The NEGATIVE impact of the pandemic on our mental health!

The following is from a recent study on the effects of the pandemic on our mental health, substance use, and suicidality. It is safe to say that those of us who were already experience challenges before the pandemic have seen an increase in our struggles.

Even if we never had issues with mental health or substance use, the pandemic caused us to feel depressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Photo by Alex Green on Pexels.com

Data show COVID’s impact on nation’s mental health, substance use…

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released findings from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The data suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on the nation’s well-being. Americans responding to the NSDUH survey reported that the coronavirus outbreak adversely impacted their mental health, including by exacerbating use of alcohol or drugs among people who had used drugs in the past year.

Several changes to the 2020 NSDUH prevent its findings from being directly comparable to recent past-year surveys, as explained below.

Based on data collected nationally from October to December 2020, it is estimated that 25.9 million past-year users of alcohol and 10.9 million past-year users of drugs other than alcohol reported they were using these substances “a little more or much more” than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic began. During that same time period, youths ages 12 to 17 who had a past-year major depressive episode (MDE) reported they were more likely than those without a past-year MDE to feel that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their mental health “quite a bit or a lot.” Adults 18 or older who had any mental illness (AMI) or serious mental illness (SMI) in the past year were more likely than adults without mental illness to report that the pandemic negatively affected their mental health “quite a bit or a lot.”

The 2020 data also estimate that 4.9 percent of adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. These findings vary by race and ethnicity, with people of mixed ethnicity reporting higher rates of serious thoughts of suicide. Among people of mixed ethnicity 18 or older, 11 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 3.3 percent made a suicide plan and 1.2 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among Whites 18 or older, 5.3 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.4 percent made a suicide plan, and 0.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among Hispanics or Latinos 18 or older, 4.2 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 1.2 percent made a suicide plan and 0.6 percent attempted suicide in the past year. Among adolescents 12 to 17, 12 percent had serious thoughts of suicide, 5.3 percent made a suicide plan, and 2.5 percent attempted suicide in the past year.

“SAMHSA’s annual NSDUH provides helpful data on the extent of substance use and mental health issues in the United States,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., who leads SAMHSA. “These data help to guide our policy directions in addressing such priorities as addiction, suicide prevention, and the intersection of substance use and mental health issues.”

Read more on this study: CLICK HERE

Want to reduce stress? Get some sleep

If you don’t get the right amount of sleep, your mind cannot be at its best. You won’t function properly and may make some serious mistakes. Unfortunately, stress can cause people to stay awake at night. However, getting the right amount of sleep can help eventually reduce your stress levels.

To get better sleep, start exercising on a regular basis. While exercise may give you energy throughout the day, when you go to bed at night, it will help you to sleep better. You will have a quality sleep as well. Some people find that exercising in the evening causes them to be wired, and they can’t get to sleep. If you fall into this camp of people, consider doing your exercising in the morning. This way, you’ll use that energy burst throughout the day and will give you time to become tired.

Try to avoid using alcohol in excess. Although this seems counterintuitive as alcohol makes you sleepy, it causes you to fall into a deep sleep. You then wake up in the middle of the night and have a difficult time getting back to sleep. Without the alcohol, your sleep will be more even and allow you to sleep throughout the night. If you feel you must have alcohol, don’t have more than one drink.

See a doctor if you have sleeping problems that persist. Not getting enough sleep can lead to a decline in your health. Sleep recharges the body and allows it to function properly, including building up antibodies to fight off diseases. When you are deprived of sleep, a bunch of problems can arise because of it.

Hopefully, if you do resort to seeing a doctor, he will find solutions that are not drug-dependent. This may help your sleep problems in the short term but doesn’t do much to fix the reason why you are not getting sleep. Press your doctor for alternative solutions if drugs are being prescribed.

Consider learning meditation as that can relax the mind. It’s much easier to get good sleep when the mind is relaxed than when it is thinking about all the problems you are facing. Meditation won’t solve those problems. But, getting to sleep can help you to come up with solutions faster.

Eating at the proper times during the day and eating the right kinds of foods, can help you to sleep better at night, as well. If you have a heavy meal right before you are going to bed, you could suffer from indigestion, which will not lead to a good sleep at all.

4 Easy Ways to Maintain Energy

You just went through a pandemic. You have to give yourself time to heal from all the stress and trauma you have experienced. Even if you didn’t go through a global health crisis, lose your job, or have to deal with children doing school in your living room, you still need a self-care plan for your life.

