December 15, 2023
Holiday Gift Guide: Mental Health Edition

By Kylee Harris

As the holidays approach, a lot of us struggle with our mental health. But let me let you in on a secret… IT’S NORMAL! It’s a busy time of year filled with stress and chaos. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects more people than you think. The shorter days and less daylight activate a chemical change in the brain that leads to depression. People struggling with chronic depression may feel an obligation during the holiday season to feel happy as for a lot of people, it’s the happiest time of the year. In reality, it’s really hard to struggle with depression during the holidays while everyone else experiences heightened euphoria. The overwhelming general happiness can make us second guess ourselves and activate us.

Whether you or someone you love struggles with mental health, it’s important to show patience and support. I’ve curated a list down below of possible mental health gifts for people struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder and other mental illnesses during this time. 

 

  •  SUNRISE ALARM CLOCK  

This clock is designed to gradually increase from 10% light to 100%, aligning with research that says: “Light has a physiological direct impact on our mood, which is why light therapy helps with seasonal depression”. Starting the day with healthy lighting has been proven to help lift the onset of depressive symptoms in the morning, especially during the winter. 

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sunrise-Dekala-Simulation-Brightness-Bedrooms/dp/B081W7P8TS/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?hvadid=570458726613&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9001667&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=14841327424557693511&hvtargid=kwd-1428775577401&hydadcr=19228_13375963&keywords=seasonal%2Bdepression%2Bgifts&qid=1702647896&sr=8-1-spons&sp_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGY&th=1

  • ROLL ON ESSENTIAL OILS 

A more recent study, it has been proven that certain essential oils can have an anxiolytic, or anxiety reducing effect, which increases production of serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood, sleep, and other important body functions.

For anxiety, try…. Peppermint or Bergamot Oil

For depression, try…Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, and Frankincense 

 

Link: https://www.amazon.com/Essential-Organic-Aromatherapy-Therapeutic-Relaxation/dp/B07TS2DRNV/ref=sr_1_7?hvadid=570458726613&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9001667&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=14841327424557693511&hvtargid=kwd-1428775577401&hydadcr=19228_13375963&keywords=seasonal%2Bdepression%2Bgifts&qid=1702648168&sr=8-7&th=1

  •  WEIGHTED EYE MASK

A weighted eye mask has many benefits both mentally and physically! KindFace, a company that specializes in restoring both our mental health and our planet says: “Our circadian rhythm is a biological process that mainly responds to light and dark; add light and you naturally wake up, remove light and you instantly become sleepy. It is otherwise known as your sleep-wake pattern, which changes after a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping experts also agree that a dark environment is vital to dozing off faster and having an overall good night’s rest. Nowadays, we are exposed to more artificial blue light than when technology was not yet the trend” 

A weighted eye mask also has many benefits for Sensory Processing Disorders that help calm the nervous system, and help the individual become more relaxed inducing the stimulation of sleep hormones. 

 

Link: https://kind-face.com/collections/all/products/weighted-eye-mask

 

https://www.amazon.com/ASUTRA-Lavender-Weighted-Meditation-Blindfold/dp/B0BCNWNSKB/ref=sr_1_4_sspa?crid=1T4Q43BFDS466&keywords=weighted%2Beye%2Bmask&qid=1702648920&sprefix=weighted%2Beye%2Caps%2C139&sr=8-4-spons&sp_csd=d2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGY&th=1

 

Hopefully some of these gift ideas can help you, or a loved one struggling with their mental health this season. Remember that it’s okay not to feel okay! Talk about how you are feeling with a trusted friend, family, or adult! Just because everyone around you is experiencing happiness does not mean that you are obligated to match those emotions. Be true to yourself, practice self care, and have a safe and happy holiday season! 

 

Sources: 

https://www.healthline.com/

https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

https://kind-face.com/

 

December 6, 2023
Managing Time Alone and Combating Depression While Living Alone

by Kylee Harris

Recently, I started to understand that time alone isn’t necessarily always a negative thing, but it can still trigger tough emotions. In the past few years with COVID 19, we’ve had to learn how to cope with isolation and fill our time.  I thought it would be useful to jot down some of the things I did after a surgery with a 4 week post op period of bedrest. 

 

Having time alone can be really relaxing. You can use the time to journal, clean, do self care, and catch up on your favorite shows. But what happens when you have done it all? How many ways can you rearrange your room or make a new recipe before you lose that motivation and get lost in your own thoughts and silence?   I’ve had 4 weeks to myself, and here are a few things I did to fill the time. 

