Why You Should Elevate Your Mental Health and How

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

Way one

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.

Way two

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.

Dialects (DBT)

What are dialects?

Dialects relate to our theories and ideas, in terms of the OPPOSITE way we think. Here are some thinking patterns that we all experience, and get caught up in, it does us no favors to become stuck!:

▪︎ “All-or-nothing” thoughts.
▪︎ “Either-or” thoughts.
▪︎ “Black-and-white terms.”

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.

Examples

▪︎ 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.

Ask yourself

▪︎ 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.

Examples

• 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.

Exception rule

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!

Examples

• 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.

Having compassion

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.

Being flexible

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.

Resources

Lane Pederson, Psy.D., LP, DBTC

The Benefits of Keeping a Journal and Journal Prompts

Choosing a Journal

When choosing what to write in, consider all of your options and what best suits your needs. A journal can be a spiral-bound notebook, which is an easy to find and cheap option. Combination code or lock and key journals can provide privacy and are usually well-made. A journal can be kept electronically in a secure computer. It is convenient to access and saves your hand from becoming cramped in writing position.

Benefits

  • Relaxing and stress relieving.
  • A coping tool.
  • A way to vent or express emotions and thoughts.
  • Makes your thoughts more apprehensible.
  • Improve and train your writing.
  • Sharpens skills.
  • Set and achieve goals.
  • A way to become more organized.
  • Develop improved understanding of yourself and situations occurring in your life.
  • Allows for creativity.
  • Provides you with a way to reflect and consider new ideas.
  • Record new ideas on-the-go.
  • Allows self-reflection.
  • A place to keep memories.
  • Boosts memory.
  • Provides you with a record of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can use this record to track patterns over time, which can lead to problem solving.
  • Can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • You will learn new things.
  • Can provide you motivation and inspiration.
  • And many, many MORE!

Instructions

Use your journal however you’d like! Decorate it and add pictures. Slip a photo of a favorite memory, person or pet inside. Write in different colors or use black ink. When you start a new journal entry, include the date, so that you have that information if you ever need it. Write about your day freely or choose a prompt. It might take you a little time to get used to writing, you might encounter writer’s block, and you may struggle to find what time to write. Don’t stress, it’s okay! Writing should become easier overtime and this isn’t meant to be stressful, it is meant to be therapeutic and enjoyable! Aim to write everyday because it will help develop a habit and really reap those benefits. If you end up writing most days of the week, that is still good, just keep in mind that you might get out of habit of keeping your journal if you don’t write frequent enough.

Download the journal prompts below.

Vision Board

Materials: Poster board or large paper; magazines; newspapers; printed out images from online; quotes; scissors; glue; pen; pencils; markers; stickers; glitter; tiny, lightweight objects (travel ticket; concert ticket; key chain; charm…).

Instructions: Ponder and visualize a long-term goal (a few months or years ahead). What does it look like? What are the details of your vision? Where will you be, what will you be doing and who will you be doing it with? Using your materials, cut out, print, draw, paste anything that could be a part of your board. Add quotes, mantras or positive affirmations to remind you of your long-term goal, and to motivate and inspire you. An extra element to consider is a letter-sized envelope. It can hold: tiny, meaningful items; a sticky note with a short-term goal (that can be accomplished in one day); sticky notes with something positive going on in your life; sticky notes with a memory that will make you smile. Glue the envelope to the side or bottom of your board. Everyday (or as frequently as you’d like), pull one thing out of the envelope. It adds a little extra fun and interaction. Do a “rough draft” of your board before gluing things to it, just to make sure that you are satisfied with the layout. Glue on the cutouts, pictures and objects. Let the board dry. Lastly, on the back of the board, add “reminders” (important things to remember). The reminders should be uplifting.

Vision Boards are fun and easy to make. They remind you of what you are working towards, your long-term goals, dreams, and aspirations. This motivational collage project is something that a child, adolescent or adult can create. Check out my Vision Board and reminders.

Journaling Prompt: Setting a Future Goal, Adventure is Out There

Instructions & Materials

Material ideas: Large paper or poster board; pens; pencils; crayons; markers; glue; glitter; stickers; magazine clippings; photos.