4 Easy Ways To Maintain Your Energy

You started the day ready to take on the world. From the moment you got out of bed, you’ve been thinking about all the things you’re going to get done today. You can’t wait to get started! 

Then it all falls apart.

By the end of the day, you’re grumpy and out of sorts. The day somehow derailed, and here you are, feeling like you didn’t accomplish half the things you wanted to today. What happened?

Well, sometimes life really does get in the way. The car won’t start, or the dog gets out, and you spend half the morning chasing him around the neighborhood. Life gets in the way. More often than not, though, you likely did what most people do: you crashed and burned. Somewhere …you just ran out of energy. 

So, how do you maintain your energy levels even on the toughest of days?

Check-in With Yourself

First of all, you need to be paying attention to your body a little bit more. If you can catch yourself right when your energy begins to waver, you might be able to stave off a massive crash later on. Frequently when we’re lagging, it’s because we need something small, like a drink of water, a little activity, or even a small snack. These are quick and easy fixes that only take a minute. Ignore them, though, and you’re libel to lose hours out of your day before you know it.

Engage in a Routine (or Two)

We tend to burn out energy because we’re scrambling to sort out our day and find the things we need. If you have a morning routine, for example, you’ll have everything near at hand right when you need it. Getting out of the door will take half the energy, giving you reserves for where you need it most. Ask yourself what parts of your day you can streamline by creating a routine and make sure to follow through with those routines as often as possible.

Become More Intentional

Too often, our day becomes filled with little nonsense tasks which take up energy and time. Really, what is it you need to do? What actions will leave the biggest impact on the day? Put your energy where it counts most by being more intentional in what you’re doing. Remember, you don’t have to be the one to do everything. Delegate the non-essential items to keep yourself focused on what matters.

Get to Bed!

While a bedtime routine is a great start, pay more attention to your sleep. Create a sleep environment that is free from noise and distraction. Make sure your room is at an optimal temperature, and yes, if need be, invest in a better mattress or new pillows. Getting a good night’s sleep will keep you more energetic throughout the day.

Get more tools for building a more power-full life at FamilyHealer.tv or consult with Ron Huxley today!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

This past year presented so many different challenges and obstacles that tested our strength and resiliency. The global pandemic forced us to cope with situations we never even imagined, and a lot of us struggled with our mental health as a result. The good news is that there are tools and resources available that can support the well-being of individuals and communities.


Now, more than ever, we need to combat the stigma surrounding mental health concerns. That’s why this Mental Health Month Ron Huxley is highlighting the TraumaToolbox.com- what individuals can do throughout their daily lives to prioritize mental health, build resiliency, and continue to cope with the obstacles of COVID-19.


Throughout the pandemic, many people who had never experienced mental health challenges found themselves struggling for the first time. During the month of May, we are focusing on different topics that can help process the events of the past year and the feelings that surround them, while also building up skills and supports that extend beyond COVID-19.


We know that the past year forced many to accept tough situations that they had little to no control over. If you found that it impacted your mental health, you aren’t alone. In fact, of the almost half a million individuals that took the anxiety screening at MHAscreening.org, 79% showed symptoms of moderate to severe anxiety. However, there are practical tools that can help improve your mental health. We are focused on managing anger and frustration, recognizing when trauma may be affecting your mental health, challenging negative thinking patterns, and making time to take care of yourself.


It’s important to remember that working on your mental health and finding tools that help you thrive takes time. Change won’t happen overnight. Instead, by focusing on small changes, you can move through the stressors of the past year and develop long-term strategies to support yourself on an ongoing basis.


A great starting point for anyone who is ready to start prioritizing their mental health is to take a mental health screening at MHAscreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and confidential way for someone to assess their mental health and begin finding hope and healing.
Ultimately, during this month of May, Ron Huxley wants to remind everyone that mental illnesses are real, and recovery is possible.

Check out the many mental health tools create free at the TraumaToolbox.com.

Connecting your Head to your Heart 🧠 + ❤️

A common struggle for modern people is a disconnection between the head and heart. We know one thing to be true, in our head, but we don’t feel or experience that truth, in our hearts or lives. We might have “Know-ledge” that someone love us (a partner, family, friend) but we don’t feel or experience the “know-ing.”

The result of this disconnection is a wide rage of negative emotions and physiological reactions. This lack, of knowing in our hearts, is rapidly creating anxiety in the world. The manifestation is broken relationships, depression and suicidal ideations, and addiction to handle pain. A simple remedy is to reconnect the head and heart.

