Archive for Musings of a Mental Health Writer

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

Jun 20

I have a purpose in my life and in my writing: to share stories, information, and strategies so that we all may thrive despite problems and challenges and create our own version of a life worth living. I love meeting and collaborating with like-minded people, so I’m delighted to have discovered Inpathy—their services and their wellness blog The Inapthy Bulletin. I love the below article about self-compassion, something so important but for one reason or another so often neglected.

Enjoy learning a bit about Inpathy, and cherish the article that can make a positive difference for all of us.

Inpathy has a mission to increase access to psychiatry, mental and behavioral health services through telehealth. They help to make a difference in people’s lives by connecting them with licensed professional therapists, counselors and psychiatry providers. Online therapy sessions allow behavioral health providers to meet individuals where they are – at home, at work or in the community – making it both easier and more affordable to get needed care. Inpathy is a division of InSight, the leading national telepsychiatry service provider organization with nearly two decades of experience delivering online behavioral health care safely and securely.

Self-Compassion is a vital part of mental health, yet it is often hard to practice. Learn three tenets of self-compassion to help you turn compassion inward.

Self-Compassion and You: A Guide to Turning Compassion Inward

By: Jen Schiller for The Inpathy Bulletin

 

When we think about the word “compassion,” we often think about it in terms of others in our lives. Describing someone as compassionate usually means we consider them to be understanding of others, selfless and put the needs of the many before their own.

However, the concept of self-compassion is not often recognized or practiced. This concept means that we take those ideas listed above and turn them inward: understanding ourselves and responding in a kind and caring way.

THE THREE TENETS OF SELF-COMPASSION

According to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website on self-compassion, the concept is comprised of three elements: self-kindness versus self-judgement, common humanity versus isolation and mindfulness versus over-identification (Neff).

Self-kindness versus self-judgement is practiced by accepting that no one is perfect, and allowing yourself to make mistakes rather than punishing yourself when they inevitably happen. Self-compassion requires that we recognize our feelings of inadequacy rather than ignore them, and then treat ourselves kindly without dismissing those feelings.

Common humanity versus isolation ties in with self-kindness. This element means that when we do feel frustrated with our perceived shortcomings, we understand that we are not the only ones having these feelings–in fact they are a natural part of being human. “Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone” (Neff).

The final element is one often utilized in meditation: mindfulness versus over-identification. While we cannot ignore our feelings of inadequacy, we should also be careful not to let them define us. Mindfulness is a practice in which we acknowledge our feelings, but do not judge them as good or bad. We simply accept our feelings as a part of ourselves rather than trying to suppress or over-emphasize them.

Self-Compassion over Self-Esteem

In an article for Live Science, Robin Nixon compares self-compassion to another hot button topic: self-esteem. The rise in parenting tactics that include the proverbial participation award have had mixed results, some of the most extreme cases ending in fragility and narcissism later in life (Nixon). Because self-compassion allows you to make and acknowledge your mistakes, as well as recognizing that these mistakes are part of being human, you can learn and move forward as part of a larger community. By contrast, Nixon explains, “…self-esteem is a measure of yourself against others. In order to keep self-esteem high, you have to convince yourself you are better (or, preferably, the best), either by denying your faults and pains or by putting others down, and usually both [10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]” (Nixon).

 Self-Compassion and Your Mental Health

Biologically speaking, “self-compassion deactivates the threat system (associated with feelings of insecure attachment, defensiveness and autonomic arousal) and activates the self-soothing system (associated with feelings of secure attachment, safety, and the oxytocin-opiate system)” (Neff, Dahm). In another experiment where subjects were given a brief self-compassion exercise, the result was lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that causes and heightens feelings of stress. The exercise also “…increased heart-rate variability, which is associated with a greater ability to self-soothe when stressed.” Ultimately, the subjects were both less stressed out and better equipped to deal with stress when it did arise.

