Inspiration, mental health

My Personal Goals

I thought I’d share with you all my goals. I am partially sharing this to hold myself accountable and partially sharing to inspire you! It honestly never crossed my mind to share things about my personal goals more often; however, I am currently reading the book “A Year of Less” by Cait Flandres and she shared monthly how she was doing related to financial goals, sobriety, and motivation. I love this!

Here goes:

  1. Workout 4-5 times per week – right now this includes Orange Theory Fitness, Planet Fitness, home workouts via Beach Body and family hikes!
  2. Overpay on my mortgage each month. I do have a stretch goal in mind which would have me pay off my house in approximately 5 years, my realistic goal is 10.
  3. Drink water, drink water, drink water. My goal is 70 ounces per day. The reason is that it helps me feel less physical pain, I have a clearer mind, I have drink less sugary drinks if I am drinking water and drinking water is the catalyst for me eating healthier also!
  4. Read bible study/devotional, journal and pray.  I lump these all in together because I find it’s difficult to do all three each day and yet, as they support one another. 
  5. Work on one random healthy habit. I change this each month and so far, they have included: washing my face before bed, flossing and using mouthwash, Kegels, meditation.
  6. No alcohol – this is a given. While I have no problem with alcohol overconsumption, I strive to drink very little. 
  7. Write or blog each day – well duh! Even though this is something I LOVE to do, I am as likely as the next person to avoid doing productive tasks in lieu of scrolling Tik Tok or watching something on Netflix!

I’ll make more of an effort to post my results each month!

Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

5 Daily Routines to Ease the Creep of Anxiety

Anxiety has a way of creeping up on you, increasing it’s grasp and intensity as the day goes on. As a mom of three and a human with anxiety issues, I have devised a set of daily rituals that help slow (and sometimes stop) the creep!

Keep a hand written to-do list.

Anxiety tries to convince you to ignore. Ignore tasks, ignore lists, ignore expectations, ignore feelings, etc. The inverse of that concept is to approach. We need to learn to approach that which we are afraid of in order to conquer our day! Anxiety will try to convince you that if you write everything down, you will not be able to handle it; however, I am telling you that writing it down will EASE your stress because it will allow you to see the tasks and forge a path forward!

Create a morning routine that maximizes productivity.

Here’s the deal, you are unlikely to have more motivation and energy later in the day (as we try to convince ourselves will happen). I have found, after many trials and errors, that front loading my chores into the first 90 minutes of the day makes for much smoother sailing. Here’s my morning routine:

7am wake up, be sure their floors are picked up (their responsibility the night before) and put food in front of kids. While they are eating, go start the Roomba upstairs (where the bedrooms are) and get dressed. The Roomba will run for 90 minutes while everything else is happening. Check to see who needs a load of laundry started…seriously, someone will! Start the load of laundry. Pack the lunches and bags for all the humans. While the kids are doing their things (brushing teeth, going potty, running around like crazy people) unload the dishwasher (also enlist their help, even little can put some things away) and reload. Bring Roomba back to it’s base to charge. Set it to run in a different part of the house when I’m gone.

Drink a lot of water.

Pop culture would have you believe that this line should say “drink a lot of coffee”. That is not the case! Drinking things that give you false energy (such as coffee/sugary drinks) will only leave you feeling jittery and cause a crash about 90 minutes after drinking. I generally limit myself to one coffee or caffeinated tea each morning and then switch to water. Water will give you energy and motivation to continue with other healthier habits for the rest of the day. It will also make you have to pee a lot which will force you to get up and move around (which also gives you more energy!)

Eat produce.

Similar to the above tip. We have a tendency to reach for carbs and sugar when our energy is dipping; however, this is sure to increase our sluggishness, fatigue and mood swings throughout the day. Carbs and sugar aren’t banned; however, increasing them isn’t going to help you. When your energy is dipping, try to eat things that are more natural and from the produce section of the grocery store! Fruits and veggies contain so much natural sugar, antioxidants, etc. which is what you need to have sustained energy throughout the day.

Early to Bed.

As I mentioned in the first bullet point, your energy isn’t going to magically increase throughout the day. I strongly suggest you bump your bedtime up! I generally try to get to bed close to 9pm, with 10pm as a deadline. I have learned that going to bed after 10pm is a sure fire way to sabotage my next day.