Connecting the head to the heart allows us to live more positively!

Neuroscience provides the key to reconnecting head and heart through the new science of neuroplasticity. This refers to the brains ability to reorganize into new networks and mental patterns. It used to be believed that the brain and nervous system only grew during childhood and then stopped. All our learned patterns were fixed once we were adults or at least drastically slowed down. We know know that this is not true.

Learning can occur across the lifespan and the brain can reroute circuits, repattern networks, and even create new brain matter in response to new social emotional inputs, environmental influences, repeated practices, and even small amounts of psychological stress (yes, stress). The brain can also relearn skills, like speaking and motor movement, following brain damage.

Because the brain can be redesigned it is called “plastic” or moldable. Children are an example of neuroplasticity. Developmentally, they are “experience-dependent” coming into the world with neuro-hardware possessing basic operating instructions but needing software or experiences from loving caregivers to program the brain and its resulting behaviors or actions.

The infant brain is primed for social contact and seeks healthy attachments. If those attachments are missed or the attachment bond is frightening, as in case of abused and neglected children, the result is a child with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances.

Fortunatley, if a chlid did not “inherit” a healthy attachment, an adult, through deep inner work and repairing with healthy adult partners, can “earn” their lost security.

NOTE: You can learn more about attachment in our free online course at Traumatoolbox.com

Here is a simple two-step practice that has been proven to change the brain in a positive way and connect the head to the heart:

1. Activate your head. What is you WANT to believe but don’t currently feel is true? Write this statement out on a piece of paper and say it outloud. Of course, it will not FEEL true because it is your head that is saying it, not your heart.

2. Activate your heart. Picture this statement “as if” it were true. Hold that image in your heart while you take slow, deep breaths. The breathing will keep the body from overriding the statements as not true. It just wants to protect you from hurt or disappoinment. Ignore it, or better yet, thank it for trying to protect you and continue to picture it.

This is not “whoo-whoo” philosphy. This is science. Research has proven that daily expressions of gratitude create literal changes in brain structure and mental functions. This is measureable change! The brain looks for reasons to validate what it believes. If you believe that you people are rude to you, your reticular activating system (a group of neural connectsion in your brain stem that play a crucial role in maintaining behavioral arousl, direct focus, and conciousness) will filter sensor input to be congruent with the thoughts you think about yourself and your world. The brain validates what you believe! If you think people are rude, you will see rude people everwhere. They are not hard to find…

If you think that people are kind and generous toward you, the reticular activating system will filter out the rude people and notice only kind and generous people. In turn, this will reinforce your knowledge of kind and generous people, and increase your knowing additional kind and generous people, developing new neural pathways in the physical brain so you have new mental capacity and memories, and new moods and behaviors will develop.

If this doesn’t convince you, listen to this interesting fact:

The heart is a more power, electrical object than your brain! The heart is about 100,000 times stronger electrically and up to 5000 ties stronger magnetically than the brain. Although imperceptible to us, the heart give off an electromagnetic (EEG) field that can be measured up to three feet away from our bodies. It you are depressed, angry, bitter…can others experience it whether they mentally understand it or not? Of course, they can. Ask any highly sensitive person and they will tell you how challenging it is to be in a room with another sad or angry person. The emotional field will shift their emotional state as well unless they mentally (head and hearts connection again) rehearse this this feeling is not their but belongs to others.

Here’s another fact:

The heart is not just a blood-pumping organ, it is a sensory organ. It acts as a “sophisticated information encoding and processing center that enables it to learn, remember, and make independent functional decisions.”

An emotion is e-motion or energy in motion. It is not just thoughts, in our head, that direct our lives. Our heart is an important area of personal and spiritual growth as well. We need it to have healthy relationships, make successful business decisions, and overcome traumatic events. This latter area is called “neuroresilience” as is a term coined by Ron Huxley in his online course: TraumaToolbox.com

It is really time to stop using our heads without connecting our hearts. Use the two-step practice, allow the principle of neuroplasticity to affect new change, and find more freedom in thoughts and emotions.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reticular_formation

https://www.thehealedtribe.com/heart-coherence-and-resilience

https://americanheartsaver.com/heart-intelligence-the-heart-is-more-powerful-than-the-brain/

Use all the courses available for the head and the heart at http://familyhealer.tv

The Upside of Toxic Stress

When it is chronic and untreated, adverse events can become toxic stress and severely impact individual health, social and cultural structure, and economic stability. 