A higher level of self-compassion then leads to less suffering and a lower propensity for depression and anxiety. One reason for this is the link between self-compassion and self-criticism; self-kindness and mindfulness allow us to disassociate from criticism while still acknowledging it as feedback about our performance. In their chapter on self-compassion from the book Mindfulness and Self-Regulation, Dr. Kristin Neff and Katie Dahm detail an experiment that showed this correlation in a practical way. “In a study by Neff, Kirkpatrick and Rude (2007), participants were given a mock job interview in which they were asked to ‘describe their greatest weakness.’ Even though self-compassionate people used as many negative self-descriptors as those low in self-compassion when describing their weaknesses, they were less likely to experience anxiety as a result of the task” (Neff, Dahm). The subjects of the study with higher self-compassion also used more “we” pronouns rather than the isolating “I,” connecting them to a human experience and accepting their shortcomings as part of that experience. This understanding mental health struggles as universal rather than unique leads to a higher likelihood of treatment, as there is less shame to admitting that we need additional help dealing with an illness.

How to Cultivate Self-Compassion

For many of us, self-compassion is a new idea and will take changes big and small to build up. One practice that cultivates this skill is mindfulness; an element of meditation as well as an element of self-compassion, which requires that you stay in the moment in a non-judgmental way. You can and should recognize any distracting thoughts or feelings, using a method called ‘noting,’ where you choose a keyword to say to yourself or out loud during your mindfulness practice. This is something many guided meditations already incorporate.

In her article “Cultivating Self-Compassion” for PsychCentralMargarita Tartakovsky, M.S. offers several exercises for building self-compassion. These include offering ourselves healing touches or hugs, and reframing our thoughts about our own shortcomings to better accept and understand them as part of ourselves (Tartakovsky). You can keep track of these activities in a journal, a note-taking app on your phone, or simply start practicing them more often.

In her article for Mindful, Carley Hauck also suggests we get used to spending comfortable time alone. This can and should look different for everyone, but the common denominator is allowing ourselves the freedom to do what we want. Hauck explains: “I pick a day, or even a night…and I just slow down. I don’t schedule anything and I just let myself see what I want to do. Sometimes I read a book, write, spend hours in nature, eat exactly what I want and I am craving (and savor it!)” (Hauck).

Ultimately, self-compassion can be cultivated in many different ways and certainly should be unique to each person. One of the best possible results of better self-compassion can be a heightened sense of creativity Nixon explains:

“Presumably because they are not afraid of being mentally taken through the ringer, researchers also think self-compassionate people…have more courage and [are] more motivated to persevere. Those with self-compassion may even open access to higher levels of creative thinking, suggests one 2010 study in the Creativity Research Journal” (Nixon).

How will you treat yourself with more compassion and understanding? Check out our article on mindfulness and meditation apps to get started.

REFERENCES

Hauck, Carley. “How to Choose Self-Compassion.” Mindful. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.mindful.org/how-to-choose-self-compassion/>.

Neff, Kristin, and Katie Dahm. Self Compassion Online (n.d.): n. pag. Self-Compassion: What It Is, What It Does, and How It Relates to Mindfulness. Mindfulness and Self – Regulation. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://self-compassion.org/wp-content/uploads/publications/Mindfulness_and_SC_chapter_in_press.pdf>.

Neff, Kristin. “Definition of Self-Compassion.” Self-Compassion. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/#definition>.

Nixon, Robin. “Self-Compassion: The Most Important Life Skill?” LiveScience. Purch, 15 May 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <http://www.livescience.com/14165-parenting-compassion-life-skills.html>.

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “Cultivating Self-Compassion.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 22 June 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2017. <https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/22/cultivating-self-compassion/>.

 

ABOUT JEN SCHILLER

About Jen SchillerJen Schiller is a communications professional in Washington DC. She has a Masters in Theatre and a Bachelors in creative writing. She writes for numerous online publications including sub-cultured.com.

 

 

 

 

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Visualization, Wellness, and Hubba

Jun 13

Visualization enhances wellbeing. Hubba enhances wellbeing too. Hubba's health and wellness community joins influencers and brands for success, wellness.

Are you an influencer in your field, a field such as health and wellness? Imagine Hubba. Do you represent a brand? Imagine Hubba. Are you a retailer? Imagine Hubba. And hey, are you a curious consumer wanting to simply explore (but not immediately shop for) new products and information? Imagine Hubba.

