Things That Matter

The Trump Administration’s Assault On The Undocumented Community Is Negatively Impacting People’s Mental Health

“I’d gone from being this really gregarious, social, extroverted person to not being able to go to the grocery store when there were other people around because I felt like I was having a heart attack,” undocumented immigrant Azul Uribe told USA Today about her experience of learning that she was undocumented at 22 years old. Uribe moved to the United States from México when she was 11 years old, proud to be a first-generation immigrant. It wasn’t until her 22nd birthday that her family told her they were all undocumented. For Uribe, that’s the moment that her mental health would change forever. Three years of immigration legal battles later, she voluntarily deported from the U.S. at 36 years old, taking a bus to a place that she hadn’t been to since she was a child.

Roughly 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are subject to far higher rates of depression, anxiety, and trauma-related stress because of their status. It’s also their status that prevents them from accessing treatment.

While Trump hasn’t deported nearly as many immigrants as Obama, his administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has created a far more intense culture of fear.

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Obama’s administration did not advertise its hardline immigration stances or boast about ICE raids. Trump, however, has listed ongoing threats of ICE raids as promises to his base that have resulted in millions of undocumented immigrants becoming afraid to even grocery shop. A recent study by the Urban Institute shows that immigrant families that avoid routine activities for fear of ICE are three times more likely to experience psychological distress than immigrant families who don’t avoid those same daily routines. 

Researchers and psychologists are pointing to a chronic state of elevated fear response as responsible for the depression, anxiety and stress exacerbated in the undocumented community.

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Liliana Campos, 32, has become a permanent resident in the last year, but the 22 years of fear she felt prior still puts her on high alert when ICE raid rumors are spread. “It’s very alarming to be in a position to be in,” Campos told USA Today of her previous undocumented status. “Our fear response is activated every day for years. It has consequences.” Today, Campos is a P.h.D. student at the University of San Francisco working on a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. She also works for Immigrants Rising as the Mental Health Advocate and is creating an online service that will connect undocumented people with pro bono mental health workers.

Undocumented immigrants also lack access to health care, often needing to pay out of pocket for any kind of medical treatment.

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Gustavo Guerrero, 27, suffers from anxiety as a result of his undocumented status. Guerrero, originally from Honduras, swam across the Rio Grande when he was 12 years old. “It’s always in the back of your mind,” Guerrero told USA Today. “You’re driving, you’re working, you’re sleeping in your home, you’re picking up your kids from school, you’re constantly thinking about it.” Without health insurance, the only way he can treat his anxiety is by paying the full $150 per therapy session out of pocket, and he can only go once a month. 

Some families have been torn apart because mental healthcare access wasn’t available to treat severe mental illness.

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Garcia Mendoza, 23, has dedicated her life to helping the undocumented community cope with stress through holistic health practices like yoga and breathwork. She and her older brother moved to Albuquerque from México when she was 8 years old. Two years later, her brother began suffering from bipolar disorder. Without access to resources and fear of even searching for those resources, her parents felt like they had no choice but to send him back to México for treatment. Mendoza grew up in Albuquerque without her brother.

Mixed status families suffer as a family unit for fear of deportation as well.

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Undocumented immigrants move to the United States to create a new life for themselves. That life includes creating a family. The children of undocumented immigrants who carry U.S. citizenship grow up in fear of their parents being deported. Regardless of status, the rhetoric of President Trump has seeped into brown children’s heads. Cristian Solano-Córdova told USA Today that maintaining a positive sense of self is challenging, “especially when society is telling you that you’re, you know, evil, that you’re a criminal, that you’re a rapist.” 

The night Trump was elected, his eight-year-old sister asked him if she was going to be deported.

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The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Causing Us Unprecedented Stress, Here Are 9 Techniques To Help You Relax

Things That Matter

The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Causing Us Unprecedented Stress, Here Are 9 Techniques To Help You Relax

So, Mental Health Awareness month has come just as pretty much of all us are having to face a strange world of Coronavirus fears, lockdown anxiety, loneliness, and boredom. With all that we are having to face right now I can’t think of a better time to visit some much-needed tips on how to deal with stress.

Obviously, stress is inevitable, but too much stress can negatively impact your mood, relationships, sleep routine, and even how your body functions. And given that we are living in such uncertain times, I think it’s fair to say we’re all facing a bit more stress than normal.

If you’re trying to figure out how to best manage your stress, there are some therapist-approved tips ahead.

1. Practice Tolerating Uncertainty

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study during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic showed that people who had a harder time accepting the uncertainty of the situation were more likely to experience elevated anxiety.

The solution is to learn to gradually face uncertainty in daily life by easing back on certainty-seeking behaviors. 

Start small: Don’t text your friend immediately the next time you need an answer to a question. Go on a hike without checking the weather beforehand. As you build your tolerance-of-uncertainty muscle, you can work to reduce the number of times a day you consult the internet for updates on the outbreak.

2. Tackle the Anxiety Paradox

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Anxiety rises proportionally to how much one tries to get rid of it.

Struggling against anxiety can take many forms. People might try to distract themselves by drinking, eating or watching Netflix more than usual. They might repeatedly seek reassurance from friends, family or health experts. Or they might obsessively check news streams, hoping to calm their fears. Although these behaviors can help momentarily, they can make anxiety worse in the long run. Avoiding the experience of anxiety almost always backfires. 

