What does Earth Day Mean for Your Mental Health, Wellbeing?

Apr 22

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

 

Earth day is a wonderful day because it’s about health. As a global society, we intentionally recognize the Earth and the good things it does for all life. This day is a reminder that we’re all in this together, that this planet is for all of us. Together, we all benefit from its health. Together, we all suffer from its illness. Taking this day to connect with the Earth and to thank it for all it does for us is a powerful, positive thing to do. Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

Blow you’ll find some of the myriad ways you can connect with nature every day to boost your wellbeing and life satisfaction. Which ones do you already do? What do you want to add anew or do more of?

1.Connect with someone through nature. Give flowers. Give a dandelion (which is a flower, not a weed). Give your time; for example, go for a hike or even a short walk outside and look for beauty and life.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

2. Escape outside and simply be. Pause and just listening to sounds, inhaling scents, taking in the beauty of nature, and feeling with your hands and feet. This is a big part of the practice of mindfulness, and the Earth gives us many opportunities for our mindful, peaceful life.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

 

3. Use the world to stimulate fond memories. See your loved ones in their flowers. Remember special times with your children in a park or studying with friends outside in the shade on a nice day. When we stop to realize it, the Earth is there with us in what we do. Having fond memories while enjoying the present is part of wellbeing, and the Earth can be a constant reminder.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

4. Experience awe. When we connect with nature, we realize that we’re part of something bigger. Awe is realizing, and appreciating, that there are things on this planet that are ancient and vast. A sense of awe pulls us out of ourselves and our daily stresses lets feel connected to a bigger picture. Awe can bring a sense of meaning that you might not even have words for. Awe is a feeling that grows big enough to calm our thoughts. Many opportunities for experiencing awe are outside and of the Earth.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

5. Appreciate beauty. This is similar to awe, yet separate from it. Appreciating beauty is a tool for enhancing mental health and wellbeing because doing it shifts your focus from the “ugliness” of stress and struggle. Gazing at the blue sky and white fluffy clouds (and maybe pausing to see cloud pictures while you’re at it) or watching a ladybug scurry on a leaf doesn’t make problems go away, but it changes your attention. The Earth’s beauty is everywhere. Find beauty in a bowl of raspberries, fruit of the Earth. This attitude is a component of mindfulness, and it makes a moment better plus making it a habit can make an endless string of moments better.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

 

6. Get outside, get active, and manage stress and anxiety. The Earth won’t judge. It won’t tell you to lighten up or make you feel “less than” because you have anxiety. It won’t look at how you’re walking or running or whatever it is that you’re doing and tell you that you’re doing it wrong. The Earth just lets you be active help your mental health. Breathe the air. Let your body work and get those neurotransmitters flowing correctly. Appreciate beauty while you’re at it for an even deeper impact.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

 

 

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

 

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

7. Let go. Getting out into nature helps you let go of all that you need to let go of. You change your scenery and your perspective. You have the chance to breathe deeply, slowly, freshly. You can use your senses to be mindful in your moment. When you let yourself be with the Earth, your thoughts and emotions can become still, and you can refocus your vision on what matters.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

Happy Earth Day. Happy mental health, wellbeing, and quality life. Spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.

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Mindfulness Reduces Anxiety with a Gentle Shift

Mar 30

Mindfulness is effective in reducing anxiety and in creating a calm, peaceful quality life worth living. Learn more here.

Several years ago, when my anxiety was stuck in its intense phase, I decided to give mindfulness, the act and state of being of living fully in the present moment rather than stuck inside our mind, another try. Yes, another try. In my quest for the holy grail, that one thing that would miraculously poof away all of my social anxiety and generalized anxiety, I had tried many things many times. Mindfulness as a technique for soothing so many things, including anxiety, is something that was and continues to be hailed as effective in decreasing anxiety.
It makes sense. The anxious mind races with often uncontrollable worry and fear. Mindfulness calms and quiets the mind. Therefore, mindfulness will quiet anxiety. It’s a reliable truth, clinically proven by research and experientially proven by mindfulness gurus and ordinary people alike. That said, it’s not a quick fix. It’s a process of becoming.