Visualization: A Powerful Tool to Enhance Wellbeing

To imagine Hubba, and determine just what it is we’re imagining, let’s engage in a visualization expercise. Visualization is a simple (but not always easy) technique for reducing anxiety, stress, tension, and the negative effects of a great many mental health disorders. As such, this practice is an excellent tool for enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

Visualization allows us to imagine something, such as a place of calm, peace, and happiness, without having to physically go there. With visualization, we call to mind an image of a place, a person, a shape, a color, an object, an action, or a goal. As we do this, we engage in deep breathing in order to foster mindfulness, focus our thoughts, reduce blood pressure, and influence the brain (such as changing brain waves and impacting production of neurotransmitters). Visualization as a regular practice has been shown to help improve mental health as well as help people achieve tangible goals.

Without further ado, let’s engage in a visualization exercise to imagine Hubba.

Close your eyes and take several slow, deep, breaths. Call to mind images of health, wellness, and vitality. You have access to people and products that will help you create a quality life, your version of a life worth living. You can connect directly with people who are experts in their field of wellness and health. You can meet influencers in the field, brands that are exciting and prominent, and products that help you achieve your wellness goals. Retailers, brands, influencers, and others interested in the cutting edge of health and wellness join in a joyous, figurative dance to build each other up. In this positive community, you naturally increases your success and wealth. You belong to a strong, positive community of influencers, retailers, and brands that all work together to enhance wellbeing.

Why I’m a Hubba Influencer

Hubba is this place of connection, community, and commerce. Hubba brings together top people and companies in a given field (Hubba has many communities, including health and wellness). It’s a place of growth and prosperity, and one where everyone benefits.

I’m thrilled to have been recently invited to join the Hubba community as an influencer in the field of wellness and health. You’ll find my badge, which serves as a link, in the sidebar.

While my books are included as health and wellness books, my main role on Hubba is to offer my influence and expertise to health and wellness brands and retailers. I write articles and maintain regular blogs about wellness. I research to enhance my professional and personal knowledge and experience, and I will write truthfully about how your brand and products improve people’s quality of life.

Imagine Hubba. It’s a community and a place to build meaningful connections. I’m happy to be a part of Hubba’s health and wellness community to join together to create success, prosperity, and lives worth living.

 
 

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Thrive with TBI: See the World Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Jun 6

My first traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurred more than a decade ago, and since that time, I’ve worked to thrive, to live well in spite of my unique brain injury sequelae. I recently discovered a whole new way to thrive with TBI. I now see the world through rose-colored glasses.

TBI can cause different types of visual impairments and disturbances. For me, my already-mediocre vision worsened, I began experiencing double vision, I developed depth-perception issues that exacerbated my normal clumsiness and rendered me unable to properly give high-fives (much to the amusement of my children), I developed significant sensitivity to light (termed photophobia despite the fact that it has nothing to do with fears and phobias), and headaches (I haven’t had a single headache-free day since 2004). Finally connecting with the right eye doctor has improved my vision and my outlook.

The Meaning of Rose-Colored Glasses

I truly see the world through rose-colored glasses now. My lenses are special FL-41 lenses. As the picture vividly shows, the lenses are pink. They’re rose-colored. They reduce photophobia and make seeing simply feel better. Light no longer pierces my eyeballs to rush along my optic nerves and sear my brain. Admittedly, I still have a headache, but it’s better. (Said headache could be caused by adjusting to a stronger prescription, adapting to bifocals, and by noises given that my brain is overstimulated by both light and sound).

The term “rose-colored glasses” can have a negative connotation, invoking a Pollyana-type image of someone living in denial. It can be an accusation that someone is falsely positive, ignorant of the hardships of life.

“Rose-colored glasses” more accurately describes a worldview that acknowledges the negative but intentionally focuses on the positives in life. Someone who sees the world through rose-colored glasses is someone who faces obstacles and challenges and finds ways to move forward anyway. This is a true optimist; wearing rose-colored glasses, he or she has both a why and a how in life—his vision is on the beauty of his purpose. He sees the hues (roses and pinks) of possibility despite obstacles. She has hope.

The way we perceive our world is significant for our mental health and wellbeing. My FL-41 rose-colored glasses allow me to appreciate the beauty around me on an even deeper level and to feel physically better as I live a life of purpose and meaning. It’s intriguing to me that this positive treatment is happening now, thirteen years after my initial TBI. After so many years of accepting my vision issues as just a part of a brain injury, I see that there is more that can be done. It’s not too late to seek improvements.

