Ask a doctor – pro tips for happiness – decaturish
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By Dr Mehrdod Ehteshami, contributor
It’s 6:55 a.m. and I walk through the doors of the emergency department. I get my routine signature from the night doctor, I hear the commotion of the day nurses coming, and in the background the whispers I noticed I hadn’t heard before.
“We are talking about this new virus”, I hear one of the nurses express to one of her colleagues. “Yeah, that sounds kinda weird. Anyway, let’s talk about this psychiatric patient that we have, ”
I hear another nurse talking. The rest was history.
The challenges we have faced as a community over the past year cannot be understated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 25% of people reported symptoms of anxiety and 24% symptoms of depression in the second trimester of 2020, compared to 8.1% of the former and 6.5% of the latter. during the same period of 2019.
So the question is, now what? I have heard the stories of so many tiptoeing around the edge of this deep cliff of depression.
“My tenants have moved, I lost my full-time job, and I can’t pay my mortgage anymore. I have $ 20 in my bank account. How to face my family? How to put food on the table? I’m the only bread winner in my house, ”said one of my 72-year-old patients. Yes, at 72, he was still working. And yes, at 72, he started having thoughts of suicide. The worst part? It is not something new.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, almost every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression: sadness, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness , irritability, guilt, impairment, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, fatigue, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, change in appetite, suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death, or aches / digestive problems / headache with no clear physical cause that is not easy to treat.
Now, of course, depression can be viewed as a specter. What I tell my patients, family, and friends (and even myself) is that it’s not because you haven’t been diagnosed with major depression as an illness. clinical that your emotions and experiences don’t matter or should be. ignored. In fact, I would say it feels more like a snowball at times. The longer you let it fester, it grows exponentially to the point of becoming a huge lump that wreaks havoc on you and everyone around you.
As we put mental health at the forefront of the conversation in May during Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to take a few minutes to give you some tips on my professional and personal life. Today I challenge you to draw a line in the sand and tell yourself that on one side is the old you, but on the other side of the line there is a person who longs for happiness. that you deserve.
Your emotion has a name and wants to be recognized. Like I said earlier, just because you haven’t been diagnosed doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is a fact that I frequently teach my medical students. “Dad has never been sick! I don’t know how he could have had a heart attack! I hear this all the time. You are not sick until you are. The same goes for your emotional journey. Don’t be afraid to name what you are feeling. For many people, that name is Grief. When you name your emotions, you change where the power resides (hint: it’s with you).
Ask the tough questions of your friends and family. OK, this one is a little more difficult. Admittedly, it is a very uncomfortable thing to do. “Hey Jim, so how are you really doing?” This is such a neglected issue. My favorite part about living in the Decatur area is that we share this strong sense of community. But I ask you, what is a community without support? What is community if we are unwilling to ask our friends how we can serve them?
Develop a strategy! Just because something might seem difficult to accomplish that day, focus on smaller tasks than you think are achievable. Recognize that even small tasks can be difficult. By doing this, you are using positive reinforcement to tell your brain that you can do it.
Find something. Whatever. Something. Just find one thing that you expect. It could be that morning cup of coffee or that donut with the friend who just got the shot. Find something, then tell someone you’re going to do it. Tell that person to ask you if you actually did this thing. It’s a way of being held to account, but it also gives you something to look forward to. I like to tell people to try and get sunlight into their activities because studies show that the sun also helps increase our happiness.
It takes a village. Until I had kids, I didn’t fully appreciate this concept. And until I experienced depressive symptoms myself, I didn’t fully understand them either, no matter how much medical training I received. Being part of a community is so important. Leverage your relationships. What is a community without support?
Give yourself time to heal. Time, the great healer, is often one of the hardest parts. We want a quick fix. Where’s my magic pill? “You are a doctor, lay your healing hand on me,” I remember one patient who was ironic to me. This is arguably the hardest part. Take time to heal and understand that even with medication, therapy, strong social support, it takes time.
To call for help. Another of my favorite aspects of life here is that we are privileged to have so many resources. Check with your insurance company which therapists and psychiatrists are in your network. In DeKalb County, there are also free and scalable resources available. Dekalb Health Board, Oakhurst Health Center, and Emory’s Psychological Counseling and Services Department are all great places to start. As with everything else, the most important step is the first.
And one last thing. You’re worth it.
Dr. Mehrdod Ehteshami, DO, MPH is a practicing emergency physician in Metro Atlanta and parts of rural Georgia. He and his family live in the Oak Grove area.
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