Trauma affects everyone and has known no boundaries. It affects children and adults from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. It is one of the common denominators for individuals receiving services from social services organizations, and its structural disorganization shows up in correctional institutions, jails, schools, hospitals, and the workplace. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” [https://www.integration.samhsa.gov/clinical-practice/trauma-informed

The upside of recognizing the commonality of adversity and toxic stress causes us to respond compassionately to ourselves and others! 

Bessel van der Kolk, a leading researcher and author of the book “The Body Keeps the Score,” notes that “trauma is not the story of something that happened back then… it’s the current imprint of that pain, horror, and fear living inside people.” https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/311/video-when-is-it-trauma-bessel-van-der-kolk-explains

This continual horror, triggered by events in the individual’s world, leads to a nervous system shutdown that has repercussions in the ability to read and express social cues, access executive brain skills, and find motivation or purpose in life. For researchers like van der Kolk, the body is key to understanding trauma treatment. This insight into toxic stress opens the doors of hope to helpers burdened by the cold cognitive concepts consisting of thought processes alone. 

Recognizing the body’s role on the mind and the mind on the body has opened the door to new therapies that allow for deeper healing!

Get more healing for you and your family with Ron Huxley’s online courses at FamilyHealer.tv or schedule a session with Ron today.

June Is PTSD Awareness Month – Take the Pledge

https://content.govdelivery.com/landing_pages/10180/9839c2bc4840115d408f04cc183a0400

PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault.

It’s normal to have upsetting memories, feel on edge, or have trouble sleeping after a traumatic event. At first, it may be hard to do normal daily activities, like go to work, go to school, or spend time with people you care about. But most people start to feel better after a few weeks or months.

If it’s been longer than a few months and you’re still having symptoms, you may have PTSD. For some people, PTSD symptoms may start later on, or they may come and go over time.

Who Develops PTSD?

Anyone can develop PTSD at any age. A number of factors can increase the chance that someone will have PTSD, many of which are not under that person’s control. For example, having a very intense or long-lasting traumatic event or getting injured during the event can make it more likely that a person will develop PTSD. PTSD is also more common after certain types of trauma, like combat and sexual assault.

Personal factors, like previous traumatic exposure, age, and gender, can affect whether or not a person will develop PTSD. What happens after the traumatic event is also important. Stress can make PTSD more likely, while social support can make it less likely.

Although there are a core set of PTSD symptoms that are required for the diagnosis, PTSD does not look the same in everyone. In addition symptoms may come and go and may change over time from childhood to later adulthood.

  • Avoidance
    Avoidance is a common reaction to trauma. It is natural to want to avoid thinking about or feeling emotions about a stressful event. But when avoidance is extreme, or when it’s the main way you cope, it can interfere with your emotional recovery and healing.
  • Trauma Reminders: Anniversaries
    On the anniversary of a traumatic event, some survivors have an increase in distress. These “anniversary reactions” can range from feeling mildly upset for a day or two to a more extreme reaction with more severe mental health or medical symptoms.
  • Trauma Reminders: Triggers
    People respond to traumatic events in a number of ways, such as feelings of concern, anger, fear, or helplessness. Research shows that people who have been through trauma, loss, or hardship in the past may be even more likely than others to be affected by new, potentially traumatic events.
  • Aging Veterans and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms
    For many Veterans, memories of their wartime experiences can still be upsetting long after they served in combat. Even if they served many years ago, military experience can still affect the lives of Veterans today.
  • Very Young Trauma Survivors
    Trauma and abuse can have grave impact on the very young. The attachment or bond between a child and parent matters as a young child grows. This bond can make a difference in how a child responds to trauma.
  • PTSD in Children and Teens
    Trauma affects school-aged children and teenagers differently than adults. If diagnosed with PTSD, the symptoms in children and teens can also look different. For many children, PTSD symptoms go away on their own after a few months. Yet some children show symptoms for years if they do not get treatment. There are many treatment options available including talk and play therapy.
  • History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5
    PTSD became a diagnosis with influence from a number of social movements, such as Veteran, feminist, and Holocaust survivor advocacy groups. Research about Veterans returning from combat was a critical piece to the creation of the diagnosis. So, the history of what is now known as PTSD often references combat history. * Source:

Do you wish you were more resilient?

Take a moment to think about a happy moment in your life. It could have been a moment that occurred recently or a long time ago.

Perhaps it was when you or a family member graduated or when you got a promotion to the job of your dreams or when you asked someone out on a date and they said “yes” or when a new child is born.

