Striving for Feelings of Gratitude

By Dr. Charla Waxman BS, MBA, EdD

During this tumultuous year, it may be difficult to think about feelings of thankfulness and gratitude. There is no question; it has been a rough year. A year filled with many anxiety-producing situations, many of them that directly affected us, yet were seemingly out of our control.

There is a solution to feelings, but not always to the things that cause them; but feelings can be managed. There is real science behind striving for feelings of gratitude. Research at Harvard, Yale, and even the US Army among countless other medical and psychiatric settings, all point to how being thankful and finding gratitude, especially during tough times, offers improved thinking, focus, and physical health.

Gratitude on a daily basis, not just occasionally or if something great happens, is the key. Look for the little things: be thankful for a bird feeder full of birds to watch, a great tasting treat, or even having a short drive-thru line at your local coffee shop. Taking the time to journal gratitude moments and to get in the gratitude habit can significantly increase physical and mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.

Tap into gratitude and make it work for you. Start the practice of gratitude now and keep it going! Encourage others to do the same. It works!

  1. Go back in time. Remember the things in the past that made you smile. Think about old friends, holidays, activities, jokes and conversations.
  2. Be gratitude specific. Look for things in the present that make you feel grateful. Bring as much detail into your thought or writing as you can. “I am grateful for my friends” is great, but who and why are the extended questions that you should answer for yourself.
  3. Look around you. Are there things that you have not recognized as gratitude-producing? Be thankful for those things: things in your home, your neighborhood, your community and globally. Stretch your gratitude muscles.
  4. Schedule time for your new habit. Just like with any new habit or process, it can fall apart quickly without consistency. Maybe while your head is still on the pillow and before you put your feet on the floor, you can connect with a gratitude moment. Find other times in your day when you can add in gratitude.
  5. Tell someone else. Invite a friend, family member, or coworker to join in. The more the merrier! Listening to others will generate excitement about being grateful and help identify new things that define gratitude.

Many other ideas for gratitude habits are out there! Googling gratitude will provide a host of fun journals and many books to get started making gratitude work for you. Consider writing letters of gratitude to those who have made a difference to you. Start a gratitude box and put your written thoughts there once a day. Review them from time to time.

Whatever you are willing to do, make it happen. There really is science behind it. Being grateful; walking in gratitude can absolutely be life enhancing.

We know you are grateful for the times in your life when you have felt supported and cared for. At Lake Behavioral Hospital, it is our mission to provide care and support for those living with mental illness just when it is needed most. If you or a loved one need help 24/7/365, we are available to take your call. Contact us at 855-990-1900 for a free and confidential, level of care assessment.

Women, Trauma and Mental Health

Trauma: an event that can occur in anyone’s life that can cause physical, emotional and spiritual pain. For women, the numbers of occurrences are staggering.

  • The prevalence of serious mental illness is almost 70% greater in men than women (Anxiety Depression Association of America).
  • Exposure to violence makes a woman 3-4 times more likely to become depressed (National Institute on Mental Health).
  • Women are more likely to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than men and then wait longer than men after symptoms arise to seek treatment (World Health Organization).
  • The stigma for seeking treatment is greater among women of color (John Hopkins).

Women who have experienced trauma like physical, emotional or verbal abuse and who do not receive professional support are often at a much higher risk of developing mental health conditions. These can include: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, even an eating disorder, substance use, self-injury or suicidal thoughts.

It is not just abuse that can cause trauma and impact mental health. Women in the military who have been through the devastation of war and who are isolated from family friends, and even pets, may begin to feel depressed and anxious. These symptoms may arise during or after a return from military locations.

COVID 19 has caused countless people to turn to substance use to thwart anxiety from loneliness, financial concerns, the death of a loved one or the worry of becoming ill. Depression and anxiety or exacerbated illnesses like Obsessive Convulsive Disorder are all on the rise at this time.

An accident, the shock of the death of a loved one, or a serious medical condition can also cause someone to lapse into depressed feelings, loss of hope and feeling like giving up. Panic disorders are often linked to anxiety caused by any of the incidents listed.

Recognizing the effects of trauma is not always easy. Women are especially likely to just look past the symptoms and continue to care for others and go on with their busy lives. Trauma may affect someone long after the actual event and can include feelings of panic, sleeplessness, anger episodes, lack of interest in activities that used to be pleasurable, increased substance use, and overall sadness. The longer the symptoms linger, the harder it can be to recover.

The sooner any person can reach for help from trauma, the sooner he/she can get better and feel better. Talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both with education and skill development can make all the difference.