When Anxiety Makes Mindfulness Difficult

I remember suffering through a yoga class years ago. I didn’t suffer because I was ridiculously inflexible (I am, but that wasn’t the problem). It was painful because I couldn’t get my mind to shut up and experience the peace of the class. I kept telling myself that I should be still, that I shouldn’t be thinking of the million other thoughts and worries that were whirling around my mind. When it came time for the final relaxation, my mind and body were so agitated that I could barley lie still on the mat. The only thing that prevented me from jumping up and bolting out the door was that I was on the far side of the room, trapped by a sea of calm bodies that I was unwilling to disturb by leaving.

So much for mindfulness. And in the wee hours of the morning when I would toss and turn and ruminate over mistakes both past and future? I simply could not still my mind and be present in the moment. Of course, this failing added fuel to my fire of anxiety that burned within.

Here’s why mindfulness sometimes doesn’t work:

  • We’re using our brain to try to be mindful
  • The brain is our thinking center and creates anxious thoughts
  • The brain is our reasoning center and when we try to convince ourselves that anxiety is uncalled for, it overrides us with its own, stronger, reasons
  • When try to reason our thoughts away (or even order them away), it doesn’t work because we’re struggling in an endless loop
  • We’re trapped in the struggle rather than stepping outside of it

Mindfulness Really Does Calm Anxiety

Mindfulness, when practiced regularly, is effective in reducing anxiety and increasing mental health and wellbeing. Mindfulness frees us from anxiety and so many other mental health challenges, including daily stress.

The healing power of mindfulness lies in its ability to create a shift within us. When we are mindful, we gently turn our attention away from our anxious thoughts and emotions. Rather than fighting with them, we softly replace those thoughts with something different.

Anxiety feeds on itself and grows ever bigger in our thoughts. Those anxious thoughts restrict our actions, what we think we can or can’t do in life. This in turn affects our way of being with ourselves and the world. When we live mindfully in every moment we are in, fully present with life in each little bit of it, anxiety shrinks. What we pay attention to grows, and what we don’t attend to withers.

Mindfulness means letting our anxious thoughts be and paying attention to other things around us. It means using all of your senses re-focuses your attention. What do you see, hear, smell, feel, and taste (this last one isn’t always practical—licking things around you isn’t desirable)? In activating all of your senses and paying attention to them, you invoke the power to simply exist in the present moment and to quell anxiety. When you practice mindfulness, your anxiety begins to wither, and your sense of peace grows.

Practicing mindfulness creates the stillness that allows you to create your own quality life, your life worth living.

Mindfulness is effective in reducing anxiety and in creating a calm, peaceful quality life worth living. Learn more here.

 

Learn how to use mindfulness to reduce anxiety and make mindfulness a part of your peaceful way of life. The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety is available for pre-order now (and available on May 15, 2018).

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Be Your Authentic Self for Happiness and Wellbeing

Mar 20

You can create happiness despite any circumstance by being yourself and carring your own colors with you. Here are 5 ways to create happiness.

Sometimes, life—our inner world, outer world, or both—is drab, dull, lackluster. When that happens, create happiness anyway. Carry your own colors with you.

Every March 20th, the world celebrates International Day of Happiness. This is just one of 365 days in a year that we can choose to embrace happiness in our lives and to spread happiness around us in a world that seem to need it now more than ever.

Ah, there’s the thing. We face personal struggles: physical health, mental health, financial health, relationship health, and more. The world is unhealthy in many ways, too. Has “happiness” become extinct, no longer anything more than an artificial construct in a psychology research lab?

Happily (and I use the word intentionally), the answer is an emphatic no. To see why happiness is alive and well and in reach of everyone, it helps to know a couple things about what happiness is and what it is not.

What Happiness Is Not

Happiness isn’t
• Having a perfect, problem-free life
• Forcing a smile for appearance (sometimes, we frown; the key word is “sometimes”)
• Relying on people or circumstances in the world to make us happy

What Happiness Is

True, deep-seated happiness, the happiness that gets us through the toughest times, is

• Creating ways, big and small, to thrive each day despite problems, struggles, and challenges
• Giving a smile to someone who needs one to remind both of you that there are things bigger than problems
• Developing your own purpose, passions, and strengths to create happiness from within

The above points involve knowing happiness. The next component of wellbeing is doing happiness.