What feelings did you have when this moment occurred? What is it joy, excitement, or surprise? How positive did you feel about yourself and your future? Probably great, right?

Now think about a tough situation that happened to you? What feelings did you experience then and how well did you feel about yourself and your future? Obviously, not as great as the positive experiences.

We all have good times and bad times in our lives but some people seem to be able to “bounce back” from tough times better than others. Some people can still feel optimistic about their future despite bad times.

We would call these people “resilient.” It is a desired quality to survive all the ups and downs in life. Those who have it, have an advantage at home, work, and life. If you don’t have a lot, then you feel all the pain of living in a much more dramatic way. Do you want more resiliency?

How do you get it? Is it purely genetics? Can you learn skills to improve it? Is it all chance, a luck of the draw?

Resilience is an interactive process between the characteristics of the person and the environment in which they live. Genetics does make a difference but they are not the only factor. They can make us more sensitive to negative experiences, like child maltreatment, parental neglect, the witness of violence, poverty, job loss, illness, etc. Our particular temperaments make us more or less vulnerable to the stress and trauma. Our bodily chemistry manages the expression of stress responses which affects our viewpoints about our circumstances and self-image. 

This is just one variable in the science of resilience. The other, equally important factor, is the quality of our relationships. Stress can be managed when we have loving, caring, healthy people in our lives to help us through it. Research demonstrates that even if there is only one person who can support us we are more likely to cope with difficult events.

For example, if a child turns to the loving neighbor whenever dad is drunk and angry or mom and dad fight or mom too depressed to make dinner, then that child will have a greater capacity to “bounce back.” We call this type of person, a “cookie person” who offers warm, fresh cookies to eat when times are hard. Did you or do you have a “cookie person” that you can turn to when overwhelmed?

Unfortunately, not everyone has a “cookie person” in their lives. When a natural helper is not available people have to search our professional helpers, like therapists, teachers, and school counselors to help them. These professionals can offer a listening ear as well as teach skills to manage anger, improve parenting, manage finances, and navigate through community resources. This type of support balances out the negative situations to create more positive outcomes.

The most powerful truth, when it comes to building resilience, is that we are social beings that need other people. We thrive in healthy relationships. If we didn’t get this in childhood, we can still develop it in later life. Attachment researchers call this later development “earned security.”

A Zen saying that illustrates resiliency that comes from warm, social interactions is…

“If there is light in the soul, there is beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, then there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world!”

Can one person make a difference in the world? Yes. Are you that one person to one other person? Who can you turn to in your natural environment or who can you contact to help you professionally and create more resiliency in your life?

Get more resiliency tools in the Trauma Toolbox at http://FamilyHealerSchool.com

Need a speaker or consultant to help your organization become trauma-informed? Contact Ron Huxley today at rehuxley@gmail.com

 

Grounding Exercises

Grounding exercises are short, simple techniques that focus attention and distract from intense emotions.

They often involve focusing on environmental stimuli or pleasant, calming topics or objects.

They can usually be done with minimal equipment, such as a pen and paper, or nothing at all except one’s thoughts and imaginations.

Therefore they are versatile exercises that can be performed anywhere.

Grounding exercises quiet down extreme emotions and help survivors of trauma shift to a more rational form of thinking.

People with trauma will, from time to time, experience high stress or emotional overload.

This is true for people with acute trauma, complex trauma, even traumatic grief.

The goal is not to eradicate feelings of intense anxiety, sadness, or anger. Instead, learning how to respond to those emotions, in the moment, is key to our healing.

In the video above you will learn 5 powerful Grounding Exercises:

Item Listing

The 54321 Game

Task Visualization

The Method of Loci

The 5 Senses Technique

It’s always best to have multiple grounding techniques in your toolbox.

What works best for one stressful situation (a trauma flashback, for example) might not work best in another (such as prior to a job interview).

A technique that you use frequently may become less effective over time. It is best to use a variety of techniques to avoid becoming acclimated to them.

Some grounding exercises may not be a good fit for your temperament.

For example, some people find the Ice Cream Technique frustrating because they get stuck and can’t remember any additional flavor examples.

Other people find the 54321 Game unhelpful because it can draw attention toward unpleasant feelings or sights in their environment.

For each technique, there are modifications to help expand their usefulness. But some techniques might just not be for you.

Get more tools for your Trauma Toolbox at http://www.TraumaToolbox.com/

Looking for a speaker on Trauma-Informed care for your next workshop, conference, or event? Contact Ron Huxley for more information at rehuxley@gmail.com