of the emotion we’re feeling. When we’re stressed, we take quicker breaths and our heart beats faster. When we’re sad, we feel lethargic and wear a frown on our face. And when we’re happy, we smile and laugh.

However, our physiological state can also be the cause of our emotions. This is why controlling our breathing can calm us down when we’re feeling overwhelmed, and it’s why the 19th-century psychologist William James famously concluded, “We don’t laugh because we’re happy—we’re happy because we laugh.” Tom elaborates:

“Your brain is constantly monitoring your body, which is why dialectical behavior therapy uses the premise of the ‘half-smile.’ If you make yourself smile, it can shift your mood. It isn’t going to fix everything, but it starts to move you in the right direction. Some studies have shown that even forced smiling or forced laughter can have a positive effect.”

Therefore, laughing can make us feel happy even if we weren’t before. Of course, it can be hard to find the motivation to make ourselves laugh if we’re struggling with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. This is where humor and comedy can help.

Introducing Mental Health America’s “Laughing for the Health of It” Comedy Show!

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Tammi Jessup is the Executive Director of Mental Health America of Hendricks County (MHAHC), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting mental wellness in the community. The organization serves people who have mental health conditions through a combination of school-based and adult education programs, support groups, individual advocacy, and initiatives like its food pantry and holiday gift drive.

When facilitating a mental health support group, Tammi leverages the power of laughter whenever she can. “We talk about whatever is going on in each person’s life, whether they’ve had a good week or a bad week. And we laugh, intentionally, as much as possible. If you have your group of people together and you can get them to laugh about something, it has all those positive impacts on the body and mind.”

As part of its mission to promote mental health, MHAHC hosts an annual event called “Laughing for the Health of It.” One part speaker dinner and one part comedy show, “Laughing for the Health of It” aims to remind people that life can be joyful even with a mental health condition. Tammi explains:

“One in four people is going to have a mental health condition at some point in their lives. We want to help those people and their families lead their best and healthiest lives, and we feel like laughter is an important component of that. We want to help people realize that even when they have a mental health condition, they can still laugh and have a good time.”

TammiJessup
Tammi Jessup, Executive Director of MHAHC

7th Annual “Laughing for the Health of It” Dinner and Comedy Show

Sponsored by: Cummins Behavioral Health Systems and Hendricks Regional Heath

When: September 21st, 5:30 p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Where: Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds & Conference Complex, North and South Halls

Featuring:

Comedian Brent Terhune, writer for the Bob & Tom Show

Jefferson Award Winner Nikki Ford

Live music by local band “No Criminal Record”

Catered dinner and cash bar

Silent auction, photo booth, and games & activities

To purchase tickets, click the button below or call the MHAHC office at (317) 272-0027

2019lfthiinvitation

Supplement Your Journaling Routine with These Easy Therapeutic Exercises

In our last post, we spoke with Cummins therapist Mindy Frazee about the mental health benefits of keeping a journal. Studies have shown that journaling can have a wide range of physical and mental heath effects, from lowered heart rate to less distress and negative emotions. Although we covered a lot of the basics last time, there’s still so much more that can be said about journaling!

“Journaling helps us think in different ways,” Mindy says. “It aids in stress reduction, emotion regulation, increased awareness, but it also impacts and touches different parts of our brains, which is really fascinating.”

To help our readers supplement their journaling routine, we asked Mindy about her favorite ways to use journaling in a therapy setting. Here are a few exercises and prompts you can try for yourself!

Therapist Mindy Frazee on Her Favorite Journaling Exercises

Mindy Frazee considers herself a Rogerian, and as such, she doesn't believe in one-size-fits-all journaling therapy. "There's no manualized treatment for Carl Rogers, and I love that. So, for me, it's about whoever is sitting across from me. It's really tailored to what would work for that person," she says.