Do Happiness by Carrying Your Own Colors

Maybe creating this will help me start getting comfortable in my own mind.” – Isaac to his therapist Susanna in the novel Twenty-Four Shadows

Happiness is being comfortable in our own mind. It’s knowing our strengths, passions, and purpose—together, our unique colors—and drawing on them in some way every day to live the quality life we envision even though life and people are messy and flawed.

Here are 5 ways to do happiness:

“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” (Captain Kangaroo as quoted in Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 Steps) We fall down, but we don’t have to stay down. A key to happiness is knowing why you want to get back up. Once you know your why, you can create an action plan.

 

 

Live mindfully in each moment. In times of peace, calm, and joy, keeping your attention on the present lets you savor it and be deeply happy in that moment. In times of trouble, being mindful of what’s around you right now anchors you. It helps pull your thoughts and emotions out of your head to focus on the here-and-now. Living in the present rather than in your head is part of doing and being happy.

 

 

Accept. Accept others. Accept your circumstances. Accept yourself. Struggling against what you don’t want keeps you from living what you do want. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up or giving in; it means letting go of wishing things were different in order to discover the good. As therapist Beth Greene has painted on her wall, “Find something good in every day.” (My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel)

 

 

Connect with others. Share your colorful balloons. It can be as simple as holding a door or as involved as volunteering your talents and your passion.

 

 

 

Be who you are, your authentic self. Rather than worrying about what color or style your balloons “should” be, embrace them. Share them. Make babies laugh with them. Give adults something to smile about. Most of all, enjoy them for what the are: your own inner authentic happiness.

 

Create your world in living color, and enjoy the ride. Because life is a ride, and en-JOY is an action verb.

You can create happiness despite any circumstance by being yourself and carring your own colors with you. Here are 5 ways to create happiness.

 

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How to Find Yourself and Overcome Mental Health Struggles

Mar 6

Rise above any challenge by shifting your focus. Discover yourself and who you are, and focus on taking steps to achieve your vision.

Sometimes, the best way to overcome our mental health challenges is to, rather than focusing on the problem(s), turn away from them. Shifting our focus and perspective can empower us to transcend, to rise above, any problem we face.

Perhaps a clarification is in order before going forward: Changing focus isn’t about avoiding or ignoring or even getting rid of problems. Avoiding, I learned from my own life experiences as well as through working with others, tends to make problems bigger. Fighting problems to make them disappear doesn’t work, either. Some things, such as mental illness, brain injury, and chronic health problems, don’t fully disappear.

However, our struggles lose power—we can almost completely overcome the hold they have on us—when we shift our focus and journey to find ourselves. It is simple (but not always quick or even easy) to find yourself—your true self, not your mental health struggles because your challenges aren’t who you are at your core.

No matter what we are facing, shifting our focus from the struggle to ourselves is powerful.

I have a short, simple novel entitled Losing Elizabeth and an accompanying curriculum that I use in high school classrooms (it’s suitable for middle school, too) and community programs such as teen library programs. It’s about toxic relationships and all that they encompass. The curriculum is called Find Yourself. Keep Yourself, and the emphasis is on students developing awareness of losing themselves and developing a strong sense of self (finding themselves) to either avoid or overcome toxic relationships.

While finding yourself does help in situations like toxic/abusive relationships, it helps with all other struggles, too. This process can be helpful:

Are you losing yourself?

Perhaps the better question is how are you losing yourself? What challenges are you facing? What is the nature of your struggles?

• How you feel like things are out of control? Get specific. The more you can pinpoint the problem, the better equipped you are to overcome it.
• In what ways is your life being affected? Relationships with others? Feelings about yourself – your self-concept?
• Are your actions and behaviors changing? Do you find yourself avoiding people, places or situations? Are you making unhealthy or dangerous choices?
• What are your thoughts like?
• What about emotions?

When I sustained a traumatic brain injury and two subsequent concussions fourteen years ago, things were challenging for a while. In addition to seeking professional help, when I eventually sorted out precisely what I was experiencing, I could conceptualize what it was that I did not want.

This, though, is just a first step. Knowing what we don’t want for ourselves and our lives isn’t the solution. It’s merely the step that leads to the most important thing: finding ourselves.