Both men and women can get the help they need at Lake Behavioral Hospital. Women needing support for trauma, perinatal mood disorders, or life’s challenges can receive the help they need in either an acute inpatient setting or in our Intensive Outpatient Program. The Women’s Connection Program, provided as inpatient care, offers special gender-specific groups, activities, and a specially individualized discharge plan. Healing and recovery are possible. Please call your team at Lake Behavioral Hospital for more information or to make a referral at 855-990-1900.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD?

The leaves are already falling, mornings are cooler, and it is dark earlier. That can mean only one thing; Fall and winter are approaching.

Some people are energized by the fall and look forward to winter sports, hot chocolate, and warm evenings by a fire. Others dread the seasons of shorter days and harsh weather. Some may even say it is gloomy and intolerable; that it is downright depressing and puts them in a grumpy mood.

2020 (what a year!) brings with it much more than shorter days, moodiness, and bad weather. We are in the middle of a pandemic with the threat of an even heavier resurgence of COVID 19. As if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not enough, some of us will be dealing with the high anxiety of a worrisome flu year.

If SAD has already been a part of your life, this flu season and a pandemic may only make things feel worse. The isolation of inclement weather may be accentuated by not being outdoors or with neighbors, friends and family for long stretches of time. Indoor confinement and true social isolation bring about unexpected levels of depression, anger, and anxiety.

There is hope!

You know the season is coming. Preparation will be the key to a SAD strategy. Be proactive! Here are some ideas for a personal attack against SAD:

Journal: Stay connected to your feelings and start now! If you see yourself starting to fade into sadness, make social connections, exercise, or begin a routine of reading motivational books and quotes.

Spend some money: Not on just anything! Consider buying a SAD therapeutic light. Many find this makes a big difference for them.

Get outside: Bundle up and get out there. Maybe someone in your neighborhood could use a walk-buddy! Even putting on warm clothes and sitting outside on your deck could help.

LAUGH: Look for funny movies or YouTube videos that make you laugh. Laughter is a big healer!

Help someone: Make a point of helping someone else who is struggling. Get out of your own thoughts by reaching out. Helping others helps us.

Get help now: Start talking to a therapist who can help you get on top of SAD; before it even really starts. A therapist will be able to help you become more self-aware and support you during the tougher days.

Connect: Many churches are providing virtual meetings and services. It is a great way to learn and grow spiritually. Many church groups also provide shut-in support and support is almost always free to all.

Know the warning signs. Here are some ways you may be able to recognize SAD:

  • More sleeping than usual at many times of the day.
  • Overeating and eating foods that are not usual for you (e.g. sweets and carbs).
  • Disinterest in hobbies.
  • Lack of desire to do much of anything.
  • Frustration over little things; or downright anger.
  • Overall stretches of sadness that are hard to get through.

This pandemic has intensified many psychiatric disorders for many people. You are not alone if you are feeling less well emotionally.

You also have Lake Behavioral Hospital 24/7/365. By walk-in, appointment, or just give us call, your Lake Behavioral Assessment and Referral team will help support you when you feel like SAD or any other mental health concern is just too much to bear. A level of care assessment provided by our licensed professionals will determine what level of treatment is best to move you toward improved mental health. To learn more or to get the help you need right now call: 855-990-1900.

Suicide Prevention is Possible

People who are feeling suicidal are often dealing with feelings or situations so intense, there seems to be no other way out. The truth is most feelings and most situations, no matter how distressing, will pass in time. Many who express a desire to die are overwhelmed. Given a chance to have a good listener by their side who will not only listen, but make that important referral for professional help, there is an opportunity to make a life-saving difference.

Prevention means being informed and being able to recognize the signs of suicide. These can include:

  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Feeling like he/she is a burden to others
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or social activities
  • Moodiness, or an increase in sadness, or even anger
  • Finding ways to say goodbye
  • Giving away loved possessions

If your friend or a family member talks about suicide, take every threat seriously. Spoken threats are often ways to ask for help. The person speaking may just need someone to reach out in a non-judgmental way. He/She may be in emotional pain that is so severe, that although they do not really want to die, there is no way to express the intensity of their feelings.

Don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” This question is important to understanding what they are really thinking. Don’t worry. Research shows that asking the question will not cause someone to consider suicide. In fact, people are often relieved the question has been asked and they can freely talk about their feelings. Please don’t leave anyone alone who may be suicidal. Never keep suicide threats a secret.

One of the most important ways to prevent suicide is to seek professional help. Know your community. A call to the National Suicide Hot Line at 1 800 273 TALK (8255) can make a difference and save a life.