 

PREPARATION:

-Grocery shopped for my favorite items (so I could have some comfort food!)

-Cleaned my apartment! (my space is so important to me, and I truly felt I was able to relax more when my apartment was clean)

-New Blanket (I wanted a little treat for myself. That blanket was definitely getting some use in this chilly weather!) 

-Candles and ambiance lighting (the vibe of your space is going to contribute to how you’re feeling) 

 

WEEK 1:

Was mostly used for recovery. Toward the end of the week, I started to feel disconnected from the world and was having a hard time staying at home in bed all day. 

-A lot of napping (after surgery, my body needed a lot of rest to heal!)

-Caught up and rewatched some of my favorite shows (Prison Break, Bob’s Burgers, Charmed, and The Office) 

-Started writing “movie reviews” for each genre and explored films I never thought I would like

-Lit candles around my apartment (to make the vibe more peaceful)

-Stayed connected with family and friends to get ahead of feeling lonely (I started to do check-ins with a couple friends to stay updated and informed on what I was missing)

 

WEEK 2:

I loved having so much time at home. From working a 40 hour week to having endless time in my own space, I was feeling relaxed and cozy although I was having trouble feeling I was missing out on what was going on around me. So instead of texting my friends, I started phoning them to have a more intimate conversation and feel isolated.

-Breathing therapy (for when I started to feel anxious or dysregulated)

-Yoga (I did poses that I was comfortable doing post op. This really helped me stay active both physically and mentally. I made a routine of doing a yoga pose a day!)

-Started crafting. (I ordered a bunch of beads off of amazon and started making bracelets! Having something beautiful that I personally handmade made me feel a sense of accomplishment.)

-Organizing my space (I wasn’t able to be too mobile, but I was able to sit in front of my closet for an hour to organize and donate clothes!) 

 

WEEK 3: 

Here is where the depression really hit. It had been 3 weeks since I had seen my friends, I had family members stop by, but it wasn’t the same as being able to go out on your own terms. I started feeling trapped in my own space. Alone with my thoughts for hours, I started to spiral a bit into my depression. Luckily, I had a lot of support and here is how I got through it!

-Explored podcasts I normally wouldn’t listen to! (After discovering so many films I didn’t think I would be interested in, I started branching out on my podcast selections. This included mindfulness and meditation podcasts to help keep myself grounded!)

-Made a new recipe everyday! (I bookmarked the pages on thrift store cookbooks and online recipes)

-Yoga. A lot of yoga. 

-Journaling (I journaled in my notes app everyday whether it was a plan for the day, a to do list, or just how I was feeling. I felt so much better putting my thoughts into the universe, even if they were just for me. 

 

WEEK 4: 

Okay, if last week was that tough, I’m sure I can get through this week. I kept reminding myself how much support I had and how strong I was! Being home alone for so long felt so isolating, and I wasn’t ready for another week of it. I knew I had to keep myself occupied. 7 MORE DAYS I GOT THIS! Here is where it all fell into place, and I was really able to get myself into a routine that worked for me and that I looked forward to everyday. The routine was as follows. 

5:30am: LIGHT CANDLES YOGA/STRETCHING 

7:00am  MAKE COFFEE and WATCH A SHOW OR MOVIE TO REVIEW

9:00 am OUTSIDE WALK (even if it’s just to the mailbox and back, fresh air is great!)

10:00am CRAFTS AND DIY or CLEANING or ONLINE WORK 

12:00 pm LUNCH 

1:00pm: CONNECT WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY 

3:00pm: LIGHT CANDLES AND INCENSE PLAN DINNER WHILE WATCHING A SHOW/MOVIE

5:00pm: START DINNER

6:30pm: READ A CHAPTER OF MY BOOK and PLAN TOMORROW’S AGENDA

8:00pm LIGHTS OUT 

 

While most of us probably won’t be spending a full 4 weeks alone, I hope I  was able to provide some ideas on how to fill time alone. Whether you live alone, are quarantining, recently have had surgery, or just need a self care break, these are all things to fill the time with. Isolation can be tough, but hopefully my experience can help someone else figure out how to enrich their alone time, and combat depression. 

