Some People Just Don’t Understand (Your Mental Health Struggles)

man sitting with knees up resting closed hands on forehead

They Don’t Understand

Have you every had a conversation with someone who doesn’t even begin to understand mental health issues? I was recently talking with a close relative about a mutual relative who suffers from depression periodically. She says that there are only 3 things to consider: “We either live in the past, the present or the future. When we focus on anything other than the present, it can cause anxiety or depression and one just has to stay in the present and they’ll be fine.” Sounds simple, right?

While there is some validity to that point, but she just doesn’t understand that mental health struggles are not simply a will of the mind. Often times, there are physical or emotional issues causing them. A hormone imbalance, chemical imbalance or a history of trauma. Her statement basically dismissed the reality of the struggle. Ugh. She is not someone who is open to understanding things she doesn’t know about, so I chose not to engage further in the conversation. For my own mental health!

With that being said, I am happy for her that she has never had to deal with the heavy weight of either depression or anxiety. In the past couple of years, talking with others who haven’t suffered, I have found that many of them just don’t understand. I don’t blame them, as it is something that is hard to fully comprehend or let alone truly explain to others.

What To Do? Where To Turn?

Don’t get angry with those who don’t “get” what you are going through. In the same way you may not “get” the struggles of someone going through cancer treatments or diabetic issues, others may not understand your trials.
Because of the disconnect at times, I think it is important that those of us who deal with depression or anxiety find someone who can relate or at the very least, empathize. There is nothing more difficult than to be dealing with a mental health issue and feel like no one understands or cares about what you are going through. What can you do?

  • Find a therapist to talk to.
  • Friends or family who are sympathetic.
  • Seek out websites, blogs, social media. There is a huge community of those dealing with mental health challenges and it is amazing the support you can find there.

The bottom line is we ALL have stuff we are going through. Most of us have no idea what the other person is dealing with. Find support where you can and choose to be kind to one another.

Words Matter…So What Are You Saying?

Words Have Power written on chalkboard

Today I have been inspired by a sermon I just heard about WORDS.  Words can either give life or give death.  (Reference: Proverbs 18:21). The words we say can either uplift someone or tear them down. They can either lift us up or tear us down.

Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”?  We all know that is so untrue. Sometimes words slung at us in meanness, anger,  jealousy or judgement can be very painful. I imagine most of us can remember something negative someone said to us in our past. Whether it’s our recent past or our childhood, we can still recall it today. It hurt. It stuck with us for days, months, years, decades.  On the flip side of that, if we are repeatedly spoken to with positive, uplifting words, that sticks with us as well. But I have heard it takes 5 to 10 positive words to counteract the impact of one negative word or statement. For some reason our brains hold on to the negative much longer.  Negativity can come in the form of gossip, criticism, judgement or pure anger. Read my post of Putting Up Emotional Fences to help block out some of the negativity.

So, what are we to do?  How can we use our words to make the lives of others better? Find positive attributes to make comments on whenever possible. Encourage others to be their best, to go after their dreams, to discover who they are. Be the light in a dark world. It is amazing to think what an impact we can have on others.

In the book, The 5 Love Languagesby Gary Chapman, he explores what different ways people in general receive love. One of the ways is Words of Affirmation.  I would venture to say that most of us appreciate a true heart-felt, thank you, a compliment, a way-to-go or other encouraging words.  I challenge myself and those of you reading this to find ways in your own life to use words of affirmation with the people in your life. From experience, I know that some may be resistant to hearing these words if they are not something they are used to hearing or used to you saying to them. Stay the course. Use this time to be an encourager of others.

Conversely, if someone has said negative things to you in the past or even currently, be willing to forgive and realize they are dealing with their own things, perhaps a lack of their own self-worth. You have heard the phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people.” That doesn’t mean everyone who is hurt, will hurt someone else. But most people who do hurt others, were hurt themselves. Perhaps you can speak words of affirmation into their life, if that is possible. Even more importantly, if you don’t currently have someone in your life who is speaking life-giving words to you, speak them to yourself. Change the negative tape that plays over and over in your head. Start receiving affirming words from yourself.  If you are open to reading the bible, I encourage you to seek out what God says about you and your identity.  Just a heads up…He thinks you are pretty awesome and He loves you!

Final thought, start speaking words of affirmation to those around you today, including yourself!  You are amazing and have only just begun to be your best self!

