Stress Awareness Month 2024

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By Ashley Barnes, M.S. What is Stress Awareness Month? Stress Awareness Month has been recognized during the month of April since 1992; it spreads awareness of the ways in which stress impacts our mental and physical health as well as urges us to find healthy ways to manage our own stress. What is stress and how does it impact us? What exactly is stress? According to the American Psychological Association, stress is defined as “the physiological or psychological response to internal or external stressors. Stress involves changes affecting nearly every system of the body, influencing how people feel and behave” (2024). In other words, stress is our own response to stimuli (stressors). Stress can be acute (responses to short term stressors) or chronic (response to ongoing, long term stressors), and not all stress is bad. Some stress can help us better navigate situations such as job interviews or help us …

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Self-Harm Awareness Month 2024

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By Ashley Barnes, M.S.   What is Self-Harm Awareness Month? Self-Harm Awareness Month spans the month of March with the purpose of spreading awareness, breaking the stigma, and providing support and hope to those who have or currently self-harm. Self-Harm Awareness month is observed in the United States, Canada, and parts of Western Europe.  What is self-harm? Self-harm is also known as nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Self-harm describes the act of purposely harming oneself; this act is often done by burning, cutting, pulling out hair, or picking at wounds to prevent healing. Self-harm indicates emotional distress and can lead to injury as severe as broken bones (NAMI, 2021).  Self-harm urges a need for healthier coping skills for emotional distress, and though it isn’t a mental illness in and of itself, self-harm is often associated with mental illness such as depression, trauma-related disorders, and borderline personality disorder (NAMI, 2021). It is also …

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Sleep Awareness Week 2024

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By Ashley Barnes, M.S.   What is Sleep Awareness Week? Sleep Awareness Week was launched in 1998 and is the National Sleep Foundation’s public education campaign with the aim to spread awareness about the importance of sleep as it relates to physical and mental health. This year, Sleep Awareness week will be March 10th through March 16th. Prepare your pillows and blankets! The Importance of Sleep. Many of us don’t recognize the importance of sleep until we discover the difficulties we face when we are sleep deprived. We may not acquire enough sleep due to staying up late cramming for an exam, staying up late to finish work, or struggling with sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Lack of sleep tampers with our mood, memory, and health in very impactful ways.  In terms of mood and mental health, studies have discovered that lack of sleep induces heightened levels …

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2024

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By Ashley Barnes, M.S. National Eating Disorders Awareness Week NEDA Week is an initiative taken by a non-profit organization called the National Eating Disorders Association. NEDA devotes their work to preventing and raising awareness about eating disorders, as well as providing resources to those in need. National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) week “is an annual campaign to educate the public about the realities of eating disorders and to provide hope, support, and visibility to individuals and loved ones affected by eating disorders… NEDA week 2024 is an opportunity to center education about eating disorders which is critical for raising awareness, early detection, and access to quality care” (NEDA, 2024). In 2024, NEDA week will take place on Monday, February 26 through Sunday, March 3.  Eating Disorders As defined by the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders are “behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing …

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Proactive Counseling for Blended Families

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By Ashley Barnes, M.S. About Blended Families. A blended family, also known as a stepfamily, develops when you and your partner make a life together with the children from one or both of your previous relationships; this can simultaneously be a challenging and rewarding experience as you and your family find a new equilibrium. According to the Step Family Foundation, nearly 1,300 new stepfamilies form each day and over 50% of families in the United States are recoupled (2023).  Blended Family Challenges. When families are blended, challenges can arise as differences in parenting, lifestyle, or discipline become apparent, at times becoming a source of frustration for children in the family system. The following are difficulties that many blended families face: Parental inexperience may pose an issue, as one stepparent may have never been a parent before. Therefore, these parents may have little to no experience supporting children through the various …

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