November 17, 2023
Honoring State Senator Cindy Friedman as a NAN Project “Friend for Life”
It was our great pleasure to honor State Senator Cindy Friedman as a NAN Project “Friend for Life” at this year’s Night for NAN! We’d once again like to thank her for all the advocacy she’s done in helping to support our work fighting the stigma against mental health!
Check out this article written by Daily Times Chronicle about Senator Friedman receiving the award here
 
Managing Mental Health During the Holidays

 

We all think of the holiday season a little differently. Some of us become joyful, giddy, and excited for all the holiday season brings, that is what is commonly portrayed. However, there is another side to the holidays. There is a side of secret dread, nervousness, anxiety…some of us just experience “the holiday blues”, and for many it is a mix of both extremes. 

For students in particular, there are many stressors that come with the holiday season. Whether you’re a middle schooler, high schooler, or college student the holiday season generally means spending more time at home with family due to vacations and breaks. Having that down time at home with family can be stressful for some people and can impact mental health for a number of different reasons. You might miss your friends, maybe there is financial stress, or difficult family members, or it might be your first holiday without a loved one. Whatever the stress, there are resources available to help you get through the holiday, break, vacation.

 

Remember that social media is a highlight reel, if that, it may even be fake. No one has a life like what is seen on instagram, they may have moments of it, but it’s not sustainable. It is very hard to recognize and remember that when you’re scrolling. Know that it is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be happy or joyous, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, it means the holidays have their own unique parts that can be hard and it is okay for you to feel them. In fact 64% of people who struggle with their mental health felt that their conditions worsened around the holidays. So it is probably more common than anyone thinks it is to have a hard time during this time of year.

 

For educators:

 

  • Assign holiday work knowing that some students may struggle to complete it and that holiday work can increase things like anxiety
  • Be aware that students may “act out” more around the holidays and that they’re often is  reason for it
  • Be compassionate and empathetic towards students who may be having a harder time
  • Notice grade changes, appearance changes, mood changes, and provide a space for students to open up about their holiday struggles
  • BASE Education is a great resource for how educators can be helpful around the holiday season Student Mental Health During Holidays – BASE Education
November 10, 2023
Native American Culture and Mental Health

November is Native American Heritage Month

 

Native Americans just like any other population of people face unique challenges. Living on a reservation can be hard and some of the challenges people living on reservations deal with include addiction, abuse, lack of quality education, unemployment, poor mental health, oppression, historical trauma, and generational trauma. Some statistics on the impact historical trauma has on this community are:

 

 36%  of those surveyed had daily thoughts about the loss of traditional language in their community

Autumn Rose Miskweminanocauq

34% experienced daily thoughts about the loss of culture

49% provided they had disturbing thoughts related to these losses

 

Some Native Americans have used their challenges with diversity to increase awareness within the mental health community. One individual in particular, Autumn Rose Miskweminanocauq (Raspberry Star Woman) Williams uses her experience to help others. As someone who struggled with body image she became a plus size model and has had the opportunity to give over 100 motivational speeches across the United States. She has also been able to advocate for accurate representation and inclusivity of Indigenous communities. You can learn more about her and her work here: https://nativemaxmagazine.com/autumn-rose-williams-of-humility-heritage/ 

Some activities going on for Native American Heritage month consist of:

  • The Plimoth Plantation teaching about the Wampanoag people, which is located south of Boston
  • The MFA has a Cyrus Dallin sculpture of a Ute tribe member
  • At Harvard’s Peabody Museum there is a hall dedicated to the North American Indian
  • The Mohawk trail is a beautiful scenic walk along what used to be a trade route from New York to Canada for Atlantic Indian tribes
  • The Natick History Museum has a section dedicated to Natick tribes

Mohawk Trail

Peabody Essex Museum

November 9, 2023
Speaking at Beacon Hill
Lizzie, Assistant Director, and Sarojini, Organizational Development Coordinator, had the opportunity to testify in support of Bill H. 1979. This bill could establish a School Behavioral Health Implementation Coordinating Council that will develop a three year plan for statewide implementation of comprehensive school behavioral health, ensuring that students in every district have access to the support they need.
The NAN Project is in full support of this bill! This could be an amazing opportunity to assist all students at every district, at every level of need by providing each student with necessary tools and stable resources for behavioral and mental health.
To learn more and show your support by contacting your legislators, visit this site: https://childrensmentalhealthcampaign.salsalabs.org/…
October 27, 2023
Bullying Prevention

October is Bullying Prevention Month

As the month wraps up, let’s not forget that October is Bullying Prevention Month.
Most people know the general definition of a bully and what that means, but as a quick review “traditional bullying” is defined as aggressive behavior where someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person physical, emotional, or sexual discomfort. With the modern advancements in technology, there is another type of bullying that promotes a serious threat to children and youth mental health … Most have heard of it, cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is done through cell phones, computers, tablets, and gaming systems. It can also be communicated via social media, text messages, and posts. 

