A Personal Experience With Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Hello everyone! Long time, no post. I haven’t been feeling myself the past couple weeks, however I’m back and feeling better with a few tricks I have come across that I want to share. First, I want to start by saying I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is defined as “depression associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by a lack of light.” I also believe mine is caused by somewhat dreading the holiday season at times, and also feeling cold meaning I have to be confined inside during unpredictable Michigan weather. Therefore, I found it necessary to take a week or so to myself without any posts or much interaction on the internet in general. However, I am back and feeling more optimistic after relaxing, doing some self-care, and researching mindfulness. For this post, I want to talk about what worked for me and other things I have been researching that I feel are going to help me make this winter season better than last!
I let myself feel down/upset for a solid week. I could tell I was hurting the relationships in my life. Honestly, being upset and sad is just easier at times. I wasn’t the most pleasant to go out to eat with or come home to. I didn’t have much interest in talking on the phone with my family or even blogging, which I love. After some time, I started realizing the damage I was doing not only to myself, but to the people I care most about. At some point, I think we all open our eyes and say to ourselves “I don’t want to feel like this anymore…I don’t want to spend my life being sad.” Easier said than done though, right? Right. And that’s OK. As long as we keep trying to put in the effort.
I know, I know…it sounds cheesy and desperate at times. I wouldn’t say I’m the kind of person who typically enjoys reading for fun or uses it as a coping skill. After I stumbled upon ‘First We Make The Beast Beautiful; by Sarah Wilson, I was hooked (book review still to come!) I learned so much insight about myself and the anxious feelings I was having – and still have. I realized that reading kept my thoughts busy, and I also learned new tips and tricks along the way. So, self-help books it is. Since reading that, I have read ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig (another book review yet to come) which I loved. Currently, I am about halfway through ‘Present Over Perfect’ by Shauna Niequist which is a little more religious in nature than I anticipated, however it talks a great deal about faith and trust in general. I got all of these books on Amazon. The past couple of weeks I have set aside at least 30 minutes a day to read – whether is be on my lunch break or before bed. My favorite is to read after cleaning the living space and lighting a candle (:
OK, also perhaps desperate. But also efficient. This morning, for example, I headed into work and was feeling less than motivated for the day. Pinterest is an awesome website to use for just about anything as far as inspiration, DIY ideas, or networking goes. So, when I got to work I quickly typed in “motivation for the morning” and hundreds of motivational quotes and tips popped up that I found super useful. It was a simple idea and worked wonders. Currently I am feeling much better, and even talked myself up to write this post, after not posting in over a week (which I have been feeling very guilty about.) A few days ago I also wrote down several positive affirmation quotes after typing into Pinterest “affirmations for anxiety and overthinking” so I can refer to this notebook when I am having another not-so-good day. I also have a sticker on my mirror that I purchased from Free and Above’s website that says ‘Better days are to come’ and I remind myself that they will come, as long as I make the effort.
Starting the Morning Positively
Very recently I have started being more mindful of this and how I wake up in the morning. I have been trying to snooze my alarm less often (this is still very much a work in progress.) My goal is by the beginning of next week, Monday, I can wake up to my first alarm without snoozing it! Wish me luck. I have also started trying to say positive things in the morning to the people in my house, wishing them a good day and not complaining about anything that early in the morning. I’ve realized that by starting my day positively, I have felt much less anxious throughout the day and it puts me in a good mindset. My suggestion for you is to say “stop” out loud to any negative thoughts in the morning, replacing them with something you are grateful for or looking forward to in the day.
These 3 simple tricks have done wonders for me lately and have not taken up too much time. It’s all a matter of finding the motivation within yourself to change your mood around. Yes, I said feeling sad is easier. But with practice, patience, and mindfulness, it will eventually be easier and feel easier to be happy! It takes 21 days to make something a habit. Practice mindfulness for at least 30 minutes a day and remember to do at least one (1) thing for yourself each day.
What I am still researching and looking into for the winter season is a weighted blanket and a therapy light box. Do any of you have either of these? What is your experience? Do you find them beneficial to your mental health? Thanks for reading and staying loyal to this blog, even when I feel less than up to writing sometimes myself. I am feeling much better and look forward to continuing this journey. I hope you find the motivation to do the same.
