It’s a “Positive Affirmation” Kinda Day

Today, I’m diving into my positive affirmations, as negative and distorted thoughts have crept in. This is completely normal and something everyone goes through. I like to write my positive affirmations, which include quotes and Bible verses, on index cards. Today, I wrote one about being a business owner. The affirmations are kept on a shelf next to my work desk. As I read through my cards, I reflected on them, noticing that I’m feeling pretty good about them and have not needed to use certain affirmations for a few months! I take them to heart, I know that they are true.

When I’m going through my day and notice physical symptoms of worry and anxiety, I know that a helpful strategy is to visit my cards. Having three to four mental coping strategies on hand, that aren’t going on a run, is key. Addressing anxiety by going on a run is my top way to manage symptoms, but I can’t always go out when I want, so I take deep breaths and incorporate mindfulness to create a different reaction. I read my affirmations as many times as I feel appropriate. There are tougher days where I keep them on my desk and will intentionally be more aware of my breathing throughout the day, as I know that an unhelpful habit is to hold my breath.

When was the last time that you read or recited positive affirmations to yourself? If it has been a while, don’t forget that this is a simple way to redirect your thoughts. Know your distorted thoughts and unhelpful habits. Know when you need to use your positive affirmations and other coping strategies, and pay attention to the benefits.

Find more on affirmations below:

Positive affirmations to get through a crisis or difficult time.

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.

You Can Seek Help at Any Time: Rate Your Distress Scale

Use this distress scale to help you stay more aware of how you are doing. The scale is 0 to 10, where 0 is that you feel at peace and are completely calm, and 10 is distress that is so unbearable that you cannot function. Refer to the scale, as-needed. If you find yourself rated at 4, where negative thoughts begin to impact you, consider talking to a mental health professional because it is better to get help sooner than later. Don’t allow yourself to be in a distressful state for too long. When you feel change is needed, take action and contact someone.

Seek help from a mental health professional at any time, you do not need to be in distress to get help. A professional counselor can provide services for things such as managing stress and anxiety, examining thoughts and behaviors, support you in life transitions, and teach you how to strengthen your mind.

0: Peace and complete calm

1: No real distress, but a slight feeling of unpleasantness

2: A little bit sad or “off”

3: Worried or upset

4: Upset to the point that negative thoughts begin to impact you

5: Upset and uncomfortable

6: Discomfort to the point that you feel a change is needed

7: Discomfort dominates your thoughts and you struggle not to show it

8: Panic takes hold

9: Feeling desperate, helpless, and unable to handle it

10: Unbearably upset to the point that you cannot function and may be on the verge of a breakdown

Download this rate your distress scale below.

Red Rock Canyon, NV

“Unfinished Business” Letter

To help resolve any unfinished business that you have with another person, write a letter. This may be written to a person who has hurt or wronged you, and who is no longer a part of your life. DO NOT ACTUALLY SEND THEM (or anyone) THIS LETTER, this letter is for YOU. Keep it confidential.

I STRONGLY suggest doing this activity with a professional counselor and talking through the situation with them. They can support you.

Writing this letter will help you to:

  • Reflect and process
  • Feel emotions
  • Think more slowly
  • Problem solve
  • Maybe to forgive the wrong-doer
  • Forgive yourself, if you need to
  • Put your thoughts and emotions to paper
  • Release pent up thoughts and strong emotions, like pain, sadness, and anger
  • Find some peace, healing and resolution
  • Empowerment and improve self-esteem
  • Increase self-care and self-love

Format:

There are no set rules for writing this letter. You may find it difficult to start this process, just dive right in. The letter can be edited and re-organized to how you would like. Start with the wrong-doer’s name, like you are writing a letter. If you’re unsure of how long your letter should be, try aiming to write one to three pages just to get an idea. Once you have that, you will better know if the letter should be any longer. The letter is to benefit you and to help resolve any unfinished business, the length of the letter doesn’t matter quite as much. End the letter with your name.

Important things to think about including:

  • Things that you want the wrong-doer to know.
  • Anything that you want to say to them.
  • Talk about what they did to you.
  • Talk about how you feel.
  • Talk about your reaction to what they did.
  • Talk about the impact that it has had on yourself. What areas of your life have been impacted? How has it been changed?
  • Write about what you wish went differently.
  • Write about how you wish things ended with that person.
  • Is there anything that you could have done differently?
  • Allow yourself to be open to writing anything that comes up.

