Uncategorized

I Feel Vulnerable

I am starting to feel more empowered to speak up.

I want to speak up about:

– racism (white privilege isn’t an insult! It isn’t anything a white person has done wrong! I don’t fully understand how much easier my life is because I’m white…and yet since having the girls in my life, I can see how real it is. I see how they’re looked at as being “bad” when they misbehave I’m public whereas white kids are “just being kids”. Attend Undivided at Crossroads Church or read White Fragility. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.- the environment (we are killing our world. Instant gratification and convenience are KILLING our planet and everyone thinks the next generation will take care of it). Watch some documentaries and educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

– gender (my husband is AMAZING and doesn’t treat chores and parenting as woman’s work) …and yet for every single country in the world, women are expected to take care of more unpaid work than men – childcare, housework, cooking, caring for their aging relatives, etc. – while also taking care of their jobs, self-care and marriage. Men get paid more. Women endure procedures without anesthesia that men wouldn’t be expected to. Women are not represented equally in politics. Etc. Read The Moment of Lift. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

– healthy living – people are more willing to take a pill than exercise or eat healthier. Parents feed their kids more and more sugar and caffeine. Look at the sugar content of foods vs the World Health Organization or FDAs recommendations. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

– screen time for kids – it’s horrible and dangerous for their brains. Read Glow Kids. Educate yourself. Don’t just take my word for it.

My fears are:

1. I’m white so I look like a hypocrite (re: race)

2. I’m a woman so it looks like I’m whining or being “too emotional” (re: gender)

3. You will just roll your eyes and turn back to avoidance and full your news feed with whatever serves your opinions (re: all of it)

4. Someone will ask a question that I don’t know the answer to which will “prove” to you that I’m wrong and you can keep ignoring the points

Thank you.

woman girl animal dog
DBT, mental health

How to Meditate

Everyone has questions about meditation. How to do it, why to do it, when to do it…

Formal Zen meditation is the specific type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc. to practice also.  Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! In fact, most people avoid meditation because they’re afraid they will do it wrong or they will be bad at it (just like any other hobby); practice is required with any new task before you can feel competent at it.

The basic components of Zen meditation are:

  • Sit upright and still on meditation cushions (zafu and zabuton) with three points of contact with the floor to stabilize you.  I often sit in the position shown below “on a stool” but using cushions instead of a stool. My three points of contact are shin, shin and butt. Any position you choose needs to be a comfortable position and should not cause straining.  For example, if you cannot get yourself into lotus position, don’t! It is encouraged that you find a position that you can hold for the duration of the meditation without discomfort or your legs falling asleep. Having your rear end elevated (by a cushion, stool or chair) is recommended to reduce any blood flow issues.  Frequent shifting is discouraged, I recommend that you experiment with different positions in your first few weeks.
download
  • Clear your mind as best you can and focus on either nothing or your breathing. When you are anxious, your mind and body are detached from one another. Focusing on your in breath and outbreath can help realign them.
  • Practice non-attachment and non-judgment when you notice your mind drifting (as it will) by gently bringing your attention back to your breathing. The reality is that your mind will wander and it will wander more when you are new to meditation and/or when your stress is higher.  We can acknowledge this without judging ourselves or the practice.  It is simple, not easy! Many people complain that they feel MORE anxious when they try to quiet their mind…which may be true because they have removed all of the distractions that they normally put between their feelings and their consciousness.  Ride that wave, calmness will follow. It reminds me of snorkeling in choppy water…the water is only choppy until you put your head under the water to see the reef below! Meditation is more about strengthening your “coming back” muscle than your “staying present” muscle!
  • Length of meditation varies, the magic isn’t in the number of minutes; rather it is in the willingness to practice steps 1-3 over and over and over.  Meditation is a muscle that most of us forget we have, thus it is out of shape and needs to be worked consistently over time. I encourage you to start with ten minutes and stay with that time frame until you get comfortable, then challenge yourself to 20!

The benefits of sitting practice are innumerable.  Science finds that:

Benefits-of-Meditation

You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning (look up group meditations in your city and/or on Zoom). Think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life, I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does!