Inspiration, mental health

Too Much or Too Little?

I’m getting SO MUCH DONE! or We’ve done NOTHING…just laying round binge-watching Netflix all day.  I am hearing two extremes from people since the COVID19 shelter-in-place order was enacted, and I assume it will continue over the next few weeks. Which side are you on?

Do you try to “keep up with the Jones’s, Pinterest Moms, Type-A friends in your social media feed? Are you stressing out about accomplishing everything that’s been on your to-do list? Are you trying to take advantage of all the Facebook Live free classes that people keep discussing? Be careful…you WILL hit a wall (and it’s a brick wall).

Do you find that being quarantined is an excuse to stay in your pajamas, eat all the snacks and watch endless hours of streamed TV? Have you been skipping showers and avoiding anything that resembles a routine? Be careful….you will fall into the pit (and it’s a muddy, mucky pit).

One day, if I am famous for saying anything…it will be for saying “there is no right answer; there is a more effective answer for you to reach your goals”.  This is a situation in which I’d give the same advice…there isn’t a RIGHT way to quarantine…I’ve had doses of both scenarios described…I think the trick is to ask yourself every few hours (or perhaps each morning or evening), what it is that you’d like to accomplish? What would you like to be able to say you did for the previous 8 hours or the next 8 hours.  If you have been working hard, it’s PERFECTLY acceptable to say “I took the day off and did nothing”! If you’ve just come to the surface after binge-watching 3 seasons of something, it’s PERFECTLY acceptable to say that you organized your sock drawer and alphabetized your DVD collection!  A problem seems to occur after several days in one mode or the other without any sign of coming back to baseline.

It’s crucial that you’re kind to yourself and  develop the ability to self-validate and self-encourage. Some examples of that include saying to yourself:

  • I am tired from _________ and that makes sense, today I’ll take it easy
  • I have enjoyed a few days of relaxation and now I am ready to tackle one thing off of my list
  • I am worthy of a break
  • My ideas are worth working toward

Take some time right now, close your eyes, and evaluate which side of the spectrum you’ve been on the last few days…and what is a step you can take toward the other side?  I propose an ultimate goal of learning to live in the balance (not balanced…as that doesn’t exist…but living in the middle range of the teeter totter, more so than at the extremes.)

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

The Other Antidote for Depression

If you’ve experienced depression I am sure you’ve heard (once or twice) that you should exercise to improve your mood.  That advice isn’t wrong; and yet, it isn’t easy.  I am here to let you know that there is another very powerful antidote for depression and it takes the form of the DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) skill of BUILDing MASTERY.

Build Mastery is a very small skill in the DBT manual (which makes me sad) but it packs a powerful punch.  To build mastery is to spend time developing a skill/talent/hobby/activity.  It is important that you understand the following table:

Too Easy No effect, could backfire and make you feel infantilized
Challenging Builds self-worth/self-esteem
Too Hard Likely leads to you feeling incompetent

The task that you choose to work on (let’s take running a 5k as an example) needs to fall in the middle row: challenging.  If you decide, with no prior training to run a full marathon (too hard), you will injure yourself, fail and probably feel worse about yourself.  If you choose to walk to 10 paces forward (too easy), you won’t feel any sense of accomplishment because that’s too easy! You won’t continue to work toward your goal of running and therefore will feel like the exercise was pointless. The sweet spot involves breaking your goal of running a 5k into reasonable and tangible steps (such as researching and purchasing running shoes, finding local trails/parks, downloading Couch 2 5k or joining a running club, sharing your plan with others, beginning to work up to short jogs and slowly lengthening the distance.

Lets say, you hate running and now you’re angry that I suggested that. Fair enough…you can build mastery in almost any area!

  • Gardening
  • Cleaning
  • Sewing
  • Painting
  • Learning a language
  • Computer coding
  • Playing chess
  • Cooking
  • Any sport
  • Reading (longer books, more complex books)
  • Home repairs
  • Budgeting
  • Crafting

I think build mastery is an attainable skill over this quarantine! I have been brushing up on my watercolor skills as a way to reduce stress and practice a challenging activity.  Take some time to think about what you could work on!20200318_1633398414760588646284697.jpg

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Where Do I Begin?