How to Find Yourself

You know what you don’t want. Now it’s time to shift the focus. Who are you at your core? Developing this is what gives you the strength to transcend anything that come your way. Some questions for introspection include (but aren’t limited to):
• What are my values, the things and people most important to me?
• What are my passions, the things that make me excited right now?
• What is my sense of purpose, the “why” behind what I do?
• What type of person do I want to become?
• What are my goals?
• What are my unique strengths I can use in my life?

Rise above any challenge by shifting your focus. Discover yourself and who you are, and focus on taking steps to achieve your vision.

 

When you can develop a deep sense of yourself, you can begin to act and make choices accordingly. Rather than remaining stuck in mental health struggles or other problems, you can work to transcend challenges, which often means living well in spite of them.

Seeking and finding yourself is a powerful tool that lasts a lifetime, a quality lifetime.

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Want to Increase Wellbeing, Mental Health? Communicate!

Feb 27

Communication is vital to wellbeing, mental health, and creating a quality life. Learn why it's so important and how to communicate.

 

Communication is a vital part of wellbeing, mental health, and a quality life. The single word, though—communication—can be complex, difficult, and overwhelming. Communicating is deeper than talking. Communication is words, and it’s more than words, and it is vital for wellbeing and life satisfaction.

What Does Communication Have to Do with Mental Health and Wellbeing?

Talking is the act of verbally sharing information. Communication is the act of connecting, of sharing not just information but all aspects of being alive. We communicate hopes and dreams, successes and failures, triumphs and struggles, problems found and problems solved, and the gamut of human emotions. Communication is connection, with others and with ourselves, too. We communicate with ourselves with the words we tell ourselves, behaviors, and more. Same for others: the words we say, our body language, tone of voice, and things we do are all part of our communication.

This all-encompassing concept we call communication has everything to do with mental health, wellbeing, and our ability to create and maintain a quality life. When we can communicate with each other, and ourselves, fully and honestly, we:

  •  reduce stress and anxiety (no more guessing games or making assumptions about what someone meant)
  •  create stronger, more satisfying relationships because everyone feels heard
  •  solve problems more efficiently because everyone stays on the same page
  •  let others know our needs
  •  learn others’ needs so we can better respond
  •  discover how to compromise while remaining true to ourselves
  •  laugh together more often because we’re closer, more positive about each other
  •  grow confident in ourselves and in others

Communication is indeed fundamental to our wellbeing and our quality life, but it’s not always easy.

How to Maintain Communication and Connection When It’s Hard

Communication is vital to wellbeing, mental health, and creating a quality life. Read on to discover why it's so important and how to communicate.

 

As vital as it is to connect and communicate, it definitely isn’t always easy. If the topic is heavy, communication can be awkward and bumpy. Mental illness or mental health challenges that aren’t diagnosable as an illness can also interfere in healthy, relationship-building communication. A variety of mental illness symptoms, including (but not limited to) difficulty focusing and concentrating, emotional ups and downs, difficulty interpreting others’ nonverbal communication, racing, distracting thoughts, worry about what others are thinking, feeling, or doing, or dissociations.

When we’re facing any type of challenge, communication is perhaps even more important. When you keep it simple, it’s possible to communicate despite struggles.

  • develop an understanding in which each of you shares what’s important (“I can handle anything that comes our way with this [Isaac’s diagnosis of DID], but I cannot handle you withdrawing and shutting me out. That can’t happen.” — Reese explaining her needs to her husband during a conversation in Twenty-Four Shadows.)
  •  if someone begins to violate the understanding, simply and calmly remind him/her of the understanding
  •  set a timer, and when it sounds wind down the conversation, agreeing to pick it back up later — breaks are important when the topic is intense or one or both of you are facing difficulties
  •  walk and talk, or shoot hoops or toss a baseball — movement can loosen intense emotional reactions by releasing endorphins, decreasing cortisol, and other positive brain and body reactions
  •  know that communication isn’t just about talking — simply being together in silence for awhile, doing something relaxing and engaging like reading, can put everyone on the same level for even communication

 

And above all, the skeleton key to wellbeing, mental heath, and a quality life is to remember your ultimate goals and values. Why to you want to have great communication with others in your life? With your answer to that question as your guiding star, your communication — and your wellbeing — will shine.

