Short talk about self-care, something that seems easy, but it’s actually kind of difficult to do. I feel this topic is covered so much, but yet, we all still struggle with it. I can’t think of a single person, myself included, who could be practicing self-care more frequently or in a way that’s more beneficial.
May is Mental Health Awareness month. What are you doing this month (and everyday because we have mental health everyday) to make sure that we are growing our knowledge and awareness of mental health? How are you supporting yourself? How are you supporting others? Please, share with me down in the comments what you’re doing for mental wellness. [I could use some fresh ideas.]
Mental health professionals cannot end the stigma alone and get everyone the help that they need, we need you to be a part of this mission.
Do you prioritize your mental health? If your mental health isn’t one of the areas that comes to mind, consider moving it to one of your top priorities, elevate it. Here’s the short answer of why it’s important. When we work on our mental health, we improve all of the other areas of our lives. When we emotionally and mentally operate effectively and efficiently, other well-being pieces fall into place. Some pieces that are positively impacted are, sleep, problem solving capability, relationships, and productivity increases. All a ripple-effect benefit of elevating mental wellness. The benefits are truly endless.
Here are a few ideas of how you can focus on your mental health
What to intentionally focus on
Spend a few minutes a day addressing your mind. What areas need the most attention? Is it sleep? Anxiety? When was the last time that you did self-care? Focus on the area that needs it the most, not to feel overwhelmed, because there could be several areas that you feel could use love. Once there’s a rythm or a habit created for that particular area, move onto another area. Be gracious to yourself through the process of addressing the area, it might take some time and it’s hard work.
How to make it happen
Here are two ways to help you with planning that focus time
The first, is scheduling half an hour to an hour per day. The second, is sprinkling in the work throughout the day. The option of scheduling it in works well for people who like having structure or who are likely to procrastinate. Write it in your planner, including the time you will work on it and set an intention of what you’re going to specifically work on. – An attainable short-term goal. When the time comes, aim to do it for half an hour to an hour. Afterwards, notice or be mindful of the benefits of your achievement. Do what is helpful to you. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, reflect back to your past to see if maybe you did something helpful then, that you can apply to now.
What it could look like
This could look like journaling about your day or a problem that you have. Taking a long bath, free of distractions, and reflecting on the highlights of your day. When you wake up in the morning, thinking about something that you’re looking forward to in the near future. Participating in relaxing yoga before bed. Having a mindful meal.
The second way, sprinkling it in throughout the day, looks a little different and is go-with-the-flow. This strategy might work for someone who has a busy schedule or would like to see it organically integrated throughout their day.
What it could look like
This could look like doing a three minute breathing or mindfulness exercise while doing a simple tasks, such as household cleaning. Working on a gratitude list, jotting down what you’re grateful for as they come to you throughout the day. Stretch and do mindful movement when you’ve been sitting for too long. – When at a desk-job, get up from your chair once every 45-90 minutes for 5-10 minutes.
Doing mental wellness activities will be wonderful. Try both planning strategies, or other ways that you can think of, to see what fits best.
Elevate your mental health to reap all the great benefits. Start by identifying what needs the most attention and then figure out how to make it happen. Is it better for you if you schedule it or if you sprinkle it in throughout the day? Once you have a basic plan, just do it. There are multiple strategies and ways to improve your mental wellness. Do the ones that work for you consistently. Lastly, fully enjoy the benefits and continue the good work.
Think of something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. Travel? Opening a business? Contacting someone you haven’t talked to in a long time or ever? Dumping an unhealthy habit that you have been clinging to? It can be anything. It is probably overwhelming to think about and you might be afraid of the process. I’m talking about really stepping outside of your comfort zone and tearing down the protective barriers. Think about how freeing accomplishing that dream could feel… YOU DID IT! Think about all of the possible benefits of that accomplishment, like further opportunities, boost in self-esteem, feelings of gratitude and happiness, and reconnection.