Self-Affirmation Journaling

“Some people that come into my office have very low self-evaluation and self-esteem, for a variety of reasons. One of the things I’ll do is tell them, ‘Write down everything you like about yourself.’

That’s really uncomfortable for people. Many of us don’t like to talk about ourselves. We’re in the Midwest; it’s not what we do. But on top of that, we may have been told negative things about ourselves. This exercise challenges those ideas. Then, if we read what we wrote out loud, it helps us accept those good things about ourselves. We think, ‘I wrote it about myself, I read it out loud, and then this person sitting across from me who’s completely unbiased accepts this about me. I guess I can accept that about me, too.’ “

Reframing Traumatic Experiences

“Usually in trauma work, I encourage the person to read their own words out loud in our sessions. And when they’re reading what they’ve written about a traumatic experience, I’ll pause them and ask, ‘What do you think about that experience right now? What is it like now, today, in this moment, to be saying these things?’

What was present then is often what trauma survivors fixate on. ‘I was so angry, I was so scared, I was these things.’ But as a therapist, I encourage them to think about what’s happening today, in this moment. This helps them be more present and stop living in the past, which is really pivotal and impactful in trauma work. They realize it’s OK to feel the way they did and that they’re not in that place anymore.”

Experimenting with Format

“Some people just don’t want to sit down and write, to be honest. Not everybody is going to say, ‘Dear diary, today…’ So, I try to meet those people where they’re comfortable. They can journal with logs or bullet points. They can write poetry and prose. It’s whatever makes sense for that person in their mind.

Another idea that’s really fascinating is photography as a way of journaling. Most people have some type of a phone, so I might ask them to capture pictures, but in a very focused way—with a specific quest, kind of. I’ll say, ‘Define this concept using photos throughout your day, and then bring them in and we’ll discuss them.’ “

We’d like to thank Mindy Frazee for sharing these exercises, which can be used in both clinical and personal settings. But you needn’t stop here! There are countless ways to express yourself through journaling—the only wrong way is a way that doesn’t feel right to you!

What are your favorite ways to journal?

If you’d like to read more about mental health and wellness strategies, check out some of our other posts below!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)
Remember This Next Time You're Feeling Stressed

Journaling: A Simple Way to Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression

“In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent.”  — Susan Sontag, essayist, filmmaker and activist

Would you believe that spending a few minutes each day with a pen and paper can be highly beneficial for your mental health?

Journaling, which you might also call keeping a diary, is the practice of regularly recording your thoughts, feelings and life events. It’s a great way to get difficult thoughts and emotions “out of your head” and into a private, judgment-free space. In fact, psychologists have known for many years that journaling can work wonders for mental health.

In one influential paper on the topic, psychologist James Pennebaker found that people who participated in journaling exercises later reported less distress, depression and negative emotions. Amazingly, some people even experienced improvements in their physical health and behavior. In a few studies, people who journaled went on to earn higher grades in school or find a new job more quickly after being laid off from work.

So, how does journaling work in a clinical setting, and how does the exercise translate to mental health benefits? We spoke with therapist Melinda (“Mindy”) Frazee to find out.

Mindy Frazee on Journaling for Mental Health

Mindy Frazee is an outpatient therapist at our Crawfordsville office, where she finds journaling to be an invaluable tool in her work with clients. “It can aid in emotion regulation and increasing awareness. I do a lot of mindfulness-based work with clients, and it can help them become more aware, more present, more tuned-in to what’s happening to them internally instead of reacting to what’s happening externally,” she says.

According to Mindy, journaling can be an effective therapeutic exercise for just about anyone. However, she finds it particularly useful for people who have experienced trauma. In her therapy sessions, Mindy often asks clients to read aloud portions of what they have written in their journals, and then they discuss topics that either person thinks is important.