 
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Want to Stop Avoiding? What Would That Mean to You?

Feb 23

Avoidance is a common human behavior that has good intentions but can spiral out of control until, before we realize it, we’re trapped, boxed in by anxiety and blocked from fully living (see What is Avoidance Doing to You?) Avoidance is fear- and anxiety-based. Whether we avoid one situation, such as making or taking phone calls, or almost every situation, such as anything that takes us out of the house, we are letting anxiety limit our lives.

Is “letting” the right word? Do we actively permit anxiety to cause avoidance? Of course we don’t actively invite anxiety and avoidance into our lives. The vast majority of people who are plagued by avoidance, including avoidance in its most extreme form—avoidant personality disorder—do not want to avoid and are not actively choosing it. The problem is this: avoidance, once started, quickly takes over thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It looks like this:

The cycle of anxiey, fear, and avoidance keeps people trapped.

At first, everything is pretty much even in the cycle of anxiety and avoidance, avoidance actually increases anxiety over time, which strengthens avoidance. The cycle begins to look like this:

In the cycle of anxiety, fear, and avoidance, anxiety and avoidance make each other stronger. There's a way to shrink them.

While initially, avoiding something that causes anxiety does reduce that anxiety. But the human mind doesn’t like to be confined, and we begin to think of freedom of action, freedom of being. That causes anxiety, which causes avoidance. Anxiety and avoidance feed on each other, and they grow bigger and more powerful. Strangely but surely, avoidance doesn’t reduce anxiety anymore. It makes it ever stronger.

As daunting as this cycle of avoidance and anxiety is, we can break it. The key lies within the cycle itself.

To break the cycle of anxiety and avoidance, fill your life with meaning and purpose.

How to Break The Cycle of Anxiety and Avoidance

Thoughts about the people and things that make us anxious do increase anxiety and avoidance. Those very thoughts, though, are the keys to breaking the cycle and reducing anxiety and fear. Use the keys to unlock your doors to freedom.

To turn the key, you must first insert it into the keyhole. At first, you’ll discover surface-level thoughts that are easily overrun by anxiety. Have you ever tried to turn a key and unlock a door when the key is only partially inserted? It doesn’t work. You have to insert it completely.

It’s the same with anxiety, anxious thoughts, and avoidance. Buried under all of the worries, uncertainties, what-ifs, and fears lie your hopes, dreams, wisdom, and more—the whole of you. The heart of all of it—the key, the hole, the stuff inside the hole, the stuff beyond the locked door, and you yourself—are meaning and purpose. 

When you identify and embrace your greater purpose, that which gives meaning to your life, you begin to break that cycle of anxiety and avoidance. The more you intentionally think about your purpose, the more your thoughts shift toward meaning. The more you focus on meaning, the less you are focusing on anxiety. Purpose and meaning are so much more powerful than anxiety, stress, depression, and any other problems and challenges we face. Honing our sense of purpose doesn’t directly “cure” anything, but it allows us to transcend our struggles and live well anyway.

Develop your purpose and meaning thoughtfully. Consider question such as:

  • What brings you joy?
  • What is important to you?
  • What actions make you feel good about yourself and the world?
  • What do you value?

These are just a few thoughts along the path of meaning-making. When we have a sense of greater purpose, it becomes possible (not necessarily easy, at least initially) to stop avoiding. Develop your reason, your purpose, your “why,” and the “how” will follow. (Check out Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: Why and How. It’s more about purpose than it is the holiday.)

My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel tells the story of Brian Cunningham, a man who has lived with debilitating anxiety and avoidant personality disorder and a sense of stranger danger for nearly all of his 37 years. It isn’t until he discovers meaning that he begins to, little by little, create freedom from his own prison.

Usually, I mow my small front lawn and trim the hedges on Monday mornings. The weekends are a bad time for me to do this because one, I’m typically camping, and two, there are more neighbors out and about on the weekends than on a Monday morning. I don’t know my neighbors. I’ve never had to talk to them. I certainly don’t want to change that now after seventeen years of planned isolation. However, I’m home this Sunday because of my failed camping trip. Further, I have a dreaded appointment with Dr. Greene tomorrow and thus will be unable to perform my Monday lawn maintenance. That’s how I came to be working in the front yard today when I saw Abigail Harris trudging down the sidewalk across the street.

