Lifestyle and Self-Care

Why You Need a Light Therapy Box

In the last post, we covered Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Here, I want to expand on that and other ways that light therapy can benefit you, no matter your mental condition. Whether you live somewhere that’s warm and sunny all year round or not, anyone can benefit tremendously from a light therapy box. images-5There is so much recent research behind them that prove it helps to combat depression, anxiety, seasonal affective disorder, stress, and more – while providing you with extra Vitamin D (which is always a plus).

What is a Light Therapy Box?

Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is the process of utilizing an artificial light/lamp that mimics the effects of natural sunlight and triggers chemicals in the brain related to mood and sleep. These can be purchased online through Amazon and other Note: this is NOT the same as using a tanning bed – the effects will not be the same and tanning can lead to other health issues such as skin cancer and bacterial infections. Plus, light therapy is used in your own home! According to Everyday Health, using light therapy can boost the effects of any current medications you may be taking, whether it is a Vitamin D supplement, Vitamin C, or antidepressants/anti-anxiety medications.

How Will a Light Therapy Box Benefit You?

More and more studies being done are finding that light therapy is effective in treating insomnia, ADHD, dementia, and even help to improve motor function to those with Parkinson’s disease. You do not have to be diagnosed with a mental or physical condition to benefit from this type of therapy. Anyone can purchase it, use it, and notice results right after the first use. It is a good ‘tool’ to have in your home for when you might be feeling down, stressed, sick, or ‘trapped in the house.’ Research has found that people with Bipolar Disorder may not benefit from this, depending on your symptoms, as the light can actually trigger manic episodes. If you are bipolar depressed, however, I think it would useful.

How Do You Use It?

To use a light therapy box, it is recommended that during your first at-home session you begin with 10 minutes. After a few sessions, you can increase the time. It is known that people have up to 2-hour sessions. However, you want to make sure that when you use it, it is helping you. Therefore you want to make sure you don’t use it so often that your body becomes accustomed to it. I recommend turning it on for 15 minutes first thing in the morning – while you are getting ready for work or just trying to wake up for the day. This way, you start of the day hopefully in a better mood and are fully awake and motivated. If you have insomnia or a hard time falling asleep, I would use it for another 15 minutes or so before bed too. images-4The great thing about a light therapy box is that it is compact, portable, and practical. They come in all different sizes, with the largest size no bigger than a regular lamp you would have in your home. Most are rectangular in size and include a stand to stay upright. Below are a few of my favorites on Amazon that are the best featured price. ‘HappyLight’ is a common and popular brand that is recommended by medical Doctor’s, including my own. As you can see, they are fairly inexpensive depending on the size you desire. Either way, the benefits outweigh any cost by far.

What are your experiences with light therapy? Do you have a light therapy box? Does it benefit you? What advice would you give someone to encourage them to get one themselves? Winter is quickly approaching here in the midwest – get yours today – try something new, especially if nothing else seems to be working to lift your spirits.


Pros and Cons of How Social Media Influences Mental Health

Just like a majority of people today, I also use social media daily and scroll through more often than I probably should. With growing technology we can order just about anything online and know what our friends/family/perfect strangers are doing at any given moment. As overwhelming and perhaps ‘scary’ as this sounds and has proven to be at times, there are also great benefits of social media such as connecting with people, finding employment, convenience of buying products, paying bills, and much more. What if we thought about the way we could utilize social media to improve mental health? On the other hand, there are harmful effects to our mental health by utilizing social media, of course. Today, we are going to discuss both sides. The key point here is that using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, (WordPress), and other social media platforms is beneficial – we just have to be mindful of how to use them properly so we don’t jeopardize our mental stability and peace of mind.