Mindy says that journaling forces us to confront our thoughts and feelings head-on rather than avoid them. Although this process can be uncomfortable at first, it’s often a crucial step on the journey toward self-discovery or psychological healing:

“When people first come to work with me, especially when they’ve experienced trauma, I compare it to looking down a very long hallway with a lot of doors shut. It’s scary and dark, and we don’t like to go down there. But in my office, we go down there. It’s very disorganized in that area of our minds, and journaling can help us start to organize it. We revisit the traumatic event, we look at it in a safe way, and we make a different sense of it.”

How to Start Your Own Journaling Routine

Keeping a journal is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your mental health. All you need to do is pick up a pen and start writing. You can write about anything you want, from the events of your day to something that has made you happy, sad, excited or nervous. If you keep up the routine long enough, you’ll start to know yourself better and work your way through problems that once seemed too difficult to approach.

Your journaling exercise will be most effective if you can make it a regular part of your day. “My recommendation is to be very intentional about when you’re going to journal,” Mindy says. “Sit down and walk through your schedule. When do you have 20 minutes where no one is interrupting you, you’re relaxed, and you’re able to just sit, think and write?”

Here are some other tips and suggestions to consider:

  • If at all possible, try to write in your journal every day. Be strict with yourself about maintaining your schedule.
  • Write whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about things like sentence structure, grammar and spelling.
  • Don’t censor yourself or worry about what other people might think. Your journal is for your eyes only.
  • If you don’t know what to write about, try choosing weekly or monthly themes. Examples could include “joy,” “anger,” “memories” or “aspirations.”
  • Instead of keeping a written journal, you could also record audio or video logs. Any format that feels right to you is fine.

Journaling is one of the many client-specific behavioral treatments used by our therapists at Cummins BHS. While journaling is useful in clinical care settings, it can also be practiced outside of therapy for your general mental and emotional well-being.

We hope this post inspires you to start journaling for your own mental health! 

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For more on wellness and simple exercises for improving mental health, give these other posts a read!

Wellness: What It Is and How to Achieve It
Calm Down Quick with This Simple Trick: Extended Exhale

Building Connected, Healthy Communities: National Night Out 2019

Tuesday, August 6th is National Night Out!

The website for National Night Out—an initiative of the National Association of Town Watch—includes a quote from former Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison that nicely sums up what the organization is all about:

“The best way to build a safer community is to know your neighbors and your surroundings. National Night Out triumphs over a culture that isolates us from each other and allows us to rediscover our own communities.”

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United States Permanent Representative to NATO and former Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Celebrated in most places on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out (or NNO) is an annual event with the goal of creating safer, tighter-knit communities. One way this is done is by strengthening relationships between community members and law enforcement. To this end, local police departments have a large presence at each event. Officers put a positive face on law enforcement by interacting with community members, and they also get residents involved in programs like neighborhood watch, drug prevention, and other anti-crime efforts.

However, NNO is also about strengthening ties between everyone in the community. As Senator Hutchison said, the best way to build safe communities is to know your neighbors! That’s why Cummins BHS is proud to be participating in this year’s National Night Out celebrations!

Recapping Montgomery County’s NNO Events with Jeremy Haire

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Jeremy Haire, LMHC, is a Youth and Family Therapist at our Montgomery County location in Crawforsdville, IN.

In Montgomery County, National Night Out was celebrated a week early on Tuesday, July 30th. The event was held at Milligan Park in Crawfordsville, IN and hosted by several organizations including the Montgomery County Youth Service Bureau and Drug Free Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Police Department and Fire Department were all present to interact with the public. Additionally, there were many fun activities for children and families to participate in, such as an obstacle course, a bounce house, face painting, caricatures, and a special “Silly Safari” show.

Two of our staff were also there to speak with attendees about Cummins’ services and answer their behavioral health questions. Jeremy Haire, LMHC and Youth & Family Therapist, headed the booth at the event. “We had a display for doing deep breathing and a couple of activities to get kids engaged, and while they were playing, the parents might ask us about our services. It was a great time to get information to community members who maybe hadn’t heard of us or didn’t know exactly what we do,” Jeremy says.

