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Nature Is My Happy Place

I went for a 2 mile hike yesterday morning and a 3 mile hike today…and I am GLOWING. I feel so clear and positive, which is such a welcome emotion. When I got back, I started researching why hiking helps the mood so much and stumbled upon a research article on the positive effects of hiking. In short, the article found that going on a hike (without your phone):

  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved problem solving
  • Increased focus
  • Increased impulse control
  • Burned calories
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Improved self-esteem

It seems like such common sense and yet many of us resist the idea of exercise of any type…but hiking can achieve the same results as medication, so why not??

Check out the article below and let me know what you think:

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567

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Loving the Adventure

When I am on vacation, I am acutely aware that I live differently.  I don’t mind driving to a restaurant, a museum, a park, etc. I don’t mind “wasting time”.  I don’t mind letting myself and my kids indulge in (less than healthy) treats.  I don’t mind weather that isn’t just right…

…we might say that I am more flexible.

So today I found myself in a dilemma: I had nothing planned.  I had no where to be.  We had no family appointments.  I was aware that we all needed an adventure though.  Post-vacation, I had imposed a bit of “family lock down” to get us back into our routine. We hadn’t gone out to dinner or on any outings in two full weeks.

I was a bit frustrated at the temperature: it was sunny and beautiful; however, there was a nip in the air that I didn’t appreciate.

Begrudgingly, I decided to confront the weather and head out.  We loaded up our bikes, snacks and hit the road to a fun park about 20 minutes away.  I was excited as I knew it was flat and my youngest is just learning to master peddling.  Upon arrival…we were greeted with road closed signs due to floods. SO DISAPPOINTING! Try explaining that to two preschoolers!

Next stop: a 15 minute drive to another fun park with relatively flat topography.  As we pull up I saw a SEA of cars in the parking lot and tons of parking signs…apparently it was an Earth Day celebration! That is typically the kind of thing I would avoid without mental prep….but I was not going to tell them we couldn’t go to this park either! So we unpacked and hit the pavement!

I am so glad that I chose to seek adventure today…in fact, I don’t think I ever really regret choosing adventure.  We all enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine.  We all enjoyed Dole Whip ice cream! We enjoyed the playground even if it was a bit over crowded.  I enjoyed each other’s company and making new memories!

 

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Break the Stereotype Challenge

Thebeatwithkey Presents – Breaking The Stereotype Challenge

The Amazing THEBEATWITHKEY has created a new challenge for the blogging community. I am honored to take a part in this. The goal of this challenge is to change the world by breaking all stereotypes. Just one person alone cannot do this because unfortunately, there are a countless amount. There are racial stereotypes, beauty stereotypes, body stereotypes, mental health stereotypes and many more. Since it would be really hard for one blogger to tackle all of them by their self, lets decide to make it a challenge. Team up with other bloggers to break these stereotypes. Link to the site that challenges you and challenge five new bloggers to join in. When responding to this challenge the rules are simple. Non- WordPress bloggers can also get in on this. The rules will be at the bottom.

My Response:

“Type A” people don’t have feelings

As a “type A” person, I am regularly offended by my co-workers and peers’ perception that I somehow don’t have feelings.  I am very good at task-oriented, I am very good at tackling a to-do list with impressive efficiency! That makes me a go-to at work for things that need done quickly.  

The truth is that I like to tackle tasks because it calms my anxiety…my very high anxiety! The hilarity is that people seem to think that because I use work to cope, that it means I am emotionless…I am far from it! I merely find being organized to be a way to keep myself from a mental breakdown.

What I would appreciate is if people would check in with me just as they would any other.  There seems to be a belief that if someone isn’t an emotional basket case, then they MUST have it all together.  The reality is that stereotypes don’t help in this realm! Some organized people are calm while others are anxious.  Some disorganized people are emotionally chaotic while others are perfectly balanced. The only way to know, is to ask and allow yourself to get to know the person, not the behavior. 

 

The 5 bloggers that I nominate is

In Transit

Reclaiming Hope

Rosie Culture

Dear Human

CrystalsandCurls

 

Non-Wordpress Blogger Rules

Rule #1-

Email subscribe to my blog

Rule #2-

Follow my Instagram or Twitter (@yourmentalrestoration on Insta or @alyxberesford on Twitter)

Rule # 3-

Nominate 3 others to join the challenge

 

 

I look forward to seeing your responses

Let’s make a difference!

 

 

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To The Family and Friends of Those With Mental Illness

To The Family/Friends of Those With Mental Illness,

You are enough and it isn’t your fault.  I am so sorry that our society, your family member, and perhaps even their mental health providers, have blamed you for your loved ones struggles.  They are not your fault and they are not the ill ones fault.  Mental illness is an unfortunate happenstance that strikes people across all demographic ranges.  I wish I had an answer for why mental illness strikes some and not others; sometimes, it seems as random as cancer.