Mind Games: Anxiety and Panic Attacks…How to Deal With Them

Mind Games

As some of you may know, I have suffered from anxiety attacks. I also have family members that suffer with them. Let me tell you, they suck. Anxiety and Panic in general is no fun.  It is nothing but a thief. It steals joy and peace and no one should have to deal with them.

But the reality is that many of us do. They manifest themselves differently for most of us. And we all have individual things that trigger them. For some, the attacks are mild  for some extremely debilitating. They have your mind (and body) feeling things that make you think you are dying or are going crazy. They can be all consuming. Even after one is over, the fear of when the next one will come is always looming.

 

Hope

There is hope, however. There are numerous ways to help prevent, tame or stop them. Various things we can do to help. Some may work for me and not for you. And vice versa. Unfortunately there is not a one-stop shop fix-it remedy. How I wish there were!  We literally have to try a variety of methods or treatments to find what works best for each of us. It is a journey, but hold on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

How to Deal with Them

I don’t know all the stats for anxiety levels today as compared to say, just 25 years ago. But from what I can tell just in my own little neck of the woods, I know numerous people who deal with anxiety and many who also suffer from attacks. Think about it. While we have everything at our fingertips with all this amazing technology and convenience, we have become screen addicts, socially isolated, less active and more worried. The state of the world is reported instantaneously. The media thrives on chaos and we are witnesses to it daily.  The stresses of jobs, families, bills, health, school, social life…all of it can wear us down.

If you are someone who struggles with anxiety/panic I encourage you to think about yourself as a whole. Not just as your thoughts. But your physical body, you mind and your soul. We are humans and need to learn to take care of ALL parts of ourselves. Some of us just focus on one aspect. I am guilty of that myself.

What if we could really develop a plan to take care of our whole-selves what would that look like? Let’s start with The Body.  Are you someone who spends a lot of time and thought caring for your body? Do you eat healthy, exercise, see your doctor regularly? Or do you eat whatever you can get your hands on and sit in a chair the majority of the day? (I am guilty!)  If so, that needs to change.

I have learned over the last few years how the foods we eat and the exercises we do can have a huge impact on our mental wellness.

A few foods I know for sure are to be avoided for anxiety are:

  • Caffeine (opt for decaf instead)
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Foods High in Sugar
  • Sodas (reg or diet)
  • Energy Drinks
  • Alcohol

A few foods to help relieve anxiety (and depression) are :

  • Foods high in Omega-3 (salmon, spinach, canola oil) You can also take a Omega-3 supplement.
  • Almonds, Walnuts
  • Eggs ( also high in Vitamin D)
  • Dark Chocolate (for the anti-oxidants)
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Green Tea (preferably decaf)
  • Yogurt (probiotics)
  • Fresh fruits and veggies (almost all of them provide benefits for various vitamins that counter act anxiety and depression)

While these lists are not exhaustive, it is a starting point.  Anything with high sugar, artificial sweeteners or caffeine are definitely things to avoid to help keep your anxiety at a minimum.

As far as exercise, any physical activity that gets the blood pumping releases serotonin and dopamine in our brains and that can help to regulate moods.  YOGA is a well known stress relieving exercise that incorporates mind and body. It can help to ease your stress and help you to feel better all over. It includes helping you focus on the present and to be mindful of your physical body.

 

The Mind

We touched on the mind a bit while mentioning yoga, so let’s go there.  You may think, What can I do about my mind? I can’t control it?  While we can’t always control where our mind may drift to, we can redirect it and we can do our best to avoid filling it with garbage. Sometimes all the garbage we see and hear that has filled up our memory banks can trigger our minds to literally play tricks on us. Causing us to become anxious, when our rational self knows there is no actual threat. Our fight or flight response going into affect at the wrong time is basically what anxiety or panic attacks are.

While we can’t always avoid negative things from happening to us, we do have control (for the most part) over what we allow into your minds, via our eyes or ears.  Remember this phrase, Guard Your Mind. This is a mantra of mine. I have to repeat it to myself sometimes. We often think very nonchalantly about the things we watch on TV, see online, read on social media, listen to or watch on YouTube.

I imagine we all have varying degrees of what we would consider good or bad for our minds but think about the things you have seen or read lately. Distressing news reports about a kidnapping, hearing about a murder or a car crash. Seeing a click bait ad on Facebook about some horrible event. While we can’t simply ignore all the atrocities going on in the world, we shouldn’t be fueling our mind with those over and over again. Sometimes we actually do need to take a break from it all. Simply for our own mental well-being.  That is part of self-care.