In addition to letting people know about the health services available to them, Jeremy says the event was a good opportunity to connect with other local organizations:

“It’s nice to be able to meet some of our community partners and discover how they can help people who are currently in our services. For example, we met an organization that provides hygiene products and household items for adults and families. That was a resource we weren’t aware of. Having relationships like that will help us connect folks who are in need with the appropriate resources.”

breathing_board_and_booth
A photo of the deep breathing board that was displayed at Cummins' booth. The two techniques listed, "bubble breathing" and "balloon breathing," presented healthy breathing exercises in a way that was engaging for children.

Attending National Night Out is a wonderful way to get involved with your community and discover the health and wellness resources that are available to you. We encourage all our readers to check with their local civic organizations to see if National Night Out is being celebrated in their town!

Cummins BHS will be in attendence at the NNO event for Putnam County. Come out to see us Tuesday, August 6th from 5–8 p.m. at Robe Ann Park (Splash Park) in Greencastle!

If you enjoyed this post on National Night Out, you might also like our article featuring Police Officer Chase Lyday and the Decatur Township Drug-Free Coalition!

How One Indianapolis Police Officer Is Fighting Teenage Substance Abuse

Calm Down Quick With this Simple Trick: Extended Exhale

Yoga, meditation

What is 4-7-8 breathing?

“Unlike the heart’s one-dimensional, slow-to-fast continuum, there are many distinct types of breaths: regular, excited, sighing, yawning, gasping, sleeping, laughing, sobbing. We wondered if different subtypes of neurons within the respiratory control center might be in charge of generating these different types of breath.” 

Practicing the 4-7-8 breathing technique 

Dr. Andrew Weil developed the 4-7-8 breathing technique to help with reducing anxiety, insomnia, and controlling/reducing anger responses.

This technique asks a person to focus on taking a long, deep inhalation for four seconds, holding the breath for seven seconds, then exhaling slowly (making a ‘whooshing’ breath sound) for eight seconds.  Structured, rhythmic breathing like this is central to many meditation and yoga practices as it promotes relaxation and mindfulness.

Breathing is special because it is both an automatic reflex and a voluntary action.  Our breathing speeds up when we’re afraid and slows down when we’re calm, all without conscious effort.  When we apply conscious effort to slow our breath, it can slow down those negative stressful feelings as well.

Yoga Specialist Becky Mann

Yoga Instructor Becky Mann explores breathwork with her clients while easy poses help reconnect to emotions within the body. As Becky says, “There are issues in our tissues!”  Becky guides her clients with soothing, instructive visualizations like this:

As you inhale, feel your lungs expand…feel your rib cage rise with cool air entering the nostrils. As you exhale down to the last whisper of breath, feel the belly soften and feel the warm air leave the nostrils.

Breathing exercises are so effective they have been adapted for use by the US Military. Try their ‘Box Breathing’ technique as well:  Inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for four, and wait for four seconds before repeating.   Like a square or ‘box’, this breathing technique consists of four parts of equal length.

Experiment with these structured techniques to find a style that works for you! Thank you to Tara Treatment Center’s Becky Mann:  Learn more about Becky’s specialized practice here.

Yoga facilitator Anne Halleck stretchingInterested in the application of Yoga and breathing exercises to mental health?  Check out Anne Halleck’s blog article here.

 

Shining a Spotlight on Minority Mental Health Month with These Indiana Organizations

Every person deserves access to quality healthcare regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and economic status. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

People who belong to “minority” groups are less likely than the rest of the population to have access to care, and the care they receive is often of a lower quality. This is especially true when it comes to mental health care. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that in 2017, 42% of all youth ages 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, but only 35% of African American youth and 33% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their condition.

This long-running disparity in treatment led the U.S. House of Representatives to establish July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008. This month, organizations across the country are advocating for better mental health care for members of minority groups.