Let’s start with the cons of social media in relation to mental health:

  • Comparison – have you ever caught yourself scrolling through and staring at someone’s picture, wishing you had their body? How about seeing someone’s vacation pictures and getting upset because you know you don’t have the money to do the same thing? We are all guilty.
  • Negativity – all the time, we see negativity and horrific news on social media. If we subject ourselves to violence, death, crime, and overall negative news, it’s bound to take a toll on our health as well as how we might perceive the world in the long run.
  • False information – especially on Facebook (from my own experience) I see fake articles every day. We all have heard of ‘catfishing’ right? I’m sure a handful of you  have a personal story about this, since it is so common in today’s age to portray someone else’s image and lifestyle which is also dangerous for the person’s picture and personal information they are actually posting about. This can lead to trust issues and self-doubt when reading something online.
  • Cyberbullying – still a real thing. Every day a child, adolescent, or even adult is threatened over social media, falsely accused of something, or is being bullied. For obvious reasons that I don’t need to explain, this harms mental health drastically, even causing suicide rates to increase.

Let’s move on to the pros of using social media to benefit mental health:

  • Support systems – by using social media, you can connect with family and friends who live over a distance  and still include them in your life to utilize them as someone that can emotionally support you when you need it.
  • Making appointments – today it is easier than ever to make appointments to make sure you visit your primary care Doctor, Psychiatrist, or Counselor with ‘online portals’ where you can login to make your next appointment or even email your treatment team.
  • Connecting with communities – maybe the greatest benefit of social media for mental health is the fact that you can join groups on Facebook where there are members of people on that page only to do with that topic. For example, I am a part of several Mental Health Community Pages/groups on Facebook where people share their experiences and struggles. This helps bring awareness to mental health and reminds you that you are not alone!
  • Researching new ideas – Instagram is my favorite platform to scroll through when I am trying to discover new aspects of mental health. It is a great outlet for resources, quotes, and other people to follow who have similar interests.
  • Sparking creativity – if you are looking for some inspiration, scrolling through social media can definitely help! There are lots of good ideas to spin off of out there and if you are looking in the right places, you might find yourself becoming more creative in your own way.

So what do you do? How do we make social media useful for us and keep our minds healthy? First, stay away from negativity! Take the time to delete people on your social media pages who don’t serve you support, information, or positivity (my favorite thing to do is delete people who constantly post about politics). dd01d8b6528e39953b78e4360f0489f4.jpgIf you see an article or video that you  know is going to harm your mental health, don’t open it and don’t read it – simply keep scrolling. Next and most importantly, utilize social media as a platform of exploration instead of somewhere to get affirmation from others. All too often we post pictures just to get a reaction from our peers or for them to reassure us that we are pretty and have our life together. Moral of the story: share content for the right reasons – post pictures because  your family and friends haven’t seen you in a while, or because it’s a good platform to document memories that you can pull up and look at in the future. Use social media as a portal to discovery instead of a hole to dump opinions, fake news, and self-esteem into. It’s all about being more mindful and remembering the real reason we are using social media in the first place. What are your thoughts?


Top 5 Lifestyle Factors that Affect Mental Health

It’s time to address the 5 lifestyle factors that most commonly influence the status of your mental health. We’ve all heard about the importance of these before – but this time I thFBJ330TOhave included tips on how to balance these lifestyle factors as well as resources to follow for more information!

Diet

Just like what you eat effects your physical health, it effects your mental health equally! To help prevent symptoms of mental illness, ensuring you take care of your body by eating and drinking the right things can be the simplest and most effective option!

  • Foods that are rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids will improve your mood and are proven to lift symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you hate fish (like I do) supplements are a great way to make sure you get enough of theses fatty acids – avocadoes are great too!
  • Be sure not to skip breakfast and try to include lots of protein and nutrients into the first meal of the day to jump start your metabolism. For lunch, avoid foods that are high in sugar, sticking to a diet that is vegetable, fruit, and nut based.
  • 8 glasses of water each day is vital to preventing dehydration which causes cloudiness of the mind and mood changes.
  • Sarah Wilson, writer of “First, We Make the Beast Beautiful” and blogger/writer of “I Quit Sugar” advocates for substituting sugar for organic, non-processed foods. Benefits include increased energy, increased motivation, less snacking, more willpower, and reduced anxiety, and increased creativity!
  • Avoid coffee and other forms of caffeine in access – it is known to trigger panic attacks!