My need to hide from people is so deeply ingrained that it has become instinctive. Automatically upon spotting her, I duck behind the cluster of large rhododendron bushes I’m pruning at the moment. I peer around the side of one of the bushes and see her shuffling slowly down the walk, head down. I wonder where those small pink and purple tennis shoes are taking her. I’ll learn the answer to that shortly because it is reprehensible for me to be cowering behind a bush while there is a tired-looking seven-year-old child walking slowly down a sidewalk all alone.

Crossing my fingers that nobody steps outside and approaches me to see what’s going on, I take a deep breath and dash out from behind the bush and run across the street. My intent is to get to Abigail immediately, before anything bad happens to her. 

 

Anxiety and avoidance become almost instinctive. Learn what makes it possible to change the instinct.

 

It’s true. The cycle of anxiety and avoidance becomes so strong that it’s automatic, almost instinctive. Your purpose and meaning, though, are strong enough to turn the key, break the cycle, and set yourself free. What brings you meaning? How will you develop it? What will it be like for you when anxiety and avoidance are history?

*************************************************************************

Tune in to the Wellbeing & Words YouTube channel to hear more about meaning and a different passage from My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel.


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What is the Purpose of Mental Health Hospitals?

Feb 2

Recently, I had the privilege of appearing on HealthyPlace’s Facebook Live show. Host Emily Roberts, aka Guidance Girl Em (amazing!) and I talked about anxiety. (If you missed it live, catch the recording.) During the live show, audience members asked questions, and some of the questions were about mental hospitals, including what they’re like and how to know when you need one.

Perhaps the topic of hospitals came up because I mentioned it. I shared that part of my own anxiety treatment was in a behavioral health hospital. It can be hard to ask questions or have any sort of open discussions about mental health hospitals because the idea is intimidating and anxiety-provoking. Also, there is little understanding about what these hospitals are really like (images from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest seem indelibly burned into our collective memory). The stigma surrounding them silences questions as does the possibility of receiving inaccurate information.

The best way around these obstacles is to have conversations, like the one we had during the Facebook Live show. Further, seeking information so you can make an informed decision for yourself or a loved one is beneficial, too. Mental Health America provides comprehensive information about psychiatric hospitalization. This brief list provides a basic overview of some aspects of mental health hospitalization:

  • The purpose is to help and heal, not to punish and confine.
  • Hospitals can help you figure out what you’re experiencing (diagnoses aren’t always easy and clear)
  • The environment is safe and muted, with less stress than outside of the hospital so you can focus on getting better
  • Hospitals provide structure and activities focused on helping you get better

Hospitals are designed to be places where people can development a realistic treatment plan and set of coping skills to use in everyday life outside the hospital. They’re not designed to be long-term facilities but rather pit stops along the road of your life.

Of course, like anything in life, not all hospitals are created equal. Some are magnificent, others aren’t. People are different, too, so even within the same hospital, people can have different experiences — some positive, some negative.

In general, mental health hospitals are positive places (even if you don’t want to be there) where people can receive the proper help in order to thrive in life outside the hospital.

Tune in to Wellbeing & Words on YouTube, where I talk about how you know if you need a mental health hospital and describe what they’re like inside.

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Use the DEAR Method to Make Time for Wellbeing

Jan 19

Learn the DEAR method, or Drop Everything And Rejuvinate, to make time for mental health, wellbeing, and stress relief every day.

 

Someone recently submitted a question for the Wellbeing & Words Q&A show that is quite likely something we all struggle with: how to make sure we take time for wellbeing during our busy days.

Is there something I can do to make sure I de-stress during the day? Every morning I have great intentions, but almost every night I realize that I didn’t take time for my wellbeing.

Happily, there is a way to make sure we take time to rejuvenate during even the busiest of days. I call it the DEAR method. Tune in to this episode of Wellbeing & Words to learn about Dropping Everything And Rejuvenating.

 

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How to Reduce Stress When Reducing Stress Causes Anxiety

Jan 17

Reducing stress is healthy, but not when reducing stress causes anxiety. Here's how you can fear stress relief yet do it anyway to enhance your wellbeing.