Here are a few of the organizations and events celebrating Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in Indiana!

The Indiana Youth Institute

"If an organization impacts youth and families, we act as a catalyst in their efforts and provide resources to help them achieve their goals," says Kevin Enders, Senior Outreach Manager at the Indiana Youth Institute.

The Indiana Youth Institute is a statewide organization dedicated to improving the lives of all Indiana children. IYI provides data, resources and training to organizations that directly interact with youth, such as those in the areas of education, workforce development, health care, the Department of Corrections, and the State Department.

IYI’s mission is to understand the health issues that affect children and teens in Indiana, and one way it does this is by collecting data. Each year, IYI compiles the Indiana KIDS COUNT® Data Book to provide a snapshot of youth health in the state. According to Kevin Enders, Senior Outreach Manager at IYI, one of the things this data does is help organizations identify and remedy disparities in mental health treatment for minority groups.

“As an example, we know that 1 in 5 high school students in Indiana has thought about suicide. We can break this down by gender, sexuality, race, or ethnicity and take a deeper look. If we break it down by sexual orientation, we see a huge disparity. Suicidal ideation occurs in 15% of heterosexual youth, but it occurs in nearly 47% of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. When it comes to race and ethnicity, we see higher rates of suicidal ideation in Hispanic, African American and multiple-race youth compared to their white counterparts. We want to educate the state of Indiana about these disparities so that we can provide better interventions and preventions in the field of mental health.”

Visit the Indiana Youth Institute on Facebook to learn more about how the organization is promoting the health of minority populations and all youth across Indiana.

Hendricks County Health Partnership

"We accomplish our mission through education, advocacy and collaboration. Collaboration is really the heartbeat of the partnership," says Chase Cotten, Partnership Coordinator of the Hendricks County Health Partnership.

On the county level, the Hendricks County Health Partnership is a grassroots community service organization with a mission to improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of residents. It consists of seven local coalitions that each focus on a specific facet of public health, such as the Physical Activity & Nutrition Coalition, the Mental Health & Wellness Coalition, and the Substance Abuse Task Force.

One of the newer additions is the Minority Health Coalition, which meets the first Thursday of each month to discuss the physical and mental health of the county’s minority populations. When it comes to mental health, the coalition recognizes that members of minority groups face unique barriers to receiving treatment in Hendricks County, as explained by Partnership Coordinator Chase Cotten:

“If you are a member of a minority population in Hendricks County, the lack of intercultural competency is a large barrier. If I’m a Spanish-speaking resident and English is my second language, it’s going to be very difficult to connect with a therapist or counselor if they don’t have any sort of translation services on site. Another example would be the lower income barrier. Maybe I’m an uninsured patient and there are only one or two providers that accept a sliding-scale fee instead of an insurance fee or a standard fee, so my options are very limited. Or let’s say I’m a member of the LGBTQ+ population. Not all providers are affirming of that, so that adds another layer of barrier and stigma that I have to fight through. The ‘why’ behind the coalition is to increase intercultural competency for providers and community members so that everyone has an equitable chance to get the help they deserve.”

Visit the Hendricks County Health Partnership Facebook page to get in touch with the coalitions and see how you can help make a difference in Hendricks County.

2019 Indiana Black and Minority Health Fair & Shalom’s Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair

Cummins' Michelle Freeman (pictured here), Director of County Operations for Hendricks and Marion Counties, will be at the 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair on July 20th from 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.

In celebration of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems will be in attendance at two local events over the weekend!

The first is the 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair, which is part of the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. The goal of the Health Fair is to raise awareness of chronic disease prevention and treatment among minority populations. To this end, there will be a wide variety of free health screenings available as well as health education, demonstrations and activities!

The 2019 Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair runs from July 18th through the 21st. It’s being held in Halls J and K of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis. Cummins’ own Michelle Freeman, Director of County Operations for Hendricks and Marion Counties, will be there to answer your mental health questions on Saturday the 20th from 12:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.! Please consult this flyer for additional information.