I am deeply saddened for you, as I know that you are likely traumatized by your experience. Loving someone who is chronically mentally ill and has perhaps even been self-harming and/or suicidal takes a toll on all involved.   Those who have not experienced it do not know the fear of the unknown as it relates to someone you love’s mental well-being.  Not only are family members often experiencing their own trauma, depression and anxiety…they are asked to be the police, detectives, first-responders and therapists of the mentally ill person.

I was recently reflecting on how we are quick to offer help to parents with young children when they are struggling (book recommendations, casseroles, free babysitting) and yet people who have a child with mental health problems do not tend to feel safe mentioning the struggles for fear of judgement.  Think about it: if a friend of yours admitted that their teen was actively self-harming, would you offer them respite? Would you stop by with food? Would you tell them what books and blogs to read?

Current stats show that 1 in 12 youth have made an attempt at suicide in the last year. 17% of high schoolers have seriously considered suicide in the last year, 13% have a plan. Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death from ages 10-14 and 15-34 years old. Yes…TEN-year-olds commit suicide.  Current stats on self-harm shows that 35-40% of adolescents engage in self-harm.  Self-harm raises the risk of suicide 10-fold.  These numbers continue to be growing…

Let’s consider for a moment to band together and love on each other.  We CANNOT ignore this any longer.  If you don’t know someone who is struggling with their mental well-being, it is only because they are too afraid to be honest.  If you know a parent of a teen, there is a very high change that their child is struggling with their stress levels.  Consider giving them a hug and letting them know that they are doing a great job, they are enough and that you love them.

Sincerely, with all of my warmest regards…

Alyx

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I’m inspired by…

Lately, I have been finding myself trying to surround myself with messages of inspiration! I find that our world has a way of being quite negative and I NEED positivity, optimism and energy in my environment to balance it out.  Here is a list of what I have been inspired by recently:

  1. Alicia Keys – Girl on Fire (on repeat…)
  2. Cooking – especially health conscious recipes that require a lot of ingredients. It makes me feel like I am doing something kind for my family
  3. Proverbs 31:25-31
  4. Words with Friends – I love the challenge!
  5. Gilmore Girls – I can only hope that my daughters will want to hang with me as much as Rory wants to hang with Lorelai
  6. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” -Dr. Seuss
  7. Hobby Lobby – in general, this store always inspires me
  8. Christmas Music – ‘Tis the season and I LOVE it!
  9. My friends. I send silly, random messages to them when I am feeling lonely and it cheers both of us up! Memes and puns are the best!
  10. Crafting – There is something cathartic about creating something from nothing. Even if I am copying a Pinterest idea, I feel so masterful upon completion!

What inspires you?

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Sensory regulation      

Did you know that our physical sensations and emotional sensations are hard wired together in the brain? Think about it as the DNA double helix! This has HUGE mental health implications…read on…

Consider the last time you were REALLY upset…emotional…impulsive…I would venture to guess that you were not easily reasoned with at that time? One problem people run into is that their family/friends try to logically tell them how to “calm down” instead of HELPING them sooth themselves.  When your emotions are raw, instead of attacking them directly, you can actually attack them via physical sensations as a shortcut!

Think about how well you do this with a baby or small child: binkies, blankies, stuffed animals, sound machines, visual mobiles etc… The theory I ask you to apply is the same with adult items: lotions, candles, warm baths, relaxing instrumental music, soft blankets, hot tea, etc…

Simple concept, I challenge you to give it a try!

 

What are your favorite sensory soothing items?

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Radical Acceptance

I have been teaching on the topic of acceptance for the last few weeks. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy has a skill named “radical acceptance” and I would venture to say it is one of the most difficult skills to convince someone to practice.  It requires…a lot of PRACTICE! Acceptance is not a concept that one grasps overnight.

The idea behind acceptance is that of the classic Serenity Prayer:

“God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the wisdom to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference”

·    In life, there are a significant amount of things that occur that we cannot change directly: weather, politics, other people’s behaviors, our physical attributes/genetic traits, costs of items

·    In life, there are a significant amount of things we CAN change: generally related to our behaviors which influence our emotions and thoughts

Dialectical behavioral therapy as a whole seeks to help individuals determine what is in their control and what is out of their control and then take the appropriate action (either accept or change).  I believe acceptance is so difficult because as a culture, we are pushed to things faster, bigger, stronger…more, more, more…thus giving the message that everything IS within our control. This leads to a very anxious society!