How to Prevent ‘Work Stress’ and Burnout
Are you the kind of person who finds it hard to separate ‘work’ from ‘home’? People often ask me how I keep my own mental health in check after working a long day at a mental health hospital. Everyone has bad days, including me and your therapist. So if you work in the mental health field – how do you ‘keep it together’ and get the job done? For me, it’s keeping my passion in mind, which is mental health and helping people who are suffering. By being vulnerable and reminding patients that you are human too, it allows you to build a better rapport with them as well! So if I’m having a rough day and it’s hard to fake it, I often tell them just that! Of course I don’t go into details and I keep it professional, but all you have to do is remind them that everyone has gloomy days – and be a role model for them! Push through and tell them exactly how you are going to do overcome your day.
Work stress occurs in almost every job – not just mental health of course! All too often it’s easy to take stress from work home with us, hurting relationships and bringing negativity into your home. It’s important for all of us to remember and be mindful of keeping work at work and enjoy home life when you leave. Easier said than done though, right? Some ways to practice being more mindful of this include:
- When you have a day or a weekend off, use the time to do things you enjoy – or just veg out!
- Get enough sleep at night to ensure you have enough energy going into the next work day.
- Keep a good social support system – if you have a stressful day at work, talk about it appropriately with people you love at home – do not just angrily dump your feelings like you’re yelling at them.
- Take enough time off and use vacation days wisely – get a massage, go to the spa, go to the beach or near water, go to your cottage or cabin, go fishing, ride your bike, etc.
- Keep a positive attitude! – show gratitude that you have a job and no matter how stressful it is, remind yourself that you are appreciative.
- Process your emotions more effectively by journaling or writing them down – this will keep your thoughts from boiling over and prevent lashing out at a boss at work or partner/children at home.
- Learn that saying “no” to some things at work is OK and that you won’t be looked down upon for saying when you can’t handle everything thrown at you.
Compassion Fatigue = Compassion fatigue is perhaps the most general term and describes “the overall experience of emotional and physical fatigue that social service professionals experience due to chronic use of empathy when treating patients who are suffering in some way”
– resource: Social Work Career Magazine
If you work in a health career, or any other career that is dependent on listening to others’ feelings/needs/concerns, it’s especially important to make time to practice self-care to prevent compassion fatigue (above). I definitely have days where I experience this. I come home from work some days and am exhausted, reflecting back on the horrific experience a patient told me he or she had been through or that they are feeling like they want to hurt themselves. Of course I am compassionate toward their feelings and listen, however it is normal for it to be emotionally and physically draining to listen to day in and day out. That’s why it’s so important to follow the tips above to avoid complete burnout at your job. The one’s I am going to be more mindful about are journaling to fully process my day and keeping a positive attitude to avoid burnout! Which ones do you think will work best for you? Happy Monday everyone, and I hope you all have a productive and positive work week, no matter what profession you are in
Top 17 TED Talks on Mental Health
In no particular order, these are some of my favorite TED talks that cover a variety of different topics under the umbrella of mental health. A great self-care top is to find role-models or people who inspire you to become better. Even if they’re strangers! Some of these videos dive into happiness, some hallucinations, some bipolar disorder, some depression, and some on suicide. What ALL of these have in common though is the motivation to think more positively and create a ‘spark’ to have a better mindset and make some changes upstairs. Powerful words and inspiration can go a long way! When I listen to TED talks, my favorite thing to do is take notes – literally with a pen and paper. Write down things you really liked that the speaker said that stuck with you so you can refer back to it as a sort of positive affirmation! There are many more TED talks where this list came from, so make sure you do more exploring on their website if you find that you enjoy these.
- All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes (by Andy Puddicombe)
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (by Angela Lee Duckworth)
- Before I Die I Want to… (by Candy Chang)
- Try Something New for 30 Days (by Matt Cutts)
- The Voices in My Head (by Eleanor Longden)
- A Tale of Mental Illness – From the Inside (by Elyn Saks)
- Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid (by Guy Winch)
- The Bridge Between Suicide and Life (by Kevin Briggs)
- Towards a New Understanding of Mental Illness (by Thomas Insel)
- How to End Stress, Unhappiness, and Anxiety to Live in a Beautiful State (by Preetha Ji).
- Happiness is All in Your Mind (by Gen Kelsang Nyema)
- The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong (by Amy Morin)
- Change Your Mindset, Change the Game (by Dr. Alia Crum)
- Getting Stuck in the Negatives (by Alison Ledgerwood)
- How to be Happy Every Day – It Will Change the World (by Jacqueline Way)
- The Surprising Science of Happiness (by Dan Gilbert)
- My Philosophy for a Happy Life (by Sam Berns)
Why We All Need a Staycation
Hello everyone! I apologize for disappearing for a few days. I went on a much needed vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for about a week and then celebrated my birthday! Yes, going away for a sunny vacation was nice…but here I want to talk about staycations and how it’s important to make time for them at least once every 3 months.