Also on Saturday, Shalom Health Care Center will be holding its annual Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair. This health fair welcomes more than 3,000 people—including children, their families, and other members of the community—to participate in free health screenings, games and activities. There will also be music and dancing, backpack giveaways in preparation for the new school year, and exhibitions from more than 100 community health partners.

This year’s Dr. Dannée Neal Back-to-School Family Health Fair will be held on Saturday, July 21st at Shalom’s Primary Care Center at 34th Street and Lafayette Road. The fair runs from 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m., and members of the Cummins staff will be in attendance! Please visit Shalom Health Care Center’s website for more information.

This Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Cummins BHS wants you to know that no one should be ashamed of their mental health struggles, and help is out there! Our health care providers can offer assessments, evaluations and interventions based on your needs.

For more on mental health care for underserved groups, take a look at our recent post for LGBTQ Pride Month!

LGBTQ Pride 2019: Explaining the Gender Unicorn withYouth MOVE

Multitasking, Attention-Deficit Trait, and Boundaries

Stress Can Be Good For You (as in this picture of a woman doing her homework)

Why Multitasking Doesn't Work at Work

There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”

— Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield

Here’s a fun fact: the term multitasking originated in the field of computing, where it describes a computer’s ability to perform two or more processes at the same time. Today, we often use the word when we’re talking about people doing multiple things at once, such as reading a book while watching TV and sending text messages.

Our brains function a little bit like biological computers, but there are some important distinctions. One of them is that while computers are very good at doing many things simultaneously, human brains are awful at it. For humans, trying to multitask is a surefire recipe for performing all of our tasks poorly and mentally burning ourselves out in the process.

The Myth of Multitasking

On the surface, multitasking seems like the ideal way for us to get more done in a shorter amount of time. But the reality is that while the number of tasks we complete might increase, the quality of our work universally declines.

Research has shown that multitasking temporarily lowers our IQ by 10 points, making us less capable at solving complex problems. We also process information differently when our attention is divided, leading to poorer retention and less understanding of learned material. And to top it all off, the time-saving benefits of multitasking are small because our brains can’t process two decision-making operations at once.

Armed with this knowledge, it would appear that the solution to multitasking is simple: just stop doing it. But it can be surprisingly difficult to avoid distractions in a world where distractions have a way of coming to you.

Rise of the Attention Deficit Trait

In our modern technological world, we face more challenges to concentration than ever before. Phone calls, email, text messages and social media give us unprecedented connectivity with others, but they can also serve as near-constant interruptions that erode our ability to focus on what we’re doing.

Over time, an environment filled with continuous distractions can cause us to develop a neurological phenomenon called attention deficit trait, or ADT. First identified by psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell, ADT shares many symptoms with ADHD, including distractibility, impatience and a feeling of inner frenzy. In short, ADT is the byproduct of information overload as we struggle to cope with incessant demands on our attention.

Under these conditions, people who are normally smart, talented and responsible suddenly find it incredibly difficult to solve problems, be creative and manage their time effectively. Luckily, ADT is a temporary condition that can be reversed with a little practice.

Set Boundaries to Save Your Brain

The best way to avoid falling victim to ADT is to set clear boundaries. One goal of setting boundaries is to minimize distractions and confine interruptions to designated times, but it’s also about not overworking ourselves so we aren’t as easily distracted in the first place.

