Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Family Road Trip Reflections (part 2)

We have been quite off the grid over the last week. As we come back toward civilization and regain cell-service, one word jumps out at me: gratitude.

I won’t lie, pit-toilets aren’t my favorite thing. Trying to stay upbeat and positive for my kids isn’t always easy when I am trying to convince them that pit toilets are “better for the earth”, “totally clean”, “a cool way to camp”, etc. We had two consecutive nights at a primitive site, then two consecutive nights at a less-than clean roadside campground, then two nights a site with great amenities but no electric…

…and I am now able to be so incredibly grateful for a charged phone, a flushing toilet, showers, and food options (pb&j for lunch everyday gets somewhat old 😆). I desperately hope that my girls are able to touch base with that same gratitude.

My eyes are also grateful for the rich vistas and amazing sights that I have been able to see (especially in contrast to the highway in front of me for the last 4 hours as we travel to our next stop).

My heart is grateful that the US has a National Parks system that protects land and educates the public on the needs for conservation.

I am grateful that my mom was able to come on this trip (yes, she is roughing it and tent-camping right alongside us)!

I am grateful that my husband and I share the same values…we prioritize experiences over items, hidden gems over tourist traps, and believe it is a crucial lesson to pass on to our daughters.

Please enjoy these amazing views from Theodore Roosevelt National Park (our favorite from this trip!) :

Wind Cave National Park:

The Badlands National Park:

Custer State Park/Black Hills, South Dakota

I realize that it may seem harder to be grateful when you aren’t on vacation…however, it is a skill that you can practice and get in touch with amid your daily life. You may find it easier to practice gratitude of big things, but I urge you to also practice gratitude of the little things!

Little things I am grateful for right now: it isn’t raining, I am listening to a great audiobook, I have downtime to write this blog, having fresh water, new stickers for my laptop (of the National Parks), and minivan DVD players to keep my kids entertained.

What are you grateful for?

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health, parenting

Family Road Trip Reflections (Part One)

We set out on a minivan road trip on Friday with a 12 day goal of touring Michigan, Minnesota, and the Dakotas (and connecting states) in an effort to explore nature and 5 National Parks: Indiana Dunes, Voyageurs, Theodore Roosevelt, Wind Cave and the Badlands. We also plan to see numerous other national landmarks, forests and Lakeshores (Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mt. Rushmore, Painted Rock, etc).

At we stop every 1-2 hours to keep everyone happy. I’ve never understood the benefit of forcing human bodies to stay in their seats long enough to be miserable. At our stops we encourage all sorts of movement and on long drive days, we find longer hikes along our route for our sanity.

Hike break at Indiana Dunes National Park
Dipping our toes into Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan
Lake Superior

I am eager to be showing my girls how to make the most out of the little things. For example: yesterday was a “rain out” but we still saw 4 waterfalls, toured a sleepy little towns dock and 4th of July celebration during a lull in the rain (the girls loved watching the firefighters have a water fight with their hoses but couldn’t understand the kids willingly getting wet because it was chilly) and we snuggled into our tent for a movie (thankful for a charged IPad and downloaded movies) while grown ups played a dice game in small vestibule as it rained! We also tries a local upper Michigan delicacy: pastys (like a pot pie/calzone creation).

Painted Rock National Lakeshore
Waterfall in Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Our last campsite was the most rugged (no running water – pit toilets a) but it was RIGHT on Lake Superior which was worth it! We are all ready for a shower tonight though 🙂

Our 5 star accommodations: three adults and three kids!
Lake Superior

Today we leave Michigan and head to Voyageurs National Park and are hoping to see the Northern Lights!

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

My Fire is LIT

I just had coffee with someone that reignited the spark. It should be no secret that Your Mental Restoration has been at a plateau over the past few years. I could blame being a parent, I could blame being a business owner, I could blame my day job, I could say that I don’t really have the fire that I want everyone to think I have…but none of that is true. My fire to grow this business: Your Mental Restoration, is burning brightly. The heat is intense and the urgency is there! I think at the core, I struggle to be consistent when I don’t see immediate results and that is difficult to admit.