Social Activities

This is what being a Recreational Therapist is all about! Participating in activities that you enjoy and find meaningful is so important to improve your overall quality of life and satisfaction within it. If you find it hard to make time to do ‘fun’ things or don’t find yourself enjoying what you used to, remember:

  • Keep an open mind – try new activities, sports, hobbies, exercises, etc!
  • Contact the recreation center in your city to find out what programs they offer – often times they are free or at least offered at a discounted price for city members.
  • Join a new club – a book club, exercise club, gardening club, Mom’s club, Dad’s club, golf club, or whatever interests you! Clubs and organizations are a perfect way to meet new people and find people with similar interests.
  • Don’t force connections that aren’t there – if you are finding that a social group isn’t for you, there are many other ones! Don’t stop trying.
  • If social activities just really aren’t your thing (and you have given it an honest try), at minimum make sure you find a hobby or activity you can do independently that you find happiness in – reading, writing, blogging, designing, decorating, exercising, researching, etc. Note: Having both independent and social activities you enjoy is important!

Healthy Sleep

Lack of sleep largely influences mental health by increasing fatigue, lack of interest, headaches, mood shifts, and irritability. Most health professionals recommend 7-9 hours of sleep. To make sure you get enough sleep:

  • Go to bed at a consistent time every night – this helps to establish a routine.
  • Wake up at a consistent time! Even on your days off. This will boost productivity and of course helps you get into that routine. It might take a week or so to get used to, but after a couple weeks you will feel much more energized.
  • Set alarms – and don’t snooze them (the challenging part).
  • Don’t over sleep! Doing this will throw off your sleep pattern and cause you to feel more tired.
  • Avoid watching TV or scrolling through your phone in bed – this encourages your brain to ‘stay on’ and makes it more difficult to rest. Instead, get into the habit of showering, reading a book, meditating, journaling, or writing before bed. Not only with these activities help you sleep, but they also empty out any left over emotions from the day that might interfere with your sleep as well.

Relationships and Support Systems

Having a support system is one of the best ways to keep mental health in control! Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a counselor, a doctor, a co-worker, or anyone else – it’s important to have people established as reliable and compassionate in order to be able to turn to them when you are in need.

  • Have a balance of professional and non-professional supports.
  • Communicate your needs and wants appropriately and effectively.
  • Set boundaries and establish how often you want to be in contact.
  • Ask your supports how they are doing also – avoid only contacting them when you need something; this ensures that the relationship is healthy and strong on both ends.
  • Make plans to see one another ahead of time – this will also give you something to look forward to and will hold each of you accountable.

Resilience

Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from difficult or adverse situations. Being able to master resilience is key to having a healthy mental lifestyle. Ways to build up resilient techniques is to:

  • Encourage positivity
  • Learn from mistakes instead of dwelling on them
  • Practice self-care daily
  • Be vulnerable with your support system
  • Find the humor and light in every situation
  • Avoid taking things personally
  • Remember all of your past achievements and accomplishments.

 

Resources:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/healthy-diet-eating-mental-health-mind

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201410/9-lifestyle-factors-can-affect-your-mental

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/well/mind/how-to-boost-resilience-in-midlife.html


Vitamin D for Mental Health

We know that there are a lot of physical benefits of taking a vitamin D supplement and getting natural vitamin D from things the sun and milk, such as: controlling calcium levels, preventing osteoporosis, reducing type 1 diabetes, and preventing cancers.

But did you know how Vitamin D can boost your mental health? Every day I have been taking a vitamin D supplement since I have learned and researched more about this.

