Week of 9/23/18: Prioritizing
This week on the “word of the week” page, I would like us all to focus on how to really win at prioritizing your life. When life is busy, it’s easy to lose track of what’s important to us and we tend to make less time for ourselves. Each person’s priorities and values in life are different – right? Try this: below is a list of 10 common (general) items that people are asked to choose from. Rank them 1-10! Write it down or at least remember your top 3. (1=most important 10 = not much of a priority)
______ Making time for my friends
______ Making a comfortable living
______ Having a education
______Making time for my family
______Taking care of my physical health/exercising/getting enough sleep
______ Traveling to new destinations
______Owning my own property
______ My safety and security
______ Chasing after my dream job
______Raising my own family
What are your top 3 priorities that you ranked? Comment below with what you picked and why!
Moral of the story is: All of the priorities listed above are important and there is not a right answer as to the way that you weigh them in your life. The importance of identifying which ones are most valuable to you is so that you can get a better understanding of what kind of goals you can set for yourself and what you truly want to obtain in life to be happy. In fact, the ones listed above are things that everyone should be entitled to, no matter the situation or path to obtain them. However, no matter what your #1 priority is, your mental health should be one bullet point above that on the list of priorities. Don’t agree with me?
Let me ask you, if your mental health isn’t “in-check” or you are feeling unstable, can you:
- Succeed in school or comfortable get your dream job?
- Raise a healthy family?
- Feel safe in your own mind?
- Happily spend times with friends or family?
Trick question: The answer is NO! I’m going to come out and say that it is impossible to take care of your physical health, let alone other aspects of life, if your mental health is deteriorating. Depression makes it difficult to get out of bed each day and you lose interest in things you used to enjoy. Anxiety causes you to constantly live in the future, overthinking all of the ‘what-if’s’. Bipolar disorder makes you on edge about what mood you are going to be in next, worrying about irrational decisions you might make. Schizophrenia makes you see, hear, and feel things or people that aren’t even there. Bulimia makes it hard to even eat anything to get enough energy to hangout with friends/family. Body distortion disorder makes it impossible to feel good enough to be seen in front of others….
With all of this going on, don’t you think it’s important to make your mental health the top priority now? Without it, we would not be able to be successful in other important aspects of life.
The first steps to prioritizing your mental health are:
- Accepting and understanding that you need to tend to your mental health more often and educating yourself of the benefits.
- Identifying activities/hobbies that you find meaningful and uplifting.
- Contacting a support system that will help you through your journey to restore your mental health and peace of mind.
- Making appointments to meet with professionals, if needed (I do encourage it).
Prioritize your mental health before anything else and the rest of the priorities on your list will naturally fall into place. -ap
It’s OK not to be OK! As long as you accept it and are willing to act on it with some self-care. What are you going to do today to put your mental health above all else?
Week of 9/16/18: Left Brain vs. Right Brain
Okay yes, this is more of a ‘psychology term’ than a ‘word’ – but I find it very interesting and think it’s important to understand the difference between the two hemispheres of the brain and what they are used to do! Knowing the difference can help you better understand how to keep your brain sharp and keep a balance between the two.
Right brain vs. Left Brain = “the theory of the functions and structure of the mind suggests that the two different sides of the brain control two different “modes” of thinking. It also suggests that each of us prefer one mode over another.”
According to EEG studies, it has been found that the greatest philosophers, thinkers, inventors, and artists have a good ‘brain balance’ of the two hemispheres. Ecoinsitute.org suggests that meditation is the best way to connect the balance and open up the full potential of your mind. Meditation forces your brain to use both sides, enhancing the flow of them together in unison – what scientists call “brain synchronization”.
In general, the left side of the brain plays the role of thinking:
- and in a time oriented manner
- It is said that left brain thinkers tend to learn in a more linear, symbolic, and reality based way.