Rose-Colored Glasses, Acceptance, and Mental Health

Acceptance is an important concept in the world of mental health. There is even a therapeutic approach that centers on it: acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). It can be a confusing concept, because like the phrase “rose-colored glasses,” acceptance has different meanings and interpretations.

Acceptance does not mean

  • resignation to a bad situation
  • giving up or giving in or rolling over

Acceptance does mean

  • knowing what can’t be changed and making new plans around this fact (for example, after seeing different eye doctors who told me that the only changes to my vision would be changes for the worse, I accepted it as fact and learned how to appreciate imperfect beauty anyway)
  • using the knowledge of what can’t be changed to move forward; sometimes knowing the reality that certain things won’t change helps prevent people from being stuck in rumination and regret
  • having an open mind and being willing to integrate new information (when I discovered that my town has eye doctors and vision therapists that specialize in brain injury, I accepted that maybe there was new information that I could benefit from)
  • keeping ego at bay (sure, pink lenses in glasses that aren’t sunglasses might not be ultra-fashionable, but I’m willing to accept that in exchange for better vision and functioning).

While I am literally seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, it’s just as effective to do so figuratively. Move forward knowing that it’s never too late to make the progress you want to make. Gather tools (for me, one tool is these glasses), intentionally shape your perspective, and create ways to thrive. Whether you’re thriving with TBI or other life challenges, see your world through rose-colored glasses.

 

 
 

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Mindfulness for Traumatic Brain Injury, Mental Health

May 30

For a long time, mindfulness and traumatic brain injury didn’t fit together for me at all. Thirteen years after my first brain injury (I’ve had three), I still deal with TBI symptoms (check out these eight signs of TBI). I’ve explored a wellbeing technique known as mindfulness for numerous challenges, including anxiety, mood disorders, “ordinary” stress, and so much more. It works to improve mental health. But what about for brain injuries?

Mindfulness has benefits but is hard to do with a TBI. Learn a few mindfulness techniques that work for mental health and TBI.The practice of mindfulness involves quieting the mind, becoming still, and using all of the senses to increase awareness of what is happening in the present moment. I’ve found it helpful for many mental health issues, and I’ve helped others use the technique. However, when I thought of using mindfulness for my TBI symptoms, I’ll admit that I was quite skeptical. When I tried it anyway, it didn’t work — until I figured out how to do it.

Brain injury symptoms are numerous and, like almost anything related to the brain, are individualized. Brain injury looks different for different individuals. For me, the ones that are the most annoying are the ones that loom over me in attempt to disrupt my life. It can be hard to function in the vast array of life tasks that includes work, family, other relationships, organization, problem-solving, and more when wrestling with

  • sensory overstimulation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty focusing properly
  • headaches that make the above even more pronounced

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce these challenges to brain functioning and overall mental health and wellbeing. However, how does one practice mindfulness when one’s brain is overstimulated, uncomfortable, and unable to concentrate?

How to Practice Mindfulness with a Brain Injury

Mindfulness is traditionally the practice of stillness. Similar to meditation, it often involves sitting or lying down and using all of the senses to be fully aware, or mindful, of the present moment. It helps quiet mental chatter, such as worries, fears, self-doubts, negative thinking, and more, in order to induce a sense of peace and enhance mental health and wellbeing.

When concentration and focus are out of reach and the brain is already overstimulated with sensory input, trying to practice mindfulness can be aggravating. It can further disrupt mental health rather than improve it. That doesn’t mean mindfulness should be abandoned or that it can’t work when you have a brain injury, though. When sitting quietly and trying to focus doesn’t work, try these things instead:

  • Practice moving mindfulness. Take a mindful walk, go for a swim, or otherwise move around while paying attention to your surroundings. You don’t have to be still to be present in your moment.
  • Use an object. Having something tangible to feel, study, listen to, or even taste (think fruit) helps a jumpy brain tune in and learn to focus.
  • Do something mindfully. Help soothe a TBI by coloring, building, crafting, or doing any other hobby.
  • Stay far away from screens and technology to give your brain a much-needed break from what it often experiences as overstimulating chaos.