Traditional bullying and Cyberbullying are oftentimes hand in hand these days.  

Some statistics on cyberbullying are;

1 in every 4 teens has experienced cyberbullying 

1 in 6 has been a perpetrator

1 in 5 tweens, or kids ages 9 to 12 have been involved in cyberbullying

Cyberbullying increases stress resulting in anxiety and depression symptoms which in turn can lead to poor academic performance, attendance issues, substance use, self harm and suicidal ideation. Although there is no direct correlation between bullying and suicide, bullying can contribute to the intense feelings of helplessness and hopelessness involved in suicidal behaviors. 

It is important to help kids navigate social media. Parents can help curb cyberbullying by monitoring their childs’ technology use and social media accounts, talking about online behavior, and teaching kids how to report cyber bullying either online, with a parent, a teacher, or other trusted adult.

Traditional bullying is not at lower rates than cyberbullying. Signs of traditional bullying include unexplained injuries, damage to physical property, loss of interest in activities, avoidance of attending school. 

Some statistics on traditional bullying are:

22% of students get bullied during each school year

Verbal harassment is the most common type, it makes up 79% of bullying at school

43% of transgender students have been harassed on school grounds

 

While victims are at risk for mental health challenges, let’s not forget that the bullies are too. Bullies are at risk for antisocial and violent behavior, dropping out of school, substance use, criminal behavior,  and abuse of a partner or child in adulthood.

Bullying resources and information for this blog post can be found at:

Cyberbullying: What is it and how can you stop it? (apa.org)

Effects of Bullying on Mental Health – Best Day Psychiatry & Counseling

All the Latest Cyberbullying Statistics for 2023 – BroadbandSearch

October 20, 2023
Night for NAN 2023

All smiles at the Night for NAN reception last night! We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to come celebrate Nan’s legacy with us at @Danversport last night! It was a fantastic night filled with love, admiration, and connection. What a fantastic event to reflect on all the amazing work that the NAN Project does! We couldn’t do it without all of our supporters Enjoy the first of many N4N posts!!

October 13, 2023
Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October and it can greatly impact a person’s mental health. Not only do the victims of domestic violence experience significant mental health repercussions, but so do those who have witnessed it. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. 

Domestic violence (DV) is when there is physical violence, sexual violence, or psychological aggression by a partner and when there is a pattern of stalking by a partner or someone close in a relationship.  Although those are the official types of domestic violence, really anything within a relationship that causes one to feel unsafe, hurt, or fearful can be classified as DV.

DV is linked to an increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicide across those who have experienced it. In addition, those who have witnessed or been exposed to DV are at increased risks for stress, fear, and isolation, which can lead to depression.

Since DV does not discriminate, children and teens who are experiencing or witnessing DV are at a greater risk to struggle with mental health. Some repercussions for children and teens involved somehow with DV are:

  • Substance abuse
  • Emotional numbing
  • Anger
  • Sleep Issues
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Self harm
  • Eating disorders
  • Withdrawn
  • Difficulties at school
  • Risk taking behavior
  • Running away

 

Educating youth about bodily autonomy is one of the key ways to help a child or teen that may be experiencing or witnessing DV. Showing a child or teen that you are a trusted adult and someone they can talk to is the next most helpful way you can impact them. Listening and supporting a child or teen with acceptance can help them to feel more able and willing to open up and take action in the situation.

Some resources for a teen or child experiencing or witnessing DV are:

www.loveisrespect.org 

Text: LOVEIS to 22522

Tel: 18663319474

October 11, 2023
Woburn Student Mental Health Roundtable
We’d like to express huge gratitude to State Senator Cindy Friedman , Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh, Executive Office of Health and Human Services Human Resources and all of the fantastic students and staff at Woburn Memorial High School who participated in our roundtable discussion for Suicide Prevention Month this September! We had an extremely productive conversation about the mental health of students. WMHS students got to have their voices be heard by state officials as they discussed what they feel could be changed for the better. Once again, thank you to everyone who made this wonderful event possible.
To read more about the roundtable, check out this Boston Globe article: https://www.bostonglobe.com/…/education-secretary…/
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