On the other hand, the right side of the brain plays the role of thinking:
- and in a big-picture manner
- It is said that right brain thinkers tend to learn in a more holistic, random, and fantasy oriented way.
Besides meditation, other good ways to keep your brain sharp include online brain games like Lumosity and other phone apps that aid in developing a stronger memory and overall mind. A couple of my favorite apps are: Elevate, Lumosity, Brainwell, Brain Teasers, and PictoWord – search them in your app store! Other options are to read for 45 minutes daily, practice something creative like coloring/drawing, engage in trivia, picking up a new hobby, etc!
Imagine if you only operated with one side of your brain… you would be either too serious or too eccentric. You would only be able to learn new things in one set way instead of being flexible and open to new experiences. What side of the brain would you say you operate most with? I would say I lead with the left side of my brain more, however I have been working hard to find a balance between the two by journaling more, blogging, painting, and working on projects around the house in order to be more creative and just have more fun in general! For extra insight into what side of the brain might be most dominant to you, take the quiz: Left Brain/Right Brain Test which includes 12 questions to determine your ‘brain personality!’ What did you get? Comment below!
Week of 9/9/18: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
DBT (or Dialectical Behavior Therapy) was created in the late 1980’s as a psychotherapy mostly to treat borderline personality disorder. Today, it’s used largely to help people with a variety of mental conditions to cope with their feelings and develop life skills/strategies to make living meaningful. I teach DBT every so often in groups to expose patients to the concept and hopefully look for it in outpatient treatment after discharge! DBT is well-known for using acronyms as a reminder to practice the skills that it teaches.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy = “cognitive behavioral treatment developed to emphasize individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include skills for mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.”
Stages of Treatment in DBT
The goal is for you to reach stage 4 by the end of DBT treatment. Most people start at stage 1 and work up the ladder.
Stage 1: behaviors are out of control and feelings are hopeless/helpless. You bay be experiencing suicidal thoughts or abusing drugs heavily.
Stage 2: feelings of desperation are common. Behaviors are under control, but depressive thoughts are still there – often due to trauma or invalidation in the past.
Stage 3: learn to live by defining life goals, building self-respect, and find happiness. This is the challenge.
Stage 4: find deeper meaning with a more ‘spiritual’ connection to existence. (NOTE: This does not have to be religious.) Finding joy and freedom in the things you enjoy to connect you to a purpose.
The Four Modules of Skills Training
DBT is centered around these four categories of skills – focuses on using unique activities, worksheets, and discussions to dive deeper into conquering these skills.
- Mindfulness – being fully aware and present in the current moment.
- Distress tolerance – how to tolerate pain in difficult situations rather than try to change it.
- Interpersonal effectiveness – how to make your needs clear and not feel guilty while maintaining healthy relationships and self-respect.
- Emotion regulation – how to change and control emotions that you want to.
Apps to Help Aid DBT Practice
Search these apps in the app store to have practice tips and reminders right on your phone!
- DBT DiaryCard and Skills Coach
- DBT Trivia and Quiz
There are several quality workbooks to practice DBT on your own. I recommend this if you want to get your ‘feet wet’ with it before attending groups or classes if that makes you nervous. Here are some of my favorite workbooks! Note that there are DBT books that are specific to what you are struggling with, such as eating disorder, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, depression, etc.
Week of 8/27/18: Isolation
Welcome everyone and happy Monday! This weeks word of the week is ‘isolation’ – a term I’m sure everyone is familiar with or even struggles with. I want to touch on some pros and cons of isolation, as well as ways to prevent dangerous outcomes of isolating yourself. Remember, there is a difference between ‘alone time’ and ‘isolation.’
Isolation: in terms of mental health, isolation is defined as – creating a gap between an unpleasant condition and other thoughts/feelings by minimizing socialization and meaningful connection with others.