Experiment to see what helps calm your brain and increases your attention on your present moment. Even with a TBI, practicing mindfulness can pull you out of your head and into the moment. When you do this, you’ll decrease your brain injury symptoms and increase mental health and wellbeing.

 

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Can Anxiety Have a Positive Side?

May 23

Anxiety isn’t something people often embrace as positive; indeed, people tend to go to great lengths to eliminate if from their lives. That said, very few things are either all good or all bad (that’s part of all-or-nothing thinking that contributes to anxiety, depression, and more). Anxiety can actually have a positive side, and seeing the positive actually works to pull you up and move you forward.

Recently, I had an online conversation about this very thing with a woman named Kay who lives with anxiety and seems to have had experiences similar to my own. We agreed that looking only at the negative is dangerous for our mental health and wellbeing. To be sure, negativity exists and anxiety does have it’s share of negatives; however, anxiety has a positive side, and discovering it can be very helpful in shaping how we see ourselves and the world. Not only does anxiety itself have positive aspects, so do the people who live with it. (Five Character Strengths of People Living with Anxiety).

Kay wrote an article about the positive side of anxiety. It’s great to be able to share her perspective on the fact that being anxious isn’t always a curse.

 

Anxiety Isn’t All Bad

By Kay*

 Anxiety has many negatives, but it has positive aspects, too. Discover examples of anxiety's positive side. Anxiety might feel like its ruining your life, but is it all bad? I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child—I just didn’t recognise it. I thought it was normal to see catastrophe at every turn, to feel like all my nerve endings were on alert, and to be overly sensitive to everything. Perhaps it is “normal,” as there are certainly a great many people who feel the same.

As time passes, we may recognise that anxiety greatly influences our lifestyle. The choices we make when we feel frightened may be different to the ones we make when we feel confident and optimistic. We may choose the same college course as our friends rather than the course which suits our interests. We might remain in unsuitable relationships because we don’t want to be on our own. We are more likely to stick around in dead end jobs because we are too anxious to try something different.  And that’s just the big things in life!  Anxiety may also influence the smaller, day to day decisions and limit our opportunities to enjoy life.

Focusing on the negative impact anxiety has on our life can really get us down. But have you ever looked at it through different coloured glasses? In other words, have you ever considered that there may be positive aspects to your anxiety? And positive aspects to you yourself? Anxiety doesn’t necessarily say negative things about you.

Anxiety’s Positive Side

I’ve Rarely Met an Anxious Asshole

People who suffer from anxiety are often kind and compassionate by nature. We may feel things deeply and be sensitive to other people’s emotions. We want (need!) everyone to be happy, so that is often motivates our interactions. We tend to play the role of peacemaker because conflict increases our anxiety. You may be riddled with anxiety, but chances are you are a nice person with a good heart. Pull that bit up to the surface!

We See the Negative but We Keep Going

Anxiety creates many automatic negative thoughts that plague us day and night, such as catastrophizing situations and seeing the bad before the good. That said, those of us who suffer from anxiety can be strong and keep going despite being anxious. How else would we talk our way down from whatever dizzy, anxious heights we have reached? To do so, we consider the positives in the situation, or the good that will come from continuing on. Next time you are catastrophizing, rather than focusing on how your mind reached the catastrophe, concentrate instead on how you have been able to move it back down a gear.

Our Anxiety can bring Achievement

You might think that being a high achiever brings high anxiety, but what it if works the other way? If anxiety means you can never sit still, or your brain never stops whirring, then you may be in a great position to channel this into your goals. If your employment prospects have suffered at the hands of anxiety, could you turn this around? Could anxiety drive your potential? Overthinking can be a terrible affliction but it might also mean there is a genius in there. Sweating over the small stuff might mean you have a great eye for detail. Your anxiety could lead you to achievements, and you just might find that your achievements help to banish anxiety.

Being Anxious Can Involve Being Caring

There is no question that anxiety may have a negative impact on your relationships with other people. But remember that it can also mean you are a great person to have around. If you’re emotional, you might be more open and loving towards your nearest and dearest. We can use our sensitivity as a strength and reach out to those around us. Experiencing anxiety can help us help others understand themselves. Further, our sensitivity can help us respond positively to the needs of others, be they human, animal, or plant. We may be full of worries and “what-ifs,” but that often equips us to care for other people, other things.

