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Mental Health Matters

I heard on the radio yesterday (therefore unable to cite) that in the month following the release of 13 Reasons Why, Google searches containing “suicide” rose by 19%.  The good news is that these include “suicide prevention” and “suicide hotlines”; the bad news is that those were not the majority of terms searched.  The glamorization of suicide as an escape route is heart breaking.  It is literally impossible for a suicidal person to comprehend, yet it is 100% true that your family will not be “better off” or “relieved.  They WILL care and it WILL wreck them.  Suicide does not end your pain, it magnifies and transfers it to everyone in your life.

Another statistic I keep coming back to is that 1 In 5 adults meet criteria for a mental health condition.  In my opinion, this means that mental illness (Depression, anxiety, ADHD…you name it) affects everyone by default.  If you have ever loved someone with mental illness, you know that it doesn’t just affect them…it has a ripple effect on the whole family.

So why in the world is our systematic world ignoring this? It has been my experience that most primary care physicians don’t screen for this (although they certainly ask me if I smoke or wear my seatbelt), schools aren’t teaching mental wellbeing courses (although they offer personal finance and physical education) and I don’t see television commercials promoting mental health (although I see plenty of antidepressant commercials).

So what can you do? TALK ABOUT IT!!! Support your own and your loved ones’ mental health by openly promoting and discussing mental health.  Follow hashtags like #mentalhealthmatters #depression #mentalillness #wellbring #dbtskills etc and share their content!  Be a beacon of light in a dark world.

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Harmony over balance

What an interesting and subtle difference between these two words.  It has been brought to my attention that the idea of achieving balance is self-defeating at best and leaves us constantly feeling shame as we cannot ever fully achieve 100% balance.  The suggestion here is to work toward the idea of living with harmony; to live in a way that honors when you are depleted or living in excess…and to make peace with this  imbalance, which will give you peace and an ability to be flexible.

More on these topics can be found at the links below. I believe they are written so well that I would be doing an injustice not to share them with you:

http://www.spiritualshifts.com/difference-balance-harmony/

Seek Work-Life Harmony, Not Balance – 5 Key Strategies

https://www.katemccready.com/blog/work-life-balance-work-life-harmony

 

What do you think? I love the idea that the outcome of living for harmony is increased peace and a sense of validity; whereas striving for balance is likened to perfectionism which could lead to shame.  Maybe it is just semantics…it certainly is worth a ponder!

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Doing The HARD Work

I have found that most of us do not want to do the hard work.  We are impatient and want instant gratification.  We want the quick fix and as soon as our symptoms of distress are alleviated, we regress right back to what we were previously doing…despite evidence to the contrary, despite knowing what got us in over our head in the first place. 

 

Take some examples:

How many of you take your antibiotic prescription AS PRESCRIBED for the entirety of the recommended prescription? A lot of people quit taking it about 75% of the way through the recommended course.  A large percentage of these people also get mad when their symptoms return (with vengeance) and they need another doctor appointment and stronger medications the second time around. Furthermore, not taking antibiotics as prescribed is one of the top 5 causes of the antibiotic resistance we are seeing in the medical field. 

How many of you like commercial breaks? I remember when commercials would come on network TV during childhood (before DVR!!!) and it was NO.BIG.DEAL.  Yet now…how infuriating are the 30 second ads on Youtube! We can’t handle having to wait. Fun fact: a study by Nielson found that 45% of DVR recorded commercials are still watched. 

How many of you would say you were a good driver when you started out? Always vowing to fill the car with gas when it hit ¼ of a tank, always wearing your seatbelt, never texting when driving, always abiding by the speed limit? And on how many of those things have you slid back from? According to the Center for Disease Control, the number of deaths from distracted driving has been steadily increasing, up to over 3400 in 2015.

How many of us have a “bedtime”, a “diet plan”, a “workout routine” …and how many of us keep them? The amount American’s spend on dieting each year continues to rise, up to $65 Billion in 2010 and 90-95% of dieters regain all of their weight.

As a culture, we have grown pretty lazy and entitled! We want all the results without the hard work!  We want what we want, when we want it!  Part of real therapy (the kind where you truly get better) is a willingness to do the hard work and a willingness to hear the hard stuff from your therapist without heading for the door.  I am asking your, begging you rather, to do some self-exploration on this topic.  Are you willing to delay gratification and learn to tolerate being uncomfortable for the betterment of your future?

 

GOALS THAT ARE WORTH REACHING TAKE WORK. HARD WORK

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Validation

We seem to live in a world in which telling other people how wrong they are is a sport.  We seem to be incapable of having empathy for one another, we just want to be RIGHT.  Ignoring others’ pain, minimizing the experience of others, and walking past blatant needs is a daily occurrence.  The frequency with which I see people NOT holding doors for one another, the sea of people eating at tables alone in the same room, or walking through life with earbuds in is the new norm.  Unfortunately, the cost of this sort of behavior is damaged relationships, isolation, and dissatisfaction.

Living in a world that tells us that our perceptions are wrong or our emotional experience is exaggerated leads to people who question their interpretations.  People who aren’t sure if what they are feeling is correct or accurate leads to increased anxiety.  People are anxious that they will be judged for their beliefs which leads them to retreat away from peers and isolate.

The answer to this predicament is to become a more validating culture as a whole.  Validation is the art of communicating to another that their experience makes sense to you.  If it doesn’t make sense to you, validating can also take the form of listening and letting them know that you are willing to hold their emotional experience without judgment or trying to “fix it”.