As a therapist I meet with other business owners that are like-minded on a regular basis for networking and marketing, and as an introvert I don’t often look forward to these meetings. I was very much looking forward to meeting with Daniel Henderson, founder of RecoverWisely because at a luncheon I attended he alluded to using backpacking as a tool to help others remain sober. It sparked my interest because it has been a significant part of my own recovery journey to use nature, exercise, holistic, and healthy lifestyle choices as well. Daniel’s story is exceptional and unbelievable and incredibly inspiring. As a person in recovery from addiction and while he was fully sober he fell off a mountain and almost lost his life. That recovery process became just another step along his journey and he stayed sober throughout at all. While he works a day job like me, he also has founded an organization called RecoverWisely, which among many things hosts sober pop-up events, sober bars, and he’s trying to motivate people to be willing to take the step into backpacking and hiking on their sober journey.

Talking with Daniel made me think about sharing more about my own journey. I have not been open about the things that I have experienced in life that have led me to be a therapist and a passionate mental health advocate. In my twenties I thought that I wasn’t old enough and wouldn’t be taken seriously but now, as I am firmly in my mid thirties I think it is time. I’m going to begin working on that. For now, what I want to share is that I’m not going anywhere. Your Mental Restoration isn’t going anywhere either.

Sometimes I feel like I’m marketing products that are unrelated –  I have written 3 books on 3 seemingly unrelated topics topics (parenting, DBT, and a children’s book on transracial adoption). I post inspiring content on all social media platforms (search @yourmentalrestoration on TikTok, Insta and Facebook or @alyxfields on Twitter) but there isn’t a clear thread. I’m a therapist and a mom and a wife and I work to have my own identity but what is the golden thread connecting it all? It became very clear to me in talking with Daniel that while his golden thread is addiction recovery with a heart for outdoor aventure, my golden thread is mental health recovery, with a heart for dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT).

 Everything I do can be tied back to DBT. Every choice that I make about parenting, every holistic wellness step that I take on my own journey, every future planning session that my husband and I have where we review and share our goals for the future. All of it spins off of a common hub of DBT. My Passion is to make DBT known and accessible. This is why my book Adulting Well is only $10, this is why I accept insurance at my private practice, this is why I walk the walk and talk the talk. I want excellent quality mental health services to be accessible to all.

 I am presently motivated and I hope that you will help hold me accountable. Please comment on my post’s, comment on the material that I put out there. Share my content with other people. Make suggestions of what you want to see more and less of. I know that my story can help you, I know that my message is valuable, I know that my life has not happened on accident but that the universe has orchestrated this whole chaotic mess of catastrophes in order for me to reach this point in my life. I am by no means whole and complete, but I am whole enough to help you begin to follow the same journey. Stay tuned. Much love.

blue skies
DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Meditation Saves Lives



This is my all time favorite representation of the power of meditation. I encourage you to watch the video and reflect on what it could mean for you. When he gets overwhelmed with the multiplying flies (his thoughts, which only multiply when you refuse to let them be) and places his hands over his ears, I am moved to goosebumps. It helps me see that I am not the only one who gets overwhelmed with racing thoughts and I am not the only one that has an INCREASE in racing thoughts when I first sit down to clear my mind.
If you can embrace the thoughts for what they are, blips on the radar and not feed into them, you will find that they settle on their own.

A few great FREE resources for new meditators:

https://www.mindfulleader.org/meditate-together
Insight timer app
YouTube guided meditations

red gray and yellow abstract painting
DBT, Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Sick and Tired?

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I am fed up with feeling exhausted and having a pity party because:

  • I don’t have time
  • I can’t find a sitter
  • I have kids with me
  • I have a to-do list
  • I have chronic pain
  • I have a full-time job

The reality is that I have to make the time, I have to accommodate having kids with me, accepting that not all things need to get done at the same time, off and on nagging pain will always be a part of my life, work will be there and work can wait. I have to create the opportunities that I’ve been wanting to have fall in my lap.

This has all come to a head this week as my gym’s kids club keeps shutting down for staffing issues. I fell into a bit of a woe is me pit because as a working mom, it isn’t fair. I have an amazing husband who tells me to go to the gym anyway and he’ll watch the kids, but as I already take time away from my kids and husband during the work week, I feel too guilty taking more time for the gym. So, I must take my own advice (see Overcoming Obstacles as A Working Parent) and make it happen. After my pity party cleared out, I was able to see clearly that I do have options available to me:

  1. My office complex has a very mediocre gym, on-site. Let’s face it, I’m not a body builder and this will be sufficient!
  2. It’s spring and I can resume walking around the block, bicycling, and playing outdoors with my kids for more physical activity.
  3. Instead of paying $90 as a copay to every doctor I see, I can spend $90 on supplements one per month to optimize how my body is working.
  4. I can eat healthier…that one doesn’t cost anything.
  5. I can resume daily journaling to improve my clarity and mental health.
  6. I can resume reading to improve my self-image.