This is a challenging exercise, so take a break if you need to, re-visit it. *Self-care is very important through this process.* Work on acknowledging your thoughts and emotions, know that they are natural and occur for a reason, but let them roll away (not sticking in your mind) as you write. Utilize coping strategies to reduce intense stress, anxiety, emotions, etc. Try to make sure that you’re in a good “mental space,” not overly anxious or panic when you write this. It is helpful to be able to think clearly and be focused. After you finish writing this letter, read it out loud to yourself. Reading it to yourself might be emotional because your brain will be processing the information slightly differently, hearing your own voice read what you wrote is powerful. Read it to a counselor, they will listen and be able to guide you. If you think that it would be beneficial reading it a second or third time, then do so. Notice if your thoughts and emotions changed the next time through. Lastly, when you are ready, you completed the letter and read it out loud, destroy the letter for resolution (and confidentiality). There is symbolism in destroying the letter. It isn’t returning. Allow yourself to be healed and empowered. Love yourself. Notice how you feel while destroying the letter and afterwards. Do you feel physically lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders? Do you feel empowered? Did you sigh in relief or smile?

Once again, please talk with someone if you need to, don’t hesitate to reach out. It is rewarding to speak with someone, brain imaging research shows that talk therapy (psychotherapy) can be impactful right away.

Download this exercise here

Red Rock Canyon, NV

Mental health therapy: what people think it is vs. what it actually is

Mental health therapy: what people think it is vs. what it actually is.

What people think it is:

• Talking to a therapist about problems.

What it actually is:

• Talking to a therapist about problems.

• Making changes to thoughts and behaviors.

• Psychoeducation.

• Building awareness of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

• Between session work.

• Learning and practicing coping strategies.

• Working on becoming less judgmental of certain thoughts and emotions.

• Finding a healthy balance while going through difficult life situations and increasing self-care.

• Increasing empowerment and mental strength.

• Improve overall wellness.

• Focus on personal growth.

• Helping to end the stigma of mental health illnesses.

Mindful Breathing Exercise

When you feel stressed or anxious, have you been mindful of your breathing? Notice if you’re holding your breath, taking shallow breaths, or breathing too quickly.

Take control of your breathing by trying a short breathing exercise:

Lay, sit, or stand comfortably, with good posture to allow yourself to breathe easily.

If you’re laying or sitting, maybe you want to close your eyes to increase focus.

You may place your hands gently on your stomach to physically feel it move in and out as you breathe.

Take note of physical sensations and then focus on your breathe.

If you find yourself becoming distracted by anything, acknowledge the distraction (distractions occur naturally and are reminders to return to what we were working on), allow it to roll through your awareness, and then simply return your attention to your breathing.

Breathe in for 3 seconds: 1-2-3

Brief pause

Breathe out for 3 seconds: 1-2-3

Repeat 3 times

Notice any differences in how you physically or mentally feel.

Calmly return your focus to the environment around you.

You may want to play around with the time spent in the exercise, do what works for you.

*Tip for severe anxiety and panic: if you find yourself holding your breath for longer than the brief pause during this exercise, skip the pause all together and just focus on steady in-and-out breathes.*

Download this exercise below.

Somewhere in Pennsylvania

Being Productive & Calm, as a Busy Woman

To all of the busy women, here are some strategies that can help you be productive and calm.

Does this sound familiar to you? Personally, as a busy person (have a young daughter, maintaining relationships, keeping the house tidy, running my own mental health private practice, blogging (for two websites), and preparing for ultramarathons), I struggle with being calm while I go about my day.

Here’s how it usually goes.

I’m usually productive in some way because there is always something that needs done. I tend to feel like things need to be done in an overly particular way. Tasks get done, it’s just not always how well (quality) or in the order that I’d like it to be, so I need to be flexible.

When there’s anxiety present.

Anxiety couples this feeling that something needs to be a certain way or lack of having an amount of control. Anxiety is also provoked when I feel overwhelmed by the amount of things that I need to do. It’s difficult being calm. I want things to be completed in a timely manner and done right. Sometimes, I aim for perfection, but I know that that’s unrealistic. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

How do I remain calm while I’m in a state of being busy and usually anxious?

• I practice time management
• Prioritize tasks
• Ask others for help
• Tell someone “no” when they ask if I can do something when I truly don’t have the time
• Mindfulness
• Slow myself down, so I can think clearly
• Stay grounded
• Self-care. Sometimes taking a full day for it!
• Exercise or run
• I focus on my strengths and goals (and the reasons behind them)
• I think positive (in general)
• I reframe my distorted thinking
• I write down affirmations

There are probably some other tricks that I use that aren’t coming to mind. Whatever I do, I choose to act in a more helpful and healthy manner. I choose to react in a way that is more calm.

How do I know which strategy will help?

I don’t 100% of the time know which strategy will help, but I do know that I can try two or three and see if they work. Overtime, it is easier to know which strategies will work and for what. If a strategy doesn’t help, no big deal, pick another. There are instances where anxiety is stronger and it takes a handful of strategies to help. Also, no big deal.

The strategies from this list are additional “to do’s”, but they makes life better and adds peace. This work becomes more effortless the more that I practice it. You can do this, too.

How do you practice being productive, yet calm?