So there you have it!  These are just a few examples showing the upside of anxiety. Think of it this way: anxiety might rule your life, but it doesn’t have to ruin it. There’s always a flip side so don’t focus on what your fears do to you; ask yourself what they can do for you.

*Kay considers herself to be a professional worrier – not because she gets paid for it but because she is so good at it! She is ‘mid forties’ and lives in Scotland where she runs her own online business.  It has taken her a long time to recognise her anxiety disorder but, now that she has, she’s happy to share.  Her survival technique has always been to look for the upbeat aspects of anxiety and to see the funny side.  That is the basis on which she has started her own blog – “Worried Sick”.  You can find it at www.worriedsick.co.uk 

Anxiety has many negatives, but it has positive aspects, too. Read some examples of anxiety's positive side.

Feeling love and a desire to move forward for loved ones is a big positive.

 

 

 
 

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Another Book Giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month

May 17

Enter a giveaway to win a book for Mental Health Awareness MonthIt’s time for another book giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month! Five people have already received one of my mental-health-related books, and five more winners will be randomly selected at the end of May. Each will receive one of the books in the graphic on the left.

Mental health means many things, and it means different things to different people. What surprises people sometimes is learning that mental health isn’t the absence of mental illness. In general, mental health refers to the experience of emotional, physical, and overall life wellbeing. Mental health a contentment with who one is and the quality of one’s life.

 

 

 

Defining Mental Health for Mental Health Awareness Month

How we define all this individually can vary greatly. Take, for example, the various characters or information in the books I’m giving away:

 

What does mental health mean for Isaac in the novel Twenty-Four Shadows?

Isaac Bittman has trouble fully feeling love and happiness. To him, mental health means experiencing these things.

 

What does mental health mean for Brian in My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel?

To Brian Cunningham, mental health means stepping out of his shell and helping someone despite his anxiety.

 

What does mental health mean to Penelope in the novel Leave of Absence?

To Penelope Baker, who lives with schizophrenia, part of mental health means working again.

 

What does mental health mean to Elizabeth in the novel Losing Elizabeth?

To Elizabeth Carter, mental health is having enough good things in her day to smile as she falls asleep at night.

 

Learn how the self-help book Break Free: ACT in Three Steps can help you define and achieve mental health.

Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps is a self-help workbook designed to help you achieve your definition of mental health.

To enter this giveaway for mental health awareness month, answer this question in the comments at the bottom:

What does mental health mean to YOU? 

Sharing this post on social media using the below buttons will enter your name into the drawing twice!

 

 

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My Mental Health Awareness Month Lesson: It’s Never Too Late

May 16

It’s mental health awareness month, and opportunities for growth and increasing our wellbeing are all around us. We simply need to know where to look. For me, this “looking” had the most literal of meanings. For mental health awareness month, I scheduled an appointment with a new eye doctor.I learned a lesson for mental health awareness month. It's never too late for the brain to heal.

Many people might wonder about this. For mental health awareness month, rather than seeing a therapist or other mental health professional, I treated myself to an eye appointment. Mind and body aren’t fully separate. Sure, they have separate components, but all of those components make up the single whole that is you (and me — each and every human on the planet).

To be mentally healthy, we need to tend to our whole selves. My vision leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve worn glasses since I was a child, but my vision worsened after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2004 followed by two more concussions within a couple of years. Because I had never been able to find an eye doctor who specializes in TBI and vision, I assumed that I would just have to deal with lack of clarity, light sensitivity, becoming overstimulated easily, double vision, and more. When I realized that there is indeed such a thing as an eye doctor who knows about TBI’s impact on vision, I was encouraged…and then did nothing about it for several months.

I was interested in such an eye doctor, and I believed wholeheartedly that yes, brain injuries can negatively impact vision and that yes, while some damage may be permanent, there are things that can be done to lead to significant improvement. That’s what wellbeing is all about: making choices and taking action, small steps at at time, to make positive changes in life. I believe that this is possible for everyone. Yet I didn’t believe in it for myself in this very specific instance.

