May is Mental Health Month! This month is extremely important, especially considering the natural stressors of working in veterinary medicine. You are heroes! The care and support you provide for pets in your community each day make a difference, and from all of us at People, Pets & Vets, we thank you. Thank you for being such an important part of our world and providing such a critical service.
Mental health is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound impacts on the mental health of people of all ages, and now more than ever, it is critical to reducing the stigma around mental health struggles that commonly prevent individuals from seeking help. It is important to accept the situations in life that we cannot change, actively work to process the mental struggles associated with big changes, manage anger and frustration, recognize when trauma may be affecting your mental health, challenge negative thinking patterns, and make time to take care of yourself.
One way to check in with yourself is to take a mental health screen at MHAscreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and private way for someone to assess their mental health and recognize signs of mental health problems.
Seeking professional help when self-help efforts to improve your mental health are not working is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Rapid heart rate. Sweating. Trembling. Fear of loss of control. A sense of impending doom. All of these are symptoms of a panic attack.
Panic attacks are intense experiences of fear paired with physiological reactions that occur suddenly. They may happen once or twice in a lifetime or more frequently. No matter the frequency, they are always upsetting to experience.
While fear is the main symptom, along with the symptoms listed above, panic attacks can also include:
- Shortness of breath
- Hot flashes
- Abdominal cramping
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- A tingling sensation
- A feeling of detachment
It is common to feel tired after experiencing a panic attack, and while these attacks might not be life-threatening, they can affect your quality of life. If you think you have experienced these symptoms, see a doctor to help rule out other health problems and to receive help in managing the attacks.
For some, panic attacks are genetic. For others, they can be caused by stress, sensitivity, or changes in the way parts of the brain function. Factors that can increase the likelihood of experience panic attacks include:
- Family history
- Major stress
- High caffeine intake
- A history of abuse
- A traumatic experience
To prevent panic attacks, get treatments and help to identify them as soon as possible. Consult a doctor to come up with a treatment plan and then stick to that plan.
Let’s Find Your Zzz’s
There are a lot of factors that can affect your sleep – screen time before bed, too much caffeine, and stress are just a few.
But did you know food can play a factor in how quickly you fall asleep, and how soundly you sleep? Add some of these foods to your pre-bedtime ritual and increase your nightly Z’s.
Nuts: Almonds and walnuts are a good source of heart-healthy fats, and they contain melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle.
Cottage cheese: High in lean protein, cottage cheese contains the amino acid tryptophan (of Thanksgiving turkey fame), which increases serotonin levels. Low levels of serotonin can contribute to insomnia, so increasing it can help you rest better. Add raspberries to your cottage cheese for flavor and an added source of melatonin.
Fruit: Different types of fruit can help you get that sweet REM rest. Tart cherries contain melatonin, as do bananas, pineapples and oranges. Eating kiwi before bed has shown to help with insomnia, even increasing sleep duration by an hour over the course of a month for some people. Fruits rich in antioxidants such as prunes, raisins and plums also have a similar effect, helping to counteract stress.
Hot tea: Decaf tea helps the body relax before bed. Options like ginger, peppermint and chamomile are known to be calming.
Dark chocolate: Have a sweet tooth? Do not worry, dark chocolate does more than taste great. It contains serotonin to help relax your body and mind.
Bon appétit and good night!
If you would like additional information on emotional and mental health or suicide prevention resources, you can confidentially contact me at the information below.