Is the cure worse than the disease?

family on hike wearing masks

Wearing masks during a family getaway to the mountains.

There’s an epidemic hitting our country and it’s felt especially among young adults ages 18 to 29. Depression and anxiety. In California, the rates of clinical depression have hit 44% since the Coronavirus shutdowns began. I have a friend who is a psychologist who works with teens and she’s seeing patient after patient contemplating suicide.

The World Health Organization no long recommends shutdowns as the best course of action to fight the global pandemic — even as we’re getting a spike in cases. But in addition to mental illness, the WHO is concerned that shut downs are making the poor even poorer.

Here’s an excerpt from USA Today written by John Bacon:

WHO discourages lockdowns as US hospitalizations climb; 11 states set records for new COVID-19 cases

Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19, urged world leaders this week to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” for blunting a virus surge.

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro told “The Spectator.” Nabarro said lockdowns can only be justified “to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”

In California, we’ve been sheltering in place since mid-March. During that time people are feeling isolated, alone and there’s an increase in substance abuse and mental illness. Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Phillip Reese in the Los Angeles Times:

Feeling anxious and depressed? In California, you’re right at home

It’s official, California: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly depressed. And our youngest adults — those ages 18 to 29 — are feeling it the worst.

Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on mental health in the Golden State and across the nation. By late July, more than 44% of California adults reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder — a stunning figure that rose through the summer months alongside the menacing spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. at large has followed a similar pattern, with about 41% of adult respondents nationwide reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11% of American adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.

The July responses showed a marked geographic variance. Residents of Western and Southern states, where the virus remains most virulent, registered greater mental distress, on average.

There are many reasons why young adults are seeing the largest increase in depression and anxiety during the shutdown. First, they aren’t able to be socially involved. Their worlds have been turned upside down being stuck in the house with their parents and away from their peers. Second, they are more open to talking about mental illness and are more willing to get help compared to the boomers or older generations. I believe that is a good thing and a glimmer of hope while we all soldier through this together.

It’s important to know the signs of depression and get your children help. Click here for a link to the National Institute of Mental Health to learn more about depression in teens and where to get help.

Coit Tower with kids

Last year we were climbing Coit Tower together on a trip to visit our kids.

Why do you think there is such a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among teens and young adults?

Are Parents to Blame for Our Children’s Angst and Anxiety?

I wrote this months before the pandemic hit and we began sheltering in place. Now that I’ve spent 109 days in my home without my normal activities of meeting friends for lunch, traveling, volunteering and hanging out with my swim friends, I’m learning that more and more people are suffering from anxiety and children are being hit the hardest. A friend of mine who is a psychologist for teens said she’s talking to a record number of kids who are talking about suicide. It puts a new perspective on our kids’ angst and anxiety.

randk 3I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

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We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

How Michael Phelps Is Fighting Against the Stigma of Depression

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A few years ago, I got to hear Michael Phelps speak at a fundraiser for Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children. It was very enthralling and I couldn’t believe the darkness he had gone through on his quest to become the GOAT (Greatest Olympian of All Time). Also, It was special to me because I was present at the groundbreaking for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center held on Frank’s 75th birthday (yes, that Frank!) during my tenure as a PR account executive for Cliff Brown Associates. Today, Phelps continues to work to help others who are battling depression and other mental illnesses. HBO is releasing “The Weight of Gold” documentary starring Michael Phelps and other Olympic athletes that details the mental health struggles they experience. Here’s my post about my experience hearing Michael Phelps open up about his battle with depression:

I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team 

 

 

 

Are parents to blame for angst and anxiety?

randk 3I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

randk 1

We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach. 

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model. 

This simple exercise can be better than medication to fight depression

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

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What other exercises do you find effective to fight anxiety and depression?

How to improve happiness in 10 minutes a day

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A view from our “Wellness Park” in Palm Springs.

Is it possible to make yourself feel better and happier by doing a simple 10-minute exercise daily? In a book I’m reading called Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, I learned about a simple practice called What-Went-Well Exercise or Three Blessings:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance. (“My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today”), but they can be important (“My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy”).

“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause “God was looking out for her” or “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

The book Flourish is written by Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D. bestselling author of Authentic Happiness. He’s world renowned for his work on Positive Psychology and is the Zellerbach Family Professor Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. I heard about the book from David Benzel of Growing Champions for Life, who is used as a consultant by USA Swimming, and holds monthly webinars about Sports Parenting.

Here’s why Seligman says this Three Blessings exercise works:

“We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.”

I’ve only begun reading the book, but this simple exercise seems like something not too difficult to do. If it increases a sense of well-being then why not give it a try? Yesterday, I was thankful for more than three things. They included having a pedicure and glancing at my daughter in the seat next to me–because it’s a mother-daughter tradition we’ve done for years and I cherish our time together. Second, was working on a book proposal. The reason why is because I’m making progress and accomplishment is satisfying. Third was a phone call with a friend I’ve had since my oldest was in kindergarten. We met in the women’s restroom after dropping our oldest kids off on their first day of school! It’s so nice to know I have supportive friends in my life that will come to my aid when I need them.

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What are your thoughts about what you’re thankful for today? Do you think you’ll give the Three Blessings exercise a try? If you do, please let me know if you notice any changes in your sense of happiness and well-being.

Are teen girls at risk for depression linked to social media use?

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I find swimming helps me feel better in the day and sleep better at night.

A recent study in the United Kingdom of more than 10,000 14-year-olds showed that teen girls who spent more than five hours on social media were 50% more likely to have depression. The study called the Millennium Cohort Study can be found here.

Here are more details in an article titled “Teen girls at higher risk of social media-linked depression, study says” bFiza Pirani  in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Now new findings published in the journal The Lancet last week suggest social media use may indeed be associated with young people’s mental health — and the connection looks stronger for girls than boys.

United Kingdom researchers examined data on 10,904 14-year-olds born between 2000 and 2002 in the U.K. for the study, using a variety of regression and path models to find associations between social media use and depressive symptoms.

The data is part of the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study, which includes participant self-reported questionnaires. 

On average, research showed that girls had higher depressive symptom scores compared with boys and girls reported more social media use as well.

In fact, according to the study, teen girls who spent more than five hours on social media per day had a 50 percent increase in depressive symptoms and boys experienced a 35 percent increase in symptoms compared to those who used social media for only one to three hours per day.

“We were quite surprised when we saw the figures and we saw those raw percentages: the fact that the magnitude of association was so much larger for girls than for boys,” study author Yvonne Kelly of the University College London told CNN. This could be because girls are more likely to spend time on apps centered around “physical appearance, taking photographs and commenting on those photographs,” she said, and urged future researchers to delve deeper into the gender differences.

Depression is a debilitating disease that can last a lifetime — or end a life. Social media is the number one form of communication for our kids, yet it can be so harmful. Long gone are the days when teens spent hours on the phone, tying up the family’s telephone line. I remember having to wait for my big brother to get off the phone with his best friend, so I’d get my turn to talk and say nothing for an hour.

The researchers looked at areas that are affected by social media and show an increase in depression with poor sleep, online harassment, poor self esteem and body image. This study gives parents a strong reason to look closely at our teens’ social media accounts and be aware what’s going on in their online life. I’m not sure how to limit their time online, but it’s worth giving a try to save their mental health. I know I feel better when I put the phone down and get outdoors to walk, hike, or spend time with friends and family, rather than being online.

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The Wellness Park in Palm Springs.

What are your thoughts about this study that shows how vulnerable our teen girls are to depression from social media?