As boredom sets in during this COVID-19 crisis, I have noticed the increased need for structure and a schedule.  So, the age-old question becomes even more pertinent: where do I begin?

I really can’t begin to label or quantify the value of good self-care.  Humans are equipped with amazing capabilities to self-regulate…if only we had the energy and desire to use them! In DBT, there is a skill (acronym) called the PLEASE skill, and I believe it is the answer to the question posed above.

I am going to focus on three components of PLEASE: Sleeping, Eating, and Exercising.

Sleep. Just do it, stop fighting it…put your Smartphone away and close your eyes.  Did you know that your brain cannot convert anything into memory until you are asleep? The Disney Pixar movie Inside Out had a lot of great content that helps drive this point home (it was quite factually accurate!).  In the movie, the main character Riley didn’t have her memory balls moved from short-term memory into her long-term memory until she slept! Our bodies are not machines; on a cellular level your body needs sleep to repair itself. Sleep allows time for the immune system to do its job and ward off viruses and bacterial infections.  During this time of illness-anxiety, sleep is a kind gesture you can do for yourself to maximize the immunity in your own body! Sleep will also help you reduce your overall stress level. So next time you want to watch the next episode on Netflix, play the next level on a game, or return one more e-mail, ask yourself what you need more: your health and sanity or screen time…

Eat. A balanced diet helps alleviate mood swings.  We (generalizing for Americans) live on a cycle of sugar highs and sugar lows. We have a habit of eating low quality breakfast (…if we eat any breakfast at all…) which floods the brain with chemicals and overwhelms our neuro-functioning; this results in you feeling hyper, a spike of motivation, and a burst of energy (yay!).  As a result of this flooding however; our bodies secrete insulin to suck up all the sugar like a vacuum leaving us feeling lethargic and moody (not so yay…).  This cycle repeats itself after lunch and dinner as well. Think about it…when do you reach for the candy bar? 10am, 2pm, 9pm…a few hours after each meal! Eating a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats ensures that our food (including a healthy amount of sugar) gets broken down over time and reduces that roller coaster of moodiness. While in quarantine, I want you to focus on mindful eating and try to keep it balanced and healthy!

Exercise.  I feel like this is a mute point in some ways. My goal is not to be preachy; it is to motivate you into action. The science behind working out is limitless and boils down to this: if you move your body your mind will feel better.  Physical exercise can helps your brain secret endorphins, adrenaline, and dopamine…all of which alleviate depressive symptoms.  Consider for a moment the cost of getting those chemicals elsewhere: prescription drugs, theme parks, extramarital affairs… Are those effective or realistic on a regular basis? Exercise also builds mastery. If you become fluent and experienced in a form of movement (yoga, running, lifting weights) it will build your confidence and overall satisfaction in life.  What can you do from home? I have seen a wide variety of online videos being posted on Facebook from different organizations, there are a seemingly limitless supply on YouTube, or you could go for a walk around your neighborhood.

For the full PLEASE skill, please refer to this graphic: 

please skill

Inspiration, mental health

#truthbombs about being judged

How do you handle being judged because you are different? I can tell you that my go-to is to judge “them” right back. I can tell you that my go-to is anger. I can tell you that I’ve had to WAKE UP about this in recent years…and it was a rough awakening.

I thought I was pretty woke when it came to stigma, racism, homophobia, being accepting, not judging, etc…but then my white privilege started to show and I had to do some work on myself.  (Don’t stop reading).  I didn’t even know what white privilege really was until a few years ago, in fact, the topic used to bother me because I felt like I was being judged for something that wasn’t my fault.  In short, white privilege is the freedom I was able to experience because I never had to experience the looks, stares, comments, eye rolls, and judgments of others over my skin. I never had to worry about whether people thought my parents were lazy because I acted like a damn fool (and I did act like a damn fool).  I never had to wonder if I would be asked to get out of my car when pulled over.  I KNEW in my heart that I could cry my way out of a detention in 6th grade (and I did).  These are not freedoms granted to persons of color and I woke up to this when I adopted my daughters, who are not white. I thought that because I had plenty of friends who were black, that I understood what their experience was.  I thought that because I earned an advanced degree in social work, that I knew about stigma.

