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.

Being Fearless, Accomplishing a Dream

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.

Badwater Basin, CA

How to Stay Afloat Financially While Searching for a Job

Guest article provided by Lisa Walker of neighborhoodsprout.org

No one denies that looking for work can be a difficult and stress-inducing time. There are many challenges you will have to face, and finding a way to support yourself financially is one of them. The good news is that there are many viable options, whether that means pet sitting, crafting and selling your goods, or teaching a musical instrument.

Get Crafting

If you enjoy working with your hands, consider starting a crafting or artistic venture to support yourself. There are many options to explore, so even if you don’t enjoy one form of crafting, you can try another. A craft needs to solve a problem or provide something that people want. What do people enjoy? What do they need that they don’t have? How can you bridge those two and create something desirable? What makes your version the one that people want? A good tip is to not overproduce right away, as it’s wise to experiment to see what adjustments might need to be made. You also don’t need to start out big, either. It could be as easy as a bracelet, a necklace, or even a treat for puppies. The fact is there are many, many avenues for you to try.

Find That Side Gig

If you are not the crafting type, there are plenty of alternatives. The benefit of a side gig is that it allows the flexibility to find a more permanent solution. If you’re good with words, you could try writing or editing as a freelancer. If you are looking for a way to get out of the house and get a little exercise to stay busy, pet sitting or even dog walking can be a lucrative solution. There are different websites you can use as a platform to find clients, or you can advertise yourself independently. However, if you do go independent, know that you will want to get insurance. When you work in other people’s homes or with another person’s pets, you want to have some financial security should something awful happen. However, this is a great side gig that can turn into a full-time position, especially if you love animals. What’s more, a side gig can allow you to set aside time to self-care, which is crucial for maintaining your physical and mental health.

Teach or Tutor

If you have previous experience, especially in fields where there is a lot of growth, you might want to market your skills as a teacher or a tutor. There are websites that allow you to find students, or, like pet-sitting, you can go it solo and advertise on your own. You just need a niche, and then you can go from there, even producing instructional videos or little teasers to get new clients. It could be business related, educational, or even something like music. If you play a musical instrument, you can make money teaching it to others. Even if you only did well in English in school, you can teach it. Also, tutoring in a subject like English to non-native speakers can be very beneficial and rewarding. It really doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you have the experience to advertise yourself as an authority.

Go Online

If you need some time to yourself, but you also need to earn an income, all you need is a computer and the internet to get started. A popular choice is being a virtual assistant. You don’t need experience, just the capacity to focus on multiple things at once. You could transcribe videos, take surveys, test websites, or even start a blog. If you know your way around a computer, you could try web development. Do you speak another language? If so, try your hand at becoming an online translator. Some things may require skills or experience, but many don’t. You could even try your hand at data entry.

Get the Right Help

Starting a new business is challenging, but there are services like ZenBusiness that can support you every step of the way. You might be wondering,  “What is ZenBusiness?” It’s a business support platform with tools and services for entrepreneurs just like you! They offer everything from business registration assistance to tax and banking information. With an all-inclusive go-to, you can focus on choosing the right money-earning role, rather than getting bogged down in the details of getting off the ground.

You can find a fulfilling way to support yourself during a stressful job search. You may need to experiment a bit before you find the right fit, but it is out there. Take care of yourself and work toward doing something you both enjoy and can use to achieve financial stability.

Does the stress of looking for work have you dealing with anxiety? Professional mental health services from Shannon Mick can help you reduce stress and achieve your goals. (724) 841-1963 shannon.mick@finishstrongercounseling.com  

Image Courtesy of Pexels.com

Easy Health Strategies From Head-To-Toe


Photo by Pexels

Guest article provided by Lisa Walker of neighborhoodsprout.org

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.

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

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.

“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

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?