Uncategorized

There is Not a Right Way

Those might be fighting words in our divided society… and I’ll say it again: THERE IS NOT A RIGHT WAY. Why are we so quick to insist that our way is the correct way? Why are we hell-bent on getting people to see our point of view? Why are people willing to end relationships over different opinions on how to achieve a task? Why do schools and workplaces insist on procedures and refuse to allow for creative thinking?

You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way. It doesn’t exist” – Friedrich Nietzhce

I believe that there are many ways to achieve one’s goals. I believe that if we stop judging others we might be able to see that. I encourage you to take some time today (quiet, uninterpreted time) to really ponder this idea.

I’m not going to share any advice on how to achieve this goal…as you see, there are many ways to achieve introspection.

Uncategorized

Are You Sure You Want Less Mood Swings?

While we are on the topic of legal, over-the-counter drugs that people consume on a daily basis without any thought to how it will impact their mental health, let’s take a look at caffeine!

I am human…I like coffee as much as the next person! Especially some cold brew iced coffee! I am not innocent; I treat myself to coffee every once in a while. I am very aware of the effects; which is why I limit myself AND take efforts to avoid any excess consumption of caffeine.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It has been studied and found that caffeine is linked to increased anxiety, sleep disturbance, and can lead to symptoms of mania. Caffeine can lead to restlessness, agitation, excitement, rambling thought and speech, and insomnia. For those with psychiatric diagnoses, it exacerbates agitation, psychosis and the above mentioned symptoms. We grab a mug when we want a mood boost (instant gratification) while ignoring the problematic crash and anxiety that is generally sure to follow!

While caffeine isn’t all bad, low doses can improve cognitive functioning and mood, it is common for dependence and abuse to occur. Caffeine withdrawal leads to fatigue, headaches, irritability and depressive symptoms.

If you are already an anxious person or are seeking treatment for an anxiety, sleep, impulse control, or bipolar disorder, I would absolutely recommend that you avoid caffeine. Why fuel the fire?! I personally and professionally do not agree with minors (those under the age of 18) drinking coffee or energy drinks. This means that parents need to say no and have contingencies in place if the rule is breached. I believe there are more holistic methods to improve alertness in all people (Think healthy sleep and exercise)! Teaching kids, teens and young adults to reach for a quick fix has horrific implications later in life (think drugs, promiscuity, risk taking).

Citations and Further reading:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777290/

Want to learn more?

Inspiration, mental health

Do You Want to Have Less Mood Swings?

I have a very tricky suggestion for you.

I have a controversial suggestion for you.

You might not like my suggestion…

…but if you really want to have stable moods…

STOP WITH ALL THE SUGAR! My office use to share a parking lot with a certain popular coffee chain. I am not going to lie, I really enjoy this coffee shop. No one will argue with you about the burst of energy, pain reduction, and general feeling of bliss that is experienced when sugar is consumed in rapid quantities, in it’s purest form! What really hurts my heart though, is when my I see people, especially teens, with blended (coffee) SUGAR drinks. I know why they get the drinks; however, I also know the crash they will experience. I know the addiction they will face. I know the mood swings and irritability they (and their loved ones) will endure. If you want to argue that you don’t get those sorts of drinks/treats, I still urge you to look at your weekly intake and average out how much sugar you’re having in a day.

Here’s the deal: A variety of reputable health organizations warn against sugar intake. This is mostly for health concerns; however, as mentioned above, it also impacts mental health. The World Health Organization currently recommends that sugar make up no more than 5% of your total energy intake. The American Heart Association finds the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added (not natural) sugar per day…that’s 350 calories from added sugar alone. Their recommendation is between 6 -9 teaspoons/day (25-37 grams). There are no bonus points for consistently getting to 25 grams…it is the red line to STAY AWAY FROM. Major problem is that most people surpass that number on a daily basis. The biggest culprits are beverages, cereal and prepackaged snacks.

What we know about consumption of added sugar in a diet (we aren’t talking about fruit here…) is that it leads to your blood sugar spiking and then crashing. The effect of this on the human body is extreme. I will spare you the details other than it leads to a (short) burst of energy followed by a significant dip in mood: increased depression, anxiety, and irritability. Challenge me on that…really…and just use your imagination on what this looks like for someone who repeats the cycle several times per day. A 2014 study by Emory recently found that teens with high fructose diets tend to have increase rates of depressive behaviors (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141118141852.htm).