I was not ready for the ceaseless comments about them, our family, their “situation”, etc.  I was so ignorant to the systematic racism that still exists and 5 years ago I would not have believed you if you tried to tell me.   I was not ready to experience (secondhand) the judgement of my kids by their peers, their teachers, the public…

Stay with me…

My first reaction was to judge them as ignorant. Live with anger. Try to shield my kids. But that was MY ignorance.  Ignorance is not an insult in this sense. Ignorance means “lack of knowledge” and I did have a lack of knowledge that led me to believe that my truth was the only truth and that my judging other people would somehow inspire them to change.  I was SO wrong. SO VERY WRONG.

So how do you become less angry when people judge you? You educate yourself. YOU educate YOURSELF. You learn about the other person’s point of view.  You need to wake the hell up to their reality and only then will you be able to have an understanding about why their truth has truth. Only then will you be able to put your own judgments aside and possibly have a relationship with the other person.

American culture is at quite a crossroads in my opinion.  We currently have people alive and interacting with one another that lived through segregation and integration. The criminalization of and decriminalization of gay marriage, women earning the right to vote, a first black president, the fear of radical Muslims after 9/11 and our current movement toward inclusion.  We are a nation divided on topics of sexism, racism, homophobia, religious freedoms, left vs right, etc.  I can tell you that the answer is not to judge and blame. The only way through this mess is to openly discuss our differences and WHY there is truth to “our side”…WHILE looking for the truth in “their side”.

Beliefs from childhood are very hard to change. So if someone is judging you, remember it isn’t personal…it’s likely that something about you is foreign to them and they aren’t sure what to do with it…so their natural inclination is to push it away/judge it/make a face of disgust. That is the same way you would probably react to something new/different/foreign.

 

 

DBT, Inspiration, Journaling, mental health

Self- Assessment

I have created this “worksheet” of sorts to to help people identify where they might have room for growth in therapy.  We all have areas for growth, we all have areas of strength. Consider these questions to guide you in your journey (with a therapist or without)!

 

In what areas are making emotionally based choices?

Consider the following areas. Do you tend to give into short term impulses in any specific areas?

  • Food/eating _____________________________________________________________
  • Time management (working/playing) ________________________________________­
  • Anger impulses __________________________________________________________
  • Social Anxiety ___________________________________________________________
  • Fears ___________________________________________________________________
  • Sleep schedule____________________________________________________________
  • Self-harming behaviors_____________________________________________________
  • Substance abuse __________________________________________________________
  • Emotional urges __________________________________________________________
  • Trying to “fit in” _________________________________________________________

 

Are you able to identify any areas that you do well in exercising restraint against urges and making more mindful choices?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Inspiration, mental health

DO HARD THINGS

So, I did a hard thing recently: I left my kids for a week and backpacked over 25 miles in 4 days around the Pacific Northwest in Olympic National Park. None of that was easy. There were seemingly a million things in the way of me leaving:

  • The kids got shigella (parasite, sick, ew) and I missed two weeks of work, three weeks before the trip which took a toll on my work, my finances, my sanity, etc
  • I have a connective tissue disorder (just think really wobbly joints) and I’m not “supposed” to do that kind of strenuous exercise
  • There were two mass shootings in the 12 hours prior to our flight, I did not want to get on that plane
  • I have food allergies that make it really difficult to eat when traveling….much less when backpacking!
  • Due to the kids’ illness, I hadn’t been conditioning like I should have been…

I’ll just pause there, on top of all the normal stress of traveling, there were a lot of things that made it seem “too hard” to follow through on this trip. And yet, I went. There were times that I was SO tired (oddly, sleeping by a rushing river kept me awake!) and SO sore (I mean…so many miles with 30lbs on my back), and yet I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

The visual rewards were my favorite, it was impossible NOT to stay present with all that my eyes were taking in. I found that the solitude from social media and texting were a refreshing reset on my priorities. I’d encourage you to fast periodically from electronics to get clarity on what you really want to focus on, not on what your notifications tell you to focus on! Time away from your kids (or family) is also difficult (to be honest, this was my biggest struggle!) but I reminded myself that I want them to be strong independent women, and for that to happen, I need to model being a strong independent woman to them!

Please enjoy some of the peaceful moments I captured!