So what do we do as part of the self-care for our mind? Feed your mind with positive things. Uplifting or funny videos, music, movies, books, blogs, etc.  Look to various places to seek out the good in the world.  Surround yourself with people who are uplifting. Avoid (if possible) people who are negative, pessimistic or who simply complain all the time. And don’t be a complainer your self. Practice positive self-talk. Chose to see the good in even the most challenging situations.

Don’t forget seeking help from medical professionals, family doctor, therapist, counselors, etc.  Maybe medication will help, maybe therapy or both. They often times can be utilized together for a great treatment option. This is all part of caring for your mind. I know often times we can be afraid of seeking medical/therapy treatments, not knowing what to expect or worrying about the stigma that it sometimes holds. But be brave and do what is best for you and your well being.

 

The Soul

I often wonder if this isn’t the most important part of the equation.  Our soul is truly the essence of who we are.  This entails our emotions, our connections with others and with God.  We can feed our soul by doing things that are enjoyable and calming to us.

  • Spend time talking with a friend and sharing. Open up your heart.
  • Pray. Connect or Reconnect with God. I don’t know what that will look like for you. Perhaps it means being in nature. Seeing a sunset and actually stopping to enjoy it’s beauty.
  • Grow a garden and enjoy the wonder of nurturing growing plants.
  • Going to church. Read your bible.
  • Find a charity in the community where you can help out. Giving to others is an amazing way to not only help people but it has a huge impact on your own sense of well-being.
  • Find ways to be a blessing to others. Seek out things you can actively do to make someone’s day better. Whoever that might be…a family member, a friend, a stranger.
  • Give yourself permission to be you. Act silly, sing off tune at the top of your lungs, have a dance party in your living room (alone or with a friend), try out a new recipe.
  • If you feel adventurous, travel to a new place. Doesn’t’ have to be far from home, but somewhere you haven’t been before and take it all in. Really be in the moment and look around.
  • Find 5 things each day to be thankful for. Keep a list daily and reread before bed.
  • Be kind to you. Forgive yourself when you mess up or don’t live up to your own expectations.

There will be days that are great. There will be days that are awful. When things aren’t going well emotionally remind yourself that you have gotten through this before and you will again. Make a promise to yourself that you will care for yourself as a whole. Body, Mind and Soul.

I pray for peace for you today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behavior Modification: How to Change Your Behavior to Accomplish Your Goals

 

 

With the New Year upon us, we often look forward to the things we want to do or accomplish. We may set up lofty goals for the year. Be it lose weight, get in shape, save money, spend more time with family or friends or find ways to get the self-care we so desperately need.  Whatever it may be the one thing that is needed for all of these things to be enacted is behavior modification.

If we want anything new to happen in our lives we often have to change our behavior. If we want to lose weight we need to modify the types and quantity of foods we eat. If we want to save money we need to modify our spending habits. If we want to spend time with family or friends we need to modify our time management. You get the idea.

In theory we know what we need to do but often times we struggle to do so. We may be gung-ho for a couple of weeks with our plan, but after a while we start to slip back into our old habits. Experts say it takes a minimum of 21 to a maximum of 66 days to form a new habit and for it become automatic. So for those few weeks or so, we really have to make an effort in order to create this new positive habit in our lives.

If we can just look at it as simply something we have to do for just  21 to 66 days,  perhaps it wouldn’t be such a struggle.  Most of us can manage to do something for 3 or 4 weeks, right? Once it becomes a habit, we no longer have to think about it and it is much easier.

So, I challenge you and myself to begin today.

  • Figure out the things you want to change, improve, incorporate or kick this new year.
  • Write them down.
  • Share them with a friend and make yourself accountable to someone else.
  • Pin your list in a place where you will see it daily to help keep yourself motivated.
  • Determine what behavior you need to modify to achieve your goal.
  • Visualize the end result of this new habit. (Ex. Picture that extra cash in your bank account. Or the scale reading 15lbs less.)
  • Recommit to it daily.
  • Pray for strength to stick with it.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip back into old habits. Dust yourself off and begin again.

For some of us, starting small maybe the way to go. For others, go big or go home. You know yourself better than anyone. Set yourself up for success and surround yourself with those who support you in your efforts.

You got this!