Fourteen years is a long time, long enough to make any effects of a TBI permanent. After all, weren’t things “set” now so that improvement in my vision would be impossible? Happily, I was wrong (I’m not always happy when I’m wrong, but in this case, it works for me so I’ll own my error). The brain possesses a quality known as neuroplasticity, which means that it can adapt, even more than a decade after a brain injury. It’s never too late for treatment and improvement. Many things can help the brain continue to improve.

For mental health awareness month, I learned that it's never too late for the brain to heal.Therefore, for Mental Health Awareness Month, I saw a new eye doctor in hopes that I would be able to improve some things about my vision that are bothersome. Mental health is not passive. Mental health means making choices and taking action to enhance wellbeing and quality of life. I am very glad that I decided to see an eye doctor who specializes in brain injury because I discovered that it’s not too late to improve my vision and functioning.

What are your mental health goals? What would increase the quality of your life? Whatever you envision for your mental health, know that it’s not too late. What will you do today to get started?

 
 

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Mental Health Awareness Month: 5 Things You Should Know

May 9

mental health awareness month things to know

Mental health awareness month, observed every May, places a spotlight on mental health and mental illness. The terms mental health and mental illness are broad terms, encompassing a lot (it can be argued that because these terms involve brain and body, mind and spirit, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and relationship with self and others, mental health and mental illness are truly everything. I think that that is indeed true; however, because it’s difficult to bring awareness to “everything,” here are just five specific things you should know about mental health and mental illness for mental health awareness month.

Mental health is the living of life and the shaping of values and actions to create a life worth living despite problems.

5 Things You Should Know for Mental Health Awareness Month

For Mental Health Awareness Month, here's a look at five (5) important things to know for your mental health.

1) Mental health is for everyone.

That means mental health is for you, regardless of whether or not you live with mental illness. We’re all human beings working our way through life. We all face challenges and problems and various types of illness. We experience loss. We deal with problems in our outer world, and we deal with problems in our inner world. Sometimes the problems are related to mental illness. And despite all of this, we experience joy, happiness, accomplishments, and gains. We have positive relationships. We have goals, purpose, and passions.

2) Mental health and mental illness aren’t either-or concepts

Mental illness doesn’t mean the absence of mental health; likewise, mental health isn’t the absence of mental illness. Mental illnesses are disorders within the brain. That doesn’t mean that people with a mental illness can’t live well and thrive. Also, sometimes people experience periods of hardship where they don’t feel like they’re thriving, yet they don’t have a diagnosable mental disorder.

3) Mental health is, in part, how we experience both ourselves and the world around us.

Mental illnesses, such as trauma disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and more, impact how people interpret the world around them as well as how they think and feel on the inside. Each and every one of us has a unique way of thinking, feeling, and acting. Sometimes, our thoughts, feelings, or actions get in our way. If that’s the case, we are allowed to make changes and grow. This growth, too, is part of mental health.

4) Human connection is an important part of mental health.

Human beings are social creatures, and we need connections with others in order to thrive. Some people like lots of connection and interaction, while others want just a bit. Neither one of those is wrong. The important thing is to foster connections because support is healing. There can be barriers to getting connected, which is another reason mental health awareness month is so important—it can help make people aware that it’s okay to reach out.

5) Mental health is active.

Mental health is thinking, feeling, and doing. Mental health is accepting that there are problems and imperfections, including serious mental illness, and taking steps forward anyway. Mental health is knowing what you want, why you want it, and how you can get it  All of this is part of mental health, the living of life and the shaping of values and actions to create a life worth living despite obstacles and challenges big and small.

May shines a light on what mental health is all about. Ideally, that light will continue to glow year-round, to help people understand what mental health is, what mental illness is, and how they can create a life worth living regardless of obstacles faced. Enjoying books is one way to keep mental health at the forefront of your priorities.

Mental Health Book Giveaway for Mental Health Awareness Month

I’m hosting two book giveaways this May, and at each giveaway, five lucky winners will receive a copy of one of my books (they’re all about mental health/mental illness). Here’s a peek into what they are:

Twenty-four Shadows

Bizarre encounters and behaviors lead family man Isaac Bittman to discover that his personality has splintered into twenty-four shadows, or alters, thanks to the childhood trauma he’s repressed. Is his wife’s love strong enough for all of him?