 

It’s perhaps surprising, but true: the idea of reducing stress can actually cause anxiety rather than alleviate it. We do have legitimate reasons for clinging to stress despite wanting relief from it. Sometimes the mere idea of relaxing causes anxiety because we’re afraid that our performance will decline or that seeking stress relief will cause us to be judged as weak. Stress can come to be a badge of honor, too. High degrees of stress can show the world, and ourselves, how much we are achieving or how much we care about loved ones, and more.

Yes, we have reasons for clinging to stress, and feeling anxious about reducing it is normal and legitimate. That doesn’t mean, however, that stress isn’t harming our mental- and physical health. This list is just a sampling of what stress does to us. Stress can cause:

  • • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • High blood pressure
    • Heart disease
    • Angina (chest pain)
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Headaches
    • Fatigue
    • Digestive problems
    • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia

Additionally, stress exacerbates almost all existing mental disorders and physical illnesses.

You know that stress is harmful and preventing you from fully living the quality life you want to live. You know that it’s compromising your mental health, physical health, relationships, and general enjoyment of life. Yet just thinking about reducing stress causes (or increases) anxiety and fear. How on Earth do you deal with this conundrum?

Fixing the Stress Conundrum

Getting out of this trap will likely take some effort, but it is absolutely possible to reduce your stress in spite of being afraid to do so. Not only that, in the process, you can even begin to perform better than ever—which in turn will reduce stress even more.

The process of moving past your anxiety and reducing stress can involve these steps:

1. List what stress reduction means to you, both positive and negative possible outcomes. What are your goals, and what are your fears and anxieties? Be specific, and list all that comes to mind. No holding back.

Positive Outcomes That Could Come When I Reduce Stress

Example: I’ll feel great and will be able to bike long distances again.

 

Negative Outcomes that Might Happen When I Reduce Stress

Example: I wouldn’t be able to ride anyway because I’d lose my job and wouldn’t be able to afford the bike and all other equipment.

 

2. Explore your anxieties and fears about reducing stress. If they happen, what will it mean for you (what is the worst that can happen)

My Worries About the Consequences of Reducing Stress

Example: I’ll lose my job and won’t be able to afford any of the fun things that I could do.

 

What This Means To Me/The Worst that Can Happen

Example: Everyone would know that I had failed and that I don’t even have enough money for a stupid bike. I couldn’t show my face around people that know me as successful. 

 

3. Meet your fears where they are. Assume they come true. How can you use the result to work toward the positive goals/outcomes you listed above? Use the negative as an opportunity to achieve the positive.

Because This Happened (or Might Happen)…

Example: I lost my job and people are judging me as a failure.

 

…I Can Now…

Example: …pursue a different job or even a new career, something that I like better and actually would be less stressful. I might feel good enough to enjoy my life, and I really don’t have to buy $2000 worth of equipment to do so. Life isn’t all or nothing. 

 

By doing these exercises, you come to meet your anxiety about stress reduction right where it is: in your way. This helps you accept different possible outcomes, and it can also help you see that some of your worst case scenarios aren’t likely to happen. Will you really lose your job because you’re making time for a nightly walk? Will that stress-reducing activity make you perform less well? Or will it possibly make you do your job even better? Either way, you can see that you can create positive outcomes. This knowledge alone is an excellent wellbeing enhancer.

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Do Simple Things to Boost Long-Term Wellbeing

Jan 13

Our wellbeing—physical, mental, and the rest of the package that embodies who we are at our very core—is a lifelong journey. We make changes and choices that gradually increase it, and we take action to maintain it. Wellbeing isn’t a one-time deal. There are no shortcuts to wellbeing, mental health, and physical health.

While there aren’t shortcuts and cheat codes, there are steps and techniques. You can do simple things throughout your day, every day, to increase your wellbeing. When you choose to do such things regularly, you’ll notice positive changes in your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Challenges like anxiety and depression will decrease, and your enjoyment of yourself and your life will increase.

Just because wellbeing has no quick-fix solutions doesn’t mean that it has to be arduous. Building wellbeing involves doing simple things regularly.
In the below video (from my Wellbeing & Words YouTube channel), I offer two such simple things. I invite you to tune in and give them a try.

Have a question or topic for Wellbeing & Words on YouTube? Have something else? Contact me!:

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