Staycation (noun): a vacation spent around one’s home or to local events/attractions.
- Saving money
- Connecting to the community
- Reduced travel time
- No stress of planning a vacation
- Don’t need anyone to pet-sit for you
- Never too far from home
- There will be something for everyone, including kids
- You get to sleep in your own bed and shower in your own shower (my personal favorite perk)
- Discover all the “speak easy” spots in your town
- Minimal concern about language barriers
Just because ‘money is tight’ or ‘I can’t get time off work’ doesn’t mean we can’t make some room for a local trip…even just to the couch to relax for a full day without distraction/responsibility. A staycation can be staying inside your home or only venturing to the backyard, or it could be going to the local parks, going to new restaurants/stores, and doing some sight-seeing. Staycations can be for 24 hours or weeks! It is up to you. Be mindful of what your body and mind need when deciding. Just know that there is no pressure of planning an expensive trip to the Carribean when there is overlooked beauty and relaxation right around your hometown! Save some money and save yourself some stress of planning. Enjoy!
For more information on staycations, check out: How to Plan a Successful Staycation
TIP: To get all the information about travel spots in your hometown, Google your city’s parks and recreation phone number! Give them a call and they can fill you in on all of the adventures right in your area.
Quiz: Which Area of Self-Care Are You Lacking In?
Everyone’s taken those personality quizzes on Facebook or Pinterest, right? They tell you which flavor pizza you are, what your spirit animal is, or what celebrity you are destined to marry (something bizarre and most likely, irrelevant). Sure, they’re fun and interesting, (I do those quizzes all the time, too) but it would be much more interesting to gain some information we can actually use in day-to-day life.
You get the point. I found a really interesting quiz online that gives you some insight into what are of self-care you might be struggling with, by simply answering a handful of questions about your daily routine and interests. When I took the quiz, it told me I should try indulging in soothing baths more often to relax and take my mind off things. I just might try it! I’ve never been much of a bath person, but lighting some candles, turning on music, and having a glass of wine doesn’t sound too bad!
Take the quiz at: Which Self-Care Ritual Should You Be Doing Right Now?
Comment below with what answer you got and if you DO or DON’T want to try incorporating the activity into your life more often! After all, some things aren’t for everyone.
How an Emotional Support Animal Could Benefit You
It’s scientifically proven that pets and other animals can make us feel better. For example, our levels of *oxytocin increase when we interact with animals!
*Oxytocin: known as the “love hormone” helps us with social bonding and puts our bodies in a state of readiness to heal.
Additionally, interacting with cats, dogs, horses, guinea pigs, hamsters, and other pets help to reduce blood pressure, and one study even found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t. Pretty amazing! (Read more at Pet Therapy: How Animals and Humans Heal Each Other)
About a year ago, I registered my kitten, Pumpkin (right) as an *Emotional Support Animal (ESA) to help with my own anxiety. The benefits include:
- being able to take him on public transportation
- being able to have him in a “no pet policy” residential setting (my current apartment – FOR FREE!)
- fly with him on an airplane
- and more!
I strongly encourage registering your pet as an ESA. And if you don’t already have a pet and suffer from a mental condition, I strongly recommend getting an animal (only if you can take care of it, of course) because the benefits are extraordinary.
For more information on how to register a pet as an emotional support animal, visit emotionalpetsupport.com or google other websites on where to register. There are about a handful of websites to choose from. Some require a registration fee, others do not.
TIP: If you see your primary care Doctor for psychiatric needs, or if you have a psychiatrist, ask them about writing you an emotional support animal recommendation. This is how I registered Pumpkin. It was easy, and it avoided having to pay a fee.
Let me know if you have any questions or want more information! Animals are such loving and amazing creatures ♥
Is There Such Thing as TOO MUCH Self-Care?
Okay, so I have a dilemma. Obviously I am an advocate for self-care, making time to be with yourself, and connecting to the true things you enjoy in life…however, I have realized lately that I feel myself “buying into” too much self-care, and losing the real reason why I wanted to do it in the first place. Let me explain.