Inspiration, mental health

Choose Your Attitude

I am as guilty as anyone of falling into pessimistic thinking. I can throw a killer pity party…although no one ever wants to come. Sometimes I can even be downright judgmental. I think it is our cultures default to be negative…which is why we MUST exercise the muscle that allows us to find contentment.

Please hear me, the goal is not to turn you into Susie Sunshine…rather, my goal is to be a Neutral Nelly. It is a reality that no one wants to be near Negative Nancy…and that all humans are wired for connection. It isn’t a difficult equation to see that pessimism won’t yield a great deal of relationships (especially not any enjoyable ones). Learning to see the “ok”, “not awful”, “possibly decent” parts of life can be a difficult journey. It only takes one check-out lane to prove that point. Our media tends to be overly negative and overly panic-inducing. FEAR sells!

Initially, trying to be less negative for me was like trying to strengthen a muscle that I didn’t think I had. I would get so frustrated and I found myself thinking that other people were naturally born more optimistic and that it wasn’t a choice. WRONG! While biology (nature) and your environment (nurture) certainly play a role, we are all humans with free will! This means we can train ourselves to think differently! With (a lot of) practice and persistence, you will find your inner Positive Polly and begin to see the world in a less hateful way!

Here are my life hacks on how:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Every.Damn.Day. Every single day you need to jot down and really savor a few things that you are grateful for. These can be really big things or really simple things. They can be things you noticed in the world or things you accomplished. Sometimes (on hard days) I ask myself “what doesn’t suck right now?”. There are several apps that exist for this. I prefer an old school journal or the Bliss app.

2. Follow more positive on social media. Almost everything has a hashtag, consider following #mindfulness, #positivepsychology, or hashtags related to uplifting interests such as #abstractart or #nature to increase your enjoyable scrolling. You can also look up and follow businesses such as mine that put out encouragement and uplifting content.

3. Limit your time around Negative Nancy. She isn’t good for you.

4. Take walks. It matters, trust me. Het away from your desk, get our of your head, avoid the couch slump. Go play Wizards Unite or Pokemon Go if that helps! Download an app that helps you raise money for charities based on your steps, challenge yourself or a friend with a steps challenge…find ways to incentivise yourself!

5. Get enough sleep (8-9 hours in a row)! You need a solid foundation.

When you find yourself sinking into a negative headspace, try to become aware of it without beating yourself up. Over time you will learn which hacks work for you, and you can say to yourself “You’re getting negative. Go for a walk, it always helps…”!

DBT, Inspiration, mental health

You ALWAYS have a choice

Are you living crisis to crisis? Are there particular people, places, times, areas, thoughts that continually trip you up and cause problems? DBT® reminds us first that we ALWAYS have a choice.  You always have four basic choices in every situation.

  1. Solve the problem – this is the “no brainer” that we do if we can. It is a choice and merits remembering.
  2. Feel better about the problem – you do have a choice in what interpretation you use which will change how you feel about the problem. The risk here is if you keep trying to convince yourself that “it’s not that bad” when in reality it (or he, or she, or they) ARE that bad and you need to problem solve in a different way.  This is a GREAT option if you are a pessimist and tend to see the worst in everything.
  3. Tolerate the problem – when we tolerate a problem we aren’t changing much in terms of how we see or relate to it (which actually changes our emotional attachment to the problem), rather we are accepting it as a thorn in our side and using distraction whenever it starts to bother us again. This is helpful short term but not always helpful long term.
  4. Stay miserable/make it worse – I LOVE that we have this choice. The angsty teenager in me needs to be reminded that I can always say the thing or do the thing or throw the thing or refuse to show up, etc.  I need to mentally walk down that path sometimes in order to get unstuck from my “it’s not fair” temper tantrum that I sometimes throw.  An example of this could be when you find yourself resenting an obligation to show up somewhere (ie: work).  Remind yourself that you do not have to go.  You could stay home. You might get fired and then you wouldn’t have income, but you really do have that choice.  Walking down that path can remind us that we don’t want to loose our housing, we do want to have money for food and fun…therefore we will now use strategy #2 and choose to go, but with a different mindset.  You might adopt the mental mantra of “I’m choosing to go to work so that I can choose to buy the shoes I want” …which is different and less problematic than “I have to go to work, I hate my job, this sucks”.