I could keep adding to my list, but the reality is: I have choices. I can take control of this ship and steer it in the direction I’d like to go and you can too! Find an accountability buddy (I have different friends and co-workers that I write with, read with (book discussions after we read books on our own), apps that prompt healthy habits, etc…and before long, I know that the habits will be self-reinforcing because the payoff will be worth the effort.

Uncategorized

Big Goals, Big Anxieties, Big Rewards

Our family is undergoing a bit of a metamorphosis lately and I am so overwhelmed! We set some BIG BIG goals for April and did not intend for them to all start picking up steam at once; and yet, here we are…chugging full speed down the track with way to many passengers!

I don’t mind working on many goals at once because when they are accomplished, the reward is so, so sweet. I got a taste of that last Thursday when all of the balls were smoothly rolling in the right directions (I’m using all of the metaphors today!) and it felt like an amazing sense of relief. We then had a (well-timed) camping trip over the weekend which allowed us to destress and relax as a family. Our kids were so excited to sleep in a tent and roast marshmallows!

My daughter and I wrote a book together and it finally got published the week before, we were ready to celebrate with smores and beautiful views! My oldest had just transfered to a new school and my youngest had just started a new speech therapist. My oldest two had just started agirl Scouts and wrapped up their winter sports. It felt like we had had a ton of appointments and tasks at each step. And yet we persisted…

The other big projects varied in size but the other massive one is that we are remodeling our master bathroom and that is QUITE and undertaking! We felt like we hit a turning point right before the camping weekend, in that the demo was done and we had all of the supplies gathered to start putting it back together upon return!

I guess you could say in our family we “go big or go home” and typically we “go big at home”. We set big goals and we reap big rewards! I am so ready for it to be done though…to enter a season of coasting…

hands people friends communication
Inspiration, mental health, parenting

Three Ways You Can Show Meaningful Love to Your Person/People

  1. Explore and communicate in their love language

The love languages are a couple’s therapist most basic tool; however, that being said, I am a big fan! The five love languages are ways that people can express love and ways that people receive love (quality time, words of affirmation, touch, gifts, acts of service). Oftentimes we see that couples and parent/child dyads are misaligned. This isn’t a bad thing but it does take effort to understand and address. If you want your person (spouse, partner, child, friend) to feel loved, you MUST learn to communicate in THEIR love language, not your own. The inverse is also true, if you aren’t feeling loved, it is probably because they are communicating in a love language that doesn’t register with you as much. This can be fixed relatively quickly, there is hope!

A great example is that for me, my love language is NOT touch. I am not a hugger or a touchy feely person; however, one of my daughters is touch person, she NEEEEEEEEDS touch to feel loved. This means that I have to work hard to remember to be (what feels to me like) extra touchy with her: snuggles, back rubs, lotioning, hand-holding, etc. so that she feels my love. Another of my daughters prefers quality time. This means that for her, it’s more important that I sit down and play with her, read with her, take walks with her, etc. Learning to communicate in the right love language will save you so much time and effort in the long run!

I’d challenge you to take the love languages quiz (this can be found via a Google search or on the 5 Love Languages app) and let your people know the results. Then you can ask them to take the quiz and share their results with you.

  1. Play board games

It doesn’t matter who you are trying to connect with, board games are connecting. Playing board games require you to sit down with someone, giving them your full attention and share with them your true personality. You can choose to engage in a game that either brings the two of you together toward a common goal (a cooperative game) or pits you against one another (competitive game) – either way, you will find yourself feeling calmer, happier, and closer to the person (and calmer, happier and closer to yourself!

I always chuckle at the eye rolls that I get from people when I suggest board games because it seems that universally, people think they’re “lame” AND universally, when people actually play games, they have FUN! Board games may be “old school”, but they stand the test of time. Whether your loved one is 2 years old or 100 years old, there are board games out there…a small amount of research will unveil a hidden nerd-centric world that you didn’t even know existed. Check it out!

  1. Go for walks and hold hands (if appropriate)

My husband and I enjoy going for walks around the block after our children go to bed (don’t worry, with the technology in our world – house and bedroom cameras, smart locks, etc. – they’re safe when we take a .5 mile walk in a square around our home). This time is often the most connected we are all day because we hold hands, walk without screens, and discuss our days. We process our fears and hopes and find the time to be a safe space to be vulnerable. The movement is a bonus because it allows us to let go of our anxieties and use movement to release our daily frustrations. We often come up with our best ideas on these walks!