According to psychalive.org, Being Alone: The Pros and Cons of Time Alone – the population is almost exactly split in half by those who prefer alone time and are introverts and by those who prefer to spend a majority of their time with others socializing, labeled extroverts. I want to emphasize that there is a difference between ‘alone time’ and isolation. Isolation begins when you notice yourself going days at a time without interacting with someone along with the lack of desire to do so in the first place. Isolation is one of the key symptoms of depression. If you or someone you know is spending a majority of the day in bed or alone, you could be depressed. On the other hand, we ALL need quality of alone time every once in a while. The important thing to do is be mindful of how much alone time we take and be aware of the things we do in our alone time. Another surprising statistic is from goodtherapy.org that reports 47% of Americans do NOT have a meaningful social interaction on a daily basis. Thats a huge number! We feel much better about ourselves and social image when we are able to communicate well with others and talk about common interests.
Benefits of alone time include:
- Recharging your brain
- Processing a difficult or unpleasant situation
- Boosts productivity and creativity
- Helps strengthen relationships by improving self-worth and also following by the good ole’ saying – “absence makes the heart grow fonder” which always proves to be true.
- Using the time to engage in self-care.
Cons of alone time are noted to be:
- Makes us vulnerable to ‘the voice inside our head’ – can cause us to overthink and self-criticize.
- Can lead to loneliness – (loneliness increases mortality by up to 30%!)
- Can hurt relationships and create a disconnect.
- Unproductive use of time.
All in all, it’s important to dedicate at least 10 hours a week for ‘alone time’, whether that be taking 1.5 hours each afternoon, 5 hours each day on the weekend, or choosing one day during the week to just ‘veg-out’. Personally, I prefer dedicating about an hour and 30 minutes each afternoon to blog, read a book, or catch up on my favorite TV show. Find routine that works for you! Prevent isolating by engaging in an activity that you enjoy or simply by calling/texting a friend to interact with.
Stay tuned tomorrow for information on a new coffee/energy product that helps to boost mental energy and stabilize mood under ‘Lifestyle and Nutrition’!
Week of 8/20/18: Catastrophizing
You know, it’s the feeling you get when one bad thing happens and you work yourself up, remembering every other little thing that is going ‘wrong’ in life. One small (overcome-able) issue is now a whole snowball of emotions to no point of return and the world IS ending and your life IS NOT going anywhere and you might as well pack up a box and live under a bridge…
You know, that feeling.
BUT WAIT! Life is not ending and the problem really isn’t that big…it just feels this way.
Catastrophizing (verb): believing that something is far worse than it actually is and magnifying situations into something bigger than they are.
We all know this feeling. How do we overcome it or stop the downward spiral of overthinking? This is a form of cognitive distortion that is difficult to stop once it starts. So lets prevent it!
- Understand and accept that you are going to experience unpleasant thoughts from time to time – especially with a mental illness.
- Set aside a few positive affirmations or mantras that you like and work for you ahead of time so you can refer to them when you need them.
- Verbally say “STOP” out loud to yourself. It might take a few repetitions of this simple, yet powerful word. By saying STOP, your brain is interrupted by this and temporarily replaces the unpleasant thought.
- Think about a more positive outcome – how you can grow from it or what good could come from the situation.
- Realize and accept that the thoughts are, in fact, irrational and far-fetched.
- Practice self-care daily and indulge in activities that you enjoy – distraction is powerful!
TIP: A really great way to stop catastrophizing when it might be too late (when you’ve already started the downward spiral) is to journal! Write it out without thinking about what you are writing. DO NOT stop to read it back until you are completely finished. Get all of the thoughts out on paper. It also helps you realize that the thoughts really are irrational and pretty ridiculous.
Hope this helps! Stay tuned next Monday for another Word of the Week, and remember to try to prevent catastrophizing. Prevention is key!
“Worrying is the greatest misuse of the imagination.”
Hey everyone! Welcome to the new page! Every Monday I am going to post a new word of the week related to mental health, outlining what it means and how to cope with it if you or someone you know may be experiencing it. Feel free to comment suggestions!