Alegent Health Experts Offer Tips for Families Coping with Stress
Release Date: 10/01/2008

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Focus on the Good Limit TV Exposure Hope

OMAHA, Neb.With the nation already reeling from the mortgage meltdown, Monday’s stock market plummet left
many families feeling stressed and unsure of where to turn for help.

“Most of us have had stressors since before the economic downturn,” said Karen Bermel, LMHP, MS, at Bergan Mercy’s Alegent Health Psychiatric Associates. “Anything from raising children or caring for a sick parent to mounting bills or housing trouble can be stressful enough. Factor in the current economic situation and you can have families approaching a crisis.”  Bermel said it is important in times of great stress to take a step back and remind yourself that, yes, this is a difficult time but there is only so much you can do in a given day.

“Across the board, no matter what kind of stressors are coming at us from the outside, how we choose to respond is what will ultimately define us,” observed Bermel, who specializes in life transition issues, depression and anxiety disorders, and issues involving grief and trauma, all of which come into play during periods of economic turmoil. She added that it is important to understand the connection between awareness and action, and advises people that they can not take action unless they are first aware that they have stressors in their lives and can recognize what they are. An honest evaluation of what a person is feeling and a realistic look at how they are reacting are the first steps to better coping.

Dr. Roger Pentzien, medical director of the Lasting Hope Recovery Center, a treatment center for mental and behavioral illness, agrees. “Stress certainly can be very divisive, but we’ve seen many, many families rise to the occasion.  So while it certainly is a risk factor, to say it is a universal response would be unfair.”

Bermel and Pentzien offer these tips for families feeling the stress of these uncertain times.


  • Limit your news intake.  The bad often is what we see and hear most about, so Dr. Pentzien advises people to continue reading the paper and watching television to stay informed, “But not to the point that you’re heating things up and literally glued to the TV.”
  • Adopt a realistic view of what is happening around you.  “Don’t take a ‘Polly-Anna’ attitude that everything will be okay,” Bermel warns. “It might not. But you can take the attitude that, ‘I’m doing the best I can.’”
  • How you deal with stressors always comes back to self-care.  No matter what is going on around you, make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water, get enough exercise and watch what you eat.
  • Make sure you have a support network to turn to that includes spiritual guidance.  It is important to lean on family and friends for assistance, but people who have a spiritual perspective typically fare better in stressful situations than those who do not have that sort of support.
  • Know the difference between stress and depression.  Often, a combination of anxiety and stress can manifest itself much like anxiety and depression. If you are losing sleep or are unable to work or cope with typical day-to-day activities, you may want to seek professional help.
  • Talk to your children.  If your children are old enough to understand what is going on in the news, sit down with them and explain how it may affect the family and what steps you are taking to address the issues you are facing. Dr. Pentzien advises parents speak to children at a level they can understand and, “Express to them that there is a problem and that mom and dad are dealing with the issue.”

“Things will get better,” Dr. Pentzien says. “Along with that hope is the tenacity and the perseverance which I would like to feel is part of this great nation – that we have weathered extraordinary and difficult times and we will see ourselves through this as well.”

Anyone looking for more information about coping with stress or if someone needs further help wading through a difficult time, they are urged to call the Lasting Hope Recovery Center at (402) 717-HOPE.

About Alegent Health
Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with nine acute care hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,300 physicians on its medical staff and roughly 9,000 employees. Alegent Health is ranked first in the country in quality and patient satisfaction according to the Network for Regional healthcare Improvement (NRHI).  That exceptional commitment to providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person keeps Alegent Health faithful to its Mission, which was inspired by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems.  At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is online at

About Lasting Hope Recovery Center
The Lasting Hope Recovery Center, operated by Alegent Health Bergan Mercy Medical Center, is the result of a public-private partnership for people suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. The 64-bed facility is located in mid-town Omaha and will provide a continuum of care ranging from crisis assessment and inpatient treatment to sub-acute services, counseling and therapy. The Lasting Hope Recovery Center is being made possible through generous gifts from philanthropists to a new non-profit foundation co-founded by local community leaders Ken Stinson and Rhonda and Howard Hawks. The state of Nebraska is providing critical funding for operations and Alegent Health and The Nebraska Medical Center will provide additional financial support for facility operations.