Kids and friends also enjoy walking with their people. One of my daughter’s favorite rewards, is being able to take a walk around the above mentioned block with me before school. We also hold hands and see the same benefits that I’ve already mentioned. Friendships would benefit from the same practice! Walking with neighbors, friends, or co-workers can bring you closer together (although the hand-holding is likely not going to be as relevant)! You can get to know so much about people just by spending committed time with them, without the distractions of screens and the pings of your phone.

If you’ve been feeling lonely, I would challenge you to follow these tips for one week and see how you feel. Journal about how you feel before the challenge and then again each day of the challenge. Are you feeling more connected? Less lonely? Do you find yourself feeling more loved and important to your people? What surprises you about the experience? What were the challenges to implement the practices?

two women smiling
Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

A Sense of Pride

Why do we think of pride as a negative emotion? The message I think we all get from culture, is that pride is a bad thing and something hide or feel ashamed of. The message is that pride makes you cocky and arrogant. The message I propose is that you SHOULD be proud of your accomplishments and SHOULD be comfortable discussing them with your friends and family!

Pride is defined as:

a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Pride is knowing that you did a great thing or achieved a big accomplishment. It is knowing that you did the hard work needed to live with integrity. Pride is a necessary component of self-esteem and self-worth. Pride is not the same as bragging, bragging is when you take your pride too far and talk about it TOO much, to a degree of annoying others. Arrogance is taking pride and self-esteem too far, making it the only thing that matters in your life. Pride is simply recognizing your accomplishments and not being afraid to take ownership of the hard work you put in to achieve them!

That being said, I’d like to share the things I am most proud of:

  • my work ethic (cue song from Flash Dance “she work’s hard for her money…”
  • my sense of adventure and willingness to do hard things (ie: backpacking, hiking, home renovations, yard work)
  • my sewing and cooking skills (my mom taught me so many homesteading skills!)
  • my parenting (we are playing the long game, trying to instill values in our kids, even when giving them a tablet would be easier)
Inspiration, parenting

You CAN Ask For Time

Why do we feel pressured to give answers right away? As I toured a new school for my daughter today (and following two meetings with two different schools the prior week), it struck me how much pressure I felt to give them their desired answers, during the interactions. In reflecting on the experiences, I wanted to share my realizations.

During the phone call last week, they asked me when my daughter would be starting the school and I was taken aback. That’s presumptuous…why did they feel that they had a right to assume she would be attending? I had to brake the silence somehow, but worried about coming off as too rude or giving them false hope. I took a deep breath and told them that I wasn’t sure if she would be attending, I’d like time to process the call with my husband and then tour the school prior to making a decision. I asked for two days after the tour to decide.

I’d like to be sure it’s a good fit and make sure we don’t see any red flags” I stated.

What sorts of red flags?” they snapped back quickly…

I’m not sure, I wouldn’t know until I saw them. It’s important to us to see the space and get a feel for it” I replied, annoyed and beginning to feel defensive.

It is interesting to me, as a therapist who coaches others to be assertive, that I find myself in these sorts of conversations without realizing that I should have seen it coming. The reality is, we cannot predict when we will be thrown a curve ball (that’s what makes them so effective)! The one thing that helps me, without fail, is that I know my rights.

  • I have the right to ask for time to make a decision, very few things in life need immediate response
  • I have the right to ask for what I want and need
  • I have the right to my own emotions
  • I have the right to be treated with respect
  • I have the right to respectfully disagree with others
  • I have the right to be dissatisfied
  • I have the right to expect honesty from others
  • I have the right to have my opinions heard, in full

Remembering and holding others accountable for the rights listed above does not make you pushy, bad, rude, or “extra” (as long as you maintain respect in your communication). The message we often receive from others, when asserting our needs, is that we are “too much”. We get the message that we should “make ourselves small” in order to keep other people comfortable. If we all stay silent to keep other people comfortable, we will be going backwards in history.

Speak up and speak out, stand up for your needs and rights; however, do it with respect. Maintain your integrity. Remember that you go to bed with yourself every night and I want you to be able to sleep in peace, knowing you kept your composure! I’ll be transparent, while this is how I am feeling today – last week there were tears and frustration levels were high (which is not the time to blog). We had four meetings (some on Zoom, some on the phone) in the two weeks leading up to today’s tour. I was overwhelmed with information and felt alone in making big decisions for my child.