Vitamin D actually activates certain neurons in the brain that play a major role in behavioral regulation! Likewise, vitamin D is the only vitamin that is a hormone after being transported to the liver and kidneys! In one study of adults with deficiency of Vitamin D found that people who received high doses of the supplement noticed dramatic improvements in their mood that lessened their depressive symptoms.

Benefits of Vitamin D on mental health are:

  • Increases serotonin levelsa2ca1c9329af5ccd15aef23fec996aaf-vitamin-d-deficiency-healthy-tips-1-300x279
  • Prevents symptoms of seasonal affective disorder
  • Reduces depression and anxiety
  • Reduces the chance of comorbidity of mental illnesses
  • Ensures you get enough of the vitamin in the winter time when the sun isn’t as prevalent.

There has been a lot of recent research about this topic – Another study found that rats born with insufficient Vitamin D levels had severe brain abnormalities! Pretty interesting (and scary) stuff. Next time you are at your local pharmacy or grocery store, think about picking up a vitamin D supplement and keep track of your mood for yourself! I would love to hear about how it may have helped you. Happy Labor Day, everyone!


KETO Coffee Mental Health Benefits

Hey everyone! We’ve all heard of the super “trendy” keto diet, right? Well if interested, my friend Ashley is looking for models to try KETO coffee! If you need help getting rid of fat, gaining energy, clearing your mind, reducing bloating, and shaking cravings…this is the product for you!

This KETO coffee comes in convenient on-the-go packets, so all you have to do if either mix it with hot or cold water (your preference) and drink!

Benefits of KETO coffee in summary are:

  • Boosts energy levels
  • Burns more fatIMG_0078
  • Increases ketone production
  • Satisfies hunger cravings
  • and tastes amazing!

For more facts about keto coffee in general, visit healthline.com.

If you are interested in trying this product and/or being a “model” for Ashley, comment below! I am in the process of buying my first bag…join the process with me!

*Not only is this product great for physical health, but it also covers mental health. If you are a coffee-lover like me, start something new today!


On Water and Mental Health…

Do you think you drink enough water each day? Most days I know that I don’t, but it’s something I have been consciously trying to get better at. I wanted to do some research specifically  mental health and staying hydrated, so I read an article titled: Water – a Necessity in Maintaining Mental Health to get a better understanding. After reading this, I WILL make sure I drink the recommended 8, 8oz glasses of water each day!

What I learned in summary is:

  • Dehydration impairs both mood and concentration – even causing headaches.
  • Fluid loss is detrimental to memory and plays a key role in anxiety and fatigue.
  • Our brains are composed of 70% water – which is why our mental health needs it so much.
  • Lack of enough water intake leads to depressive symptoms including apathy, sleep disturbances, and moodiness/irritability.
  • Drinking enough water clears your skin/prevents acne.

Know what to look out for! Start guzzling down some H2O when you experience:

  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Weak muscles
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes/nose
  • Dry mouth
  • Fogginess

**It seems like a simple task – just drink water! But we all know the struggle. Try keeping aTeal-Hidrate-Spark-Integrations_1200x water bottle with you at all times and refill it as often as you can to get in those 8 glasses a day. If you really want to get committed to drinking water and see the improvement in your body and health, try my favorite water bottle, Hydrate Spark! Its a smart-water bottle that lights up when you should drink it. I love to keep it right next to my computer when I’m working where I can see it. It even comes with an app for your phone that keeps track of how much water you drink each day so you don’t have to do it yourself! Check it out here! 


Hello Fresh: A Review

Hello Fresh = a food delivery service that mails healthy, ready-to-cook meals right to your door each week.HelloFresh_2


Making time to eat healthy is a struggle. After spending hours at the grocery store trying to find the right foods (and spending a lot of money), I figured I would give one of the ‘food boxes’ a try. You know, the ones you always see the commercials for or get ‘junk mail’ from. Eating the right foods is super important for both our mental and physical health, so you have to choose what strategy is going to work best for you.

