Friendly Reminder: Understanding and Protecting Your Mental Health

Friendly reminder

Please, take care in understanding and protecting your mental health. Grow your understanding by reading and listening to credible resources.

Just a few thoughts

If you use social media or the internet to find information, use caution, as there are people who spread misinformation about mental health. – People who are lifestyle bloggers, coaches, or celebrities (people who probably don’t have an educational degree on the subject). Always get the professional’s advice.

Expand your resources and tools. If you’ve never listened to a podcast episode on mental health, consider listening one day while cooking dinner. Subscribe to a mental health care professional’s YouTube channel. Buy a new book that sounds really interesting. You could start a wish list of books and workbooks on Amazon or write them in your journal. Having more valuable resources at your fingertips helps you to further understand and protect your mental health.

Other’s mental health

Also, take the time to learn about how mental health affects everyone differently. We will all likely respond in dissimilar ways to issues and crisis. Many people struggle in silence and still carry on throughout their day doing the best that they can. A struggle isn’t always fully apparent.

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.

Potential & Possibilities on Bad Days

Your day is still full of potential and possibilities even if:

  • The weather is nasty and you’re stuck indoors.
  • Your car got a flat tire on the way to work.
  • You received a negative report that was out of your control.
  • You didn’t get the job or raise.
  • A major household appliance broke.
  • You received bad news.
  • It seems like you’re not getting anywhere, no matter how hard you try.
  • You feel like you will never be good enough.
  • You forgot to pay a bill.
  • It seems like multiple things are going wrong at the same time.
  • And this list can go on…

Tell Yourself

  • This day is full of potential and possibilities.
  • Your day can improve.
  • You can get outdoors another day.
  • A car tire can be replaced.
  • Good news will come soon.
  • You will find a job, this is only temporary.
  • Household items can be repaired or replaced, hang in there.
  • You have already achieved some goals, keep up the good work, you will continue to achieve.
  • Things can and will go right.
  • Not everything is bad, things are okay.
  • You have everything that you need right now, in this moment.
  • Come up with your own positive affirmation.

Take Action, Make it Happen

  • Adopt a positive mindset, it is a powerful tool.
  • Look for alternatives. Find the potential and possibilities. Write them down as a reminder.
  • Make a list of things that you can do and then start doing. You can use your creativity.
  • Focus on the things that you can control.
  • Remind yourself that ruminating on negative events and worries doesn’t help and that you can do something about it.

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.

Things to Let Go

Things that you need to let go of:

▪︎ Past mistakes
▪︎ Things you have no control over
▪︎ Self-doubt
▪︎ Need to please
▪︎ Fear
▪︎ Toxic relationships
▪︎ Comparison
▪︎ Chasing perfection

Are these items on your list?

What can you add?

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

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS Skill (Distress Tolerance from DBT)

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS

The ACCEPTS acronym has skills that helps keep you busy and distracted when you would typically be preoccupied by a crisis. It is easy to dwell on what is going wrong, by focusing on the ACCEPTS behaviors, you can get yourself through hard times.

The acronym

A: Activities
C: Contributing
C: Comparisons
E: Emotions
P: Pushing Away
T: Thoughts
S: Sensations

Activities

Activities keep you busy and your mind off of problems and behaviors. The behaviors that you are focused on are healthy and helpful.

To start practicing this skill, write a list of activities you enjoy when life feels better. If you’re unsure or need ideas, go online and search for activity lists.

Add the pleasant activities into your schedule and mindfully do them.

Choose an activity and enjoy it now!

Contributing

Contribute to others. It is a way to take your mind off of your own problems, to feel connected and useful, and to create positive feelings.

Examples

Do a favor; acts of kindness; write a thank you note; bake brownies to share; volunteer locally.

Create a list of ways to contribute to others and begin right away.

Afterwards, journal about the experience, reflecting on your thoughts and feelings.

Comparisons

Draw healthy comparisons between yourself and others. There are people living without necessities, who have gone through tragedies, or who have tremendous obstacles to overcome. Remembering that other people are also suffering, often in worse ways, allows for you to gain perspective of what you’re going through. This perspective also increases your feelings of gratefulness.

Emotions

Emotions arise from the things we do. You can change your emotion by changing your behavior.

When you’re depressed, do behaviors that lift your spirits. When you’re anxious, do ones that are relaxing. When angry, do ones that are calming.

Check-in with your emotions in the moment, and if you find that you want change, then choose to participate in a healthy behavior to change your emotion.

Pushing away

Pushing away means that you decide to revisit the problem at another time. Imagine putting the problem in a box, locking the box, and placing it on a shelf for later.

Thoughts

You cannot think about two things at once, so choose to direct your attention to the most helpful thought.

Some ideas to try, crossword puzzles, read an interesting book, have an intriguing conversation, watch an action movie.

Do something to occupy your thoughts away from depressive thoughts, worries, and problems.

Practice in the moment.

Sensations

Direct yourself with healthy sensations.

Things to try, dance to loud music, eat a sour lemon slice, take a hot or cold bath, smell a strong scent, like peppermint.

These things wake up your senses in an invigorating way. Notice any changes in your experience.

Another idea, create a sensations toolkit, using your favorite ways to wake up your sensations. Use your tools.

Resource

Lane Pederson, PsyD, LP, DBTC

Occoquan Trail, Bull Run Regional Park, Fairfax County, VA

Distress Tolerance (DBT)

Distress Tolerance (Dialectical Behavior Therapy)

When people “cope” with stress and crisis, they find out ways (behaviors) that relieve stress, however, some of these ways come with heavy consequences. Examples of ineffective behaviors are drug and alcohol use, self-injury, gambling, spending money, and overeating.

We can learn distress tolerance skills to effectively manage the stress and crisis. These skills are more helpful than dealing with the consequences of the ineffective behaviors that make life worse.

Try it out

Make two lists, one is your ineffective coping behaviors, and the second is your healthy coping behaviors. If you’re struggling coming up with the healthy ones, keep thinking, because everyone has at least a few.

The goal is to work on eliminating the ineffective coping behaviors on the first list while developing the behaviors on the second.

This process is “doing more of what works”, replacing the ineffective with the healthy and effective.

Guidelines to improve distress tolerance skills

1. Practice the skills daily, even when you’re not feeling distressed. The skills tend to be enjoyable, so practicing shouldn’t feel like work.

2. Diversify the skills, try new ones, and practice every skill more than once because you don’t know which ones will “click” for you.

3. Organize a distress tolerance plan for when you’re in crisis and choose to follow the plan. It will keep you focused. Write down your organized plan on an index card. This would be your coping behaviors and any people who can provide support. Keep this card with you.

This index card plan works well for children while they’re away from home. Example: at school.

Distress tolerance skills to learn

• Wise Mind: ACCEPTS acronym
• IMPROVE acronym
• Self-Soothe skills: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
• Radical Acceptance
• Everyday Acceptance
• Willingness
• Bridge-Burning
• Ride the Wave: Urge-Surfing
• Grounding
• Pros and Cons

This is general information on distress tolerance and the skills to learn to better cope with stress and crisis, the next step is to learn the skills themselves, practice applying them, watch for improvements, and make necessary adjustments.

Wise Mind: ACCEPTS

https://finishstrongercounseling.com/2020/08/12/wise-mind-accepts-skill-distress-tolerance-from-dbt/

Resource

Lane Pederson, PsyD, LP, DBTC

Connequenessing Valley Heritage Trail, PA

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.