Fear and Anxiety Holds Us Back
Being honest with yourself, what has kept you from doing that? If it is anxiety, you’re not alone. The feelings of fear and anxiety are there to protect us on a primitive level. These emotions help us to survive and make better choices. If we didn’t have these feelings, what would be stopping us from doing something dangerous? These are normal, healthy emotions and we can’t make them go away. We don’t want them to go away.
Our thoughts that hold us back can seem to come out of nowhere at times. Thoughts are naturally occurring and will come and go. Know that thoughts are thoughts and not reality. Just because we think something, doesn’t make it true. Identify the thoughts that hold you back, reframe them to better use, and learn how to better manage your anxiety. Even though we can manage anxiety, we can’t get rid of it, but we can keep it at bay.
What was that dream accomplishment that you thought of earlier? How can you make it work? What small steps can you take to get the ball rolling?
My Real-Life Example
Here is a simple example of a long-term goal of mine and thoughts that I struggle with. This is in regards to participating in the BADWATER 135 ultramarathon (I am a seasoned ultrarunner). This is a goal that has been several years in the making and there are a few more years to come in this journey before I stand at the start line. Many doubts have popped up in my mind over the years. Doubts that I’m not good enough, and doubts that details would never come together to make this dream a reality. Anxiety comes and goes. I experience anxiety over what people might say or think if I ever bring up wanting to run The World’s Toughest Footrace, so I rarely talk about it. Anxiety over becoming injured and never being able to run ever again. These thoughts have been bothersome, coming and going, since I got started. I want this goal bad enough, and I’m going to give my best effort, so the thoughts aren’t going to keep me from doing what I am passionate about.
Reframe Fearful and Anxious Thoughts
The unhelpful thoughts are identified, now let me show you how to reframe this fearful way of thinking. The doubt that “I’m not good enough” can be reframed to, “I am hardworking and have been thoughtfully and skillfully working towards this goal for years. I have grown so much, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I’ve come so far, I’m not going to give up now.” And “things won’t ever come together for me,” to “continue to be patient, every year you are steps closer to this goal, and you are diligent in catching all of the preparation details.” As for the anxiety, “I can’t ever tell anyone without being judged,” to “who cares what people have to say about it, this is something that I love.” For anxiety over injury, “I’m worried that I’m going to get injured in a freak accident on the trail while training,” to “I’m a careful and skilled runner. I rest my body and care for it enough, so that I can do what I do. My running coach is also mindful when it comes to injury prevention.” That is how to reframe, think realistically.
More Anxiety Management
There are multiple ways to manage anxiety. Self-care should be the top priority because it is the base from which we build upon. This includes proper diet, exercise, and sleep. Use the reframing skill from above. Learn Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy coping strategies. Talk with a licensed professional counselor to have support in sorting out the details and find what works for you. Practice yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Practice these things consistently overtime to create helpful habits. The process isn’t always easy, there are challenging times, stick with it, and give yourself grace. It is a true learning process. I have been using these strategies consistently for years and they work. As you do the strategies, you will find favorites and learn when to use which strategy, as one will be more helpful than another in any given scenario.
When Your Dream Becomes a Reality
When the time comes to tackle that dream, reflect on your journey. How does it feel to be where you are, today? What is the biggest thing that you learned in those smaller steps? How can you apply what you have learned in the future? Continue the helpful habits that you have established or are continuing to work on. Honestly, the work never ends, and having a healthy mind is a ton of work, but we absolutely need to nourish it.
When that dream becomes reality, be connected and in the moment with it. Take it in. What does it feel like physically, emotionally, and spiritually? What is the greatest part of the experience? How proud do you feel? What have you learned? When it’s all over, would you do it again? It is important that we acknowledge the benefits of the hard work and perseverance. There is a mountain of experience to take away from accomplishing a dream.
I hope that you found this article insightful and are perhaps examining anxious thoughts that are keeping you from achieving your dreams. Incorporate the strategies that I have discussed into your day-to-day life and notice the benefits. Keep striving towards accomplishing your dreams, soaking in that journey.