Journaling prompt: What adventure do you wish you could go on? Make sure that the adventure is realistic, like planning a vacation. Where would you go, how would you get there, and what would you do once you are there? What is your mode of transportation? Will you go alone or will someone go with you? What are the steps that you might take in order to put this plan into action? Try to come up with three specific steps for putting your plan into action. How might you feel once you have reached your destination? How might you feel throughout the adventure? What about when it is over? Write a story. Be specific and descriptive. Use your creativity. Draw. Create designs. Most importantly, have fun setting your goal!

Wellness Tips for the Busy Person

Busy

“Busy” definitions: having a great deal to do; occupied with or concentrating on a particular activity or object of attention; excessively detailed or decorated.

People are immersed in projects and activities for a number of reasons. One, is simply because life becomes chaotic. With multiple things occurring at once, a person must act before losing control. Another, is because it is in human nature. People prefer to be busy because achievement feels good. Whatever the reason is, remember that wellness is paramount. It is easy for wellness to become buried underneath the busyness, but if someone doesn’t take care of themselves, then they can’t take care of business. These tips are easy to apply to the busy person’s schedule and will promote well-being.

Goal Setting, Prioritize and Be Realistic

Busy people have a tendency to set too many goals at once because they feel there is a ton to accomplish in just a short amount of time. When focus is spread too thin, the outcomes are negative. Work on fewer goals at a time, less is more. Having less goals will reduce stress and will help increase productivity because it is easier to focus on less tasks at a time. A person can still multi-task, and see positive outcomes.

In order to decide which goals to tackle first, examine the priority of each goal and rank them from most to least important. Work on two or three of the higher priority goals, first. Stay mindful that the number of goals that is worked on at a time should depend on the difficulty of the goal, itself. Lofty goals tend to be more time consuming, stressful and taxing. If three high priority goals are lofty, then consider working on one or two at a time.

Goals can be broken down into steps and written on a calendar to help stay on target of completing the goal on time. This method can be less stressful and taxing. When taking a lofty goal step by step, then one or two simpler goals that are higher priority can be added. Watch for lofty goals that are unrealistic because it is easier to become overwhelmed or discouraged before a work groove settles in. With the correct approach, taking smaller steps will still lead one to reach their goals.

Journal Regularly

Keeping a journal aids mental well-being. Journaling allows for time to unwind and relax. Jotting things down, instead of hoarding them inside of the mind can help decompress. The person is freed-up from remembering things if they are written down, and it can jog the memory of something they needed or wanted to do. In fact, journaling helps improve memory because the person is more likely to remember something if they physically write it down. They can better recall the information, even at times when it isn’t visually in front of their face.

Journal to track and explore thoughts, emotions and beliefs. Watch for patterns of reactions to situations. Realizing behaviors and feelings can lead to problem solving. Having a little extra insight can help one become more self-aware. Write in a journal once or twice a day. Find a time that works best. Try part way through the day (lunch time), and then towards the end of the day (before the bedtime routine).

Receive Feedback

The busy person can ask someone whom they are comfortable with for feedback on how they are emotionally perceived. Someone else’s perspective on a particular situation is a tool. Ask a trustworthy friend or family member. The person can learn from friends or family whether they are taking on too many projects and activities at a time. When a person is overly busy, they become more sensitive or emotional, stress takes a toll. If this occurs for a lengthy amount of time, the person becomes burnt out. Burn out is physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. When burnt out, it is more difficult to function normally. How a person reacts to burn out can impact others around them. Burn out is a sign that it is time to take a break and work on one’s wellness to rejuvenate and reset.

Asking for feedback might be the most difficult task of these three because it involves being vulnerable. People don’t always like to hear what another person has to say about them, but this is why it is important to chose someone whom they are comfortable with. It is challenging to receive constructive criticism. Listening to another person’s perception provides more insight and needed information to help foster their well-being.

Implementing, Practice and Patience

Goal setting, journaling and receiving feedback from others, are effective wellness tips for the busy person. It takes practice to learn something new and for it to become routine and habit. Hang in there, be patient. Practicing these tips will nurture overall well-being, increase organization and insight, help practice self-awareness, reduce stress, and promote productivity. Don’t let busyness overtake wellness,.

Mount Vernon Trail, Alexandria, VA