Here are a few simple guidelines you can follow when you’re trying to get work done:

  • Turn off notifications or silence your phone. This will eliminate the distraction of incoming calls, texts and emails so you can focus on the task at hand. If you can’t afford to go completely off the grid, at least silence alerts from social media and nonessential applications.
  • Establish designated times for checking your email and messages. This might be at the beginning and end of each day, or perhaps at a few intervals throughout the day. If possible, try to schedule this during parts of the day when you are naturally less productive.
  • Post office hours and times of availability. Let co-workers and clients know when they can call or meet with you and when you need uninterrupted time to work. Keeping others informed of your schedule will help them minimize any distractions they may cause you.
  • Don’t take on more work than you can handle. An excessive workload or unrealistic deadlines will only create stress and tempt you to try to multitask. Saying “no” to assignments can be uncomfortable, but reasonable co-workers and clients will understand.
  • Take breaks and set times to stop working. Exhaustion from overworking can seriously impair our ability to concentrate. This is why it’s important to take regular breaks and refrain from working at all hours of the day. Take the time to refresh your mind and body, and the quality of your work will benefit from it.

Remember: humans are the sum of what we pay attention to. What we focus on determines our experiences, our knowledge, and our fulfillment in life. If we want to truly be in control of our own lives, we must dole out our attention wisely and with purpose.

For more tips on taking charge of your thoughts and emotions, take a look at this post on “eustress,” the positive form of stress!

Perfectionism and the Imposter Syndrome

Embracing Your Inner Expert: Perfectionism and the Impostor Syndrome in Mental Health

“The problem was that I carried around with me a tendency to feel that other people’s respect for me would vanish if what I did was second rate. And while I accept that this ‘perfectionism’ is likely to stimulate the production of better work, it doesn’t, unfortunately, go hand in hand with a relaxed and happy attitude to life.”

— John Cleese, television and film actor



Have you ever felt that your best isn’t good enough? Have you faced pressure from yourself or others to be better than great—to be perfect? Even though we all know no one really is, this unrealistic self-expectation can still creep into our minds regarding our relationships, our hobbies, and especially our jobs.

Mental health professionals are no exception. Due to the demanding nature of their work, therapists and counselors may feel the need to know everything and have all the answers for the people they serve. And if they don’t have all the answers for their clients, they might feel unknowledgeable or unqualified for their job.

Even though such thoughts and feelings aren’t based in reality, they can fill us with anxiety and slowly eat away at our confidence. Over time, we might even start to feel like we’re living the life of an impostor.

 

The Impostor Syndrome: A Threat Lurking Under the Surface

In 1978, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes published a study on 150 high-achieving women who did not believe they deserved their accomplishments. Despite their educational honors, professional successes and recognition from peers, they secretly considered themselves to be intellectual frauds and lived in constant fear of being exposed.

This was the first documentation of the impostor syndrome. Today, we know this condition affects both women and men equally and is especially prevalent in academic and workplace settings. People who have this condition don’t believe they are as competent as others think, and they attribute their successes to luck or hard work rather than innate ability.

Someone suffering from impostor syndrome has an internal monologue that sounds like this: 

“I feel like a fake.”

“I must not fail.”

“I just got lucky.”

“If I can do it, anyone can.”

As mental health professionals, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort to obtain the proper certifications and licenses. It’s been ingrained in us that we need a certain level of expertise and permission from people who are smarter than us to practice psychology. Ironically, even once we’ve obtained that expertise and permission, we may wonder if we’re really good enough for the job.

We can fall prey to the impostor syndrome if we let these feelings get the better of us. Fortunately, there are several things we can do to prevent this.

 

 

Unleashing the Expert Within

Just like with other anxiety-related issues, combating the fears of perfectionism requires us to examine and adjust our thought patterns. We can start to regain confidence in our professional worth by confronting our faulty self-perceptions with reality.