Many of us may feel constantly confronted with self-care messages. However, maintaining your health can be challenging when you’re balancing a busy schedule. We live in a culture that puts a lot of pressure on us to be our best selves, so it’s no surprise that many people feel overwhelmed as a result and give up altogether.
In this article, we’ll discuss some simple tips on living a balanced life, taking care of ourselves, and looking and feeling fantastic from head-to-toe. Our physical health is just as important as our mental well-being — which professional telemental health counselor Shannon Mick can attest to — but neither works efficiently without the other.
The Connection Between Food and Health
If you feel like you’re always tired, trying to catch up, and can’t seem to get a handle on your mood, your nutrition is a great place to start. It’s easy to pick up fast food when you’re pressed for time. However, this type of food can have a negative effect on your mental health. In fact, when comparing “traditional” Japanese and Mediterranean-style diets (high in seafood, vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed grains) to Western diets (high in processed foods and refined sugar), the result was a 20–35% higher risk of depression in those who observed the latter.
If we don’t feel happy on the inside, we can’t enjoy what we look like on the outside. In the same vein, taking care of our mental fitness is essential if we want to lead fulfilling lives. Nutrient-dense foods are more than building blocks for a beautiful physique — they are critical for our state of mind. Proper nourishment and healthy eating habits can improve your energy, boost your mood, build self-esteem, reduce symptoms of depression, and enhance cognitive function.
Self-Care Varies For Different People
We can’t be great spouses, friends, employees, or parents if we don’t look after ourselves with care. Know that maintaining strong mental health can look different for different people. Additionally, different varieties of stress require different forms of relief. Many extroverts gravitate towards social functions as a means to release stress, while introverts turn inwards and recharge through solitary activities.
But the fact is, many people’s personalities lie somewhere in the middle, and they may enjoy different things on different days. This means that great ways to relieve stress really do vary and may include playing sports or games with friends, teletherapy or counseling with Shannon, going for a walk with a partner, or reading a book (to name just a few). Whatever your needs may be, it’s critical to listen and honor what your body and mind require at any given time.
Feel Great, Look Great
You don’t have to sacrifice style for comfort — there are ways to look great without feeling constricted. Clothes influence how we feel. We all have special outfits we wear when we’re feeling confident, so why not endeavor to feel like that every day?
There are plenty of ways to incorporate comfortable clothing into your daily wardrobe. If you enjoy lounging at home, it’s a great idea to invest in nice lounge pants that let you work out, walk the dog, and run after your kids while still feeling both comfortable and chic. Throwing on a blazer can be a great way to spruce up this loungewear look. Alternatively, treat yourself to a modest purchase like trendy glasses to elevate an outfit.
The Bottom Line
Physical and mental health are hot topics these days. Everyone’s got something to say, which can be overwhelming. However, at the most fundamental level, you simply can’t go wrong with a proper diet and mental health maintenance. Caring for your body with healthy foods and therapeutic discourse will ultimately make for a strong mind, stunning physique, and a better headspace for enjoying life. Get in touch with Shannon for a free initial consultation.
These 12 tips are specific to living through a pandemic (COVID-19) where there are multiple tragic events and crisis occurring at once on a worldwide scale.
A brief overview of the destruction that COVID-19 has caused
• People are ill and dying from a virus.
• People are socially isolated from family and friends.
• People are restricted in where they can go and what they can do.
• People have lost jobs and are financially unstable.
– Connected to all of this is the person’s identity because people identify themselves through going out and participating.
• Political issues, finger pointing and name calling are a big part of this pandemic.
• People wear face masks to reduce spread of the virus, but the mask also hides smiles.
• Anxiety, depression and suicide is on the rise.
• People are silently hurting.
The benefits of these tips are (but not limited to)
• Increased happiness
• Connection to others
• Raising awareness
• Fostering positivity
• Finding value and meaning in life
• Learning coping strategies
• Finding help
Keep in mind that this article isn’t telling you to ignore, dismiss, or minimize what’s going on around us. It is important to sit with the difficult emotions and thoughts, to process, and personally grow from what’s occurring in our lives. We can’t run, there needs to be a resolution to do something about it, but there needs to be a balance and healthy approach.