Examples:

  1. When your spouse is venting about some workplace “drama” that makes  no sense to you, you could say “wow hun…it sounds like the workplace politics are really stressful for you” (And that’s it! You just listen and validate..do not try to give a million solutions! Not unless they specifically ask for it).
  2. If a friend is having high levels of anxiety over something that doesn’t worry you, you could say “being that anxious is exhausting, I am sorry you are feeling overwhelmed”. (And that’s it! You just listen and validate!)
  3. If a friend has had several difficult experiences in one week, you could say “That sounds hard, I would be having a hard time if all that happened to me too!” (And that’s it! You just listen and validate!)
  4. If your teen just got an acceptance letter to the college they have been waiting for, you could say “I am SO excited for you, this is amazing news!”
  5. If your parent is having a difficult time justifying a “splurge” because they were raised in poverty, you could say “It really makes sense that you would struggle to make a big purchase, given your childhood” (And that’s it! You just listen and validate!)

If we can work on HEARING each other  more and trying less to FIX each other, we would come together and build relationships instead of building so many walls.  More connection will decrease the anxiety and depression in our world.  Give it a try!

 

 

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Life Doesn’t Have To Be THIS Difficult

Dont try so hard

I love this. What a great representation of the fact that we all try too hard. We try to force things, things that ought not be forced!  We spend so much time in fear…fear of missing out, fear of not being good enough, fear of loosing someone/something…we forget to stop and just experience life!

Do you see that happiness really is a choice?  You will never earn enough money (to be happy), life in the right city/climate (to be happy), be in relationship with the perfect person (to be happy)… you are chasing your tail!  Being happy is a choice and it can happen when you are broke, when it is raining, when you are just ending a relationship, etc…if we stop seeking happiness, and instead make a choice to be happy amidst the little nuances of life…we actually can be happy!

It reminds me of when people say “you will miss this stage (of parenting)” when my kids are driving me nuts! I have a choice to stop and smile, enjoy the tantrum-at-the-park-phase because it really will end so soon.  You can be happy in the face of chaos.  You have a choice!

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How and Why to Meditate

 

I am not a spokesperson for Happify, I have just recently discovered their videos and wanted to share them!! I am always trying to impress upon my clients the importance of meditation.  It really is a muscle to strengthen and a gift you can give yourself! And it is FREE!!

 

Give it a try! I can tell you that on the days I start with meditation, everything goes so much smoother.  I really do recommend STARTING your day with meditation, at least in the beginning.

Most major cities have community meditations (google it!) and formal Zen Centers that can be a helpful place to begin.  Think about it: how successful are you at working out at home vs at the gym? Going somewhere to meditate can increase accountability and length of sitting.  You can also find so many apps that have meditation coaching and can be used anywhere.  Give it a try!

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How Does Mindfulness Help Us?

 

I love this video as it highlights the CHOICE that mindfulness provides to us once we have practiced (and practiced and practiced) to strengthen the muscle (ok…not really a muscle) that allows us to pause and come back to the present moment.  You have triggers, urges and actions…three separate entities!  You can have an urge to scream without screaming. You can have a thought that cake would taste REALLY good right now…without eating the whole cake.  You can notice a desire to call in sick and stay home…without acting on it! Or you could act on it in a healthier way: compose yourself and tell the other person how their comment affected you, have an appropriate portion sized piece of cake, take a sick day and pamper yourself…don’t just stay in bed.

Regardless of the scenario, mindful awareness of the moment (and the contained emotions, urges, thoughts, etc) allows us to pause and make an intentional choice of how to respond.  Let’s become less reactive and more responsive.  Imagine how much less time you would spend cleaning up the messes that you make in an emotional reaction!

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How are you? (Busy…right?)

It is no secret that the American culture seems to put more weight on being “busy” than being happy.  When you ask someone how they are, there are a handful of socially acceptable answers that you are likely to hear:

“So busy”, “CRAZY busy”, “working a ton”, “work is non-stop”, “good, keeping busy”, “always on the run”…Etcetera, so forth and so on…

There is a (false) illusion that by insisting you are busy, people will hear that you are important.  A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review confirmed that American’s believe those who have a busier lifestyle also have higher status; whereas, Italians and many other cultures rate someone with the ability to utilize leisure time well as having higher status.

It seems to be increasingly more common for employees to be available 24/7…with multiple cell phones and e-mail being delivered around the clock…. personal time has taken on a negative connotation.  We get a sense of validity from being able to say we are in demand at all hours of the day and night.  We live in a world that seems to suggest that taking personal time is a failure. What we are turning a blind eye to (as a culture) is that the problem of “being busy” is typically serving the purpose of masking anxieties and feelings of inequality.  Gone are the days where employees specialized in one aspect of their trade; now, all employees are expected to be able and willing to fill any agency roles at a moment’s notice.

The pressure to be busy starts at earlier and earlier ages. So many parents that I have encountered discuss the pressure to have their children in multiple activities starting at age TWO!  It seems that kids are in private lessons, select sports and working with private coaches at younger and younger ages.  What’s wrong with a kid being good at…one thing? Or even nothing?! (GASP!!!)

What is wrong with being “okay” with the life that we have…to be proud of our NORMALCY?

I must say, I too fall into the urge to tell everyone just HOW busy/chaotic/rushed my life is.  When asked, there is a push pull between the truth (I am content…) and the desire to exaggerate.  Let’s try and practice for the next week.  To say “I am doing well, thank you” or “I am enjoying this season of life”. We need downtime for our sanity, this is nothing to be ashamed of! I hope that one day we can adopt the Italian mindset that downtime indicates a higher status lifestyle!