A 2012 study from UCLA (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2012.230078/full) found that high fructose corn syrup LITERALLY slows brain function, impairs memory and inhibits new learning. So when clients walk into my office high on sugar, I already know they are primed to NOT retain what we are working on. This is a problem when teens and college students are hitting up coffee chains and vending machines on their way to school!

We all know that abusing sugar can lead to diabetes; however high blood sugar has also been linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease later in life. (http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/09/high-blood-sugar-linked-to-dementia/?_r=0) It seems that if the high sugar diet doesn’t seem to cause an effect at the current moment, it certainly increases risks all throughout your life span.

To learn about how sugar becomes addicting like a drug, check out this TED Talk: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-nicole-avena

Here are some common sugar contents (things I see in my office often):

Starbucks Grande Vanilla Bean Frappachino 57 grams of sugar
Dunkin Donuts Medium Caramel Iced Coffee 37 grams of sugar
20 oz Coca Cola 65 grams of sugar
20 oz Mountain Dew 77 grams of sugar
Arizona Iced Tea 72 grams of sugar
One package of Skittles 47 grams of sugar
2 Pop Tarts 34 grams of sugar

In conclusion:

This is not a soap box that I stand on. This is not be being a health nut. This is a national crisis in which I see people being more willing to take prescription medications (which carry very real risks of side effects) rather than even TRY to reduce their sugar intake to under 25 grams per day. Parents have an obligation to be mindful of what they are buying and providing for their children. Teens are old enough to learn about the effects of sugar and yet lack the impulse control to moderate their behavior 100% of the time without support. Adults can learn to manage their urges and make healthier choices which will lead to improved mental and physical health, reduced healthcare costs, and improved finances! Please take an honest look at your sugar consumption and it’s possible effect(s) on your moods. The results might, quite literally, be sobering.

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

The Right Kind of Fun

Are you having any fun? Are you having the right kind of fun?

In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), we talk about “accumulating positives” as a skill to reduce vulnerabilities. What the heck does that even mean?? A vulnerability is something that happens in life that makes you more susceptible to falling into emotion mind (being overly emotional/impulsive). This factors are often things from that day: poor sleep, hunger, physical pain, argument with someone, traffic, etc. but they can involve historical events/traumas/memories. I think of these as the “straws” that build up and ultimately “break the camels back”.

Accumulating positives can help you to build up a coat of armor against the vulnerabilities that will inevitably happen throughout our days and weeks. Have you even noticed how much more emotional you are when you are physically ill or in pain? The same irritability starts to creep up when we go longer periods of time without socializing, engaging in hobbies and/or having fun!

Accumulating positives is split into two portions: short-term and long-term. Below we will look ast each idea!

Short-term:

First you must evaluate what things you enjoy in life! What is clearly fun to one person in life does equate to fun for another. You can find a list of pleasant/fun events here which could be a useful guide. For short-term accumulating positives, it’s important that the choices are realistic (climate, time of year, your financial situation, etc) and could be available without much delay. It is also very important that you throw yourself into actually enjoying the activity! We are very good at worrying… about whether we deserve it, what else we should be doing with our time, whether we can afford it, if we look silly and are being judged, etc. In order to reap the benefits, we need to give our brains a break and really allow ourselves to mindfully enjoy the experience!

A few of my personal favorite ways to accumulate positives are:

  • hiking
  • reading
  • laying in the hammock
  • taking a bath
  • creating art
  • writing

If we don’t make time (yes, schedule it), it’s unlikely to happen, which results in our moods dipping slowly and steadily over time. Depression and irritability will slowly creep up on you and before you know it, you’re not a very fun person to be around!

Long-Term

Accumulating long-term positives takes a little more effort to plan. First and foremost, you need to identify some of your core values! Luckily, values lists are fairly easy to find online…you can check out this one, this one or this one! It can be tempting to choose 20-30 values because they all sound so good; however, I encourage you to pick no more than five core values. My family has chosen our five core values and we posted them up in our dining room, when making major (and minor) choices, I try to be sure the decision aligns with one of our values.