Let’s cover the tips on getting through
1) Limit your time on social media and watching the news. Be informed and have proper understanding about what’s going on around the world, but don’t allow the information to overwhelm and carry you away. The information on social media and the news shouldn’t occupy a good portion of your day.
2) Mute or unfollow people on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram if they are posting unhelpful information on the pandemic or are posting frequently on the pandemic. Always check the resource of what they post to make sure it is true and accurate. There is a lot of information being shared that is inaccurate or highly one-sided. Be your own researcher, fact-checker, and it is beneficial to try to see from both sides of an issue. Widening perspective allows us to have a more open mind and gives us a little more breathing room.
3) Use social media and technology to your advantage. Since we have to limit being around others or can’t be around people at all, use social media to connect and to lift up others. Post something kind or funny. Post a beautiful picture. Have an engaging conversation, but leave out the pandemic and political issues surrounding it. You can lift someone’s spirit and your own!
We use video platforms on almost a daily basis now, continue to use it to connect. Talk to a good friend who you haven’t seen in a while. Use video platforms to check-in with a person’s mental health, you don’t know who is suffering in silence.
Are you feeling unsure about how to check-in? This link will lead you to check-in questions:
Do you have a favorite hobby or interest? Join and follow social media groups and pages to motivate and fuel your interests.
4) Virtual tours, adventures and visits. If you are looking for something new and interesting to do without leaving your house, take a virtual trip to a National Park, zoo, museum, etc. Think of somewhere that you’ve never been and would like to go. Read about it, look at pictures, watch videos, and take a virtual tour. This is fun activity to do with kids and it’s educational.
If you’re religious or spiritual, consider attending a virtual service or practice.
5) Teach someone about your hobby or trade. Write, blog, create social media content, and make a video to do so. Engage with people, answer their questions, and provide them with credible resources so they can learn more.
5) Increase your self-care. Do more of what you enjoy and try new things, even if you don’t feel like it. Take care of your body and mind. Try to keep to a normal schedule, this includes proper exercise, diet, and staying hydrated. If you’re overwhelmed with work, schedule in self-care. Slow down, read a book, take a bath, watch a movie, call someone you care about.
6) Make a vision board to stay focused on your long-term goals. Read how here:
8) Practice mindfulness, breathing and or meditation. Find someone who provides these services online if you need help getting started. Create a YouTube playlist of relaxing music and sounds that you can practice to. Don’t give up if these exercises don’t immediately benefit you in an impactful way, it takes time to learn them. It’s a process.
9) Use online presence to raise awareness or funds for a cause that you’re passionate about. Help people learn more, support people who need it the most, connect to others who care about the same thing as you. Feel good!
10) Use positive affirmations and practice them regularly. Read more and find examples here:
11) Have a safety plan and an emergency plan. For the safety plan:
• Write down what triggers maladaptive behaviors.
• Write coping strategies for each trigger that you can participate in right away.
• Write down three positive affirmations or favorite quotes.
• List three people whom you can trust to call and talk to and receive support from (Do ahead of time: make sure that they know they are on your safety plan list and tell them how they can best support you if you contact them.) (Ideas on how they can help: this can range from a phone call to recall favorite memories or to meet up for coffee.).
• If your situation turns into an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or your local mental health crisis lifeline. Add these emergency phone numbers to your safety plan.
12) Speak with a professional counselor. They can teach you several coping strategies and powerful tools like cognitive reframing. They are someone who will be present with you, be non-judgmental, listen, and provide feedback. They will support you and give you space for you to process your strongest emotions and thoughts.
Check out these other benefits to seeing a counselor:
The purpose of my YouTube channel is to provide you with information on mental health and tips to help you get through everyday life. Since I’m passionate about running and the outdoors, you may also see that as it relates to mental health.
Instead of thinking this way, we should think in terms of seeing the shades of gray, between black-and-white thinking. Practice being flexible and find middle-ground options in your behavior. Trying to see the opposing side.
