Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with life and all the subsequent responsibilities that you just wanted to stay in bed all day and hide from the world?

It is not just you. With all the stress of trying to balance work, finances, relationships, schedules, grocery shopping — and everything else on your to-do list, the pressure of life can be heavy and at times, foreboding. You are not alone with these feeling,s and you have access to simple yet powerful tools to help you and your family.

Sometimes it is easier to talk about being busy or high stress than it is to talk about mental health. The stigma of mental health can be a barrier to finding resources and strategies to help. May might have been Mental Health Awareness Month, but we should be talking mental health about all year long.

According to the Dunn County Community Health Needs Assessment Report in 2016, mental health was listed as the number one priority in the realm of health that needed improvement in our community.

The mental health category in the assessment report was defined as “services and support to address how we think, act, and feel as we handle stress, relate to others, and makes choices.” A few examples listed were depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Exactly 68 percent of the report’s respondents said mental health “affects me or someone I know” and almost 90 percent of the survey respondents in Dunn County said “they did not feel comfortable asking about or finding mental health services for themselves or others”.

Mental health issues can be wide ranging, from brief instances of intense stress to varying lifelong disabilities. More than half the respondents from this report said “more mental health education” is needed in our community.

Community resources

Research has shown well-conducted mindfulness strategies reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improve sleep and self-esteem, and can be used as a simple tool to increase calmness and the ability to manage emotions. Practicing mindfulness can be a great supplement to mental health management with the support of mental health professionals.

However, mindfulness is not a replacement to seeking professional guidance on what would work best for you. There are resources in our community to help wherever you are on the spectrum of mental health.

Resources and options in our area include but are not limited to the following:

  • Connecting with the

Dunn County Human Services Department

  • which can able to help or refer you to a specific resource to meet your particular needs.
  • Reaching out to

NAMI

  • (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) Chippewa Valley which can provide support groups and specific resources.
  • Checking out the

Grassroots Wellness Peer Run Respite & Learning Community

  • to learn about their resources and how to navigate or avoid a crisis related to mental health.
  • Calling the

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

  • which provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Embracing mindfulness

Let’s explore the world of mindfulness and how you can use it to help you and your family. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent researcher, describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Mindful.org describes it as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Essentially, mindfulness is being present and creating a feeling of calm.

There is substantial and strong evidence for the positive impact on adults for wide ranging demographics and mental, physical, and emotional needs. Emerging research with adolescents is also showing similar positive effects for our youth. School-based mindfulness interventions show positive outcomes on overall well-being, including reducing anxiety and improving behavior.

According to Katherine Weare, emeritus professor of Universities of Exeter and Southampton, “Mindfulness can contribute directly to the development of cognitive and performance skills and executive function. It can help young people pay greater attention, be more focused, think in more innovative ways, use existing knowledge more effectively, improve working memory, and enhance planning, problem solving, and reasoning skills.”

There is an infinite amount of ways to engage and practice mindfulness for yourself and with your family. Engaging in mindfulness can take 10 seconds or as long as you choose. You can use these ideas right before bedtime, while you are waiting in a line, playing at the park, or almost anywhere else! And one of the best parts about mindfulness is it is free of charge.

For example

There are many mindfulness ideas and activities available online and on our Dunn County UW-Extension Family Resource Page. Here is one activity for all ages to get you started:

Mindful breathing: Counting breaths

1. Stand, sit, or lay with your spine straight. Gently close eyes or keep them open with a soft focus.

2. Breathe in as you would naturally and silently count one. As you breathe out silently count two. Continue this pattern until you reach 10.

3. Once you count to 10, you may choose to stop or repeat the activity again.

Family tip: When working with younger children it can be helpful to gently count out loud and/or have them put their hands on their belly to feel it rise as they breath in and fall as they breathe out.

Remember that if you or a loved one need support, you are not alone and there are resources to help. Mindfulness is a simple, powerful and free way to supplement professional guidance and positively manage life stressors.

Start right now: Take a deep breath in through your nose and release the air out through your mouth. Repeat as needed.

Stephanie M. Hintz is the youth and family extension educator for Dunn County UW Extension. She can be reached at 715-231-6690.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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