Within the past month or so, I have spent so much money on self-help books, prevention magazines, bath bombs, beauty products, fragrances, puzzles, planners, organizers, coloring books and – you name it; all to help make myself feel better. I have to admit, it is working – I feel organized, ‘clean’ and overall less anxious lately. But when is enough, enough? When do I just have to let go and do only a couple self-care things at a time, instead of trying to do everything? I have to be more conscious and make sure I am doing it because I enjoy it. I want to be passionate about a few hobbies I can put my 100% effort into rather than half-assing everything all at once. I have been keeping myself so busy between working in the mental health field, researching about mental health, doing mental health self-care on my own, and blogging about mental health, that I am realizing I may burn out fast. Do one or two different things in completion each day, rather than doing everything everyday and trying to cram it all in.
Moral of the story, here’s a tip to you if you find yourself in this irony: Self-care isn’t effective if you are doing it because you think you are supposed to…self-care only works when you are choosing to do it because you enjoy the activity and feel more connected with yourself. So if you are beginning a journey into a mental cleanse or becoming more grounded to yourself, remember to take it one step at a time, and not to induce anxiety upon yourself with feeling you have to buy into all the self-care products out there. <3
Intermittent Fasting Facts
Today I start my new diet, the 16:8 intermittent fasting routine – fast for 16 hours straight, and have an ‘open window’ to eat for the last 8 hours. You can start at any time of the day, really, just as long as you are mindful of what works best for you and your body!
I am starting at 8:00pm and fasting until 12:00pm the next day. This way, I am sleeping for most of it! And, I have never been much of a breakfast person anyways. I have researched a lot about intermittent fasting the past week or so leading up to this and would like to share for anyone else perhaps interested in trying this! I will be making another post about it next week to let you all know how it is going, including symptoms I experienced and my overall review!
- faster cellular repair, removing wastes from the body
- increased fat burning
- insulin levels lower (lowering risk of type 2 diabetes)
- targets belly fat
- increases metabolic rate by 3-14%
- reduce stress
- reduce bloating
- increased energy
- research behind preventing Alzheimer’s disease
For the full article by healthline.com, click: 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
This is the exact routing/cycle that I follow, if you are more of a visual person –
PSA/TIP: I still drink coffee in the morning right around 7:30am. I have eliminated using sugar and creamer, so now I put a pinch of cinnamon grounds in my black coffee! Not only is it much healthier, it also tastes amazing!
Decluttering (verb): to remove unnecessary items from an overcrowded space.
I’ve always been a firm believer in the importance of decluttering life from time to time. I would say AT LEAST once a month I choose one of my days off to get rid of clothes I don’t wear, throw away a ton of junk mail, donate books I’m finished with, and deep clean my whole place. Yes, it’s a ton of work…but the benefits psychologically are unreal. Personally, I always feel like a weight is lifted off of me. I feel lighter, I can sleep better, and I’m more focused on what I really need in life, not the things I keep just because I don’t want to let go of it (even though I know I will never use it). For example, just a couple minutes ago I took off at least 4 keys and old gym membership tags from my car-key ring. Not only is it physically lighter to carry, but it looks neater and makes me feel less cluttered…like I only have the things I really need which is a hard experience to explain. So try it for yourself!
Check out this article that explains the science behind the benefits of decluttering: 6 Benefits of Decluttering Your Life, According to Science from bustle.com.
Another tip: If you’re getting rid of clothes, furniture, or other gently used items, I suggest trying to sell them online. Great websites include Facebook market, Poshmark, Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, and others. This way, you’re decluttering AND making money. Or donate to charity (: <3
One last thing: Since I posted a 30 Day Mental Health Challenge in my earlier post, I will leave a graphic below of a 30 Day Declutter Challenge if you want an extra challenge! It’s great to do a little bit each day, rather than taking one whole day each month to cleanse (guilty!) Decluttering goes hand-in-hand with mental health, so they will compliment one another beautifully. Happy almost-August! (Ignore the advertisements on the pic):
New Mail – Letter From An Imaginary Friend!
Imagine getting mail from your childhood (or current if you have one – no judgment) imaginary friend. What would it say? Would it be kind? blunt? honest? rude?…or would it make its only priority to uplift you, no matter what?
Here’s a new exercise for us to try:
- Write a letter to yourself from an imaginary friend. This imaginary friend provides you with unconditional love and is understanding. It knows you and all your history, and it knows your mistakes and accomplishments. Most importantly, it knows you are human and gives you the best advice to constantly build you up and help you grow.
- Now…write about yourself from the perspective of this figurative friend (PSA: we should all strive to be this friend). Let your mind flow with kindness/compassion for yourself. Acknowledge and validate all your feelings (like a friend should) and reply with a solution/healthier way of feeling and coping.