For me, these services are great because I live in a major city where the closest grocery store is 35 minutes away. By taking advantage of these food delivery services, I get healthy foods mailed right to my door. There are several different plans you can subscribe for. I have the 2-person x4 meals/week, meaning each week I get 4 meals that can feed 2 people. You can choose from a vegetarian menu, vegan menu, or include meats if you choose. You even get to choose the specific meals you want shipped to you. What I like about it the most, is that you can skip weeks if you get ‘backed up’ with too many meals.

I decided to go with Hello Fresh, but there are a ton of reputable food delivery companies including:

I have been getting Hello Fresh delivered for about 3 months now and we love it! It fits into our busy schedules and makes cooking fun. It takes away the countless hours spent in the grocery store to find the right products, and it also makes sure that I am eating the right foods. 90% of the meals are less than 1,000 calories and I would say the average meal is right around 750 calories. how-it-works_1

Give it a try for yourself at https://www.hellofresh.com!

TIP: If you think the prices seem a little steep (like I thought at first), think about how much your average grocery bill costs. For me, in a 2-person home, my average grocery trip was around $120 every week and a half or so, when buying expensive healthy options. With Hello Fresh, we spend 80$ a week for healthy options that are conveniently delivered to us without having to drive out of the city and hauling them up the elevator to our apartment. So I encourage you to weigh your options when it comes to deciding 🙂


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!

Benefits include:

  • 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 –

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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!


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!selfhelp-Do-I-have-seasonal-affective-disorder-3.png

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.

Self-Help Books 

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 (:

Positive Affirmations 

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.seasonal-affective-disorder1 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: Man covered in yellow notes

  • 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

JournalSpring2015_AddressingSecondaryTraumaandCompassionFatigue_Figure1If 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 3b96f4210b280563d2e68555ad3bd835these 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.

  1. All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes (by Andy Puddicombe)
  2. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (by Angela Lee Duckworth)
  3. Before I Die I Want to… (by Candy Chang)
  4. Try Something New for 30 Days (by Matt Cutts)
  5. The Voices in My Head (by Eleanor Longden)
  6. A Tale of Mental Illness – From the Inside (by Elyn Saks)
  7. Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid (by Guy Winch)
  8. The Bridge Between Suicide and Life (by  Kevin Briggs)
  9. Towards a New Understanding of Mental Illness (by Thomas Insel)
  10. How to End Stress, Unhappiness, and Anxiety to Live in a Beautiful State (by Preetha Ji).
  11. Happiness is All in Your Mind (by Gen Kelsang Nyema)
  12. The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong (by Amy Morin)
  13. Change Your Mindset, Change the Game (by Dr. Alia Crum)
  14. Getting Stuck in the Negatives (by Alison Ledgerwood)
  15. How to be Happy Every Day – It Will Change the World (by Jacqueline Way)
  16.  The Surprising Science of Happiness (by Dan Gilbert)
  17. 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.


Benefits include: 

  • 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

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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!

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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.

tumblr_mauzexNlQG1qafzjaYou 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)

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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.

TEmotional Support ANIMALIP: 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.

1529455466406Within 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! Fotolia_190979181_Subscription_Monthly_M-1080x675

Benefits include:

  • 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 –

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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 perpetual-declutteringless 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):Declutter-Challenge


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?CVkmXoaWEAAQ21D

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:

160118-brain loveDear Amber,

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


Understanding Our “Rights”

c16eeb5665db8455898772b4772f7e7bI 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.


Self-Care Magazines

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 35515156_1877959669162367_3541569838314946560_nloss, 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: HappyDussehra

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 medicationto-work-on-yourself-is-the-best-thing-you-can-18591017
  • Bad eating
  • Little sleep
  • Weight

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

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demonsinsidemyhead.com.au is another great blog/website that I really love. Lots of great resources on anxiety, depression, and positivity. Check it out!