▪︎ When in conflict, find something to agree about in the other person’s perspective. ▪︎ Instead of procrastinating on a task, break the ice with one or two small steps. ▪︎ Make a list of at least five positive qualities you (or someone else you are down on) have.
If you’re stuck in the above thought patterns, try the opposite.
Look at the other side of things. We often default to the negative side of situations or ourselves. We can be critical and harsh. Look at the opposite side of the dialect.
▪︎ Is there a silver lining or hidden opportunity in the problem that you are facing? ▪︎ What strengths, skills, resiliencies, and resources do you have? Play to your strengths.
A favorite quote of mine by Arthur Ashe, which is relatable, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
▪︎ What skills can you improve to better manage a crisis? Aim to be more skillful, trying a new skill can be helpful, too!
See other perspectives
There is no position in existence that accounts for every perspective. Think about other people’s perspectives and ideas that are the opposite of yours. Look for the pebble of truth in those perspectives and ideas. Where is the middle ground between the opposite perspectives?
Make gradual changes
Changes are often more gradual than dramatic, life changes slowly overtime. Reflect on a problem. If the problem were less severe or resolved, what are some behaviors that others would notice you doing?
To begin making gradual changes, practice those behaviors.
• If you’re feeling depressed, add daily exercise. • When struggling with social anxiety, initiate a conversation with someone. • When isolated, reach out to friends and family to talk.
This dialectical technique supports positive change. Think about your history and the times when helpful and healthy behaviors were prominent. Do more of those helpful and healthy behaviors now. Do more of what works!
• Keeping a planner or journal. • Make self-care a priority. • Engage more actively in your social support.
Embrace the things that are not problems
We’re easily preoccupied with our problems. You could write a “Gratefulness List,” or you could write a fun list including hilarious and dramatic problems that you don’t have.
“Not a problem” list examples
• I am not kidnapped and being examined by aliens. • I don’t have smallpox. • I am not lost in the desert.
It’s easy to feel powerful emotions, such as anger and disgust towards people, especially if we don’t like them because of mean, rude, and unskillful behavior.
The next time you’re in this situation, it can help to practice compassion by imagining what circumstances lead that person to be unkind and unskillful.
What unhappiness exists for such people?
Try practicing compassion the next time you feel hurt, upset, and wronged by somebody.
Our thoughts and feelings are often too rigid, causing us misery. Learning to be flexible and to “go with the flow,” will bend and not break those thoughts and feelings.
Consider other perspectives and practice being more flexible in situations, flowing with reality rather than imposing your will against it.
To help raise awareness for mental health and suicide, I will be doing 25 pushups a day, for the next 25 days. Towards the bottom of this page is a YouTube video that I created of the challenge. The video contains snippets of the 25 days and statistics on mental health and suicide.
I was nominated by a friend to do this challenge because I’m all about fitness and taking on challenges (not to mention, I’m a mental health counselor).
I’m INVITING YOU to do something to help raise awareness for mental health and suicide, as well! Whether you choose to do this push up challenge, another awesome challenge, or share this post, I’d be *so excited* to have you participate!! Please share with me how you’re raising awareness!
Here are the rules for the pushup challenge
*Your 25 days starts tomorrow. *Everyday, record yourself doing 25 pushups. *Everyday, you must invite a different person to participate. — modified pushups (from the knees) count! — just do your best! —
If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, contact me or find a counselor through Psychology Today or Therapy Den (there are many other platforms, too.) If you’re in a situation where you need to talk with someone immediately, please call the number below.
This pushup challenge has been: 1) challenging. 2) a joy. 3) a blessing. • I’ve gotten to share two things that I’m passionate about, fitness and mental health. • It has been great having chats with people about the importance of supporting one another’s mental health, and most paramount, raising awareness for and preventing suicide. • There’s a lot to be grateful for.
** Please consider doing the pushup challenge or raise awareness in another way. You WILL make a positive impact on someone’s life! ** Share about what you are doing to raise awareness with me and those around you! ** You can and WILL make a difference. **