 

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel is the story of two people who don’t quite know how to live in the world—the man, Brian, because of debilitating anxiety, the girl, Abigail because of instability and abuse—and their journey to learn from each other.

 

Leave of Absence

Oliver, crippled by PTSD and depression after the traumatic loss of his family, is hospitalized against his will. Penelope, wrestling with schizophrenia and the harm it has done to her life, wants to set her fiancée free. Will friendship and connection help them?

 

Losing Elizabeth

High school junior Elizabeth Carter embraces life and is happy to be sharing it with boyfriend Brad Evans. Brad, though, has a different idea about life and relationships, one where Elizabeth is under his control.

 

 

Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) offers acceptance and mindfulness statgies to choose a values-driven life and take action to achieve it. Break the chains of unhappiness with this accessible guide for building ACT skills and getting on the path to a mindful, high-quality life

 

 

How to Win a Book

Visit Mental Health Awareness Month Book Giveaway.

There’s a question. Answer it in the comment section on that page.

                                        -AND/OR-

Answer this question in the comment section below:

What is something you do for your mental health? 

-AND/OR-

Share this on social media using the below share buttons. 

Each activity you do enters you in the drawing for a chance to win a book. Happy Mental Health Awareness Month!

 

 

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Mental Health Awareness Month Book Giveaway!

May 2

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and to celebrate, I’m giving away copies of my books. I’m doing it twice, actually: once in the middle of the month, and once at the end.

It's Mental Health Awareness Month, and that's something to celebrate. To do that, I'm giving away copies of my books. Come participate to win.

 Why celebrate mental health awareness month?

Because mental health is something that applies to each and every one of us, and it’s very important. Mental health

Why celebrate mental health awareness month by giving away books?

  • *Books are therapeutic; bibliotherapy is a healing approach that uses the reading of books (fiction and non-fiction) to heal and thrive.
  • *Books are part of self-care; they invite us to spend quality downtime, to relax, to escape, and to learn.
  • *Reading enhances mental health and wellbeing.
  • *Books build connections, empathy, understanding, and other warm fuzzies.

The Books You Can Win in This Mental Health Awareness Month Giveaway

Novels:

Twenty-Four Shadows

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel

Leave of Absence

Losing Elizabeth

Self-Help:

Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps

 

 

 

Book Giveaways for Mental Health Awareness Month: How It Works

One copy of each book will be given away on May 15, and one copy of each book will be given away on May 31. Five people will win a book in the middle of May, and five more will win a copy of a book at the end of May.

Answer the below question in the comment section at the bottom of the page. That’s it!

But you can get your name entered three times. In addition to answering the question,

  • Sign up for the Wellbeing & Words newsletter (form below).
  • Visit me on Facebook (Tanya J. Peterson, NCC). Like my page if you haven’t already, and share the pinned post (it has an image of a brain reading a book).

Each of these actions gets you registered for a chance to win a book! Mental health, after all, is all about action, about taking steps toward what you want.

The question:

What is your favorite way/place to de-stress with a book? (Scroll to the bottom of the page and leave your reply!)
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Mental Health Awareness Month: Nurture Yourself

May 1

To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, here are four ways to nurture your mental health for a quality life. Happy Mental Health Awareness Month! It’s fitting that this important mental health month is in May. May is spring in full bloom. Buds unfurl to become leaves. Spring flowers such as rhododendrons and tulips brighten our world. Spring, and Mental Health Awareness Month, is a time for each of us to nurture and care for ourselves so we bloom and grow.

How to Nurture Yourself During Mental Health Awareness Month

  1. Visualize a favorite flower, plant, or tree.
  2. Determine how you would care for it to help it thrive (what are its unique needs?).
  3. Picture yourself as that flower, plant or tree. Draw it, describe it in a journal, etc.
  4. Develop a care plan. What are your needs and how are you going to meet them?

Taking time to consider your needs for a quality life and meeting those needs, nurturing yourself so you thrive, is an important action step during Mental Health Awareness Month and Beyond.

It's Mental Health Awareness Month. To kick it off, learn four ways to nurture your mental health and bloom.

 

Here’s a little analogy for you, about a tiny seed:

 

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