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.

Struggling to Remain Strong for too Long?

Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are signs that you should ask for help

It is important to be able to recognize the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in ourselves. When we experience these symptoms frequently, for longer than a few weeks, it is time to ask for help. Take action. We tend to go for far too long, trying to remain strong, that we become weak. The depression, anxiety, and panic attacks can begin to harm multiple areas of our lives. Social, relationships, school, work, etc. A counselor can teach you ways to cope and renew your strength.

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

Favorite Positive Affirmation?

What’s your favorite positive affirmation, right now?

Mine is, “I have everything I need.”

I tend to feel like I need MORE (belongings, money, approval from others, etc.) and it can create anxiety and tension. I don’t actually need any of these things. When I practice living in the moment and tell myself that I have everything that I need RIGHT NOW, HERE in the present, I feel less anxious.

Laurel Highlands, PA

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

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

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

MINDFULNESS 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 GROUNDING TECHNIQUE

This is a popular grounding technique, and it is for everyone.

This technique engages all 5 senses, which reminds you of the present moment, and builds awareness. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations. Taking a deep belly breath at the beginning and end of this activity can feel calming and will help prepare you for the next thing that occurs. As you do this activity, saying the things that you sense out loud will reinforce your present state of being and awareness because you are hearing in your own voice what your brain is telling you and what your body is actually experiencing.

Take a deep belly breath to begin.

5 – LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see and say them out loud.

Example: “I see a dog, a chair, a lamp, a window, and a cup.”

4 – FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel. Say them out loud.

Example: “I feel the dog, the cushion that I’m sitting on, the sun coming in through the window on my skin, and the carpet beneath my feet.”

3 – LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds and say them out loud.

Example: “I hear the dog snoring, the air conditioner running, and the birds outside singing.”

2 – SMELL: Say 2 things that you can smell. If you can’t smell anything from where you are, you may move to go smell something or say your favorite scent.

Example: “I smell the candle burning and the fabric softener on the chair throw.”

1 – TASTE: Say 1 thing that you can taste. If you can’t taste anything, then you can say your favorite thing to taste.

Example: “I taste the toothpaste mint from when I brushed my teeth.”

Take another deep belly breath to end and notice how you feel.

Download this technique below to store on your device or to print it out and share!

Great Falls Park, McLean, Virginia

Mindfulness (DBT)

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is choosing to be aware of the present moment, on purpose, and in a non-judgmental way. When being mindful, our attention and focus is on whatever we choose to observe or do.In this moment, choose to focus your mind wherever you’d like it to be.

Practice

Maybe you focus on your emotions, thoughts and physical sensations as you experience the environment around you.

Hold your attention there, focusing on being in the moment.

States of mind

We have three states of mind:

• Emotion Mind
• Reason Mind
• Wise Mind

Wise Mind

Wise Mind is the balance between emotion and reason. We acknowledge and validate our feelings and use reason to problem-solve, think about consequences, and choose effective behaviors.

In Wise Mind, we act in ways that reflect our goals, values, and who we want to be.

Ask yourself, in any moment, “What is my Wise Mind telling me?” Then act.

Getting into Wise Mind, Step One

• Observe and describe what and how you behave, think, feel, and your surroundings in a non-judgmental way. Stay focused one-mindfully.

To observe means just noticing how things are, without adding or taking away.

To describe means to put words to your observations.

Step Two

• What you do is participate and how you do that is effectively.

• Take what you observed (step one) and choose what you want to participate in. Participate in it fully, immerse yourself in the experience.

• How to choose what to participate in: base it off of what will work or be effective.

Once you are participating effectively, you’re in Wise Mind. Notice what this feels like.

Let Go of Judgments

We all have judgments. Whenever you notice yourself judging, let the judgment pass through and drift off, don’t allow it to stick around. Judgments should come and go like clouds and ocean waves.

Practicing Mindfulness in the Moment

Be present in the “small moments.”

Example

Take 10 minutes and clean part of your home, fully immersing yourself in the process.

When you find yourself distracted, this could be a judgmental thought, refocus on what you’re doing. Full focus and attention, non-judgmentally.

Meditation

A thought on meditation. Meditation can be considered anything if you are present, being non-judgmental, and have an open heart.

Practice

Meditate on your life experiences, starting with the moment you are currently in. Stay present for some time, connecting to the moment, then, when you’re ready, shift your focus to another moment.

Teflon Mind

Let potentially stressful situations, criticisms, or anything else that might “stick” to you, causing needless suffering, roll off your mind. Allow these experiences to slide through your awareness.

Distractions, distractions, distractions

Distractions don’t go away, they are a part of this world. Do not get frustrated with distractions, they are reminders to go back to what you’re working on. They’re natural.

When you become distracted, bring yourself back to the present moment. Do this over, and over, and over again, if you need to.

Taking hold of your mind


Direct your mind where you want it. There are many thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations to direct your attention towards. Choose one of those, opening up your mind to it and closing your attention off from the other options.

If your mind drifts towards a closed off option, gently re-close it and return to the option of choice.

Resources

Lane Pederson, Psy.D., LP, DBTC

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, CA