Here are some of the best ways you can do this:

  • Recognize your expertise. The simple fact of the matter is that if you have the education and certifications to be a practicing counselor or therapist, then you are an expert in your field. This doesn’t mean there’s no room for you to continue building on your expertise, but it does mean you’re more than qualified to provide treatment for your clients.
  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes. Mental health professionals sometimes develop the belief that because their job is to counsel others, they aren’t allowed to make any errors themselves. This is simply not true. Everyone messes up from time to time, and therapists and counselors are entitled to the same forgiveness for mistakes as the people who are seeking their help.
  • Reframe thoughts of self-doubt. If you find yourself repeating the internal monologues of the impostor syndrome, change your mental chatter to focus on your strengths and abilities. Instead of obsessing that you aren’t good enough, remind yourself that you will continue to improve over time. Reframing your negative thoughts can be especially helpful right before an achievement event, such as before an appointment with a client.
  • Talk to your peers. The worst thing we can do when struggling with negative thoughts is stay inside our own heads. Discussing your feelings with your colleagues can create opportunities for positive reinforcement and provide you with a realistic perspective on your abilities. You might also discover that they have perfectionism fears of their own, which can help you feel less alone in your struggles.

Those working in mental health may sometimes feel the need to be perfect, but we should remember that being professional does not mean being infallible. The best way to serve our clients is to be confident in our abilities and let our inner experts shine through.



If you liked this post on perfectionism and the impostor syndrome in the field of mental health, you might also enjoy our blog post on peer-based recovery support!

 

Some say Yoga is simple physical exercises. They’re wrong.

Bringing Trauma-Sensitive Yoga Into Mental Health Practice

The Body Keeps The Score Chapter 16:  Yoga & Learning to Inhabit Your Body

In The Body Keeps the Score, Trauma Expert Bessel Van Der Kolk explains the effects of trauma by recounting his first meeting with a patient we’ll refer to as ‘Sarah’.  She was breathing quickly, her legs were shaking, and she was too nervous to talk.  Sarah had been abused by both her parents growing up, and carried the resulting shock well into adulthood at the age of 27.  What can help individuals like these, who are too traumatized for traditional talk therapy?   

Working with the Breath

Dr. Van Der Kolk says that Heart Rate Variability (or HRV) plays a crucial role in our response to trauma. Healthy people typically have high HRV, which means their pulse fluctuates rapidly in response to external stimuli. This reflects a well-functioning nervous system which is able to change in balance with our environment. High-HRV individuals can moderate their emotions by controlling their breathing, allowing them to stay calm and engaged in the present moment.
 

In contrast, survivors like Sarah tend to be stuck in their traumatic past, taking rapid short breaths out of worry that their trauma may return–even when the threat has long subsided.  This causes poor HRV, a state in which changes in breathing take much longer to affect emotion. Poor HRV has negative effects on thinking and feeling, and it also contributes to heart disease and cancer. Luckily, techniques exist which allow us to regain some control over our reactions to triggering stimuli.

Therapist & Yogi Anne Halleck finds that combining these two practices allows her clients to make progress rapidly.  She reports that yoga can teach powerful techniques to utilize the breath and improve mindfulness.  She says,

“I blend yoga and therapy to different degrees depending on the needs of each client. I often introduce mindfulness and practices such as calming breathing or meditation into individual and group therapy in order to approach mental health in a more holistic and integrative way…There is a lot more to yoga than yoga pants and being flexible!”
 
 
Chat Conversation 

Anne is specially certified as a trauma-sensitive yoga teacher.  This therapy was highlighted in The Body Keeps the Score, which highlights new technologies linking the body and the brain.  We’ve learned that the prefrontal cortex is not where trauma is being stored.  It’s actually being stored in the nonverbal—even preverbal part of the brain, suggesting that a more integrative approach may be more successful than talk therapy alone.  Van Der Kolk presents several work-arounds to reconnect with the body, with ourselves, and with others. 

The good news:  Sarah began yoga for the trauma she had experienced and recovered, in a yoga group just like Anne Halleck’s.  While Van Der Kolk discusses many promising new approaches, yoga remains among the best at treating PTSD and improving clinical measurements like Heart Rate Variability. 

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

It looks like the evidence supports Anne’s observations.  Learn more about PTSD, HRV, and yoga in this video.  If mind-body approaches like yoga have helped your mental health (or a loved one’s), let others know by sharing this post!