What worked for me is that I held my ground. I didn’t give them their answer after the phone and zoom calls and I held them to the tour. It worked! Today on the tour they were SO much more respectful of my desire to wait and hear all factors and options, prior to making a choice! In the tour, they said “if you choose to send your child to our school….” instead of making the assumption that I would. I felt so much more respected and the pressure was eliminated! I hope this empowers you to slow down and remember your rights in hard discussions. Whether it’s with your boss, spouse, friend, co-worker, child, provider, etc., you have the right to ask for time and respect!

Inspiration, mental health

Self-Worth – What Is It and How to Increase It

Worth is the value of something placed on it by society or yourself. Worth is subjective and is up for discussion which is why some people have a difficult time believing a compliment.

I am sure you can think of an item you own (or owned in the past, even as a child) that you placed more worth on than society would have, it came from within. For me, I have had a treasured rock collection, special tattered quilts, and I currently still have a Fozzie Bear Muppet Baby figurine that is precious to me from my childhood. I place high worth on them, and I am aware that other people may not find them to be worth anything at all.

Improving your self-worth must come from within. You will need to determine that you are worthy of your own time, attention, and resources and until you do that, it is likely that others will ignore your requests and will see you as a push-over. People with low self-worth often make jokes at their own expense and are not likely to speak up for their preferences. If others laugh along at the jokes or do not pick up on minor preferences that are casually mentioned, the person uses their confirmation bias to determine that it is proof of their low worth. I mentioned earlier in the book that I would use your love for your children to manipulate you: this chapter is one place I will do that. If you want your children to have healthy self-worth, you must lead by example.

Self-esteem and self-worth can be thought of as synonymous. Self-esteem cannot be bought; it must be earned. That means that unless you set a goal and struggle to reach it (be that at work, with parenting, in a hobby, financially, etc.), you will not feel good about yourself.

Ideas for Raising your Self-Worth:

  • Treat your body as a sacred place.

This means that you recognize the mind-body connection and treat your physical body accordingly. You understand that chronic stress and anger take a dramatic toll on your physical and emotional well-being. You can reverse that toll by taking the steps that you know lead to healthier life.

  • Stop smoking and/or vaping.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Drink water as a primary beverage.
    • Go for walks.
    • Stretch.
    • Eat fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Limit fast food and junk food.
    • Visit the dentist twice per year and the primary care doctor yearly.

To prioritize any of the mentioned suggestions here for healthier living forces you to engage in an action that only someone who thinks their life is worthy would do. You might have to “fake it” initially, but I know that over time you will develop a sense of pride over the healthy choices you are making. In time, that pride will increase your self-worth!

  • Values-based living.

Values-based living is a concept that I introduced in chapter one. If you have time, go back, and re-read that section and see if you have taken any strides toward values-based living in the time it has taken you to read the last 4 chapters. If you have not taken any actions that are aligned with your previously identified values, that is ok! That might be a sign to pick a different value to start with, to recommit to your prior plan, or to evaluate what got in your way and problem solve it.

Living according to your values raises your self-worth because it is not always a convenient thing to do, and yet you are taking actions that tell yourself and the world, that you are worth it. You are worth your own time, attention, and resources.

  • Journal and meditate.

Self-reflection is not something a person does if they think they are worthless. They do not believe their thoughts, time or attention are worthy of evaluation or recording on paper. They believe they are disposable and that others see them as disposable. I hope that you do not believes those things about yourself.

Journaling can help us to see patterns in our thinking and your behaviors. When we find problematic patterns, we can journal to explore solutions and problem solving. In doing so, you give yourself the message that your problems are worth solving, your moods are worth improving and your relationships are worth saving. There is more information on journaling in chapter seven.

Meditation achieves a similar result without the writing. When you meditate in any fashion (such as clearing the mind, listening to a meditation recording, focusing on a mantra or affirmation, praying, etc.) you will generally find a sense of peace and clarity that seems to magically improve your abilities to cope, and problem solve. You would not take time for such an activity if you did not believe you deserved such an experience. I believe that meditating and journaling on a regular basis will improve your self-worth because they are actions that tell yourself that you are worth your own time and energy!

  • Celebrate your wins (somewhat unapologetically).

People who have low self-esteem feel ashamed and embarrassed by their accomplishments. They are likely to think that they do not deserve celebration and/or their success was a fluke. If you fall into this category, you will need to practice acknowledging that you worked hard and that your success was earned, and you will need to accept compliments and/or praise from others with a “thank you” and not a self-deprecating remark. Your success is just as well earned as anyone else’s. You made the choices in life that yielded the results you have; when it pans out in your favor, accept the congratulations from others and pat yourself on the back!