Instead, allow your anxious thoughts, feelings and physical sensations to wash over you, accepting anxiety as an integral part of human experience

3. Center Yourself When Anxiety Hits

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If you feel your anxiety levels rising, the first thing to do is take a couple of deep breaths. This is a simple technique to calm yourself and engage the parts of your brain that deal with focus, memory, and problem-solving (your prefrontal cortex). From there, it’s recommended to bring your awareness to your feet or “feeling your feet,” a mindfulness exercise that will “literally ground you.”

4. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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If you’re feeling stressed, Jessie Bohnenkamp, LPC, NCC, founder of Plum Counseling and Wellness, recommends trying a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. “Often, when we’re feeling stressed, we tense up parts of our body, which then sends signals to our brain that we’re unsafe and need to be on guard for danger,” she states on her website.

To counteract this, lie on your back, or in a comfortable position, and starting with your toes, focus on fully relaxing each muscle group, or body part, moving slowly up your body as you let all of the tension drain away.

5. Strengthen Self-Care

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During these anxiety-provoking times, it’s important to remember the tried-and-true anxiety prevention and reduction strategies. Get adequate sleep, exercise regularly, practice mindfulness, spend time in nature and employ relaxation techniques when stressed. 

Prioritizing these behaviors during the coronavirus crisis can go a long way toward increasing your psychological well being and bolstering your immune system.

6. Stretch Every Day

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Stretching isn’t just reserved for runners and people who lift weights. Dr. Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LPC, founder of Wellness IRL, a platform to reduce healthcare provider burnout, recommends stretching daily to help relieve stress and relax.

While it may seem like a lot of work, you can simply stand in a doorway and try to stretch your arms apart, trying to reach the upper sides of the doorframe. Hold for 90 seconds and then release. These simple exercises will entice the nervous system and boost your energy,” according to Holland-Kornegay.

7. Limit Social Media and the News

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OK, it’s hard but you should really only be using social media to stay in touch with friends and family when you might start to feel isolated. If you’re like me and use Facebook and Twitter to also get your news, then be smart about it. Follow a few verified news outlets that you trust, as well as the Center For Disease Control and the World Health Organization, for news that’s accurate and up to date. It’s fine to unfollow or block sources that are only causing you anxiety. 

It’s also really good practice to only allow yourself certain times of the day to check your news feeds and social media.

8. Establish A Routine

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Ok, so this one is really hard for me. I’m someone who is always rebelling against routine but it can be a huge help in times like these. Having a daily routine gives you sense of structure that can really be vital for managing emotional stress during uncertain times.

Decide what your priorities are right now and set boundaries between different activities, especially if you’re transitioning to a work-from-home setup. Remembering to take time to exercise, eat well, connect with people you care about, and do simple things that bring you joy is also foundational to maintaining your emotional resilience under pressure.

9. Talk To Yourself About Yourself

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Yea, this one might take some getting used to but it can really help. According to Jason Moser, PhD, director of Michigan State University’s clinical psychophysiology lab, “Third-person self-talk can be used across the board as you’re anticipating a stressful event, as you’re feeling anxiety in the moment, or when you’re dealing with something that caused stress and anxiety in the past, like rejection or failure.”

To self-talk, all you have to do is talk to yourself about the stressful event in the third-person, Dr. Moser explains. For example, you could ask yourself a series of questions. “When you’re using your own name, the brain switches to another mode as if you’re talking to someone else. In a nutshell, what happens is that you’re creating a psychological distance between you and the issue you’re facing.”

Headspace Is The Mental Health App Offering Free Subscriptions To Unemployed U.S. Workers

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Headspace Is The Mental Health App Offering Free Subscriptions To Unemployed U.S. Workers

Headspace.com

Right now mental health and mindfulness are so key. As we face so much uncertainty and stress in our everyday lives with the everyday reports of the current pandemic, keeping ourselves mentally in check is vital.

Fortunately, the meditation and mindfulness app Headspace is providing free one-year subscriptions to U.S. workers who are unemployed or have been furloughed. The free offer allows qualifying subscribers full access to Headspace’s library of content which features 1,200 hours of health and wellness courses, mini-meditations, guided meditations, sleep support as well as at-home workouts and guided runs. Subscribers also have access to daily videos promoting mindfulness and ongoing guidance from Headspace’s co-founder Andy Puddicombe.

The offer is currently only available to new or existing free members who are unemployed or furloughed.

Current subscribers, who pay $69.99 annually after a free two-week trial, will not have a chance to take up the opportunity, unfortunately. Monthly payments include $12.99 a month and amended prices for students and family are available.

“Be kind to your mind. During this crisis, our mental health is suffering,” a statement by Headspace reason their website. “Headspace is here to give you the tools and resources to look after your mind. And now, more than ever, it’s time to support those who really need it. If you’re unemployed, you can get a free year of Headspace Plus to help you get back on your feet.”

LA Country residents also have an opportunity to leap at when it comes to the app.

The L.A. County Department of Mental Health announced in late April that it had formed a partnership with the L.A.-based company to offer residents free premium access to app until the end of the year. The website will check your location to make sure you qualify. To sign up, just go here  Headspace.com/LACounty. The new partnership is a the latest effort to come from the County Mental Health Department’s response to coronavirus.

“Managing radical change over a short period of time can be difficult and may trigger anxiety, panic, frustration, and depression,” the department explained in a recent press release. “Taking the time to care for your physical and mental health is especially important right now.”

The best part? Spanish-speakers will also have access to guided meditations that are provided in both English and Spanish.

“The world is an increasingly stressful place these days, and amid the uncertainty of this public health crisis, it’s crucial to provide support and equip people with the tools to help decrease stress, anxiety, and loneliness,” Headspace’s chief science officer explained about the partnership.

Trying out the app? Let us know how it goes in a comment below!