Acceptance requires clarity, the ability to discern what is legitimately in and out of our control.  Acceptance is NOT to say that we will never change, it is NOT to say that we approve of it, and it is NOT to say that we like the situation.  Acceptance is to say that we recognize that we no longer want to suffer as a result of fighting reality. 

Let me give you a few examples:

Ex 1: You were bullied in high school and you continue to re-live it, dredge up the memories, look the people up on social media thus torturing yourself with the related thoughts

Radical acceptance means recognizing that you are continuing to keep those memories alive (this is not to say the actual bullying is your fault or that it is something you shouldn’t feel angry about), thus increasing your own suffering.  Radical acceptance looks like: admitting what happened and really allowing yourself to feel sad for your high school self.  You may need to disable your social media accounts as you are no longer going to allow those memories to rule your behaviors.   

Ex 2: You made poor financial choices in the past that have left you with debt and poor credit 

Radical acceptance means that you recognize that you own your past choices and get honest with yourself about their present implications. Often when people are fighting reality, they continue to spend excessively and put more and more on lines of credit. Radical acceptance would challenge you to life as if you believed you were capable of financial control (have a budget, pay more than minimum balance, etc).  Radical acceptance means you are going to change your internal self-talk and cease beating yourself up about past choices as they cannot be changed! 

Once you practice radical acceptance on smaller things: gas prices going up, weather, your paycheck size… then (and only then) you can begin practice radical acceptance on bigger and bigger things…all the way up to accepting past traumas.  I suggest practice with a therapist because this is such a complex topic!

 

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A very nice reminder

Sensibility can involve and does involve the ability to receive sensations. We wholeheartedly pursue pleasurable sensations throughout our life. We often avoid sensations that are unpleasant or uncomfortable. Thoughts are often involved in the pursuit of pleasurable sensations and in the avoidance of uncomfortable sensations. Reactions, as thoughts and feelings, often involve sensations of […]

via Sensibility — Tom’s Nature-up-close Photography and Mindfulness Blog

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Like clouds in the sky…

One way to consider emotions is that they are like clouds.  Do you remember the “old school” weather channel weather maps that would evolve and change every few minutes? You could see the cloud cover shifting (usually to the east) on the map.

This is how I consider emotions.  The reality is that you have never had an emotion that did not change.  You make have emotions that come back frequently (ie: if you are an anxious person) or you may have big emotions that hang around for longer than you’d like (ie: an episode of depression). You have never had one that did not change.

What you need to be able to do is SEE IT (which requires mindful awareness), NAME IT and recognize that it is going to shift.

intense weather map

This type of weather map would feel intense and scary. When you look around, you cannot see anything besides the emotion.  Have faith though! It is a stormy time and it will change. You will feel differently in a few hours or days.

clear weather map

This type of weather map might feel GREAT! I still encourage you not to be naïve because it too will pass! You will have rough days and you must guard yourself against that by taking care of your physical self (ie: sleeping on a schedule, eating healthy, and not isolating).

Consider using this visual for your emotions! Do you think it could ease your fears of intense emotions?

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But How?

Most people I talk to about the mental health ideas presented in this blog DO agree with the suggestions (healthy diet, exercise, early to bed, have time with friends, etc).  AND they almost always ask the inevitable question: “Yea, but how…?”

This is a valid question.

How do you get yourself to start a new habit? I have some steps that I tend to implement:

  1. I identify the gap and what new habit do I think will fix it? (Ie: I am not achieving my fitness goals through exercise alone. I think using a personal trainer or altering my diet might help).
  2. I research it…a lot.  I am a factual person.  I need to see the numbers, statistics and hear the logical arguments on why other people believe in the habit.  This includes watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, research studies and books, and talking to professionals.
  3. I ponder it…a lot.  I need to feel like I fully understand why this change would be beneficial.  I want to be able to defend the decision to myself on the days when I “don’t wanna”.  I want to be able to defend the decision and hopefully recruit friends to join me.
  4. I set SMALL Goals.  If it were easy to make radical lifestyle changes…we would all do it! I set SMALL goals (and larger goals).  I then start taking steps toward the small steps, fully realizing that the habit is likely self-reinforcing and I will often take larger steps than I planned.  (example: I want to go to the gym 4x/week. I set a goal of going once a week.  I end up going an average of 2.5 times per week for the first month!).
  5. I reward myself! This includes positive self talk and praise.  This includes items that purchase for myself (in the appropriate category). (ie.  a new water bottle if I am trying to drink more water or a new journal if I am trying to get more organized).
  6. Keep with it an allow for the ebb and flow.  This means I EXPECT to fail some weeks and I do not beat myself up over it.  If I realize I am back sliding, I just go back to one of the lower steps and re-start there.