Lets make it a priority to talk to ourselves more gently 🙂
Here’s my example:
I can tell you have been trying really hard lately to focus on yourself and be more mindful and conscious of your thoughts. I know it’s frustrating to you because you wish everyone else could see all the effort it takes sometimes, to battle with yourself. But I am proud of you and want you to know that I see it! I am proud of you for helping other people every day, and helping yourself along the way. Keep spreading positivity, because the world needs more of that! You have been working so hard to be a recreation therapist at 3 hospitals and have been juggling a ton! That must take a lot of energy…remember to make time for yourself! I am glad you have started reading and writing more. Do more of that!
Talk soon when you need another pep talk! – Imaginary Friend <3
- Check out the article titled – This 10-minute Exercise is Scientifically Proven to Make You Feel Better About Yourself – to learn more about this self-loving idea!
Understanding Our “Rights”
I think this graphic is really important and powerful in terms of describing how we are “allowed” to feel without having to feel guilty. I used to struggle with this a lot, and this is a good reminder for me.
#1 for me is knowing I have the right to say no and not feel guilty. I always feel like I have to say “yes” to people or else they’ll get mad at me…which isn’t the case!
Which one’s stick out to you the most?
It’s also important to remind ourselves that other people have rights too, like the right to make mistakes, just like we do.
Yesterday I picked up a copy of the Essential Guide to Self Care by Prevention Magazine. Prevention.com is a really great resource to learn about all things health, beauty, weight loss, and mental health care. I really like this website because it talks about BOTH physical AND mental health! Which are both equally as important to maintain.
There are a ton of self-help/self-care magazines and books out there. I am currently waiting on my order of First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety to come in the mail! Order here from the link above at Amazon to read with me! I will post a review once I read it, which I’m sure I will complete in a day, knowing how excited I am to read it!
Crisis Hotlines and Resources – help is everywhere!
The two numbers I always use as a Recreational Therapist to give to my patients at work are:
- Crisis Hotline: 800.273.TALK (National Suicide Prevention Hotline)
- Crisis Textline 741-741
Both of these are really great resources to utilize if you or someone you know need a listening ear. These could save a life! Plug them into your phone and save them, that way you always have them handy. It’s always important to prepare for a crisis situation.
Other useful crisis phone numbers are:
- (800) 799.SAFE (Domestic Violence Hotline)
- (800) 622-2255 (National Counsel on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence)
- (800) 422-4453 (Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline)
- (800) 931-2237 (Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention)
- (800) 230-PLAN (Planned Parenthood Hotline)
- (800) 656-HOPE (Rape, Sexual Assault, and Incest National Network – RAINN)
- (800) 262-2463 (National Helpline for Substance Abuse)
Useful crisis websites include:
I hope you find this helpful! Again, I strongly encourage writing these numbers or storing them in your phone in an emergency situation. I even created an image for you all to save with the numbers on it (right)!!! When you or someone you know are feeling hopeless/helpless, the last thing you are going to be compelled to do it go online and do the research yourself. So do yourself a favor and save these for when you or a loved one needs it. The reality is, we all need help from time to time, we just need the courage to ask for it and the strength to accept it. Once we do that, there are hundreds of people and resources established specifically to do just that – HELP!
How Music Actually Lifts Your Mood and Motivation
Hey everyone! I just wanted to post a link to a cool article called The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation that describes the science behind how much better we feel (or worse) from listening to certain songs/genres. Check it out!
Cleaning Out the Closet – habit tracking
Since today ends another work week, I think it’s important to take this weekend to set priorities for ourselves…
I am going to relax and reflect on how I want to improve my state of mind and be more in control of how I respond to certain things. Monday is always a great day to start a new routine.
Recently, I started using a habit tracker , which allows you to write in the left column any habits you want keep track of or be more aware of, while in the top row has the numbers 1-31 to represent each day of the month. This way, all you have to do is write a “X” in the box corresponding to the day you noticed that habit was hard to break.
For me, I have a column for:
- High Anxiety
- Panic Attack
- Missed medication
- Bad eating
- Little sleep
This can be something you use to take to your Doctor’s appointments to show them how your habits may be affecting your health and may even make it easier to come up with the appropriate solution. For me, I’ve noticed that the more anxious I am with little sleep, the more weight I gain, (along with the bad eating category of course). Try this for yourself! You may be shocked, like I was, at how much influence your “bad habits” have on one another.
Definition of Mental Illness
demonsinsidemyhead.com.au is another great blog/website that I really love. Lots of great resources on anxiety, depression, and positivity. Check it out!