After you identify your core values, DBT has a great format for walking you through the steps of breaking ONE identified value down into goals, steps and baby steps! After all, we don’t get anywhere overnight!

  • Step One: Pick one of the values to work on first (this does not mean the others are not important)
  • Step Two: Identify some goals associated with the value
  • Step Three: Pick one of the goals (this does not mean the others are not important)
  • Step Four: Identify some steps needed to work toward that goal
  • Step Five: Pick one step to work on now (this does not mean the others are not important)
  • Step Six: Identify any baby steps that might be needed to work toward that first step
  • Step Seven: Pick ONE action to take THIS WEEK!

When you start taking steps toward larger goals that are aligned with your own values, it’s called values-based living and it is a huge leap away from depression, low self-worth and lack of identity. Values-based living will also help you feel insulated and protected from negative events because your confidence, self-worth and self-esteem will be intact!

Uncategorized

Keep Going

You are doing a great job, keep going.

You are here for yourself, keep going.

You have your eyes on your future goals, keep going!

You survived one year of a pandemic, keep going.

You can do so much more than you realize, keep going.

Did you know that you are strong, capable and worthy of your own love and affection? I know that you are. For a lot of my life, I didn’t know that I was worth my own time, my own love or my own affection. It took a long time for me to realize that my worth is MY worth. Whenever I struggle to remember this message, I find empowerment with this song by Demi Lovato!

mental health

Coping as a Sensory-Overstimulated Parent

Are you overwhelmed when there are several things competing for you attention?

  • the television in another room
  • tablet sounds
  • neighbor doing yard work
  • your fingers tapping on the keyboard
  • chewing sounds
  • the microwave is running
  • the washing machine just buzzed
  • kids squabbling
  • the dog is whining
  • the mail truck driving by
  • the list really does go on and on and on…

Do you find yourself getting irritable and snapping during these times? Are you wondering why it seems easier for other parents to cope with the chaos of having a household of child(ren) noises?

Furthermore are your other senses also easily overwhelmed?

  • you don’t love kids clinging to you
  • you are bothered by ill fitting or unexpected clothing sensations
  • you don’t like sticky things
  • you find certain types of food textures to be creepy
  • strong smells are nauseating
  • you are visually overwhelmed by clutter
  • When your child is asking repetitive questions
  • Wild play (flailing limbs, jumping or running)

If you are answering yes to many of those questions, you may be a highly sensitive person to sensory experiences. This does not mean that you have a sensory processing disorder; this isn’t meant for self-diagnosis. If you feel that you have intense reactions to the above stimuli, you may want to speak to an occupational therapist or your primary care provider. Being sensory sensitive, means that you are more sensitive than the average person to sensory stimuli. Specifically, it is known as sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness is defined as having an anxious reaction to non-noxious sensory stimuli. In other words, a person is sensory defensive if he/she has a negative reaction to sensory input that is typically considered either positive or at least neutral.

Symptoms of being sensory overwhelmed

  • Loosing temper
  • You get “touched out”
  • You need alone time
  • You feel as if you’re going to “explode” from pressure
  • You feel like you need to “hide” from your kids

If you are finding that your reactions are met with statements like “why does that bother you”, “that really shouldn’t bother you”, or “I barely even notice it, how is it such a big deal to you“, then you might be experiencing sensory defensiveness. The good news is that there is hope! Here are some suggestions that might help you:

  1. Desensitization – work on relaxation techniques while exposing yourself to some of the upsetting stimuli as referenced above. This could include playing with sensory fidgets if tactile issues are primary, walking barefoot outdoors, letting your hands be dirty for a few minutes before washing them, using relaxation breathing while noticing multiple sounds.
  2. Coping – wear noise dampening earbuds to block out some of the less intense noises. (I personally like Loop noise dampening earbuds). It’s especially helpful to use them in the later hours of the day as whining increases and your nerves are more frayed. With noise dampening earbuds you will be able to hear them if they need you while still having your bubble.
  3. Speak up! You can teach your children about your boundaries and what sorts of things you would prefer them to do in other rooms. You can teach them to turn the volume down or turn off noise producing devices when they are finished so there are not several going at once. You can inform your family and friends not to purchase noisy toys for you kids as well! You can also speak to your family members/spouse about your needs and asking them to understand if you need a break (including a break from them).
  4. Prioritize your down/alone time. Be sure that someone relieves you and you go for a walk to clear your mind, you can lock the doors during a shower, you can enforce quiet time for all members of your home to be in their rooms once or twice per day (be consistent about this as it will take time for everyone to adjust).
  5. Figure out your triggers. Instead of trying to tell yourself to “suck it up” or that you must be “crazy”, be kinder with your self talk and remember that you aren’t the only person who experiences sensory overwhelm! Honor your needs enough to figure out your triggers and work to solve them.
  6. Get outside (yes, even with the kids) and mindfully turn your attention toward any nature you can see (a rock, a blade of grass, the sky, a bird, etc).
  7. Decrease the caffeine, seriously, it only adds to the anxiety.
  8. Consult with professionals: occupational therapy, speech therapy, mindfulness based therapies and cognitive behavioral therapy can all be useful tools for sensory issues. If the symptoms are interfering greatly with your quality of life, you may want to investigate the help of a pro!

Uncategorized

Toxic Positivity

What is toxic positivity? Have you been hearing this phrase lately? I sure have and I think it’s crucial that you understand what it means.

Toxic positivity is the concept that being overly positive, optimistic and encouraging can actually be hurtful! When life is difficult and the Susie Sunshine in your life comes at you with the cliche’s “there is always a silver lining” or “Chin up, buttercup! Tomorrow’s a new day” you might notice an urge to punch her square in the jaw…but why is that? Furthermore, you were taught in childhood that Susie is right and that if you could only swallow your feelings and put a smile on your face, that it would all be ok!

–WRONG–

What is happening in this scenario is that Susie strolled on by and your distress made her uncomfortable. She, doing what she was taught in childhood, tries to “fix” the situation by insisting you feel better. This is INVALIDATING (which means that she is giving you the message that your interpretation and emotions are wrong). When you did what you were taught and thought “she’s right, I should suck it up…other people have it worse”, you invalidated yourself which compounds the situation.

I have no problem, and in fact I do encourage people at times to use self-encouragement and positive self talk to overcome difficulties. Is that hypocritical? No! And here’s why: It all comes down to intention, mindfulness and comfort with pain.

  1. What is the intention of the positive statement? Is it to shut down your (or someone else’s) emotions? That would be toxic positivity. Is it to try and jazz yourself up to overcome or battle a situation that you (or they)’re feeling nervous about? That would be self-encouragement!
  2. Are you making the choice to speak mindfully or mindlessly? If the words just fly out of your mouth without stopping to check in with yourself on the purpose, it is likely going to be an invalidating statement. If you stop and think “What would I want to hear in this situation? Do my feelings (or their feelings) makes sense?” it’s likely going to be a more effective comment.
  3. Pain is a normal part of life. Pain will happen (emotional and physical). We need to get comfortable being around ourselves and others when they are in pain! It’s on to sit with someone (or yourself) in a painful situation and just be in it. It’s actually helpful to call out what you see “This situation is difficult” or “that was a painful experience” without trying to swoop in and be the fixer!

So what to do instead of offering toxic positivity? Here’s your equation: offer validation and zip it. That’s all! Validation means that you communicate to them (or to yourself) that the feelings make sense. You can always ask the person if they would like help problem solving the scenario …but you need to be open to them saying no.

Inspiration

I QUIT!

Good morning! I have been very busy during the last two weeks as I have made the decision to QUIT MY JOB and grow my own brand/business! This is a very exciting time and the mountain of tasks is large (but what I fun mountain to climb)! Your Mental Restoration is a brand that is here to help you (shh…it also helps me, but don’t tell anyone)! You are my accountability buddy and I am yours!

You are in the correct place to follow the journey. This is all incredibly exciting and I am so grateful that you are here for the journey! Here’s where YMR is at present:

  • I have published my first book and am writing the second (spoiler alert – it’s a book for moms about overcoming the chaos and creating their own identity).
  • I am launching my own private practice to see clients via teletherapy and in person.
  • I will also be launching a podcast and self-care subscription boxes!
  • I have plans/dreams to launch other self care items of my own design 🙂
  • This blog will continue!