Overlooking a small town in PA

Simple, Yet Powerful Ways to Manage Worry & Anxiety

This article is about four simple, yet powerful ways to manage worry and anxiety. Are you worried about how things are going to go for you? Do you fear that you won’t be able to handle potential problems? How can you make a tough decision not having all of the details? Here’s what you CAN do. You can take control of your mind by shifting what you focus on. You can choose to focus on your strengths and the things that you have control over. You can also challenge irrational thoughts of uncertainty and worry.

Handling being worried over how things are going to go for you.

Ask yourself:

Who do I want to be?

What quality of presence do I want to bring to any challenges I face?

Note the shift that occurs when you go from focusing on what will go wrong today to the person you want to be.

Challenge your fear that you won’t be able to handle potential problems.

One way to address this fear is to imagine yourself coping. Whenever you are worried about a problem that could happen, envision yourself skillfully coping with it.

What does that look like?

Recall a strength that you have demonstrated multiple times when you’ve risen to meet a challenge. Then, expect yourself to rise, bringing that same strength, resourcefulness, and determination to the problem that might challenge you today.

Pause & notice whether this time is different.

When a familiar worry or fear crosses your mind, this can be about failing or that something horrible will happen, notice that it has never actually happened.

It’s likely that your mind is ignoring all of the times that those worries and fears didn’t come true and that this time is different.

If this sounds like your experiences, then consider that the worry or fear is a false alarm, like the other times.

Make decisions even when there is uncertainty.

When you’re making a tough decision, all you can do is make the best choice for what you know right then and there.

Embrace the reality of not having all of the information and details today, not knowing exactly what the outcome will be.

Allow yourself to be free from the assumption that you’re responsible for knowing the unknown.

By choosing to focus on what is helpful, you can better manage your worries and anxiety. Always draw from your strengths and know that you will overcome any stressful situations that lay ahead because you have overcome things in the past. Challenge irrational and distorted thoughts, acknowledging and then reframing them. Notice the shift in thinking and how you feel afterwards. Practice these tips so that they stick to your mind and alter how your mind works. Have power over worry and anxiety.

Source:
Seth J. Gillian, PhD.

Glacier Ridge Trail, Moraine State Park, PA

Calming Through Your Senses By Using Self-Soothe Skills

Self-soothe skills

Self-Soothe is about calming through the senses, and the goal is to engage your senses in behaviors that are relaxing.

As you practice self-soothe, allow judgements, stress, worries, and unhelpful thoughts to slide through your mind, and just be in the moment. This process will rejuvenate you and help regulate your body.

Commit to adding self-soothing strategies into your daily schedule.

Self-soothe skills (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch)

Vision

What kind of things do you enjoy seeing? Seek out these visually pleasing things. Gaze at sunsets, nature, cityscape, aquarium, whatever is visually relaxing to you. You can also create your own artwork or take photos.

Take a few minutes to fully appreciate something, it can be as simple as leaves on a tree. Connect with it and take it in.

Hearing

Listen to soft music or go outside and soak up the sounds of nature.

Hear with your eyes closed and allow yourself to become immersed in the experience.

Smell

Choose household cleaners, perfumes, lotions, aromatherapy, essential oils, and candles that have pleasant smells.

Baking your favorite dish or dessert will fill your home with that smell.

Taste

A tip for taste is to eat a small amount of food one-mindfully, engaging all five senses.

Savor a piece of dark chocolate, a bite of a juicy apple, a spoonful of ice cream melting in your mouth, or the tanginess of a salsa.

Timing yourself to see how long you can draw out the experience is helpful for becoming immersed.

Touch

Ask a loved one for a hug or to hold hands. Snuggle with your cat or dog. Give yourself a facial, neck, or hand massage. Wear your most comfortable clothes and fuzzy, thick socks or wrap up in a warm blanket. Take a mindful bubble bath or a longer shower.

Resource

Lane Pederson, Psy.D., LP, DBTC

Connoquenessing Valley Heritage Trail, PA

How to Get Through the Day When the World Seems to be Falling Apart

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/05/29/just-checking-in/

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/04/02/vision-board/

7) Journal. Read about journaling here if it interests you:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/04/10/the-benefits-of-keeping-a-journal-and-journal-prompts/

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/05/05/positive-affirmations-to-get-through-a-crisis-or-difficult-time/

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.

Here’s a simple example of a safety plan:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/02/11/safety-plan-on-an-index-card/

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:

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/07/27/the-value-of-seeing-a-therapist-what-does-your-therapist-do-when-theyre-not-in-session/

Give teletherapy a try, it is convenient and you receive the same mental health benefits as you would during an in-office session.

If you’re not sure where to find a counselor, use a directory like Psychology Today or TherapyDen. There are several other counselor directories out there.

These are only a dozen tips on getting through a pandemic and crisis. Share your ideas and tips below. Please share this article to reach others.

Be well!

Baker Trail, Cook Forest State Park, PA