And, of course, call upon the skilled professionals at Lake Behavioral Hospital to provide help. We are available 24/7/365 to offer caring support for those in a mental health crisis. Call 855 990 1900.

Lake Behavioral Hospital is a proud sponsor of the Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force Suicide Prevention Walk on September 19, 2020. We hope to see you there.

Summertime is Here!

July 4th, picnics, and outdoor gatherings are earmarks of summertime. This means being with people that we care about. Quarantining during COVID-19 among small family groups may mean that we haven’t seen our friends and other family members for some time. This is something we all need, to connect with others. Getting together during a pandemic, requires us to wear masks and to practice social distancing. How unnatural it seems not to hug our friends or family in greeting or not even be able to see a shared smile because of a mask. Socialization is important for our self-esteem. When we feel more supported, we are happier and mentally healthier. This summer may mean finding ways to be socially distant and safe, but stay connected.


Here are five tips to help you stay connected:

  1. If you can’t have a picnic or party, send some picnic items to friends or family to put a smile on their face!
  2. Decorate your front yard or doorstep for a drive by experience and give special treats to people who are special to you.
  3. Although July 4th– and summer- are not “card” holidays, send greeting cards to those you won’t see this year.
  4. Make your small family gatherings fun with special games or conversation starters.
  5. Get creative and host a virtual party with Zoom or another online platform.


Being creative during these uncertain times can help alleviate stress and anxiety. If at any time, these feelings overwhelm you or a loved one, Lake Behavioral can help.

We offer free assessments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 855-990-1900 or visiting us at 2615 Washington Street in Waukegan, IL.

Lake Behavioral Celebrates Pride

June is Pride Month and Lake Behavioral Hospital is proud to celebrate and support the LGBTQ community. We also understand the unique challenges and needs they face related to mental health and access to treatment. Studies show that individuals who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and other mental health conditions. LGBTQ individuals also experience more trauma and other impactful adverse life experiences due to stigma and discrimination, which can trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions.

Stigma can create conditions under which LGBTQ-identifying people need to seek mental health care. It can also hinder their ability to access the care and treatment they need. Surveys indicate that more than half of LGBTQ respondents have experienced healthcare providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming their sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. As a result, many individuals avoid or delay seeking treatment and withhold information from health care providers due to fear of discrimination or disrespect.

Our team at Lake Behavioral Hospital knows that when people can be themselves, believe in themselves, and be proud of who they are that they are genuinely more mentally healthy. We can only influence health if we continue to educate ourselves and be sensitive to the individual needs of the people we serve. Every day our treatment team seeks to help and serve those on their journey to self-acceptance and self-pride.

Lake Behavioral Hospital is an inclusive environment. During Pride Month, we want to say thank you to those within the LGBTQ community who pave the way every day. You have shown pride as you have made it clear that it is the strength of our character, the way we treat others, and our sense of hope that is the foundation for authenticity.

Lake Behavioral Hospital offers support on both an inpatient and outpatient setting for adolescents, adults, and senior adults.

Free assessments are offered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 855-990-1900.

New Lake Behavioral Hospital Now Open

Waukegan Mayor Tours Brand New Lake Behavioral Hospital

When Mother’s Day is Difficult

Holidays are often filled with joy and love, but they can also be challenging. Mother’s Day can be a particularly complicated holiday. For many it a celebration of gratitude and appreciation, but it can also bring feelings of grief and sadness, especially for those who have lost a mother or a child.

During this time of physical distancing due to COVID-19, the grief of losing a mother or child can be compounded by feeling isolated from social supports and being unable to utilize coping strategies that involve being in public spaces.

Here are some tips on how to cope with grief on Mother’s Day:

  • Share memories, or engage in an activity or tradition that honors the person you lost.
  • Reach out to supportive people. Call, text, or schedule a video chat.
  • Write about your feelings, or write a letter to the person you lost.
  • Acknowledge and honor your feelings. Pain is personal and everyone has their own way of grieving.

Holidays can trigger symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Lake Behavioral Hospital offers a full continuum of care for the treatment of mental health conditions. With the expansion of our physical space, Lake Behavioral Hospital is now able to offer new modalities and treatment tracks to meet the needs of our community. These additional services will include an individualized trauma-focused treatment track for women.

If someone you know is grieving a loss, it is important to check on them, even if it’s just to say hello. With the increase in deaths due to COVID-19, people are experiencing loss collectively worldwide. It is helpful to know that we are not alone in our grief and anxiety.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing mental health challenges during this time, Lake Behavioral Hospital can help. Call us at 855-990-1900.

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